Friday, August 28, 2009

Letter to Dr. Duncan

I just wrote this letter to my mentor Professor, Dr. Duncan. After writing it I thought, "This would make a good update on the research for the blog." So, here it is.

Hey Dr. Duncan,

I'm not sure if you'll be able to reach me today or not (I'll be flying to Curacao for the weekend!) and I don't know if my phone will work there or not. Let me tell you how it has gone this week.

Miraculously we didn't have to cancel any groups this week. We had 3 people at the cohabiting men's group, 3 at the cohabiting women's group, and THIRTEEN professionals last night. (It was a mad house!! In a good way...) Hasette and I have been doing constant has become my full time job! But I think it will work. We've got 3 tough groups to fill for next week--people expecting their first child, and men in their first year of marriage. They're all groups we had to cancel previously. So, pray that the people who we are contacting will come. I went to the midwife doctor's office this week and he called a couple of people for me and then gave me their numbers. And then a couple people who have been in focus groups have been kind enough to refer people.

A couple of questions:

1) what about people who don't want to take the money? Some of them just don't want to take it. That's fine, right? Or are we breaking some sort of ethical research law? Will the IRB come get me in the night?

2) what happens when people attend the wrong focus group? For example, in the single women's group we had a girl come who was engaged. Can I take her comments and move them into the transcription for the appropriate group? It's happened a couple of times.

That's all that comes to mind presently. Hasette is doing better. He's figured out that if we finish the questions on time, he usually has a bit of extra time to talk MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER!!! with his captive audience. With the men's group we ended at 8:40; but don't worry, the remaining 20 minutes we had a live infomercial on Marriage Encounter. :) Hey, I don't mind. As long as it's after the questions are over. That was one funny thing in the focus group last night. A large chunk of them work with Hasette in the family organization he is the PResident of. So, when we asked what resources are available, they all said (in unison), "Pro Famia Feliz!!" And then they kept talking about how great it was. Finally, Brother Buckley asked, "Is this a propaganda?" Hasette smiled and said, "Yes." But then they talked about some other resources. The government has a branch dedicated to family just seems like no one knows about it. Hasette didn't even know about it. How crazy is that?! Don't you think the President of a family organization on the island would know about the government's family department? Anyway, there was a marriage and family therapist (I didn't know those existed in Aruba!!) at the group last night, and she works for Aruba's family/couple department. I have an appointment to meet with her before I leave just to chat about her work.

So, things are going well. I'm feeling very grateful for my experience here. Honestly, I don't really want to leave. Hasette introduced me at the focus group last night and suggested to everyone there that they should pray I find an Arubian husband so I can stay and work for families on the island. Haha!! It'll be exciting to put this all together when I get back, though. I do look forward to that. Well, we'll be in touch. Hope you're doing well. Say hi to Barbara for me.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beck the Dog

When I had been a missionary in Aruba for a few months, Brother Buckley began to say, "How you, Beck?" whenever he saw me. I was pleased that we had reached the level of name-shortening. Yes, it is generally protocol to address missionaries with their title (Elder or Sister) and their full last name, but I was nonetheless proud that somehow I had gained this level of rapport with him. I didn't notice that his greeting was often accompanied by a sly grin.

One day, Brother Buckley asked me if I understood any Dutch. (Aruba makes up part of the Dutch Caribbean, and most people here are fluent in Dutch.) When I told him I didn't, he smiled and said, "That's good, Sis."

Another day, Brother Buckley greeted me as usual: "How you, Beck?" He chuckled, and then told me that the phrase "How you Beck" sounds just like a Dutch phrase that means, "Shut your mouth," or literally, "Shut your beak." (Beck--however it's actually spelled in Dutch--equals 'beak'). We both laughed (despite the fact I had just learned that what I thought to be a term of endearment was actually more like something you say to your obnoxious parrot). It became a running joke. Whenever he how-you-becked me, I usually responded by how-you-becking him back. When I went home, this favorite phrase became the subject line for our occasional emails.

Two weeks ago, I was there at Church when the Cardenas family asked Brother Buckley if he wanted one of their little Husky puppies. He accepted, and when they asked what he thought he would name it he smiled and said, "Beck."

I grew attached to little Beck over the next couple of weeks. She was a cute little puppy who always seemed so excited to see me when I came home to the apartment or got up in the morning.

Last week, Beck suddenly became ill. She didn't move around like before, in fact, she didn't move much at all. And she stopped eating her food. It was decided, unbeknown to me, that she had swallowed a chicken bone which was lodged between her ribs. She was taken to the vet and put to sleep, also unbeknown to me. Brother Buckley, who had put Beck "on the other side of the house" finally stopped lying to me last night when I asked him how Beck was doing. Little Beck, we will miss you.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man...REVAMPED

Check out this song. It's got bits of our Church's Primary song, The Wise Man and the Foolish Man, so listen for that. This lady's name is June Bayley, and I was at her house with the sister missionaries the other day when she busted out this song. Pretty cool, eh?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chinese Food

Last night we went to a really nice, authentic (as if I would know) Chinese restaurant. We brought Sherman's dad, Mr. Lee, who was born in Hong Kong. He ordered all the food for us, and our table had one of those cool spinny wheel thingies in the middle so you just put the food there and everyone takes what they want. We had roast duck, this humongous fish (which was still very much intact...eyeballs and everything), calimari, sweet and sour ribs, soup, and rice. was delicious.

I sat next to Gerda, a delightful woman originally from Suriname. She's a nurse here on the island. Kind of quiet, but when you get her to talk or laugh you find out she's a real gem. Anyway, we sat together and made up the more quiet side of the table. After our several-course meal and a couple of hours of good conversation and freezing air-co blowing like crazy, I was about tuckered out. As a final course, the server brought out a plate of orange wedges. You know, like the kind you get at halftime when you're playing soccer.

Just as the oranges came out, the conversation took a new turn: politics. The men at the table, Brother Buckley, Mr. Lee, and senior missionary Elder Pietz really took off. They talked about wars and rumors of wars, the economy, health care, you name it. Sister Pietz, Gerda, and myself looked at each other and settled in for what we knew could be a long time...minutes, hours, days? We just knew it would be long.

So we started eating the oranges. The great thing was, the men didn't even seem to notice (or care) that the oranges were there. We women each took an orange wedge, and whirled the Lazy Susan around so each of the men could have taken an orange if they'd wanted to. Then when the still-nearly-full plate reached us again, we each took another. We thought we were pretty funny. Pretty soon we had whirled the Lazy Susan around enough times that there was only one orange slice left on the plate. Gerda said, laughing, "We'll save that one for them."

The conversation lagged on. Soon all I could think of was my need to sleep. Either at home or in public, somehow I just had to sleep. I put my head down on the table and actually managed to break the sound of politic talk just long enough for Brother Buckley to ask me if I was sick. "No," I replied, "just tired."

"Oh," he said, clearly quite relieved. And the conversation continued. I felt bad that putting my head on the table had drawn this kind of unwarranted worry, so I sat up again.

Finally, after listening to more of the never-ending debate--statistics and extreme right-wing opinions from Elder Pietz, devil's advocate-type questions from Brother Buckley, and Chinese proverb-sounding wisdom from Mr. Lee, Gerda looked and me with mischievous eyes and said, "Let's do it again. Heads on the table." So we did, laughing at our own cleverness. Brother Buckley was immediately awakened to our call for respite, and he stood up, the others unconsciously following his cue. And just like that, we were back out into the pleasantly warm island air, where we snapped these photos. Also included are photos of the feast.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tribute to William G. Buckley

Doesn't it seem like wherever you are, someone is there to see to it that you're alright, that you're taken care of? I'm pretty sure God puts people like that in our lives.

Bill Buckley has been one of those people for me since I've been here. Not only does he call me periodically to make sure I'm safe, have food to eat, can get where I need to go, etc., he has provided a much-needed listening ear when I've needed it.

He has a way of making me laugh and feel better when I'm stressed out. One day when I was at breaking point because of someone I was having difficulty working with, he said to me, "Just remember. I used to ride to school on one of those small school buses. There was always a seat missing. I bet it belonged to X, who always probably missed the bus." Which made me laugh. And then he reminded me that while this other person didn't understand as well as I did what I wanted to see accomplished in the work I am doing, I might try pitying this person rather than myself, or rather than being angry with the person.

Another thing he likes to tell me is, "There are two things you need to remember. Number one: Stuff happens. And number two: Things takes time." (Yes, things TAKES time...that was not a typo). Anyway, his advice usually makes me laugh, but then I get to thinking about what it really means, and what I might learn from it.

When Bill Buckley walks into a room or joins a group of people, he often calls out, "Isn't life WONDERFUL?" as a sort of greeting. He has a way of lifting people up wherever he goes. He serves as Branch President of the San Nicolas branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is constantly serving members of the branch and members of the community who need his help. He is an example to me of Christlike service and the importance of maintaining perspective when things get tough.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Proposal, and Windsurfing Lessons

The other day, a black, English-speaking man (originally from St. Maarten) suggested we get married. I was getting my bike tire fixed at this po-dunk house with a tire in front of it that said, "Chubby's tire service." All three of them working there were skin and bones, but I found out Chubby was a dead uncle of the current owner. Anyway, they said, "We thought you was the Mormons!" I guess because I'm white, and ride a bike? Anyway, I said, "Oh. Well, actually I am. I used to be a missionary, but now I'm just here visiting." Then they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them a little about the study. I said it was about marriage, and the one, whose name I found out later, is Michael, said, "Ah you mahhried?" (think Cool Runnings accent). I said, "No." He said, "Is you lookin'?" I said, "Um...yeah." He said, "Me too. Let's stop lookin'." I laughed...and invited him to the focus group for never-married men. And he came!! Hooray for research!

I also made friends with the Jamaican neighbor, who happens to teach windsurfing, which is where you have a giant sail connected to your surf board. And he said he would teach me...for FREE!! So we went to town yesterday, to one of the nice beaches at the hotels, and he taught me (kind of)...except mostly his English is hard for me to understand and I can't figure out what he's talking about. The "lesson" went something like this:

Bob: Okay...get up there.
Me, trying to climb up the board and falling off: this?
Bob: Yeah...just get yo' butt up deh.
Me: OKay I'm up
Bob: Okay now you pull deh sail up...ready, ONE, TWO, THREE (which I wasn't sure if he meant 3 pulls to get it up, or if he was counting to three and then I was supposed to pull it up in one giant heave)
Bob: Okay...find deh wind. Where's deh wind? The wind's ovah deh. You see deh wind?
Me: What do you mean? How are you supposed to see the wind?
Bob: You does see which way deh wind is blowin'. You does see it?
Me: Uh...yeah.
Bob: Okay. Now when you does see the wind you does always go with deh wind. You understand?
Me: Uh...yeah.
Bob: OKay. You does just go like this...

And then he took off. I got going for a little while, but then I turned around and realized I was way out at sea. And then I couldn't get back on because I couldn't figure out which way the wind wanted to blow me. And everytime I got back on I just fell off again. Over, and over, and over. And then the rescue boat with these two Arubian guys came out to pick me up, and I was embarrassed, so I told them I was fine. But then they came back like 15 minutes later, and they were like, "C'mon, get in." So I did. And they took me back to shore. And they were talking to each other a lot in Papiamento, and I could understand them of course...and the rough translation of what they were saying was, "Holy cow, she was way the heck out there."

We became friends though, the rescue boat drivers and I. After a while they asked me if I understood Papiamento and when I answered them back in Papiamento, their eyes got really big and they looked as if I had just told them I was the president of the United States. And then they asked if I wanted to go fishing with them. So I stayed on the boat, and we sailed out to sea, and they fished, and we talked. And then when we came back to shore, they asked if I wanted to kayak. So we did. It was so fun, speaking (and mostly listening to) Papiamento, and just being in the sun, on the ocean, with people who had so kindly rescued me from the hazards of windsurfing...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Research in Aruba

Some people have asked me what it is exactly that I'm researching here in Aruba. goes. We're trying to learn how to improve and/or create marrige education that would be specifically targeted to Arubans' needs. We are conducting focus group research, which means we gather together a smallish group of people, say, women married 7 years or more, or men in their first year of marriage. There are 11 different groups in all. They come, and 14 questions are asked, and everyone is given the chance to respond. They are questions like, "What concerns do you have about marriage?", and "What resources would you use to strengthen your marriage if they were available?" and "What would be the most convenient way for you to access these resources?" etc. Eventually we'll be able to pass the information on to people who care, so they can use it to improve what they've got going on here. Or...they might need me to come back and help them start a new program! Haha...that's more like wishful thinking. But actually, there is a possibility I could come back as a graduate student, either helping them to implement, or doing further research. That seems pretty far-fetched, but it is a possibility. Meanwhile, I'm loving it here and good things are happening.

Bon Dia

Bon Dia!

Here I am, at one of the old internet cafes I used to frequent some P-days as a missionary. I'm attaching some pictures of my time so far in Aruba. The picture of the bike is from the first couple of days I got here, when I first rode to the beach. That was a happy accomplishment. And the sweaty me is after riding my bike to said beach. You'll also see a picture of the Duncans and I, (we're the white ones), and President Buckley and Brother Daniel Henriette, waiting for the water show to start on the ritzy side of the island (which is not OUR side of the island). And, there's a picture of myself with Allesandro, someone I taught as a missionary. He left for Holland to study less than a week after I arrived, but it was wonderful to see him and his family. Life is good!

There's a Crab in My Flipper


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