Saturday, October 30, 2010

I couldn't resist....My favorite cemetary.

No I am not finished with my Guatemala adventure.
But I just couldn't resist.
It has been killing me to not post about my favorite holiday....
And some of my favorite pictures of
And in particular my favorite graveyard of all
and tell a few spooky stories as well.
So without further adieu
and against what I said that I would do.
Let the haunting begin.
First post?
The glamor shots from my most recent graveyard excursion:
 The entrance. Notice my Dad who has taken to posing in peculiar ways lately. Not sure of it's origin.
 A close up on the looks of the family members reacting to Dad's new habit.
 How beautiful can one graveyard get?
Who wouldn't want to rest in peace here?

 The view from inside....well not ALL the way inside if you know what I mean. Muah haha hahaha!
Later today...
The residents of Glenwood speak from beyond.
The stories behind the tombstones.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We woke up early to be at the airport in true Lauck fashion
Two hours early....
Unfortunately the airport operated in Guatemala fashion; what's the rush?
We were searched at the security checkpoint with thoroughness.
I would venture to say that the woman who conducted mine pat down now knows me better than most people. They looked through our bag and really scrutinized my anitbacterial gel that hangs on a carabinner. What were they looking for you ask....
No not likely. There were so many automatic weapons and machetes that I lost count.
No I don't think that they were worried about that since most prescription medications that we have in the states can be purchased over the counter and at a very low cost.
Ancient artifacts?
Nope. It seems like every person there has something that they have found in the ground around their house.
YES! And in particular seeds. They are extremely protective of the lush and beautiful vegetation in their area and even though we were just flying to the capital in their own country it was against the law with severe penalties. It is a good thing that I HATE gardening and cannot grow anything but weeds at my house.
We arrived back at the capital at about 9 am and checked into the Barcelo again. The hotels there are very service orientated and there is no goofy rule about waiting for 1 pm to check in to our room.

A bed never looked so good and we all took advantage of a morning nap.
Waking refreshed and hungry, we decided to walk over to the local McDonalds just down the street.
I was actually looking forward to being in a place that seemed the same as home.
I knew that McDonalds would not let me down.
Life size Ronald McDonald outside the front door?.....check.
Menu board with all my favorite Mcitems?...check.
Employees busy working in brightly colored uniforms?....check
 Super-sized fries and burgers served in a tackily decorated environment?......check.
A special armed security detail with 8 men in suits guarding all the exits and scanning the room for trouble....
This is not MY McDonalds....
Seriously I would show you a picture of them surrounding the building but I was too scared that if I took one I would be shot.
I was sitting there patiently waiting for my food when appear 8 men in nice suits with ear pieces in their ears like you see in the movies about the President and the Secret Service. They scanned the room looking at everyone and every door like their life depended on it. The photographer in me was dying to take a picture of it. The scaredy cat mother in me stopped her.  I tried to figure out who the important VIP was at the counter, but no one really stuck out.
After about 10 minutes half of them left the building while the other half ordered some food and sat down at the table next to us.
While they were distracted with their Big Macs I took a sneaky photo.
See it looks like I am taking a picture of Todd eating a piece of cheesecake.
Oh and did I tell you they sold CHEESECAKE on china plates?
Well they did and for the record the sauce on my Big Mac was not the same as in the states.
So much for feeling at home.

We took a taxi to visit some of Jack's converts in the capital.
Even though the roads are built like someone dumped out a bowl of spaghetti there are some beautiful buildings and fountains and really unique pieces of art. There was always something interesting to see whizzing past my taxi window. Jack always sat up front talking to the taxi driver. One conversation was a discussion about the first vision. Even with my little mastery of the Spanish language I could tell what he was saying.
We visited with one of the people that I was most excited to see.
Ana Garcia.
Ana was a older woman who was so prepared by the spirit for Jack to contact.
She had been intimidated by the missionaries who had come to her door for the years before but as she told us when Elder Winn and his companion knocked on the door she knew that it was time to let them in.
She hugged me tightly and told me thank you for sending my son to Guatemala and that to her he was an angel sent from God. I listened as she spoke hoping that Jack could translate. The only problem is that she never paused to let him do it. She was talking so quickly and with such feeling that neither Jack nor I wanted to interrupt her. The first few minutes I tried to concentrate and figure it out with my limited skills. There was no way I could follow the conversation. I tried to just look in her eyes and let it wash over me.
And then it happened.
I don't know what she was saying but the spirit washed over me and I knew that she was testifying of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a strong heart pounding feeling in my chest. I started to cry. I did not even know what she was saying but it no longer mattered. I knew WHAT the holy ghost was conveying.  It was an amazing experience. I tried to convey to her through Jack the love that I felt for her and the bond that was formed. She nodded her head and we both knew.
It is her dream to visit the states someday during General Conference weekend so that she can attend the Salt Lake Temple and see the prophet speak. I am praying that she gets her wish.
While we were there visiting there was a knock on the door.
And who was there to visit her?
It was so good to know that the work that Jack started was being continued and cared for by the next set. The work goes on.
What a wonderful thing to be a part of it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beautiful San Jose Peten

What is a Sunday afternoon without a fresh coconut to drink ......
And the most beautiful view of Lake Itza in San Jose.
Our wonderful driver Alfonso and his son who owned the vehicle, Eric, brought us up to this view point and provided us with the wonderful fresh coconuts.

After the tamale dinner I didn't know where I could find the room for more.
The coconut held an amazingly large amount of liquid.
You could tell how proud they were of their city and we just sat for awhile admiring the view.
Yes that is a dragon fly in the picture and not an airplane.
We left the scenic lookout to go and visit the Ax Family or the Family Ax as they say it in Guatemala.
Jack had the privilege of teaching and baptizing them in the first few months of his mission.
One of my most favorite pictures he sent home is of him baptizing a member of their family.
I knew that they lived in very humble circumstances.
Jack always told us that even though they didn't have much, how happy they were....
and he was right.
Even though their home was nothing more than stick walls and a tin roof overhead they were full of smiles and laughter. The children played on dirt floors and there were only two places in their two room house to sit.
One was a hammock and the other a plastic lawn chair.
I was escorted to the hammock to sit.
A decision that I would soon regret when it came time to try and stand up.
The children were so sweet and had smiles that stretched from ear to ear.
All except the youngest who looked at me with a healthy dose of suspicion.

We brought some little toys and candy and they seemed excited to receive them.
The biggest attraction was my digital camera and my favorite model was the little boy Danielo.
He kept asking me to take his picture again and again and then he would ask to look at it on the little screen. It would make him giggle and smile even more.

He was so joyful.

 It was truly a pleasure to be in their home.
Now getting out of the hammock gracefully in a dress was another matter all together.
We visited another couple of Jack's converts and then called it a day.
We had another early morning wake up call to fly back to the capital in the morning.
The place Jack loved the most on his mission truly lived up to his description.
We ended the day watching the sunset from the lake by our hotel.

What a beautiful country.

Missionaries and Tamales

After the double header of Mayan ruins on Saturday, I was looking forward to the fact that the Sabbath is a day of rest. 
We got to sleep in until 8:30 which after the last three days was a real treat.
Our trusty taxi driver and friend Alfonso was waiting to take us into Santa Elena to the church building to watch the morning session of General Conference.
General Conference weekend in April and October are my favorite of the year. For two days we get to sit in the comfort of our homes listening to the Prophet of our church and the 12 apostles. Their talks are always well spoken and profound in my life and I feel recharged by the spirit that washes over me. My home feels more sacred and peaceful and the effects linger for days and days.
This year would be different because I was not home.
But I will remember it as a very special experience.
I had the distinct honor of watching it with a roomful of the most amazing young men, clad in white shirts and ties with black tags on their chest bearing the name of the Savior.

When I first arrived they were a little subdued and quiet but still very polite. Each one would look me in the eye as I introduced myself. I thought about each ones mother and fought the urge to hug them. I wanted to take picture after picture of their warm smiles and the way their faces lit up when they would see each other. They are all in companionships of two in the Peten areas, but on conference weekend they get together from miles around to watch General Conference together. There is a feeling of a special brotherhood that exists between them.
I was worried that Jack would feel different since he was there with his parents so I hung back a little wanting to just be a fly on the wall and observe. The names on their tags were familiar to me. Mothers who I have been communicating online with, sharing any news or photos of "our boys". Mothers who I have grown as close as sisters with and have been a lifeline when I was anxious or sad. Mothers who knew just how I felt the last two years, who understood the sacrifice. Sometimes I would blurt out to the elder standing in front of me, "I know your mother..." The response back was always both sweet and a little puzzled. "That's great", they would say. I think they were patronizing me a bit not really understanding with a 20 year old male brain what it meant to us mothers at home....out connection to each other.

We settled into a long sunlit room to watch the conference together. It was a little odd to be the only female in a room full of priesthood holders. I felt a little like an interloper.

When I pulled out my big bag of candy and started to pass it around one of the elders blurted out,
"American candy! I love you!"
I felt a little less like an outsider, glad to have packed the huge bag. Grateful to have something to offer.

We watched the conference together and I felt the spirit strongly.
Watching the prophet's face filled with light and love I felt like I was not so far away from home anymore.
I wondered if the elders in the room shared a similar feeling.
At any given time during the two hours I saw two sides.
These young men no older than 21 would be joking during the songs or whispering to each other.

But when the prophet or apostles spoke the level of concentration and focus was amazing.
They would sit quietly and intently listening, taking notes and pondering the words.

I felt sheepish that I didn't even have a pen or paper to record my feelings.
After the conference was over I asked them all if I could take a group picture for their mothers.
They all agreed.
Herding them into one place though was like putting worms in a can and I laughed at how quickly they changed from boy to man and back to boy again.
I counted it a great privilege and pleasure to worship with such a wonderful group of young men.

After the conference we headed to the house of Luki and Matias for a very special meal prepared in our honor. When Jack had wrote home he never complained about anything except...
The tamales.
Jack had written home once and described them as full of grisly chicken and as big as your forearm.
They are considered a special occasion food and as a missionary Jack had eaten his fair share of them. 
Todd had made the mistake of saying in his letters that he would like to try one.
Well Jack being Jack made sure that it would be a reality.
Only problem is that being a package deal as husband and wife, it also had to include me.
I was nervous since I had been warned not to eat anything in the members home.
But I knew that no matter what I would have to eat what was placed before me.
When we arrived at Lukis house we were greeted so warmly and with so many smiles that I almost forgot the meal ahead.
 But Luki did not. She and her cook were busy preparing their beautiful plates of tamales wrapped in banana leaves.
 That is Luki laughing in the background because she knew that Jack did not like tamales.

The tamale was everything Jack described in his emails. It was made from a thick white corn paste and in the middle was a piece of chicken. Not pieces of chicken meat cut up but a piece, bones and all, of chicken. I had a hard time recognizing which piece was hidden in mine. I am use to wings and thighs and drumsticks but this was one I had not encountered before. I found that a pinch of salt from the communal salt bowl (they don't use salt shakers and do not have pepper at all) and my glass of Coke helped immensely.  At one point I came to a round dark object inside the tamale. I waited until no one in their family was looking and flipped it on to Jack's plate. I whispered, "What is that?" "It's a prune" he answered as he popped it into his mouth. 
Dang it, I thought. That is something that I would have enjoyed!
Luki's husband Matias finished three tamales while we daintily ate our one.
Luki asked Jack if we wanted another.
She knew that Jack didn't really like them
and I was just a woman, but 
Todd, the tall big man, would probably still be hungry.
We whispered in English finally glad for the language barrier between us and debated whether Todd should eat another one.
"Take one for the team", Jack and I said.
He kindly accepted another tamale on his plate.
What a good man he is....
Dessert was a beautiful Tres Leches cake with fruit swirled in circular patterns.
I was so touched that this family were so giving and loving to share their special feast with us even though our American palates were so unrefined.
We gathered for pictures after the meal.

I thanked Luki through my interpreter Jack for taking such good care of my son.
I fought back tears and hugged her.
I asked them if there was a way that I could send them a copy of the photograph in the mail.
They did not have an address.
They said to just bring a copy with us when we come back.