Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I know we have mentioned the little town Combarbala. We’ve been there several times on P-day. It is located higher up the mountains where they have lots of mining.   The air is dry and arid thus making visibility keen.  Chile is well-known for their observatories.  A few months ago on a previous trip there we stayed late into the night hours and toured the observatory.  We loved seeing the planets. Saturn’s rings were especially neat.  We learned a little about the constellations in the southern hemisphere. 
Combarbala has a beautiful old Catholic church right next to the town plaza.  It is in need of repairs but that only made it more interesting to peek inside.  The small feria (like a little flea market in the street) was fun to visit. You can purchase handmade articles or pickled cauliflower and fresh produce. We bought some apricots and cherries. We also saw some pretty good deals on base-ball  caps that had “Falcons of Atlanta” embroidered along with a bowl-game & date.  Probably these caps were either left-overs that never sold or the caps they had PRE-made in case the Falcons won the game, but when they didn’t they got sold off cheap.  If you ever wonder where many of the old things you contribute to charities or Goodwill etc. end up it could well be here!  I’ve seen so many peach/mauve/blue painted wooden geese and ducks and birdhouses from the 1980’s for sale on the streets (literally—not even a table to set them on) for sale here.
We usually stop for Almuerzo while we’re out.  Typical lunches here begin with Pan (bread). Then arrives the salad (normally they do NOT mix them, but rather set the vegetables on your plate). You will find sliced tomatoes (pealed of course) next to a few slices of avocado, next to shredded lettuce, and maybe a few beets.  Next up is ‘carne’ either pork or chicken served with rice or noodles.  That’s it. We usually get some type of juice such as Watts’ apricot drink. 

Here are a few photos! 

We stopped to locate a bathroom on our way out of town. We asked at the catholic ‘rectory’ or office next to the church and the employee let us use theirs.  Have you ever shared a bathroom with a coffin? 
Here is a photo of a man selling weed in Combarbala:

Recently, we found another interesting church on a Cliff overhanging the ocean. It is an ‘open air’ church.  It was locked but we took a picture thru the window/hole.

Meet Betty

12/17/2013   MEET BETTY!            

She pops over to visit us every so often. She is a faithful member of the church but a bit eccentric. Yes, she knows the magnification sticker is still on her glasses and that they are broken. Yes, she is wearing a bathrobe. Yes that is a ‘health mask’ around her neck which she always uses—it’s pretty dirty. Her house key is on a rubber band around her wrist. She wears many layers of colorful clothing and the crocks on her feet cover huge woolen socks. She always drags along her little cart on wheels. She loves to do community service.  She helps with the music school here and learned they were not using the funds which had been donated properly.  Last week she brought some legal documents over to our house for help translating them from English into Spanish.  It was a $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for the school but she knew they would use the money for whatever they wished unless she intervened.  It took some long hours (legal language) but she was so proud when she marched herself (all decked out but in a better way than this normal photo of her) down to the mayor’s office and presented the translation saying that they would be monitored and inspected to make sure the funds were being used appropriately!  She also visits the hospital frequently and tracks down family members who may not know their relative is in a coma for the last month in a hospital here in Los Vilos. She is not afraid to tackle anything. She is special and just like a character from a movie or story book.  We love Betty Rojo because she is ‘the spice of life’ even if it is hard to set aside time for her.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


4 Dec. 2013

Lunch, or almuerzo, is the biggest and most important meal of the day here.  A family we know well wanted to serve userizos (sea urchin) for lunch. They kept saying it is the most famous and sought-after dish in Chile, and all foreigners say it is Chile’s most delicious dish, and that it usually goes for $60 USD a plate.  They had happened into a big sack bag of sea urchins from a fisherman friend.  So they prepared them and brought them over in a bowl so we could eat lunch at our house, because their house is so very small there is no room for guests.   “They were alive a few minutes ago” he said.  Erizos are served cold, raw and “cooked” in the juice they’re served in.  You eat them with toasted bread.  They’re cold and slimy. 

They were horrible to put it mildly.  But we couldn’t let the family know because they were so pleased to be able to serve us this delicacy.  They bowl of erizos literally looked like a bowl of vomit. The prepared sea urchins look like salmon-colored human tongues in the slimy vomit.  They’re real soft and squish easily in your mouth if pressed with your tongue. They’re prepared by covering with a half quart of fresh lemon juice, to which is added lots of chopped raw onion, cilantro, garlic and salt.  

Carolyn kept spiting hers out in her napkin on the sly and getting up from the table to check on things while she threw it away and got more napkins.  The sneaky little devil. 
The family figured out that she didn’t like them too much.  She said “I like the sauce better than the other stuff” (the “good part”) … which technically was not a lie because she never said she liked the urchins.  The sauce, like I mentioned, was like vomit, only slippery-er, kind of like mucous.   It was hard to distinguish from the urchins, because they were so soft and a lot broke down and became part of the sauce. 

Well, I had to eat my whole serving so they wouldn’t feel too bad.  Of course they made sure was twice as big as theirs. I had to be careful not to gulp it down too fast to avoid the taste, because then I knew they’d try to serve me more.  We said we’d save Carolyn’s bowl for later.  I bagged up the leftovers for them to take home, but they insisted I put it with Carolyn’s leftover and eat it for breakfast.  Mmmm.  Yummmm. For breakfast too!  They had more at home, they said.

A couple of hours later, about the time we had a family coming over for a lesson/Christmas project, I started feeling real sick to my stomach.  We have only one bathroom in our really small little house, and its right in the living room practically where everyone was busy making a Christmas candy countdown chain.  With the bathroom door shut, you can actually see people in the living room because there is no door jamb.  With the  door open, you could reach out and touch people in the living room, the house is that small. 

So I kept trying to think how and where I could go be sick without startling this family with young kids. Like, going outside around the other side of the house and throwing up.  But then, no, I make a whole lot of noise when I throw up and they would still hear me because the windows were all open and the wall around the house would echo really loud any noise I made.   Maybe I could sneak out and run down the beach a ways and throw up.  But, no,  what if I needed the toilet too, like really bad at the same time?  All these things were running through my mind.  The other family finally left just in time for me to run back in to the bathroom and be sick for a couple of hours.

The next day, the guy asks me how I slept.  He says sea urchin are an aphrodisiac, and give you lots of energy like caffeine.  Thus he couldn’t sleep all night.  Once my stomach quit hurting, I slept pretty good actually, about 12 hours after eating those things.  I was left wondering if he got sick too, and was just trying to see if we did too.  

Carolyn and I decided that the next time someone asked us if we liked shellfish (which means just about anything, here), we would both say quickly absolutely not. 
The only other time we’ve been served shellfish, which is a local specialty because there is such a variety of shellfish harvested by the local fisherman and consumed by the tourists here and shipped all over Chile.  We also had a hard time getting the locos down.  Locos are kind of like small abalones. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

11/26/2013    We’ve now been here in Los Vilos for over 2 months. In some ways time is going really fast but not fast enough when I think of all the things I’m missing back home.   I love fall and Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We may have chicken instead of Turkey for Thanksgiving but we will share a meal with the other ‘matrimonial couple’ in Illapel and another family. Then I will put up all 5 of our Christmas decorations and find some Christmas music somehow.
I love our little beach cottage. It’s small but so easy to clean.  We have to clean more often now that it’s warming up and we can open the windows.  Along with the cool air, dirt & sand blow in. We’ve also had 2 birds recently fly in. They say it is good-luck when that happens. We started putting bread crumbs outside on a table for them & they found them immediately. We love watching birds and I always think of my dad when I watch them. There are lots of different birds here at the ocean.  Last week for “P” day we went to ‘Pichidangue’, a nearby beach. We saw Cormorants, Whimbrels & watched another very interesting bird as it travelled back and forth skimming the surface of the water with the lower half of its bill in search of dinner.  We ate almuerzo at a little restaurant on the outside patio which had an ocean view.  I had Reineta (local fish) and an avocado salad which it turned out was simply an avocado peeled, thinly sliced and spread out like a fan on my plate.
Our work here is progressing. The people are very friendly but usually quite reserved until we speak first. Then they open up quickly. The other day we couldn’t find a particular store we were hoping had skittles or M&M’s for a game we wanted to play. We spotted 2 young girls and asked them for directions to “Keiko y Yo”, thinking they would know where the candy store was. They insisted on walking with us personally up the street to the store. The other Senior Missionary couple here in our district once stopped to ask for directions from their car. The Caballero/gentleman instructed his child (10yr old boy) to get into their car to go with them to the location & then told him to return home on foot.  I always feel like I’m living back in the 1950’s here.  I love how trusting the people are yet we have to gate and bar and lock everything in our possession or else it’s considered ‘fair-game’ and will be taken. They love to drink and party all night long. We met two very friendly (inebriated) men this morning while we were on our walk. They had been out all night and sadly, were robbed (so they said) while in that state of drunken helplessness. The disco up the hill opens at 1am on weekends and we sleep to the beat of the bass drum all night long. Luckily the sounds of the ocean waves help diminish it.
We love and miss you all!  Send us an email when you can—careschramm@gmail.com

Things I like:
·       The beautiful, colorful flowers like Geraniums and Bougainvillea etc.  They grow wild, like weeds, in cracks and crevices of walls and cascade down in voluminous color.
·       They gather as families & friends for Almuerzo from 2-4pm every day and feast.
·       They always peel tomatoes!
·       The church bells in Illapel chime every hour and often play songs.
·       When there is an old building that needs to be demolished, somehow it burns to the ground and is then bull-dozed before the embers have even cooled.  No need for any investigations ;)
·       Everyone loves Papa Fritas (These include both French fries and Potato chips-) & they are NOT considered an un-healthy, bad, fast-food item!

Things I don’t like:
·       Maimed stray dogs that are starving & bark all night.
·       The tiles on the floor in our shower don’t drain.
·       The need to pre-wash all fruits and vegetables in a disinfectant.
·       Our tiny LumPy bed!

The blessings we have received since being here are too many to count. We’ve decided we need to pay better attention to even the smallest of miracles that happen day to day here. Our family back home is being taken care of and we feel of their love, prayers and support. We have been given great families here to work with and feel a family relationship growing with many of them. We love the Elders and Sister Missionaries in our Zone.  Sadly one of our favorites, Hna Cazaut was transferred. It was hard to see her go. I got to be Hna Valencia’s companion for a day till her new one arrived.  (It was probably one of her laziest days on her mission because we just relaxed, made cookies and looked out at the ocean!)

 District on P-day.
Geraniums growing on our back wall.

Friday, November 22, 2013

16 Nov. 2013 The “Chinchillean” Wild Goose Chase

Today was the district Relief Society (women's organization)  activity in Illapel.  Another senior missionary is the district RS president, and she and her counselors have been planning this activity for some time.  

The Zone Leaders had pre-arranged with me to help them scope out a service project with them today after I dropped Carolyn and some other sisters off at the activity.  They asked for my help because "I had the mission 4X4 truck", and “because it was a rough road”. That was my first clue of something suspicious.  It was supposedly a mix-up-a-sack-of- concrete little job, for a poor young mother from the United States that was dumped here by her Chilean husband who went back to the states and abandoned her and her 3 girls in a house in bad condition on the edge of town, and would only take a few minutes to do.
An hour later, after several inquiries, we arrived at the “Gringa’s”  house 30 km from nowhere on the side of a  barren desert mountainside.  Gringa is what the Chileans here that know of her call her…. Gringa is feminine for gringo… "the white girl").  

We arrived with 6 missionaries, to “scope out” the job… Elder Saldívar and I were with the truck, the ZL (the four of us in white shirts, ties and some jackets) and then the District Leader and his companion climbed in too, and they were wearing grubbies.  Those were my next clues this was no normal service project.

We packed the 4 elders packed in the back of the crew cab and off we went. At least E. Saldívar and I had good seats and air conditioning.  

The gringa, it turns out, is a Jane Goodall (the chimpanzee lady) look-alike (in every way)  that has dedicated her life to the study and preservation of chinchillas, a little ground squirrel that has its own national park or reserve outside Illapel.  They have been hunted almost to extinction because of their softer than mink fur.  Her “house”, was a hut on the side of a barren, steep, slope opposite the Reserve.  Think the desert mountains of New Mexico or Arizona, that is what the terrain was like.  Then  drive 15 miles or so off the pavement up the roughest dirt road and steep hills you can imagine. That is where we were.  A perfect place to look across the canyon to the mountainside where a family of chinchillas lived. (They only come out at night though).  Yeah, right.

She has 3 girls that look like they were about 5-8 years old.  The “research site”, their home, is a hut with a dirt floor, no running water or electricity or bathroom hut about 15 km from the nearest paved road and 30 km from Illapel.  She wanted us, with only the 5 bags of cement she had collected, to pour a concrete slab in her hut up there on the side of the mountain. There were no tools or wheelbarrows or shovels to work with, not to mention no water or sand or gravel. And the hut is about 16 feet by 24 feet, very big by Chilean standards, and super big when you think about mixing and pour all that concrete by hand in those conditions.  

Every day big rats dig under the hut’s plywood walls and come inside looking for food. She is tired of living with the rats and dusty dirt floor.   I think I would also be tired of a lot more things than that, living up there.

Because of the manual labor involved to get sand and gravel up to the house, mix the concrete and haul it in bit by bit, with no electricity or running water way out in the middle of Timbuktu, I told her it would probably take 15 people all day to do it, and that the missionaries did not have that kind of time or resources… maybe a couple hours a week, but that it would take more time than that just coming and going.

She would not give up and said she could get some of the mining companies to donate a cement mixer and generator for the day, etc. etc. and she’d call us back when everything was ready. She talked nonstop about 100 miles an hour, like this was the last time she was going to be able to talk to a live human, and in English for the rest of her life.  

All she could talk about was her chinchilla studies, and all the things she had done to make this one little colony she was studying grow larger. All  I could think about was her poor girls, and how I could get out of there faster.  

The missionaries rode in the back of the truck on the way down out of the mountains.  I was glad for that even though I was in the front seat driving, if you can imagine why on a hot day.

Back in Illapel, Elder Saldívar warmed up some leftovers for lunch and in the middle of it the Relief Society Pres. From LV called saying she had arrived to the activity (late) and was somewhere on the highway at parcela 6 instead of paradero 9, and she didn't know where she was, and could I come and pick her up in the truck.  The inter city bus driver didn’t know where paradero 9 was, much less the village of Cuz Cuz, so he just let her out once he started seeing civilization.  So went to find her.  We found her a half hour later about 10 km from her destination, standing on the side of a lonely highway all by herself with her bag of food and stuff she was going to cook lunch with for the ladies.  We had already brought about 50 lbs of frozen fish her brother caught,  from her house  that morning, and had set it in a tub of water to thaw.

The ladies played games and ate… all day long from 9 in the morning til 6 in the evening (and that was ending an hour earlier than planned).  I’m glad I was only there for a few hours because I was bored out of my mind, but at least they seemed to be having fun.  Carolyn won the prize for the most seeds in her orange.  Another lady also won a prize for eating her orange the fastest. They must have played 2 dozen different games, had a spiritual talk, etc. etc. 

The game I liked the most (that I saw) was to see who could be the first to catch one of the dozen or so chickens walking around.  Sister Moreno, from Canela, the branch president’s wife who was raised on a farm and still did farm work, grabbed a chicken in less than 10 seconds.  No one else even got close to catching a chicken.  That chicken sure let out a yell and never stopped until she let it go a couple minutes later. That was funny. 

Also, it was interesting to see how them made empanadas.  The dough is basically a white flour tortilla recipe, not so much lard, no baking powder, kneaded to a really stiff dough that can be either rolled out or flattened with fingers.  Their “pino”, or filling, is basically onions, with a little of some other meat and seasoning.  They deep fried them, because they were cooking over a fire, but you can also bake them.  These particular empanadas were made from various mariscos or shellfish, added in to the onion mixture filling.

Before coming home, we switched the truck back to our car, which Elder Vergara had taken back to civilization 3 hours away in Vina del Mar to have the 70,000 KM maintenance done on it at the Toyota dealer.  We were happy to have our car back.   The truck is a little too big for the narrow passage ways and streets here, but the big tires and clearance is nice for the rough roads.  

 Chilean hillside
 Orange seed champion
 Making empinadas
 Fresh eggs from the "snatched" chicken
Snail on our garden table

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Part of letter to Dale's sister Virginia dated 16 Nov. 2013

We are having so many experiences that are so unique, and cool, and spiritual.  Just walking down the street or going into someone's home is always an experience. 

I am amazed at all the plants here.  Dave would have a blast seeing them all and just walking around looking at peoples gardens in their little courtyards. Plants that only grow indoors in the states are in everyone's gardens outside or growing naturally.  For example, geraniums, in a million different colors and sized and shapes and leaf colors and variations are everywhere.  They never die back, and are used as hedges and walls or borders around property, growing up against walls or into a wire fence, 10' high or more.

The succulent plants that grow along the cliffs and bluffs next to the ocean are also pretty cool, and come in a million sizes, colors and shapes.  I've never had any idea there were so many  kinds of jade plants and trees.  We thought our 35 year old jade that blooms every year was big and special. Ha ha ha.  It wouldn't merit even noticing here.  I've seen jades with trunks a couple feet in diameter.

This is semi-arid country where we are.  The mountains come right down to the ocean.  The vegetation changes wildly from shoreline, to mountains.  The mountains parallel the cost in series of ridges from being pushed up as the tectonic plates collide.  The sides facing the sea breeze are complete different from the sides not in the flow of the cool humid air.

And get this, the oceanside towns, like where we are now in Los Vilos, are about 20-25 degrees COOLER than the towns up in the high mountain valleys, like Illapel (where we were the first 2 months).  I always thought about going to the mountains to get cool.  Here it is a well know fact that the opposite is true.

And the mountain towns always have clear sunny days with no wind.  The coastal town where we're at almost always is very cloudy or foggy and very cool with a stiff wind. The Humbolt current, off the coast of Chile is very cold and keeps the coast cool all year round.

The mountains and hills are covered with a mix, depending on which slope you're facing, of cool-looking cactus of all kinds, to scrub oak, or mesquite or creosote-like bushes, similar to the Arizona and New Mexico deserts.

The ravines and canyons have pine and eucalyptus trees.  The valleys are fertile and cultivated with mostly avocado and orange and walnut trees and grapevines.  They use drip irrigation.  They collect the water from small foot wide and deep irrigation ditches from high up in the canyons, and they don't waste a drop.

The hillsides, roads and highways are grazed over by goats and an occasional sheep, horse, cow, mule or donkey.  The fresh goat cheese is delicious by the way.

It hasn't rained since we've been here since beginning of July.  When we got here, the mountains and hillsides were luscious green (I guess it rains at the beginning of winter).  Now they are brown interspersed with the green desert shrubs, cactus and trees, kind of like what the southern california mountainsides.

Our view out our windows is gorgeous. A lot of the shoreline here is rocky and jagged like S. Calif., so it lends to lots of changing and interesting views as the tide and wind changes.  There are big rocky islands here and there off shore that sometimes break the waves and shoot white water up70-100 feet in the air.  One of them is called Isla Fantasma (Ghost Island) because at night when you see it all you see is a white, spooky plume way out over the ocean that appears and disappears.

We see miracles every day.... what some might call little "coincidences", but many of them that consistently all come together all at once, at just the right time, and coincidentally, just so that the work of the Lord moves forward most efficiently, bringing the gospel or help to people just at the right time.  At first we just used to shake our heads and laugh about it, and just say wow.  We now know it is just the way it works here in the mission field, and we hardly notice it is so common.  But there is no denying whose work this is and how He uses His servants to get done what He wants done.  That we know and testify.

Journal Entries

5 Nov 2013 Tues.  Transfer day.  Two missionaries we are very close to were transferred today. Sister Cazaut (Argentina) is being transferred from Illapel, and Elder Bond (UT) from Los Vilos.  Elder Bond arrived about the same time as us, and we’ve watched him and his Spanish grow tremendously in 4 months.  He was the only N.A. missionary in Los Vilos out of the 8 besides us.  He’s a pretty good Spanish speaker now, after only 4 months.  E. Bond was replaced by a greenie, Elder Ethington from Utah.  His companion is E. Artica an Elder from Peru (I think) that has been here in Los Vilos since the last transfer.  He has been a member less than 2 years and joined the church as a result of an introduction by his girl friend, who is also on a mission right now.

Elder Ethington went to the Chilean MTC (CCM), and he understands Chileans notatbly better than the Provo Utah MTC trained elders we’ve seen.
Sisters Cazaut and Valencia got to Los Vilos around noon and we took them on a short tour of the city and bought some pollo and papas fritas for lunch, while we were waiting for Sister Cazaut’s bus.  She left on the “mission transfer bus”, a rented bus that collect missionaries every transfer day (every 6 weeks) along Route 5 starting in from the north of the mission at La Sarena, and traveling to the south of the mission to Vina del Mar, and then back north again with all the missionaries in the south that were transferred to the north. This transfer bus drops off and picks up missionaries along the 200 mile route, and from these drop off points, the missionaries being transferred take other buses if necessary up into their mountain towns.  Chile’s geography (only 50 miles wide at this point) makes this a convenient way to transfer the missionaries.  We have 240 missionaries in our mission and every 6 weeks about 60-80 are transferred to new locations.

We dropped Sister Cazaut off at the “Shell station” bus terminal outside of town (it is neither a shell station nor a bus terminal though, but it is interesting how it got its name).  It was kind of exciting to see all the missionaries congregating there and waiting and seeing the reunions between those that knew each other and those that were receiving or leaving companions.

We had Sister Valencia with us the rest of the day while she was waiting for her new companion.  We asked her what she wanted to do.  “Sleep!” she said without hesitating.  But she could not bring herself to “waste the time”. She sat out on our porch swing on the deck overlooking the beach and wrote in her journal for hours and then went with us on some visits.

Then, around 9:30 pm, we headed off for “the bus station” to meet her companion so they could catch another bus at another “station” back to Illapel. But we found out that the “bus station” was not HER bus station.  In fact, within a 2 block radius, and within a half mile of our house, there actually 4 bus stations.  We’d never really noticed 2 of them before.  Some are just an alley next to a small office building.  The bus backs in, loads up passengers, and drives off.  I always thought it was just an alley from one of the bigger bus stations. 
Anyway, Sister Valencia’s companion hadn’t arrived from the missionary north bound bus headed back from Vina to La Serena.  They were late.  Their bus was going to stop at the “Shell station” bus stop out of town and let them off. Members were going to shuttle the missionaries that needed to catch the Illapel bus back into town.  They were late, so we tried to hold the driver and bus up until they got there.  The bus driver finally said no more, shut the door and took off.  100 yards later he was met by two pickup trucks flashing their lights and honking, full of the members hauling the missionaries that had gotten off the other north bound bus.  The driver stopped, and we made about 3 exchanges of missionaries and all their luggage right there in the main street, in the dark, with cars zooming by.  I was sure a missionary was going to get run over with his/her luggage running across the street from the transfer cars to the bus.  But they all made it safe.  This was the last bus out of town going to Illapel, so if Sister Valencia missed this one, she and her companion would have been spending the night at our house.

 7 Nov 2013, Thurs.  Elder Saldivar and I went to Salamanca in the evening to issue callings to 2 counselors in the Elder’s Quorum.  Our District Presidency Meeting was cancelled by the District President because he had to work.  The other counselor was not responding to phone calls and email, so I decided to go do the callings myself and asked E. Saldivar to go with me.
After suffering through about an hour of different construction stops going through the now dirt in road through the mountains between Salamanca and Illapel, we got to Salamanca.  Salamanca is a beautiful little farming community in a pretty valley nestled in a little valley with mountains all around.  Lots of vineyards and orchards  fill the valley…avocados, oranges, grapes, pecans, walnuts, etc..  We went forward, not knowing beforehand whither we should go, being led by the Spirit.  Through a series of events one would normally call miracles (which happen so often in the mission field its so easy to believe it is normal), we were able to quickly get a telephone number and contact of one of the brothers we wanted to meet with.  When we contacted him (he was not at his house) he was within a block of where we were.  We met up at the town plaza, which is the most beautiful and biggest of any town plaza in this region of Chile, and then walked a half block to the chapel, where he was interviewed and extended a call to serve as the first counselor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency in the Salamanca Branch.
He is a taxi driver. Divorced. Recovering from a serious electrical accident in which he was immobilized and lost his memory for a long time.  He is very lonely, and is shunned by his daughters and some church members who have been encouraged to do treat him that way by his ex-wife.  His ex wife and daughters live in a nice house (nice by Salamanca standards) he gave his daughters after the breakup.  He lives in a single rented room.  He understandably was carrying a few grudges, and had not been totally active in the church.  But he accepted the call to serve with humility and he promised to be an example of Christ-like service and living, and to heed our invitation to plead to the Lord in prayer to change his heart and fill it with love and forgiveness instead of hard feelings.  The Spirit was strong as ever and it was a humbling experience for us.
The drive back to Illapel was long and torturous because of the construction stops and darkness and traffic.  Then there was another hour-long drive back through another mountain range between Illapel and our home in Los Vilos.  Carolyn had stayed home from this trip to prepare for the Young Men/Women District Activity in Los Vilos she has been planning for a couple of months, which will take place on the 9th of Nov.
P.S.  I forgot to mention that we spent the morning cleaning the chapel for the district youth activity this weekend. Several members, incl. the yw presidency of the LV branch came to help.  One helped me clean the courtyard in between the cultural hall and classroom wing.  We did it by unrolling the fire hose from the fire extinguisher station in the church and cranking open the fire hydrant connection inside the church.  That was a blast, literally.  The building gets very dirty on the outside (and inside the courtyard) due to the combination of the salty sea breeze and lots of dust from the windy days.  The fire hose did a good job though!

9 Nov. 2013  The day of the big youth activity Carolyn and her counselors have been planning. All morning was spent setting up. One of the leaders questioned why we were setting up so many chairs.  I said we expected 25 kids, plus their leaders.  How many do you think will come?, I asked.  He said, you are much the optimist.  I am a realist.  No more than 10.

Everything ready by 1:30 p.m.  The first group of kids, from Salamanca, arrived around 3:15, a big group of over 12 (big for such a small branch.  Many brought their friends). Before long the place was packed with kids and their leaders.  There were at least 25 kids, not counting their leaders, and they all had a great time with the “his hands” theme of the 3 hour activity.  They did a “his hands” indexing class. Lots of kids brought their laptops to participate, there was a gospel centered “who wants to be a millionaire?” game, plus a guest speaker and other games and instruction and great food.  They all had a blast and seemed to really enjoy themselves.  And Carolyn also really enjoys being with these kids.  They first thing they all asked when they arrived was “Where is Sister Schramm?”  They are her surrogate grandkids.  She even had a couple jars filled with little candies for them to guess how many there were.  Hmmm, I wonder where she got that idea?

At the end, the kids got a little rowdy popping all the hand “balloons” with their fruit kabob sticks.  There were a couple of dog piles of about 15 kids each, trying to smash balloons someone was trying to protect from being popped because they liked the face drawn on it.  That was fun to watch, and they were all screaming and laughing and having tons of fun.  Carolyn tried to protect one balloon for one girl and stuffed it under her shirt, making her look pregnant, which got lots of laughs and comments from the adults.

It was a very successful activity, and the start of hopefully a long tradition of good clean healthy and uplifting activities for the youth of this district.  They have never been together like this before, and they felt much strength from each other in the numbers.

Lots of the single adults over age 18 have been asking us for weeks if they could attend this activity.  We told them no, its for the youth 12-18.  We finally had to promise to arrange an activity for them.  There are several HUNDRED single adults of record in the district.  They have also never had an activity together.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


4 Oct.  2013 Fri.  ... In the afternoon went to visit a few folks and  on the way we ran into the Q's.  Bro. Q has a homade and operated distilling operation for producing various health products from natural plants.  His business isn't doing so good and it looks like they are going to have to pack it up and move south and do something else. I told him I knew a little about manufacturing process and I offered to take a look at his process. He got tears in his eyes he was so thankful. He said that is exactly what he needed, to be able to increase his output and sell more but he didn't know how.  He said he'd been praying to God to help him find a way.  

They getting ready to move because they can’t sell enough or make enough product to make a go of it.  He takes a truckload of one  type of plant and boils them down to get two little eyedropper bottles of product, one of which he GAVE to  Carolyn as a gift. That was humbling.  It represented a significant sacrifice for the family.

9 Oct. 2013 Wed.  .....After zone meeting (around 2 p.m.) in Ilapel we went looking for Maicol’s house, the young man who thought I was gifting him my triple combination but I said I’d have to get him another….  Well I got the new one, and it is very nice brown leather with gold trim and finger indents… much nicer than mine.  After asking around, I found he lived up on the highest street on the side of the mountain up from the church, a street they are tearing up and paving with concrete.

Once we got the car up there (after spinning wheels on the concrete on the steepest parts) I parked at the start of the construction and left Carolyn at the car (who wasn’t up for walking with her sore knee), and went looking.  I found his house (not home), but on the way I also ran into another one of those drunks who flagged me down and insisted I climb up the temporary construction wooden stairs up to the store where he was, and talk to him about his questions about God.   I’ve been telling Carolyn I’m some kind of drunk magnet.  I’m not sure this guy was drunk, but the way other people looked at him when they walked by us told me they knew him well and were leery of him (or me).  I got his name and reference so the Zone Leaders can teach him.

We then picked up Sisters Valencia and Cazaut and gave them a ride to Los Vilos for Sister Valencia’s 5 p.m. eye doctor appointment.  Remember Sister Valencia is a convert of less than 2 years and has been on her mission 6-8 months now  I think.  She is the one that left her glasses home and did not dare to ask her parents to send them because they are not members of the church and not happy she joined and went on a mission. 
After getting her all taken care of at the eye doctor and back on a bus to Illapel, we ran into our friend Patricio, the ex-drunk we met a couple of weeks ago.  An update on him... he has changed significantly since we first met him, and started coming to church with his daughter who just moved here and is not a member.  We have been talking to Patricio.  He was in need of bedding.  He says they don’t have enough bedding where he lives (with an older lady,he said) and they are cold.  We told him we had an electric blanket we could give him, if he could use it.  He said he would find a way (I don't think he has electricity, the way he said that). So when we saw him, we offered him a ride home with his new blanket. 

We were saddened to see where he lived, far on the edge of town where there was a small hut with lots of piles of rubble on the side made into a shelter.  We dropped him off at the edge of the pavement at the top of the hill.  He would not start walking to his house till we were out of sight. We think he was embarrassed for us to see he did not live in the hut.  We are afraid that he lives in the rubble next to the hut, which we think is the Lady's.  It is on a hillside right in the wind and in front of the ocean.  It would be very cold (we know because our house gets the ocean breeze and it gets down in the 40’s inside at night and our house is enclosed and we have an electric heater going all night.  It made us sad for him and his daughter. 

His “job”, or work, is putting on a bright colored reflective vest and standing outside the local “home depot” helping cars park and leave parking on the street, looking for oncoming traffic, etc.,. It is a job he has created.  It is a service he provides drivers, hoping for tips. 

He also hustles car wash jobs down town.  Guys like him can get a car amazingly clean with just a dirty rag and a half bucket of dirty water.  At least he has initiative and is not sitting around begging for coins and drinking like before.  He is hoping to soon be able to by a part for his bicycle so he can ride in to town for “work”.  The part he needs costs about $11, which is an awfully lot of money for him.  Now I understand why he is always telling me some guys in Vina del  Mar ( the big city 2 hrs away) charge $10-12 for a car wash and asking to wash our car.  He always asks when we see him. He is probably hoping to score a big paying wash job and be able to fix his bike.  At least I hope that is what he’s hoping, and that that is not the cost of a bottle of liquor.   Around here, $3-4 is an expensive car wash.  I think we're about due for a $12 wash.

10 Oct. Thurs.  Spent the morning with Bro. Quintanilla, Carolyn spent the morning with Sister Q.. They are a nice  family, members, with a home business that is not making it.  I showed him some things he could do to improve his business, a natural products health products business, extracting helpful stuff from native plants.  He uses very very simple equipment and processes he does not know he does not understand, but which are basic chemical and mechanical engineering stuff.  He told me he had tried some things I had suggested after our last conversation and had already DOUBLED his output. He was blown away. I think he's still only getting a few percent of what he could.

I also showed him how he can sell his stuff via the internet, and import raw materials much cheaper than he can make them from around the world.  His eyes were as big as silver dollars and blown away by what is available that he knew nothing about. He has 3 computers at home... a desk top and two laptops.  I wonder what he does with them?

 I am surprised at how naive some folks still are as far as the way the world has become a global market in the last 10 years or so, and how the internet has transformed the way people all over the world do business.  Most folks have laptops or tablets or internet phones here.  But there seems to be few that are really internet literate.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cool Car

3 Oct. 2013. Thurs.  Visits in Illapel for visits. While visiting new converts Kelly and her Mom Mirella, Mirella taught me the names of all the beautiful flowers and plants they have in the gardens on the hillside in front of their house…. Lots of peach trees, plums, avocados, and other fruit I don’t know the name of.  There are flowers Raya del Sol (all different colors of “sun ray” flowers, small like daisys), clavelina (carnation), savila (like a big juicy yucca), lledra or yedra (like a geranium but smaller, thicker, shinier leaves, Cardenal (germanium), and the funniest name of all, a plant with big fat long leaves that look like big tounges that have little spots all over them and little prickles and a big barb on the end. The name of this one?  Lengua de Suegra….”mother-in-law’s tounge”.  Ha ha ha.  I thought that was so funny.  They kind of giggle too when they say it.

We went to an inactive member's house, in which I was not invited to the "women's only" discussion.  So I stayed in the car in the alley doing some paperwork.  Pretty soon a couple of the member's young boys came out and started asking me questions. Martin an old 4, and his semi-slow older 7 year old brother Vicente were admiring our car.  They were soooo excited to see a car close up.They wanted to know if they could sit in it. SURE!, I said. They were very pleased, and spent a long time exploring every little gadget and knob (believe me, there's nothing really special about the car... it would be pretty plain with no options in the States).  Soon they were asking timidly if they could go for a ride around the block.  SURE, I said, if their mom said it was ok.  They raced into the house and came out about 3 seconds later shouting "she said we could!, she said we could!"  About 5 rides later around the block, up the hill, down the hill, etc., I talked them into going on a walk instead.  "It ran out of gas?, they asked. 

Their infatuation with the car reminded me of our grandson Roman and how much he liked to just sit on the lawn mowers at Lowes and pretend he was driving them, and to look under the hood at the "Ennngine", he would gasp.  I don’t think these kids had ever been in a car before.  They were soooo excited to put their seat belts on and have the windows rolled down and shout to their friends to look at them, they were riding in a car.  It was really kind of cute.

Their dad has been out of work for over a year and there is a lot of financial as well as other pressures on this family.  They have been humbled, and they thoughts are returning to God.  I hope they make some needed changes that will bless their lives and the lives of their 8 kids, only 5 of which remain at home.  Things haven't gone so well for the family since they got off track.

Tender Mercies

25 Sept 2013 Wed. Los Vilos. When we got back from Illapel this afternoon Carolyn went into the house before me while I did a little tidying around the outside of the house.  Hna. Martinez, our land lady, in her visit last night, make it clear it was up to us to do whatever we wanted with all the jillions of little pots and coffee cups littering the yard full of cool-looking cacti, succulents, rubber trees and all kinds of other “indoor” plants that grow outdoors. 

I came into the house and noticed Carolyn in the bedroom kneeling by the bed praying.  At first I thought that maybe her meeting in Illapel this morning didn’t go too good and she was upset.  When she came out I could see she was crying.  I put my arm around her and asked what was wrong.  She pointed to her I Pad, which was open to a note from our daughter Melanie, the one with the serious pregnancy problem.  We knew she was seeing a specialist yesterday, to see if her bad situation also had another even worse complication on top of it.  

I immediately thought the worst.  I cautiously read her email.  To our amazement, the specialist said her situation had completely reversed and everything looked normal, and that she was cleared for a normal, instead of cesarean, delivery.  What?  I read it again.  Then I thought, she is just kidding and trying to just make us feel good for a minute or two.  But as I read and reread her email, and then after talking to her via Face Time, it was abundantly clear that our family, and especial Melanie's family we were the recipients of a real live miracle.  

Melanie had been told long ago that there was  no  longer  any chance that her problem could clear up... none ever had after that date...essentially zero probability that the baby would move and allow a normal delivery.  A cesarean was a sure thing, and the complications of sudden bleeding with her condition, endangering mother and unborn child was a high probability, as was the chance after childbirth of needing to do a hysterectomy that would prevent the possibility of future pregnancies.  She had gone to still another doctor, a specialist, to see if she was also at risk for a further complication her other doctors were worried about.  

We were not prepared to hear that everything had suddenly and miraculously changed since her last doctor visit a couple of weeks ago.  There really is no other explanation, than it is a miracle and blessing from God.  Any other rationalization as to how it could have happened seems to be an affront to God and his goodness and mercy.  

Thankfully, Carolyn’s prayer and tears, were prayers and tears of thanks and joy, and not of sorrow, concern and  worry.  We keep wondering why we’ve been granted such a tremendous blessing after so many months of constant prayers and so many fasts.  It is true we never gave up hope, and always felt  things would turn out OK in the end.  But it is also true that we were prepared for the worst.  The words “tender mercies of the Lord” fit pretty well in this case.

Our mission president told us a couple of weeks ago not to worry about it, that it would turn out just fine and that the Lord would bless us and her.  That turned out to be prophetic.  Thank you, Heavenly Father!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Journal Entry's

Thurs. 12 Sept 2013.  Met the Elders at Lider Expres (like a small Wal-Mart) in Punchuncavi to exchange vehicles. (We moved from Illapel to Los Vilos yesterday and used the mission pickup during the process).  President Kahnlein made them wash our car before returning it.  He called us on our way back to Los Vilos asking us to print off a document for the house in Illapel before we went on back to Illapel tonight for district presidency meeting.  This turned out to be an inspired request, along with his request that we move this week. 
We stopped off at the house in Los Vilos on the way to Illapel thinking we’d need to get my laptop and go to the church to get internet and retrieve the document (a lengthy process just to open all the locks at the church).  To save time, I decided to see if any of our neighbors had a internet signal we could latch on to and that was unsecured.  I found a super strong signal, unsecured, with extremely fast internet.  COOL!  I got the document and printed it off.  Then, later, late that night, Calvin called and mentioned Emily’s wáter had broke.  Because we had internet, Carolyn and I were able to FaceTime with Emily and share in their joy 4 minutes after Maybelle was born later that night/morning.  Who would’ve thought that the Lord in his tender mercy would work all those miracles to put us in a place and time so that Schramma would not miss her grandaughter’s birth?  She had been sulking about that thought for months.  This could not have happened if we’d still been in Illapel.  Maybe we would have found out about it a few days later, rather than watching and talking to Em and Jake live and seeing Maybelle immediately after.   After she was born they just handed her to Emily and said we’ll be back in an hour, so she called us.

Later we found out from the neighbor across the street that the internet signal comes from a large cell tower in back of his house beaming a signal across the ocean in front of our house.  He said he’s had free internet for 4 years since it was installed.  They made it unsecured because it led for a better/faster signal or something like that.  Not sure he really knows, but the 3 or 4 houses under that tower between it and the ocean get free internet, courtesy of Airlive2, a wireless networking company.  Wow, its like beaming forward to the 21 century.
View from our house in Los Vilos.

14 Sept. 2013.  We went to  Canela for the district “Mormon Helping Hands” service Project.   We travelled from Los Vilos along with two Sister missionaries plus one member in our car.  Four other carloads left Los Vilos.   Around 11 p.m.  a bus from Salamanca and Illapel arrived in Canela with the rest of the folks.  60 in all.  We all donned yellow helping hands shirts and set out in Canela Baja and Canela Alta cleaning the streets of litter and dirt and rocks, and painting all the poles and trees with white wash.  We worked till about 3 pm
This was not the typical US Project where you plan for months and then have a 2 hour Project that gets a lot done and everyone is back home by noon.  We had 2 weeks to plan and announce this project and it was an all-day affair. Yet we had about half of the total sacrament meeting attendance in the district show up.  And while we were working, a few sisters from the tiny Canela branch (13 average sac. Mtg. Attendance including 2 missionaries and visitors) cooked up meal for everyone worth remembering.  The day before they slaughtered two large goats.  All this meat was cooked along with rice, and salads, and fresh bread and pebre (kind of like pico de gallo  with less onion and more tomato) and mote con huesillo for dessert.  Everyone ate until they could not eat more. We were sooo hungry. 
Mote is cooked whole wheat placed in a cup, to which is added a couple of reconstituted dried peaches in their very very light syrup.  Its barely sweet, and a very interesting meal in itself that you drink and eat with a spoon.  The goat was delicious, as were the salads, hand made bread and pebre.  By the way, this dinner for 60 people in the tiny 4 room church was not part of the “planned” activity.  We had to eat in two shifts because there was not enough room,or plates. 
Anytime anyone goes to Canela, the Canela branch has a tradition of feeding them. And this was a sit down to table cloth and porcelain plates kind of meal.  Every square inch of that building was packed with chairs around tables.  To get to their seat, some people had to go/come through the windows. 
We won’t mention all the big gas burners and even charcoal grills (contrary to church policy) they brought into the church to cook all this food while we were working for 4 hours. Everyone left around 6, full, content and happy.  It was a great activity that everyone will remember for a long time.  By the way, except for the white washing on the trees, the streets didn’t look all that much different to me afterwards, but everyone kept saying “we need to have an activity like this in OUR city”.  Canela is a small town of 1700. Hopefully this made an impression.  It certainly did on us.  This was the 3rd such experience we’ve had in Canela.