Called to Serve

We have loved traveling and being with family for the past two years but we felt the call to serve another mission so here we are in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for the next year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in Guam

We love our mission and have had such wonderful experiences here but this was our first time ever not to be with family (even though it was only the kids and us in Saudi Arabia) for Christmas and I was feeling a bit down about it. Turned out to not be bad at all.

I posted pictures of the light and sound show at the Mall. That was the closest we had come to it feeling like Christmas. But last week was full of holiday activity. It started out mid-week with our Ward Christmas Party. The meal was catered - it helps that our Branch President (we still have not had a Bishopric called for the new Ward) works at the Marriott. We had turkey, ham, barbecued chicken (have to have it for the islanders), mashed potatoes and gravy, salads, corn on the cob, etc. Ummm ummm good!

The Activities Committee did one last hurrah and made the Cultural Hall very festive.

We had lots of entertainment. Two of our Hawaiian members sang several island songs. The Branch Presidents daughter is learning to play the ukelale and played right along with them. One of the songs they sang was a Guam version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Signs were given to 12 different groups and they were told to stand up, sing their parts and act it out. The verses were:
a chicken in a giant mango tree.
2 turkey tails (a big delicacy here)
3 bags of rice
4 flower marmar (like leis)
5 roasted pigs
6 boiled taro
7 tuna fish
8 fried bananas
9 bowls of ramen (a staple in missionary diets)
10 cans of spam (an island favorite)
11 pounded breadfruit
12 missionaries
Guess which group got #12. It really was a cute activity. Some of the groups really got into the parts.

They also sang the island version of Jingle Bells:

Way out here in Guam, there's no hope for snow
Beneath the lovely palms, a typhoon's sure to blow.
Santa surely knows, what the tropics will allow
Instead of using eight reindeer, he'll use a carabao.

Jungle bells, coconut shells, stickle burs all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride, in a carabao cart today Hey!
Jungle bells, coconut shells, stickle burs all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride, in a carabao cart today.

After the sing-a-longs, each auxilliary went on stage to sing a Christmas hymn. There was no practicing ahead of time but the groups all did really good jobs. The program listed the missionaries so we had to go up too.

At the end of the evening, Santa Kim (aka President Kim) handed out goodie bags to all the girls and boys.

On Friday, I stayed home from work so that I could bake and prepare for the evenings activity. Wayne turned on the NPR station and as I listened to Christmas music and baked the whole day it made it feel a little more like the holiday. Christmas Eve all of the missionaries gathered at the Mission Home for soup and bread. Not my traditional Christmas Eve dinner but it was delicious and we all enjoyed being together as a mission family.

After dinner, everyone sat around in a circle and played a white elephant gift game.

As you can see, there were a few interesting gifts.

We ended the evening by watching President Monson's talk from the First Presidency Christmas Devotional and a reading from Luke. The perfect ending.

As we do at all missionary gatherings, we took group pictures.

And the sisters always have to have one of just the ladies. How is it that I always stand near the shortest people? Not to mention the skinniest.

The next morning we started our Christmas day in the perfect way. We Skyped Australia at 6am and got to watch the grandkids open their gifts. It was really nice that Stacy had taken her laptop and so she was able to walk around and show us Jonathan's house. He only has Skype on his desktop.

Our next activity was at the church at 7am. Our cleaning team was assigned to clean. I had wondered who would come out on Christmas morning. The answer? No one but missionaries far from home. Our wonderful team leader, Brother Batimana, was there but we expected to see him. We also had help from Elder and Sister Hertzberg who have only been here for a couple of weeks and have not been assigned to a team yet so they help us. We wanted it to feel a little like home for Christmas so Wayne made our traditional egg souffle and I made a pull apart and we had breakfast at the church when we finished the cleaning. It really did feel good to be able to start the day out giving service.

After cleaning, we headed home to do our Pday activity, laundry, and start cooking for our Christmas dinner. We had invited the Hertzberg's and Sister Miyazaki over for dinner. We actually had forgotten to open our presents until Ashley skyped us. She spent Christmas at Bass Lake with Josh's family. They took their laptop and we were able to see the tree up there and hear all about their Christmas. Of course, we can't get too much of seeing the baby either.

Dinner was at 1:00. We had also invited one of the men in our Ward whose family is not yet here. Unfortunately he did not show up. The five of us who were here had a pleasant afternoon but everyone left too soon. We had a quiet time the rest of the evening.

Jason and Tamera had gone to Madera to spend Christmas with her family. They came home late Christmas day which is our Sunday so we got to Skype them in the afternoon. They had left all of our presents to them at home and so we also got to watch Ashlyn and Preston open their gifts.

All in all, we had a good Christmas. We really missed being with the family and I know that our being here changed the entire families Christmas traditions but maybe it is good to shake things up occasionally so we appreciate what we have more. I know that I really appreciate my family and look forward to being with them next Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December Doings

We have had a lot of things going on in the month of December. I am sure I am leaving out some of the things that we have done but I am going to hit the highlights. We had Zone Conference a couple of weeks ago. We always have such good things presented by the Assistants and President Dowdle. This time the sisters got to meet seperately with Sister Dowdle though. She gave a wonderful message and it was just nice to be able to meet with all the sisters. We have a great group of sister missionaries. They are doing fantastic work here in Guam and we also got to meet with the sisters from Saipan who also are great.

On December 8th we went to the airport to pick up the Hertzbergs. They are the new Family History Couple and we are so excited to have them here. Elder Clarke has had a great time acting as tour guide while we have acquainted them with Guam. We look forward to getting to know them better.
On December 10th Elder L. Tom Perry arrived to form the new Barrigada Guam Stake. We had some really good meetings with him and it was fun learning a little bit more about him and seeing what a warm friendly man he is. I was so surprised to see how tall he is - 6'4". I have always seen him from the top of the Marriott Center at BYU or the Conference Center top balcony and from that distance he seemed small. I loved listening to him and all the other speakers at conference.

Monday night we spent FHE at an investigators home. He has invited us to share in his Theme nights. He is fixing dinner for his extended family and the missionaries teaching him each Monday. We are anticipating his baptism on Jan. 1st. He truly was a golden contact. His desire to learn and his enthusiasm has been inspiring to us.

We had our final Institute class of 2010 on Thursday. It was a bit sad because it was Juliette's last night for good. She is going to be moving to Palau and we are so sorry to see her leave.

One of our students has proven to be a great cook as he keeps bringing treats each week to Institute.
One week he made cream puffs and then dipped them in chocolate to serve us.

Last week he brought apple pie and ice cream. Thank you Andrew for all your good works.

We have made a habit of playing games after our lesson each week and this week we set up a badminton net and brought out the ping pong table.

I must say we have a few very competitive kids in our group.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Micronesia Mall to see the decorations in the center court. They were impressive but the highlight was the light and sound show. Last night, we invited ourselves to the Yigo Ward Christmas Activity which was a treat and then we took the Hertzbergs to the mall to see the light and sound show. My favorite number was a Mannheim Steamroller number. I had to go home afterwards and play my Christmas music.

It is moments like that that have made me feel like it is actually Christmas. It is not in your face as much as it is at home and when it is 85degrees and sunny it just does not seem like it can be Christmas. We are looking forward to Christmas Eve with the missionaries to make this Christmas a special one. We hope that this will also be a special Christmas for all of you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Transfer Time

It is transfer time again and so the week before transfers we did apartment inspections. We have been giving The Cleanest Apartment award for several months now and it has really helped to motivate the missionaries in their cleaning efforts.

Elder Valinotti and Elder Blaser were the winners this month. Elder Blaser is a previous winner. Most of the missionaries want the award and so it has been difficult to determine a winner. We are now asking when they washed their sheets last and using that as a tie breaker. Next transfer I am going to add shoe shining to the list. That seems to be a problem here. Shoes deteriorate very fast and the elders do not bother to shine them. Very tacky!

Friday Night Date Night! We invited Sister Miyazaki to go with us to Chamorro Village for dinner. We also took flat MaCayela with us. After eating at the Jamaica Grill - Ya Mon! Serious Food! - we watched the performance in the Village. It was a group of young kids and they were very good. After a great fire dance finale, MaCayela wanted to have her picture taken with some of the performers. She had her picture taken with the girls and then the boys had to have their picture taken too.

This next picture was taken of MaCayela and a monitor lizard. I tried and tried to get the picture turned but no matter what I did it posted this way every time. You will just have to turn you head to check it out.

There was also a coconut crab that liked to pose for pictures. The boy that had the crab said that it is 65 years old. There was a copy of a newspaper article about the crab so I guess he was right.

Sunday we had the Assistants over for dinner. This was the last time we would be able to feed Elder Colemere. He was getting ready to go home. Elder Wilson's companion, Elder Stanley, had gone home the week before and so he was staying with the Assistants and so we had he and Elder Matthews (Elder Colemeres replacement) along with Elder Tuaitanu. We will really miss Elder Colemere and Elder Wilson who is also going home.

Tuesday morning we saw six elders off in time for them to be home for Thanksgiving. From left to right, Pres. and Sister Dowdle, Elders Colemere, Ako, Ulmer, VanKomen, Wilson and Cook.

We are also losing Elder Garcia in the office. He is going up north and Elder Iglesia is taking his place. These are two of our Filipino elders. They come from the same village in the Phillipines.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. Here we have Master Carver, President Dowdle, and his lovely Master Chef, Sister Dowdle. They put on a wonderful dinner for 29 missionaries. We had had 9 new missionaries arrive the night before and it was a great way for them to start their 2 years.

The Sisters are quite outnumbered but what a great group they are! This picture kinda reminds me of the Sesame Street song "one of these things is not like the other". We need some sisters with some height. I feel like a giant next to them!

Friday night we went down to the Forbidden Zone. This is the touristy area in Tumon and it has a few businesses that are not the best so the missionaries are not to go down there. We are special though and so it does not apply to us. They had a Dance Fest that night and we wanted to check it out. The street was blocked off and they had lots of food booths, etc. but there was a stage area where several local groups and a few groups from Tokyo performed.

The first group to dance was the Gef Pago group we had seen perform at the Sheraton several months ago. They did several dances but I wish they had done the whole show. It is just a bunch of kids but they are really good and I enjoy watching them.

There were a couple of groups doing Hip Hop or Crumping or dances like that. This is the Step Entertainment group. They were good if you like that style but after 5 or 6 dances I was a little tired of it.

This is the Talent Box group who also did Hip Hop, etc. Interesting that they did a lot of oldies tunes and adapted it to their style.

There was also a local group who did dances from India. It was great. We got a taste of what we were supposed to have experienced on our mission. We are quite glad that we had the reassignment though because we love it here in Guam.

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This was one of the groups from Japan. Their costuming was interesting. They started out with blue kimono's and for each dance they peeled off a layer to expose a different color. In the following video, if you look close, you can see that each layer was bunched in the back.


Saturday there was a Japanese Festival down at Ipao Beach. Our neighbor had been telling us for months about this festival and we were excited to check it out. I have to say we were a bit disappointed. We expected it to be like the Micronesia Island Fair but it was quite different. You had to buy coupons at a central booth and then use the coupons for food and games. That was all there was. No crafts like I had hoped.

These girls were trying to spin the plate on the stick. The girl on the left was really good.

Several of the booths had these little pools with balls and rubber duckies floating. They would give you a small paddle that was covered in paper. You dipped it and tried to lift out the balls to put in your bowl. The longer it took you the paper soaked up water and would tear when you tried to lift something. I think that meant your time was up. They also had pools that had goldfish in them. Some of the kids were doing quite well and had a bowl full of fish.

There was also a stage set up where there was entertainment going on. The dance group we saw the night before was performing when we arrived. There was a marshall arts demonstration going on when we left. We had planned on being there for several hours but I think we were in and out in 1/2 hour.

We ended our Saturday with another turkey dinner at a members house. They had wanted to feed all the missionaries but since the missionaries can only eat at houses that are in their proselyting area, only a few missionaries could go. We picked up Sister Miyazaki and joined 6 other missionaries. We had a wonderful feast that the Taiwerbwe children had even helped with. This family has gone through some great health trials in the past few months and we were really humbled that they would do this for us. Just another example of the generosity of the islanders. We have grown to love them so much.

We have had some wonderful feasts over the last few days but this coming week is Zone Conference and we look forward to a spiritual feast

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Super Saturdays

Saturday the 6th we decided that we needed to support the Guam GATE program. They were performing Cinderella. The cast came from all the High Schools on Guam. Our own Brother Ching was the percusionist in the orchestra and we wanted to see him in action. We invited Sister Miyazaki to go with us. We went to dinner at Caliente, a great mexican restaurant, and then headed to the theater. The play was really good. There are some really talented young people on the island. Brother Ching was quite entertaining also. There was so much use of percusions in the music and you could see in his face that he loves what he does. I wish that we had had our camera with us. The sets were great, especially the pumpkin carriage.

During the week I again got my exercise cleaning an apartment. We have been looking for an apartment for a senior couple who will be coming Dec. 8th. Since we moved the sisters down south to keep that apartment from molding again, we have an empty apartment here in our building. Our landlord was supposed to let us know if there will be an opening here but so far we have not heard from her soooooo we decided to put the Hertzburgers in the sisters apartment. Of course I want them to have a clean place. After apartment inspections Elder Clarke will be painting. We have had the apartment for 5 years so it does need a little freshening up. Since it is on a month to month lease now they can decide if that place is okay or they would like to move somewhere else. At least the decision will not be ours. If we do not put them there we will have to sign a one year lease somewhere else and they will be stuck with what we have chosen. Too much pressure for me!

Friday night we visited with an investigator who is having trouble giving up his last 4 cigarettes. He had decided to try the patch and we were excited to see if it helped. Unfortunately, he could not get it until he has a physical. He is scheduled for this week. He is a tremendous person and has a great testimony of the gospel and is anxious to be baptized.

So that brings us again to a super Saturday. We started the day off early. It was our turn to clean the church. Brother Ching is our team leader and he usually calls to give us the time. Since he was so involved with Cinderella he forgot to call everybody. We figured he would be starting early since he has in the past. We showed up at 7am and found Brother Ching and his sister (who was just visiting him!). They had been there since 5:30am. He said that since he had not called anyone he knew no one would come and he had to be to work that morning. WE LOVE BROTHER CHING. He is the one that is always there, always doing what needs to be done.

Brother Ching left and we took a couple hours to finish up the work. As we were getting ready to leave one person showed up ready to work. Lucky her! We headed for home to clean up and then head south.

When we first arrived on the island I had read about Gef Pago Village and wanted to check it out. We went down to Inarajan to see what it was but there was an entrance fee and it really did not look worth paying for. This week they were holding a story telling festival at Gef Pago - and it was free! We decided to take Flat Macayela to check things out.

We arrived just in time to take the shuttle to the old area of Inarajan. If you look real close you can see Flat Macayela looking out the window.

Flat Macayela met Angie and her grandson Sean Diego. Angie is an original resident of Inarajan.
As we walked around the old area she told about the buildings and the people who had lived there. Inarajan is one of the oldest villages on Guam. It used to be a thriving area but did not weather the typhoons very well.
This was a very large home that has totally been neglected. So sad.

Macayela stopped to check out the roosters. There were about 5 cages with some really pretty roosters. The owner came over while we were looking. He said that he raises them for Cock fighting.

Even though most of the buildings are in various stages of ruin, the historical society has done these murals to show what the buildings were used for. This building had been a clinic, a post office, a store and tailor shop.

This is one of the oldest structures in the village. Originally it had a thatched roof and was open air on the bottom. Ifil wood posts were stuck into the ground and then a floating floor was installed. The ifil wood is a very hard, strong wood and many of the houses had these posts that were 100 years old. They were in perfect condition. It is termite proof and although the rest of the house may have rotted away, the posts still stood strong. The Spanish came in and put the stone walls on the bottom. It made a cool place for storage. The tin roofs replaced the thatched roof sometime after the war.

Flat Macayela liked all the flowers that she found along the way.

This was the house that Angie grew up in. In 1976 there was a huge typhoon that destroyed the house and over the years the foilage has taken over. There is a tree growing inside the house now. Angie's mother was an entraprenuer (however you spell it) and ran several businesses. There was a retail store, post office and little soda shop in the first floor of the home. She also had a farm and they fished and sold the fish. According to Angie her mother worked 24/7 and the kids worked almost as much. Angie's father was a teacher and she said that she decided she would never be a business person. She wanted the schedule that her father had. She and her siblings all went into education. She was a principle and when she retired she started farming and looking for a business that she could get into.

After our tour of the old town, we finally went into Gef Pago Village. There are several little huts set up to show the old Chamorro ways. Macayela liked the old mode of transportation, although the caribao's motor seemed to be idling at the time.

Again, we saw the Spanish influence. This little beehive oven was an example of the way they baked. There was a man making bread. They were baked to perfection.

There is a pavilion where they do performances and we were lucky to be able to see a group of kids singing and dancing. They are one of ten groups throughout the island who study the old Chamorro ways so that they preserve their culture. The performance was so good. Wayne filmed just a small portion of the dance. Notice the little guy. He was so CUTE.

After the kids performed, Angie gave memories of growing up in the village. As she talked I kept thinking about Hillary Clinton's "It takes a village to raise a child". Angie talked about how everyone was family and if you did something at one end of the village, your parents would know by the time you made it home. She felt her parents were very strict but realizes that it contributed to successful adults.

After Angie spoke, there was a group of storytellers who were supposed to give a feel for the history of the area. The first man was interesting but then it started going downhill. It got a bit raunchy and we decided it was time to go.

When we got home we quickly did Saturday chores and then decided to go to Chili's for dinner because we had a coupon which expired on the 15th. We were a little disappointed that the free appetizer turned out to be restricted to either an artichoke dip or the queso dip. We had used this coupon before and Wayne made a meal out of the appetizer we got. Oh well, not as good as we had hoped but we ordered and then waited. And waited. They finally brought out the appetizer which we finished off and then waited for our food. And waited. The waitress came by to apologize for the wait. And we waited. The manager finally came over and told us she had just found out that we had been waiting a half hour for our food and she comped the whole meal. What a great way to end a Super Saturday.

Today was another good day. We had decided that we should invite the men in our Branch who are here on their own to come for dinner. We had an older man who has been here 1 1/2 years without his wife, a younger man who is waiting for his family to come and two single guys. We had a great afternoon getting to know them better.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thank Goodness Nov. 2nd Is Over!!

When we first moved here 9 months ago (our half way anniversary was Nov. 1st) we saw this sign everywhere.

We soon learned that it was a vote 2010 sign.
Soon more signs joined it. Every month more and more signs. By October our roads were lined with them. Several months ago we started seeing ads appearing on TV for different political candidates. The Governors race got especially dirty. Accusations were being flung left and right. We have found politics here in Guam quite interesting. Family connections are very important and a lot of the candidates made sure that their connections to certain families was well publicized. By last week we were really tired of it all.
Election day turned out to be the biggest day of all. The streets by the polling places were lined with supporters. They had tents set up with bar-b-que and other goodies. In some places the traffic crawled because they spilled out into the street.
Not a real clear picture but this was one of the areas that barely one car could get through.
In the end, these were the winners. At least Calvo's signs have already been taken down. I can hardly wait until the rest are cleared away.

With that taken care of, I will now go on to a couple of activities from the past week. As Halloween neared I began to think of the great Ward activity I would be missing at home. But I was surprised to find out that our little Branch was actually going to have a Trunk or Treat activity. It was simple but had a good turn out and was fun.

This little elephant is our darling Sky. Since I have to be away from my grandchildren Sky has to be my surogate grandchild. We love him to pieces.

I volunteered the missionaries to do a Go Fish booth. I figured we would rotate helpers but four of them ended up manning the booth the whole evening. Even the adults wanted to fish.

The pumpkin bowling was a big hit with Sky. He kept going over and picking up the cups to hand them to people. Everyone else just threw small pumpkin gourds at the cups.

Instead of a cake walk they had a cupcake walk. The winner got to decorate their own cupcake. As you can see, young and old had fun with it.

The young women did face painting. Some of their work was really good.

This is one of our Institute students. He is one of the quieter ones!!

After refreshments of Subway sandwiches, chips and drinks, there was costume judging.

Some were creative in decorating their vehicles for the Trunk or Treat.

The missionaries didn't want to be left out so they sat in their trunk and handed out Restoration pamphlets. A good ending to a fun night.

This was our Institute class last week. We had 19 show up for class. That was great since we had been asked to take pictures of the class that night for a project someone is working on. This week we were back down to 10 students. Our number fluctuates back and forth but we have a great time no matter how many are there.

Like I said in the beginning, we are now half way through our time here and we just cannot believe it. We keep saying where did the time go. The weeks just go by so fast. We are loving our time here and look forward to the next 9 months.