Sunday, April 27, 2014

The End of Our Blog

We have reached the end of our mission and the end our blog. Our replacement couple, Elder and Sister Wasson from Washington, arrived on February 25. We spent two days giving them an introduction into what we did as Asia Area Family History Support Missionaries.

On February 28 we traveled by the MTR to Shenzhen, China, for the day. We visited the China Folk Cultural Center and Splendid China. Splendid China has miniature replicas of attractions in China. They had even constructed a miniature Great Wall. It was amazing to think of the amount of time that went into placing each brick in the wall. The Cultural Center is modeled after the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii and each of the cultures in China had an area where you could learn about them. Some areas would put on a brief show. We attended the show put on by the Monguls in which they performed a battle using their horses.

March 1 was travel day to Guilin, China where we would see the Gum Drop Mountains and cruise on the Li River. On Sunday, March 2, we looked out our hotel window at the Li River and decided to walk along it. As we walked out the door of the hotel, there was a woman taxi driver who spoke English that offered to take us to Reed Flute Cave. We rode the tram up to the cave entrance. The cave was is natural limestone with multicolored lighting. Reed Flute Cave is filled with a large number of stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations in weird and wonderful shapes. After Reed Flute Cave she offered to take us to see other sites in Guilin.


After the cave we went to a silk factory. It wasn't as detailed or as informative as the one we visited when we were in China in 2008. Tom found a beautiful comforter that he decided to buy. After the silk factory we went to Solitary Beauty Peak where we climbed to the top for a beautiful view of the city of Guilin. A quote we saw on the peak was from Dr. Sun Yat-sen, "There is
distinction between easy and difficult things. If you try difficult things will become easy. If you give up easy things will become difficult."

Next we went to Yao Mountain where we could see the valley surrounded by the Gum Drop Mountains. We had to ride a tram to the top. We rented what looked like old military coats for 10 yuan each. We were glad we did as it was cold at the top of the mountain with a wind.

 We ended the day with a short boat ride on the Li River to see Elephant Trunk Hill.

Along the way we say these cormorants on a raft. They are trained by the Chinese to catch fish and return with the catch. A band is put on the neck of the cormorant so it can't swallow the fish. It returns with the fish and the fisherman squeezes the neck of the bird to get the fish out. The cormorant is then rewarded with a smaller fish that is can swallow.

Monday, March 3, was our day to cruise the Li River. It was an amazing experience to travel through the Gum Drop Mountains for 5 1/2 hours.

 Nine Horse Painted Mountain

The mountains that on the 20 yuan dollar bill.   
Tom and Garnalee ready to float the rapids on a bamboo raft.
In the evening we attended the Impressions Light Show that is performed on the Li River with the Gum Drop Mountains as the back drop. It was utterly amazing. I couldn't get any pictures with my camera so I copied a couple from the internet. 

Tuesday, March 4, brought another wonderful day as we visited the Longji Terraced Rice Fields and the village of the Minority People of Yao. The woman in this village cut their hair only once in their life at the age of 18. They wear their hair wrapped around their head like a hat. From the style of the hair wrap you can learn about the marital status of a woman. A single woman keeps her hair covered and it is uncovered on her wedding night by her husband. A woman without children has her hair wrapped around her head and a woman with children has a snail-like loop on the front of the wrap. 

After visiting the village we went to the terraced rice fields. The mountains were covered with terraces. In the evening we flew to Xian where we will see the terracotta warriors tomorrow. 
Wednesday, March 5, was spent touring Xian. We started at the National Provincial Museum where we saw the terracotta warriors. There are three pits here. Pit 1 is where most of the excavation has happened. Pit 3 is where there was a royal guard. Pit 2 is where each section of the pit holds a different section of the army--archers, chariots and soldiers, cavalry, etc. Excavation in pit 2 and 3 was halted until the time that technology will have developed a process in which the paint on the figures can be preserved. 

The size and number of figures in Pit 1 is amazing.
 After visiting the terracotta warriors we went to Xian City Wall. Originally the wall had four entrances--north, south, east, and west and was built during the Ming Dynasty. If the weather is nice many people bicycle around the wall. Since it was cold and drizzly we just walked part of the wall.
 A view from the top of the city wall.
After the city wall we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

We concluded the day at the Drum and Bell Tower. The Bell Tower had a large bell that was rung at dawn each day and the drum in the Drum Tower was beat at sunset. We are pictured in front of the Drum Tower.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 78-79 - February 10-23

The cold weather in Idaho has not been kind to our rental units. The pipes froze in one of the vacant units and caused a lot of damage. The restoration company is working to get things back to normal.

Elder Heaps gave the devotional thought on Monday, Feb. 10. He talked about the three word sermon. Both the first and second great commandments begin with the words "Thou shalt love..." There doesn't need to anything more. If everyone believed that and tried to live it what a wonderful world we would have.

Our Family Home Evening was with Elder and Sister Gong. They shared with us how they met and the calling as a General Authority. It was a very spiritual evening.

We had our final meeting with Elder Wilson on Thursday, Feb. 13. It has been wonderful to meet with him each month to discuss the progress of family history in the Asia Area. He was very gracious in his praise of the work we have done over the last 18 months.

We have started using a new social network called Yammer. There is a group for International Family History missionaries where they post a question or give a  response. It will be very useful for the sharing of ideas.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, we mailed our last two boxes of things home. It is amazing how much we accumulated in 18 months that we felt we needed at home. However many of the items in the boxes have been presents for family members.

Tom and President Chia team taught and introduced the "My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together" booklet in a combined Relief Society and Priesthood meeting. This booklet is going to be a great resource for members where computers aren't readily available. We were privileged to be involved in the introduction of them in the Asia Area.

The Walkers and Clarks invited us to a farewell dinner after our church meetings. We had a wonderful evening with them.

On Monday we had dinner at the Chias' home with the Pollards. They have a beautiful view of the city from their apartment on the 71st floor. It was a very pleasant evening.

We had good news and sad news when we arrived at the office on Tuesday. Danise Mok, one of the administrative assistants to the Area Presidency, received notice that she had been accepted into the doctoral program at BYU. She will begin this fall. Elder Aardema was in the hospital. His defibrillator had fired  twice in the last week. They are trying to figure out why. He is undergoing some tests. Later in the day we learned that they will be going home to be cared for by his doctor in Utah. Tom quickly wrote a farewell song for them with the idea that we could both have our farewells together on Thursday. As it turned out the Aardemas left Thursday morning and so weren't present for our rendition. Elder Heaps video taped the performance and sent it to the Aardemas.

Our farewell lunch was on Thursday. Our farewell song was to "Choose the Right." Sister Lasson did a very nice job and we appreciated her efforts. Elder Lyon gave some parting remarks that were very complimentary.

 L to R--Elder Sullivan, Elder Watkins, Elder Walker, Sister Walker,  Sister Watkins, Elder and Sister Gregory, Elder and Sister Lyon, Elder Carlos Watkins.
 Sister and Elder Clark on the far left who weren't visible in the picture above.
 Lunch with the Watkins (Alane and Carlos) at Dumpling Pro.

Saturday we went to the ICC building, the tallest building in Hong Kong and the 5th tallest in the world. We took the elevator to the 100th floor in 55 seconds. The 360 degree observation deck is 393 meters above sea level. It allows visitors to get a bird's eye view of Hong Kong.

 This illustration shows the ranking of the ten tallest buildings in the world.

Looking down at the Macau ferry port in the lower part of the photo and one of the Star Ferry ports in the upper portion. There is cruise ship docked between the ports.
Garnalee sitting in a rickshaw.

Looking from the 100th story across the harbor at Hong Kong island.

We attended our last Sacrament meeting in the Pen 2 branch with the Filippina sisters. We were asked to share our testimonies and final thoughts with the branch members. It was a sad day for us.

We attended a fireside to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the dedication of the land of Hong Kong for the teaching of the gospel. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the speaker. He and several other authorities are doing a tour of Asia. His message was that God's children throughout history have had to flee. Elder Holland said we are done with that. We are going to stiffen our backs, square our shoulders, and confront evil influences rather than flee. Elder Holland also counseled us to walk the walk and not be as the Pharisees who "Draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." He asked, "Will Jesus recognize us as members of His church?"

We travel into China on Friday for six days and then home to Idaho. We will fly out of Hong Kong on Friday, March 7, and arrive in Idaho Falls on March 7 at 5 PM.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week 77--February 3-9, 2014

We spent Monday, February 3, at Sai Kung. Sai Kung is a fishing village where the fisherman sell their catch off the boats.
 You can select fresh seafood at the restaurant  and have if prepared fresh. This lobster was big as Tom's arm/
The biggest crab Tom has ever seen.

 We went to Sai Kung during Chinese New Year. Lion dances were being performed in the town square by a number of teams. The lion on the left would circle around and around until his head was in the middle of his body and high above the rest of the body. Garnalee was able to get a close-up of the lion's head being carried by a member of the team.

 They start them out young learning to do the lion dance. Just like the Native American children in the Shoshone tribe near Blackfoot.

A sampan similar to the one we took a ride in around the islands off the coast of Sai Kung. We journeyed for an hour around the islands.

Tom riding in a sampan.

Natural caves in the hillside look like great pirate hangouts.
 A small boat could sail right into this cave.
 On one of the islands is the Sai Kung Golf Course, the only public golf course in Hong Kong. The only way to get to this course is by ferry. It costs about US$100 to golf here.
Many of the islands off the coast that make up the archipelago of Hong Kong.

Thursday was another one of our lasts. We attended our last temple session with the Area Presidency. It has been a great opportunity to hear the Area Presidency share their testimonies each month. It is customary for the departing couple to be the officiators at their last Area Presidency session, so Tom and Garnalee were the officiators that day.

Friday and Saturday was Assistant Area Auditors' training. Tom and Garnalee offered service by helping with the meals that were served and clean-up. The best part is they always seem to more than enough food for us to partake of the wonderful meals.

We learned that the Castletons, who were the area attorney, are going to Frankfurt, Germany. That will be exciting for them.

Sunday was our farewell in our branch. We spoke in Sacrament meeting. They have treated us with great love. We are going to miss the sisters and the branch. Several groups performed different acts for us. As usual the final song is "Till We Meet Again."

 Garnalee went around to each of the tables to capture a final picture of the wonderful sisters in the branch. They won't be important to anyone outside the branch but for us they will be a reminder of the wonderful friendships we developed while serving here in Hong Kong.

L to R--Sister Vilma, Sister Mia, Sister Ferliza, Sister TinTin, Sister Hedy, Sister Leonisa, Sister Sheila Mae.

L to R--Sister Gloria, Sister Lynn, Sister Nenita, Sister Maila, Sister Alanie, Sister Solema
L to R--Sister Suciati, Sister Mary Grace, Sister ____,  Sister Maida, Sister Mulagros, Sister Hazel, Sister Aurelia, Sister Zemonet
L to R--Sister Clarita,  Sister Nhor, Sister Rose, Sister Jill
L to R--Sister Nora, Sister Jessel, Sister Sandra, Brother Nick
 L to R--Sister Elim, Sister Racquel, Sister Perla, Sister Juanita
 Sister Rhea and Sister Celia
 The Huki-lau by Sister Nhor, Sister Joselyn, Sister Hedy
Sister Vilma, Sister Rhea, Sister Rowena, Sister Fredalyn
 Tom and Garnalee just before the group sang to us.
The group gathers to wish us their love.
 Perfectly delighted to be there. Lots of hugs were given all around.

Group photo
L to R--Sister Evangeline, Sister Norma, Sister Joselyn

The sisters prepared a very nice book with letters and photos for our anniversary that they presented to us. They also prepared a wonderful meal.

We learned today that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland will be here just before we go home. We will be able to attend a fireside where he will speak.