Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five things I never though I'd hear my wife say

1. "It was OK, but it wasn't the best yucca I've ever had."
2. "Remember, DON'T flush the toilet paper."
4. "This must be an OK store - there are guys with automatic weapons out front."
5. "Boy, it'll be great to get back to Bogotá!"

We hope you're learning new things also.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving greetings from Boston! Hotel Boston, that is!

We are in Sincelejo, Colombia on a mission health trip with the President of the Colombia Barranquilla Mission, after spending a couple of days in that city on the coast, where we gave a lesson to a meeting of the young missionaries on ingrown toenails, fungal skin infections, and other exciting themes.  We also visited local clinics and doctors to thank them and assess care of the missionaries.
We were lucky enough to stay in a hotel with a swimming pool, so we swam for 30 minutes on Thanksgiving morning, after not getting much exercise for a couple of days.  (We "Senior Missionaries" are allowed to do such.)
After sitting in the sun for a bit, we loaded up and headed up the road toward Sincelejo.
It was a six-hour drive, made all the more exciting by swerving motorcycles, passing slow trucks, cows on the road, broken motorcycles, etc.
We stopped along the way for a hearty meal, and were truly thankful for it. The boiled yucca and grilled chicken went great with the excellent lemonade.
So, tonight we're in Sincelejo, a city of about 200,000 souls, in a humble hotel.
In an unusual turn of events, I've been reviewing missionary applications, while Paula eats ice cream from the grocery store next door and in good Thanksgiving tradition, watches football, er, futbol on TV.
Tomorrow, I speak to another Zone Conference about health, and try to find good docs the missionaries can use in the future here in town.
We are truly thankful for a lot. We are in good health, and are blessed to have the opportunity to serve here in Colombia, hopefully enabling the missionaries to stay healthy and continue their work. We are thankful for great children and parents, and for the world's goods that we've been leant so that we can serve. We're grateful for good friends that support us through their prayers, and pray that you've had a good Thanksgiving!
Have some more leftovers!
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot know what!

We're a little bummed that we'll be in Barranquilla and Sincelejo for Thanksgiving, as the North American senior missionaries in Bogotá are planning a big turkey dinner followed by leftovers and football games. However, duty calls.
The city is meanwhile starting to get decorated for the real holiday - Christmas!
Paying the light bill, we ran in to Santa Claus, who looks like he's been trimming down a little - I dunno, maybe he walks a lot, like everyone else in Colombia, to deliver stuff to the little kids.
They really go all out here, and start early. This apartment building is already dolled up with fake log cabin appurtenances around the windows and what look like polar bears walking among the fake evergreens.
This one was a little worrisome, but hey, I'm just a visitor. It looks like Santa(s) are rappelling down from this high-rise apartment, complete with animals. I considered calling the cops, thinking perhaps we were witnessing pet larceny, but was reassured by a friend that it was just a bizarre example of Christmas decorating.
Anyway, I'm told that we have seen only the teeniest tip of the proverbial iceberg. The kids here are out of school from mid-November to mid-February. Because the seasons don't really change, I guess they figure that centering vacation around Christmas is as good as any other time, and family trips and vacations tend to be taken during this time. Students are also given a month off in June-
We are also told, and have come to easily believe, that the already chaotic traffic gets even worse at this time of the year. This was a side street a couple of days ago from another apartment.
Also, don't even think of sending us that expensive gift you had in mind. For instance, if you were thinking of sending me Led Zeppelin IV, to which I probably shouldn't listen anyway, figuring I'm a missionary for a couple of years, the following charges would apply from
the disk itself - $10.84 USD (Wow - these guys' cachet must be evaporating!)
import tax to Colombia - $14.63 USD (we call this an "import tax" as opposed to the much uglier "bribe")
shipping (and this is where they really chomp down) - $32.98 USD
Grand Total - $58.45.
OK, for 3,000 Colombian pesos (about $1.62 USD), I can buy a perfectly good pirated copy of the same album, so really, it doesn't make any sense. What we really want for Christmas is that you continue to read the blog, and send us a note from time to time.

Dave & Paula

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rain every day is also the mother of invention

As we have mentioned before, rain has been a reliable daily occurrence here in Bogotá. Last week, after having to step through foot-deep rivers of cold water in a particularly heavy shower on a 10-block walk home, we realized that something needed to be done.

That something was to make a shoe dryer.

OK, to be fair, we've had one of these at home ever since our good-buddy-since-medical-school Dr. E.W.Trice gave us the Mark III model on a windsurfing trip, where these machines prevent the development of the putrefying stench characteristic of wetsuit booties by Day 3. However, would we be able to find the specialized parts needed to construct one in Bogotá? Is Coach K a genius?

Bogotá is rife with hole-in-the-wall shops of every persuasion. One of these is a great ferretería (no, that's a hardware store, not a ferret shop) not too far from the office. It's about 25x25x8 feet in size, but amazing in its proffered ware and its proprietor.
I first asked if he had any PVC pipe. He said, "Look up. What size do you want"
Of course, he had the right sizes, the fitting, the glue, and the hack saw. However, when I mentioned that I would probably have to go to a computer repair place for the fan, he said, "What size?" After a few seconds, he came back with several, and we chose one.
As we collected parts, he finally asked, "What is up with all this stuff?" or the equivalent in Spanish. Answering back much less elegantly, and describing the proposed machine, you could suddenly see the lights go on, the wheels start turning, and there was no turning back. Pretty soon, he had engineered the whole thing.
All that was left to me was to saw,
and wire,
while Paula studied her Spanish for the day,
and the motorcycle delivery guy brought the pizza to the folks next door, (in the rain)
and before you knew it, we had the Trice Shoe Dryer, Bogotá Mark IV model.
And it worked!
When we were back at the hardware store for something else, I mentioned to the owner that he really should have been an engineer, and that he could have the patent rights for Colombia. I could see the wheels start turning again.

We hope your shoes stay dry, too!

Dave & Paula Henderson

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Mission Presidents

One of the greatest honors I have in my assignment as an Area Medical Advisor is aiding the of Presidents in our three countries of the South America Northwest Area, those of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.
We were invited to a Mission Presidents' Seminar of the entire area (including Peru and Bolivia) recently in Peru, arriving in Lima and heading south along the barren coast to the meeting place.
As usual, Paula studied along the way,
while I pondered the passing countryside,
which frankly wasn't very inviting.

Once there, the Presidents and their wives were taught by the Area Presidency for three days.
Mission Presidents are called by the 1st Presidency of the Church by inspiration to serve for three years. Many are still working when the call arrives; in the group below you'll find the head of South American sales for a billion-dollar piping company, a Chief Administrative Judge for the state of California, the Human Resources director for the Church in Venezuela, and a former Regional Manager for the FAA. All are asked to leave whatever they are doing and lead the 150 to 240 young missionaries in one of the 340 geographical missions of the Church.
The Mission Presidents' wives are called and set apart to work right at their husband's side, often bringing along growing kids. Their duties include looking after the health of the young missionaries, and so I interact with them frequently.
It was a very useful conference for Paula and I, as we got to know face-to-face the folks we'd be working with for the next two years.
One of the rules by which the missionaries are to live is a 30-minute exercise period each morning. What's good for them is good for us, so Paula and I do the same. It was a particularly good idea at the seminar, as getting to know the Mission Presidents occurred over more food than usual. We walked along the quiet coast most mornings.
One evening we were feted by a group of Peruvian LDS youth who also burned off some calories.
Although getting used to Bogotá and trying to learn my job has been a challenge, I couldn't be serving with a more hardworking, spiritually sensitive and kind bunch of people. As a friend once said who works in rarefied air as one of GE's top legal folks, "As opposed to my work, the closer you get to these people, the better they look."
We hope you're doing well, and that I can figure out how to translate "Frequent Flyer Card" for the lady at the Avianca office before next Tuesday afternoon.

Dave & Paula

Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting to know the signs of Bogotá

It's important when you are getting to know a new place to become acquainted with the meaning of street signs. Some are pretty obvious; it's red, it's octagonal, it's at an intersection...
This one probably means...
OK, you're getting the hang of it! This one apparently means that there are people walking in the trees, so look out for falling Colombians, I think. If you look closely, there's a little skateboard pencilled in under the figure, so I guess they skateboard in the trees, too, which is a little more disturbing.
No translation needed here. You're in danger of being hit by 30 careening Bogotá delivery trucks going about 60 down the hill!
And again, from El Departamento del Obvio (the Obvious Department), this one tells you that it's an area where people walk their dogs.
Now you're getting it! At some point, everyone is supposed to meet at the green dot! Duh!
This Pedestrian Crossing sign seems to imply significantly more urgency in the manner that the mother and her child should accomplish their passage than those in the U.S., which is appropriate for Bogotá!
OK, there are also places that deserve a sign, but don't have one. Like this open manhole in the smack-dab middle of the busiest pedestrian crossing (see above) that's been that way since we arrived three weeks ago. Apparently, if you turn in a manhole cover for scrap, you can be a millionaire in Colombian pesos (see online currency converters).
This next one worried us a little. There is something that is not obvious going on here, but clearly dangerous from the plethora of yellow warning tape. I dunno, maybe they've lost a little Colombian to a carnivorous plant in the park or something. As per the previous post, stuff really grows here.
OK, this one really confused me. Does this commemorate a famous crash, like maybe Simon Bolivar hit someone during the Great Conquest of 1821? No, there would have been horses involved. Well, maybe it's advertising the Bogotá Demolition Derby! No, they do soccer here. So, not knowing better, I would fasten my seat belt at this point and keep my eye out for some more signs.
Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, keep an eye out for the important signs, and we'll continue to try and figure them out down here.

Dave & Paula

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Things we like about Bogotá far!

There are many things we've found to like about Bogotá. The first is that everywhere you look, something is blooming! It rains at some point every day, and the temperature justifies its nickname as "The City of Eternal Springtime."
Paula has always said that she knows when she's in a good place, because there's bougainvillea blooming. Our apartment building must be a good place!
Despite the rain and the cool temperatures, Bogotá has some of the nicest, shiniest, rust-free razor wire I've ever seen.
And in a collision of two worlds, there's even bougainvillea growing through razor wire!
The wise 'Rolos' (slang for natives of Bogotá) put drains in opportune places. Opportune, considering the fact that our 'Rolo' washing machine leaks on the rinse cycle.
Speaking of other wash-day bright spots, Paula appreciates her 'Rolo' drying rack, which conveniently cranks up and out of the way.
No wimpy towel racks here! No Siree, these are real-life ceramic numbers, impervious to curling irons.
We like our dryer. We are told by the other tenants that we lucked out in having one. They at least get some of the benefit, however, as that great wash-day dryer-sheet fragrance wafts out of our dryer vent-window mash up and in to the shared air well.Did I mention the flowers blooming everywhere?
We really like our Samurai 1500-watt Sprinto Silencio heater on those cool evenings working in the apartment office.
We appreciate the kindness of others in giving us the occasional ride, even if they failed to tell Paula her seat belt didn't unlock. We told her to keep at it, but that church would be over in a couple of hours if she couldn't get loose.We like all the weird things you can put in a blender to make interesting juice. That's a maracujá moustache, thank you.
We really like the plumber, who came on a Saturday morning on a motorcycle and fixed the toilet. If you're ever in Bogotá and a pipe blows, call Alexander Sánchez, at 57-310-305-5658 and I'm not kidding about the length of that phone number.
Oh, and things don't care about what month it is; they just bloom.
The little parks are nice, especially in our hillside part of town, where streams course through.
We really like the Wednesday and Saturday markets that set up on the sidewalks nearby. It's no surprise, but the produce is just plain great.
This is called "Still Life On Washing Machine Beneath Drying Rack."
There's a lot to like about two dozen gorgeous roses for $3.15, if I did my exchange rate correctly. We're still kind of sore about the whole 'millionaire' thing.
As I write, it's just after dusk, and the thunder is announcing the third rainstorm of the day. Luckily, another great thing about Bogotá is that within about 30 seconds, if you've forgotten yours, there will be someone on the street willing to sell you an umbrella. Except that, of course, the prices go up when it's actually raining. No dumb 'Rolos' here.
We hope that you are doing well!

Dave & Paula Henderson