Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Journal May 8, 2012

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal May 8, 2012

Our appeals of how busy we have been won’t merit much when all our journal entries seem to be about the places we have gone, but nonetheless, whether it be racing to class or finding something new to investigate in the city, we do stay busy.

We’ve begun teaching English to a couple students. One is learning to read better and the other is an university graduate from Brazil needing help with grammar and vocabulary. The grammar she has picked up in street conversations isn’t working very well when she fills out applications for school and employment. We are using the Church’s literacy program which begins at the beginning, forming letters and recognizing simple words. The idea is to help people reach the reading level where they can comfortably read and understand the scriptures. We’ve discovered that the most important component is simply practice. One interesting thing as we listen as people from the inner city read is that they do not sound out words and rely on recognition. If the word is a little longer than they are comfortable reading they will substitute almost arbitrarily any word that begins with the same letter.

Many of our students are moving soon as semesters, internships, and other programs come to a close. Many of the Philadelphia wards are heavily populated with students. One ward is losing seven families this summer. Both the CES missionaries and their students will scatter to new locations. The medical and dental students have been on pins and needles the last few months as they go through a selection process that pairs them with practices or additional specialization. We will have four more classes and spend the last week tying up loose ends, making the last apartment & car inspections, meeting our replacements, and packing up.

We helped the ward clean up a three story row home of a man who lost his leg due to an infection that was aggravated by diabetes. Last fall he stepped on a broken glass one morning, went to the hospital for stitches, and within a day or two after returning home a serious infection set in so the doctors removed his leg at the knee. His house and the dirt it contained has a much longer history than that. The man told me that it was built in the 1860’s and as we looked around it appeared like all the walls with raised relief plaster, fancy moldings, and grit were original from that period. I’m not sure how long the dead cat had lain in the corner cupboard where Nancy discovered him but when she had me scoop him up, the bones were white among bits of gray fur. The roof had been leaking for a long time. There was no lighting except flashlights and one table lamp on a long cord. The few windows were dark with grime. It was like being in a scary movie. One of the Elders helping went up to the third floor to investigate what needed to be done and couldn’t muster the courage to enter the room because of the cobwebs. We walked away after that project shaking our heads, thinking we may have cleared away a lot of debris but the house still isn’t livable.

On one of our off days we went downtown to the Philadelphia Historical Society, a great library of old documents and old artifacts. A friend, the husband of the secretary to the Seminary & Institutes office, invited us to come and check out their genealogical information. There was information of Blattmans living in Philadelphia in the mid 1800’s, but we couldn’t find any link to our ancestors in Missouri. If we can we’ll go back and narrow our search with some specific questions. Most of their collection is not digitized and must be searched by hand. They have a large collection of newspapers and personal writings.

After the historical society we caught the last tour of the Philadelphia Masonic Temple – you know, the one supposedly featured in the movie ‘National Treasure’. What an amazing place. Each room was elaborately decorated in Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine, Teutonic, etc. themes. I don’t know what cavernous secrets are found in its basements but the upstairs tour made our mouths dry from hanging open all the time. Our tour guide keyed on our missionary badges and volunteered additional information for us including the 1842 Book of Mormon in their library. At the end of our tour he took us to the librarian who brought out this 2nd edition and just handed it to us to look over – no white gloves needed. We thought it interesting that the introduction at the beginning of the Book of Mormon which now says “Translated by Joseph Smith, Jun.” had the same inscription but underneath as if a signature, was written, “Moroni”. While we were in the Masonic curio store a Hispanic man with a heavy accent saw my name tag and asked if the Mormons thought Masons were evil. I told him no, as far as I knew they are good people and many Mormons are also Masons. Below is a stained glass window from a stair well in the temple. Much of the walls in rooms and hallways are covered with portraits of Masonic officers from the last 150 years. The various meeting rooms are covered with murals. There are many art schools in the Philadelphia area and much craftsmanship went into decorating this building.


The Broad Street Run This last Sunday 40,000 runners sped past the Independence Ward chapel. 40,000 is too large of a number to conceive, and it is only a small ratio of the population of the Philadelphia area. There are more people in the Delaware Valley than in several Western states. Last year we traveled to church on the opposite side of the street and had to wait a long time before we could work our way through the flowing crowd. This year we came another route and to take the photo I slipped through the runners and stood behind a pole to take the photo below.

Here a couple of our students are “slack-lining”, walking a taut line between two poles. I’m not sure if this is a regional sport or a new fad. These students are pretty good but the Niagra Falls event may be a ways off

For one of our classes, we meet each week in different member’s apartments. Here is the group of young mothers who have faithfully supported us on or mission. They have been very kind.

This stone Indian chief statue stands on the rim of the canyon above Forbidden Drive where Nancy and I went for a walk a couple weeks ago. The inscription on the back indicates it was placed there in 1900.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jake's news

Jake has learned to ride his bike with no training wheels!
If you were here he would tell you himself as he annouces it to everyone! I will try to get a picture of him on the bike to post.

OH, and he would like all of you to count down that he is starts kindergarten on Aug. 6th. If you were here he would tell you himself as he announces this to everyone also. ("everyone" includes target clerks, the animal control person who came to capture the bats outside our door, neighbors, neighbors' dogs, teachers, cars driving by, etc and now you.)

I think he like this new development because it has granted him some new freedom he hasn't had before and signifies to him that he is officially a BIG BOY!

I realized that this new development means that 1. I am old 2. My little boy is a BIG BOY and 3. I am old.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

March 23, 2012

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
March 24, 2012 - Catching up

Last week we started a new class at the Pennypack Ward chapel. Pennypack is a northern area of Philadelphia that has the advantage of being accessible by bus from the inner city. ‘Pennypack’ is an Anglicized Indian word for the slow moving creek in that area. We hope that will be helpful to students who want to attend but don’t have cars. The class we were teaching that night was assumed by someone called by the stake to free us up to start this new class.
We have had news that another missionary couple will be arriving in mid-May to take over. We are pleased to know that the institute classes will continue. We don’t know for sure if the stake will support the summer seminary program again or not. The word is that the couple who are coming are very dynamic and even somewhat famous. Nancy jokes that it will take some pretty big feet to fill our shoes. –more on that perhaps later.
Meanwhile here are some of the happenings:
Chudi, Felix, Dionco, and James singing karoke at the Susquehanna Singles Branch dinner:

The Senior Missionaries in the mission gather for dinner and Family Home Evening once a month at the mission home. We are at the top of the stairs followed by the Rodgers, Houses, Dones, Johnsons, Ross’s, Baileys, Ashby’s and President & Sister Schaefermeyer. The second photo is from the senior’s outing to Constitution Hall downtown.

We go along with the Elders when they need backup when they have appointments with single women. Here is one of the narrow streets in North Philly where we decided our car was too wide to make it. You can see that these neighborhoods can be pretty bleak

March 23, 2012 Continued some more

It looks like it is all fun and games from the photos. Here we are at the Philadelphia Flower Show, looking at the displays and watching the dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Philly Flower Show is like a county fair and gardening extravaganza. This year’s theme was Hawaii. Milton Kaka, the boy from the family we knew in Australia is in the lower right of the photo with the dancers.

While out inspecting missionary apartments last week we came upon some particularly beautiful flowering Magnolia trees in an old Italian cemetary so we decided to stop and take a photo. Cemeterys abound in this old city and sometimes doubles as a sort of reverent park area.

There is an old Quaker Meeting house from the early 1800’s along a path we often walk for exercise in the mornings. The old homes and some of the very old meeting places were very small and it looks like the benches would have gotten hard for sitting after long gatherings

March 23, 2012 continued

Spring sprang quickly in Philadelphia. Unusually warm weather coaxed the trees to blossom a week or two earlier than expected. Lawns have become carpets of buttercups, daffodils, crocuses, and several kinds of blue flowers. The yellow forsythia is brightly blooming, cherry trees are blossoming, and the magnolias are magnificent. A couple of the following photos are of our ‘street’ with the trees so close we can almost reach out an take “a handful and make a treat, a popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.”

Here is a house a few blocks from our apartment that Nancy likes.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 9, 2012

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
March 9, 2012

We’ve been contemplating on what we consider God’s tender mercies. The Lord looks after his servants, even in our foibles, feeblness, and follies. We continue to experience a series of perhaps not miraculous, but certainly remarkable events that leave us grateful for providence. For this journal entry we have listed some of the many little things that have blessed our lives.
Last week Nancy slipped on a stone and painfully twisted her foot. That was not something she was particularly grateful for, but after struggling back to the car and going to the doctor and hospital for an X-ray, no bones were broken. We were glad of that, of course. However, the next day she tired of looking like she was practicing to be the Easter Bunny by hopping around the apartment and wanted some crutches. That morning as Jim went out for his morning exercise he rounded the corner and ‘discovered’ a new pair of crutches left on the curb in a recyling bin. (It is common practice in Philadelphia for people to put out on the curb items to give away; kind of like a free yard sale)
There have been numerous times we feel like our lives have been miraculously saved on the highways, a feeling strongly reinforced when we see the mechanical carnage strewn along roadsides. Nancy has learned not to say things like, “Look, a policeman with an assult rifle!” while I’m driving on the freeway. I recovered from that bit of inattention just in time to avoid a rearend collision. I count anything that saves our lives as miraculous. –that and the 12 sessions of court required defensive driving sessions I was required to attend while in high school. Just yesterday another driver ran a red light but missed us in the crosswalk. Crosswalks in Philly might be better named crosshairs. Older Philly residents act like a nervous cat getting ready for a cold swim as they tentatively enter crosswalks with the walk signal. We pray daily for safety as we travel and similarly thank God each evening.
And thinking about health, aside from falling in holes aside, we have been in remarkable health. Last year about this time Jim had a bad toothache. Miraculously, there was a dentist across the street who confirmed it hurt when he tapped on the bad tooth with handle of his metal probe. This dentist specialized in root canals, took no insurance (we don’t have any dental anyway), and insisted on $1500 upfront. Even more miraculously than finding the dentist at this point was how quickly the pain became bearable. Then a few weeks ago I broke off a big chunk from a nearby molar and the pain really did completely disappear. I was completely saved from drilling an expensive dry hole into tooth that was just out of alignment.
Our most amazing blessings have come from the many people we have met with whom we have some sort of connection. There are several young men who have served missions in Nevada, one that even served in Winnemucca. One young man, Seth, worked for Elden Crawford and came to church a few times that summer. The counselor in the Philadelphia Stake Presidency to whom we report our callings as stake young single adult leader is the cousin to one of Jim’s best friends when he was in high school. The father of one of the Elders who lived next door to us in ‘the great and spacious building’, as we less than fondly remember our former apartment building, served in Horsham, Australia, just after we left in 1975. We see Will and Jessica’s former neighbors from Provo almost weekly. But our most recent reaquaintance came this last Sunday when a group of singers and dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center came into the inner city and sat down in the pew in front of us. Nancy asked one of the young people if they knew anyone named Kaka, the name of a Maori family we knew 40 years ago in Australia. She said, that brother on the end is a Kaka. It turned out to be Milton Kaka, who was 8 years old when we knew him. Here he is after a performance at the Philadelphia Flower Show with Elder Blattman.

And here is Milton, sitting on the front of the tractor in Warracknabeal many years ago. You can probably guess which are our children, Matthew and Joseph.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 4, 2012

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
February 4, 2012

We fell into a time warp for the month of January and failed to report in. In short, for the last month we got back into the routine of missionary work. We inspected missionary apartments. Classes started up. We studied and prepared lessons. We pushed our way in traffic driving from building to building to teach and get back. We went out with the Elders several times to visit single women. Over all we got a little smarter and we tried to be a little nicer.
And we searched around and found a new apartment.
We moved from here: (We will not miss those stinky and noisy halls.)

To here:

The center of downtown Jenkintown really does look like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. Instead of Olivander’s Wand Shop or Borgan’s and Burkes there is a Christian Science Reading Room, a hair salon, and several closed up art shops. We occupy a comfortable studio apartment above a lawyer’s office. The landlord was willing to give us a 5 month lease. Otherwise we would have had to pay for a month after we have gone.
Here’s the whole place but for the closet which is on the other side of the bed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

December 31, 2011

Elder and Sister Blattman’s Missionary Weekly Journal
December 31, 2011

As the Christmas season approached we stayed pretty busy with ward and class activities. Nancy did a lot of cooking and baking in her tiny oven during the month of December. She made some great treats and the cranberry salsa was a hit everywhere we went. Christmas is a great season for doing kind things for others and many people were especially nice to us as well. We are grateful for the many cards, letters, hugs, and rembrances we received. These really helped us overcome our home sickness. Some of our students are far from home and they hung out later after classes to talk as well. It made us feel good that they wanted to share that time with us.
On the first Sunday in December our Singles Branch was responsible for the main course of the YSA dinner before the Ist Presidency Broadcast. As the YSA advisors we didn’t have a lot to do but help and fret that all would work out. Three young men had car problems so they came to our apartment with us, had snacks, and then rode along with us to and from the dinner & broadcast .
On the third Sunday evening we took a young woman from our building to a sing along performance of Messiah at the stake center. Several members of our classes were either playing in the orchestra or singing in the choir. The chapel was tightly packed with music lovers, the music was beautiful, refreshment were sweet, and the feelings tender that evening.
Here’s some photos of our Christmas zone meeting. We had a class that morning so we got there just in time for the luncheon and talent show.

How quickly a year passes! We were as Matt and Kathy were here that just one year ago they were helping us shampoo carpets and getting the house ready to rent out before we left for the MTC. Matt, Kathy, Daniel and Kylie arrived on the 22nd, Matt’s birthday. We celebrated with a little cake in their hotel room. While they were here we saw a lot of the great city of Philadelphia’s historical landmarks. Here we are at Valley Forge National Park.

Here we are at the Camden, New Jersey, Aquarium. Nancy said, “Jim, stand under that tree and catch some poop!”

Here we are at Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware for the Christmas Day reinactment. The boat is just over Kylie’s head.

Here we are at Constitutional Hall and the Liberty Bell.

Nancy and Ben are very best friends at the Franklin Institute. Daniel is riding the high wire.

Matt and Kathy are watching the fountains at Longwood Gardens. Kylie is putting the scarlet topiary to shame.

Everyone looks happy for the photos!