Inspecting Our Previous Playground Installations in Cambodia

In late July 2019, I returned to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  This time, I was accompanied by my son, daughter-in-law, and 3 granddaughters.  Our first order of business was to inspect and repair (if necessary) the 2 swing sets that I had installed 6 years earlier.  The first school we visited had a 2-seat swing set.  The swing looked a little rough, but was still in working condition.  It show signs of being used.  Because the school looked partially abandoned, we decided not to make any upgrades or repairs.

Name of the First School, I Think

Swing Set Installed 6 Years Earlier; Still Functional

At the second school (Tropeang Thom-Tamon Primary School), the seats on a 3-seats had been replaced by tires.  We assumed our original seats had worn out, so we replaced the tires with sturdy wooden seats.   Since our original installation, the playground area at the school had been extended to provide a variety of other equipment, including seesaws, slide, exercise equipment, and an additional swing set.

Replacement Tires on 3-Swing Seat Set

Swing Set with Tires Replaced by Regular Seats

My Granddaughter Playing with Kids on the Seesaw

Enjoying the Swing Set, Hopefully

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Installing Playground Equipment in Iloilo, Philippines

My family and I were met at the airport in Iloilo, Panay, Philippines by Bernard, a friend of one of my son’s Lehi, Utah, neighbors.  He was friendly and turned out to be a wonderful host.  Our first installation was at a elementary school located about an hour from Iloilo.  It was a site proposed by Bernard and his family.

At the Bacuranan Elementary School, we installed a swing set, climbing tower, and monkey bars.  Bernard had coordinated the fabrication of the equipment.  In the morning, the LDS proselytizing missionaries helped dig holes and in the afternoon school officials mixed and placed concrete.  The school provided food and beverages.  It was a pleasant day.  As the work was winding up, there was an afternoon thunderstorm.  It did little to deter the students from enjoying their new playground equipment.

Playground Equipment Installed near Iloilo, Philippines

Students Enjoying Their Climbing Tower

Unfortunately, while we were trying to locate our initial playground installation site, we went to the wrong school first, creating an expectation.  Bernard and his family recently fulfilled that expectation.  They installed a 3-piece playground at Palomo Elementary School.

Painting Playground Equipment at Palomo Elementary School

Group Photo After Installation (Bernard is in Blue in the Middle)

Bernard and his family were great to work with and wonderful hosts.  Our playground installations can only be successful through local coordination and assistance.

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The Recent Sad Experience of Lavina Fielding Anderson

Lavina Fielding Anderson was recently denied rebaptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints.  As background (from Jana Reiss):

Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1993.  Her excommunication was caused by her shining a light on what she called “ecclesiastical abuse” in the church. It was documented in a long, well-researched article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought that chronicled how intellectuals and feminists were being disciplined by Latter-day Saint leaders for various things they wrote and said.

Anderson was not excommunicated because the incidents she documented were false; she was excommunicated for bringing them to light. In church lingo, this was “conduct unbecoming a member.” Her sin was naming the incidents, and calling them abuse.

Post-excommunication, she continued to be active in her Ward.  Recently, her bishop and stake president suggested that she be rebaptized.  That request was turned down by the highest officials in the LDS Church:  the First Presidency.

Robert Kirby in related this experience that he had with Anderson and her family:

On March 23 of last year, Lavina and I were honored with lifetime achievement awards by the Association for Mormon Letters at a dinner in Provo.

During the evening, Lavina noticed me taking some pills. She asked if I was OK. I admitted that I was taking Lortab because I had blown out my knee a few hours before and was trying to not scream whenever I moved.

When the event ended, Lavina refused to let me drive home. She took my keys and gave them to her son Christian. He drove me home while Lavina and her husband, Paul, followed. They went out of their way to help someone who tried to talk them out of it.

Here’s the sad part: Paul, who already wasn’t feeling well at the time, died later that evening of a heart attack. Lavina had spent some of the last hours with her husband making sure an incorrigible lout got home safely.

Excommunicated? Give me a break. That’s the kind of person I fully expect will make it to heaven.

I have only had one experience with Lavina.  She edited a chapter that I had written for a book on Mormon transhumanism.  She was very genial and made several very useful improvements to my draft.  It was a pleasure working with her.

While the denial of Lavina’s rebaptism request is extremely disappointing, it is not the only problem here.  The LDS leadership has consistently asserted that excommunications are orchestrated at the local level and not from SLC.  This incident seems to bring that assertion into question.  Lavina was recommended for rebaptism by both her bishop and stake president.  The LDS Church is much poorer for SLC’s decision.

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President Oaks Steps in It Again

In a June 11, 2019, commencement address at BYU-Hawaii, President Dallin Oaks made more disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ+ community.  According to

In a transcript of his speech, Oaks, next in line to lead the church, lamented the “culture of evil and personal wickedness in the world,” including the “increasing frequency and power of the culture and phenomenon of lesbian, gay and transgender lifestyles and values.”

This sounds like a far-fetched conspiracy theory:  “increasing power of the culture . . . of lesbian, gay and transgender . . . values.”  Is he talking about their search for equality, equal rights?  Or, what some refer to as the radical gay agenda?

LDS Leaders Tilting at the Windmill of Gay Conspiracy Theories

Unfortunately, a few week earlier Elder Jeffrey Holland in an address to Seminary and Institute teachers comes to a conclusion similar to that of Oaks:

Broadly speaking, Zs [ages 7-21] are always “wired” to some sort of device. They have perhaps been exposed to “flagrant, destructive pornography” at early ages. They tend to support gay marriage and transgender rights as part of everyday life. “Because of this sociability, the thin line between friendship and condoning behavior begins to blur.”

He states there is a “thin line between friendship and condoning.”  Since most of us know someone or have a relative who is gay, this statement is deeply problematic.

I’m not sure what “condoning” means in this context.  Does it mean that I can’t allow a gay relative to sleep in same bedroom as his partner?  Or that I shouldn’t attend a lesbian wedding?  That’s just silly, and not very friendly

Holland seems a late arrival to homophobia.  In the past, he has been a darling of progressive Mormons.  So his strident remarks are somewhat unexpected.  But not those of Oaks.  He’s been consistently spewing homophobia.  Much like racist GAs spread anti-black nonsense in the 1960’s.

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Flags and Their Meaning

My son and his family recently had a small dinner party for 7 of his friends from the Philippines.  My son served an LDS mission on Mindanao, and still feels connected to the islands.  This is one of the wonderful affects of serving a foreign mission.  To welcome his guests, my son hung a large Philippine flag from his front porch.

Flag of the Philippines

His twin, brother who lives in Washington D.C., has both a Canadian and Chuukese flag displayed in his house.  His daughter (my granddaughter) served an LDS mission in Montreal and his son is currently serving in the State of Chuuk (a small group of islands that is part of the Confederated States of Micronesia, located SE of Guam).

Flag of the State of Chuuk (Pronounced Chooook)

When my daughter’s family purchased a house in Alpine, UT, it came equipped with a flag pole.  During June of this year, they flew a Rainbow flag in honor of Gay Pride month.  And then in July, they switched to the Betsy Ross flag.

Rainbow Flag

Then came the controversy over the Betsy Ross flag.  With Nike withdrawing from the market shoes with a 13-starred flag on the heal.  This action was taken at the recommendation of one of their advisors, Colin Kaepernick.  He alleged it was occasionally used by racists.  An allegation which, on review, seemed exaggerated and not particularly relevant.  After all, the Betsy Ross flag was displayed prominently at President Obama’s inauguration.  The flag is an important part of our nation’s history.  And just for the record, my daughter and her family are not racists.

Betsy Ross Flag

I have a frame to display flags in my back yard.  I typically alternate between the U.S. Coast Guard flag, the Ugandan flag, and the French flag.  I served 3+ years in the Coast Guard and they treated me well.  I work 2 months each year in Uganda and love its residents.  And I served an enjoyable (but frustrating) LDS mission in France.  The flags are my remembrances of my past, present, and future.

U.S. Coast Guard Flag

That gets me to the blue flag, a black and white flag with a blue stripe, symbolizing the “thin blue line,” the demarcation between the police and chaos.  The flag was intended as an expression supporting our men in uniform.  Unfortunately, this flag was co-opted by neo-Nazi organization at a ugly demonstration in Charlottesville, Va.

Blue-Line Flag

About a month ago, I saw a large blue-stripe flag flying on a Orem City fire truck.  I was concerned that it might be misinterpreted and was going to contact the fire department, but never did.  I only saw the blue-line flag flown that one time.  So the issue for me is dead.

How about the standard American flag?  I don’t personally display it.  The Boy Scouts used to have a fundraiser where they’d post the American flag on your front lawn on major holidays.  I didn’t participate.  I served in the military but I’m not a super-patriot.  Boundaries between nation are so arbitrary.  I try to be respectful of all country flags.

While I’m not in favor of flag burning, I dislike politician using it as a political issue.  Ex-senator Hatch was infamous for patronizing Utahns by trying to pass anti-flag burning legislation.  During the 40+ years he was in Congress, America had much more important issues, and this was just a diversionary tactic.  Trying to convince the electorate that he was actually doing something.  I also find the proposed legislation to require all American flags to be made in America silly and patronizing.  Again, America has much bigger issues, particularly now.

Flags are important.  Hopefully, they remind us of the principles that our countries are founded on.  Hopefully, they are not used to divide us.  To insulate us from the rest of humanity.  What happens in my country affects the world.

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Hand Washing Units: A Needed Addition to Our Playground Equipment List

For the last 10 years, we have been installing playgrounds in primary schools in 10 countries spread around the world.  And we’ve installed a wide variety of equipment.

A Typical Hand Washing Station

For future installations, we are going to start installing hand washing stations also.  Although not directly connected to a traditional playground, hand washing stations are critical for school sanitation.

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Ebola Now Threatens Uganda

Eastern Congo is currently experiencing the 2nd worse Ebola outbreak in history.  Over 1,500 have died.  Fighting the epidemic is being hindered by lawless conditions in the area.  International health workers have been hesitant to work there because of unsafe (violent) conditions.

Recently in Uganda, 2 people have died from Ebola.  They died in a hospital near the Congolese border.  Ugandan border areas is on high alert trying to keep the epidemic from spreading outside the Congo.

One of the areas where we work in southwestern Uganda are the southern Rwenzori Mountains.  We have been assisting many of the mountain village schools.  Unfortunately, the villages abut the Congo border.  And the boundary is very porous.

A Schoolhouse in the Rwenzori Mountains, Southwestern Uganda

Ten days ago, our coordinator in the Rwenzoris indicated that all schools were required to have 2 hand washing stations, one at the entrance and another at the latrines.  Since the mountain schools are very  poor, our NGO agreed to assist.

A friend found sturdy hand washing units in Kampala, and had 28 of them shipped to Kyarumba, located in the foothills of the Rwenzoris.  Our local coordinator is going to get them delivered to the mountain schools.  Since many of the schools are in roadless areas, the villagers will be carrying them up to their schools.  Our coordinator is also insuring that training on the importance of hand washing is provided.

Loading the Hand Washing Units on a Truck Bound for Kyarumba

Hand Washing Stations Being Assembled and Cleaned in Preparation for Delivery to Village Schools

Even if the Ebola outbreak doesn’t reach into Uganda, the hand washing units will be valuable for fighting other diseases endemic to the region.

Chripus Mbusa Providing Training on the Importance of Hand Washing

Note:  More info to come.

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