Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't you use the imperfect subjunctive tense on me!

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to functioning here is the language.  I learned it (sort of) as a young missionary during my two years in California between 1973 and 1975, and had it reinforced (sort of) during my time as Bishop between 2000 and 2005.  However, California and Colombia are entirely different situations.
For the past six weeks, we've been holding three-times-a-week classes for about thirty minutes, that have become known fondly as "Old Persons' Spanish Torture."  We've recruited another gringo couple, the Collins, to join the fun.
That's Trisha Collins with the hand raised.  She was probably the girl in your fourth-grade class that everyone didn't like because she always knew the answer.  Meanwhile, if you look closely, Paula is trying to get by on her good looks and a big smile.  Nice try.
That's Phil below.  He's just brought up the question of why the personal indirect object always precedes the direct object, even after a positive command.
 "Look, I'm the teacher here," said Elder Henderson, "And I say it's that way, OK?!" 
You have to keep control of the classroom, you know?
Anyway, we hope that your foreign-language learning experiences are as fruitful.  And remember the rules for the imperfect subjunctive.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Back to the island!

Fifteen years ago, we traveled to Margarita Island just off the coast of Venezuela to go windsurfing, never suspecting we'd be back, only this time with suit and tie and a name tag.
This came near the end of a five-day mission visit to the Venezuela Barcelona Mission with President Chacín and his lovely wife Ingrid, both from Caracas and with just over three months under their belt serving in the calling.  
OK, I'm doing pretty well on the Spanish, but this was terrifying.  At one point I told President Chacín that after the mission, he could do the bit at the end of the car commercials explaining the lease requirements, but only if he slowed down by about 50%.
We roared around Eastern Venezuela with the Chacíns to the various zones of missionaries, at times a little crowded, but we had a great time.
I gave scintillating PowerPoint presentations to the missionaries on such topics as "Ingrown Toenails," "Dengue Fever," and among others, the ever-popular "Diarrhea."
Lunches at the Zone Conferences were tasty, though varied.  We had a pretty good idea what was in store at this one:
and our guess was correct. 
Because of the Venezuelan political situation, no North American missionaries are allowed in, so the majority are from Venezuela, with a smattering of Bolivians, Ecuadorians, and Argentinians, countries maintaining good relations with President Chavez.  This photo is entitled, "Two Of These Things Are Not Like The Others - Two Of These Things Are Not The Same."
Speaking of Mr. Chavez, we arrived on the heels of his re-election, made possible by his change of the Venezuelan constitution to allow unlimited terms.  His contract with a Chinese appliance company and use of federal funds to buy washing machines and microwaves for voters in the last few weeks put Obama and Romney to shame, campaign-wise.  
Much of the country is gorgeous.  We arrived late one night in Barcelona, only to awaken the next morning wondering if we really had died during the previous night's drive through the countryside, as we had feared.
In all, a very rewarding trip.  We benefited greatly from our time with President Chacín and his wife, admiring their love and devotion for the missionaries, and the difficulty of their calling.
Now, if the missionaries just took notes during "Diarrhea..."
Dave & Paula

Saturday, October 20, 2012

There are fossils in our bathroom!

Oh, stop it!  I am not referring to Paula, or for that matter myself.  We moved to a nicer apartment recently, and it happens to have beautiful marble floors as well as lovely polished limestone on the walls in the bathrooms.  
After living here for two weeks, I realized that some of the patterns on the shower walls were not random.  Millions of years ago, this very shower must have been part of an ancient sea!!
How truly amazing!  The moving guy was way off when he estimated the age of the apartment building to be about 40 years, based on his experience and the size of the (dinky) elevator.  This apartment building must actually date to the Jurassic, or the Teleologic, or the Ophthalmologic Era or something!  I mean this has got to be millions (if not billions) of year old!!  They've almost certainly painted the place a couple of times, sure, and the wood floors are a little worn, but it's amazingly well preserved!
Wow!  The stuff you discover when you look closely at your bathroom walls!
We hope that your bathrooms are historic or pre-historic too!
Dave & Paula.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Your afternoon traffic report, high above Bogotá!

If you want to get a Bogotano talking, bring up the subject, "traffic."  If you want to get a Bogotano taxi driver saying things he shouldn't, bring up the subject, "traffic."
Our street, Calle 69, is a microcosm of the problem, being a semi-popular, but not terribly-busy way to get from Carrera 5 to Carrera 7.
From the perch of our new terrace, we get to see all sorts of traffic hilarity.  This afternoon, for instance, some guys renovating an apartment decided it was an OK time to block the street with their trash truck. 
The twenty-one cars and two horse carts did not agree, stretching up and around the corner on Carrera 5.  The horn-play was deafening, even six floors up.
This afternoon traffic report from high above Calle 69 was brought to you by the friendly folks at Casa Real Hotel, described as (and I am not making this up), "Strange at first, wonderful at the end."
Huh...that may be a good description of this whole trip.
We hope your traffic is more manageable than that of this strange-at-first place.
Dave & Paula

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time flies! (or jumps)

When you arrive in the Mission as either a young or old missionary, your dwellings are kind of pot-luck, as are the furnishings.  We inherited an old-ish clock hung on a wall.  One night, a crash in the living room awakened us both; the clock had fallen and was broken up.  I fixed it, and hung it more securely.
In our new digs, I hung it in the kitchen, where the tile goes all the way to the ceiling.  It fell.  I fixed it.  OK, this time I made sure the wall was clean and degreased, and hung it again.  It fell.  I fixed it.
By this point, I was beginning to suspect psychopathology of our seemingly suicidal timepiece.  I scrubbed the wall and used a brand-new hook and adhesives.  However, this time I am taking no chances.
If it leaps again, at least I won't have to buy any more glue.  Clock-Prozac perhaps, but no more glue.
We hope that your clocks are more content.
Dave & Paula