Sunday, March 12, 2017

Zone Conference, Night Safari and Indonesia

Zone Conferences

Things have been pretty busy here in Singapore.  The middle of February we had another round of Zone Conferences here in Singapore which means all the missionaries come in for four separate conferences (two per week)  depending on their Zone.  This also means that we have 20-28 Elders stay with us at the Pasir Panjang house for two nights per conference.  They enjoy so much coming to the house and spending time with each other in the evenings and seeing old companions or other Elders they were in the MTC with.  They also like to eat all the cereal and milk we provide.  They can’t get the same US cereals and good milk in Malaysia so they chow down on it while they can.  We plan on each Elder going thru 1 liter of milk and almost a quarter to a half a box of cereal in the two nights/mornings they are here.  They say they like seeing Sister Walker and me, but we know iftis the food and the other missionaries.  After the four Zone Conferences for the younger missionaries, we had a conference for the Senior Couple Missionaries (more later).  This repeats itself about every 3 months here in Singapore.

For each Zone Conference this time, Sister Walker baked a couple cakes, hamburger for taco salad, bought a lot of the food, prepared birthday gift bags for some of the missionaries, helped setup for the lunch and helped serve the food and clean up.  She even prepared all the items for a relay game the missionaries played one afternoon that Sister Simmons came up with.  She even baked a birthday cake and decorated it for President Simmons’ birthday one day of the senior conference.  All of this in addition to cleaning five bedrooms and baths and doing all the laundry in-between each conference.  All Elder Walker did was to teach the missionaries their responsibilities to clean and maintain their apartments.  Sister Walker’s food was much more welcomed than Elder Walker’s lesson. *Don’t let him kid you – he did lots of computer things that the Simmons needed for their presentations!)

Ward Linger Longer

A few weeks ago we had another one of the monthly ward Linger Longer lunches at our house (it is here because we live just behind the church and we have a big living and dining room).  Sister Walker usually cooks one of her favorite American/Southern dishes which are always a hit.  This time she made Baked chicken with potatoes and carrots, brownies and banana pudding. All three went so fast some people left disappointed they did not get some or did not get more.  Several sisters asked for the recipes for the chicken and banana pudding.  It was interesting to watch the expressions on their faces as she would call out the ingredients they had never heard of before, like Vanilla Wafers, banana pudding and even putting potatoes and carrots in with the chicken.  As soon as the blessing is over, all the youth rush to the dessert table to get some of whatever Sister Walker has prepared.  We had Bishop Ladesma and his family over about a week later and they were happy to see that Sister Walker had prepared banana pudding for them because Sister Ladesma was the only one who got any at the Linger Longer.

Stake Conference – New Stake President

Yesterday and today we had the Singapore Stake Conference with Elder David Evans and Elder Alvin Meredith III who were here to call a new Stake President.  We attended two great sessions of conference.  The previous Stake President, President Stephen Lai, had served in the Stake Presidency for 17 years, 9 of them as Stake President.  He is the head of Seminaries and Institutes in the South-East Asia area and has an office one floor down from the mission office.  He is such a kind, gentle and humble man and as one of his former councilor's said, “without guile”.  He will be missed but successor, Jean Luc Butel,  is also a humble man yet a very strong person and will do a great job.  The high councilor from our ward, Steven Seow was called as 2nd councilor and Kwan Yew Mun to continue as 2nd councilor.

Change in Office Couple

We have been undergoing some more training in the past couple weeks and for the next month or so.  The other senior missionary couple in the office will be going home April 26th and their replacements will not be arriving until two months after they leave.  Elder Kunz has being doing the finance work among other things,  Sister Kunz is the mission secretary, mission nurse, makes all the travel arrangement (this is a huge job) among other thing. We don’t know quite yet how the interim period will be handled but we are learning all we can in case we do not get any help.  I’m sure we will get some help, but don’t know who or exactly how much.  We could have a very, very busy couple months…more busy than we are now.

Night Safari

For the Senior Conference, all of the senor couples went to the Night Safari here in Singapore.  It is basically a zoo that highlights nocturnal animals.  They have other animals as well.  First we watched a show where they brought out different animals and told about them and had some do little acts.

I don’t remember what this animal is called, but they walked through the audience with him.  I’m sure Boston or Cade will know what it is called.

Next, they brought out an owl.  This one is the largest of all owls and again, I don’t remember what type of owl.

Another smaller owl

I’m sorry this picture is so blurry but it is the only one I have.  After the show. we all boarded a train which took us on a tour around the zoo to see all the animals.  A lot better then the days of walking around the Ft.  Worth and Dallas Zoo, except the company of the grandkids at those zoos was a lot more fun.

Visa Run to Bintan Island Indonesia

After the senior conference was over, we needed to do a Visa Run where we leave Singapore for a day or two and re-enter to get a new 90 day visa stamp so we can stay in Singapore another 90 days.  This time we took an hour ferry ride to the island of Bintan Indonesia.  This is not a ferry that carries cars, only passengers.    Below is a picture inside the ferry with Sister Walker waiting to leave.

We arrived at the ferry terminal in Bintan and exited; went through immigrations…

…and boarded the bus to the Bintan Lagoon Resort.

This is the backside of the resort looking across the pool up to the main lobby and main building of the resort.
Bintan Resorts, Bintan Lagoon

This is a view from the balcony of our room.

Another view from down by the pool.

In Singapore, Malaysia, as well as Indonesia, they do not have lawnmowers.  They primarily use “weed whackers” mounted on their backs and “mow” the lawn, edge and trim.  You will even see them along the roadsides and other places.  The only lawnmower I have seen is at our house.  The older man who takes care of the yard, has a very old push lawnmower. 

We even had a chance to ride Segway's again, like we did in San Diego a few years ago.

At the resort where we stayed, they have quite a few villas you can stay at.  Some would be for just a couple and others could sleep several families.  This one is one of the larger ones with its own pool and on the beach.

Island Tour

One of the highlights of the trip came very unexpectedly.  The first day we got there (a Thursday), as we would walk through the resort lobby to go to various places at the resort, a very friendly gentleman who worked at the resort (Hitler S.) would say hi to us and we would say hi back.  About the third or fourth time through, he stopped us and asked how long we had been there and what brought us there.  We told him we were volunteers for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that we were there just for a few days.  He immediately said, “I’m Christian too!!!”  Sister Walker asked him which of the restaurants at the resort had good food.  Without hesitation, he said “none of them”.  He asked if we liked seafood.  We said , “Yes”.  He said we could rent one of the resort cars and he would like to take us on a tour of the island and to a seafood restaurant where they have live seafood in tanks and not things that had been dead for who knows how long.  Well, I was kind of hesitant, but of course Sister Walker was All-In. 

So, we rented the car for 4 hours and Hitler took us around.  After talking to him for a while and driving past some of the other resorts, he asked if we would like to meet his family.  We said yes, that that would be great.  He told us about his family and the church they went to and some of the other churches in the area.  At one point he pulled over to the side of the road and we walked across a ditch into a pineapple field.  Hitler walked into it a little ways and picked a fresh pineapple.  So you don’t think we stole the pineapple, all along the way, Hitler was constantly honking his horn as we would pass people and he would say, oh that is so-and-so, I know them.  He said he knew most of the people as we passed and drove through the villages.  He said he knew the people who had the pineapple field and that his wife would cut it up for us.

Here is a Buddhist Temple we stopped and looked at that had only recently been built.  Again, Hitler knew the man inside who was taking care of the place.


This is a side building still under construction with the “scaffoldng” around it.  I took this picture just for Tyler Thielman since he probably would not approve of this on any of his job sites.  I’m sure OCHA would have this torn down in a second.

Driving through one of the villages.

There are TONS of motos (motorcycles). At one point we were driving past the industrial part when the workers got off work, and this swarm of motos started coming from everywhere.  It was crazy how many there were.  We then looked down one of the side roads and saw 100s more.

The nearest gas/petrol station was 30 or so kilometers away so all along the road you would see these small gas pumps.  They would also sell gas in 1-2 liter plastic bottles in front of some of the small shops. 

When we got to Hitler’s house, he wanted to take a picture of us in front of his picture of Jesus.  On the way to his home, Hitler said his wife could fix us some Coffee.  We said thanks, but we do not drink coffee.  He said, what about tea.  We said we did not drink tea either, that it was part of our religion.  He then asked, what about milk?  We said we can drink milk, but Sister Walker had to tell him that she was allergic to milk.  When we got there, his wife had chocolate milk and crackers for us and cut up the pineapple.  It was a good appetizer for the great meal we had later on.

Sister Walker immediately connected with the kids.  Hitler and his wife have four boys ranging from 5 to 15 years of age.  What a neat family.  We enjoyed our short visit with them.  This is Sister Walker playing games with a couple of the boys.

They caught on very fast and seemed to enjoy it as did their mom.

This is Hitler's family with the exception of the oldest son who was at a church activity.  The son on crutches had broken his leg about three months ago and was still recovering.


As were were leaving the family came out to see us off.  The wife seemed to have a tear or two in her eyes.

After we left his home, Hitler took us to the seafood restaurant he had told us about.  It was right on the water.  In fact, it was over the water.

These are the tanks he told us about with the live seafood.

We were the only customers there that night.

This is Hitler.  We enjoyed so much getting to know him and meeting his family.  He made sure we had a coconut to drink the milk and eat the meat, so we had to make sure he got one as well.  We had told him that people told us we had to try the coconut.

The food was GREAT!  Sister Walker really got into the pepper crab.  I had Lobster in butter sauce.  Hitler had shrimp and we shared chicken fried rice.  It was a lot of food and cost 1,370,000 Rupiah (that’s right one-million, three-hundred-seventy thousand Rupiah), or about $100 USD.  Not bad for crab, lobster, shrimp and more, and it was fresh!

The young restaurant staff really took care of us.  When we go tready to leave, they wanted a picture with us.  I guess they don’t see many white people come to their restaurant.  You can tell the one young lady really  took a liking to Sister Walker.

A group selfie…

Meanwhile, back at the resort, Sister Walker and I managed to get in a few games.  She beat me 2 out of three in pool but I beat her 2 out of three in Ping-Pong.  Here is Sister Walker doing her best Minnesota Fats (old tie famous pool player) impersonation.

She even beat me at darts.  Hers are the blue ones in the center.

This is the main lobby of the resort.  On Friday night they had some entertainment with dancers and music.  This lobby is where I broke off one of my front teeth and accidently put it in the garbage can.  We had the whole resort staff from the lobby looking for my tooth, including the housekeeping lady and hotel chef.  I had pulled a small bag out of the can and shook it looking for my tooth and thought it had flown across the floor.  After searching for 15-20 minutes, we gave up and took the garbage bag from the garbage can back to our room and sorted through it.  Lucky for us, there was not too much in it and not too much gross stuff.  We found the tooth at the bottom and notified the staff that they could stop looking.  When we got back to Singapore, I had the tooth glued back on and have a temporary crown on now and get the permanent crown on Wednesday.  All from biting into an ice cream bar.  Thank goodness it is good ice cream – Magnum – Karen, you would be okay here in the ice cream department except it is $16.00 for a box of 3 ice cream bars.

This picture is for all the grand kids who enjoy bugs and such.  One day as I left the house and walked across the badminton / basketball court out front, I spotted this snail making it’s way across the court. 

This picture shows you the size in relation to a sharpie marker.

That is all for now.  We love and miss you all and hope all is well for you and your families.  The Gospel is True and has brought us so much joy as we have been able to serve the Lord full-time as missionaries.  Keep the faith and keep believing.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Christmas to Chinese New Years


Last night was the start of the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) and so I get a second chance at my New Years Resolutions.  One of them is to do better at posting things on the blog and so I thought today (New Years Day) was a good day to start.  We have a little extra time today since CNY fell on a Sunday this year, we only had Sacrament Meeting.  Did I say, CNY is a big deal here (more below).

The two districts in the Singapore Zone had a contest to see who could build the better Gingerbread House and they had the Senior Missionary office couples judge them.  They took it very seriously and were very proud of what they had accomplished.  They even gave us a complete “tour” of their creation trying to sway our votes.  In the end they both won and we rewarded them with Ice Cream.  Below are the two groups with their creations.

20161219_163927Sisters Hampton, Toone, Morgan, Cloud;  Elders Burke, Miller, Bringhurst, Wong

20161219_163959Elders Riddle, Shirley, Leavitt, Clark, Marsh, Boud; Sisters, Steele and Jackson

We had quite the Christmas Eve.  Instead of snow, we had a huge thunder and lightning storm.  Thankfully, they have a pretty good storm and drainage system here but on the way to President and Sister Simmons’ house, this is what the drainage canal looked like.  In this area, it is about 8-10 feet deep from where the water normally is to the top of the wall.  The water was almost to the top of the wall and was moving pretty fast. 



Even though the drainage system is good, there were still areas where the water was over the street.  In one place, a tree had fallen over and was laying in the road.

We had a very quiet Christmas day.  It was just the two of us and we missed having family around.  We slept in as log as we wanted to, opened gifts and just took it easy.  One of three Christmas trees we had in our home…one in our living area, this one in the living room and one in the entry.  The tree in our living area and the stocking under the tree below were given to us by Corey, Amber and Grayson.


Our good friends Pam and Shafique Janmohamed who used to live in Plano, gave us a great tip on a place to eat here in Singapore.  Shafique used to travel to Singapore and Malaysia on business and said Jumbo’s Seafood was one of his favorite places to eat.  It took us a while  to find time to get to the restaurant but it was worth the effort.  Shafique recommended the Pepper Crab or Chili Crab.  We had the Pepper Crab and it did not disappoint.  It was a bit messy but it was very good.  It was in what is called the East Coast Park and was right on the water.  We could see all of the ships that were anchored offshore waiting their turn to be unloaded. 

It was a very busy place.  The busiest of all the restaurants in that area.

We did make good use of the bibs!!!

20161227_191242That is not another shoreline out in the distance, Those are ships.

A senior couple from Singapore, Elder and Sister Foo, have been working in the office for the past year and ended their mission on January 11th.  We had a little surprise party for them to show appreciation for all the service they had provided.  I have taken over the responsibilities Elder Foo was doing and Sister Walker is handling the responsibilities Sister Foo was doing. They did a good job training us but we do miss them being in the office.



One Saturday we took a trip to Vivo City Mall (wrote about it in an earlier post) and had lunch.  We found a “Hibachi Grill” type restaurant (although not as action paced as others we have been to) and has a very good meal.  While I was away getting a drink, Sister Walker told the chef to make it spicy…and it was.  But it was still pretty good.  At first they did not give us any utensils, only chopsticks.  We tried to do our best, but finally the Asian woman sitting to our right said, “do you want me to ask them for some forks for you?”  She could see that we were not doing too well and would probably be there quite awhile trying to finish our meal with chopsticks. We did get some utensils and the meal went better after that.


A few Saturdays ago, the High Priest Group Leader in our ward arranged to do a walk as a ward at one of the local parks. (Labrador Park).  I had to take a missionary to the airport that morning, so Sister Walker went without me.  The next day in Priesthood Meeting, Sister Walker was all they talked about.  They could not believe how far and how fast she ran while the rest of them were walking.  She said she was just trying to catch up with one of the sisters in the ward who was leaving so she could talk to her.  She then ran back to the group.  The ward was very impressed. 


As I have said before, one of my responsibilities is to pick-up and take missionaries to the airport.  Some come/leave due to health issues.  Some are coming into the mission for the first time and others are leaving to go home.  A week and a half ago, I made 4 trips to the airport in one day.  Two to take missionaries returning home, one to pickup new missionaries coming from the MTC and one to take a missionary from Singapore who started his mission here while he waited for his Visa to go to Australia.  We had to leave at 4am to take the first group and the last one flew out at 8:30pm the same day.  On one of the trips to take a couple sisters to the airport who were returning home to Malaysia (yes, we have a lot of native Malaysians serving in the mission and most serve in some other part of Malaysia other than where they are from), Sister Walker was having a good conversation with them and said a couple things they did not understand.  “He is all that and a bucket of chicken”.  “I can’t sing my way out of a wet paper bag”.  After explaining what they mean, one of the sisters said, “I have to write these down!”, and asked her to repeat them.  They were laughing so hard. Then I was telling them that at one of the areas we had gone to, that they were familiar with, that Sister Walker and I were playing chicken while crossing the road because the traffic was so dangerous.  They laughed again and asked why we made a lot of jokes about chickens.   


Sister Quan and Sister Soon returning to Malaysia

Sister Kershisnik and Sister Tan returning to the US

Sister Erickson with Sister Rungai, one of 4 new missionaries from MTC

Elder Wong going to Australia. His parents met him at the airport

On Monday, we went with a couple families from the ward and the senior couple staying with us, to China Town here in Singapore.  With Chinese New Years coming this weekend, they said Monday would be the best time to go since it would be even more crowded as the week progressed.  We walked around looking at all the shops and restaurants and then had dinner there.  It was crowded but not so bad that you couldn’t get around or find a place to sit to eat. 



After we ate, we went to a place and got dessert.  It was not what we are used to with cake, ice cream etc.  The big thing was “Snow Ice”.  It was not really like a snow cone, a course kind of ice, but was more of a finely shaved ice.  They had different flavors.  One of the bishop’s daughters got Chocolate/vanilla.  One got something I don’t remember the name and that didn’t have a lot of taste and Sister Walker and I played it safe with Strawberry.   Sister Walker tried the fruit that was on the side of the white snow ice and about lost her dinner Smile


We took the MRT (subway) there but decided to take the bus home.  It was only our second time on a double decker bus, which was fun.  However, the bus driver was kind of new and ended up making a wrong turn and it took us an extra 20 minutes to get home (45 minutes total).  The public transportation in Singapore is very clean, safe and very nice and is used A Lot since they restrict the use of cars..


Speaking of cars…there are a lot of very expensive and exotic cars in Singapore.  Just the other day, I saw these two Audis, a Ferrari and a Maserati, just in one day.  That was in addition to all of the BMWs, Lexus and other luxury cars.  Of course there are also a lot of Kia’s ,Hyundai’s and other less expensive cars.  


We had a couple of families in the ward invite us over for traditional Chinese New Year meals this past weekend.   The meal below was from Friday with Brother and Sister Tan and was amazing.  The salad looking dish in the second picture is several kinds of vegetables and noodles that we all used chopsticks to turn them over and mix them up as we said positive things in Chinese…well some said them in Chinese.  The pot in the third picture is Laksa,, a very famous dish in Singapore.  There were many other dishes that I can’t begin to describe or remember what they were.  I have to be honest, some were very good and some were quite different from what we were used to and have not acquired the taste for.



Saturday (yesterday) Bro and Sister Ho invited us and Childs’ over for lunch for Chinese New Year.  We had some traditional noodles, curry chicken and other traditional dishes.  Again, the food was very good and we appreciate them for inviting us and also for educating us on some of the Chinese traditions.  below is the invitation Bro. Ho sent us and a picture of us and the Childs’.


Yesterday afternoon we took the MRT over to Vivo City Mall and then walked over to Sentosa.  Sentosa is an amusement park of sorts and a much smaller Disney Land.  They do have a Universal Studio there, rides, lots of restaurants and other attractions.  It is free to enter and you just pay for the rides etc. if you go on them.  We just went over to walk around and to see what was there. 


These are the Childs’ I have mentioned earlier in the post.  They have been staying in the house for just over 4 weeks.  He came in to Singapore from Malaysia, where they are serving, to have eye surgery.  All of a sudden one day he could hardly see out of his right eye and he could only see a small area in the middle of the eye.  He had it checked out here and found out he had a detached retna and had surgery the next day. Due to the fluid and gas they put in the eye after, he had to keep his head face down for two weeks and cannot fly for 6-8 weeks after the surgery.  They came thinking they would just be here a few days and left most of their clothes etc. in Malaysia.  It has been fun having them here and being able to do things with them.  They are from Farrin, Utah.


20170128_170200An entertainer at Santos

Replica of the Singapore Merlion

A mall like area (yes, another mall!)


The best looking lady at Sentosa

Today we did not have any traditional Chinese food. Sister Walker made some great lasagna, broccoli salad, fruit and French bread…more of an American meal.  We had Ruth, one of the investigators the missionaries are teaching and another young man from the ward over to eat with us.