Friday, September 20, 2013

School Starts in October

Just like in the U.S.A., when it's time to prepare for school, the merchandise is everywhere.....the children here have to provide all their own supplies - mostly books of paper and pencils.

One of our branch members is building this school.  It will be a wonderful school if it truly has all it says it will - computers, English as a 2nd language, etc.  It also says it will have grades pre-school through what we call Jr. High and what is 'college' in French.

Many of the schools have painted blackboards on the outsides of the buildings with school information.  This information tells about the school schedule.

We have learned from experience looking for a place to live, that if a building looks like this, but you want to rent or attend school in it, it will only take '3 days' and it will be ready.  We hope the 3 days (about 2 weeks) until school starts is enough time for the school to be ready!

These desks are new, and look just like the older desks in other schools we have seen. If you look closely, you will see Elder Wheatley looking into the room.

We think this will be the Headmaster's Office because of the desk and even a phone (don't see many of these) instead of a cell phone, on the desk.

We were so surprised to see real toilets over in the corner of this room.  None of the schools we have seen before have indoor plumbing. 
We're pretty sure they won't be installed in the Headmaster's office!

Oct. 6, 2013
Dear Family,
We are sorry we didn’t write last week.  We seem to be very busy.  Lots of things to take care of before we leave.  Our Mission President and his wife are coming to Point Noire tomorrow.  Maybe they will have news about a replacement or what they have planned if there still isn’t another senior couple to come here.  We  were able to watch  the Priesthood Session of Conference on Sunday night with the Elders at our home.  Getting conference live or even being able to download it seems to be a real challenge.  Sister Wheatley has been trying to download some individual talks (to do a whole session is impossible – our system can’t handle it) all day and it takes hours for each talk.    It’s interesting to hear the young Elders talk about how their feelings about conference have changed and how much they miss being able to see it live.  I don’t think I attended a Priesthood Session until I returned home from  my mission.  Just something we didn’t do in my youth.  Once we get the conference edition of the Ensign we read the talks over and over, as do the members here – they treasure their LeLiahonas and many families order more than one subscription.  The branches will schedule a Saturday and Sunday to watch the conference DVDs in French as soon as the DVDs arrive.  We will be looking forward to April of 2014 when we can partake of it live.
We recently were invited to a closing ceremony for the well the Church drilled here in Pointe Noire (we went to another ceremony for the same reason/same well about a year and a half ago – but then it was cancelled because the generator/pump etc. didn’t work after all).  It will provide water to about 50,000 people.  I think that means water will travel to their parcels or a neighboring parcel or into the few homes with indoor plumbing.  Many people just have a tap in their yard and that is a great blessing to them.  The ceremony consisted of a few talks by dignitaries such as the mayor and the director of the water company.  They did acknowledge the important role of the Church Humanitarian funds, although one of them had a hard time remembering the name of our Church and had to get prompted each time he said it.  They cut a ribbon and the mayor had a drink of water out of the tap on the well.  We have had a few people indicate that they saw us on T.V.   Sister Wheatley will post some pictures on our blog – but every time she thought she was getting a good shot, one of the camera men  would step in front of her.   Before the ceremony a young man from Spain (it is so interesting to see people from around the world in this city for various reasons) who is here doing an internship with the water company told us that when they pressurize the system they have a lot of leakage because they are using old water lines.  These pipes could have been put in by the French eighty to ninety years ago.  He said they have hired a company to help take care of this problem.  As he talked with us we were reminded of the scripture in Matthew 9:17 “Neither do men put new wine in old bottles, else the bottles break and the wine runneth out,..”  For this well to be effective they probably need all new pipes to carry the water.  This is very like the restoration of the gospel.  God and Christ chose to appear to a young unlearned boy who was not tainted by the precepts of man.  Someone not trained in a theological institution, a young man they could train and mold line upon line, precept upon precept.  As we follow the life of the Prophet Joseph we see that they were very patient with him and that many of the lessons he learned came as a result of his mistakes such the manuscript that Martin Harris lost.  There were periods of time when the power to translate would be taken away.  Like us, he grew as he was challenged.  Our challenge to you is for you to sing the song “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” with all the fervor of your heart (also called “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning”).
Another happening here has caused further reflection on the restoration.  The key to our outside gate is a skeleton key.  When we were young most locks on homes were opened by a skeleton key.  Until we moved here we hadn’t seen one for many years.  We were given only one key.  We thought it would be nice to have another one.  At a place where they duplicate keys they said they could do it.  Not unlike Wal-Mart back home you stand about a 50% chance of getting a key that works when they duplicate them.  We left the key and returned the next day.  While we were there they decided they needed to show some effort.  We watched a man take a  bolt and bend the end around until it formed a circle on one end.  Next they were grinding the bolt down to size.  Not wanting to waste a day watching and waiting, we returned home.  The next day the bolt had been ground down to size and a rectangular piece of bronze had been welded onto to the end opposite  the circle.   The man was taking a hacksaw and was starting to cut teeth in the piece of bronze.   The next day they were filing the bronze end by hand.  They had a pair of calipers  and kept taking measurements.  File a while, measure, file a while, measure.  Finally it was ready.  It even looked a little like the original.   Sadly after all that effort it doesn’t work.  It won’t go into the keyhole.  We have a file, so  maybe, Elder Wheatley should file on it a little more.  When the Church and  the Priesthood were restored God didn’t create a Church by taking bits and pieces from other existing religions.  He restored the Church and Priesthood according to the same plan and organization that has always existed..   That is why the Church is able to grow and function as it does.  If the key that was made for us was an exact copy it would work.  Since it isn’t quite the same it fails in its mission of opening our gate.  Hopefully we will appreciate that we belong to the true Church and that it is patterned after the Church that Christ established when he was on the Earth.  If we magnify our callings as intended we along with those we serve and serve with will be blessed.  We always marvel at President Eyring’s talks.  Especially when he talks about the training he received in his youth.  His talk in the Priesthood sessions was so inspiring.  Many former Bishops probably thought, “ If only I had it to do over again.”
We hope you are all happy and well.  We once again thank you for your faith and prayers. Please know that your prayers on our behalf our answered many times each day.  We love you all.  Mom and Dad,  Grandma  and Grandpa, Elder and Sister Wheatley

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the Street Where We Live

Our street now has a name:  Rue Bulolu Bu Mvou Mvou.  This is what it looks like from in front of our house, facing towards the main street named Rue Nelson Mandela.

The boutique on the left is new.  Movie DVDs are sold there, as well as, we think, some type of electronics repair or something like that.  Across from our house is a small boutique that sells groceries.  Next to it is a Coiffure shop and an area used for a church. A few yards in the other direction is the water point.
 Our flowers are thriving.  The guard and I take turns cutting some of the plants back so they won't get too out of control.  We don't want to bother the tomato plants because they have some blossoms and some have small tomatoes on them (they aren't showing well in this picture).  Our guard picked 3 egg plants off one vine down at the far corner.  They weren't very big because the sun doesn't hit those plants much due to the walls.

This coconut palm is not on our street, but it could be - they are plentiful here.  These coconuts look pretty big, but the actual coconuts inside would still be quite small at this time.
Today we went to help this young man move some corrugated roofing material (in the background).  This is a picture of him, Daniel, two nephews, his sister and his mother and I.  He is the only one in his family who is a member of our church.  His family was so friendly and welcoming and grateful for our help.  In the background, you can see a charcoal fire with some pots and pans around it.  On the right, on top of a lid, you can see a small object, which is one of the little cake tins his mother was baking little cakes in.  As we prepared to leave, she wrapped some warm cakes in newspaper and gave them to us. It warmed our hearts to have such kindness from a woman we had never met before.  Most people in Congo do their cooking outside like this.  It is amazing to see all the wonderful things they cook.  We see people cooking all day long this way to prepare food for their families.  This parcel where their home was, was so clean and nice - a tribute to the family, because there is no garbage pickup system here.  Daniel's sister was washing her family's clothes in buckets on the other side of the parcel and was hanging them neatly on some clotheslines.  We wish we could get our whites as white as most of the clothes washed here in buckets are.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Before Transfer P Day Activity

We picnicked in this area by a local lake. The elders like to come here and eat and play football with the children who gather to watch us.

First things first and everyone was hungry, so we ate lunch.

There were a whole bunch of chickens who kept wanting to join us!

The picnic area is above a lake.  There were quite a few boats in the lake.  We think they were fishing with nets, like they do in the ocean from these boats.  They are wooden, dugout canoes.  There is another one in the background.

None of my pictures of the football game worked, but here are some young girls watching while tending their little siblings.  There was only one other girl who came to watch and play.  These girls put the babies down for a few minutes and played, but the babies wanted them back!

2 of the boys decided to play in the trees and the little girl here is preparing to catch one of the footballs.

There are a couple of little wooden houses next to the picnic area.  We pay one of the adults for the use of the area and they bring us some plastic chairs to use.  The women are cooking dinner on a charcoal fire.  There is a little boy next to the house that is pushing an empty bedou (water container) around as a toy.

Elder Porter wanted a picture of the boys.  They love to have their picture taken and then look at the camera to see what they look like.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This father and little girl must be going to something special because the little girl is all dressed up and even has her special pink purse.

Daily Work

This man made friends with Elder Wheatley and I because  we see him almost every day as we come and go on a main road.  It is fun to smile or laugh with vendors as they walk by - almost never buying anything, but still appreciating how hard they work. I took his picture (with his permission) one day and the next day he wanted to know where his copy was - I will make him one today and have it for when we probably see him tomorrow. 

This man was using his machete to cut straps off of a cement bag.  Most machetes are very sharp and they are often sharpened on the curb of the street by rubbing them across the cement.

If we had needed an iron and ironing board, this would have been a convenient way to buy them!

These are the style and fabrics most women wear.  This is a rather upscale shop.  Most seamstress and taylor shops are small wooden stalls with a glassless window and a door, many don't even have electricity.  We see people from the more modest shops working outside on tables where there is more light, and ironing with irons that hold charcoal for heat - like ones we have seen in pioneer museums.

This man is selling a variety of things.

This is a shop that sells TV satellite dishes.  Lots of people have them and many people also have just TV antennas. This shop is just getting fixed up to open.

Behind the board covered with sunglasses, is a man carrying it up and down the road.

As we were going down a side street, we noticed this lady, headed out for the day with a big enough load for at least 2 people!

Another view of her load.....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Relief Society Activity

The sisters from 2 of the branches met together on a Saturday  morning and  competed, one branch against the other, in a game that I can't remember the name of....but it is very popular and all the young girls play it all the time.  These sisters had a wonderful time playing and laughing and then eating a yogurt drink and rolls.  they meet in different buildings, so getting together allows them to visit and express their love for each other.
The players jump and kick and somehow they can tell who 'wins' and who has to back out and let the next one try.  Seems kind of like Rock/Paper/Scissors.  Some of them are very skilled and do fancy kicks.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Around Town

Bet you didn't think seals lived this close to the equator?  Well, this is just  piece of driftwood, but it looked so much like a seal, we have been wanting a picture so one day I took the camera on our walk and tried to get a good shot.

This is a sea monster, coming right out of the water to get the next unsuspecting person who wanders was just so interesting - use your imagination to decide what it looks like!

We were waiting in traffic and I could hear some very animated talking, so I looked over and these 3 women were sharing opinions about something, not quite sure what, but 2 of them had plastic cups that they kept waving at each other.  They didn't seem mad, just very invested in whatever they were talking about.  Sometimes it is good not to understand French, but most of the time, it is just frustrating!  However, most interesting discussions are spoken in either Kicongo, Minikutuba, or Lingala and so even French wouldn't help that much!

We often have to stop and wait for semi's to back their loads into this parcel.  It is fascinating to see the skill of the drivers.  If you could see how close he is to the building on this side and the fence and a dozen other vehicles on the other side, you would be astonished.  We feel like we should get out of the truck and give them a standing ovation when they finish.  Which, actually, is much nicer than getting angry at them for making you wait to get on your way!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Activities in Point Noire

Missionaries helping a woman and her family move.  We are as close to her home as possible, parked in an area where there is a business fixing cars.  Can you see the "Primus" beer factory water tower in the background? We made the move in just 2 loads!  

Elder Johnson was very good at packing the goods in - he said he had helped lots of people move in his home ward.  Elder Baker was best at using his Boy Scout knots to tie the top load down, and Elders Lavering and Ntwambe were helping with everything.  Elder Wheatley always has a rope stored in the truck for all kinds of occasions.

These little boys were watching us, and they didn't seem too excited about the whole thing!

This is the way apartments and homes for rent are advertized.  A person who is interested calls the numbers listed and talks to a man who will arrange to meet them and show them the rental.  If you agree to rent the property,  the fee is usually the equal of one month's rent.

This is 'escape from church' - the little girl laughs and laughs and every chance she gets, she runs out into the little road and tries to escape from whichever person  is supposed to be watching her.

You can tell that this young woman is so happy to have me take her picture!  She is trying REALLY hard, not to smile....

She tried to make an escape again - but this time, her big brother was watching and chased her down. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Around Town

All around town the boutiques (little neighborhood stores) that sell meat (these boutiques are also called 'boucheries') from their little freezers, paint signs to show what they sell.  This boutique/boucherie has fancy doors, which are unusual, and quite a nice paint job.  It is on one of the main roads, so it is more 'high end.'  I haven't bought meat from one of these stores because with constant power outages, I always wonder how many times the meat has thawed/unthawded, etc.......

School is out July-September, and during this time we often see children selling things.  This is a type of frozen milk drink.
The children, like other salesmen and women, walk up and down high traffic areas selling to people in cars that are waiting to get through traffic.

During a recent District Meeting, Elder Wheatley arranged for a plumber to come and fix a leaky bathroom sink pipe.  He came and it took only a few minutes, so he was paid and left.  Not long after, one of the elders kept looking through the doorway into the bathroom and finally said that he thought it was leaking kidding, soon there was a constant stream of water which had to be mopped up continually until the water to the whole apartment/house areas could be stopped.  While fixing one piece, apparently the plumber broke some other major parts.  It took another plumber and 2 trips to the market to get parts before it was fixed!
Ironically, Elder Wheatley had remarked just a day or so before, that we had not had an 'emergency crisis' for  a few days........

We visited this parcel with some elders to check on someone who was ill.  This little boy had developed a football (soccer) game with bottle caps and old batteries, soda cans, etc.  He even had all the players named.  He was having a great time (and before we left the elders played for a few minutes).

On the sidelines, you can see his playing pieces.  The batteries were the goalies.  He would flip the bottle caps with his finger to move them.  We think the ball was a little colored marble or rock.  He would position the 'ball' in front of a bottle cap and flip his finger to hit the cap which would hit the 'ball.'

One day we stopped at this little outdoor booth to look at some fabric, which was woven rafia.  We bought the two pieces the artist and his wife are holding and the intricately carved wooden box, which has a pattern on it that he said was like the pattern on the cloth....The fabric was all hand pieced and sewn.  Even though we couldn't speak the same language, we communicated OK during the 'bartering' and then after I asked if I could take a picture, he showed me his notebook full of pictures of other carvings and fabric pieces he had made.  Several pictures were taken in his village, and one was of his father, in his rafia 'chiefs' clothing.  There were many pictures of large wooden boxes that he was very proud of.  I think he was one of the artisans who used to sell his wares at the craft marche that was by the waterfront, before they closed the area and made it into more storage yards for the port.  As we were leaving, the woman picked out another small wooden box and gave it to me as a gift - I was so touched by her generosity and kindness!  It was so unexpected and it is something I will never forget.  I will always treasure that box.  I made a copy of the picture for them, but we have not been able to find them at the booth again - we will keep trying.

When the gate was open the day we were taking our Zone Conference picture, this curious little boy couldn't resist a 'peek.'  Then President Cook couldn't resist giving him a piece  of candy for his little basket!  President and Sister Cook have a special love for children and he must have a deep pocket, because we have seen him give out candy and talk to kids more than once on this trip!

Zone Conference with our General Authority Seventy

Our Zone Conference picture.  Back row:  Elders Baker, Christiansen, Brockbank, Mukadi, Lavering, Porter and Johnson.  Middle row:  Elder Cook, Elder Ntambwe, Sister and President Cook.  Front row:  Sister Cook, Elder and Sister Wheatley.  Elder Wheatley went looking for someone to take the picture and came back with the man who manages the water well across the street.  It was apparent he had never held a camera before and each time he took a picture, he moved the camera.  Then a young man walked by and could see the problem and stepped up to help - voila! We got the picture, although a little crowded, hopefully you can see everyone - we had to open the gate and have the person taking the picture out in the road.

On the right, Sister Cook receiving the gift for Elder Cook from Freré Felix.

 Freré Felix, Sister (Elder) Cook, Sister (President) Cook, Freré Felix's wife, and 4 of his children,

Elder Johnson helping with lunch dishes at Zone Conference - no matter how simple the meal, there are always dishes to be done. We had pulled pork sandwiches, apples, baked beans, potato salad and cookies - all of which were made ahead of time so no one would miss out on any of Zone Conference.
In preparation for Zone Conference, the elders and Wheatleys got together and helped each other with 'deep cleaning' projects at the elders' apartments, like windows and patios and porches....then we had lunch together!