Sunday, June 25, 2017

Blog for June 25, 2017

The time has arrived for us to go home……..

Well, blog fans, our remaining time in Calgary is drawing rapidly to a close; only a few more days. With many of the things we do comes the realization that we won’t be doing it again or won’t be seeing it again. Today at Church, for example, we had to say goodbye to many wonderful people, many of whom we may never see again. We know we will be returning for a visit from time to time but things and circumstances rarely remain the same.

Yesterday I returned once again to one of my favorite spots, the Glenmore Reservoir Trail. The day was fresh and fragrant and the temperature was perfect for a nice relaxed run. I will attach some pictures I took along the way including deer and lots of wild roses.

I would say how much I will miss the beautiful areas available here and the wonderful trails and scenery to be enjoyed, but then I think ahead to the Dimple Dell trails, Bell Canyon, and other sites which are so near our home. Suddenly I feel better about returning. 

Dimple Dell Trail (Sandy, Utah)

Given how hot it has been in Utah, we know we will miss the daily temperature in the 70s and low 80s we have known the past two summers.

With our departure just days away, we will miss Canada Day (July 1st) and the Calgary Stampede (July 7-16), which is already gearing up. Instead we will get to enjoy the 4th of July celebration with friends and family at home and that will be nice.

We are busy training our replacements, Elder and Sister McNary. They had their “baptism of fire” this past week with the arrival of new missionaries, the departure of others, and the process of transferring missionaries north and south as described in earlier blogs. Otherwise the training involves sitting at a desk reviewing all facets of the job, which for them must be somewhat like drinking from a fire hose. They are coming along nicely and will do well.

Since last week was transfer week, we were able to say goodbye to many of our missionaries. The highlight of our mission has been to interact with them as they serve. They are such an outstanding group of young men and women. They arrive with such diverse talents, interests, and capabilities. It is amazing to consider that the missionaries we see here are but a cross section of young people serving in all of the missions of the Church. Regardless of background, missions provide wonderful opportunities to grow and learn in ways that would not otherwise be realized. Most importantly, missionaries grow spiritually. As they teach gospel principles to others, they learn to apply these same principles more completely to themselves. I know from my own mission experience as a young man how much better prepared I was to meet the challenges of life, of faith, of family, and career. Fortunately, we are Facebook friends with many of our missionaries who have returned home and that will be true for those still serving. It is wonderful to see them moving on with their lives after returning home. I see the same blessings in their lives that I realized from having served a mission.

So, this is it, - the great winding up scene. Thanks for sharing in our experiences.

In closing, please enjoy some scenes from the Sefcik’s neighborhood lake and park where we had a wonderful picnic with them.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

We are in countdown mode......

Blog for June 18, 2017

Wow, we are in countdown mode……..! We have just one more Sunday remaining in Calgary.

Last Sunday, after posting my blog, Kathy and I decided to go out and check off another item on our bucket list. We had heard many times of the incredible view of downtown, which can be viewed from the Crescent View Ward building. The building sits up on a bluff above the Bow River just to the north of downtown. The view was well worth the visit as you can see in the following picture.

Crescent View and 6th Ward Building, Confederation Park Stake

This picture was taken around 9:30 p.m. (which tells you how late the sun goes down is these northern parts). Afterward we drove around the neighborhood and were amazed at the very beautiful and very well cared for older homes in the area. Then we headed for the Calgary Stake Center on the west side of Calgary and took a picture of the downtown area from that vantage point. The sun was just setting at that point. 

The building is the Calgary Stake Center, which was built during the time President N. Eldon Tanner was Stake President here. It is huge as our church buildings go. 

Calgary Stake Center

This has been a very busy week as we had much to do to get everything ready for Elder and Sister McNary’s arrival (see below) and to set out the plan for meeting the new missionaries who will be arriving this Wednesday. The usual schedule for arriving and departing missionaries has changed somewhat so this required a bit more planning than usual. This is followed, as usual, by the transfer day, which involves hauling 18-20 missionaries south to Lethbridge and returning with an equal number. This will be the last trip I will take to Lethbridge until a possible return for a visit in the future.

Adding to the busy mix of things to be done was the sale of the last few cars remaining in our fleet. I am saving one car, which we will hopefully sell tomorrow, so that Elder McNary will have at least some exposure to what is involved with car sales.

I also met with some officials from Alberta Registries, the equivalent of the DMV in the states. We have been encouraged by the Church to begin the process of our missionaries getting Alberta driver’s licenses in advance of this becoming a requirement. Since our missionaries serve for 18-24 months, and do not have a clearly defined legal status for being in Canada; i.e., they are not here on a work visa, nor a visitor visa (limited to 6 months), and they aren’t students); therefore, a plan for how to facilitate this with the various Registry offices is important. The meeting was highly successful and so the process will begin soon for missionaries to get their licenses. This will occur in smallish groups so that the Registries do not become overwhelmed. The Registries serve a much smaller area than do DMV facilities in the States so there are several in each of the larger communities. I think I mentioned some of the details for licenses and visas in my last blog, so enough said. The reality, however, for making this happen will fall to Elder McNary (Yay!).

Adding to the mix of things dealt with during the week was getting a call from our Mission President on Thursday morining informing us that they had just been in a serious accident. On their way to some meetings in Lethbridge, they suddenly came upon an accident which had occurred just ahead of them. They were able to slow to avoid the accident but just behind them was a large cattle truck which didn’t stop in time and collided into the back end of the President’s new Toyota Highlander. Fortunately no one was injured in either vehicle (I don’t know about the initial accident). Since the Highlander remained at least drivable, I met them part way and exchanged it for one of our old Chevy Cruze vehicles which they have had to use for their travels since. We have a larger rental vehicle arranged for them, which I will pick up in the morning.

And now a word about our replacements, the McNarys. They arrived yesterday afternoon. We were able to meet them at the office where we showed them around and then they followed us to the home where they will be living. It is the same home where the Peppingers lived while they served here. We helped move their things in from their SUV, which was understandably packed to the gills!. The McNarys are wonderful and will be very capable. Elder McNary retired recently as the campus planner at the University of Utah, and he is indeed a car guy as was evident by his well-used tool box. Sister McNary is a former pre-school teacher. Both are very personable and will be a great addition to the office staff. Tomorrow evening the whole office staff, both old and new, will meet for dinner as the Sefcik’s and the Thorley’s missions draw to a close. More about this next week when we put out our last mission blog.

To close this blog, I will include a number of pictures of our missionaries who were also present at stake conference today. We will miss them all so much.

Sisters Schnebly, Amaller, Burnside, Hatch. Us. Elders Ibanez, Tate, DelMolino, Cartwright, Fox, and Hewlett

Sisters Burnside, Thorley, and Hatch

Sisters Amaller, Thorley, Schnebly

And finally, a shot someone took of Kathy and I......

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Blog for the week of June 11, 2017

One last return trip to Banff/Canmore…….at least for now. We'll be back!
Elder and Sister Gardiner at Canmore 

We never get tired of returning to the beautiful Banff area. Our wonderful friends, the Gardiners, are serving there as senior missionaries in a leadership support role. They were away during our last visit so last evening we arranged to meet them for dinner. We had a wonderful visit that lasted well beyond finishing our meal. We noted there was a loud group there when we first entered the restaurant so we asked for a quiet spot so we could visit and they placed us back in a room by ourselves and did not bug us at all even though we were clearly finished eating.

The truck (see last week’s pictures) is now completely fixed. A replacement gas tank was installed during the week. To understand why, you will need to remember that the tank was punctured at the same time as the theft of the wheels. Since the truck repairs are completed, it needed a real test drive so we decided to drive it to Banff. Prior to our trip it had been raining rather heavily in the region, but the forecast called for rain ending toward evening and, as we made our drive west, it began to clear. Upon arrival in Canmore where we met the Gardiners, we were treated to a beautiful wintery scene as the Banff mountains have a fresh coating of snow. The rivers are all running at capacity as the snowmelt occurs and now there will be even more snow to melt and run downstream.

We are starting to pack the things we will not need between now and the time we return home, especially all our winter gear. Since we anticipate buying the truck, we are hoping we will not need to rent a trailer to haul our stuff home. The smallest of the U-Haul enclosed trailers was needed for our initial trip to Calgary. With that in mind, as soon as the money transfer has been completed for the purchase, I plan to have a cover installed over the truck box so our things will be out of the weather for the trip home. Between the truck (a crew cab) and our Santa Fe SUV, hopefully everything will fit.

We are anxiously awaiting our replacements, the McNarys, who should arrive at the end of next week. There is much to show them before our departure. Fortunately, they will arrive in time to experience the planning and execution of what is involved with a transfer week. Perhaps we will delay selling the last couple of cars so Elder McNary can see how this is done. Having no more cars to sell for a while will be a blessing for him so he can focus on all the other aspects of the job. As I may have mentioned in a past blog, missionaries serving in Canada who are not from Canada are being required to get and keep a driver’s license for the province where they serve. We will launch this process very soon but the bulk of it will fall to Elder McNary and anyone in the office who is available to help with this. This will require meeting the qualifying missionaries, one group at a time, at a local Registry. Registry is like a DMV in the U.S. There we will hand them their passport and other documents needed for the license. At the end of the process, we will gather up the passports and return them to the mission office. Hopefully it will go as smoothly. Missionaries do not have a specific visa status, such as students or visitors have. Since they aren’t students and since their intended stay in Canada is for longer than six months, they are not eligible to be classified as visitors either. There is a ministerial status but the implication of the status is that they are paid by a particular religious denomination to be in Canada. Of course, since our missionaries are not paid to be here, they technically don’t qualify under that status either, although some of their visas are stamped with this classification anyway. There is always the possibility some Registry official will get hung up on their lack of specific status and refuse to grant them a license.

There is too much left to individual interpretation of the rules by government officials. This is true, of course, in all countries. In addition to visas, we frequently encounter arbitrary decisions at border crossings, with customs, at post offices, and the Registries. A case in point; one of our missionaries, Elder Del Molino is currently serving here from Spain. There is a particular cured ham which he is fond of and his family has sent it before without difficulty. He recently had a birthday and his parents sent him a care package from home containing another ham and several other items. The package was seized at Customs and then we were informed that the missionary would have to come to the Custom’s office at the airport to pick it up. A Customs agent had decided that such a ham violated Canada’s import laws and it would have to be removed from the package and be destroyed. We were told there would be a charge to open the package to remove the ham and a $100 charge for someone to destroy it. Was there an option to simply refuse the package and have it returned to the sender? Yes, but that would generate a shipping and a Custom’s charge to the family. The rest of the story is…….I Elder Del Molino and his companion to the airport. First we went to Customs who claimed to know nothing about it and had no idea where the package was. After a time it was determined that the package was at the airport FEDEX facility. This required going to FEDEX, not to pick up the package, but to pick up a form that would then have to come back to Customs to be processed. We made the trip to FEDEX and waited in line with other FEDEX customers and were given the needed form. Then it was back to Customs and a further wait there. While waiting I said to the missionary, let’s play up the fact that this is your birthday gift which, because of the Custom’s delay, means your birthday has come and gone and you still have no gift. We played this trump card with the Custom’s official, and to his credit, the agent wrote a personal note to accompany the form back to FEDEX. After waiting again in the FEDEX line, the package was brought to the desk, now with the ham removed, and the remainder of the package given to the missionary with the comment that there would be no additional need to return to Customs nor to pay the “required fee”. Despite the nice gesture of the agent, it, nevertheless, makes my point about how arbitrary such decisions are made. With this in mind, I am preparing absolutely EVERYTHING that might be needed at the U.S. border when I try to take a Canadian truck into the U.S. I have heard horror stories from others about how difficult this process can be when usually it is a simple process of the agent inspecting the vehicle, stamping the form, and sending the person on his way.  I will be holding my breath.

With that, have a great week!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Blog for June 4, 2017

New wheels for "my truck"

 If you have been following this blog, you will recall what happened to one of the trucks we have had for sale; the wheels were stolen and the truck left on blocks. We discovered later that a hole had been drilled or punched into the bottom of the gas tank and the gas drained out as a part of the same theft. While I was away dealing with the flooding incident in our home in Sandy, the Church insurance wheels had turned and approval given for the repairs. This week I found some rims somewhat like those that were stolen and had new tires mounted on them, so baby again has “shoes”! Now what remains is for the new gas tank to arrive and get it installed. We have plugged the hole in the tank with a flathead screw and rubber gasket so hopefully it will hold a little gasoline, at least enough to enable driving it to the repair shop.
You might wonder why I am reporting on this particular vehicle so much; I have had eyes on it since it became available for purchase and I am seriously considering buying it and driving it home.
We are down to the last few cars to sell (including “my truck”), and with no new cars coming to us for many months, the dust will finally settle. This will allow my replacement to ease into the job without the pressure to move and sell the older cars. He will, however, have something to deal with that I have not. In July a crew will arrive from Salt Lake to install TIWI devices in each of our cars. Most of the missions in the U.S. and Canada already have them. TIWI devices are smart devices that will monitor speed, acceleration, deceleration, lane deviation, and location information for each of the mission cars. Of course, some of the missionaries view these as Big Brother looking over their shoulders to track where they are at any given time and how they are driving, which is possible, but the real purpose is missionary safety and to save the Church money. Inside the car the device will alert the driver that he/she is exceeding the speed limit. It beeps to warn the drivers should the car wander over into someone else’s lane. These devices are used by many trucking companies and commercial fleet operations. Use of these devices has shown to reduce operating costs and control speeding. From a Vehicle Coordinator’s point of view, there is some additional record keeping involved, and since these devices operate from cell phone towers, there will always be problems associated with their proper operation such as when they get out of range of cell phone towers.
Our office mates, the Sefciks, are busy training their replacements, the Stephensons. As it turns out, Elder Stephenson is a real car guy and so is willing to do what he can to the help the car cause beyond his job as Housing Coordinator. This will be wonderful for new Vehicle Coordinator as the job can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially when car sales is involved. Our replacements are due to arrive sometime during the 3rd week of this month so we will have about a week to 10 days to accomplish what training can be done during that period. We have talked with them by phone and were able to share some of our experiences and provide some advice as to what and what not to bring. They are eager to arrive and get started. They are from Sandy as well and already know one of the MLS couples (also from Sandy) who are serving over in the British Columbia part of our mission.
As you have read in a previous blog, we extended a month so we could provide some training to our replacements. Had we not extended, we would have left for home on May 30th. It seems strange to contemplate going home. I had a taste of it when I was home recently dealing with the flooding disaster in our home. With so much to be done when we return, we won’t have much time to be idle or bored. We were already planning to finish the interior painting started before we left for our mission, and we are planning new carpeting when the painting is completed. Now, unfortunately, we have the entire basement apartment in our home to tackle when we return in addition to what we had already planned to do. Then there is the yard, which needs so much attention we won’t know where to begin. We will arrive too late to plant a garden so that is off our list.  We have begun some early packing and will soon be offering some of the things we have for sale that we do not plan to take back with us; a keyboard, a portable air conditioning unit, and a stationary bike. Some items like small bookcases we will donate to the mission.
Since our annual passes to Heritage Park will expire soon, we returned yesterday to revisit some of our favorite sites. We have mentioned Heritage Park in several previous blogs. It is a wonderful historical park with many historical buildings from Southern Alberta that have been brought to the site and restored. 80% of the buildings are restorations while the other 20% are replica buildings. It is like a step back in time to the turn of the 20th century including a restored steam engine and passenger cars that make the trip around the park every 30 minutes or so. Unfortunately, the paddle wheeler is not yet back in service. We have loved the place and returned often last summer. I had hoped to place a few pictures in the blog from the park from last year (they show more detail than the pictures taken yesterday); however, my laptop continues to be locked up with a terrible attack of malware. I’ll include a few pictures that we did take.

Heritage Park Main Street

Wagon ride around the town included some fun descriptions of buildings and events.

No, not Enterprise, Utah. Not sure where this building came from. It houses some of the draft horses used in the park.

These little guys were speaking Russian.

Have a great week!