Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Won't You be my Neighbor?"

Today we are remembering Mr. Rogers!  It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighbor--would you be mine?  Could you be mine?  (Please...won't you be my neighbor?!
 Let me start with yesterday.  We visited with a kind next door neighbor, who helped me park after coming home late on a Friday night after going out with the sisters.   "Dale, dale, dale" (pronounced dah-lay, dah-lay, dah-lay) is a command you hear when someone tells you to continue backing up in parallel parking.  For any of you permit holders, keep practicing your parallel parking.  You never know when you might find yourself in a foreign country where that is
pretty much your lot in life on every corner--often on a one lane one way street expecting approaching cars to need you to be fast and straight. 
Two things I am glad I learned in Junior High--typing and parallel parking.  And I remember arguing for a week with my typing teacher whether he would give me an A- or B+.  What I didn't know is how helpful it would be to have my fingers do the walking to write home, and how backing up parallel to the first wheel, cranking, straightening out and aiming for a distance less than 12 inches would insert itself into a busy life nearly 40 years later!
 Speaking of driving, our president states that driving in the states is just coloring in the lines.  Central America driving is "really driving!

Back to our neighbors.  Ramiro sells tools.  Monica teaches English.  It is fun to have the tables turn and have someone ask ME how to say something!  Monica asked me about a word I am acquainted with this month--"nursing!"  When Ramiro gave me the "da-le da-le da-le!" I asked him to say it slow.  It sounds like Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, which of course is my name with "Grandma" attached...and I just want to respond! 

This has nothing to do with anything, except HOW MUCH we LOVE having video calls.  (I am addicted.  This maybe is the reason for no internet in the house...a test of my endurance and appreciation when it does come.) So one of my favorite video calls as of late (and yes they also are hit and miss--with sound, with picture, with both, or with neither!) was listening to little William call me a "Goof."  (Yes, I am a goof, and it is a good thing someone in the family cares to carry on the tradition.)   
Grandma Lolly likes watching everything on video--if a bath will electricute you, why not brush your teeth--it's safer!!
Our other little nextdoor friends like rocks, too!  And super heroes, including Spiderman!

Our neighbor, Angela, 
we met near the park gathering leaves to steam and make a poultice for her mending broken arm [echoing also one of one of Elder Starkey's favorite scriptures at the end of Alma chapter 46.] She brought me home to share three of her five daughters, who charmed me, thinking about the three little ducks that I once knew.   The sister missionaries that live at the edge of our neighborhood invited Angela's family to conference, and she and one of her daughters came and loved it.

                                                             When I visited her with the sisters later, she told us that after they had come a few times, she had been thinking about going to the doctor to ask about high blood pressure.  There was something about those missionaries and the things she had been reading that warmed her heart.  In fact it was a feeling similar to fire.  She couldn't say exactly what. 

They love their 5 daughters--like our "7 little ducks (who) went out one day!"            
Well, knowing that this family speaks about 40 miles a minute, and I speak in inches, I may not be able to describe in one sitting how to recognize that warm sense of understanding something to be true.  It is a gift given to every person on the earth.  Ammon happened to do a great job of it.  Perhaps we will have another chance.  
We met another neighbor Ronald, who has enchanted us with his talent on a beautiful electric piano sharing an arpeggio arrangement of "Master the Tempest is Raging" with waves rising and falling, eventually settling peacefully on the shore. (My embedded link is different, but gives a flavor of what we got to hear.)

His wife Abby, loves pets, and rescued "Toshi" the little dog of Carlos and Mario without even knowing whose family he belonged to. 

Carlos and Mario belong to Wuilfred and Yesica, both architects two doors away.  Carlos, age 10, can flaunt a good part of "Fur Elise" and Mozart's Rondo which I understand that he learned from watching on the internet.  
Brother Wilifred recently drove us to a nearby home he had designed, 
then a business and hotel in town.  He told us how he had met his architect study companion and married her.  Prior to their meeting, Yesica had received a Book of Mormon from a set of missionaries.  She had similar feelings to those of Angela every time she touched the book.  She was afraid, for awhile, to pray to know whether it was true.  Eventually, she overcame her fears, chose to accept the book and the peace that it added to her life, and was baptized.  The two were married and built a little family in a comfortable home on the other side of the country.  Yesica was from Coban, but when Wuilfred told her of a feeling that maybe they should move here, she reminded him of his job and his home. 

A year later, she had the same hunch and feeling.  They packed up their children, left their home and moved.  Without a job.  Wuilfred worked to establish clientele.  Yesica accepted a call to serve in Barrio 1 as president of the Relief Society, the church's organization for women.  Shortly thereafter, José Javier, their youngest son was born several months early at two pounds.  Together, they prayed and worked to help strengthen his lungs and help him grow. 
 Little Jose struggled for life in a Guatemala City hospital and his mother attended him there for three months.  Wondering about internet for our house, Elder Starkey and I stopped over one Monday evening.  The family was preparing to have its Noche de Hogar or family night.  

"Won't you join us?"  Five of us sat in couches in the sala (front room) around a cell phone while their mom questioned each of us one by one about our day and week.  Not until that moment did I realize the power of a mother, even if not physically  present, to love and corral her little ones, albeit via a 4 inch cell phone.  Little José and his mother finally returned home Friday. 

Yesterday, at ward conference, 12 year old Maurio, brand new deacon passed the sacrament, and his Dad, Wuilfred, became the new bishop. Unclear about boundaries, Elder Starkey and I had been planning to meet a neighboring ward--Los Campos-- nearer to our apartment when three young men stopped us at the Ladybug Picnic gate begging for an accompanist to help in the ward choir for Barrio 1 on the upcoming SundayI looked to my left, wondering.  Elder Starkey consented.  

Wednesday 4 p.m. would be the practice.  Four p.m. came and went.  I waited and tapped as carpenters, electricians and workmen watched a fellow worker on a ladder above the electric piano/organ "finishing up" for 20 minutes, while I wanted to practice hymns #6 and #43.  Before too long, the young men found me.  They were in the room we watched conference, one of the small rooms of the building ready to practice with no piano.  Pulling out hold-boards in the rear of the piano, they heaved and hoed and, in a flash, had a piano in the room.  Good thing I had not spent all day on hymn # 43--it was truly #148, twin to Grandma Starkey's theme song "Scatter Sunshine."  (Hymn #148 is the Spanish equivalent of "You Can Make the Pathway Bright."  Either way, the song sings sunshine--a gift gracing the sky a little more this month.) 

Sony, minus Sunday's suit and tie
It is interesting to watch what the Lord does with talent.  Our music director, Sony was borrowed.   He is 17 years old and wants to be an opera singer.  Sony directs well, with command of his hands and the choir (minus just a little herding of cats when it came to getting them to come.)  He has a beautiful voice, and when we saw him again the next night at the fellowshipping night at the Los Campos ward, we heard his brother Kevin playing "A River Flows in You" on an acoustical piano. 
The lilting high notes--offered a siren song, reverberating sounds from Allina's fingers that beckoned us to listen and also to appreciate young men adding a gift of song to their ward.  I remember hearing once a story of a ward in a developing country praying for priesthood holders.  An answer to fasting and prayers was manifest in the in the addition of a family, who raised an 11 year old boy who grew up, married and added anchor and goodness.

Saturday, only men came to the 4 p.m. practice (a Central American version of choir challenge.) The practice actually started at 4:45 and continued in a second part with our stake patriarch and his wife came and practiced together maybe an hour later. For our second practice, to ease my hankering for something creative to stretch and learn, I found something on the internet to match our conductor's creativity.  Adding a few lines of arpeggios, and a few more hours of practicing, I decided there might be hope.  The young men chose 7 a.m. Sunday morning as time for our final practice.  My eyes widened
a little.  But following advice to my Honduran piano students-- "say yes!"  I said simply "Yes!"

When Val came to retrieve me at 8:15 p.m. he told me about returning plates to neigbor Zulma, 
pretty hair stylist spouse of our agronomist neighbor.  
Earlier Zulma had cooked up Elder Starkey's favorite treat, boiled and grilled platanos  (and PANCAKES) with maple syrup. When Zulma opened her door and Elder Starkey saw them at dinner, he stopped.  Family time is special time and he excused himself.   But, during my afternoon of "practice, practice" all I could think of was a wish to share the arpeggios with someone who cared.  It had been Zulma who called Sunday in the middle of our airport drive to Guatemala City the previous Sunday to help an elder recovering from appendicitis have some down time in his family's care.

"Are you all right?"  Zulma had queried.  Even when our president had not yet called,  Zulma was ringing. Maybe Zulma would like to come and sit in the stands to say "Oh!"  
     I knocked.  She and her husband kindly humored us.  They offered to bring Elder Starkey, to offer him another two hours at home, versus waiting out our 2 1/2 hour practice.  Zulma and Juan Manuel came--and sat with Val while I maneuvered organ sets, as organ teacher Pamela taught, to add color to the Sacrament Meeting hymns by varying volume.  The room, which fits 300, crowded to overflowing, as friends from Chisec, a neighboring connected "group" filled in the back and up the sides. 

I did not even feel really nervous.  Too nervous, anyway.  (Not like my first organ recital, where I could not control my legs from shaking.)  I thought about when Sister Davies asked if I could substitute for her the first month we moved to Kaysville--how that felt like an invitation to go cliff diving, and realized that the Lord's work truly is a marvelous work and a wonder.  How in the world would I find myself playing for 300 people in Spanish without blinking an eye?
This is Estela's big as a church...but in truth a business with a house inside
In Relief Society, I got to sing next to a woman with a very worn hymn book.  She recently moved from Guatemala City with her daughter and grandchildren.  The grandchildren I met, introducing a member neighbor to our hairstylist friend.  Apparently Estela has been a member over 20 years, but did not know there was a chapel in the city.  "Of course there is!"  Sister Claudia piped up.  Come with me.  Come, she did.  Over twenty years ago, she was baptized, but after being away for awhile, it felt good to be back.  And she wrote down details of the upcoming temple trip.  Only 100Q (equivalent of 14 plus dollars ) and all there is to do, is renew that recommend.  So happy to be around people loving and seeking truth. 

Our friends later visited for dinner with more platanos, bringing their children!!  We got our weekly fix of Quiddler with real live teenagers!!  Our mariner neighbor is pretty sure that anyone wearing a nametag is surely a spy. 
So, I learned the word suspicious or "sospechoso" in Quiddler at dinner Sunday.  What else would you expect of the lady [after her husband asked permission] who camps outside the bishop's house borrowing internet to call a little boy who calls her a "Goof!"

Elder Oaks this month talked about different soils.  As summer begins to take root in the heart of Coban, and plants lift their faces to the sunshine and billow out, I think about a friend from college who taught me about sunshine and soil.  Sometimes all that a group of seeds needs to sprout upward is just a little something to warm the soil.  Maybe this is what each of us has to do--scatter sunshine!  And as my little neighbor Angel tiptoed to empty my water bottle on our three little pots, perhaps we each can remember Allina's song "A River Flows in You!"  We can nourish the greens around us reaching up. 
So--we are inviting our friends, family, and neighbors here there and everywhere:  "Won't you be mine?  Won't you be mine?  Won't you be my neighbor?"

Pies help.  Here is Kristen's key lime pie with homemade sweetened condensed milk and borrowed limes.  Stone soup ever tastes better with next door ingredients! 

Here is the P.S.:  
Sunday's invitation to supper prompted Thursday's invitation to Antigua,      
original capital of Guatemala.  Favorite destination to Zulma enroute to a work presentation of Juan Manuel. 

 Introducing us to "jugo de coco"
and other delicacies, such as caldo y pepián
The plaque below says, "Careful with your feet, to not step on my dreams!"
Don't you think we should hang our dishes on the wall rather than wash them? 
I saw these pillars and thought of the blessing of marriage to our family, 
full of beauty, fragile like a garden of flowers, opportunity to use our differences to lift each other and the burdens of others
built to endure the test of time, upon healthy traditions, opening perspective and horizons 
So the same month our grandchildren rode bulls, we spent a day with the daughter of a bullfighter.  (Wow!)  It pays to ask to hear stories of grandparents.
And yes, yes, as Elder Cook says, "It is just the Right time at Home"!
Loving you!  Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Elder and Sister S