Sunday, 20 April 1986

Dear Mom & Dad,

It seems I am getting worse and worse about writing as we get closer to time to leave. I keep wondering why I am getting less mail as time goes on. I should be smart enough to figure it out. It's not as if I have nothing to tell. There are plenty of things to write about.

I am certain that the thing most concerning you right now is the bombing in Libya. We, too, are a bit anxious about it all. It is particularly stressful living here at this particular time. I do not feel afraid or anything like that. It is just a hassle with all the security that is going on. I realize it is probably necessary. We have not let all this keep us from going when and where we want. I am sleeping at night just as well as I did before it happened. I do not feel threatened. Please do not worry about us.

Earlier this month we had "church" at our house every night. Dave Chamberlain and his wife from Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver stopped here on their way home from the lectureship in Athens. He sort of had a gospel meeting for us.

Steven with chickenpox - 13 Apr 1985 On Wednesday that week Steven came down with the chicken pox. (Actually, I was suspicious on Tuesday night that he might be getting it.) Since we are leaving for Holland in a few days, we hope Angelique doesn't get it. We tried to keep them apart as much as possible. We told them they could touch each other again after Steven was no longer contagious; they went crazy hugging and wrestling. It is very possible that Angelique will get it just before we are supposed to leave (or worse, after we are gone). That will be a problem. We would just cancel our trip.

On Friday, the 11th, I went with Vernon and Melba Weathers and the Chamberlains to Pompeii. I gave them my usual tour. We had a good time. (The Chamberlains stayed with the Weathers. One Weathers child just got over chicken pox and the other one came down with it, while they had company.)

The best day of the month was this past Wednesday. I had the day off. This was the day that the board of directors from Harding was here. Dr. Ganus had written and told me which hotel he would be staying at in Positano, on the Amalfi Coast. I had offered myself as their tour guide for Pompeii. As the time got closer I figured they probably already had a guide for their whole tour.

The group actually consisted of more than the board of directors. Terry Edwards from the school in Florence was sort of the leader of the pack. There were 21 people that flew from the States to Rome on Monday night (the night of the bombing). They said that the airport in Rome was practically deserted when they arrived. They had a chartered bus to take them around. They stayed in Campania about 3 days, then went to Rome for a couple of days, then on to Florence where they were to do something at the school. There were 25 people all together in the group, many of them Jeannie and I knew. Most were with their wives. Two of the elders and their wives from Pleasant Valley were along. Dr. Formby, a doctor who I had worked with for six weeks in Searcy in 1978, was in the group. Also, Les and Jeannie Wyatt (a bit older than us) were there from Pleasant Valley. A German missionary that we had met at Berchtesgarten was in the group. He is the one who had told us about this "tour" in the first place. And of course, Dr. Ganus and his wife were there.

More than one of the doctors said I should look at their town when I get ready to set up practice.

Tuesday night I called the hotel where they were staying and talked to Terry Edwards. He informed me that they did not have a guide and would love for me to give them a tour. He also said that they wanted to go to Herculaneum (Ercolano). I wanted to talk him out of going to Ercolano and indirectly advised against it, but didn't feel like it was my place to change their plans. I warned him that I was not a good guide for Ercolano. We agreed to meet at the gate for Ercolano about 9:15.

Jeannie, Steven, and I were at the ticket office at Ercolano at 9:00. Steven had to come along since he wasn't quite over the chicken pox and we had no where to leave him. (He did just fine and seemed to have as good a time as we did.) The weather was horrible, with sprinkling most of the way from our house to Ercolano. It turned into a beautiful, sunny day about noon.

While we waited for the group from Harding, hundreds of school kids descended upon Ercolano. At one time the line to get in was a block long. We waited till 10:30 and decided that perhaps our group had heeded my advice and skipped Ercolano. As we were driving back up that long, windy, and busy street on our way to the autostrada we passed a bus going back down the hill that looked like about the right number of people and the right ages. We turned around and followed the bus back down the hill. Jeannie jumped out at the gate to see if it was the right bus, but they didn't speak English. So we turned around and went back up the hill determined to go on to Pompeii and not chase any more buses.

When we were almost to the highway we passed another bus that we again thought might be the right people. At least this bus had a Rome license plate. We followed it down the hill. Jeannie jumped out and looked in the window at a stop. This was the right one.

They were only two hours late. We were glad we had chased the wrong bus or we would have missed them entirely. They had problems with the traffic coming all the way from Positano. They were a little surprised that we waited around so long. We told them that we are used to waiting for things to happen in this country.

At 11:00 we started a whirlwind tour of Ercolano. They wasted about the first 10 minutes wanting us to fill them in on what had happened in Libya. We practically ran through Ercolano. I took little time to explain anything or answer any questions. I said I would do that in Pompeii. Anyway we were back on the bus and leaving at 12:00. Jeannie took Jeannie Wyatt in our car and I rode the bus with Steven. They had a P.A. system on the bus which I used all the way to Pompeii, telling about a lot of the history of Pompeii and Ercolano, as well as answering questions. Then we ate lunch in Pompeii a couple of blocks from the gate.

We spent about 2 1/2 hours in the ruins. I had a blast. This was my fifth showing of Pompeii. It was quite different from the other times since I had 25 people to keep up with. I had to stop often just to let everyone catch up. It helped a lot that I had just shown someone around 5 days before. A couple from Australia asked me in the Forum if I minded if they tagged along. It didn't bother me and I barely noticed they were with us. The guides at the entrance begged Terry Edwards to hire them instead of letting some "friend" of his show them around. Everyone acted as if they really enjoyed themselves. We enjoyed being with all these Christians. We got a free meal and free tickets into Pompeii for it all. I thought that was more than adequate.

It was also a very satisfying feeling that all these "important" people will ALWAYS remember that Michael Cole showed them around in Pompeii. It might come in handy some day when I need a favor from one of them. To control President Ganus for several hours as I did gave me a certain sense of power that I had never experienced before.

We took Les and Jeannie Wyatt to the train station in Naples. They were going on to Rome ahead of the rest of the group so they could see more of the museums there. They were going to meet up again with their tour on Saturday.

Today we had a picnic after church. We stayed most of the afternoon. Steven got stung on the ear. Jeannie got sick tonight.

I haven't a clue what Angelique sent in the letter that you should have gotten a few days before this arrives. After reading your letter to her, she sat down and did something. It was sealed in an envelope and had a stamp on it before I saw what she was doing.

Jeannie and the kids will probably leave Naples on 29 July whether if I get to leave then or not. I could stay as late as the end of August. We will let you know more specifics as the time gets closer. It will be quite a juggling act to visit everyone we want before I have to go to work in Memphis. We would like to go to San Antonio and see John and Faye. At least we will have a car and not have to rely on someone else for transportation when we first get back.

Here is more specific information about the car that we are getting. I was told that if we could find it any cheaper anywhere else we will have the price reduced that we have to pay. I wrote and asked Becky to check out the price for us. Thank you for checking for me. If the dealer doesn't mind in Harrison, find out what all this would cost.

      1986 Chrysler LeBaron 4 Door Sedan
      Garnet Red Pearl Coat
      Air Conditioning
      AM/FM Stereo Cassette (cheaper option)
      Popular Equipment Discount Package
      Power Convenience Package
      Protection Package
      Interior Illumination Package
      Conventional Spare Tire
      5/50 Owner's Protection Plan
      Destination Charges ($398)
      Delivery Point Charge ($195)

How do you like the calves you bought this year? How could you not know ahead of time what kind they were?

I am a little surprised that you didn't call this weekend. Libya seems awfully close to us. Have you looked at a map? I will assume that you are not worried about us. I hope not. We are, however, very happy that all this was not going on when we first came here three years ago.

I got my birthday present the other day. I am dying to open it to see what I got. I will probably open it just before we leave this week.

The next time you talk to Grandma ask her if she has cassette tapes of J.C. that she would give up permanently. I would like to have as many tapes as possible to leave with the church here when we leave. Everyone seems to really enjoy J.C.'s sermons. I want the church to have a good collection of sermons so that Sunday night "tapes" will continue after we are gone and forgotten.

Bob Jefferson and Louis Espiritu baptized another of the guys they work with last week. Vern Anderson has baptized two people this month.

Does David Stills' mom have her Sorrento tea cart out in her house?

We certainly miss the dogwoods and the azaleas blooming this time of year in Arkansas. Someone in the Harding group mentioned how pretty they were before they left the States.

While we were at Pompeii someone in the group asked me where I was from. When I told them, "Arkansas," they were surprised and said they couldn't tell it by the way I talked. Now that really made my day! I have often felt like my accent was a burden and a hindrance to my credibility with some people. I assured the group that my accent would probably return when I got back to Arkansas.

What is the average price you are making on paintings now?

Actually, my trip to Landstuhl was fun. I misled you in the letter. There is mostly just a big U.S. Army hospital there.

Did I tell you that I passed the A.C.L.S. test with flying colors as well? The class lasted a week. It was given at the Naples hospital.

We are still having trouble with the Fiat. (By the way, we jokingly say that Fiat stands for "Fix It Again Tony.") The car likes to die a lot. When it does, the whole electrical system quits. After a minute or two, it will work fine. We figure it must be a congenital problem. The car has had electrical problems since we got it. Only this year has it gotten so pitiful. We have had it fixed multiple times.

We are shipping the Ford back. I already dread going to New Orleans to pick it up.

I do not yet know when we will be shipping all our stuff. Probably in mid-June we will pack out most of our things.

Angelique brought home a fantastic report card a couple of weeks ago. She was getting more of her work done at school. Since the report card came home she has started to do less work at school and is bringing more work home. When I asked her why, she quickly explained that if she gets it all done at school she just gets stuck with a bunch more work to do, some of which is very boring. I could think of no good response for that one. (It made sense to me.) It will surely make her next and last report look worse, though.

Oh, while in the kitchen of the house of the Vetii in Pompeii, I was explaining about the locked room and what it was used for. I told about the pornographic pictures and their use for foreign slave girls. Steven was quick to speak up and said, "Can we go inside?" I said, "No, we don't really need to." Then everyone really got a chuckle. Someone said, "He just asked what all of us were too embarrassed to." To this I replied, "Well, it is locked, anyway." As soon as I said this one of the guards showed up with the key. Many went inside, including Steven. Jeannie stayed behind with the group as I went a little further into the house with the remaining half of the group and waited for everyone to catch up. Many of these people I have always made out to be saints and I didn't want my image shattered by watching who went inside the little room. Though Jeannie did not walk inside, someone came out and mentioned the enlightening comments that Steven was making when he saw the pictures. They said at least he was calling things by their right names. Leave it to my kids to liven the conversation or lack of it.

The woman and daughter that died in their apartment over the clinic were Americans. They believe that they must have died from gas. They were both in the clinic a few days before they were found. I was not at the clinic at the time. They were in with nausea and vomiting. Now I wonder if they were showing signs of the problem with gas inhalation.

Why are you not painting pictures of Europe?

What kind of car does Becky think we should buy? And why? Jeannie picked out what she liked best. It was not an easy decision when all we have here are pictures.

Well, here is another long letter. By the time you read this far you will have to take a rest. I will try to write again as soon as we get back from Holland.

We look forward to your next letter. Take care. Don't worry about us.

See America in 1986. (My motto.)

Love you lots,

Michael, Jeannie,
Angelique, and Steven

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