Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Broad Influence For Good

There are people in each of our lives whose influence stands out.  After my wife and parents, I'd have to count my Mission President, Dale Russon, under whom I served the second year of my mission in the California Oakland Mission from June 1973 to June 1975.  I had the honor of working closely with him for eight fun and instructive months in the mission office as the 'Car Czar' and finance clerk.  He passed away last week, at age 84.
President Russon lost most of a couple of fingers in a snowblower, and had an unusual handshake.   He was one of the three Russon Brothers of the mortuary company bearing the name, and had some unusual stories.  Each of the three brothers served as Mission President successively in different missions, which is also unusual.  I learned to my chagrin that he had unusual feet (some webbed toes) when I drew his name at Christmas and bought him rainbow toe socks.
We visited President Russon and his wife Mava last year at their home in Salt Lake City shortly before leaving on our mission.  If ever a dwelling shone with a bright clear spirit of love and family, it was theirs.  As we talked, at one point Sister Russon missed something and asked that it be repeated.  Dale turned to her and with a grin said, "Turn 'em up, Mava!"
This was one good man.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hey! Bogotá's Not That Bad After All!

The apartment we lived in for the first 11 months was fine, really, but it had its disadvantages.
However, the rent was right, Area Medical Advisors had lived there for several generations, it was reasonably close to the office, etc., and we were fine.  Really.  No, really.  Fine.
Anyway, one day we looked up across the street, and lo, there was a For Rent sign posted in the window of a top-floor apartment with a terrace, sunshine, and a guy walking around on the roof.
Ignoring the guy on the roof, I called, found out that the rent was only a few dollars more, and met the mother of the owner for a tour.
It had marble floors,
a nice second bedroom,
a much bigger kitchen,
and even a separate laundry room.
The main bedroom is the 2nd biggest we've ever had.
I guess they must have small maids, because the maid's bathroom was pretty dinky.
I called Paula back from the hairdresser, showed it to her, and without a word, she headed back to the apartment and started carrying boxes.  After I got her to settle down, we signed the papers.
Two days later, the moving crew showed up.
As did the REAL moving crew, 
who were unbelievably efficient and hardworking.  They were a great bunch, done in a little more than an hour, including carrying two desks, box springs and the sofa up six flights of stairs.  Everything else came up in the elevator, which is typically teeny.
To my everlasting amazement, they somehow folded up the king-size mattress and got it in the elevator.  If you ever need a moving crew, call these guys!
Within minutes, Paula had the spices alphabetized, the socks lined up straight in the drawers, and everything in its place.
The fireplace worked,
and before you could say, "Plantas, por favor," she had found a nursery a long walk away and bought some.  
The terrace gets nice sun, and the apartment is a number of degrees warmer than the old one.
On sunny days, I have to use subterfuge to get her off the terrace and over to the office.  She no longer will believe me when I tell her they're giving away free cars down on Calle 72, or that the Mission President is taking us out for lunch.
Anyway, it's been a good move, and we're very happy to be in new surroundings that are a bit more pleasant.
We hope your moves are good, and the movers are, too.

Dave & Paula

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

¡Gas Lagrimógeno! ("Momma Gets Tear Gassed")

Our office on Calle 72 is directly across the street from one of the big national universities.  Every couple of weeks, the students get mad about something and start throwing 'papa bombas' (potato bombs), which are actually like huge concussive firecrackers - I mean, what good Colombian would waste an actual potato?
The police respond by lining up the "Robocops" (I am not making this nickname up) in their body armor and shields.
Apparently, the rule is that the police won't go on the university grounds, so the students largely stay behind the wall and toss over the potato bombs, some of which are very impressive.
In their turn, the Robocops toss tear gas. 
 They also bring in their major water-cannon trucks.
Paula and I were walking down the 72nd to buy an umbrella today when the potato bombs started going off, and the police began tossing tear gas and using the water cannons.  The wind was blowing our way.
There is a reason for the name.  It really makes you cry, as well as cough and sneeze.
Well, chalk up another CCE (Colombian Cultural Experience).
We hope that your cultural experiences aren't quite so irritating.

Dave & Paula

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Leaving a Part of Yourself In Colombia

A small part, actually, the appendix (actual icky medical photo).
One of the missionaries in San Luis (see previous blog) didn't feel good last week, and sure enough, on Saturday night he bloomed a good case of appendicitis.  He was driven down to the Clínica Santa Fe in Bogotá, which was recently rated one of the four top hospitals in South America (proud of it and charging accordingly).  He was quickly diagnosed and had a laparoscopic appendectomy.  (Actual Photo-Shopped propaganda picture - Bogotá sky never looks like that.)
We realized on Tuesday evening that we now have an extra bedroom (more on that later) and that this could be useful to the Bogotá North Mission President, who was traveling in various parts of Colombia.  If we took the Elder in, I wouldn't have to go to the office, and since 99.9% of our work is done on the internet and phone, that was just fine.
Elder Kirby is assigned to San Luis (see "Cold; Colombian Cities That Are Very"), and so he took full advantage of our terrace and some occasional sunshine while he recovered.
All good things have to end, however, and so we served him, his companion and the Temporary Companion dinner, 
pulled his stitches and sent him on his way.  We saw him in church today, and although cold, he's doing OK.  Did I mention that San Luis can be chilly?
May you not leave any major body parts in a foreign country.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Church at 10,000 Feet

Several weeks ago, the Mission President here in Bogotá (we are actually under the Area offices in Lima) asked us to attend the San Luis Branch, located in the mountains overlooking the city.
To get there, one has to set out from the apartment about an hour before the 9:00 AM starting time.
You then wait for one of the yellow 'colectivo' buses that come along on a random schedule,
and flag it down by waving.  Paula was very proud of her bus wave, which stopped three buses in mid-flight, only one of which was ours.  Then it's a 20-30 minute ride up a windy two-lane road, slaloming the cyclists climbing up.
San Luis is at about 10,000 feet, and even though it's only four degrees above the equator, that means cold, and since it's near Bogotá, that means rainy.  Standard attire (for us) for church is long underwear (me, not Paula), and sweaters x 2.  
My down sweater comes in handy, stuffed in the backpack, which is de rigueur for riding the colectivo, since we're the last ones on before the bus starts the climb.  By that point it's standing room only, hanging on to the handbars as it careens up the mountain.
The San Luis Branch, which is also standing room only, makes up for the cold with their warmth and friendliness.  They meet in a converted house, as San Luis is an unofficial "town," having started as squatter houses.  There are no deeds to the land, making it impossible for the Church to buy any to build a chapel.  There aren't any heaters, either.
We hope your meeting house is every bit as friendly, but warmer.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Heights of Romance!

As Dave Barry is fond of saying, I am not making this up.
Disappointed that you can't serenade your sweetheart because he or she lives in a high-rise building? If you live in Bogota, Colombia, one company has a solution for you.
"Servicios Telescopicos Industriales, (STI), offers various services to help you pull off a memorable serenade or romantic proposal no matter how out of reach the object of your affection seems to be. For destinations at a maximum of three floors high, you can accompany the mariachi group in a scissor lift," 
"but if you need to go higher, STI offers mariachis suspended from a telescopic crane which, according to the website, has "no height limit."
"Starting at a million Colombian pesos, (approximately $550 USD), STI, takes over all the details necessary to make the event a success. The mariachis are provided along with the crane, as well as a bouquet for your sweetheart, special lights, confetti, and the metal basket in which one rides is decorated with flowers. While these events focus on celebrating, the company doesn't overlook practical things – no alcohol is permitted and safety helmets are required for all on board."
"I've brought many serenades to my wife and it's always the same. But who expects mariachi to come to your window on the third floor?"
- José Martínez, a businessman in Bogota

"STI explains on their website that their services aren't just for romantic serenades and marriage proposals – other event ideas include bachelor and bachelorette parties, quinceañeras, birthdays, and reunions." 
"Unfortunately, STI isn't always assisting in romance and celebration. According to Nubia Celis, the manager of the company, they were once asked to put horns, a symbol of infidelity in Latin America, on the metal cage and their services have been used to make divorce requests, as well."
We hope that all your mariachi experiences are uplifting.
Dave & Paula