Thursday, September 30, 2010

No more tiny toes...we got a big fat foot in the door!

I love this picture! Remember my blog, Turn Right on trail? This is one of Sister Coltons pictures that she took on that adventure and shared with me.  The lady with the basket on her back is very typical of the farm country. Baskets are used for everything here, On our way to Bosnia we see stands along the way that people are making and selling them.
Our meeting Monday morning was wonderful! We still didn't meet with "the Bishop", but we did meet with the manager or principle over all of Caritas here in this region. He is a paid employee that had been managing Caritas for the last 10 years. Such a good hearted individual with goals that are to help the people become more self sufficient, relieve suffering and to feed the hungry. Even though talking through a translator is very difficult, he took the time to hear us out, discuss our goals, and he took us very seriously. Next week we are going to meet again and he is going to take us on a tour to see the facilities that are around this area. They include a rest home, vision clinic or hospital, (not sure how big it is) , the soup kitchen, a day care center for disabled children so their parents can go to work to support their family, and a pharmacy facility that gets medications to about 50,000 indigent people a year. Pretty amazing organization. Now do you see why we wanted to get in there to see what we could do to help?  We are very excited to have had that door open to us. Next we will go into these individual places, work with their directors directly and see what good we can accomplish..
   We have had a little bit of a slow week because our translator Tihana has been down in bed with a back injury. We were lucky to have had her on Monday, but the doctor told her to stay in bed so we have tried not to bother her, It has made it abundantly clear to us however that we need a back-up translator, We have one in Bosnia that meets us at the boarder when we need him. So it's here in Croatia that we might need another.
   I took the opportunity of a little down time to clean and file things in our office. I now have an organized system going here. We have also been trying to set up other appts. for next week so we are going to be pretty busy Tues.-Friday. Hope our Tihana is better by then!
   Monday we are going to go on a little sight-seeing jaunt with the Elders. It's their prep day and we are switching our normal prep day on Saturday to Monday so we can go with them to see the city of waterfalls. I will get pictures.
   Thought you might like to see my list of things I've learned about Croatia.
1. They have very small families...we are used to lots of kids. Not so much here. Parents are older when they  have children and they usually only have one.
2. Teachers make more money than doctors or nurses.
3. They weigh everything...they do not use spoon measurements, They have little scales that they just weigh stuff.
4. Clothes dryers are a luxury, and even then they are a combination washer/dryer. And they are extremely small.
5.No one likes gypsies or Roma's....they are such a sad people.
6. They are crazy drivers, very reckless, but I have yet to see an accident, so they must be doing something right!
7. It rains least every other day.
8.Cobblestone is hard on the feet.
9.It is so beautiful here.This is one of our walking paths.
10. It's very safe, really low crime rate.

  Just one last thing.. I think we actually made a friend today! Most people when they see us try to be really sneaky and read our badges without looking at us. If we say Hello to them they hurry and look away and pretend we aren't really talking to them. But a few weeks ago we met a cute little mom on the elevator. She had a boy about 4years old with her and when I tried to hi five him he jumped up to get my hand and bonked his head a hard one on the back of the elevator! I felt so bad!!! The next day I saw her and asked if he was okay..ya, ya, not to worry...and she was off. I haven't seen them until today. She held the front door for us and got onto the elevator, she was just delightful, told us she was a single mom, husband died 2 years ago and that her job is going to be over in 2 weeks. The store she works at is closing. I think she just needed a listening ear. The 5th floor, her stop, came all too soon. But I'm going to watch more closely for them. Oh did I tell you she speaks ENGLISH!!!!! Gotta love that!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Bishop...part 2

Part 2...Tuesday morning we arrived with our darling little translator right on time. We were ushered into a huge, beautifully decorated office, ornate wood carving every where, an abundance of red and gold. A huge desk, I mean REALLY big. As big as my little kitchen here at my apartment. It was covered, almost so much that you couldn't see the top of it with stacks of paper so high that I can't remember even seeing a desk chair.
   We were met by a priest that told us that unfortunately the Bishop was called away...I would have RUN away if I had that much work on my desk to do! Anyway, we gathered that he was the Bishops Principal, not sure what that is, but I liken it to a 1st Councilor in maybe our Stake Presidency. He visited with us for about a half an hour. He talked about the great needs that are here in Varazdin, they serve over 200 family meals a day out of the kitchen. Volunteers cook, clean and serve the meals. They sign up for two weeks, and then they are relieved and others come to help. Some times the people who receive the meals help with cooking. Sounds like a perfect partner to me! We had done our home work, looked at past projects in other parts of Croatia, anything that had to do with a soup kitchen, or a project that had partnered with Caritas. We had made copies of those projects, copies of the cards that Red Cross directors in Zagreb and Varazdin had given us and of course our own official looking card. He must have thought we were Okay because he said, "come back on Monday and we will talk again"
    So today, Friday, they called our translator and made another apt. for 11:30 on Monday morning. It is with the Principal that runs Caritas and hopefully the Bishop. He is a busy man, they explained and if he could be there he would. IT'S OKAY !!!! We got our tiny toes in the door! That was really our goal..meeting the bishop or asking to see him was only a way to achieve that goal! They must have read the projects and probably made a few phone calls and we must have checked out. Yeah!  We are very excited for our meeting on Monday.
    So I'm sorry to say that their will yet be another chapter in the saga. Nothing moves quickly here we are finding out.
   In the mean time, hope you don't mind me going on and on...This blog you see, is going to be my Nephi's record of our mission, so if I get a little long, I hope you will bear with me.
   We also went to see a hospital here in Varazdin, we met with the head nurse and are meeting again with her on Monday as well as Caritas. Hopefully we will have a project in the making there.
   On Tuesday Jim got his church bank card eaten up by the ATM machine. Oh My! What a traumatic event that turned out to be. A very long, frustrating story made short is that they would not give his card back to him, even after having the bank in America talk to them till they were blue in the face. Nope! it wasn't going to happen! We were so stupid! The head lady took us back into a private room, why did she do that? We didn't think about it until after it was all over and we were on our way home with heads hung low and dejected. She wanted money! As in..ya you guessed it "A BRIBE ! " So stupid, we didn't even think of it! But I'm quite sure that was the situation. Any way the card got canceled, new one being sent. Learning curve navigated, and lesson learned. Not sure had we figured it out if we would have paid a bribe or not, but as desperate as we were to get the card back....hummm maybe!
   On Weds. we went to Zagreb, trying to develop another project for early next year. Not sure about it yet. It's like a Ronald McDonald house for transplant patients and their families. They needed tons of help.
Thurs. found us in Banja Luka, Bosnia. We went to a couple of commercial restaurant supply places looking for good deals on stoves for the soup kitchen in Banja Luka. Then we met with the Red Cross director. She was so thrilled and so grateful when we told her that we were going to try to get a project approved for new stoves for them. She asked us how it was that we could do all of this. It was so awesome to be able to explain the way the Church deals with welfare and humanitarian needs. We explained how we fast once a month and donate the price of two meals for the welfare needs of our own church members. Then how the humanitarian funds are donated from the hearts of 14 million church members to help all of Our Heavenly Fathers Children.because we are followers of Christ and we do it because He was the perfect example. She asked how it is that the Church could respond so quickly to disasters. We were so happy to explain that we have storehouses and supplies in all parts of the world. We believe in being prepared that is why we can respond so quickly. When we left, our interpreter, who in not a member of our faith, said, "Wow, that was sooo emotional" . I wanted to say, No, not emotional, that was the Spirit talking". Another day, bless his heart, he had been fed with a fire hose instead of a trickle of tap water!
   Today we went to the Policiya station to file our papers for Visas. The Elders had come over on Weds. night and we had filled every thing out that we could. It went well and hopefully we will have official visa stamps on our passports soon.
   We love our work here...At the MTC they told us that there were 4 phases of a mission.
       1. Honeymoon
       2. Hostile
       3. Grin and bear it
       4. Enjoy the work and love it

Could we have just jumped right into the enjoy the work and love it stage...or are we still in the honeymoon stage. My little yellow heart says it is the 4th! 
       This is the castle that is in the center of our city. All traffic is diverted around it. It is quite beautiful, don't you think? I was taking the picture from the area where the mote was. High embankments go all the way around .

                  Just one of the many walk ways, cobblestone, and really old beautiful buildings.
   City Square..We wondered where all the people went on Sunday afternoons, the city was pretty empty until we turned the corner and found this, both sides of the square are filled with tables and chairs. Families are all just sitting around eating ice-cream and drinking coffee.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Our Bishop...

We went to the Red Cross here in Varazdin last week. We didn't have an interpreter with us, just taking a chance that they might have some one in the office that speaks English. We were wrong, but the director, so very cute, got on the phone and called her daughter. Who within ten minutes came whipping in with the best English ever! She translated and we determined with the director that we would try to get them about 10 wheelchairs out of the next batch of 250 that are coming into Zagreb. They really didn't need any more help until Christmas when their needs will be great for food. We asked her if there was a soup kitchen in Varazdin. She told us that there was, that they were in temporary quarters right now because a new one was being constructed for them. She also told us that they were under the direction Caritas an arm of Catholic Charities. Ahhh! We had heard of them before. Evidently some of the Elders had offered to help and had been turned down flat. We asked her who we would need to talk to in order to get our foot in the door, Oh ! That would be Our Bishop! She said his name reverently, with much admiration and respect. I would like to meet this man, I thought to my self!
   Armed with a little piece of paper that she had written his name on and some verbal directions we proceeded to go find "The Bishop." We wandered around the town square where the Cathedral is, tried to figure out where the doorway to his office might be when we saw 4 or 5 girls, maybe 15 or 16 sitting on a park bench. They were just enjoying the autumn sunshine, giggling like girls this age should, so I approached them and asked if any of them spoke English. In unison they all said, "Yes!" they studied it in school and spoke it very well. Must have studied hard. I showed them my little paper with the Bishop's name on it, and asked if we were in the right place. "Oh yes! He's our Bishop! Again, with reverence, respect and much love. I really wanted to meet this man! We were instructed where to go. I was concerned as to what we should do when we went up to the great huge door. Should we knock, should we just go in. Culturally we are idiots here and I didn't want to make a mistake. I asked the girls and they were quick to relieve my worries, just go in...there are offices and someone will help you.
   They were right, we were met by a sweet little nun who could not speak a word of English, they quickly got a maintenance man involved. The Bishop was performing a mass. He would talk to us when he finished, At least that was what we think they said. Any way to make a long story short. We were ushered into the cathedral to mass. It was beautiful! The Cathedral was built in 1656. It has been desecrated by wars, rebuilt, and been beautifully restored. It's very plain on the outside. You would never know such beauty was on the inside. We sat in the back and watch the mass, there were about 15 priests and I believe it was some kind of special service to commemorate something. I don't know Croatian, so obviously I'm only guessing, But at the end of the mass they all stood and got their pictures taken. Looked like a special occasion to me! They sang and chanted during the service and it was lovely. After the mass, the Bishop's secretary who spoke English talked to us and we arranged to visit with the Bishop on Monday. I was right, it was an occasion, and the bishop and his fellow priests were going to eat a celebration lunch together.
   We would wait until Monday. Sunday was a day of fasting and prayer. We had no translator lined up and needed one desperately. There is a young girl here that speaks excellent English, we had hopes that she would translate for us, but had been told that she was in Germany going to the temple for the first time. She was expected home on Sunday. We called her Sunday afternoon, she answered! What's more exciting was that she was thrilled to have the opportunity to translate for us! We have contracted her to be our translator for all our Croatian work.. She will travel with us when we need her to.  We have a separate translator for Bosnia.
Anyway, when we called to confirm the appt. the secretary asked us if we could come on Tues. instead. The Bishop wanted the President of Caratis to be present when he talked to us and Tues would suit him best. We were thrilled! Good sign.. to my Catholic friends, and to my L.D.S. friends it is not unusual in Utah or anywhere really in the U.S. to work together for a common good, but here, our church is so obscure and looked at with great mistrust. It will be a small miracle for us to be able to work with them.
    Why? Why ? would it be so important. Because our job here is to relieve hunger, pain and suffering. That's it. We are absolutely forbidden as humanitarian missionaries to do any proselyting. We partner with other organizations who are more developed, sustainable and willing to accept our help. We donate goods and services and depend on our partners to use it to feed, clothe or otherwise help the needy. The Red Cross of Croatia is one of our best partners, we hope to be able to say that Caratis will be also. They are an amazing organization that does so much good in this part of the world, We would really like to help them if we could. Jim thinks I'm writting a book that no one has time to read. Tune in next time for the rest of the story.......

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Turn Right on Trail.....

This is the castle we went to see. I didn't really take this picture....well it's a picture of a picture.

These are all just pictures of the beautiful countryside. The first one is a grave yard. Then one of many little farms and the third is of a small church, looking down from one of the high points of the castle.
Another busy week for us in Croatia. Our Area Welfare Specialist and his wife came to Varazdin to do some training with us. We were to go to Zagreb airport to pick them up. The week before we went down just to make sure we knew what we were doing, a dry run, so to speak. Any way, Weds. morning we got in the car and Ned, our GPS refused to wake up and work! Panic set in, prayers were said over Ned, all but a priesthood blessing...About a half an hour, maybe 45 mins, into the trip, he woke up and decided to go to work! My were we grateful for his presence! We got to the airport with his help, even though we had made the dry run, we just weren't very confident that we could make it.

We went to Bosnia with the Coltons, visiting the Red Cross, meeting our translator, visiting an agricultural high school and coming home. All in the most horrible rain I think I've seen since we lived in the mid-west. Seriously, it didn't quit raining all day long, hard torrential rain.But Ned did us proud. We got where we needed to be with his Bosnian maps!  Another blog will give you more details on the humanitarian needs we found there.

It continued to be rainy all week. On Saturday however the sun came out and blessed us with warmth! It was Preparation day. We determined to go see a castle about a 45 minute drive from here. Jim had driven for about 7 hours the day before to Bosnia, so being the senior companion that day, I asked Elder Colton if he would mind driving. What a beautiful day! We saw some of the most beautiful conuntyside ever! The castle was amazing! Ice-cream to die for and and Ned out did him self!

Elder Colton, knowing how his sweet wife loves to take pictures, took an interesting way home....Let's just say we kind of ended up in someones front yard. Ned was cool though, just kept telling us to turn right or left. But toward the end of our meandering....his last instruction just cracked us all up. You guessed it,
 "Turn right on trail ".  Ned is just one of our many blessings! What would we do with out him? We did, this week get Ned an upgrade, now he can be brought into the house and charged, Jim figured that would solve the problem of him going to sleep and not wanting to wake up. Also I have forbidden Jim and Ned to play while they are driving! Just good common sense, don't you think? Ned seemed very happy with his new upgrade and is now on time for work every time we get in the car.

Some other of our blessings...
We have a teaspoon. I found it in some of the old missionary cast offs at the church. It's just one. No 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon or TBS. measuring. But I feel blessed to have a teaspoon!

I found a cook book at the church as well. Some how, I wasn't present when the computer was loaded, and I got here with no cook books. Now I have one titled, "Where Is Mom Now That I Need Her"?

I also have a plastic cup that besides the metric measuring it has ounces. Makes things much easier for me.

I have a hamper for my dirty clothes. No bleach, but I'm adjusting!

I have 4 bath towels now. We bought 2 new ones, brought 2 from home. So now I can wash my bath towels, and I have 2 new ones to use while the old ones are drying. It takes like 2-3 days for towels to dry. I brought nice fluffy ones. If I had brought yucky ones they would have dried faster. Need to buy some more sheets so I can do the same with them, but getting Jim into a bedding store is proving to be difficult, maybe when he gets tired of dirty sheets!

We did go shopping for winter coats this week. It was so cold and rainy all last week that we thought maybe we should get prepared for winter, so we bought boots for me, sensible ones, and coats for both of us. Apparently I am the biggest European size ever, and I also have the biggest European foot ever. Not good for my self-image, but I will be warm. This week has been absolutely beautiful, So far not a drop of rain, nothing but sunshine! The coats are in the closet just in case! Yeah!

We have a car. One of our biggest blessings. The missionaries before us, bless their hearts, did not. We are sooooo very grateful. It took us 31/2 hours to get to Banja Luca by car, can you imagine how hard it would have been by bus?

We have darling missionaries to work with. They help us in any way they can. This week we have used them to be our social coordinators. We invited some investigators for lunch and they don't speak English. So the missionaries are arranging a time so we can meet with them.

Now the best! We got a new grand baby this week! Her name is Eden Erickson. 6lbs and 5 ozs. 19 inches l From the pictures I've seen, she is beautiful! We are so grateful that she is here. Healthy and Well! A little sad that we can't hold her. She will almost be two before we see her. But we can hold out hope that they might come visit. What do ya think?

Any way, that's just a few of our blessings. Of Course having friends and family loving and supporting us are the best! We love you all and pray for you. Hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Humanitarian work begins!

We have had another wonderful week in Croatia! We have spent some time just getting to know our city and enjoying the little bit of Summer that we have been lucky enough to see here. It has rained off and on and one morning we woke up to the clouds hanging right about the 7th floor of our building. Right off my deck! It was just beautiful!
   We went to church for the first time on Sunday. Counting us there were 11 people there. It's a struggling little branch, we could feel their strength and the spirit. It's hard to remember that we are Humanitarian Missionaries and supporting and strengthening the branch is not our priority. You just want to do it all!
   Monday we got up and drove to Zagreb, the capital city, and picked up Elder and Sister Colton. After we ate lunch, at McDonald's, we visited the Croatian Red Cross. It was such an amazing meeting, they are partners with the church to bring wheelchairs into the country. They were so respectful, and appreciative of our help. One shipment of wheelchairs, 250. are on the water at this moment and we are hoping to get another shipment in as soon as we can get the project written up and processed.. They also asked for newborn kits. All those kits you sisters put together...oh I wish you could all be here to know how much they are apprecitated!
    We are headed to Bosnia tomorrow. It will be our first trip there. We have another wheelchair shipment on the water for them as well and have a neo-natal resuscitation training set up by our predecessors for November. We are going over to meet with the Bonsian Red Cross. To make introductions and see what we can do for them.
    We are going to try to meet with someone soon that knows about and what the needs are of the Roma people, (gypsies) they seems to be the ethnic problem children of this part of the world. My first exposure to the Roma has been just to see them digging through the garbage in the dumpsters. We saw one little boy eating food that he had gotten by dumpster diving, he was standing in a driving rain storm hungrily eating his prize. It really broke my heart! I know that not every starving child can be helped, but I will at least see to it that any leftovers I have from now on will be in a CLEAN plastic bag, hung on the OUTSIDE of the dumpster! It might be a small effort, but I hope it will help some little tummy not be hungry.
  Well, that's my week in a nut shell.. We are happy, safe and well. We Love You All!
 And in doing these things thou wilt do the greatest good unto thy fellow beings, and wilt promote the glory of him who is your Lord. Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. D&C 81:4-5
   This sweet little lady received on of our wheelchairs 10 years ago, she is still so grateful that she just cried!
Her daughter recognized our badges and went in their house and brought her out to meet us!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We have pictures!

Our wonderful bed and YELLOW! BedroomOur Entrance hall/ dryer room
Our cute kitchen. Living room and computer roomLooking out my kitchen window.Looking out my bedrrom window.Looking out off our deck.Our first service project in Croatia! The sun shining through the trees in gratitude! Did I tell you we LOVE it here???

Home away from home...Croatia!

 Beautiful Croatia! We are finally in Croatia. After a very long exhausting trip, via New York, Vienna, and Slovenia we are home. Flying into Slovenia was just amazing. Little clusters of homes with red roofs and beautiful old churches spotting the landscape. It reminded me of reading "Heidi" when I was a girl and all my imaginations of the Swiss Alps. Although I didn't see any goat boy with goats in tow. The A.P.'s met us at the air port with Sis, Hill (The mission Pres, wife ) and the missionary couple that takes care of the office,(The Robinsons from up Park City way). We stayed with the Robinsons for the rest of the day, They took us on a little sight seeing jaunt to see an old castle. I forgot my camera and was so disappointed to not get a picture! Maybe we will get back that way sometime in the next two years! Anyway we finally got to sleep, but I'm afraid I have to admit that I slept on Jim's shoulder during most of the three meetings on Sunday. Some great missionary I am! After church the A.P.'s brought us across the boarder into Croatia. It is also very beautiful, but Varazdin is a bigger city and so far we have not strayed far from our apt.
   We have been so blessed! While we were in the M.T.C. we found out that we had gotten a car. Yeah! We will be so much more effective with our own transportation. Then when we got here we found out that Sister Hill and the A.P.'s had worked overtime looking at apartments for us. And my did they do it up right! Our apt. is just awesome! Very modern, European, clean and safe. What more could we ask for? It's in a good location in the city. With little shops with in walking distance and even a park by the police station.,  Every wall in the house is painted a different color. When you walk in, the entry way is lime green, our bedroom is YELLOW! Yeah! I love yellow. A different shade on each wall. Living room is blue and orange. Kitchen is black and white. It all makes for a very cheerful and European feel. Windows are huge so we get lots of fresh air and sunshine and all the floors are wood except kitchen and bath and they are ceramic tile. We never hear our neighbors. Jim thinks the floors and ceilings must all be made of cement, no sound of feet walking over head. That's all good and well, just hope we don't have an earthquake!
   This week we have been told to nothing but rest and get ourselves settled. So that is what we have done so far. Some how that has eevolved into some pretty fun adventures! The best adventure so far started with us waking up the first morning with backs that felt like we had been sleeping on rocks! I have absolutely no problems with my back, Jim however does have a back that we baby a little. But Monday morning came around and yikes! both of us were walking around like the old people we are. Where was our wonderful Simmons pillow top? We determined that we would go look for a store that perhaps would have some memory foam, or foam of any kind to put over the mattress.  We looked and looked, couldn't find a thing. Then we found a store that had the memory foam mattress pad, but they only had one and we needed two. And it was $200. that stuff is pricey! So anyway, we gave up on that and went to another store that ended up being a store much like IKEA. At that store we bought blanket, sheets and pillows. The night before Jim used a towel and I used a sweat shirt and slept on bare mattress. As we were leaving the store we saw that they sold mattresses as well. Well, the rest is history! We bought each of us a new mattress made of memory foam. They were $250. each. Now we had to get them home in the littlest car you can imagine. We stuffed the first one in over the car seats, mattress sitting on our heads as we crouched down to see out of the windshield.. We drove home in a raging rain storm, giggling and feeling like college students! Brought the first one up the stairs and repeated the process again with the second one. We now have a wonderful bed! The side benefit is that by the time we stacked the new mattress on top of the old one, we now have a bed that is a normal (for Americans) height. They don't use box springs here so most beds are very low to the floor. What a day!
   Yesterday we did a little wash, no dryers, no chlorine bleach either. Guess I will have to get over my whites fetish quick huh?
   Today we found a dry cleaners, and a new and better grocery store. We have tried three different stores now and this one is the best. It had a few spices that I have been looking for. Chicken seasoning, chili powder, steak seasoning, garlic and cinnamon. I soaked some beans overnight for chili and have made some for dinner tonight, but it's a little strange. Chili powder just isn't the same. It will do though. One thing they do not have here is Splenda. Some one told us that at the M.T.C. so our son, Russ, brought us two big bags of it to the airport. We squeezed it in and are sure glad we did. (Thanks Russ) They also have no Crystal light, sugar free hot cocoa, or spray butter. We both gained so much weight at the M.T.C. that we really are working on getting it off. Keeping to our missionary schedule, getting up at 6:30 and exercising will help, we already are feeling a difference.
      Next week the Area Welfare President and his wife will be here for 5 days training us. We are looking forward to getting that training and starting our work. We also are thinking of driving back to Slovenia to be at a member fireside that Elder Nielson is going to be speaking at. Not sure if I feel comfortable with that, but we are considering it. The young missionaries here are delightful and hard working. We will enjoy working with them and getting to know them better. The weeks ahead will be challenging as we feel our way through the Humanitarian work ahead. One of our first projects will be in Bosnia as we will help with a neo-natal resuscitation training up at one of the hospitals there.
   I tried to download some pictures for you, but for some reason could not get it accomplished. Jim said it might be that the computer is on a wireless Internet. He will look for some new cords, wires or whatever they are to hook it up directly to the source. We are just grateful that we managed to get Blogger into English. It kept defaulting to Croatian and we don't know enough Croatian to read the directions on how to change the default. I love that I have a family full of computer people! Thanks again Rusty!