Well, it’s time for the weekly epistle to our family – it’s been another busy week but without earth-shattering experiences.
Our major project in the office has been the publication of recipe books – one for each of the missionaries to be given at the zone conferences. It was decided to do half last week for the two zones in the western part of the mission and the other half to be ready Monday morning. There was a lot of brute force work went into getting indexing and page layout done so an original could be printed then copied. The booklet is half-page size so the layout had to plan for cutting the pages in half and have the right pages back-to-back when it all went together. The Elders helped get that part done and Flo began making the copies on our copier. They ran into problems with the copier page feed function so she resorted to feeding it a page-at-a-time to get the 45 copies made for the first batch. She cut the pages and used a machine we have in the office that punches holes along the side and facilitates binding the booklet with a plastic-finger binding that allows a book to open flat (I no longer have a first language or I’d just give you a term that names what I’m talking about). She was so concerned about getting them ready on time that we took sandwiches for lunch on Tuesday so we wouldn’t have to leave to eat. Anyway, with a little help she got the first set put together in time for the President to take them Wednesday when they left for the first zone conference in León. While they’d been working on that set, I took a copy of the recipe file and experimented until I had a table of contents generated by MS Word and that reduced the number of pages by about 20%. We decided not to use that to avoid the repeat of the page layout problems (I didn’t even try to print a copy to see if we’d have problems) but to use the original masters and copy them for the second half of the edition. Problem n+1 then raised its ugly head: the copier ran out of toner. We called the servicing company that’s under contract – they didn’t answer the phone. We sent email and called the next morning – they told us they knew the situation and were scheduling service, should be done in no more than two days. We didn’t hear anything more so, Thursday evening we took the master to a copy shop and ordered 42 more copies, picked them up Friday morning and Flo and I spent a lot of our Friday doing the booklets – I cut and collated them while Flo bound them. We were very glad to have them finished and, by Friday evening, we still had not seen any service on our copier.
The zone conference in León was scheduled to begin at 10:00 and our mission secretary does all the scheduling and buying of tickets to get all the missionaries to the conference. We talked to Pte Clegg late Thursday morning and found that a major snowstorm had caused bus lines to cancel a lot of routes the missionaries needed for travel so they’d had to rebook onto trains and hadn’t been able to start the conference until 1:30 PM. After that things went well and the missionaries loved their new cookbooks. The zone conference in Vigo went off without hitch but the trip coming back to Bilbao was again a major snowstorm coming thru the mountain passes and they didn’t get in until 1:30 Saturday morning. Pte Clegg told me he thinks he has pneumonia so it was a difficult few days for him (I told you last week of efforts to get new tires but got nothing). Put into perspective, I guess it pales in comparison to the Willie & Martin Handcart companies but there’s still some stress in trying to get the Lord’s work done. I was shredding some old phone bills per the secretary’s request and our shredder jammed. I took it apart and cleaned it as much as I could but wasn’t able to get it clean enough to allow the paper to feed into the teeth – I gave up on it and tried to find a service company for the brand. I sent an email to the company I found but, as of the end of the week, I hadn’t heard anything back from them – seems like customer service here is not a high priority thing.
While we haven’t seen any snow here in Las Arenas, the weather has been pretty cold and nasty. It goes from sunny to rainy with wind and back again so we always wear our coats and carry an umbrella. I think it’s because of the high humidity that it feels as cold as it does because the temperature hasn’t been below freezing as far as we know. After office hours Friday we brought our stuff to the piso then went out walking – mostly to window shop along the streets fairly close to our piso. It’s different here in that there might be a block or two with lots of shops then a couple more blocks won’t have any stores at all. We just kept wandering to where we could see store lights but didn’t see anything that we liked for could afford. I think the number of gifts around our Christmas tree is going to be commensurate with the 18-20” size of our tree. And we’re just fine with that – if there are two things I never want to experience again it’s trying to get more stuff into a suitcase than fits then trying to get that suitcase schlepped halfway around the world. Just carry a backpack with a change of underwear and socks then take a shower when you get home!
I asked a week ago if Flo would trade sides of the bed with me, she agreed and this week I haven’t been nearly as cold and she hasn’t complained about being hot nearly as much. I didn’t really expect it to make a difference but maybe there’s more cold air coming off the windows on her side (now) than we know and she’s actually been more willing to snuggle a little. In any event, it seems to be helping me to sleep better thru the night so I may not have to find an electric blanket to survive here in the polar region.
We went one afternoon to Makro to get some things we needed for ourselves and for the office. While she was in the meat dept. Flo saw a small turkey – about 10 pounds – and decided to get it for Christmas. Neither price not cost was marked on the turkey so we didn’t know what to expect when we checked out. As she reviewed the register list as we walked out she thought they’d made some mistake when she saw the cost of the turkey – 9.80/Kg (a little over $60 for that dead bird). It didn’t bother me much since she’s the sole master of the food budget but she’s claiming it was an expensive lesson learned.
Went to Bilbao Saturday evening for a convert baptism in our branch – she’s a friend of the lady baptized a couple of weeks ago. They had a nice service and it was well attended – they nearly fill all the chairs in the chapel. After we returned to Las Arenas we attended the annual Christmas dinner for our branch. It wasn’t scheduled to start till 8:00 (which seems a little late to start a big meal) and was even later getting started – as course one, they had individual plates of appetizers set for each chair. Each plate consisted of breads, salmon (I think) spread, liverwurst, slice of hard-boiled egg, two rolls of ham, asparagus with a cheese sauce and 4 shrimp (cold, with eyes and everything else a shrimp comes out of the water with - shudder). Flo helped me out with the shrimp and there were extra plates of breads, spreads and shrimp – I was nearly full on appetizers. Some obviously love those beady-eyed little critters – I’m certain the lady across the table from me ate at least 25-30 of them. Course two was hot ham slices (ham tasted a little different than ours but not bad) and a slice of Spanish tortilla which has resemblance to a Mexican tortilla in name only. It’s a mixture of eggs, potatoes, peppers and onions prepared much like an omelet and tastes very good to me – there was more than enough to fill everyone. And finally they service each a plate of desserts – chocolate pastry, 3-flavor ice cream and a light cheesecake with berry topping and all (chocolate excepted) were very good. The Elders had to leave before desserts to keep the in-the-piso by 9:30 rule but we stayed till after 10:00 before going home – it was a nice evening for us.
That’s all I think of to tell you about for the week. Again this week we got some very nice letters telling of family and activities – we sure enjoy those. We’re enjoying our missions, continue to make some progress in learning Spanish and getting to know the good people around us. There are some pretty exciting things in the week ahead – we’re really looking forward to them. We love the work; we love you and appreciate your love and prayers in our behalf. The work of sharing the Gospel is important for our own and the welfare of those we’re sent to share it with. We love the Lord and pray his blessings on each of you in a special measure this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to all!
All our love, E&H Belnap