Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Isabela:First European City in the Americas

"La Isabela: First European City in the Americas"
Elder Darrel L. Hammon

We had the opportunity to visit La Isabela, the place where Christopher Columbus and 1500 of his fellow Spaniards established the first European town in the Americas in 1494. It is located on the north coast, just west and north of Puerto Plata. 

Once we arrived, one of the guides there took us on a tour of the ruins. Unfortunately, one of the Dominican Republic’s former dictators destroyed the original site, leaving just rock footings where archeologists feel the actual foundations were located. 
As we walked around each of the rock formations, our guide told us what they believe were the buildings—the church, the treasury, the storage place, the homes, and other sites. I was impressed with the site although I was saddened when I saw what little remained. What a historical loss! 

We also understand, though, the government is planning to restore La Isabela to its original form. According to our guide, only about 10,000 visitors come to La Isabela. Part of the challenge is getting there. There is no signage except at the entrance of the park, which you see above. Fortunately and thanks to Google Earth, we had the GPS coordinates. With an added focus on tourism, the new government will hopefully restore La Isabela to its original beauty and significance.

The following pictures are just representative of the different foundations we saw.

This is what they call "la Casa del Almirante"--Or the House of the Admiral


La Isabela site has a very nice museum.

 The picture below represents the storehouse where they placed their goods and things from their voyages to keep safe and to disburse when needed. From the size of the spot, it appears to have been a fairly large building.

This view is looking out into the bay.

Another view of the storage building site

This picture represents the old church. A replica of this church was built just down the path to the right, through the woods, and across the road. People actually worship in the one across the street.

This is one of the cadavers the archeologists unearthed. They kept this one on top of the ground to show people how the Spaniards buried their dead, especially those who believed in Christ. At this spot lies one of the Spaniards above ground, arms folded in typical Christian burial style. It was almost surreal looking at him. Other graves, marked by simple crosses, lay scattered in two or three spots where they believe more are buried.

I loved this mural, which was located on the side of the museum. There are several more, but because of the space on this blog, I was not able to post all of them. If you go to my Facebook page, you will be able to see more of the murals.

This is our La Isabela guide. He sincerely believes the government will be restoring this site to its original look, based on historical records. That will be a wonderful day when that happens. La Isabela is an important historical site for all of the world. According to our guide, many dignities will be here in October to celebrate its importance.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jardín Botánico, Santo Domingo, Dominica Republic

"Jardín Botánico de Santo Domingo"
Elder Darrel L. Hammon

"Jardín Botánico de Santo Domingo"
 Over 3.2 million people scurrying everywhere,
clinging to shopping bags, purses, and children;
buses and taxis careening to the next bus stop,
basically anywhere along the road,
creating even more chaos as they swerve to the right;
other drivers zigging and zagging here and there,
horns blaring constantly; vendors selling everything
and anything from phone cards to bananas
to telephone holders to maps; the narrow roads disappearing
into smaller communities within the sprawling city;
the sights and smells and sounds of a large city spewing forth
into almost every crevice of life, almost engulfing us all,
and el Jardín Botánico, an oasis of heaven in the middle
of all this, beckoning to all to come and enjoy
and feel calm, peace, and joy....

What a refreshing day we had today. We went to the Jardín Botánico with Elder and Sister Mahon formerly of Chicago and Utah who are serving as CES missionaries. For a few moments, we lost ourselves in the beautiful of the flora and fauna, the train (tren) ride, the lushness of it all. 

We walked some; we rode the train around the entire Jardín Botánico; we stopped at the Japanese Gardens along the way, strolled through its lush beautiful garden, stood on the red bridge, watched the turtles (las tortugas) lazily swimming, observed a white egert (I think?) sitting on one of the rocks in the pond where the turtles were, gazed at the bonzai and other trees growing stoically in the gardens, and walked along pebbled trails--truly an amazing and inspiring experience.

Here are just a few photos--no words--just photos of our Jardín Botánico journey:
Banzai in the Japanese Garden


Hanging campanilla

Hermana Hammon, the most beautiful flower in the entire Jardín Botánico.

Las Hermanas Hammon y Mahon
Lillies, anyone?

White, simple, pure, gorgeous...

The red bridge

Beauty defined in one single flower....
The lushness of it all....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Baby Blessing and Skype

"Baby Blessing and Skype"
Elder Darrel L. Hammon

I am convinced Heavenly Father helped create Skype through divine inspiration--at least the good parts. While we are serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Welfare Specialists in the Caribbean Area Welfare Office, we have the opportunity to stay in touch with our family and friends. How? Skype, Twitter, Gmail, blogs (like this one), and Facebook (more on all of this on another blog).

This past Sunday, though, we participated in the baby blessing of our new grandson. The Bishop of daughter's ward approved of having the baby blessing at their home, primarily so we could attend. Normally, baby blessings happen in the chapel on the first Sunday of the month. We were quite pleased when the permission was granted so we could attend. We know the Bishop, and we believe he wanted to make sure we were able to participate (Thanks, Bishop!).

So, at 1:00 p.m. Dominican Republic time and 11:00 a.m. Orem, Utah, time, we Skyped in. We were instantly chatting with lots of people--Joanne's mother, her brother and sister-in-law, our other daughter, some of our nieces and nephews, Anna Rose's in-laws, and others. It was wonderful to chat with them before the baby blessing.

When the Bishop arrived, then the blessing began. Christiaan took baby William in his arms, and all those Melchizedek Priesthood holders took their places in the circle, right hands beneath the baby, gently bouncing him (William was asleep), and left hands on right shoulders. Christiaan then pronounced the blessing. While we could not hear all of the words, we knew Christiaan gave a wonderful blessing. Now, William is official!

The part that is not participative is you cannot have lunch with the family after a blessing, which is a tradition in the Church. But Anna Rose let us "see" what was on the menu. They were going to have pulled pork sandwiches with all of the trimmings. Yum! I could almost taste it.

Well, thanks to Skype we participated in the baby's blessing, talked to family and friends, and was a part of a traditional family gathering at a baby blessing. We enjoyed ourselves.