Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week 75--January 20-26, 2014

The only picture we have this week is of Tom by the Fu Dog. These sculptures commonly guard the entrance to a residence. We don't think we'll be buying one of this to send home. But it sure would keep trick-or-treaters away at Halloween time.

We mailed two more boxes home rather than check them with us on the plane. We have started cleaning out and thinking about packing suitcases. We also applied for our China visas for our visit to Guilin and Xi'an at the end of our mission.

It has been cool the last couple of weeks. The lows have 10-12 degrees Celsius and the highs around 15 degrees. Not cold compared to Idaho standards but cold for Hong Kong.

On Tuesday our Area Presidency devotional message was delivered by Elder Randy Funk. He spoke about his experiences as a young missionary in Indonesia in the early 70s. He was in Indonesia recently and he had the wonderful opportunity of meeting one of the sisters he taught and baptized 40 years ago. He spoke of a many from India who had moved to Indonesia and then had gone to England to go to school. He was given a pamphlet at a shopping center by a missionary. He and his wife read the pamphlet and decided they wanted to raise their children in a church that had those ideals. So they joined the church. Elder Funk said that people who are prepared to receive the Gospel will be guided to places where they can be taught.

That evening we were invited to dinner with the Area Presidency along with two couples, the Lyons and the Crocketts. It was a farewell dinner for us and a welcome to the Asia area office for the other two. The traditional welcoming gift is a pillow box with a set of chopsticks. A pillow box is where the most valuable family items are kept and the wife sleeps with it under her head. In an emergency she can grab the box and leave quickly. The chopsticks represent a husband and wife. Separately they are not very useful but working together they can accomplish the jobs they were made for. The other story that goes with the chopsticks is of Heaven and Hell. Both groups were seated around a banquet table ready to feast. Each person has pair of yard-long chopsticks. In Hades the souls are starving and angry. The long chopsticks are useless in transporting food to their own mouths. The inhabitants of Heaven have learned the art of feeding one another--a task to which the long chopsticks are perfectly adapted. Working together and striving to serve others, there is no limit to the good that you can do and joy you will receive in God's kingdom. At the conclusion of the dinner we had a testimony meeting. Elder and Sister Gong and Elder Wilson all said some very complimentary things about us. We are going to miss Hong Kong.

As an example of the inter-nationality of the Hong Kong temple, Tom was a presenter at the veil for a Frenchman. He used a card with the ceremony written in French which Tom was able to follow because of his Spanish. The receiver speaks excellent French. Tom is sure that the Frenchman was amazed that he could hear the ceremony in his own language in Hong Kong.

Tom presented at the Senior lunch on Friday. His topic was that the Lord prepares us for the missionary assignment we are called to. We may wonder why we were called to a particular mission but eventually we realize that the Lord is in charge and that we have talents and skills that he needs in our particular missionary calling.

Saturday we spent part of the morning at WanChai helping the Sullivans with the humanitarian meeting they were in charge of. We helped by picking up the Caesar salads. They are very traditional Caesar salads made with anchovies.  Garnalee didn't eat them but Tom, being the one to try new things, did. He decided they were not to his liking. After we finished helping with the lunch we went to Stanley to pick up some more things to mail home.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Week 74--January 13-19, 2014

Our devotional speaker on Monday told about our need for faith and trust in the Lord. He shared a story about a hiker who became disoriented in heavy fog and slipped and fell into a small tree. He prayed for help. A voice said in his mind,"Drop down from the tree." He didn't heed the prompting. Two days later, after the fog had lifted, his lifeless body was found by a rescue team only 10 feet from the ground. We need to listen and respond to the promptings.

We have discovered one of the good things about being in Asia is New Year's Resolutions. When you decide on your resolutions, start working on them on January 1, and you have faltered by January 2, you have a do over on Chinese New Year. Which this year begins on January 31.

We had our monthly meeting with Elder Wilson on Thursday. Last month we were asked to draft an article for the Liahona magazine on the Family History Area Initiatives for 2014. We have struggled with it all month and just didn't know what to write. On the ferry Garnalee received inspiration of what needed to be in the article. We are going to start the article by mentioning the promised blessings that come by doing family history work and then mention ways to achieve each of the three initiatives. So as we were asked about the article we were able to share our thoughts and let Elder Wilson know that we were going to do the article in the afternoon. With that guidance from the Holy Ghost the article came together very quickly.

Tom has been working on the travel budget reconciliations for December 2013. He has an entry on the Malaysia budget that he isn't sure about. He needs to do some further research.

 Joyce and her son Joseph have been the custodians at the Church Office Building. They are leaving and we are gong to miss their friendly smiles each morning as we arrive at the building. A farewell party was given in their honor on Friday.
Saturday we went to an area called Discovery Bay with several of the other senior couples for lunch. We rode the across to Lantau Island. We had lunch at ¡Camraba! Love the Mexican food there. We sat on the patio under the sun and ate our food. We then walked along the Promenade by this beautiful beach. Many expats live at Discovery Bay.
A sailboat on the water in the bay.
 When arrived back at the ferry terminal we walked over to the Maritime Museum and spent three hours going through the exhibits. One of the ferry terminals has been converted into the museum. On the second floor of the museum are observation windows were one can see the harbor.

All of these pictures were taken from the the observation windows. We never tire of the Hong Kong skyline.

 A pagoda ferry on the water.
The ICC Building, the tallest building in Hong Kong.

Tom loves to conduct Sacrament meeting because he gets to look into the smiling faces of the Filipina sisters. He had that opportunity today as he filled in for Elder Lasson who was gone to another meeting.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week 72 and 73--December 30, 2013-Jan 12, 2014

We celebrated New Year's Eve with the other senior couples at Sweet Thai Basil restaurant. We didn't stay up to welcome in the New Year. We are too old to care!!!

We both had a lot of e-mails to answer after our trip to Malaysia and Christmas week. So we spent a lot of time doing that and working on the report of our trip to Malaysia. In the four page report we put what needed to be done, who would do it, and the timeline for accomplishment. Elder Wilson then asked us to come up with a one-page dashboard which condensed the report. Both were well received.

New Year's Day arrived sunny and bright with a temperature in the low 70s. We went to the Ladies Market to buy some birthday presents for the girls. Garnalee had been looking for some silk scarves which she finally found. She was able to get them at a good bargain. Next we bought some beautiful beads for Sharlene to make watch bands out of. We also looked for fabric for Garnalee but since it was a holiday the fabric shops were closed. That will have to wait for another day.

We helped host the Lyons, the newest missionary couple, for dinner. He will be the executive secretary to Area Presidency and she is his assistant.

We started off 2014 right with a session at the temple with the Area Presidency and the other Area Office missionaries. These temple days are always very spiritual and special because we get to hear the Area Presidency bear testimony.

Tom met a gentlemen in the temple from Argentina who works in China and had come to the temple for a few days. Tom got to practice his Spanish.  

The senior sisters are changing the study program in Sisters' Institute. We going to study the scriptures using a program developed by Sister Wilson called Sisters at the Well. It is to help the sisters develop an understanding of the scriptures and to help them feel that they can become knowledgeable about the scriptures. We are going to study Exodus. Garnalee thinks it will be wonderful. Sisters' Institute is one of the things she is going to miss.

The Area Seventy were coming for training with the Area Presidency. We have been working an Introductory Letter from the Area Presidency to go with the new My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together booklet and suggested lesson guide. We had the letter and lesson translated into the languages of Asia. We wanted the Area Seventy to have the letter to share in their priesthood training throughout the area. We spent a good portion of Friday assembling those packets.

On Saturday we went to see the Hobbit movie "Desolation of Smaug" and lunch with the Cowleys. As usual the movie ended in a critical point to leave us hanging and wanting to see the next installment.

Garnalee had been asked to teach the consultants at the Island 1 Branch on using Family Tree. She located some wonderful training lessons online that she shared with the sisters. Meanwhile Tom attended Pen 2 and brought home a cross stitch of the Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci.

Tom has ordered three new suits to do done before we come home. Garnalee also ordered two skirts.

Garnalee had to go home early on Wednesday to meet the repair for the kitchen faucet. Since she had some free time she decided to start boxing up the items that need to shipped home. She filled two boxes and isn't finished.

We have using up the food we had purchased along the way for some food storage. It is nice to have that now and we don't have to spend as much on food.

Our Thursday was its usual busy day. We spent the morning answering emails and the conference call in the afternoon with the other Family History missionaries. Then to the Temple in the evening.

We have finalized our plans to go into China for a few days at the end of our mission. We will fly to Guilin on March 1 and then on to Xi'an and then back to Hong Kong on March 6. We will fly from Hong Kong to home on March 7.

 Tai O is a fishing village on stilts. We took a boat cruise along among the houses. Tai O is also a place to see white dolphins. There is a resident pod off the coast. We didn't see them on our boat cruise.
 Typical fisherman of China. He is working his nets.
This is a three family building and shows how little space is really needed. As we walked the streets past the humble homes we were reminded of the opulence we have in our home in Blackfoot.
Since Tai O is a fishing village many come here for the dried fish and other items. This shows Golden Oysters and Sea Dragon on the left.
Salted dried duck egg yolk used in cooking. They are raw so a sign warned people (like we Americans) not to eat them.
 The dried fish bandits. Each wore a mask to disguise his identity.
 Lunch was enjoyed at Heritage Hotel in Tai O that over looked the ocean. Tom and Garnalee odered Nasi Goreng and Chicken Satay.
We were honored for our 11th wedding anniversary. The sisters sang "Each Life That Touches Ours for Good." It is going to be very hard to say good-bye to these wonderful sisters.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas 2013-Week 71--December 23-29, 2013

Our last day in East Malaysia we spent at the Mari Mari Cultural Village to learn about the tribes that lived in the state of Sabah. One of the tribes would gather wild honey from the beehives that were fashioned form bamboo.

The tribe members would use friction on bamboo sticks with slits cut in it to start their fires. They have a pile of bamboo fibers under the bamboo stick to start the fire. The women would be the ones to start the fires because the men were off hunting.
 The fibers catch fire.

We participated in bamboo cooking. Garnalee is collecting chicken, potatoes, onions, and spices to be placed in bamboo and cooked over a fire. This would be served to us with our lunch.

 A bamboo tube over the fire where the food is  cooking.

Tom and Garnalee on the wedding bed in the weeding room.

 The Lundayen revered the alligator. The outline of the alligator would be made using skulls.
 Tom wearing the vest that would be made from tree bark. The bark would be pounded to break down the fibers. The vest was dart proof.
 Tom volunteered to be the leader of our family of 12 at the head hunters village, the Murut. As we approached the village the guard warriors came out shouting and screaming to frighten us away. Tom was holding up his hands in the peace sign so they went and got the chief. As the leader Tom had to answer a series of questions about why we were there. They would place their right hands on the left shoulder. Tom told the chief that we came in peace and he was responsible for our family. He was satisfied and allowed us to enter his village.

Tom trying his luck with the blow gun. He barely missed the coconut he was aiming for.

 Garnalee didn't even come close. Her dart landed in the grass in front of the target area.

Tom bouncing on the wicker trampoline. This was used by the natives for a jumping competition.

 The native in the jumping competition.

Garnalee participating in the stick dance.

Garnalee and Tom with the tribal warriors.
Christmas Eve was spent with the senior missionaries. We had games and appetizers. Tom playing a game of Rummikub with Elder Sullivan, Amanda and Danise. Tom came on second.
 Everyone trying to figure out the names of the Christmas carols from the pictures.
Playing the Candy Kiss game. Mittens were to be used but needless to say mittens could not be found in Hong Kong so tube socks had to be substituted. They worked even better. A fun game that got everyone laughing.
 Christmas Day was spent with the Branch. A series of fun games were played. Tom and Garnalee are playing the guessing game. Garnalee had the name of an item taped to her hat. She could ask Tom yes and no questions only. We lost horribly.

There was also a banana eating contest we participated in and a paper dance game.
Each of the classes was to perform a dance to music of their choice. This is the Gospel Principles class who won the competition.

Sister Christy is going home to get married and stay in the Philippines. We will miss her as the Activities Chair Person.
December 26 was a special day. We accompanied Sister Sol to the temple to receive her endowments. She asked Garnalee to be her escort. There has been a special bond between the two of them. After the session we took her lunch at Dan Ryans.

L to R: Elder Lasson, Sister Lasson, President Chia, Sister Chia, Sister Sol, Sister Juanita, Garnalee, and Tom

The Peninsula 2 Branch Presidency: Elder Lasson, President Chia, and Tom in front of the Hong Kong Temple.

On our return to the office on December 27, we had to get our trip expenses turned in as the cut-off is December 30.

We had the opportunity to visit with the Bertins who had returned to Hong Kong with their oldest daughter and her family who had booked travel plans when the Bertins received their call to be mission president. They let us know that they will be the mission president of the Philippines Quezon City North Mission. They have one of the couples there going home in October.

Tom has started knitting a sweater for himself.

On Saturday, we attended a Chinese acrobat show with many of the other senior couples. It was amazing to see the flexibility, athleticism, and balance of the acrobats. A very enjoyable evening.

 Sunday we had the opportunity to attend a concert of Christmas carols performed by Mariah and Abraham Wilson, the niece and nephew of Elder Wilson. Both are piano students at BYU and very talented. Abraham played the piano while Mariah sang and played the violin and harp. Their encore number was a piano duet of Sleigh Ride.