Friday, July 29, 2011

Missionary Training Center (MTC)

"Here We Are in the Missionary Training Center (MTC)"
Darrel L. Hammon

Monday, July 25, 2011—We are here!
Here means the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. We had been staying at Anna Rose’s. Before we entered the MTC, we had some errands to complete: bank and a longer slip for Joanne. Once completed, we drove over to Joe and Hailey’s home to pick up Joe. Since we have so much luggage—two per each of us, plus a couple of carry on things—we needed two cars. Anna Rose had two suitcases in her car; we had two plus all of the other things. We picked up Joe and headed to the MTC.      

We pulled into the MTC parking lot. These days, there is a guard at the gate who allows you to enter. Since our names were on the list, we got to enter. We told her about Anna Rose who was just coming down University. She told us she would let her enter. We stopped in front of the Admin Building where several volunteers gave us directions as to where we needed to go. We turned around and headed around the loop. We waited for Anna Rose to arrive. She came within a couple of minutes. We drove around the loop and didn’t find where we were supposed to go. As we entered a huge parking lot, we saw two missionaries running after us. We had passed our spot where they had been waiting to help us unload our things. We turned around and drove to where they directed us. These young men hefted our luggage and toted it to our room, which is on the second floor. Nice young men!
We said good bye to Anna Rose, shed a few tears, and away she went. We walked into the main area and checked in. We received our packets, talked to various people about the things that were going to happen, and visited with the immunization people. Lo and behold, Joanne needs another shot—a third Hepatitis A. They will be charging her about $71 for the shot. Wow! Just think….we could have received one in Cheyenne at the Wellness Clinic for a ton less. Our final stop was getting our picture taken, which was then placed on a card. The card would be our identification and our get-in-the-door card for our meals. Once we were done, we headed to lunch!
 Wow! Wow! Wow! A ton of missionaries milled around in the cafeteria. Four or five areas were available to obtain more food than one could eat. Just as you walk in, a huge menu was on the wall and detailed all of the stations. We walked in, swiped our cards, and went to one of the stations. The food was definitely plentiful—all you can, all you can drink, and lots of it. I figured we wouldn’t be starving any day soon. In fact, we probably will gain a bit of weight. We both have lost weight, and we don’t want to gain any other.
 After lunch, we went in to the main room in the Admin Building where we were welcomed by the MTC presidency. It was a wonderful time. They had all of the missionaries stand and tell who they were and where they were going. It was incredible! People are going to Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Russia, Germany, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, Dominican Republic, Central America, Mexico, South Africa, and many, many other places in the world, including the U.S Yes, the stone cut out of the mountain without hands is definitely rolling forth. 

We were then broken up into districts. Brother Blue is our new district leader.  This is the group we will be studying with for the rest of the time. Once this was finished, we went to a short tutoring information session about our Spanish classes. Both Joanne and I received our schedules for the next two weeks. Joanne is in the beginning class; I will be in the intermediate class.
 By this time, dinner was up again. We ate our fill and headed back to the dorm where we will be staying until August 5, 2011. We opened our door and carried our things into the room. I rushed down to one of the rooms where the irons and ironing boards were and carried them back to the room. We unloaded our things and began ironing. Our room didn’t smell that good. In fact, it smelled like a bunch of football players didn’t wear shoes after several long practices. Terrible! We’ll have to purchase some room freshener.
 Day 1 is over. And more to come!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

" Our Lives in a 10' x 20' Storage Unit"

"Our Lives in a 10' x 20' Storage Unit" 
Darrel L.Hammon

Well, here we are in Orem, Utah, waiting for our time to enter the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, near the Provo Temple on Monday, July 25, 2011. We are excited, yet anxious, about serving a welfare mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will be staying at the MTC for two week, and then we will be traveling to the Dominican Republic, where we will live for the next 18 months.

On Tuesday evening, we had some wonderful people come to our home in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to help us load the Penske truck, a 26 footer. I had originally signed up for a 16 footer. Once I arrived and checked it out, I quickly surmised that I would never get everything we had in that size of a truck, no matter how I packed it. Fortunately, the Penske people had a 26' truck on the lot. Thank you, Penske!

So we packed what was left after two garage sales and several large sales on Craigslist. I was amazed how fast things go on Craigslist. A four-thumbs up to Craigslist. We probably could have sold our washer and dryer about ten times. When that happens, you have to wonder whether you asked enough money for the pair. Oh well! The pair is sold.

Once we packed the truck, I thought to myself: "I am sure glad that we rented a 26' truck." The concern that arose, however, was whether we were able to stuff all of it into the 10' x 20' storage unit. Our daughters had several people at the storage unit in Provo to help us unload. We did a nice job of strategically placing our entire lives into the 10' x 20'.  Of course, we kept out our four suit cases full of missionary gear.

As I shut the door and placed the lock, I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything we own is now housed in a 10' x 20' storage unit in Provo, Utah. Never in my life did I think we could stuff everything in such a space. But we did. I heard one of my daughters comment: "If you haven't used it for a year, you need to get rid of it." I think that is a good plan. I think many of us have become quasi-hoarders in our own right. Take a look around your home and in your basement. You probably have stuff there you haven't even touched for decades.

After driving the 26' Penske diesel truck, I have a new appreciation for long-and short-haul truck drivers. Now, I have driven lots of potato trucks when I was younger, trudging slowly down the row in concert with the potato digger and then lumbering through the field, down the rutted dirt roads to the cellar. But driving a big 26' diesel down I-80, up and down the hills, fighting to keep some semblance of speed, is a task, an arduous task that I do not not want to have to repeat--if ever.

I doff my cap to America's truck drivers who trundle down our freeways and highways. Thank you for your work, your extreme patience, your courage, and your willingness to drive those big rigs so far to deliver all of the things we need to keep America going.

So, we'll be off to the Dominican Republic soon! Stay tuned for comments and pictures about our mission and about the Dominican Republic, fondly called the "DR." I will try to keep you posted with all of the nuances of what a welfare mission is about.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"More Jackson Hole Photos: A Continuation of the Journey"

"More Jackson Hole Photos: A Continuation of the Journey"
Darrel L. Hammon

I have a bunch more pictures that I have put on my Facebook pages if you want to go see them, but I want to include these four for all of the artistic photographers out there. Remember that I went on a photo journey through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last week. My brother Dennis, the famous photographer of the famed Dennis Hammon Photography, took me to some of his most favorite places. I placed several on my previous blog, but here are a few more:

This one is from the old Moulton homestead. I liked the colors and the corners. It's even better in real life. It would be nice if someone would do some preservation on these old buildings. Within a few years, they will be all gone, and the icons (one of Dennis' most favorite words when talking about old buildings and things) they are will be lost to future generations.

Don't you just love windows and spaces just as these? For some reason, I like to take pictures of windows and doors--old windows and doors. Here is one that I really liked.

The lone fence line in the middle of a pasture was intriguing. I suspect there were a lot of fence lines back in the day, but this is the one that remains. Perhaps this was part of an old corral. I didn't walk out to see if the others sides were lying in the tall grasses. Can you image going out to feed the cows every morning and night and witnessing this phenomenal view ? It probably would have been great in the summer and fall and maybe a few days in the spring but no so great in the winter as Jackson Hole has some incredibly cold and long winter days. Brrrrrrrr.....

And, finally this is a picture of Dennis' favorite place in Jackson Hole. It's down the "no-tell-'em-dirt road" just down the road from the Snake River Overlook, also an incredible place to take pictures. What's unique about this photo is the crispness of the Tetons in sharp contrast to the old buck fence,  the yellow brown-eyed Susans, and the old, tired dirt road leading--or so it seems--to the Tetons.

Just an incredible place--Jackson Hole, Wyoming. My only suggestion is this: Go and experience a majestic and awe-inspiring place where you can see and feel the hand of a loving Heavenly Father who specifically asked that this place be created.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

“Jackson Hole Photo Shoot”

“Jackson Hole Photo Shoot”
Darrel L. Hammon

Take perfect weather, incredible scenery that surrounds the majestic Tetons, one-on-one tutoring from a renowned photographer, great company, and you have a phenomenal day. Thursday, July 7, 2011 was one of those days. My brother, my wife, and I trundled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to participate in a great photo shoot.

Of course, to take the kind of pictures a professional like my brother Dennis is, you have leave at “o’dark thirty” in order to catch the best light. So, we did, crawling out of bed at 3:35 a.m. and leaving the house to pick up Dennis on Highway 26 around 4:10 a.m. Now, some may say that is way too early. Well, I can tell you that by the time we arrived, we were, according to Dennis, about 15 minutes too late for the best light. But we definitely were not deterred by this 15-minute delay. There were pictures to be taken.

Before I embark on this photo shoot, I have to stop here and say this: Dennis is a professional photographer; I like to take pictures. There is a huge difference, perhaps even a mega-difference. Dennis knows everything about lighting, composition, exposure, texture, lenses, cameras, etc., etc., etc. I basically look at a scene, determine whether it appeals to me, and begin clicking shots. Now, on the other hand, Dennis takes pictures of everything—the whole barn, bits and pieces of the barn, the barn wood, the eaves, the windows, the frame on the windows, the flaky paint, the rusty nails that jut out of the barn and windows, the mosquitoes hovering around the windows, the flowers or weeds growing in and around the barn, and numerous other shots. He’s got the eye for “the shot”; I just have two eyes that see a particular scene. So, I learned a great many lessons watching him. It’s like the driver on the movie Sabrina. He became a millionaire like his boss who he toted around in the big car. When his boss bought stock, he bought only in smaller quantities; when his boss sold, he sold. I watched Dennis take a particular shot, and I would take the same shot.  Of course, his camera and lenses are much better than mine, but I still took advantage of what he shot. Thus, I captured a few good shots. Really!
Our first photo session was the famous John Moulton barn, probably the most photographed barn in the entire world. It just happens to be situated in a gorgeous green pasture, surrounded by lush green grasses, with the majestic Tetons clamoring in the background. By the time we arrived, there were already several photographers there. Dennis and I climbed out of the Avalon, anxiously grabbed our cameras, affixed them to the tripods, hefted our camera accessory packs to our shoulders, maneuvered our way to the barn, and took our places in and around the barn where we set up shop. Each time we took a shot, the clouds changed, thus covering the sun for a brief second, which in turn created a new lighting image for the photographers.

Soon, we moved on to the other Moulton homestead buildings, shooting shots from a far and then moving closer in. To some people, the buildings may be old and decrepit. To photographers, they are a dream, full of texture, light, and other important photography things. The oldness only adds to the potential details. Plus, with the drifting clouds that day, the light changed after every photo. I enjoyed shooting the various windows, the old door and its framing, the shadows on the old house, the little vermin that scurried from one hole to the next, and those stunning Tetons that forever majestically loom in the distance. Even I could take a pretty good picture. After a zillion shots, we were ready to move on.

Next stop: Schwabaucher’s Landing. What an incredible spot off the road, about 16 miles out of Jackson Hole. When we arrived, two vans were already there plus a few other cars. We quickly grabbed our cameras and headed out. The two vans were full of photographers on a “picture taking expedition.” We arrived at the choice spots, set up, and took our pictures. They came upon us like locust on a wheat field, their cameras hanging from every limb. I was amazed at the number of cameras each had and the quality of their cameras and lenses. I whispered this to Dennis. His reply was classic: “They may have excellent cameras and stuff, but that doesn’t mean they know how to use them.” One guy grabbed his camera by the bottom of the tripod, hung it upside down over the pond, and took a series of pictures. Perhaps his technique was one of the “professional” techniques found in some photography book, but I just hoped he didn’t drop it in the water. Dennis just shook his head, rolled his eyes, and gave me that “well-I-told-you-about-these-types.”

Our final stop was a “Dennis Hammon” secret place, just down the road a few miles, then off road down a dirt road that ran along an old buck fence. We stopped and climbed out of the car. Wow! was the one word that slipped out of my mouth. No one was here, except a huge swarm of monster mosquitoes who felt we were invading their territory. Aside from Mt. Moran being shrouded with clouds, the view was more than spectacular! It was phenomenal. I took several shots, knowing that I could stitch them together, using Photoshop’s photomerge. In fact, I could wait to get home to do it. Also, there were several yellow browned-eyed Susans, scattered everywhere and gloriously tucked in and around the buck fence.

Too soon, the clock hands cried out that it was time to go; so, we headed back. Since we hadn’t eaten since 3:25 a.m. hunger pangs overtook us. Besides the mosquitoes had taken several 100 cc’s of blood from Dennis. We trundled into Jackson Hole and decided to eat at the famous Bubba’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant. My “Sloppy Bubba Combination of sliced beef and pork simmered in our sauce between two hunks of garlic toast” and a scoop of coleslaw were mouth-watering and divinely delicious.

Our trip home was nostalgic, traveling past West Piney camp where Joanne and I spent time at Young Women’s camp; through Swan Valley, one of my most favorite places in the world; and along the Snake River, now almost overflowing its banks. We dropped Dennis off and thanked him profusely.

Just think of it: spending a day with and being tutored by a renowned photographer, capturing great hints about photography, learning something about your camera you didn’t know before, and capturing phenomenal scenes with the Tetons in almost every shot. What could have been better? 

Note: More Jackson Hole photos are on my Facebook page.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tenacity and Persistence: How Two-Year-Olds Teach Us

"Tenacity and Persistence: How Two-Year-Olds Teach Us”
Darrel L. Hammon

We have been in Provo for the past week, taking care of our little granddaughter while her mother was at Young Women’s camp. Her father had to work; so, we were able to be with her during the day. I learned a valuable lesson from her this week. The lesson was tenacity and persistence.

You have to realize she isn’t quite two yet, not until this coming Saturday. But the little woman is tenacious and persistent! Having tenacity or being tenacious means literally having the persistence to carry through with something. Sometimes there is a conclusion; sometimes there is not a conclusion. But the key is to persist with tenacity.

When we travel, we often bring travel bottles of shampoo and things so that we do not have to carry large quantities of the items. One of those items is a special type of shampoo that I use just a couple times a week. For travel, I put a small amount in a bottle. The bottle I happen to put it this time was one of those bottles with a safety screw cap that you have to press down and then turn. It is sometimes difficult for even me to open.

Well, my granddaughter found the bottle and tried opening it. She tried and tried and tried, every which way possible. But she was unable to open it—thank goodness. But she was tenacious and persistent about it. When I attempted to intervene, her simple words were “No, Emi do it!” And she was adamant. She was not going to have grandpa do something she could do on her own—or so she thought. Not once did she ask that I open the bottle for her. She just kept twisting and twisting, turning and turning, the bottle cap, trying with her little might to open the bottle.  She didn’t try for just a few seconds, but her twisting and turning continued for some minutes. Finally, though, she did decide that she couldn’t do it by herself. She placed it back where she got and left. I know if I gave it to her again today, tomorrow, or even the next day, she would try to open the bottle. That’s tenacity! That’s persistence!

So, where do we learn persistence and tenacity? In the April 2000 General Conference, President James E. Faust said: “President Grant had a favorite quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson which he lived by: ‘That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.’”

I memorized that quote many years ago and quote it often, more so for myself than for anyone else. I suspect as little Emi becomes more proficient with her fingers, she will be able to open the bottle some day. Her persistence, her tenacity, will carry her through her entire life, and she will accomplish much.

Our power to do something increases if we keep with it. Often, in our society, people give up way too early before they are able to accomplish a task. Working through something will inevitably help us gain greater insight into that which we are doing. But we to understand a simple concept: being humble enough to accept our weakness and then work diligently on it to make it our strength.

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni wrote: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

We all possess weaknesses. According to Moroni, President Grant, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, we need to persist in overcoming our weaknesses through working hard, being tenacious, and being persistent. When we do, our weaknesses will become our strengths.

So, we must continue forward like little Emi, twisting and turning and trying to figure out how that cap comes off because it does come off, but it takes a bit of work to do it. Perhaps, Christ said it best: “We must become as little children….”