Friday, March 25, 2011

Mesa, Arizon

Contrary to what one might think from the activity (or lack of activity) on this blog, we are doing well. Even though not much has happened on the blog, we have been busy with family, friends, church and many other activities. Rather than try and update readers (Jen and Ash) on the last year; I'll cut right to the present. Firstly, I apologize for the order of the photos, it seems they are in reverse order to what I wanted them. Rather than risk losing everything by trying to change order I will leave them as they are.

Patty and I have been in Mesa, Arizona since the end of December 2010. We are heading back to Canada in a few days time. We don't want to leave the warm weather and friends we have made but we are also excited to be home and continue work on our home.

We have a small apartment/condo in Mesa. It was in pretty rough shape when we bought it but after some cleaning, painting, removing old kitchen cabinets and installing new cabinets, getting new kitchen appliances and getting furniture it is now in decent shape. New flooring is at the top of the list for next years projects.

Part of the fun we had was hunting for furniture. The only items we bought new were a TV and some dinning room chairs; everything else we bought at auction sales and off of Craig's List. (Bedding also was new).

Below is our living room. Patty has a gift of being able to make rooms look good fairly inexpensively.

New kitchen cupboards, counter-tops, fridge, stove and dishwasher. The cupboards were plain wood and Patty finished them an antique white. We are happy how they turned out.
The first month we were here we lived in a mess. It seems like renovations is just a matter of making a mess then cleaning up, making a mess and cleaning up. We were happy when we reached the "last cleanup".
The old kitchen cupboards were in rough shape. The base units, especially around the sink had gotten wet and the wood had swollen and doors and cupboards wouldn't open or close. As is usually the case with photos, pictures don't look as good, or as bad as things really are. These cupboards really were in bad shape and had to go.....even though they look not too bad in the pictures.
The sunshine ceiling (I think what that light is called) was taken out and replaced with a couple of new fixtures.
Our apartment is on the third floor of the building. There are 15 buildings in our complex and each building has 15 apartments in it. There are 3 or 4 pools in the complex. Only the main pool and hot tub are heated over winter. We are pleased with the grounds crew, they seem to be always working and the grounds are well maintained.
Our apartment is top centre.

Can a person be in Mesa, Arizona and NOT have a three wheeled bike? We didn't think so either. We decided we would go against what is popular and pass up on the three wheeler but we couldn't pass up a picture with it.
One of our favorite activities when not working on the apartment is hiking in nearby mountains. We have gone out to Usery Park many times. Although desert mountains are different than the blue Rocky Mountains of Southern Alberta, they are still beautiful.
One thing we have learned and have been amazed at is the desert plants and animals not only survive in the harsh desert conditions but they thrive and do well. We are told we would not do these hikes in June, July and August when temperature would be 110-115 degrees F.
I can't believe we are leaving this beautiful weather, but I'm sure we will be returning to Canada to find spring like conditions. Please tell me we will be returning to spring like conditions. Well, stay tuned, there might be another post in a years time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

News alert

Stay tuned for an exciting new post coming soon.
Tell all your friends.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

This and That and other ramblings

This post is going to be a bit of everything. I just selected a few pictures and will write about them. Enjoy.
From November 12 - 17 we were in the city of Cebu for a Mission President's Seminar. Cebu is the second largest city in the Philippines and is on an island farther south. All 16 Mission Presidents, who are assigned to the Philippines, and their wives were together to receive training from our Area Presidency and 3 other church leaders who were visiting from Salt Lake City. It was an enjoyable week. On one of the days of the seminar we were able to have a tour of the temple that is under construction in Cebu. Just last week the dedication date announced as June 13th. Early in our mission we thought we might be here for the dedication but construction delays pushed the dedication date back further and further. We're sad to miss it but it will be a good experience for the couple who will be replacing us. As you can see in the picture above, I am trying to be serious and Patty, as usual, is acting up.

The Cebu Temple is larger than the Manila Temple and is a very different design from the Manila Temple. It was interesting to see the construction and detail inside and out. Like all temples it will be beautiful. Even though it is still a construction site, there is a special spirit on the grounds. Angel Moroni was installed about 1 week prior to this photo being taken.
On the last night of the seminar the Mission Presidents and wives were treated to a dinner and a cultural show. Guest were invited to try a traditional dance. There is a person on each end of the bamboo poles and they lift them and tap them together and then tap them on the floor. The dancers try and step in rhythm and try not to get their ankles hit by the poles. Patty did very well....I lacked coordination.
On December 11, the staff at the Area Office held a Christmas party; it was a Hawaiian theme. Here is Patty and some of the other employees in their costumes from the Hawaiian islands (Patty is tallest one--second one in from the right side just in case you can't tell).

One of the nice things about working in the Area Office, and there are many nice things about working in the Area Office, is that you get to see and meet members of the church from all over the Philippines. Actually you see and meet them from all over Asia. These three little girls were visiting with their families. They were so cute I couldn't resist snapping a picture of them.

One of the disadvantages of living in Manila is the traffic. This photo is looking down EDSA Avenue (EDSA is an acronym for something). It is one of the major roadways in Manila and runs beside our apartment. Starting at about 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM it is slow moving. Traffic congestion and traffic noise are a few things we wont miss about Manila. Our apartment is just behind the tall towers on the right. Our complex consists of 3, 40 story buildings and we are on the 10th floor.
As I said earlier, we get to meet members from all over Asia while at the Area Office. Every 3rd Saturday, Patty helps out in the X-ray lab processing missionaries when they enter the MTC. She met these two missionaries from India. They were as sharp as could be. We were both very impressed with these two young men. They attended the MTC in Manila and then went back to serve their missions in India. It's an honor to be called as missionaries and to be considered one of them.
I don't recall the occasion but another dinner out. Sometimes it feels like we are on holidays, this is one of those times.
Of the 16 Mission Presidents in the Philippines almost half are Filipino. Foreign mission presidents (usually from North America) are usually a bit older and retired. The Filipino mission presidents are much younger, most have young families. Last year we saw the wives of the Filipino mission presidents together and said to each other they looked like the Laurel class. We have seen these men and women in action and they are all very qualified and very capable. Their missionaries love them and they are doing an excellent job.

This is the last night of the seminar at the cultural event. One of the hot items on the buffet table was Lechon, I think that means roast pig. It is a real treat for the locals....I'd just as soon have a roast from Larry's that would be a treat. How I long for some Alberta beef.
We are down to less than 2 months away from completing our mission. I'll try and get another post or two in before the big day. Hope you all had a Great Christmas and we wish you all the best in the New Year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On September 3rd, 4th and 5th we had the chance to travel to the resort city of Baguio. We travelled with another missionary couple. Baguio is about a 5 hour drive north of Manila and is high in the mountains. As I understand, back in WW II days Baguio was designed by a General in the US army as a retreat for US military personnel. We stayed in a Hotel named after the General it is called Camp John Hay. It was very nice. Because of the altitude, Baguio is much cooler than Manila. At night we slept with the window open and breathed fresh air; I even had to sleep under the covers. Also, at night we went to sleep to the sound of a fountain and crickets, instead of honking horns. It was such a contrast to where we now live. It was most refreshing.

While seeing some of the shops of Baguio this sweet little old lady walked down the street. If she could have stood erect, she would have been about 4 feet tall. As you can see she is doubled over making her about 3 feet tall. As in most instances, the picture does not accurately capture the scene but here she is anyhow. She was probably on here way back from the market with a small purchase that will likely be meals for the next few days.
While in Baguio we met the mission president of the Philippines Baguio Mission. President and Sister Jensen (on the right) were assigned to the mission on July 1st of this year. They are enthused with their assignment. As long as I can remember praying I have prayed for missionaries. Since our mission we have began praying for mission presidents and their wives. We had no idea the demands they face and what they go through. If missionaries are God's armies; mission presidents and their wives are the commanders. This was the view from our hotel I said a sharp contrast to what we normally see from our apartment window in Manila.
One thing Baguio is known for is wood carvings. here is a picture of a local plying his trade. They do some beautiful work.
We went to a replica of a traditional village, here Patty is crossing a bamboo bridge...cross your fingers.
Baguio wasn't all beautiful scenery. It is a big city with close to 600,000 people. Homes have been built up most of the hill sides. Camp John Hay, where we stayed is off the beaten path and a bit more remote so we didn't have to deal with the crowds, the cars and the noise.

Because of the altitude, Baguio is called "the city in the clouds". On a clear day the backdrop here would have been a scenic valley. At the time of the photo it was grey day.
Patty enjoying some quiet time in the gazebo at the back of the hotel. Notice the heavy sweater she is wearing. It was likely about 20 degrees C. Brrrrrr that's a chilly day!!!!
Relaxing behind the hotel. Fresh air and a bit of quietness....just what the doctor ordered.

The two of us enjoying ourselves after dinner at Camp John Hay Hotel.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

MTC and Street Children

Located on the church property where we work is the Area Office for the Philippines Area. There is also housing for patrons who are attending the temple and the MTC (Missionary Training Center). The Manila Temple is across the street. Every third Saturday a new group of missionaries arrive. Most are from the Philippines and will serve in the Philippines. Usually there are 15 - 25 who come from India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Micronesia and several other Asia Pacific countries. Missionaries from these countries will return to their native country.
Patty helps out on intake day. Each missionary receives a chest x-ray first thing on the first day and Patty helps out in the x-ray lab. I was outside on intake day and took a few pictures of families dropping off sons and daughters. It was interesting to see the mixed emotions displayed. Mothers in tears, fathers putting on a tough exterior, young brothers and sisters admiring and already missing their older brother or sister. Then there is the missionary who just wants to get into the MTC and get started with their mission. These same emotions were on display in Provo when we were there one year ago. Some new missionaries come in a car with their families, some come as a group from the airport and some just get dropped off at the front gate. A few weeks ago Patty and I were driving to the office and saw a young man, suit case in tow, he was walking to the MTC. By the time we recognized him as a missionary and realized where he was going we were passed and could not stop in traffic. It was a touching scene to see a young man make the walk to the MTC....all on his own, no one to see him off, no one to give him that last hug before he entered the MTC...just a long lonely walk from the train station to the MTC. Perhaps he was the only member in his family and did not have the support of his family. Perhaps no one else in the family could afford the cost of coming to the MTC. We'll never know the entire story but what was obvious was his dedication and commitment to serve. That short scene spoke volumes.

The young man below, with the reddish suit case, was dropped of by a taxi. And so begins his mission and the next leg of his life's journey. Something else that we noticed. Missionaries arriving in Provo typically have three large suitcases packed full and likely a carry on case. The missionary and their families probably spent several hundred dollars on new luggage, new shirts, suits, shoes and socks. The missionaries who arrive here normally have 1 suitcase, and that will be all the have for the next 18 - 24 months. It is not uncommon to see missionaries arrive with white shirts with worn out collars and suit cases that are held together with duct tape.
Mother and daughter in a last hug.

A couple of weeks ago while driving to church at about 8:00 AM, Patty noticed a group of 10 -12 street people sleeping on the steps of a business establishment. Traffic was too heavy and we couldn't get stopped or get a picture. On our way home, at about 2:30, she had camera in hand with her finger on the trigger, just in case some were still sleeping. We were surprised to see 6 -8 still there. We noticed that these were not old men, they appeared fairly young. It was sad to see.
I'll tell you the story of a young man we have met. I guess he is about 25 - 30. I don't know for sure. As a matter of fact he doesn't know for sure as he doesn't know when his birthday is. His name is Jerry. He works at the Area Office. He is not an actual church employee but he hangs around the office and washes the cars of the missionary couples. He washes each car once every two weeks and charges 200.00 Pesos per wash. That is about $4.00. He also washes a few of the church fleet vehicles. I would guess he makes $15.00 - $20.00 per week. And that is his only income.
What makes his story interesting is that Jerry and his brother were street children. His parents or parent (he does not know for sure) abandon him and his brother behind a LDS meetinghouse in Manila. Jerry believes he and his brother were left to fend for themselves as parents could no longer take care of them. Some church members became aware of the street children and took compassion on them. A member family who attended the meetinghouse took in the street children and raised them. Jerry is now a member of the church, married and sealed in the temple and a proud father. Below is a picture of Jerry and his family outside the MTC. On the day of the photo, Jerry and his wife were going to the temple; we couldn't resist taking a picture of this happy family. While there are so many sad stories in the Philippines; occasionally there is a story that gives hope. I wonder if Jerry looked like the children sleeping on the steps in the photo above? We can never know for sure what someone might become under the right circumstances. Some might say that a person who washes cars for a living might not be considered a success; but compared to the bleak future that awaited Jerry and his brother, I would consider him very successful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Much has happened in the Philippines since our last post. We have gone from summer (Feb - May) and we are now in the rainy season which is also know as typhoon season. This will last until the end of the year. So far we have not seen a serious typhoon in Metro Manila although several weeks ago a decent typhoon hit a region of the Philippines that caused significant damage and 15 - 20 casualties. When you see some of the living conditions, especially in poorer areas, you can understand how there can be casualties.

When ever a typhoon is forecast, or even strong winds that might not warrant typhoon classification, advertisers will take down their billboards...and there are many many billboards. The billboards appear to be on canvass and they can be put up and taken down similar to a curtain. Here is a picture of a billboard being put up after it had been down for a few days. The people working on it are no doubt working with the latest safety equipment and every safety precaution is being taken....not likely; that would cost money. It would be cheaper to pay off the family of the occasional employee that doesn't make it home from work.

Talking about safety equipment, we often see electrical workers and we just shake our heads at their working conditions. Firstly, the electrical wires look like a rat's nest or wires. Then the workers lean their ladder on the wires and climb up and do their work. Their safety equipment include rubber soled flip-flops. Here are a few pictures of some we have seen. Too often, by the time we get our camera out the moment is lost. The Philippines is rich with WW II history. It was a key location to both the Japanese and the Allied forces. General MacArthur was referring to the Philippines when he made his famous promise, "I shall return." Located in an area near Manila, is the American War Cemetery. It is a piece of land hallowed by the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers, mostly American and Filipino. We had the opportunity to go there on the Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd, and help "plant" a Philippines and a USA flag at each tombstone. It was a good experience to show a small bit of respect to those who gave all. There are several pictures; it was a very nice morning. It was at the American War Cemetery on May 28, 1961, that Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave a special prayer for missionary work in the Philippines.

Friday, June 26, 2009