Sunday, April 19, 2015

Week 13, 14

A couple of weeks have blown by!  The Mission Secretary calls us every Sunday evening for our weekly report, but it seems like he calls every 3 days.  Here's a recap of our last 2 weeks:

 I can't turn my camera anywhere without the Elders mugging for a photo.  We work all over the city, with different sets of missionaries every day, sometimes several sets a day.  We toted these Elders along for a visit with the Stake Family History Specialist.  Elder Andromidas is the Financial Secretary, he heeps all the mission bills paid, and does an excellent job.  Elder Asay is in training to be the next Mission Nurse (well, that's what they call him).  His trainer is Elder Caprio.  They work under the direction of Hermana Harbertson, and keep the missionaries healthy with training and cautions (don't eat from food carts, boil your water, watch for holes in the sidewalk, don't walk in front of cars and other helpful and useful tips).  When one of the missionaries does get sick, they arrange for medical care and treatment.  Since we have been here, they've helped with a couple cases of appendicitis, a couple of broken legs, various sprains (futbol on P-day), and assorted fevers and stomach bugs.  Hna. Harbertson keeps right on top of the health of the missionaries and the Nurses know how/where to get the care done.

 This is a pot of delicious chicken soup that I made, all by myself.  When I got all the ingredients in and simmered, I thought it could use a little tomato taste, so I dumped in a couple packs of tomato sauce.  We have found out here that for some reason, they put extra red dye in the ketchup and tomato sauces.  Doesn't affect the taste, but it turned the chicken bright pink!  Anyway, it was still delicious if we didn't think about the pink chicken.  We ate from it a couple days, then decided I made way too much.  I offered the rest of the pot to the office Elders, who live 3 floors up from us.  Hna. J didn't think they would want it, but they were down in a flash and took the pot away, along with a package of crackers, some juice boxes (the only way juice is available here), and cookies.  We had forgotten how much young men can eat, but we have been reminded of it very quickly.

 More of our favorite missionaries!  Well, we have about 220 favorites.  Hermanas Esplin and Sanchez helped us out when the elders in their sector got called away on an urgent task.  Actually, it was to our pleasure, as these Hermanas are delightful, and we got to meet 2 new families in their sector.  Hna J. always has her notebook handy to write down names, appointments, and notes about each family.

 It sometimes takes 2 or 3 visits for us to get the names of a family's antepasados (deceased ancestors) approved for temple ordinances, but sometimes we can get it done the first visit!  Like this day with Hno. Marco.  They are going to the Temple next month and will be able to take family names with them.

 When we're working with families, everyone gets involved.  Here, the 3 hijas (daughters) of a family are recording their family's information and history.  The older daughter (left, rear) knew everyone's birthdates, and made sure we entered them into the computer correctly. 

 We always enjoy our visits to Hno. Eusebio.  This time we were meeting him and there was a big commotion outside.  When he went to check it out, it was only his brother and sister-in-law.  They are pretty lively!  He invited them in, just as Elder Nicholls was identifying faces on an old family photo.  FamilySearch has a very clever and fun way to do this. Between the 3 of them, they were able to put names to everyone in the photo, and were pretty happy about it.  Remember that if you don't identify everyone who's in the family photos, when you die they will just be pictures of old dead people, and will lose their significance to your family.

Another day, another adventure in Cusco!  We had an appointment with a High Councilor from the Cusco Stake, but when we got to the chapel, the outside gate was unlocked, but the door to the chapel was locked.  He wasn't there, but there was a lovely lady whom we didn't know, sitting on the steps.  It turns out it was his wife, he had sent her to tell us that he was sick and couldn't make it.  We started talking to her (yes, we can say and understand a few words in Espanol), and asked her if she had her Mi Familia foletto.  It turns out that she did, and she had it nearly completed!  Since the chapel was locked (I have some keys, but not all, I think there is a principle here).  We just sat on the steps with her, got out the computer - with WiFi on my mobile phone, opened an FamilySearch account for her and started putting in her family names.

 We were nearly done when Elder Rhoades, one of our senior missionaries came over with keys (their Self Sufficiency and Perpetual Education Fund office is in this chapel) and let us in.  We knew Elders Zerillo and Matekel would arrive after their prior appointment and they helped fill in the gaps of our poquito (small) Espanol.  As we finished, and pushed the "Reserve" button for temple ordinances, Hermana Charlene got quite emotional.  Hna J. inquired, and found out it was her birthday:  Her parents had given her life on this day, and she was now giving her love back to them by making temple ordinances available for her parents and grandparents on her birthday!

 When we get FamilySearch accounts opened, we often times find the fastest way to get family information entered is to let the elders "drive".  Meaning I just hand my computer over to them, and they can hit the keys much faster than I can.  Elder Nicholls is fast with everything:  talking, walking, and the computer.  The rest of us:  his companion Elder Gonzalez, Hna J, and Hno. Eliseo just watch.  Hno. Elisio is in his 70's and has the most beautiful handwriting we have seen, and we have seen some lovely scripts and printing.  It seems like penmanship isn't a skill or art that is taught anymore.  Note Elder Nicholl's and Hna. J's scarves.  The season is changing here, the homes aren't heated and we all keep extra layers handy in case the weather changes - which it does several times a day here.  My WiFi sometimes doesn't get a good signal through several concrete walls, so I had it outside on a wall for better reception - and it started to downpour!  I dashed out and put a plastic bucket over it, and we kept on working.  Usually the rains can come and go pretty quickly (and mostly happen at night, thank goodness), but today it wasn't letting up.  When we finished the 4 of us made a dash for the street, I grabbed my phone from under the bucket on the way out, and we had to make it a couple blocks before we found a taxi.  The elders had a taxi stopped for us, and we jumped in and headed back to our apartment, clear on the other side of town.  The rain didn't let up, and we got to see Cusco from an entirely different perspective.  It's amazing how many drains, ditches, and paths they have for their "storm system".  It's been raining in Cusco for hundreds of years, and they have some pretty clever (and some rather simple) ways to get the extra water headed down the valley.

 For several weeks, we've been preparing for a meeting with Sr. Farfan, the Director of the Regional Archive Cusco, where the archival civil records of this region of Peru are kept.  The oldest record goes back to 1545, just 9 years after Pizarro and the Spaniards arrived.  The Church has a contract with the Archive to preserve a portion of the records through digital photos.  Recording the full Archive will take more negotiations and contract between the Church and the government.  Elder and Hermana Hasler are the Records Preservation missionaries here, and spend 8 or more hours each day taking high-quality digital photos of the records.  It's a long, tiring, and seemingly neverending task.  On a good day, they can take up to 5,000 images.  When one of their high-capacity hard drives is full, they make a duplicate of it.  One drive is sent to the Granite Mountain Records Vault above Salt Lake City, and the other is given to the Archive.  About 5 weeks ago, we went with Elder Hasler to deliver a drive, and met Sr. Farfan in his office.  He's very appreciative of this work, as it's the only way these precious records are being preserved.  He asked about the process the photos of the records go through until they are available as searchable digital records through  Inside of a few minutes, we had arranged to meet at one of the chapels in Cusco, where there is a Family History Center.  We had to reschedule the meeting once, so Elder Hasler wasn't able to make it, so it fell to me to not only plan the meeting, but conduct it.  Pretty daunting considering the condition of my Espanol.  Anyway, with some planning we got an agenda set, including a video of the GMRV, which was in Espanol!  At the meeting, we had the assistance of Hna. Denisse Bueno Villavicencio, who is not only a darling, but very experienced and capable in FamilySearch.  Sr. Farfan brought along one of his friends (who spoke very good English, as a precaution I think, not knowing how many Spanish speakers we would have at the meeting).  He needn't have worried as we had Hna Denisse, Elders Brown and Taipei, AND President and Hermana Harbertson.  Sr. Erick had the name of his grandfather written down, whom he wanted to research, and Hna. Denisse found the name of his grandfather linked to several records that had come from the very Archive that the Church had been working on!  The evening was a success, and we made some new friends that evening.  Here's a link to the GMRV video:   Note that "full" means full length, not that the Vault is full.  I actually got a tour of the Vault just after it was completed, I was still in High School.  They don't give tours any more, I'm really glad I got the chance to go, and still remember it very clearly.  Note that the video was made in 2012, and the references are made about microfilm, though digital records are mentioned.  Now all of the new records are digital, and the millions of rolls of microfilm are being converted to digital. 

 President Harbertson was marvelous (as always) in engaging Sr. Farfan in a discussion about the Church in Cusco, our members, organization, missionary work, and of course our love and commitment to Family History, through preserving the Archive as well as our work with families.  Sr. Farfan expressed an interest in having our presentation made to his colleagues, as well as the President of the Department of Cusco (like Governor of a state).  I was tasked with working to set it up (gulp - much assistance will be needed).  At the conclusion, we took a few minutes for a photo of the event.  Following the meeting, the President invited Hna. J and I to dinner, where we reviewed the meeting, and talked about our experiences in the mission to date, what we're hoping to accomplish, and a few light topics as well.  We love President and Hermana Harbertson, and it's a joy to work here under their direction. 

 Boys are boys everywhere.  As we were walking up a hill to another neighborhood, we saw two boys with cardboard sleds, sliding down a grass hill.  It looked like great fun, except that just off to the side of their landing pad was a pile of broken glass!  Hna H got their attention and pointed out the hazard, but like boys everywhere, they ignored it and kept on sliding.  Last we saw, they were having great fun, and kept missing the glass by a foot or so.

 A week ago, we met Hno David at the Villa Union barrio (ward).  We opened a FamilySearch account for him (he doesn't have a computer or cell phone, or email) but weren't able to get any family information entered.  We made an appointment for the next Saturday, and Elders Largent, Vasquez, and Quispe led us to his home.  No WiFi signal til we moved the phone a few times.  Elder Vasquez was about to run it up a nearby steep hill, but we finally found an adequate signal and got started.

 Either from memory, or with this assistance of his aged father who lives with him, Hno. David was able to recall detailed information through 3 generations, and we were able to send the names of 5 antepasados, including his mother, to the temple for ordinance work.  It's such a joy to be able to help members who otherwise don't have access to the technology that we take for granted.

 On the way back to our apartment, we decided to take a small divert to Mercado Huancaro, one of the local markets here.  It's open every day, but Saturday is the the big day.  It's primarily for produce, meats, fish, and a few dry goods.  But it's a hoppin' place for the locals.  Hna. J. and I were the only gringos we saw there.  And like every market, it's a new experience of sights, sounds, colors, and smells.  Here's a stack of lumpy pumpkins, I think they're some variety of squash.  their weights in kg are drawn on with magic marker so they an be priced.

 Flowers, fish, vegetables, fruits and other items are here in abundance.  Hna. J remarked how good it is to see so much available, and so much being bought and sold. 

 Potatoes of every variety and color, along with sellers in equally colorful dress.  This isn't the tourist part of town, the Chechua women, of whom there are quite a few in this region, dress like this every day.  They all wear hats, of differing style and color.  We've heard a few tales about their significance, but I do think the hats identify them by region and heritage.  There must be lots of regions, because there are lots of different hats, and we'll usually see women with similar dress together.  Another day, another adventure in Cusco!

We were on our way home from the market in a taxi, through a neighborhood we hadn't been in before.  I was amazed (nearly alarmed) at how close some of the homes are built to near-vertical dirt cliffs.  This isn't really a good picture, as I snapped it out the window while we were driving, but I think that in a few years or so,  some of these places could be perilously close to the edge.  

 One last visit this week!  Elders Bird and Pavon took us on a walk down a dirt road, at night, after a rain, then up a steep dirt hill, to visit a new family.  They're all new members, and are very excited about the Church and the teachings and principles, especially for the benefit of their children.  Like many families here, the father works out of town, in this case Puerto Maldonado, in the Amazon jungle where we were a few weeks ago, and is able to come home only about once per month.  He's coming back in 2 weeks, and we made plans for another visit when the entire family will be together.  They're making us a meal "en la tierra", which I think is a dutch oven buried in the ground.  They asked us if we like cui (guinea pig), we told them we like pollo (chicken).  In the meantime, we treated them to a video, some photos, and a touching Gospel message delivered by Hna. J - mostly in Spanish, so don't let her tell you that she can't speak in the language.  She isn't fluent by any means, neither am I, we're really beginners, but the spirit is present when she speaks, and the elders fill in the gaps.

Next week we've got a trip to Puno, the high (12,600ft)  and cold part of the Mission.  We're looking forward to that experience, and will be packing all of our warm clothing and rain gear.  We'll be there for a week, Apr 24-30 for a Family History Fair, Sunday meetings, and 3 days of meetings with leaders, missionaries, and families.  

We've been saddened to hear of the passing of our friends Patrice Swain and Dan Anderson this last week.  We will miss them, but know the message of the Restored Gospel is that we can be with our families forever - that's the message we teach here through Family History.

We're well, and send our love to all of you.


  1. Still looking good you two :)

  2. It is amazing how much the church has done to preserve family records throughout the world and you two must feel wonderful to be a part of it. I love seeing all your pictures, knowing that you are having the experience of a lifetime.