Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 66--November 18-24, 2013

We gained a lot of knowledge about the Big Buddha hike that Tom went on last week. He climbed 3,147 steps. The first 1330 are to the first tower which is the roughest part of the trail.

We assisted Monday evening at the dinner for the Hong Kong Temple presidency by serving and washing the dishes. The dinner came from Coyote Grill which is one of the favorite caterers for dinners at the Church Administration Building.

The branches in our District have been collecting clothes to donate to the Philippines. The sisters in our branch collected three very LARGE, HEAVY bags of clothes weighing about 75 pounds each. We took them to the Wan Chai building for the sorting and packaging by taxi.

We are learning the new system for doing teleconferencing called WebEx. The more we use it the better we will become with it. Learning new things at our age takes longer!

We attended a presentation by Warner Woodworth who teaches at the BYU Marriott Management School. He has started several Non-Governmental Organizations that assist the poor in third world countries to become self-reliant by starting businesses of their own. It was very inspiring and gave us a new focus in our life. We have all we want and more than we need. It was a reminder to us that we have the resources to help lift the poor also.

Sudahkar is in Hong Kong doing an internship with the technology department. He is from Rajamundry, India. He is planning on starting a masters program at Utah State University in January. We hope to see him again when we return home. He served a mission in New Delhi.

 Tom with Warner Woodworth after the presentation. He agreed to send some curriculum materials for teaching the principles of small business start-up and management.

Tom has started working on the next song for the Jacksons who go home in December.

We went to the second installment of the Hunger Games. It was different than what we expected, a good movie. Neither one of us had read the second book.

The Jacksons had us to lunch with the Aardemas as a thank you to us for helping at the dinner on Monday evening.

Tom and Elder Watkins went to Lok Ma Chau which is the last stop on the East Rail Line and where you cross over into Shenzhen, China. They took a couple of pictures and then tried to go back through the turnstiles. It is then they discovered you cannot go back. They had to get the permission of the police officers to return to the MTR station.

The Visiting Teaching Convention was held on Sunday, November 24. This is picture of our Relief Society.

Since this is Thanksgiving Week the sisters asked the missionaries to do a Thanksgiving dinner. We prepared turkey breasts, mashed potatoes with gravy, dressing, broccoli, rolls, cranberries, and pumpkin dump cake. They all loved it. We had plenty of food so some of them took food that would be their breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

After the dinner and cleanup we headed for home. It was pouring rain, and we couldn't get a taxi so we walked to the MTR. We were soaked by the time we got home.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 65--November 11-17, 2013

 One of the workers who cleans the streets and sidewalks with a palm tree frond broom. Tom has decided he needs one of these umbrella hats for when he works in the garden.
 A beautiful clear morning that gave a great view of The Peak from the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour. The Peak is on Hong Kong island.

Tom has been working out every morning before breakfast by climbing 648+ stairs in preparation for his climb from the harbour to the top of Big Buddha mountain which is an elevation of 4000 ft.

We had a great Family Home Evening in which the theme was an "Attitude of Gratitude." To conclude the evening we each had a piece of paper attached to our back and the other attendees were encouraged to write a positive message on the paper to that person.

Tom and Elder Aardema decided to go find the trail head for Big Buddha on Wednesday. Tom had printed off directions from the internet that someone who had walked the trail had posted. The directions were difficult to follow. It took them a couple of hours to find the trail head. It will be helpful for they actually do the hike as it will cut down on the time to get to the trail head. Elder Frandsen wants to do the Big Buddha hike but he goes home on November 22. Everyone was agreeable to moving the hike up to this Saturday. So it will be a couple of weeks earlier than planned.

Garnalee had a Skype call with Steve Tsai to work on the itinerary for our Salt Lake Family History visitors. We are on revision four or five of the itinerary.

We had a group of Mongolian members at the temple this week. One of the escorts was Debbie Armstrong's (she is in our ward in Blackfoot) aunt who is serving in Mongolia. It is a small world. I used to have monthly contact with her when I would email her requesting the monthly family history center report from Choibalson. They are somewhere else in Mongolia now where there isn't a family history computer so I don't get to have that contact any more. It was fun to visit with her for a few minutes.

Elder Phil and Sister Brenda Frandsen had their farewell lunch on Friday. Tom did a great job on their song. He used the tunes "The Day Dawn is Breaking," "Sherry Baby," and "The BYU Cougar Fight Song."

We had a meeting with Elder Wilson, Steve Tsai, and Hashick Hong to go over the itinerary for our Salt Lake visitors, and then a follow up Skype call to add the changes we discussed in the meeting. We have spent major amounts of time this week working on the itinerary.

Dinner with other senior missionaries before we go to the Cossack Russian dance program on Friday evening.

A beautiful Christmas tree in the mall where we ate dinner.
The hikers Saturday morning.
 Back row: Elder Watkins, Elder Sullivan, Elder Cowley, Elder Gregory, and Tom.
Front row: Elder Jackson, Sister Cowley, and Elder Aardema.

 This first set of stairs is about a 70 degree climb. In total to reach the first of five gondola towers we climbed 1330 stairs. Even though it was only about a fourth of the distance the effort to reach the first tower was probably about half of the hike.
This warning sign across the trail was wooden stairs going sharply down into a deep ravine and then up again. Tom was glad there was a hand rail to help pull himself up.
 End of the trail after three hours and 20 minutes. Elder Frandsen, Elder Sullivan, and the Cowleys did the hike in two hours. They are very competitive. Tom was just happy to finish the climb. The trail was built as a rescue trail in case of emergency on the gondola. Therefore the trail is almost always directly below the gondolas. There are no switchbacks. There are three helicopter pads along the trail in case someone had to be air lifted out. Those white flaggy things between the signs are fire beaters.
The shot of the Big Buddha through the town a little past the end of the trail. The group rode the bus back to the MTR station. Many hikers hike both directions on the trail.

Garnalee and several of the sisters went shopping while the others were on the hike. She bought a vest and jacket.

The branches in District are doing clothing and money donations for the Philippines. Fortunately the families of most of the sisters in our branch were not affected by the typhoon. However one our sisters did have family members who lost their home and had family members killed in the storm. The sisters were very generous in donating of their resources for the relief effort.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week 64--November 4-10, 2013

Tom is planning on climbing the steps that go up to Big Buddha the first part of December. He has started doing some training by climbing the stairs at the end of our complex and the stairs at the office where we work each day. At the end of this week he was climbing 700 steps daily.

We have spent a lot of time this week going over the schedule for when Elder Brimhall and Steve Rockwood come to Hong Kong. We have just about every minute they are here planned out but will have to remain flexible as sometimes things don't go as planned. Also things will probably change after Steve Rockwood, Elder Brimhall, and Elder Allan Packer get the itinerary.

Thursday our day began and ended at the temple. We had our monthly session and devotional with the Area Presidency and then our service in the temple that evening. At the devotional we had the opportunity to hear from the Frandsens and the Jacksons who are going home soon and the Clarks who arrived last month.

On Friday Garnalee gave the message at the senior missionary lunch. Her message was about peace we feel through prayer, scriptures, conference talks, and hymns. She talked about her neck surgery and the peace she finally felt through the hymns that were played at the Sacrament meeting a couple of days before her surgery. The hymns gave her the comfort that she was in the Savior's hands and that everything would be okay.

We practiced the farewell song for the Frandsens that Tom wrote to the tune of "The Day Dawn is Breaking."

Saturday morning we went to the movie "Ender's Game" and lunch with several of the other couples. Tom read the book years ago. The special effects were very good.

We had our District Conference this weekend. The Saturday evening session focused on missionary work. One of the speakers talks wherein he said if we are inviting to come to church with us we are doing all that the Lord expects of us and often there won't be a positive result immediately. But it is our responsibility to invite.

President Tai, the District President, tied the typhoon in the Philippines to the storms we all face in life. He reminded us of the places we can find refuge from the storm.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week 63--October 28-November 3, 2013

At our weekly devotional a story was told about a boy who had leukemia who wanted to be a fireman. His Mother just wanted to have him be able to sit in the fire engine. However the Fire Chief said, "We can do better than that." So the boy was allowed to spend the day at the day at the fire house, eat with the fireman, and ride in the engine to calls. Each step along the way the Fire Chief always said, "We can do better than that." We were reminded that we can each do a little better than we think we can.

We had the Aardemas and the Bertins to dinner Monday evening. The Aardemas had just gotten back from being in the US for two weeks and the Bertins will be going home early to fulfill their new assignment as mission president.

Tom has written a farewell song for the Bertins to the tune of "I Will Go Where You Want Me to Go."

We had dinner with Elder and Sister Funk on Tuesday. He is the newest member to the Area Presidency. They decided they wanted to have each of the couples to their home so they could get to know them in a relaxed atmosphere.

We had two conference calls with Steve Tsai, the Asia Area Family History Manager, on Wednesday. The first one was to discuss the visit of Elder Alan Packer, Elder Dennis Brimhall and Steve Rockwood. We discussed things they would like to do while here in Hong Kong such as holding member firesides and visiting with the Temple Presidency. The second call was to discuss Asia Area 2014 goals that we help write.

We had our first practice of the song for the Bertins and Tom has some fine tuning to do.

Thursday was Halloween. I made cookies and Sister Aardema had made lemon meringue pies. Yummy treats for us instead of tricks.  Garnalee's hip was bothering her so she didn't go to the Temple. The new Temple Presidency arrived this week and took the opportunity to introduce themselves.

On Friday Tom counted how many days we have left which is 105. The time has flown by and we have been blessed. We had a conference call with Elder Shirley from the Family History Department. They are now giving the family history missionaries an extra week of training before they are sent to their assigned area. The information we provided last January has been a real help to all of the missionaries.

Elder and Sister Bertin at the farewell lunch. They loved their song.
 On Saturday we decided to go see the movie "Captain Phillips." Garnalee had the time wrong so we had some time to wander. We had been told about Kowloon Park so we went exploring. We discovered this beautiful park with a sculpture garden. Tom is standing next to a three faced statue.

Each sculpture had a  name. This one was titled "Figure." Tom thought it should be "Go Figure."
 Elder and Sister Cowley and Tom standing by a tall sculpture.


This area had many people being lead by an instructor in doing many different types of activities. The people here were walking in a slow circle and they would move their arms from one side to the other.
We enjoyed the movie. It was very intense. Garnalee thinks that Tom Hanks should get an Academy Award for his portrayal.

Tom has finished knitting a sweater vest for Garnalee. He just needs to block it now.

At Church today we had a group of Indonesian members. A group comes to the Temple every year at this time. They attend our Branch because we have a group of Indonesian sisters. They fix Indonesian food for the meal after our block of meetings. Elder Funk attended our meetings because he served a mission to Indonesia in 1971-1973. He knew one of the Indonesian members, Han King Ishar who with two of his friends took seven years to translate the Book of Mormon into Bahasa Indonesian. Elder Funk was able to greet them and visit with them in Indonesian.