Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Cheer

Look who we picked up at the airport!  It has been so fun to have the new Johnsons here.  We have become fast friends.  They will be such a blessing to the people here.  It has been so, so fun to have them here to talk English with and to show them this amazing mission.

An all night fight and 9 hours in Lima to get the Visa paperwork done the Johnsons finally arrived in Cusco.  This is Hermana Susan Johnson with her inked fingers from her visit with Interpol and yes they checked her teeth also.

We had a day long mission conference which included lunch. Yes,CocaCola and InkaCola are served at mission luncheons here in Peru.  We are sitting with President and Hermana Herrera, a member of the Seventy Elder Godoy and the new Johnsons.

We had a member of the Seventy Elder Godoy come and teach us last week.  It was a wonderful meeting.  He explained to us missionaries that the Book of Mormon is not finished yet.  The history of Lehi's family is continuing today and the missionaries serving here are part of that story.  He explained that there are only three countries where there are true Lamanites. Those countries are Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. These missionaries are teaching the gospel to the descendants of the people of the Book of Mormon and their leaders (Mission Presidents) could be called Captain Harbertson and Captain Herrera. Wow, learning that in some small way each of us here are playing a part in the continuing story of the Book of Mormon is an incredible thought.  It is such a blessing to be here in Peru.

Elders Poulsen and Johnson spent about 5 days getting the internet to work at the Apartment.  When they went to the computer parts store, this little boy came in and immediately saw the candy in Elder Poulsen's backpack.  He was grinning at me and pointing to the candy.  He was so adorable, and of course, we gave him the candy.  A few days later Elders Poulsen and Johnson went to the same store for more parts.  This little boy followed them in with a Popsicle and offered to share it with them.  Isn't that sweet?  

Students running out of their school at the end of the school day, with happy cheers that one more day of school is over. and they can enjoy a two month Christmas break. 

Ward Christmas Presentation, of course all in Spanish, but the songs and message are the same as at a home.  All over the world people are celebrating the birth of our Savior right now.

 Mission Christmas Party

 All the mission gathered for a Christmas Party, except Puno and Juliaca (they celebrated the following day).  We had videos, songs and skits that the missionaries from each Zone had prepared.  It was so fun to celebrate with these amazing young men and women.  It was an emotional day for us as we said good-bye to them.  They have been our friends and we will miss them.

Hermana Albuquerque from our district was transferred a few weeks ago to Puerto Maldonado, I have really missed her.

Christmas is always funner with children around.  The two daughters of President Herrera did a dance with the office Elders as part of the program.  It was so cute. 

These are the Office Elders that we work with quite often.  Aren't they handsome?  I just love all these missionaries.

Notice how the chapel can turn into a cultural hall.  These missionaries are patiently waiting for their turn at the Christmas Buffet.

Check out the little boy under the table.  The people here bring their children to work with them.  This is the son of the Caterers and he was having a great time sneaking snacks from the buffet table when no one is looking.

Hermana Davis

After the Christmas Party 3 of our Hermanas had to catch a fight that would take them home as they ended their missions.  It was hard to say good-bye to Hermana Morris (who is the first Sister missionary we met and worked with here) Hermana Barfus and Hermana Hansen.  All 3 have been great friends and helpers to us.

Most houses have a manager scene, this one is on their balcony.  The baby Jesus isn't in the manger yet.  That happens on Christmas day.

A castle house built right between tall apartment buildings in our neighborhood.

An Andean Condor, they are huge.

A conversation with a llama.

One of many baptisms happening each weekend in the Mission.  I love it when I am around to witness them.  

Popsicles and Christmas costumes.

Elder Poulsen getting his hair cut.  The hair salons have these cute chairs for children to sit in while their hair is cut.

We have seen a lot of people coming and going into this man's business. 

A brother and sister are playing together while their mom works in the curtain store.  They made small holes in the bottom of their plastic pop bottles and would shake up the bottle and drink the foam from the small hole.  While we were waiting for the
tailor (I had a suit made to bring home) Elder Poulsen played trucks with these kids, we love playing with the children here.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Great News, Elder and Sister (Bevin and Susan) Johnson are called to replace us!

This wonderful couple will be here on Tuesday to replace us.  We will have about 3 weeks to spend together until we head home on the 28th of this month.  We are so excited to meet in person and share this incredible mission with them.  They are a beautiful, faithful couple and I know how excited everyone is to have them come and serve in our mission.  They are affectionately being called "the new Johnsons" because the couple before us are also the Johnsons (Pat and Dawn). and the native Spanish speakers are glad that they all ready know how to pronounce their name.  Some just gave up on Poulsen and always call us President and Hermana.

Elder and Hermana Johnson

Did I say something at the end of October about it being our last trip to Puno?

Well I was wrong, I have been there two more times.  We were asked to go a couple of weeks ago to attend and talk at Stake conference.  It was a wonderful experience.

Another eight-hour bus ride.

Puno pizza is the best.

The wood-fired pizza oven.

Each pizza individually made and cooked by this pizza chef.


Look who we met on our way back to the hotel after we ate our pizza.  It was late and these two sisters had about a half  hour to make five more contacts.  What faithful sisters, we talked with them later and they had met their goal for the day.  Who wouldn't want to talk with these cute sisters.
 Elder Poulsen talked in both the Priesthood and Adult Session of Conference. We both talked in the Sunday morning session.  My talk is the written one I have ready at all times. There is always a  noticeable sigh of relief when I finish as they all pray that I will be able to speak in Spanish.  It feels like everyone is cheering me on.

We had an incredibly sweet experience as the choir below sang.  It is a ward choir and they were amazing.  They had a violinist join them in both numbers and he and the piano player were so talented.  The choir sang like angels.  Not many people here read music, let alone play an instrument by reading notes, and the choir sang in parts which is also rare.  The best part though was their selection of music.  They were two of Elder Poulsen's favorite pieces.  He bawled through both of them.  The first is the primary song "Whenever I hear the Song of a Bird", in Spanish of course.  When he got up to speak, he told them how when he was a little boy in Primary, he remembered the sun coming through the windows just like it was during that morning in Puno and he and the rest of the Primary were singing that song.  He told them that was the first time he had felt the Holy Ghost and how it was one of the sweetest experience in his life.  Well, the closing song was, "If I Could Hie to Kolob" which is another of his favorite songs and with the beautiful violin and piano and choir singing that song neither one of us could hold back the tears.  After the meeting was over and as everyone was leaving, the choir stood up and sang that song one more time for us.  They knew how much they had touched our hearts and they wanted to share their beautiful song with us one more time.  Then they gathered for a picture and included us in that picture.  This will be a treasured memory for both of us.  That experience alone was definitely worth the eight hour bus ride.  The Stakes in Puno are full of strong members and leaders, always I think about the Lamanites when I see so many faithful members.  It was an inspiring meeting.

A Ward Choir that sang at Stake Conference.  I love the bright pink flowers and ties.  On the far right are the violinist and piano player - so talented.

Surprise for Thanksgiving!

 Look who showed up to share Thanksgiving with us.  Lyle's two brothers and their wives and one of my sweet nieces.  We went to Machu Picchu again and loved it just as much as the first time.  It is so fun to share the treasures of this country with our family.

We stayed in the Sacred Valley for a night after we visited Machu Picchu and were able to visit the amazing Las Salineras Mine.
 The women decided to split up and I took them to Puno to see the floating island.  Two missionaries were on our bus and my sister joined them as they found favorite scriptures and talked about it.  The sister is from Chile and spoke English very well, so with her to translate the three of them had a really nice time. The parents of both missionaries are not members, but the Elder has 3 younger brothers who had joined the church at the same time he did.  Their parents are very supportive.  The sister seemed a little sad and my sister had felt a prompting to talk with her.  She was coming to finish the last 8 months of her mission.  Her father had just died of cancer and she had gone home to be with him.  He made her promise that she would finish her mission.  She is the only child, but her mother was expecting another baby that was to be born soon.  I am so impressed with the faith of these missionaries.  I can't imagine how hard it must have been for this young sister to leave her pregnant, grieving mother in order to finish her mission, but both parents really wanted her to finish and she has the faith to be here.
Sharing favorite scriptures with two missionaries.
The Floating Islands are the home of the Uros,

Sitting in the home of one of the families that lives on one of the Floating Islands.  This is the complete house.  They have four or five children.  They cook outside.

A ride in a boat made of  reeds.
 I have come a long way since we first arrived on this mission.  The first six months I stayed right by Elder Poulsen, not wanting to wander too far away.  Now, I took my sister, sister in law and niece on a tour of the Floating Islands and all the way to Puno and back without the help of our Spanish speaking men. All of us spoke a tiny bit of Spanish and we did really well considering.  Of course it is easy when you have been there lots of times.  We always stay in the same hotel and they really go the extra mile to help us.  They even let us stay in our hotel room until 9 pm when we left to take the night bus back to Puno (a great way to save time -sleeping and riding at the same time.)

When we returned to Cusco, we had to shop for gifts to take home.  Check out the fun hats for sell.

You can even get a llama hat handmade with llama wool.

My family was able to see the poverty here and it was heart-breaking.  They decided to buy some nuts from this little boy to help him out.  The nuts are so hard they break your teeth, but it felt good to help this boy and his family.

We did celebrate Thanksgiving. My sister brought a stuffing mix and we made mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans, but no turkey, cranberries or pumpkin pie.  We had roasted chicken instead of turkey.  We actually ate it the night before Thanksgiving because we went to Puno on Thanksgiving day.  We went to a bakery in Puno and my sister had a slice of apple pie that she shared. That was the simplest Thanksgiving meal ever but having family around you is by far the best part of Thanksgiving.
This is the tech world of the United States -everyone on their phones, I haven't seen this in months and I know it will be an adjustment when we return.
 This is San Blas Market in Cuzco with lots of beautiful hand-made crafts.  It was a great place to buy souvenirs. 

We will be moving into this apartment owned by a lady that is going to visit her children in Europe.  She wanted to rent it to us for the month of December.  We are total strangers so it was nice of her to trust us and allow us to stay here. This way the Johnsons can get settled in the apartment we have been living in.  This is a picture of the living room in the apartment where we will be staying.

Potatoes for sale. So many varieties.

Well, they had Black Friday here just like the United States.  I was surprised how quickly the decorations went up.

Remember it is Spring here and instead of sweaters and boots being on sale, it is summer clothing and sandals.
A little girl waiting for Santa.

This is what Santa Claus looks like in Peru.  I wonder how long it took him to grow out that beard.  You see very little grey or white hair here, so a white beard is surprising.

Christmas decorations and swimming pools for sale.

I will miss fresh gladiolas for only $1.50 a bundle.  You can buy these year around.  They are a Spring flowers in Utah and yes it seems strange to be buying them at the same time all the Christmas sales are on.