Puerto Rico San Juan

On September 14, 2013 I received my call to serve as a Mission Nurse Specialist in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission for a period of 18 months. I am always up for a new adventure and look forward to sharing my journey with you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

And nearly another month has passed!

10 months quickly completed and 8 to go!

The good news is that it is starting to cool down a bit!  Down to mid 80's during the day and 70's at night.  It is getting to the point that the new Senior missionaries are not doubting their decisions to serve here and we can sit comfortably in our living areas with just a low fan. The natives will be wearing jackets soon and we will be rejoicing in the beautiful weather!

We welcomed another new group of missionaries on Oct 21st and said a sad good-bye to some great ones on the 23rd.  Since then, I have been pretty busy with miscellaneous missionary health issues - lab/sonograms/CT/ingrown toenail surgical treatment.

On Halloween, our ward hosted a Trunk-R-Treat and chili dinner at the Church.  We had great attendance and it felt like 'home'.    I have been busy playing piano for primary programs and the Stake choir for Christmas.  Last Sunday, I sat on the piano bench a total of 4 hours - played for a sacrament & Primary program in one ward and then on to another choir practice.  A Senior dinner at the Mission Home was a great reward at the end of the day.  I have attended quite a few baptisms across the island on Saturdays.  Last night was dinner at Macaroni Grill to celebrate Sister Boucher's birthday.  We had already celebrated Sis Lee and Sis Eakle's birthdays at P.F. Changs on Tuesday at Plaza Las Americas (home of the largest J.C. Penney store in the chain).  

I forgot to tell you about an interesting experience - one day I was walking into an elders apartment and felt something on my head.  I thought I had just walked under a pull chain for a light.  One of the elders said, "Sister Heidenreich, you have a lizard on your head!"  I calmly brushed off a little gecko - after he visited us for awhile, he was later found deceased under their refrigerator.  My only regret is that it was a missed photo opportunity.

Windmills in Santa Isabell

Caguas Missionaries at a Baptism (the 4th Elder was pianist)
Elders Lugo and Deaver at KFC after a baptism in San German

Fall Senior Dinner at the Mission Home

Happy Birthday, Sister Boucher (Macaroni Grill)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lotsa photos again!

Not sure of what exactly has kept me busy lately, but I have tried to take photos of every new place.  In addition to assisting missionaries with health needs, we had a fun humanitarian project to make heart shaped pillows for donation to ladies who have had breast surgery to help support the affected side.  This week, my niece, Heidi, has been visiting from Salt Lake City and time has really flown by.  The photos will show some of the awesome sights we have enjoyed.  We have had a total of 25 cases of Chikungunya and one recent case of Hand/Foot/Mouth virus - not a fun time for these poor, hard-working Sisters and Elders.  Now this week - 3 sisters in the same apartment have head lice that one of the sisters got while visiting a family - of course, all of the sisters have long hair.  It has been fun to get many Facebook friend requests from 'my kids' who have gone home.  Each has a piece of my heart - truly an amazing generation!  It is still quite warm, but we missed the latest tropical storm/hurricane.  Unfortunately, Pres/Sister Boucher were not so lucky.  They were in Antigua for a Branch Conference on Sunday and planned to return on Monday.  When I spoke with Sister Boucher this afternoon, after no electricity at the hotel in Antigua, they were able to catch a Jet Blue flight to St. Maarten today and were to board another flight to San Juan.  She is not planning to sign up for any more island visits for a while.  Of course, General Conference was amazing and the missionaries really enjoyed Elder Bednar's talk.  I watched it at home on Saturday and Sunday AM, went to Caguas for a cook-out at the Wentzel's with the Caguas Zone missionaries, and then watched the closing session at the Caguas Stake Center.

Monday, the 13th, was "hump day" as I reached the 1/2 point in my mission.  I have become the Old Timer in the Mission Office and am looking forward to the same beautiful weather that greeted me in January.

Heidi and I celebrated with lunch at Senior Frog's in Old San Juan. On Monday afternoon, we took a drive to Aguas Buenas so Heidi could enjoy the roads in town which rival...or exceed...San Francisco in the roller coaster effect along with a quick visit to downtown Caguas and dinner with the Wentzels.  On Tuesday, we headed West to Rincon and spent a very relaxing time at the beach and a Bed/Breakfast.  Today, after some quick shopping, we headed east again through San Sebastian to the Arecibo Observatory which is always interesting even though this was my 4th visit.  Tonight was dinner at The Crepe Maker which is always yummy and Heidi will fly home tomorrow. 

Drive from Aibonito to Aguas Buenas

As above.....

Cemetery in Comerio

View from El Yunque rainforest

Coco Falls in El Yunque

El Morro in Old San Juan from Catano Ferry terminal

Heidi at Senor Frogs

The Atlantic Coast at Isabella

Stone Carving of the face of a Taino Indian, indigenous to Puerto Rico/Isabella

Shore at Rincon, PR

Heidi and I sat on the beach near the water and watched a few surfers - beautiful site and breeze!

Rincon Lighthouse near sunset

This and the following were taken from the Lighthouse area at sunset - breathtaking beauty!

Mango Beach Gift Shop

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More photos! The captions will tell the story.....

Elder Scott, a Samoan from Hawaii - He provided entertainment and decorations for a Toa Baja Stake Luau

Elder Scott even did a fire dance outside after the dinner/program!

Just proof of how hard a Sr Mission is :o)  Elders Eakle/Wentzel watching BYU football at my apt -
we even had hot dogs/nachos for the 'tailgate' party!

One of our many Sun night dinners at the Mission Home
L to R Elders Eakle/Porter/Pres/Larsen/Wentzel/Berger
Sisters Porter/Me/Boucher/Larsen/Wentzel/Berger
Sisters Eakle/Allred

Sister Zwick requested a photo of the Seniors on the Stairway :o)
Top to bottom: Rays/Porters/Lees/Wentzels/Eakles/me/Bouchers

I forgot to mention - while we were finishing dinner, President Boucher received a call that Elder Cornish (Our area president) was on his way over to the Mission Home to visit.  We all sprang into action to get the table cleared and dishes washed before he came.  Elder Wentzel is king of the kitchen clean-up and gets the job done - with or without the rest of us!  By the time he arrived, we were all calmly chatting.  He answered questions re: the Church in Haiti and Cuba as well as what it would take to get a Temple in Puerto Rico - when the people are ready, a Temple will be built.......not build a Temple and then get the people ready!  Many rich blessings and friendships develop with Senior Missionaries.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, September 22, 2014

More Chikungunya!

We are up to 12 cases of Chikungunya now - 3 Elders and 9 Sister Missionaries.  They have a couple miserable days of rash, fever, and joint pain, but then seem to bounce back pretty quickly.  All we can do is encourage rest, fluids, and ibuprofen or tylenol for fever and pain.  They seem to be scattered all over the island.  I am thinking that we have more sisters since they are not as covered as the Elders with their long pants/shoes/socks.  

We have been busy with 13 new missionaries and 5 more went home.  As of last night, we have 201 missionaries including 5 Senior couples in the islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Antigua and Tortola) as well as 2 office couples and one couple who works all over the island contacting Stake and Ward Leaders.  They are really catching the vision of the importance of teaching individuals/families about the Plan of Salvation and how to return to Heavenly Father as Eternal Families.  Our young missionaries are truly an inspiration - even those with Chikungunya are hesitant to take time to rest.

September 13-14th was Stake Conference for the San Juan Stake.  I was humbled to be asked to play the piano for the meetings as well as for the choir.  I never dreamed I would ever have the opportunity to play for Stake Conference in Puerto Rico.  The Stake Center only has a piano while some of the wards have an electronic keyboard which will also switch to organ tones.

We have been having dinner at the Mission Home nearly every Sunday Evening as we have received new Senior couples.  The last to arrive was the Rays from Gilbert, AZ.  They flew to St. Kitts today.  The others are: Larsens - St. Croix, Starrs - Antigua, Wrights - Tortola and Bergers - St. Thomas.  The Lees arrived recently, as well, and are working in the office as secretary and finance while the Eakles handle cars and housing.  That is a big job with the recall for the Chevy Cruzes - about 70% of our cars need the repacement part and it takes a while for the dealer to get the new part.  Sister Boucher and Sister Eakle will be hitting hard on apartment inspections beginning tomorrow.  The expectations have been set and now comes the accountability.

I have been taking some miscellaneous photos:

Isabella Chapel

Elder/Sister Larsen

Elder/Sister Porter - Self Reliance Center

Elder/Sister Berger

Met up with the Elders (Montero - Dominican Rep and Ibarra - Argentina) on the Tren

Photo from the Tren

San Juan area from the Tren window

Another one!

Tren Interior - 75 cents each way

San Juan Stake Sisters Choir - New Blouses this time!!

Elder Paredes/Peru and Elder Siles/Bolivia

Thursday, September 4, 2014

And then it was September!

Here we are - nearly a year since I received my mission call!  I still remember the shock of a call to Puerto Rico - had never thought of an assignment in the Caribbean - what a choice experience!  On the 13th, I will have completed 8 months already!  I looked back over my planner to see where the past month has gone.  Thanks to a special friend for reminding me to update this blog.....a bit humbling to know that there are folks who are interested in sharing this journey!

Well - the month of August - Week 1 was mostly missionary visits - variety of complaints; Week 2 - Dave and Steph arrived on 8/13 and we toured the island until they had to return home on 8/18.  We tried to fit as much as possible into that time - started with a trip to Fajardo to catch the Ferry to Vieques island.  SWA had temporarily misplaced a suitcase which we picked up enroute.  We knew we would be too late for the 9:30am Ferry anyway, but spoke to a family from PA who had been there at 8am and all tickets were sold by then.  We caught the 1pm Ferry - chose to ride on the second level since there were larger windows - not a good choice with the rock/roll of the choppy Atlantic.  We enjoyed another overnight stay at Casa La Lanchita.  One of my tasks was taking an iron, rice cooker and baking dishes to the Elders assigned there.  Dave had a great time utilizing his Spanish language skills with the Elders from the Dominican Republic and Argentina.  Ironically, Dave's favorite companion from his mission in Argentina was Institute teacher and mentor for Elder Colmenares.  After Dave and Steph took a tour around this small island, we met the Elders for lunch - the trip back on the Ferry was much better and we stayed on the bottom floor with minimal windows (a bit like the Jaredites???) and played Phase 10.  The next day we drove around the entire island of Puerto Rico with stops at the Arecibo Observatory, San German Elders where we got a bag of fresh avocados from trees in their front yard, and Ponce (pork and chicken pinchos - grilled and served on a stick) and helado (great frozen treat - cross between ice cream and sherbet).  In the evening, we met other senior missionaries for dinner at an Argentine restaurant.  Dave enjoyed familiar foods and had an opportunity to chat with a waiter from Cordoba, Argentina where he had served.  We ended up eating at The Crepe Maker twice while they were here - Steph's favorite!  Week 3 - more missionary visits.  The last week of the month, I flew to FL again to visit Mom.  She was getting a bit weary of a long summer - when the 'snowbirds' go home, the activities in her neighborhood slow down.  We had the opportunity to go to the mall for shopping and pedicures, a trip to the Chiropractor, dinners out and odds & ends that she wanted to do while I was there.

Sisters Boucher, Eakle and Wentzel met me at the airport when I returned from FL and we joined the 'special meeting' at the Mission Home (BYU football on TV and yummy food! - about 14 old/young missionaries :o)

Well, I didn't think I had much to write about......

The Outlet at Route 66/Rio Grande, PR

Inside the Mall - many familiar name-brand stores

Mall Carousel

Looking down the driveway from the Rio Grande Elders' House - hard to tell, but it is like climbing a rock wall without a Jeep

Dave/Steph in Esperanza, Vieques, PR

L to R - Elder Colmenares/Argentina, Elder Jenkins/Utah, Elder Paniagua/Domican Republic, Steph and Dave

Dave/Steph in front of Arecibo Observatory dish, etc.
 Looking forward to my next visitor - Heidi will be visiting from Salt Lake City in mid-October!  Should be a bit cooler by then although we had really good weather when Dave and Steph visited as well.....

Monday, August 4, 2014

August already.....

I can't believe that it is August already and I am 1/3 of the way through my mission here in beautiful Puerto Rico.  The past couple weeks have been pretty busy.  We completed another round of 5 Zone Conferences with Pres/Sister Boucher, received 16 new missionaries and 19 completed their missions and went home along with a senior couple, Elder and Sister Card.  This meant some great time spent at the mission home.

We enjoyed a great dinner at the Mission Home as a farewell for the Cards.  They have been serving the past 6 months on Tortola with the previous 6 months on Antigua. This is their 3rd mission.

Fortunately, missionary health issues have been minimal and no cases of Dengue or Chikungunya at this time although there are 350+ cases on the island.  We have really been blessed and the missionaries continue to be vigilant with insect repellent.  We do get a lot of strange rashes, upper respiratory viruses and gastrointestinal viruses, as well.

It is a good thing that I took a couple photos or I wouldn't remember what had happened.  Along with the 'work', we manage to get the senior couples together at least once a week for food and games.....they all came to my apartment last Friday night to watch The Saratov Approach.  A couple from my MTC group (the Carters) were in the movie along with their son.  Interestingly, they are assigned to Russia now.

Dave and Steph will be visiting Aug 13-18.  I am really looking forward to their visit.  We will spend one night on Vieques which is a Puerto Rican island accessible by ferry from Fajardo.  It is a good thing they weren't here last weekend since all ferries were shut down with the pending Bertha system.  We just got heavy rains which are a blessing since we have had little rainfall.  Water rationing is delayed until at least late August.

Today, I drove to Arecibo to check on an Elder with a sprained ankle - not too bad - took him an air splint.  He is a pretty big Samoan/Hawaiian boy and we had to secure the top velcro with duck tape :o)  After treating them to lunch at Wendy's, I met up with Sister Dawid and Sister Dacosta at the Mall and gave them a ride home.  Back to Bayamon and a quick trip to the nail salon before getting home about 8:30pm.

The photos below are after dinner at the Mission Home.  The Senior sisters had been helping Sister Boucher prepare food for Zone Conference in the kitchen and, when I went into the Living Room, the 'picture' was quite striking with all those guys in white shirts assembled on white couches. (I do have to add that the Brethren along with President Boucher did dinner dishes before retiring to the living room.)

President Boucher on the right with Elders Bennett/Nadauld/Eakle/Card left to right
Others not visible in the photos are Elders Wentzel/Castaneda and Helm.

Elder/Sister Card

L to R - Sister Dacosta (Honduras), Sister Ramos (Mexico), Me, Sister Allred, New Sister Oborn/Sister Dye (both US)
This was transfer day and Sister Oborn was brand new - Dinner at Denny's