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.