Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week 2 - Welcome to Africa - Granny

We went to church today with President and Sister Poulsen to the Dobsonville Ward which is held in a very nice red brick chapel. Our Sacrament meeting was excellent and the speakers did a wonderful job. We visited the investigators class and they had 17 investigators in attendance; 6 men and 11 women plus about 4 or 5 children that would have enjoyed the nursery much better than the class. At Relief Society we had no one to play the piano, but the teachers did a wonderful job. As I thought about the day’s meetings, the only thing that was different from home was that one of the Deacon’s passing the sacrament had a bright orange T shirt on under his white shirt; the library has a sign that reads “No admittance except to the Ward Librarian; and of the approximately 100 people in the audience, only President and Sister Poulsen, Dad and I and 4 other Elders, everyone but 2 ladies were black! Beautiful people, living in a very poor part of town, dressed very well, lots of either shaved heads or braids on the sisters, and an obvious love of the gospel. This was a great Sunday, but it got even better as we stayed afterwards for a baptism of three adults; one man and wife and another lady. The spirit was strong, the room was HOT, and other than the speaker who spoke on baptism took 25 minutes, it was all wonderful. We went back to the mission home and had a nice dinner and then were picked up by one of the Senior Couples and taken to a missionary fireside with about 12 missionaries that serve right in the close proximity of the office and mission home. I guess they get together every other week on Sunday night and share their experiences and testimonies and then have cake and ice cream. I think the main reason for the meeting is the cake and ice cream and Pres, Poulsen wanted us to attend and let him know what we thought. He said they shouldn’t start before 8:30 as Sunday evening was a perfect to be out teaching and wanted us to see what we thought. When we were picked up at 7:30 and told that the fireside started at 8:00 I’m sure he wasn’t very impressed; so we’ll see what happens with the cake and ice cream parties on Sunday night. I think we won’t try to get anything like that started in Botswana!

Monday was a very busy day in the office. It’s the missionaries’ preparation day so we got to meet 22 Elders as they came into the office to pick up their mail and WHATEVER! Their office is very small and they have 3 couples (one couple actually go home in a week) working in the office, plus the Assistants, and Dad and I and it was wall to wall people all day. I think dad and I have decided we are really happy to be going to Botswana instead of working there. As we visited with the Elders that day, every one of them said how lucky we are to be going to Botswana; it seems to be the envy spot of the mission and we are excited to get gone. We got our car; it’s a tiny little Chevy with a stick shift and of course, the steering wheel is on the wrong side. Dad got in and started driving right away, but I think I’ll wait a couple of weeks to get use to the world coming at me from the wrong direction. WE also got a cell phone that neither of us can quite figure out, but we will get it and it will be easier when we figure out the area codes, the country calling codes, and what it takes to call from one local area to another and especially from one country to another.

That evening we were invited to Family Home Evening with the other couples and President and Sister Poulsen as well as the President of the MTC and his wife, the Christensen’s from St. George. They are great people and they also know President and Sister Abraham so we had a great conversation about what a small world it is. In fact, the three couples that are here in the office right now all have connections with someone we know. The Watts lived in the same ward as my Aunt Cleo (grandpa Beus’ Sister that passes away just recently); The Betournay’s are from Morgan, Utah and know Craig and Valarie Whitear and remember Shaundalee as a great young woman; and then the Henrichson’s served in the Washington DC temple with Mary and Delando. Sherrie and Shaundalee perhaps you could pass on their love to your parents and in-laws; they had wonderful things to tell us about your families.
All went well on Tuesday morning except that dad felt a little dizzy and light headed and I had him relax for a bit (you know Dad, that lasted about 3 minutes) and then he said he was feeling better and we went about our business of the day. We had been pushing pretty hard, running on little sleep, and trying to just PUSH through the jet lag and not let it get the best of us. So far we had been up and running each morning by 6 or 6:30AM and forcing ourselves to stay awake until 10:00 PM so we could get our “clocks” adjusted to this new time. We got brave and hooked up our new GPS and heading into downtown Johannesburg to the Area Offices as President wanted us to meet the people there that we would have to deal with for Visa’s, cars, travel, Finances and etc. Our GPS kept shutting off as it had a bad connection so we pulled off the freeway once and got it held just right and then I tried to hold the GPS with one hand, hold on to the cord connection with the other hand so we could find the address we needed to get to. We did find our way and only had to call the office once! Our time at the Area Office was very productive, enjoyable and we met many fine people that we are excited to work with. They are so grateful that we are here and we hope to be able to do all the things they think we are going to be able to accomplish for them. We spent about 3 hours there, had a wonderful time and then headed back to our office, thinking we’d find something to eat or at least drink on the way---WRONG. First of all, it’s downtown (construction everywhere) and our GPS kept mal-functioning and to make a long story short, we were LOST! I do have to say that we were laughing out loud saying “what are two old people from Burley Idaho doing in this strange car with a steering wheel on the wrong side of the car, driving on the wrong side of the street, trying to call for help on a cell phone that we haven’t quite figured out yet, and LOST in downtown Johannesburg South Africa doing?” Of course, we didn’t think we had any choice but to listen to “Go-Go” (that’s what we call our GPS and it stands for Grandma in African’s) because even though we had to take a couple of detours and dad knew we were going in the wrong direction, we thought that eventually she would bring us back to the office. But when we ended up about 10 miles out of town and “Go-Go” was still saying go 12 miles farther in the same direction, dad said “enough” and he proceeded to call the office and try to tell them where we were. Well, as it turns out the only couple that has been in this country longer than a month was way up north on business and the other two couples have only been here 1 month or less and didn’t have a clue where we were. Dad kept talking with them and figured out how to give them the map coordinates where we were and they gave us the map coordinates for the office; we programmed everything in a different way and 30 minutes later we actually found the mission office. It had only taken us 2 hours to return from the Area Office and it probably should have taken us about half a hour; but we made it. I didn’t mention however that shortly before we got back to the office, Dad started having pains in his chest! We hadn’t taken any food or water with us, nor did we find anywhere to get any so we hoped it was just a problem from the heat and not enough water plus pushing ourselves a bit the last few days. His pain didn’t get too bad until we arrived at the office but within 5 minutes I knew we were in trouble. We got two of the Senior Missionaries to give him a blessing and the Assistants and I loaded him up in the car; called President and Sister Poulsen and everyone said they were on their way to meet us at the Emergency Room of the closest and best hospital they knew of. They took him right back to get him some help while I stayed out to do the admittance papers. The only problem was that we hadn’t taken our passports with us that day so I had to send the Assistants over to the Mission Home to get our passports so I sent my day planner with then so I didn’t have to deal with it and also with Dad’s tie. When I tried to give them some information about us, I realized I didn’t know any phone numbers at all to give them. I actually had a little piece of paper in my day planner that Sister Poulsen had given me that had the phone number of the Mission home, the Presidents cell number, her cell number and also the Mission Office number, But……………………………Needless to say by the time the President and his wife showed up I was a basket case, but they give them all the important numbers and soon the Assistants showed up with dad’s passport so we were able to give them pretty much what they needed to admit him. They had to do some X-ray’s (which I had to go pay for before they would take them) I had to go back to accounting to pay for Admittance to the Emergency room also, and after about two hours his Doctor (Tamara) finally read the X-rays and said he had some pleurisy around his lungs which was causing the pain; he needed a strong antibiotic, a steroid and some good pain pills and that we should come back quickly if he had any further occurrences with the pain. We drove him back to the Mission Home and got him settled down and President had to go to a meeting so Sister Poulsen drove me down town to the Aptek to get his prescriptions. While I was trying to pay for the prescriptions (they wouldn’t take Dollars or Debit Cards or Credit Cards from America and we hadn’t changed any money because Botswana uses different money than Johannesburg) so Sister Poulsen had to pay for the medicine. Anyway, my cell phone rang and it was President Poulsen saying that the hospital called and said they had misread his blood work and we needed to bring him back to the hospital immediately. We did so and found out that his blood was extremely alarming and he had to go have a CT Scan and they had all the paperwork ready for him to go right into have it done (well as soon as I paid the 6,000Rand (almost $1,000) to have it done. I did so (luckily the hospital did take our Debit Card) and when the CT Scan results were read he had multiple blood clots in both of his lungs and had to be admitted to the Thoracic ICU Unit of the hospital.
They admitted him and he spent the night there and I came back to the Mission Home with President and Sister Poulsen. I didn’t realize how alone I could feel a thousand miles away from my family and alone without my sweetheart. The next couple of days were really hard for us both. Dad felt just fine ad wasn’t having anymore chest pain, they took good care of him but it was just so disappointing not to be headed for Botswana the next morning like we had planned. The President was traveling up there and holding a Zone Conference which we were excited about, we would meet all of “our” Elders and Sisters and even get to attend 16 baptisms up there this weekend. But now, here we were stuck in the hospital and I couldn’t even stay with him. I got to go in to see him from 11:00-12:00 AM, from 3-4PM and again from 7:30 to 8:00 PM and that was all. Sister Bricknell came and sat at the hospital one day with me and Sister Poulsen drove me over the next day, but then President and Sister Poulsen left for Botswana without us and we were both pretty discouraged about that. Dad did get moved out of the ICU unit today though and we were both encouraged and I tried to pump myself up a bit, but when I got nervous walking back and forth from the hospital, my cell phone quite working for some crazy reason and then when I got back to the Mission Home and had myself all locked and chained in, I planned to use their Magic Jack phone and call the kids and give them a report on Dad. Well, the Magic Jack had come unplugged and was not charged and wouldn’t work and I wasn’t smart enough to figure out which one of the 20 cords or plugs should go where to get it plugged back in so I decided to call the mission office and find out how to call America on the land line, but they had just turned off their phones for the evening and I got a message! I hunted though all of my literature and found a cell phone for the Henrichsen’s; one of the senior couples and they came to my rescue and came over to the house and figured out what had gone wrong with my cell phone, and taught me how to call America on the land line so I could call Roger and give him the number to call to talk to me without running up a huge phone bill here at the Mission Home. Elder Henrichsen also gave me a blessing and I started feeling a little better and actually felt quite stupid when all of our kids started calling and wanted to come to my rescue when it’s their dad that is really the one needing attention and prayers. Anyway, It’s about three hours later, several phone calls from my wonderful children and also my good friend Gay and I’m absolutely exhausted and should be able to sleep all night without any more incidents so I’ll close this journal entry for now and say “good-night” to all of you!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Week 1 - MTC (Granny)

Dear Family,
Our first week in the mission field hasn’t quite been what we expected but we are being well taken care of and are getting through it one day at a time. As I write, Dad is in the hospital and I am staying at the mission home; but I would like to go back a week and begin from the evening we left you all in Burley.

We drove straight to Provo, arriving at the Super 8 around 10:30 PM. They weren’t expecting us as no one had told them we were coming in before morning, but they were very accommodating but didn’t have any rooms on the 1st floor where they usually put the missionary couples because of all their luggage. We said that would be fine as we could just leave our two big ones in the car all week. So we proceeded on with our two other suitcases each and lugged them upstairs and got settled in quickly so we could get up early and check into the MTC the next morning by 7:30. We asked for a 6 O’clock wake up call to make sure we were up and ready, but as you can imagine, we were up about 5:30 anxious to start the day.

The four days at the MTC were busy with our Office training classes from 8 AM to 5PM and we met 3 other Senior couples as well as 2 single Senior sisters taking the same office training. We met the Ivey’s from Utah going to Recife Brazil, The Freeman’s from Utah going to Honolulu, Hawaii; the Jenson’s from Utah going to Ft. Worth, Texas; Sister Cooper from Maine going to Charlotte, North Carolina; and Sister Manning from Washington State going to Milan Italy. All were great people and we enjoying meeting them as well as working with them for the four days.

Our days were pretty much all the same except on Tuesday evening we got to go to the Devotional they hold each week; this week we had Elder Jay Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy’s Quorum and he did an excellent job of speaking on “The Book of Mormon.” We got to shake his hand afterwards as he came up to Dad and remembered us but couldn’t remember where we had met. We told him we served with President Bricknell and he had come to Idaho for one of our Mission Tours a few years ago. We told him we were going to South Africa and would see the Bricknell’s so he told us to give them a big hug for him and wife and said what great people they are; which we certainly agree with.

We also met up with the Carter’s a couple of time for dinner at the MTC one evening and also we went with them to the devotional. The Carter’s served with us in Ukraine (they were in Zaporozhe on the SW part of our mission) and now have been called to be Mission President in Armenia. They don’t actually leave until July 1st, but they are attending the MTC three days a week for language training. One Wednesday evening we went out to dinner with the Pattee’s who served with us in Ukraine also (they served in Poltava, way up North) and we met them at Red Lobster which is always a treat for us. They are also turning in their papers for another mission, we are trying to convince them to come to South Africa with us, but they just got a call today from a Mission President they don’t even know that wants them to come to Belize. I guess we’ll have to see what happens with that and see if we hear from them telling us they would rather come to South Africa and then we’ll tell our Mission President to contact them. I think most Senior Couples these days get grabbed up before they even get their papers in.

The only other exciting thing that happened at the MTC were more shots and a training we had to take for Malaria. Because we are serving in Botswana, the MTC required us to be trained on the importance of taking medication every day we are there and also getting netting to put over our sleeping area and spraying our clothes down with this really strong bug spray that we will be able to get there. We have since talked with President Poulsen and he said the really problem is up farther than where we live and he didn’t think it would be necessary, but for us to talk to the Olson’s when we actually got there. We’ll want to be careful and not get bitten, but I sure hope we don’t have to take all the precautions they told us about at the MTC, especially the daily dose of medicine.

We did our laundry at the MTC Thursday evening after classes so we could get up bright and early Friday morning and head for the airport. We drove to Handy Truck Lines warehouse by 8 O’Clock and one of their employees drove us to the airport and waiting while we got our bags all check in to make sure we were alright on everything. He was most helpful in lugging our heavy suitcase and everything went off like clockwork there. In fact, the MTC travel people told us that Delta just started charging $50.00 for the 2nd piece of luggage, so we went prepared to pay $100. For our 2 big suitcases, but they let us check 2 pieces each with no extra charge as long as they were not overweight. We had 2 cases weight exactly 50 pounds, one suitcase weighted 49 pounds and the last one was 51, but they just pushed everything through and said we were fine. That was a relief and a bonus on the money end of things, so we just headed upstairs with our carry on small suitcases (one each) and my duffle bag (called my purse) and dad’s computer bag which counted as his small carry on. The wait was long, almost 3 hours, but seemed to go pretty fast and before we knew it we were headed for our 4 hours flight to Atlanta. We arrived pretty much on time and had a 2 ½ hour layover there which was quite ample, but not a huge inconvenience as that is really a big airport and we had to take the underground subway to our next gate. We jumped onto the subway train but as soon as we cleared the door, the door came closed on my suitcase and I could rip it loose. They little voice on the subway keep saying, “stand clear of the door” but I couldn’t get my suitcase out as it was smashed by the door. Finally someone hit the “emergency opening” button and the door reversed so I could pull it inside with us and we were on our way again. WE caught our next flight just fine, did a little seat trading and Dad and I were together on the very last row of the plane, but we did have an empty seat in between us so we had a little room to spread out and were right next to the restrooms for the entire 16 hour flight. The flight did seem VERY LONG, but we each got about 4 or 5 hours sleep which we thought was pretty good under the circumstances and we had a change to grab the restrooms when they weren’t very busy and freshen up a bit before meeting the Bricknell’s and another office couple named The Botournay’s after passing through passport and immigration control quite easily. We talked there for a few minutes and then Elder Botournay went and got the Mission Pakki (name for pick-up here) and loaded our luggage. They took us to the Mission Home which was about a 1 Hour drive, and we settled ourselves in as the Poulsen’s were out of town to a Zone Conference and didn’t arrive home until later tonight. I took a nice refreshing bath, but miss-read a bottle I found in their bathroom cupboard and had lotion in my bath instead of bubbles. The language might be the same here, but the labels all look different and I’ll have to pay better attention next time. We didn’t wait up for them as we were quite exhausted, but met them bright and early the next morning. We slept quite well until about 3AM and then our bodies somehow thought it was morning, but Dad said a wonderful prayer for us and Heavenly Father helped us to be able to get back to sleep until about 6 AM which made for a pretty good first night’s sleep here in the mission.

Week 1 - MTC

Dear Family,
This is the last day we will be at the Mission Training Center in Provo. It has been quite a learning experience to both Mom and I. We have learned a lot about Microsoft Office in the word and excel programs. We are excited to be able to use these programs in our lives. We think we will be able to put them into practice in the mission field. We have learned a lot about the new IMOS program that the church uses. We used the old MOS program in our mission in the Idaho Pocatello Mission and both of the missions we served in while serving in Ukraine. The new IMOS seems to be a lot easier and friendlier to use. Yesterday we received our last shot which was a polio booster that they wouldn’t give us in Burley because they don’t give them to people that are over age 65. That in itself seemed to be scary to think we are too old for anything. The church wanted us to have it so we got it.

We are also susceptible to malaria in the Botswana area so they are getting us some pill that we have to take every day. They gave us quite a lot of information concerning it so we need to be very careful with mosquitoes and try to keep from getting bitten very much. We are to put on repellant all the time and we are to use sun screen as the pills make us susceptible to reddening of skin which is an irritation. I’m not sure but I think we will have mosquito nets to sleep under. He wants us to check and make sure we have screens on the windows that we will be opening and make sure the doors seal well as they can and do come through any opening that their bodies can crawl into. We are told by the doctor that 1 out of 4 mosquitoes are carriers of malaria and you will be bitten by one of them but with taking the medication you may get malaria but only have a very mild case. The doctor said if we take all the precautions we will be fine and if we do get malaria it will be a mild case instead of being down for more than a month at a time.

We are really excited and yesterday I was asked to call our mission president in South Africa before we leave on Friday. It was a great conversation and he told us we will be in Botswana as that is where he feels the Lord wants us and we will be of more service to him there. He indicated that he wanted us to get close to the Elders and Sisters in Botswana as we would be taking care of almost anything that they will need. We will be doing the government paper work, helping in transfers, team teaching with them, helping with medical problems and in general being there for them. He also said that many mission presidents don’t really like the couples to do much with the younger missionaries but in Botswana we need to be close to them. We will have to keep a fine line so we don’t interfere with the proselyting they are sent to do but we have not interfered in previous missions so we will be very careful of this in Botswana as well.

I need to shut down as we are getting ready to start another class on the last day of the MTC. I will continue during the next break.

Back again, the mail part of the couples had some training on mission cars and Mom with the Sisters had training on mail merging in a room next to us. This week has been very busy and we have learned a ton and hope we will be able to remember it when we get to South Africa or I should say Botswana. We are the only couple that has served a previous mission so the young instructors have directed many questions to Mom and me. It has been fun and I think we have helped a lot. We have done many last minute things here in Provo and one included getting our birth certificates. That may sound very easy but we forgot to get them before leaving home and so we called Sherrie and she went to our home, found them and mailed them off to us. We got them the next day so we were very happy, (I’m happy thank you). Last night I called Bryce to have him call Handy Truck Lines in Salt Lake so we can go there in the morning and have them take us to the airport. They will then take the car back with them and will have it put on a Handy Truck and they will haul it home for us. There are a few personal things that we will leave in the car that we would like someone to put up high in our walk in closet in our bedroom. Roger my patriarchal bless is in with those items so perhaps you would please get into the envelope that you have most of the family’s blessings in.

Mom and I both feel really good about this call and know that this is where we are suppose to be and we will be protected as we are obedient to the rule of the mission and obey the laws of the land. I’m not saying it will be easy but we will be able to do it. I decided to put this picture in as you can’t really be in the MTC without having your picture taken with your finger on your mission area. I know that the Elders that come into the MTC can’t have a car but it has been nice for Mom and me as we needed to run to the Distribution Center to get some YSA things to take to the mission and last night we went out to eat with the Pattee’s that we served with in the Ukraine mission. It is wonderful the camaraderie we feel with couples that we have served with in other missions.

I will close but I want to tell each of you that we have been called of the Lord to serve and we will do our best to serve him with all our heart, mite, mind and strength. We feel the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives and pray for you our family every time we pray with is often. Be careful and keep the commandments of the Lord and you will all be taken of.