Sunday, June 29, 2008

Shopping at West Mall

The Coleman's are from Queen Creek, AZ and they are converts to the church. We need to hear their conversion story. Both were married previously, before they joined the church.

We went with the Coleman's to the West Mall in Port of Spain. It has recently been renovated and looks very modern. It is over 20 years old. When you shop, someone is always watching you or following you around. Lots of the merchandise isn't out. I need a slip and had to ask to see them. It was in a lingerie store.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The dome

See the dome? We love it. It is a landmark, our beacon for finding our way home and to the office.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant. This is the inside of the dome that is on top of the building that houses the food court and it is in the roof of the restaurant. It wasn't very busy and the service was extremely slow but the food was good. I had a steak and dad had shrimp, which is abundant here and really big ones, much to his delight. He loved the clam chowder as well. There is a casino next door with a guard at the door so we didn't check it out.

The restaurant is in the second floor and we had a window table. Under the window was this beautiful fountain.

We could watch the afternoon traffic going into Port of Spain (POS) as well as look at the beautiful mountain (hill) in the background. There are a few nice homes on the side of the mountain. We watched it get dark as dusk isn't very long here.

The office

We are in the right hand turn lane at the corner to turn to go to the office. You can see the dome on top of the food court. It is our beacon to know where the Valpark Shopping Plaza is located. It is the dome in the restaurant where we ate dinner one afternoon late.

We have a nice view out the window at the entrance of our office. It was taken early in the day because there are parking spaces available. The food court is across the parking lot so this lot is very busy all day long. We don't go home for lunch because we would lose our parking space. In the afternoon, people are parked in the 'no parking' zones and double parked in odd places. Notice the gold dome on top of the building from the other side.

Dad and Elder Conk are going over some instructions at the front desk, which faces the window.

The entrance to the West Indies Mission office is under the 2nd floor clear glass window. The two windows to the right of the picture are the foyer area on the left and President Robison's office on the right. Our desks sit behind the foyer area so we can see out into the parking lot, the hills in the distance and the rain when it pours down.


Yes, we had an earthquake! Thursday night, actually Friday morning at 1:09 am, when we both happened to be half awake. The bed seemed to roll for a few seconds. Dad said, “Did you do that”? And I said, “No, did you”? I said, “It was probably an earthquake.” But you know dad never thinks I am right. He got the flashlight and looked under the bed. I am not sure what he expected to find. We went into the office on Friday and checked the earthquake site and sure enough. The epicenter was in Venezuela and it was 4.9 on the Richter scale.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Speaking of moving...

Our address while we are in Valsayn will be the mission office address:

1 Morequito Ave.
Valpark Shopping Plaza, Bldg #10
P.O Box 543
Valsayn, Trinidad, WI

Phone at the office:
I am not sure if you can reach our cell. I know the President can't get calls while is Suriname.
Our land line is:
868-663-3691 - No answering machine

We miss all of you!
G & G Ross

Sunday, June 22, 2008

4 Weeks in Trinidad

It is amazing that we have been here in Trinidad for 4 weeks. The learning curve has been huge and I am not sure we are there yet. We have been overwhelmed with all that we have had to learn, plus deal with the language difference. We often have to ask people to repeat what they said, or to please slow down. They talk extremely fast and drop sounds, substitute sounds, use slang, and all with a British accent.

We serve in the office, which is an extremely busy place. Five couples, two assistants to the president, plus the mission president have space in the office area we rent on the second floor of the Valpark Shopping Plaza. We don’t go home for lunch because parking spots are gone after 10 am! We overlook the parking lot and can see the mountains in the distance out our windows. We are currently in the rainy season, which is five months of the year. It is awesome to watch the rain come down in torrents for 15-20 minutes and suddenly stop. Last week during a rain storm, a huge lightning bolt struck near the parking lot setting off a dozen car alarms. We all rushed to the window to see if it might be our car.

The West Indies Mission is the highest baptizing mission in the Church. The goal for this year is 2008. We are on target for at least 1500. Guyana provides 70% of the baptisms at this time. We have over 3,000 members in Trinidad. July 5th we are applying to become a stake here and also for one in Guyana. Our area president will be here next week to visit and hopefully put his stamp of approval on the request. This week he is visiting Guyana to observe the work there. It is certainly exciting times for the area.

The people in Trinidad are wonderful and have well grounded testimonies and knowledge of the gospel principles. We feel like they are ready for this next step. The ultimate goal is to have a temple here in Trinidad. They are in the Caracas Venezuela temple district, but for political reasons they have to go to the temple in the Dominican Republic, which is a hardship for all of the members. There is only one high priest on the island, which means all the senior men here on missions are the presiding authority in their respective branches. Stakehood will produce many high priests; give them a patriarch and someone from their country as the stake president. Currently the mission president functions as the stake president.

George and I sit at the front desk to field questions for the traffic that comes through as well as answer the phones. We receive all the incoming emails to the mission and route them to the appropriate areas, all while trying to accomplish our assigned tasks for the functioning of the mission. George enters 30-50 baptisms each week with all the pertinent information into two different data bases, creates and sends various required reports to Salt Lake. He is responsible for all the apartment inspections in the mission. All of this has been a challenge for someone who has always been able to shut himself in his office and complete his tasks without interruption.

I have become a travel agent. Not only do I arrange all the flights, but have to be sure there is someone to pick them up, drop them off, etc. We have 126 elders and 25 couples in the mission. Every 6 weeks are transfers and most of the elders need plane tickets to fly from one island to another. New elders come to the mission and about an equal amount goes home. The mission president and his wife travel constantly and the AP’s travel quite a bit as well. Much of the time “you can’t get there from here” and I need to book them on 2 different airlines!

George is the executive secretary to the district president and assisting in the paperwork to become a stake. They hold their meeting at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays. (He could be out of a job in August if we become a stake). We are teaching the Temple Preparation class during Sunday School. That has been a total pleasure! Now that lesson 6 is completed, we will start with teacher development lessons, until another group is ready for the Temple Preparation class.

The couples here are wonderful. We have a lot in common, and they have been a great support to us while we are getting acclimated to the mission life and the crazy driving.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our branch building

Our cultural hall where we have Sunday School and the dinners we attended. No one is here yet! The chapel and cultural hall are divided by an accordian door. The benches aren't bolted to the floor.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Wisdom Teeth

Saturday at noon we took Elder Clarke to Port of Spain to an oral surgeon to have three wisdom teeth extracted. He wanted pictures of himself in recovery. They covered him with a beach towel. We sat and chatted with him until he was ready to walk to the car. His oral surgeon only charged for one extraction because he had spent 11 years in Washington, DC. Through the years he noticed that each country that the LDS church was active in with missionaries, the country became better. This was his thanks for our being in Trinidad and helping his people. In the waiting room, he asked if I were the person who set up the appointment. When I said no, he then told us he had the King James version of the Bible on his cell phone. We should have given him the 1st discussion! We took our lead from Elder Bowens and just talked with the doctor about his cell phone.

We had to knock on the door for entrance into the office. They keep the door locked at all times. We assisted with the door when two other patients came out and needed to be escorted to their car with the help of the assistant and the driver because they were still woosey.

We returned to POS at 6:35 pm for our branch father's day dance. We were the first ones there with Elder Bowens and Elder Barton (out less than a week) a close second. It was supposed to start at 6:30. It was 7 before many other showed up. The investigators beat the members. They started playing music and music videos about 7:30. Elder Bowens gave a missionary lesson at the table to one of the investigators. We visited with the woman and her 2 girls as did Elder Barton. All this time, all the members did was say 'hello' to them and move on. None of the investigators showed up on Sunday. At 8:00 we decided to leave as we had had a long day with the Elders and a trip to Arima to shop then back to POS for the party.

Sunday at church two of the members asked why we hadn't stayed for the meal that was finally served at 8:30. They had never really announced there would be food. After the block we stayed for the father's day meal. Church was out at noon and the food was served about 1:30. It was a rice dish called pelau. It had rice, chicken on the bone, pidgeon peas, peppers, brown sugar, and some pumpkin. There are lots of different recipes for it. It is served in many of the food court eateries.

Mission car

Our apartment is just the perfect size for us, since we aren't here much. The flowers are now gone and the rug, since they belonged to the Conks. The claimed them Thursday and took them with them to Tobago along with the Christmas decorations, pictures, patio chairs and several other things. The floors in the kitchen and living room are a tile of some sort. The bedrooms have a worn carpet.
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Sunday, June 15, 2008


In case you’re wondering in what ways things are a bit different here in the West Indies, you might be interested to know how I was called to two Church jobs today and Mom was called to one.

When we walked into our Branch Sacrament meeting this morning, the Branch President summoned me over to talk for a moment. He asked if I was allowed to hold a position in the Branch. I said I was and would be happy to do so. He asked me to teach the Temple Preparation Class during Sunday School. No problem. Then he said, “Could you do it today?” I said I’d give it my best effort.

During Sacrament meeting, as we sat in the audience, a man from the District (like the Stake), got up and asked the congregation to release the District Executive Secretary with a vote of thanks. Then he asked the congregation to sustain the new District Executive Secretary… Elder George Ross! I did vote in the affirmative even though the calling was news to me.

Then, after Mom and I found the location for the Temple Preparation Class, the Branch President came in and welcomed the class (about 9 or 10 people) and said, “We’ve asked Elder and Sister Ross to be your teachers for this class.” So, I taught what I had prepared (during Sacrament meeting) and Mom will be teaching next week. Interesting. But we love the challenge. And it is really faith promoting when you feel the Spirit supporting you in teaching even when you don’t have much preparation time. In fact, Mom said it was of my best lessons ever… credit the Spirit.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Elder Bowens

Although this mission is brimming with faith promoting experiences – with over 1,000 baptisms in 2007 and projections of over 1,500 baptisms in 2008 – we thought what might be of greatest interest to you all would be the conversion of Elder Rocky Mark Bowens.

Elder Bowens is a currently serving missionary on the island of Trinidad. He is Black, humble, and very effective. About half of the Trinidadians are also Black so he is an absolute natural. He was born and raised on the island of St. Vincent. Two years ago he was discovered by the missionaries and taught the gospel. He was converted and committed to the idea of serving a mission. There was only one problem… Elder Bowens could not read or write. The missionaries who baptized him set him up on an intensive training program to prepare him to meet his mission goal. He literally learned to read with the help of the Book of Mormon. Elder Bishop then became his first companion when he entered the mission field.

He is now serving an honorable mission, and has been for six months. He loves the gospel and knows the Book of Mormon at least as well as many “life-time” members. If it wasn’t for his distinctive Trinidadian accent, you would think you were talking to a home-grown Utah Mormon. His smile is bright and friendly. His demeanor is as warm as a Trinidad afternoon. But, his knowledge and testimony is a power that has and will help bring many to the Savior and His Church.

If you ever get to Trinidad, look up Elder Bowens. He will probably be the Bishop or Stake President. He is that kind of man.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Food Court

I don’t think any of our grandkids would survive here; there is no fresh milk on a regular basis. We did see some Saturday in the store, but decided to stay with what we are using. We have been drinking milk from little boxes that can be kept in the cupboard until you want to get it cold for use. We use it on cereal and it does tastes fine.

I did find the macaroni and cheese that the kids asked about. It is called macaroni pie at one place. It can be found in several of the food court stores. It is all stuck together, rather than loose in sauce. We eat at the food court for lunch each day because it is across the parking lot from the mission office. They have a Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken and several other places you will not have heard about. We had a great lunch a couple of days ago of big chunks of chicken in a yummy marinade and French fries that tasted freshly made, and a type of coleslaw. We haven’t seen many salads made from lettuce, but we can buy it in the markets. I had a Fruta drink that was pineapple coconut drink juice that was heavenly. It comes in several flavors, such as mangos, raspberry, coconut, pineapple, guava, apple, with at least two mixed fruits mixed together. So far I haven’t found one that I don’t like. I did try something that looked like chunks of potato in a sauce that I didn’t like but Grandpa thought it tasted like potatoes, but it has another name. There are lots of ethnic foods that are really spicy, that I won’t be trying. We see lots of shrimp and other seafood.

In talking to the people in the office, we have come to the conclusion that we get the seconds of many products here in Trinidad. Grandpa bought some after shave and it had Christmas ornaments on the box. Lots other items like towels, bath mats, kitchen items, look like seconds. We are just happy we can get the things we need, or think we need! It is hard to remember to buy just what we need and not stock up! We won’t be able to take the extras with us. I had to buy a potato peeler today, since there wasn’t one in the apartment. We had to buy hangers, spices, ketchup, etc.

It is definitely and interesting adventure and we have seen the Lord's hand in our daily lives. You are in our prayers! We love you all.


Grandma and Grandpa

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Questions, Questions!

The questions are flying! Here are some answers!

We use Trinidad and Tobago currency, or TT dollars. 100 TT is equal to about $17 dollars of US money. Each time we go to the store, we think, wow, that is a lot of money, then, we have to divide it by 6 and realize it isn’t bad. Many of the stores don’t bother with the coins. The quarter looks like a US dime.

We are going to be paying someone to clean the floors, dust, clean the bathroom, each week. A cleaning lady usually earns about 10TT per hour ($1.67 US). The Elders and sisters are paying 20TT per hour because she is saving to go on a mission. We will give her 100 TT and not require her to work 5 hours, just until she completes the tasks. Most of the couples have her iron and wash during the 5 hours, but, I am not ready to give those up.

Grandpa is finally driving, but as little as possible. They drive on the left side of the road, so the steering wheel is on the right side, instead of the left as it is in America. It is very hard to change driving habits and stay in the correct lanes of traffic. The traffic lights last about 5 minutes and many still go through on the red. We saw two traffic lights knocked over in the last two days. We have seen several fender benders and many people have dents in their cars because they are aggressive drivers. Yet, they often stop and let someone in the line of traffic. We have not seen road rage or anything close to it. The Trinis, or Trinidadians, don’t follow the driving rules. Grandpa is studying for the test and has been surprised there were rules on the highway. People very frequently park on the side of the road, it can be either side, facing either way, it doesn’t matter and there are no parking lanes, or room to get off the road. Pedestrians walk down the road as there is no such thing as sidewalks.

Grandpa is in charge of entering all the baptism records, and other reports that go to Church Headquarters as well as to the Mission President. He says it is very hard to read some of the reports because the missionaries are so busy doing baptisms (our mission anticipates doing over 1,500 baptisms in 2008) they don’t seem to have time to write clearly. He is also responsible for the renting and the inspecting of the missionaries apartments. He is able to delegate much of this task so it isn’t too difficult. We spoke to the Mission President today and he suggested that for the second half of our mission we might be asked to serve on the island of Granada. He said there is a beautiful beach within walking distance of the missionary apartment. However, he changes his mind a lot, so we will see what happens as time goes by.

Jack asked if there are unusual things at the market. While we were at the beach, there was a man selling bracelets and necklaces that were made of shark’s teeth. Grandpa almost bought one, but thought it might not look too cool on a missionary.

Yes, they speak English here, it just sounds a little different than we are used to. When someone comes from the south, they sound different from someone from Arizona, so the Trinis sound way different because they started with the English from Great Britton. Then they have slang, just as we do. When people learn to speak English they struggle with the American slang. We are struggling with the Trini slang. We do say “morning, morning” now instead of Good Morning. Here are some others: What da scene – What’s up; Just cool – I’m doing good; for true – for real; ya storyam – you are lying; scene dred – what’s up man; Ideh – I’m doing good; Irie – doing good; Emt – right (correct); alight – how are you; ya dum no- right one! – That’s what I’m talking about; taking a sweat – exercising; mop a drop- trying to get a free ride; she gone out to come back- she went out, but she is coming back soon; he takes she- they are getting married; not te cuts ya- listen to my story; don’t study she- Don’t pay attention to her; mader fader dey home – are your mom and dad home?; go call she- go get her; me de know fad at- I don’t know about that; gaff – sit around talking; just now- means 2 seconds or 2 years or in between. Of course, we haven’t heard all of these, if we had, we didn’t understand it! We have heard ‘just now’ and realized we still didn’t know when Elder Conk was coming back.