Saturday, April 25, 2009
Today was our preparation day. We had hired a driver to pick us up along with the Crooks and take us into the heart of the city of Bogota. The traffic was a nightmare. Apparently Saturdays are worse than weekdays in terms of gridlock and we hit it all. It took us about an hour to get into the downtown area. The driver let us off at the Gold museum. It is amazing and so well done. We spent at least an hour there. Then he drove us a few blocks which took forever and let us off and we walked towards the plaza. On our way we stopped at several museums including an exhibition of the art work of Botero. (He likes to paint fat people). We also peeked into several other museums on our walk down to the plaza. The plaza is amazing. Hundreds of people and merchants. We went into a very old and gigantic cathedral located right on the plaza. We also drove past the President of Bogotas house. We went to the office and picked up the neo natal maniquens we have to take with us tomorrow to Venezuela and went to lunch at our favorite restaurant, Sopa y
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
One of the many miracles of our mission was the news that my dear friend of over 40 years was coming to Bogota on business. She was able to bring a suitcase of supplies to me and she is staying within walking distance of our apartment. This is a BIG city and we were stunned when we reallized how close she was to us. We had a wonderful time together on Sunday. The picture was taken at our Stake Center; a beautiful building with spanish architecture featuring an open air passage way in the center and with classrooms on one side and the chapel on the other. We have been able to meet her for dinner and Saturday her husband Fred and Royal and I are going to go sight seeing through the city of Bogota.
We left early Saturday morning for Santa Marta for a 10:00 session to present our presentations to District andBranch and Relief Society presidencies. As was our practice on this trip, we arrived late, got things set up, gave the presentations, and were finished before noon. We went to a nice shopping center with a nice food court (Terraza de Comida) and had lunch with the District President, his wife, and a counselor. Santa Marta is a smaller city with the best beaches with the whitest sand in Colombia , mostly relying on tourist trade. Santa Marta is really Gabriel Garcia Marquez country. His boyhood home town (not Macondo but Aracataca) is nearby as is the Magdalena River, featured in many of his novels. The wife of the district president had read a lot of Garcia Marquez's works and we had a good conversation about them. After lunch we drove to the estate where Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator, after having been exiled from Bogota, was living when he died in 1830. He actually was on his way to Spain but never made it. He stayed at an estate called the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino which has been very well preserved and restored. Most of the furniture, etc. were those actually used by Bolivar, except his sword which actually is owned by the Venezuelans and frequently brandished by our new best friend, Hugo Chavez. A sweet young high school junior was our guide, pointing out such things as 400 year old trees and large iguanas on the lawn. By the time we left the Quinta, we barely had time to make our flight back to Bogota, literally running the whole way to the airplane after arriving at the air port.
We spent last Friday in the lovely town of Baranquilla. We stayed at a beautiful hotel with a revolving restaurant on top. We ate dinner in the restaurant Friday night at 10:00. We were very busy!! Earlier in the day, we visited a brand new school that was funded by a foundation called Piesdescalzos. The foundation was started by a famous Colombian singer who grew up in Baranquilla. The children attending the school are by in large from lower income families. They are so happy and thriving and learning. It was such a joy to visit there. Due to the fact that we were so obviously Americans (especially me with my white hair and only speaking english) and that President Clinton had visited the school last month, we were quite intriguing to the children. They laughed at my spanish and were delighted to tell me their names, age and grade. They even asked us for our autographs.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
We enjoyed our trip to the famous Colombian city of Cartegena, especially walking through the old walled colonial city. The streets are narrow and the buildings very old, some of which have been restored and renovated for business and government use. The streets were filled with lots of North American looking people from two cruise ships anchored nearby. US dollars were accepted. We walked through the narrow streets, sat in the inevitable plaza with the statue of the gran libertador, Simon Bolivar. We had our picture taken with native-dressed women, and with a statue of a black man, which was an actual man. We walked on the wall with its canons and guard outposts. We were told two interesting but unsubstantiated facts about the wall, one that it was made from coral reefs, thus destroying this spectacular under water treasure, and the other that the blood of black slaves was used as mortar.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Yesterday was the first day of a two day holiday here in Colombia. We spent some of the day working on my presentation (what I am saying in Spanish) and then we got dressed and went to the 4:30 session at the temple. We were suppose to meet the Stulls there but they had an emergency so we went without them. The temple here is much smaller than the D.C. temple but the spirit and the ceremonies are the same. It was a bit intimidating for me, NO ONE spoke english except one dear sister who was a big help to me. It was so nice sitting in the session with all those sweet hispanic saints. It was a huge group with several people going through for their own endowments. We were worried about getting a taxi after dark for the ride home but coincidentally there was a very nice taxi driver waiting at the gate who turned out to be a bishop in one of the wards. We got home safe and sound and felt like it was well worth the effort. We look forward to going again soon.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Carolyn came up with the idea of inviting the other four sets of senior missionaries to come to our apartment for a pot luck dinner (she prepared her famous western meal in one) and the other folks brought salads, desserts, bread, etc.) The idea was for people to come after the saturday PM session, eat, and then the brethren would all go off to the Priesthood session at the stake center while the hermanas would stay and visit. My initial thought was that this would never work for a variety of reasons I imagined but it was clear that Carolyn's was determined so I did what I could to support the idea. And it actually worked very well. The group of senior missionaries are diverse and interesting people, all doing different kind of missionary work -- including our welfare and humanitarian services, the perpetual education fund, auditing, medical and psychological support to mission presidents, and family history. Here is a photo of the group (minus a good sister who took the photo).
Last Friday, we traveled to a little town named Jenesano, about a 3 hour drive north of Bogota. As part of its humanitarian services, the Church supports a a small organization set up to provide services to severely disabled children/adults. About 75 children/adults participate in this important, but poor facility. The Church's support (a new stove, a fancy saw for the workshop, a sewing machine, etc.) has been very imporant and we went to Jenesano to officially present the Church's contribution. There was a very long tour of the facility (the director made certain we saw every room and heard an account of what it was for), a sort of official ceremony with the signing of documents, photographs, and a fine lunch featuring trucha (trout). The little town of Jenesano is surrounded by beautiful rural mountain scenery. We have attached a couple of photographs.
We went out to the temple last week to buy some oxygen absorbers for Carolyn's home storage presentation. It's a very modest little distribution center, next to the temple. The distribution center has one attendant, no cash register, no access to the shelves and materials. There were boxes of Church CDs and DVDs littering the floor throughout the little room. There must have been a special sale going on because a long line of people were buying lots of the CDs and DVDs and temple garments for $1,000 pesos (less than $1 american). We finally got our modest purchases and went out to look at the lovely Bogota temple. Here are a couple of photographs.