Friday, November 27, 2009


I have been sending dozens of email messages and getting no replies. It would appear that many/most/all of our messages are showing up as SPAM... please be sure to check you junk mail folders... I will be resending some of the lost emails from a secure server to see if that makes a difference, but I suspect that my email provider simply has this part of the world flagged as a suspicious source.

US Thanksgiving in Yap

Humbling experiences today. We thought we were going to be joining the younger missionaries and a member family to share a "Thanksgiving" spaghetti dinner that the missionaries were preparing. On arrival we discovered that they had already eaten their own dinners and then had each contributed the materials for creating a Spaghetti with Spam dinner, and some Corn Bread, and a few deserts for a needy family on the Island. We were each given assignments in the preparation of the meal and it was packed up in tin-foil containers to keep it hot while we travelled.

It took about an hour or so to prepare the dinner, so it was dark and well past 7:30PM when we left to deliver it. Winona & I followed the other missionaries to the southern tip of the Island where they pulled out a few flashlights and we began a trek in total blackness into the thick foliage. After about 100 feet, we came upon a family with 5 kids (the youngest of which was 6 months old) all sitting on a smooth wooden platform ... probably 16 feet square, and raised a few inches above the ground with flat rocks placed as necessary to level it. There were no walls, but a steel roof was held up by 8 poles... one at each of the four corners and another about half way between the corner poles. It looked precarious. I leaned against one of the poles for support as I watched the scene unfold and could tell that the structure was actually remarkably solid. A couple of Kerosene lamps sitting on the platform provided a dim light by which we could all see each other. In the distance and to my right and closer to the actual "house" I could see an open fire which was obviously used as the kitchen, and then a thatch-roofed hut which I presume was the sleeping area. The kids all seemed happy and well behaved. The dinner trays (wrapped in tin foil) that the missionaries had provided were placed on the platform and left for after our departure. Introductions and greetings were exchanged, and we played briefly with two brand new kittens who were trying desperately to get to the Spaghetti. The baby was awake and played happily in its mother's arms. Mother protected her baby very carefully.

Sister Pikula later confirmed that this was pretty typical living quarters for the Yapese. This family was particularly poor, but their home was typical. It was an eye opener. The Elders frequently (usually) teach in outdoor "rooms" deep in the jungles just like this one. There is nothing at the street to indicate the presence of a home. Just a narrow path winding its way into the forest. When approaching the home they let out a Hoo Hoo sound and the family either welcomes them in, or tells whoever is approaching to go away!

We returned briefly to the Zone Leaders apartment and enjoyed Elder Walpole's Apple Crisp and Ice Cream and some Root Beer. It was a great Thanksgiving! Certainly our most memorable.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yap... we arrive at last.

With signs and banners to welcome us, we arrive at Yap (well, once we get through customs!). The local church members and the missionaries already serving here wait patiently while we wait for our bags to clear customs. Once we realized that the signs and the people waiting were for us it was hard to hold back the tears.

The missionaries helped us with our bags and drove us to our apartment, which was actually in a lot better condition than we had expected. They had done an incredible job of cleaning the apartment, putting some eggs, bacon, butter, milk and a few essential items in the fridge, along with baking us some corn bread and taco soup for dinner the next day (Sunday). The apartment was spotless. The tile floor was glimmering, and the bedroom air conditioner had brought the temperature in our bedroom to an inviting cool temperature. The furniture was nicely arranged and provided very comfortable surroundings considering that this was an apartment made of concrete (as is most housing in Yap --- termites eat anything made of wood.)

It was about 9:30 at night when we arrived in Yap, so we had no idea what the area we were travelling in looked like. When we awoke in the morning, this is what we saw out our window:

We are indeed in the middle of a "Survivor" series! Sorry the picture isn't larger as it truly is magnificent foliage. In the picture are several banana trees, coconut trees, papaya and avocado... and probably lots of others. Of course, actually getting to those fruits is a different story!

Flight to Guam

With our flight being delayed for two hours, we ended up arriving in Guam at about 10PM... which was 4:00 AM for our Utah adjusted biological clock! Our mind was a little fuzzy by the time we got picked up by the Mission President and his wife and a very energetic group of Senior missionaries who seemed so excited to greet us. Most of it was a blurr to us as jet lag was definitely having its effect by this point in our journey.

As we ventured outside the airport, the humidity and heat hit us. There was a pretty hefty wind blowing which helped temper the heat a bit, but this was reminiscent of our week in Branson, Missouri. My glasses quickly fogged over (much like my mind had!) and I was led by the hand to the waiting car. Luckily, we were transported to the Mission President's home and were quickly escorted to our air-conditioned bedroom. We took some gravol to help reduce the buzz in our heads and induce some much needed sl... zzzzzzz

Our Day in Paradise

We got to spend 24 hours in Hawaii on our way to Guam. The weather was fantastic! We tried to make the most of it by meeting friends for dinner and then attending the evening show at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The next morning we got up early and took the shot below while eating a BK breakfast croissant on the beach. We then continued on and drove completely around the island of Oahu before heading to the airport for our flight to Guam. Once at the airport, we found out that our flight had been delayed 2 hours. Rats... two more hours we could have spent site-seeing!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SLC Airport

We are sitting in Salt Lake City airport waiting for our boarding announcement. Since they have a very efficient check-in and security system in SLC we got through security much quicker than we expected -- so our departure is still an hour away

We were up at 6AM in order to get our final packing done, weigh our luggage, clean our room, get some breakfast and say our goodbyes. We were accompanied by two young Sister Missionaries from Pakistan who pretty much adopted us, and by a couple from England who we just fell in love with. What a great time it has been. The English couple leave for Trinidad on Friday, and the Pakistan girls are at the Mission Training Center learning English until Jan 6. It was an emotional departure!

We will be arriving in Hawaii at 3:30 PM and will be spending 24 hours there. We have rented a car and will meet up with Patti Hartford (friend from Nanaimo) who has picked up tickets to the Polynesian Cultural Center for us. We fall back three hours getting to Hawaii, (it will be 6:30 Mountain Time when we arrive), so our evening activities in Hawaii will likely keep us up well past our normal bedtime. However... it will simply ease us into our inevitable jet-lag by the time we get to Guam which is pretty much a half-day switch from our normal schedule.

I need a nap. :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009


We've had a fantastic time these past two weeks. Winona and I are still here until Tuesday morning... while nearly everyone else in the picture below has already headed off to their specific assignments throughout the world. Some are simply travelling a few miles up the road, while others are on their way to Burma, Mongolia, Brazil, Poland, Russia, Dominican Republic, Guyana, South Africa, Kenya, Japan, Hawaii, Switzerland, Puerto Rico... oh, and Yap! It amazing how much of the world just this week's group of Senior Couples is covering. We've said goodbye to so many, and the chances of seeing very many of these couples again is pretty slim. This is the "hard part" of all this.

The sadness is offset somewhat by the anticipation of our own departure on Tuesday. We fly to Hawaii first. We have arranged a car rental and will meet up with Patti Hartford (a good friend living in Hawaii). She has arranged tickets to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Tuesday night for us. We then fly out Wednesday afternoon, arriving in Guam on Thursday evening! (That International Date Line thing!!) So does that mean we'll be a day younger than the local residents or will we be a day older than we actually are?

We'll be able to let you know what today is going to be like before it happens! Hey cool... I just realized that Christmas this year will come a day earlier for us! Be sure and get those packages to the Post Office early!

Monday, November 9, 2009

This is all of the Senior Couple Missionaries that arrived at the Missionary Training Center the same day that we did. (Nov 2, 2009). We have become great friends with many of them. There are an additional 2200 of the younger missionaries here as well, and they treat us like gold. It really has been a wonderful week
Click the photo to enlarge. We are way in the back.

Mandatory Map Photo

Yap is here somewhere!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guam or Bust

Wow… our first week at the Mission Training Center (MTC) is already done! It has been a full week… in more ways than one! Full, fun and fattening! If we don’t get to Guam soon we just may bust! We have one more week of training in our special assignment with the Church Education System before we take our flight to Guam.

It has been wonderful to be here, surrounded by younger missionaries from all around the world going to places all over the world. The hallways are a buzz of many languages as the missionaries practice their new linguistic skills. Our mission is an English speaking mission, however, each of the islands has its own language and those having spent time there say many locals do not speak English very well. So we will try to tie our tongues around the local language when we get there… it should be fun.