Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24, 2010

The teeth look good but they must be uncomfortable. She wore them to the wedding and baptism, but when we saw her in her neighborhood it was au natural--really, it only involves a few teeth. Most people are missing one or two at least, but the front ones show. I understand. I could tell her some things about wearing a partial plate. I've had one for over 55 years, and one little blackberry seed can drive you nuts until you can get to a private place and dig it out.
Blackberries (moras) are for sale along the highway. That's also where they grow and are picked. We got a little box, really little box—less than a quart, and a quart of jam for about 12 bucks. Steep, but worth it. Yummy on the WalMart cheese cake ($4). Maria of Bollenar gave us a big bag of plums/prunes from her yard. They are potent. It only takes one or two to get things moving. We gave most of them to the other couple in the office.

The wedding was nice in a Chilean way. The Branch Pres didn't bring his keys and couldn't open the parking lot. He doesn't have a car and forgets. So all of Marisol's people arrive in cars and jam the street trying to park. The wedding was outside on the grass in the shade, but the branch didn't show until later. The government minister/lady waited patiently, smiling and shuffling her papers and rubber stamps.

When we finally got under way there were twice as many people (50ish) as chairs covered with white shrouds and ribbons. The fake flowers from the podium served as décor. The ID cards of bride, groom, witnesses, etc. were presented and checked. The government lady went on and on, reading from her government book, finally giving the couple a blue government passport-like booklet to prove their status and allowing them to kiss and us to clap. Her three grown, really big, boys got in on the hugging before we went inside. It really was sweet.

Now the government lady was gone and the branch president took over. We sang, prayed, and he spoke for a time and a portion of eternity about being married for all time and eternity. The non member husband, sons and family/friends listened patiently. They are really nice people and quickly became our close friends inasmuch as we hugged each other at least a dozen times. Then off to the social hall for some refreshments. It was festooned with four white crepe paper streamers and a half dozen balloons attached to the ceiling. Someone had gone all out.

My personal deacon, Helaman, made a dozen trips from the refreshment table to BJ and me bringing, one at a time, one each of all the varieties of tiny sandwiches, empanadas, cakes, and drinks. Delicious. Really. Ham, cheese, chicken, tuna, avocado, bacon and something. The table was emptied in a few minutes, but next day in the neighborhood Marisol was distributing big pieces of cake to all the street and we just happened to be there. About half the active branch lives on that one little hundred yard street or one lane pasaje (passage). The last two converts live next door across the street from three LDS families—good missionaries.

One of them, Ingrid Lopez, rode with us Saturday into central Santiago to an ancient business district now devoted to fabrics and sewing. The garment district of Santiago. You can't imagine the number and variety of stores, street vendors, booths, stuff and such in this several block area, all devoted to sewing. Ingrid is Mom's personal seamstress now. She is covering a sofabed, making a lined plum colored Sunday suit, a skirt, blouse, kitchen curtains and more. The fabric was dirt cheap--$12 for 5 yards of 70” wide good quality, heavy duty upholstery material. A few bucks for the clothing and drapes. We hope Ingrid's labor is correspondingly priced. No written estimate. Not even a verbal estimate. Later some ties for me and maybe a suit before I go home.

I've got to leave you for a while. We are going to get Ingrid to come to our apartment and measure for the drapes. She really is a nice talented 39ish good looking blondish fashion plate who sews for a living from her tiny, typically Chilean house. It is furnished with a sewing machine, cutting table and chair. Some ancient paint and tin. I'm not sure where her deacon son Sebastian sits.

She is the YW pres and brought along to the shopping trip, 18 year old Alejandra, Mom's chorister and bosom buddy. At the market place I bought everyone a cold drink and on the way home for the baptism Mom treated at McDonald's.

The baptism was nice. Again, we arrived a few minutes early, and the parking lot was locked. I never carry my precious key except to piano lessons on Wednesday. Luckily, we were the only ones driving that day, so no problem. Forty people/one car. I had prepared a 6 page double spaced talk on the Holy Ghost by plagiarizing from 5 or 6 church manuals.

I'd get them in Spanish then find an English version in the office or on the internet; choose some lines from the English; copy them from the Spanish; string them together with a few sentences of my own; get Elder Iglesias (Florida, Cuban, non-Spanish speaker before his mission) to proof read and correct; practice aloud and sweat it out. It turned out pretty good. They said they understood and my pronunciation was good; and the Branch President leaned over and said Excellente. He must have really liked it because he repeated almost everything I had said in his talk after the baptism.

It's been a busy week and a very busy weekend. Today we went to a satellite-broadcast-40-stake conference for Southern Chile. We heard most of it in English and especially loved Elder Packer's talk. He has been to Chile several times and reminisced, speaking extemporaneously and personally about inspiration through the Holy Ghost. I don't know how the translator managed, but we soaked it up. He told of choosing a new stake president in Germany early in his aspostleship. He didn't speak German at all. Long story short: “how did I know who the Lord wanted to lead that stake? Angels told me. Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.” We love that old man. We were there the day he was made an apostle.

Ingrid brought along her neighbor and friend Fresia who was baptized last month. We picked them up, brought them to our place, measured the drapes, showed fotos, ate Great Value cheesecake with Chilean strawberry topping and spent a pleasant two hours. They are very nice. We are getting integrated into the branch. We have visited the neighborhood several times lately, and have finally gotten a dinner invitation to someone's home—two actually, theoretically—no firm dates.

Monday, Feb. 21
Our branch is called Las Lomas=the hills. Most of the branch is on a medium size hill with a buena vista of Maipu to the west and of Santiago to the north and east. Stunning views on a clear day. It should be prime property for the rich and famous, except that to the south it overlooks the old city landfill and nobody wanted to build there so property was cheap and the poorest neighborhood in town grew in bits and pieces from the dump on that lovely lonely hill.

Now there are nice roads around the hill and parks, always with horses grazing among the soccer games. The dump is closed and is used for ferias three times a week. The people are more decent than their houses would lead you to believe. In fact, they are the salt of the earth, happy, contented, dedicated to the Lord and His church to which they all walk together a kilometer or so each way every time it is open. We love them dearly. If you saw only their houses you would think they were sad and poor. If you see them, you would never think that. They are rich in the treasures that matter.

Speaking of ferias, on the way to conference Sunday we saw what must be the world's largest feria. That's an outdoor flea market or fair (no rides or side shows) that comes regularly to a designated place. City planners build wide boulevards with parklike medians for the purpose, closing traffic as necessary. Anyone and everyone can buy or sell anything and everything. And they come from as far as they can walk to do it. A few drive but where can they park? The city sends garbage crews to clean up the leftovers when it is over. There are mountains of leftovers.

It was strung out along the railroad right of way and its frontage roads and the 4 lane Avenida Cinco de Abril and its frontage roads for half a mile in four directions on all sides of the streets and tracks, filling parking lots and adjacent neighborhoods with colorful vendor tents by the thousands and a crowd to match. That was to and from conference. At 7pm when we picked up Ingrid and Fresia there was hardly any evidence of it. Come again next Sunday. It's an event.

This morning in our apartment building we were treated to the sounds of a brand new baby crying. That reminds me of a story.

Baby Gods

Our first two children were born in Logan in a hospital that had had some problems with infections. They were simply being very careful when they said I couldn't go anywhere near my wife, or the delivery room, or our babies. I waited in a smoky room with other nervous people also waiting for the big announcement, which came through a little speaker in the ceiling. Mr. Pack? Congratulations. About an hour ago your wife gave birth to a 7 pound 9 ounce baby boy. Click. Silence. That's it?

It wasn't exactly the thrill I expected it to be. I felt left out. Later that day I got to see our son—through the nursery glass. A few days later I actually got to touch him when the nurse handed him to me outside the hospital as we were leaving. Same scenario when Beth was born. They were dear to me, but I missed out on their births.

Then we finished school, got a real job, moved to Salt Lake and were soon expecting Jenny. New doctor, new hospital, new attitude toward childbirth and fathers and a new experience for me. How new and powerful I couldn't have imagined.

We took the Lamaze classes, watched the childbirth film (without passing out like my neighbor did-wimp), learned to breathe and count. I thought I was ready. When the time came to put on the green scrub suit I was nervously excited. I'm going to see my own baby come into the world and take her first breath. Did I say her? We didn't know in those days until the doctor said There she is, Miss America, 1988.

She came, but she wasn't exactly beautiful. All bloody and cheesy and grey. And not breathing. The doctor laid her on BJ's belly and went about his work below for what seemed like ages. Is something wrong? Is she alive? What's happening? I was scared. Seconds dragged into eternity.

Then the nurse picked her up by the heels, wiped her off, squeegied out her mouth. All of a sudden, she gasped, gurgled, wiggled, kicked, screamed and turned pink. She was alive! What a relief. AND what a revelation. I suddenly realized that this wasn't just my baby or our baby. We helped; the doctor helped; but none of us had the power to give her life. She wasn't just our baby. She was God's baby. She was a baby God.

A Baby God!! From that moment on I could never think of my children the same. They're Baby Gods! I could never think of any other children the same. Baby Gods. My eyes had been opened. My heart had been opened. I had truly had a revelation. I am a child of God! You are a child of God! I already knew that, but now I can never forget it. Then I got to repeat the experience twice more when Emily and Amanda were born. What a blessing for a dad.

Do you know how hard it's going to be to be in Chile and not in Forrest General Hospital when Baby Boy Scott comes to our family? We have been in the hospital, BJ sometimes in the delivery room, for the birth of every one of our nietas. We're putting you all on notice. We want to SKYPE with you from the waiting room if not from the delivery room. Bribe the nurses if you have to. Take a computer to the nursery. Smuggle in Blackberries. Do what you must. We will set up at the office where we have a strong internet hookup.

Now, we children of God are growing up and slowly becoming like Our Father. Someday we will actually be like Him, thanks to His Son and their great plan, the plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, the plan of life, eternal life, life with God, life like God, families forever, our family.

I love you Babies, Gods to be.

A related incident. I had a seminary student whose middle aged mother and BJ were expecting at the same time, had the same LDS doctor, and were in the hospital in labor the same day as above. The mother had a heart problem, and every day the daughter would use my office phone to call home before class and make sure she was all right. She was afraid her mother was going to die. Seriously.

So we are at the LDS hospital in SLC having Jenny and Sister XXX (Smith, I think) is across the hall having very difficult labor. For hours she has made no progress and is exhausting herself. Her heart is in peril. Her daughter asks if we can give her a blessing. Dr. Stobbe and I lay our hands on exhausted Mom-to-be and start to give her a sacred priesthood blessing.

For some reason I open my eyes just in time to see her belly rise up and roll over. As we say Amen the nurse says let's go, she's delivering. Mother and baby and fearful, faithful daughter--all well. Seminary teacher blessed by their faith.

Tuesday, Feb. 22
At home waiting for a repairman who was supposed to come last week. Then today between 9 and 12. It's 2:07. He came at 10:30, looked at the job, said something and left. We thought he said he would be back in a few minutes. We have to wait. We have to be here when/if he works. We don't know who to call or what to say. Times like these are frustrating. We have work to do, places to go, people to see. He only comes to the building one day a week. Miss him today—wait another week or two or. . . ?

He never came back, so after work I did it myself. No biggie. Just some plastering from an old water leak when we first moved in. I'm tired of waiting—six months. He just missed out on some income. It is really hard to get reliable workers. Worse than at home. And there is no sheetrock mud. You buy powdered plaster, mix it yourself and hurry before it sets in 20 minutes or less.
Thursday, Feb. 24 at Bollenar for piano
Last night after piano at our branch was interesting. We had Mutual with YW and YM. The Branch Pres got frustrated with the YM because they wanted to play and he wanted to lecture. He finally sent them out and sat down with me, the only rep from the YM presidency to ask what I thought. The only thing I could say is that they like to play. He started pouring his heart out to me about things in the branch, and asking my advice. His methods aren't working and I don't know how to advise him.
I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANY. I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH. He said I spoke very well, but I demurred. I can carry on a very simple conversation, but I can't discuss ideas or answer many questions. And I don't understand anything in Sacrament Meeting. At the mention of Sacrament Meeting he commented on my talk at the baptism last week and said he wanted me to give the same talk to the whole branch. I guess he really did like it. He said it was very clear and understandable and to the point and was something the whole branch needed to hear. That's because it came from Preach My Gospel, True to the Faith, Gospel Principles, and the Aaronic Priesthood lesson manual 3. Not my words. All plagiarized. I just spoke them. I guess I can do that again. This Sunday.

He said that my not learning Spanish as fast as I'd like is like him and his wife trying to have a baby. I'm not sure if he said two years or twelve years (dos or doce?), but he said we were both learning patience. I hope we both get 'er done soon.

The funeral procession we saw today consisted of a white Toyota station wagon/hearse with flowers piled on top, followed by a taxi, a sedan, and a white bus. We were having lunch in the car at the side of a plaza. Across the plaza was a green gate into which the cars went. The bus pulled up in front of us and six or eight mourners in their jeans, with their backpacks, snacks and babies, got out and followed. We're not sure if they were going into a church or a cemetery. We had to move on without paying our respects.

I just slapped my first Chilean mosquito. There are lots of flies out here in the country. It's called Ruta Queso—the Cheese Road—dairy country—beautiful farms and herds. And we have had some minor ant infestations in our apartment and one big brown bug that might have been called a water bug in the South. Insects have not been a problem for us here.

I'm sending this as is. 9 pm in Bollenar. Piano over for this week.

Love and Hugs and Kisses and all Good Wishes. . . . . . . . . .loooooong prayer. amen


Jenny said...

Your letter is proof to me that there is a reason we have 2 ears and only 1 mouth. Sometimes it matters less what we say and more how we hear. I hope he heard too. Love you!!
Jen Jen
(your little baby God)

News from Doug and Delores said...

I love your letters... they are so fun, interesting and so "Blair." I hope that you put them all together in a book at the end of your mission. You should write a book about senior missions... they are hard, but give you so much that you never expected! Seniors in the church need to know that they are tough enough, know enough, strong enough, and faithful enough to be good missionaries! I couldn't wirte like that... our mission was a piece of cake compared to yours, but you are succeeding and making a difference to the people in your branch. They love you. There is no better pay. By the time you are home, I bet the Lord doubles your $$Blessings$$! And the tender mercies that you experience every day are remarkable. Keep smiling and keep up the good work! We love you with all our hearts!

dougbeecher said...

We miss you and your wonderful blog posts. Hope all is well with you!