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.