So Many Pictures! We Met Elvis In Puerto Rico

A martial arts brother-friend died this last week from consequences of alcohol addiction. It hurt my heart to receive this news. He taught me one of my biggest martial arts lessons. It was about the value of being just one encouraging voice. It’s his voice I hear when I’m faced with something frightening or overwhelming, saying, “You can do this, Heather.” It was a moment that changed my life when he said it to me. We were having a special martial arts test and I was wearing a climbing harness and standing on a log high above the ground. I needed to walk out to the middle of the log and then trust someone on the ground to belay me down from that point. I was terrified. I am afraid of heights, but his voice calling out to me, reminding me that I could do the hard thing made all the difference that day. It’s made a difference for me ever since. I’ve tried to be a person who is that voice for others in a world that sometimes makes us forget. I wish somehow he could have overcome the hardship that he was trying to escape through alcohol. I wish that there had been a voice he believed telling him he could do this. He was a kind and gentle soul and I hope that he’s finding hope, and peace, and rest, and that in his corner of Heaven he finally has the help he needs to know how valuable, capable, and amazing he truly is. Rest in peace, Jeff. This world will miss you.

This week Mr Hot Stuff and I had the chance to travel to Puerto Rico for the temple open house. It was a wonderful trip. We ate some amazing Puerto Rican stuffed mofongo (not to be confused with Dominican mofongo) and it was as good as I remembered. Yes, I broke carnivore to eat it, but between my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, this is the only time I have done that (or plan to. For me, stuffed mofongo (mofongo relleno) is the best food ever. It’s plantains mashed with pork rinds and topped with some kind of meat in gravy. Heaven. I forgot to take a picture of it, but this is one I grabbed from Pinterest. Here is a good recipe if you want to try it yourself.

For dessert, we ate at one of the two best Gelaterias in the world. The other being in Calgary, Canada. And yes, I ate that also – in for a penny, in for a pound – pistachio and hazelnut. It was so good. I figure it’s better to make a beautiful day of off-carnivore/ketovore eating than to see how much I can drag it out. What’s nice is being able to say I made a choice, I enjoyed the choice, and I have returned home to my now normal way of eating. I love that it came with NO GUILT. No sense of, “Oh, what have I done,” like I’ve had after so many holiday binge meals. It was just appreciative enjoyment. If you ever get a chance to eat real Puerto Rican stuffed mofongo (mofongo relleno) or Anita’s gelato, do it.

Good to the last spoonful!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The very first thing we did the morning after we arrived in Puerto Rico, was go to the temple open house. If you have the opportunity at some point to attend an open house for a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do it. They are such beautiful places with a quiet sense of peace. You will get to watch a short video of why we build temples and what they are used for and then you will be given a guided tour of the inside and have the chance to ask questions about what you see there. Here is a link where you can see some other videos about our temples.

Spoiler: We build them so we can have a special place to make commitments with God, and to make special offerings for our deceased family members. Temples are a place where we can get away from the noise of the world and feel closer to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

San Juan Puerto Rico Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After the visit to the temple, we went wandering around Old San Juan. This is one of my favorite places in the world to visit. I love all the colors of the buildings and the variety of shops. I love the historical feel of it and that they have made an effort to maintain its beautiful character. The cobblestone streets can be brutal for walking or driving though, so park your car and wear good walking shoes. If you have the time and energy, a guided walking tour is enjoyable, but you can have a great time just wandering around using a guidebook if you want more information about things.

We found a handcraft store – yes, THAT handcraft store, if you know, you know – and bought almost all our Christmas gifts. Unfortunately as I write this, I can think of at least two that we forgot to get. Drat. No photos right now, because I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but if you want to see the kinds of things the store sells, click on the link above.

Mr Hot Stuff showed me a pigeon park that he found on his last visit to Puerto Rico. It’s a special place where it’s legal to feed the pigeons and they will flock to anyone with food. It’s one way they have tried to control the population of pigeons in Old San Juan.

Do you have that Mary Poppins song going through your head, too? “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…”
Where the pigeons roost at the pigeon park.
I thought it was fun that we came across this on December 1st. North Pole Sodas! It’s a tavern these days but has maintained the character of the old soda manufacturer.

Here are some other fun things we saw while in Puerto Rico:

I love the colors of all the buildings! The streets are super narrow in Old San Juan, so walk if you can.
There is a basilica in Old San Juan that is worth taking the time to visit. When I visit these places, I always like to look for the chapel for Mary, the mother of Jesus. There seems to be a special spirit there. We were lucky this time and happened to come across a wedding. I love how joyful new couples look when they make that commitment to each other!
In the basilica there was this beautiful stained-glass window depicting angels rescuing people. I never expected to find, in a Catholic church, something that would so much remind me of the reason my own church performs work for deceased ancestors. We do not control whether our offerings are accepted by them, but it’s beautiful to be allowed to make the offering. I love that no matter the church, we are doing our best to help souls return to God.
We found some street murals around the corner from our hotel. What a great surprise!
Some modernized Taino images.
The frog is a coqi. Puerto Ricans are very proud to have these little frogs in abundance here.
On Saturday morning we drove to the Santurce neighborhood to see the murals there. While we were admiring one of the larger murals, a man happened to stop a little way off from us. I waved at him and he said hola (hello). From there it was a beautiful opportunity to connect with Elvis, who proudly gave us a mini tour of his neighborhood. He knew or had met some of the street artists and was happy to tell us what he knew about their work.
This large bird sculpture was one of the things Elvis showed us. I was impressed by the artist’s ability.

Here are some other murals from the Santurce neighborhood.

I love how this one extends to the sidewalk.
I love how beautifully colorful this building is. It’s a dog grooming shop with apartments above.
This was our hotel room. I loved the mural, but the place itself seemed to be struggling to maintain life. I hope they can figure out how to become more successful. There is a lot of potential, but it will take some real work. I imagine the disease we’re all tired of had a horrible impact on them.
I hope you are having a beautiful Advent time. This is our Christmas tree that we got from IKEA. It looks a bit pathetic, but it’s a start.

Oh! Yes! There is an IKEA here! It was so nice to know that there was a place to shop at that we knew exactly what to expect. We bought a couple of new desk lamps and some more comfortable chairs to sit in. Things are definitely looking up.

Also, today at church, I was listening to the Sacrament prayers (think Communion – bread and water) and was shocked to realize that I actually understood a good part of what they were saying. I’m still a little gobsmacked about that. Also, I’ve been experiencing so many small miracles – tender mercies from God. Things like walking home from the store and arriving just minutes before the sky lets loose with torrents of rain, or pulling out from our apartment complex on a busy street and having a huge gap suddenly open for us to pull out, or having a friend to talk to who understands and supports me. Those might be small miracles, easy to dismiss as coincidence, but they are things that have come at moments when they have had a significant impact on me.

Thank you for all your prayers. I believe they help. Every day I pray for my family who are all far away, and I know they are praying for me. Prayer is an important work in this world. Never doubt that you are doing something significant when you take the time to pray for someone else. If you want to see miracles, exercise faith to ask for them. You may not get the miracle you think you want, but there will be miracles, and God will help you see them. He’ll help you see his hand in your life.

“Have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.”

Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:36-38

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