Sunday, 12 July 2015

I had some good help unpacking when I got home - thanks Tavo!

I'm home!

I came home on the last official day of the West Indies mission - June 30th, 2015. On July 1st while we celebrated Canada Day at home, the mission ceased to exist and split into two new missions: Trinidad Port of Spain Mission and Barbados Bridgetown Mission. It's what the mission office people worked so hard for, for so long! and was (and still is) not without its significant it's good it's (almost)  all accomplished.
While I was in Trinidad, I wondered why I was learning so much I felt I didn't need to know, about Church administration. No answers yet - I'm still wondering.
But it was sure a learning experience.

I discovered that each island - even Tobago - is a separate entity with a separate, even if related, culture; so that can make life difficult for those trying to deal with 7 different islands (ie, different countries), like in the new mission...even if it's less than in the old mission - but I feel the Trinidadian people will be glad to have a mission named after, and headquartered on, their island.

Already the homecoming adjustment has made my head swim - I've been cold when everyone else was saying it was hot out; my sleep schedule is all out of whack; I can't remember what season it is (rainy or dry?); and sometimes I wonder why the language here sounds so un-musical! I re-read Elder Pearson's General Conference talk from April 2015 - my favorite - just to re-visit that musical repetition I love: "every day, every day, every day" which sounds so much like the regular "hi hi!" or "morning morning" greetings I'd sometimes get in Trinidad.

And I still instinctively carry my purse on my right shoulder to properly show off my missionary tag on the left side....oh whoops, it's not there anymore, I forgot for a minute....
One young sister missionary I knew well, said she cried after coming home, up until the first transfer point (6 weeks after her return) - by then she'd adjusted. An older fellow I talked to reminisced about how hard it was to take off his missionary tag; he left it on for 2 weeks, til his mom finally made him take it off!
It truly is a unique and special experience (even if my mission assignment was more "short-long" as my nephew says) and it's a little hard to let go of...

It was short but intense.

My ward in Cardston welcomed me home today with many hugs; so wonderful. But during Relief Society as someone read the words to a lesser-known hymn, I realized I could teach it to my Trine friends using only 3 chords, and away my mind raced....
My homecoming plan is to teach piano/keyboard online from here, to Trinidad, from Aug-Dec this year (on Google Hangouts) and see how it goes. We started to set it up before I left. The 4 months or so I taught, was just too short to do much after a brief pause, I'll be back at it again!

I'll just be a little colder ;-)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Talent Show - in honor of the West Indies MIssion President and his wife leaving July 1st

What a great time we had.
What a fun night. Great variety in the program, great music, great food, great company.
Many people worked to make this a success! and it truly was rewarding.

We sang Hymn #152 today in Relief Society - "God Be With You Til We Meet Again"

I can never sing that hymn (actually, this time I just listened to the beautiful "choir" sing it to me in the Trine dialect) without remembering a relative's double funeral years ago, and their grown children's impression, shared later with me, that the deceased parents were singing the words TO the children.

It's dawned on me a few times, how this experience I'm having is a bit like life in general - I left at a different time, to a different place, than many of my friends and family....(like when we were all in the spirit world together in our pre-mortal life).

When I got here, I didn't know my way around! It was all new to me. I had to learn bit by bit,  grow and s-t-r-e-t-c-h to deal with the parts I wasn't wild about. I admit I cried about it a few times. (Like coming into this world, and learning how to navigate - first babyhood, then toddler, then taking off on your own, etc)

Now I am leaving (early Tuesday morning) and again I'll cry...I'm leaving dear friends...although I know I'm going back to old and dear ones.
It reminds me of all the goodbyes I've said over the years - to grandparents, dear aunts and uncles, then our baby daughter Angela, then a nephew, a niece, then my dad, my husband, and my mother-in-law.
They left and I cried.
But I know they were then reunited with dear friends and family...and that is a comfort.

As someone said about a ship sailing  - some watch it leave, wave, and say "There she goes" - with sadness - while on a distant shore, others wait eagerly for the same passengers, saying "Here she comes!"
It seems life is made up of hello's and good-bye's....

I have loved the people I've served and served with, here.

I will cherish the memories.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

My ward had a great Father's Day!

I wanted to get a picture of what is a commonplace happening here - but still extraordinary in my experience - the ward's returned/serving missionaries were called up to the front to sing to a departing missionary, Daniel. (I was called up to play for them so I missed taking the picture, too bad). Members of that group are often asked publicly to bear testimony, give advice, etc. It now includes two young women! one of them my companion....with another young woman returning from her mission soon. What a strong, wonderful young group they are.

The Curepe Ward loves to celebrate with food, I've found - they really do it up right! Today was no exception: after church the Relief Society served "brunch" (delicious finger foods and cake) to the 15 fathers in the ward; but of course couldn't leave out the rest of us really it the spot.

Since I didn't get any good pictures this week I'm adding two I took earlier. One thing I love about Trinidad is the brightly colored houses. Our apartment building is bright blue (we call it "Blue Heaven"). Our landlord's house next door is bright gold. There's a house with lime green accents just down the street. My favorite color is the purple and blue house around the corner.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Showing off my sunburn at the office on Friday

Yup, didn't use any sunscreen - that's me!

Beach Day holiday....

Thursday was a holiday here, the Catholic holiday "Corpus Christi Day". There are also various Indian and African holidays celebrated in Trinidad.
We celebrated by going to Maracas Beach, where it was a little shady, thank goodness! but a while after this picture was taken, I still acquired some I'm just getting rid of the sunburn at the top of my arms, with the help of a fresh aloe vera plant...

Here we were drinking coconut water straight from the fruit, with straws. Then you scrape the thin layer of white jelly out and eat it - delicious! I also tasted the inside of a cocoa bean plant; and tiny baby bananas, very tasty.


Sunday, 31 May 2015

PIZZA!!!! with ketchup, the Trinidadian way (also mustard and/or pepper sauce)

Delivered from Pizza Hut, just like home.... (well, except for the ketchup!)
Sister Atkins is showing how it's done.

So glad we know that death is not the end...

Today we mourn the passing of 92 year old L.Tom Perry, one of our Church's Twelve Apostles. He gave a talk in April 2015 General Conference about marriage and families called "Why Marriage and Family Matter Everywhere in the World", telling about the the Vatican colloquium he recently participated in.

But I'll always remember his talk about riding the (NYC?) subway and reading his newspaper "the right way" - even though I never found out what that was!

Here's a beautiful sculpture, with an explanation that it shows a woman passing through the veil of death, looking back a little longingly, and then, her earthly body left behind, her vigorous spirit body runs to meet her Savior.
It's entitled "Come Unto Me" - photo by Mike Wood, not sure who sculpted it. (Google let me down).

Love it.

I'm missing the smell and the look of the lilacs just now....

...but thanks to my friend's Facebook posting at home, I got to see some! I'll just have to imagine/ remember the smell... In 1972 when I attended BYU-Prove, I saw lilacs bloom first in California at Easter, then in Provo end of April, then at home in Edmonton in June.


In Red Deer we lived just off 32nd Street, nice and close to the Bower Chapel - the lilacs hedges lining both sides of that busy street were gorgeous in the spring.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Talent Show coming up...

Thanks to Sister Emma Turner for taking some basic information and making it look beautiful! Our ward choir will be SUPERSTARS!!!!  :D thanks to Sister Renee Ramdhanie's  superb leadership....

Jackie Hudson Miller's photo.


I am involved in fellowshipping the lady below, Sylvia, and her grown son, Christopher. It's been a real joy to watch them learning the gospel and almost "coming to life" as it were....They are very proper and polite people with impeccable manners...

I borrowed this post from my friends' Facebook page...

"We went to a baptism in Arima. This sister has a wonderful testimony. She had a dream about two young men coming to her home. When the missionaries actually arrived, she was prepared for them."

Sunday, 17 May 2015

the official distance I am from home

(Valsayn is the suburb/village/borough near Port of Spain, Trinidad, where we live)

6,398 km
Distance from Valsayn North to Cardston, AB

(sorry the cute picture didn't copy well!)

Just kidding about the white sand beach and palm tree photo :D

This week was actually another round of "chaperoning" at the office, planning the big end-of-June talent show, and teaching more music lessons (at both the mission office and the church).
And I attended another baptism! I think that's 4 Saturdays in a row....wonderful!

My most interesting moment was donating my insulated plastic grocery "cool" bag (which I brought from home, so as to tote ice cream and other frozen goodies home from the grocery store) to a greater cause - that is, getting perishable rabies vaccine to a smaller island, to a missionary who was bitten by a dog. (Then unfortunately the vaccine got stuck in Customs on that island overnight :(  The senior sister/medical advisor who sent it, lost a lot of sleep over it, as the flight arrived at 2am- I haven't heard if the vaccine's released yet...hopefully the airport kept it refrigerated as she went to a lot of trouble to follow protocol! And hopefully the "bitten" missionary is ok...)

My computer has been down - but it's apparently self-healed "just now" (whew!)- late enough here that I'm tired - so I will just post this much, and go to bed....

Enjoy your spring, I hope the snow's all gone by now!

What I did this week....


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Ward Mother's Day party and dinner

Primary children singing for their mothers at ward dinner yesterday

I love belonging to a ward

The structure of a church ward provides a "family" when mine is far away; and I am getting to know people better and enjoying my ward more each week. Yesterday, I travelled alone 45 minutes by public transport to the church, planning to arrive early to give piano lessons. (I ended up cleaning and decorating for the ward party instead - but that's another story...) I was thrilled to see the gate already open, and this car in the church parking lot; meaning I wasn't going to be there alone. Turns out that some men from the other branch that shares the building were having a Home Teaching I said "hi"and chatted a bit, then went over to the other side of the building to use the piano/keyboard...when the men left, they came to inform me first, so I could lock myself in (for safety) .
Soon the Young Women's President and a friend arrived to clean the church before the party; then some Young Women came to help blow up balloons etc. and the fun began! (And later yesterday I got to teach a piano lesson, and another one today - it's always rewarding).
Happy Mother's Day!

Church entrance (street-side half)

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Staying out of trouble (no time to do anything else!)

The picture below isn't my own Sunday School class - it's the earlier branch that meets in the same building. By the time our ward had classes, someone turned the a/c on in our little serving area/classroom, so we stayed inside.... (I didn't know it had a/c! I've only ever used the ceiling fans).

We talked about covenants - promises with God - and discussed the Bible story of Noah and the ark. Someone mentioned that maybe there hadn't ever been a lot of rain in Noah's area, in his days - it kind of reminded me of Trinidad - I hear legendary stories of rain and flooding, but I've seen hardly any yet - even if rain is forecast (when I occasionally check) and there are clouds in the sky, I seldom carry my umbrella anymore...if someone told me the earth here would be flooded out, would I believe them?

In other news, I now feel officially overwhelmed (some days at least). I teach some piano lessons, teach my Sunday School class of course, help with church music, including playing for choir - for which I'm learning a new song; and choosing Sacrament meeting music, for which I'm simplifying two hymns - and I've started advertising and planning for the big multi-unit Talent Show at the end of June.
It's all very rewarding but sometimes challenging to keep all my projects straight.

Any returned missionary reading this knows the dilemma I'm sure - at the end of your mission, it seems you are just hitting your stride! and altho my time has been short, it seems it's been intense...

Just writing about it makes me feel tired, so I think I'll go to bed early! ;-)
And I do like being busy.

Til next week...

A nice Sunday at Arima chapel

Holding Sunday school class outside today smile emoticon

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Meanwhile, this morning in Saskatoon....

This picture came in just before I taught my Sunday School lesson in Trinidad today. While we waited for the class to gather, I tried to explain what cold felt like. We meet in the kitchen/serving area room, so I said it was kind of like jumping in the little fridge freezer and closing the door.

Thanks to Steven for the photos of Saskatoon today!

It's good to be part of a ward...

Wards or branches are the smallest administrative units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The ward I attend here is well-established and quite large; but there are branches in this mission with as few as two priesthood holders, one being the Branch President and the other the clerk.
Our ward used to meet in a rented building closer to the area it's named after (Curepe), I'm told; but instead we now share a Church-owned building with another unit, Arima Branch. It's a nice big building with no a/c but lots of electric ceiling fans and louvered windows so the breeze can blow through.

The women in Relief Society are friendly and welcoming; a couple of times today in our class, some people got the giggles and the (very experienced, well-prepared) teacher had to rein things in...reminded me of home!

Yesterday I used my "new" (to me) church key for the first time, to open the building and teach piano/keyboard lessons. I forgot my teaching notes at home (!) but remembered the practise pads, other student materials, and especially the Froot Loops, to play "Don't Eat Pete" - I thought it might entertain some of the younger students and help to decide who took turns at the piano. As it was, the game was so fun I think we got a little off track...
Several older students are progressing well; it's encouraging to hear them play; but it also reminds me how long it takes to really become competent at it, even using an accelerated learning method.
Then there's accompanying, which is another separate skill that also takes practise. It's a bit daunting for students sometimes, I think.

Today was a long day at the church; for me, it meant getting a ride so I could bring the requested two pans of brownies I made last night; then teaching Gospel Principles class (another lesson on the Priesthood! just as interesting as the first - I learned a lot - see Chapter 14, Gospel Principles manual on
[After my parents' mission, my Dad said all you really need to know about this Church, is in the Book of Mormon and the Gospel Essentials manual. I agree!]

I've getting to know and love all the different personalities in the ward - "even the stinkers" as my Uncle Blaine used to say about their missionaries...I text and invite various individuals to participate in class, and it's so rewarding when they show up...

After our regular 3 hour block today, all ward members were invited to stay and attend a fireside about the Seminary and Institute program. (Then refreshments! sandwiches, the brownies, and ice cold drinks for a hot day.)
Some students here get up at 4am in order to attend a 6 am class and still be on time for school.... impressive.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

with gratitude, sorry it's overdue

I forgot to say thanks to my brother Keith for sending the vitamins I requested; we are all taking them here, for stamina! Thanks! and also to my cousin Lori for helping with the "I hate my clothes" problem....her fashionista advice was much appreciated. (I hope I no longer look like the "before" photo's on the TV show "What not to wear!")

Grant borrowing someone's bike on a Sunday for a short ride...

Peak spiritual experience today:

I taught Gospel Essentials Chapter 13 re: the Priesthood to a room full of almost all men! There were 9 male ward members ages 28 and up, average age maybe 40; plus two young, male full-time missionaries; also 3 women (one being an investigator attending for the first time).

All those white shirts were a bit overwhelming at first - I felt like I was in the wrong meeting!

Sacrament meeting was great but had run late - so in our class first we briefly went over the 5 lesson sections: What is the priesthood?, Why do we need it on the earth, How do men receive the priesthood?, How do men properly use the priesthood? and What blessings come when we use the priesthood properly?

Then we watched the latter part of a video, a Conference talk from Oct. 2012 by Pres. Uchtdorf called "The Joy of the Priesthood" where he described a couple of airplane experiences. (I love Pres. Uchtdorf's talks! You can search for this one on, it's easy to find.)

I also showed a picture of my late husband Grant on a motorbike...he loved riding "dirt bikes"(off road motorcycles), especially in the mountains, but eventually he sold his bike, and rarely rode anymore...He found he was too busy with family, job and church work to take the time and/or money necessary to continue the sport. His decision to quit biking resonated with the excitement, longing & wistfulness I felt in Pres. Uchtdorf's talk.

The picture shows Grant in a suit - I believe it was a Sunday when one of the kids rode home on a motorbike. Grant hopped on and rode to the end of the road, and back. That was probably the last time he rode.

I know it's not an "either/or" proposition for everyone - but due to circumstances and choices, it was for him - and he showed a great example of using his priesthood in Church service, even though he had to sacrifice some personal pleasure to do so. And as Pres. Uchtdorf described, I know Grant ended up feeling well-rewarded for the service he gave.

Love these gardens!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Top Ten Fun Facts from the mission:

1- You get absolutely sick of the clothes you brought.
2- If you fall asleep in church, the lady sitting next to you might say "good day" very loudly in your ear, to wake you up; then give you a big hug and kiss after the meeting.
3 - There is such a thing as 100% humidity, and it makes rainbows! 101% humidity = very slight drizzle. (This isn't science by the way, just my own made-up version, lol)
4 - Everyone from Trinidad knows someone who lives in Canada. Half of those Canadian residents live in Alberta, the other half live in Toronto. Some have moved from Toronto to Alberta or vice versa.
5 - I love and admire the young full-time missionaries; they are energetic, courageous, hard-working and obedient. I love the senior missionaries too. They are hard-working but sometimes get tired. Then they get up the next day and start all over again. I admire that!
6 - I love the sunsets here. I've started walking at night too just to see them.
7 - I love playing for - and interacting with - the Curepe (my ward) choir. I've found that wherever I've travelled, people who enjoy music are just the nicest!
8 - I love air conditioning. (This after years of avoiding air conditioning).
9 - I love to put ice in my juice/water/almond milk/smoothie. (This after years of no ice).
10 - Did I mention you get sick of your clothes? :-)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Curepe Ward Relief Society self-reliance activity

Here's the bishop frying pholourie (pronounce "puh-lorry) - also yummy! Split peas are soaked, then ground up, then mixed with flour, a little yeast, and spices before frying. Just like at home, the Bishop's wife was in charge of the activity, and he got roped in to help....they both did a great job!

Thanks for all the emails from home!

(and other places) - it's always great to get mail of any kind as a missionary....
This week we had some outstanding Good Friday activities at the church. First the Primary kids made kites from paper and reeds, then flew them...a few of the dads helping out were really, really good kite-flyers! They flew their kites way up high, then made them "dance" and twirl in the sky - really lovely to see. Unfortunately due to it being so bright and sunny outside, I didn't get good pictures...
Then the Relief Society demonstrated how to make some local foods. They did it as a self-reliance activity, so you could learn to make them and/or decide if you wanted to make a business out of it, as the bishop's wife used to do.
Saturday and today I got to watch General Conference on the "big screen" (projected on the wall) down at the Francom's apartment. It was so inspiring! Unlike at home, I didn't even think of falling asleep. It is so rare and precious here to feel that connection to the center of the Church, and see live footage of the Prophet and Apostles giving us direction...
And that Conference Center organ! and the Tabernacle Choir! Such a great couple of days.

Here's spiced, mashed potato filling being put into raised bread dough circles, then folded in half (in an empanada shape) and fried. To eat, you slice it open and put tamarind sauce in the middle. Yummy

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Women's Broadcast from Salt Lake City!

On Saturday night my companion and I hosted the other  2 mission office sisters to watch the Women's Broadcast live from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City (at 8pm). What an inspiring meeting!

Getting Women's Broadcast set up in our apt - on the Francoms projector, with their speakers

Local fruit

Kymit or cayemite fruit, like a very big plum but with white squishy sections inside
This was a great week for local fruit! First I found cut slices of watermelon at our little local grocery...yummy.
We always seem to see the juiciest, most appealing fruit on fruitstands on the way to church on Sunday...but as part of keeping the Sabbath day holy, we don't buy anything that day.
But this week on our little jaunt to Trinidad Immigration on Thursday, we passed some great fruit stands in downtown in Port of Spain.
I bought mandarin oranges - the best I've ever tasted - and kymit (cayemite) which I was sorry to see was sold only in a "heap" (5 pieces). But they were a great conversation piece back at the mission office. when the young missionaries came in - some liked it, some didn't. (It wasn't my favorite).

Speaking of food - one missionary paid some money, then caught, killed and plucked his own chicken this week. (!!!) He said he was used to doing that at home. (No surprise, he isn't from North America).