Saturday, October 23, 2010

Family Home Evening in Croatia...

This week started out with a wonderful Family Home Evening at our house for the branch members. We had six members and four non-members! That's more than we ever get at church! We were very excited! Our focus was to help them understand that F.H.E. could be FUN! We had a short lesson, I tried to teach them how to play fruit basket, (it went over like a lead balloon) but the chocolate cake and music were both hits! One of our members is a street singer and he brought his guitar and he entertained us until about 9:30 at night! What a fun evening! It was our Branch President's/ Elder Nitta's Birthday as well so it was an event! Jim and I went to bed that night a little tired, but happy to see so many people out and see them happy and smiling. It's so hard for our members to get together for a social...not sure why. I think they all just work hard and don't really make time for fun. While we were having a good time the Elders got a phone call. Elder Nitta is being transferred to Zagreb and we are getting an Elder Andersen. The only thing that is constant is change.
This is our translater, Tihana and her mother. Tihana is a member, we are working on her mom.

Elder Nitta pretending to blow out the candles..he REALLY  blew them out before I got the picture snapped, so I made him do it again! Making Chocolate cake with
Croatian ingredients was interesting.
 Tues. we went to a little town outside of Varazdin to visit a rest home. It was so fun to see the little ladies in their aprons and head scarfs. I so wanted to take a ton of pictures, but was a little hesitant to offend. Maybe another time. I did get one of the president of Caritus and one of the sweet little ladies that he was visiting with.

The President of Caritus visiting one of the little ladies in the rest home that we went to visit.
The older women all wear these traditional scarfs, both in the house and out.

 I had promised the A.P.'s that when they came into town the next time, I would make them cinnamon rolls. They were the ones who looked long and hard to find us just the right place to live. Just so happened that they were coming on Tues. night. So I attempted cinnamon rolls, Croatian style. Everything is Croatian style....hand kneaded, (where is my Bosh when I need it?), flour comes in probably 5 or 6 different grinds, tip 450, tip on and so forth. Now I ask you, just which one is best for cinnamon rolls? It's all a crap shoot! I just guessed. Sugar is like little crystals, not fine at all. Powdered sugar is also not the same powdery consistency. I usually use margarine in the dough, but the margarine here is like lard..Really YUCK! So it's butter all the way around.  Anyway,  the Elders, (Jim is trying to break me of the habit of calling them, "boy's" ) got their rolls and I think they enjoyed them. It took me all afternoon, what a mess!

  Weds. morning we headed to Bosnia again. We had an appointment to meet with Elder Wondra. He is the Area Seventy over the little orphan countries that have not yet been opened up to missionary work. We were a little nervous, for two reasons. One, we have never been called to meet with a general authority before, I can't remember even shaking hands with one much less meeting with one. Two, we were a little concerned that they would want to scoot us over to Bosnia. Now we know that at some point in our mission we will probably be transferred to Bosnia. We love it there and look forward to Bosnia being opened up for missionary work. What an honor it would be for us to be the first ones to be able to go there legally. HOW EVER....we had never anticipated the attachment we have for Croatia and the people here in Varazdin. So you see our apprehension for our Weds. meeting with Elder Wondra?  Number one...two seconds after we met, we felt at ease. He was so kind, so gracious and we immediately felt very comfortable with him and his darling wife. Don't know why we worried so much..We went to visit a little family in Bosnia who are getting the missionary lessons from the Country Group Leader. (Who and What is that you ask? It is a Branch President, without a branch.) Ed Rowe is the Country Group Leader in Bosnia. He is an American attorney who works with the Bosnian government two days a week.  So we had a wonderful experience with this cute family and then Jim got to help Elder Wondra set Brother Rowe apart. It was an amazing blessing and an experience I won't soon forget. We then went out to eat with them and talked about the church in Bosnia, Elder Wondra encouraged us to to wear two hats as we work in Bosnia, he didn't want us to move there, not yet any way, but he does want us to look for opportunities to teach the gospel as well as do humanitarian. We are to remember that spreading the gospel ,(especially in Bosnia) is as important as humanitarian work and we need to keep that fresh in our minds. We made that commitment to him. We said good-night to him and his wife, grateful for the wonderful opportunity to meet with them and feel of their spirit and love for the gospel. Especially their love for the people in Bosnia. Your prayers for this country, so devastated by war, so crippled by intolerance and so in need of the gospel light would make a difference in getting the church legal I'm sure.
    Thurs, morning we met with the Red Cross director again to tell her that the kitchen project had been approved, she was so happy! What a great job we have! We took her to lunch and visited with her about the church getting legal. She was puzzled as to why it was so hard, we talked very honestly and openly about missionary work and how important it was to us and to the church. She has never seen a missionary, never seen "Elders" walking two by two, white shirts and name tags, scriptures in hand. Can't imagine that we would save and plan for our boys to go on missions and then send them away for two years. She was so impressed, looks forward to the day when she will see them walking in the streets of Banja Luka. It will come! That same time we will be walking the streets as well, with our name tags on, right now we take them off when we hit the boarder, so as to not hinder the legal process.
   We spent the day today looking for stoves for the kitchen here in Varazdin, spent most of our time being lost in Zagreb. It felt like a wasted day, but it's all a part of the process. Even our trusted GPS aka. "Ned"  was so lost that we thought he had blown a circuit or something. Finally found the place about 3:00, the man that knew about the commercial stoves had just left, "you know, Friday and everything" businesses here just don't work the same as they do in  America.
   Another week that has seemed to fly by....I somehow look back and think where did it go? The weather here is turning cold. Yesterday I looked outside and it was bright and sunny. WRONG!! It was bitter cold! October in Croatia, don't be fooled by the sun! And yes, the rummors are right. They do turn off the heat in the apartment building at night. About 11:00 P.M. it goes off and at 6:00 A.M. you can hear the clink, clink of heat coming into the radiators. Guess who doesn't get out of bed until I hear that little noise?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our first project---rejected!

Just kidding! Really it was rejected, but only because we were trying so hard to stay in our budget. Our projects go into the European Humanitarian Specialist in Frankfurt. They have given us a budget for the rest of the year....then in January we get a new amount to start spending. This is a budget for area projects, not including the churches major initiatives, wheelchairs, vision, neo-natal, food and clean water.
   We submitted a project this week for our local hospital. It was built during the time that Croatia was part of Yugoslavia and under Communism. It's old, ugly, depressing and I'm quite sure that people go there to die, not to get better, It's all socialized medicine here, so the government is suppose to supply the hospitals with basics, but according to the head nurse, "bed sheets are always on the back of the list, they should be at the top of the list, but they are not". They asked for 800 sheets, That was way more than we could afford with our tiny year end budget, but we told her that we would do what we could.
   First step, find out where to buy bed sheets and then how much do they cost?  We found a vocational high school that has set up an amazing factory as part of their program. It's right here in Varazdin. They make good high quality bed sheets. As part of their programs they integrate  disabled kids. In the sewing program they have about 17 disabled people that work for a wage, they also hire one on one aides to help them and they produce amazing products. Not just sheets, but uniforms for police, firemen, medical personnel, environmental friendly handbags, florescent vests for the school children here to wear on their way to school, and environmental friendly diapers. We were given a tour of the whole facility and were very impressed. They quoted us about $10.00 a sheet. The very best quality material that will withstand many washings. We put in a request to Frankfurt  to buy 150 sheets. Immediately they responded with a rejection. We will only approve this project if you increase the amount to 300 sheets. We will find the money somewhere! Can you believe it! We were so excited! I can't wait to go back to the hospital and tell them that we can put the order into the school. It's such a win, win project. The hospital benefits, the school benefits and we are absolutely thrilled with our first little area project!
   We also submitted another project for the Banja Luka, Bosnia, Red Cross soup kitchen. The church put in a new commercial grade refrigerator and a huge gas soup cooker for them last year. When we went to see how they were doing with a wheelchair project that is coming up here soon we asked if we could see the soup kitchen. We discovered that the stoves were thirty years old and pretty much they were functioning on two or three burners. They were pretty much a mess. We tracked down a local supplier of commercial restaurant equipment and negotiated a price. Then we wrote the project and submitted it to Frankfurt . It was also approved! So now we are really official with two projects moving forward!
This is the Red Cross Director (dark hair in back) and the cute cooks that are the real back bone of the kitchen.

These stoves are thirty-plus years old. The ovens haven't worked for years. The one in the back with stuff on it hasn't worked at all for the last 10 years. We are replacing the one in the back with a new electric commercial stove with an oven. Then we are putting in a new gas stove top to replace the ones in front. There is always more need than money, but they are so grateful for any thing we can do! These people serve over 250 FAMILY MEALS a day! For some it is the only meal they get all day. 
   Also this week we had a tour of some of the Caraitas facilities. The director was so pleased to show us all of the work that they have done. And I think we have found a good solid partner. We saw a day care facility for disabled people. It is a newly built, modern facility, with hydro-therapy, individual study areas for teaching, a beautiful room for relaxation a calming therapies. He called it their "Pearl" and it really was an amazing place. They didn't need any help. They were doing just fine with that one.

Jim and I with the President of Catholic Relief Organization Caratis.
This is their beautiful "Pearl" It really is a lovely facility. I see why they are so proud of it!
 We went to a drug store that they run, it isn't so much prescription drugs, socialized medicine, but an over the counter type store that supplies things that they can get without a doctors prescription. They serve about 5,000 people a year, including many Roma. They needed wheelchairs, canes, walkers and cash donations. We can help with wheelchairs, canes and walkers, but the church typically does not do cash donations. Then we went to the soup kitchen. It is in the center of Varazdin in a very old and dilapidated building that was probably built in like the 1700's or something...really old! They serve almost 300 meals a day out of the kitchen, also they distribute food boxes. The people have a choice. they can stay and eat their or they can take the food home and share it with their families. We have one member that eats there every day. He said he gets a small pension from the government, it covers his housing costs and leaves him about $30.00 a month for food. We hear this story from others..over and over. These pictures I took will tell the rest of the story. Lot's of work to do here. This year we hope to get them a new potatoe peeler and a new stove. On Monday we are going to Zabreb to a restarant supply place to get a quote. Maybe we will have to choose. One or the other depending on cost.
This is the potato peeler in Varazdin soup kitchen. It's thirity plus years old.

Caritus cooks in the soup kitchen.

One of the cooks here in Varazdin... the stoves are VERY old. We want to do whatever our budget will let us. 

This is one of the cute little volunteers that goes and picks up fresh fruits and vegetables.

More of the soup kitchen in
Varazdin. They get bread donated by local bakeries We would love to buy them a commercial grade oven, but I'm afraid
that it won't be on this years budget.
   We got interviewed by the police last week for our Visa's and yesterday we got what we think is a notice to come in and pay money and get the Visa stamp. It's all in Croatian, so we aren't really sure. So today we went into the police station again, paid $200. and each got a stamp on our passports! We now are official and have our Visas. It feels really good to have that done.  The interview went something like this. "So, Mr. Erickson, what have you done all your life in America?" Jim...long list of his jobs,  Da, Da, Da,  yes,yes yes, Mrs. Erickson, what have you done? Well, we have eight children and for the last 38 years I've taken care of my family. Never worked outside of our home....His jaw dropped and shock registered! How strange it is for them that we would first have 8 children, and 2nd that Jim was able to support that large of a family without a second income. People here have maybe 1 child and mom and dad both have to work full time just to provide the neccecities. We are a strange animal to them! How blessed I've been in my life!
   We are looking forward to a fun Preparation day with our friends that are the office couple in Slovenia. They are coming and staying overnight and then we are going to do some sight seeing tomorrow. It will be nice to visit with them, we are very excited that they are coming! Yeah! People that really speak ENGLISH!!! 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Waterfalls, Water Projects and Bosnia....

This week we changed our Prep Day to Monday, so the Elders could come with us to one of Croatia's national parks.
Plitvicka jezera. Park of Waterfalls

We walked almost 7 miles through the most beautiful  park that I think I've ever seen!

Around every bend was another beautiful lake and more waterfalls, the water was so clear that you could see the fish without even trying very hard.

This was the highest one. We hiked to the top of it and then down.  Worth the effort!

It was a perfect day, cool with no rain, I would not have enjoyed it so much I think if it had been the middle of the summer heat.
 If you would like to see some other really beautiful pictures of this park, go Here

   We spent most of the day at the park and then went to Karlovac to inspect missionary apts. We went out to eat with our two missionaries and one other companionship. We sat and visited a little long because our missionaries got home about 15 or 20 mins. after their curfew. We are bad examples for them. It was a long drive home. We went to a pizza place and I realized that their idea of pizza over here is pretty yucky. Imagine a terrific pizza coming out of the oven, go to the fridge and get an egg. Crack it and put it in the middle of the pizza and serve it! See how that one goes over! They say it's great, but not for me!

   Weds. we went to Zagreb and talked to the Red Cross there about our wheelchair shipment that is coming in on the 15th and then we met with the manager over the ongoing water projects. We are submitting a project in January that will run all year long. It's been ongoing in Croatia for the last three years, but next year they want to take it to another part of the country and clean wells there. They already have all the equipment that the church purchased three years our budget is just for the work force and travel costs to the area. It is projected to clean out 200 wells  in 2011.  They actually have to send someone down into the well to bring up whatever the contaminant is: dead body, decomposing animals, or live ordinance. So far they have had no one injured on the project, but it seems a little scary to me. They pump out the water with a submersible pump, then get whatever out, let the well fill up again, test the water and do it again if it needs to be done again. The homes are far away from each other, so travel is expensive and the teams have to be away from their families for long periods of time. Brave men, don't you think?
   Thursday and Friday we were in Banja Luka. As we came across the boarder into Bosnia we encountered a truckers strike! Police were every where. At every street corner, standing and waiting for what I don't know. Anyway, we were happy we were in the lane going INTO town, not OUT of town, because the truckers were miles, and miles of semis, holding up traffic. What a mess! We had our translator take us on a tour of the city, so we could get a feel for it. We visited with the director of the Red Cross and discussed another wheelchair shipment going into Banja Luka and we assured her that the project for their soup kitchen had been submitted and was into our Area Humanitarian Leader for approval. Hopefully we will complete that project by Christmas.
   We stayed at a members home overnight and he took us to dinner. We had a wonderful meal and after he asked us if we wanted to go visit a family with him. We were thrilled to have that opportunity, it's a family that is just around the corner from him, the teenage daughter is really interested in joining the church, but parents need to know what the church is all about. Ed gives a beautiful lesson on prayer, the father in the family was sick, they said it was his pancreas, so after explaining the difference between prayer and blessings Ed asked if He and Jim could give the father a blessing. The spirit was so strong, it was an amazing experience and one that I will always remember. I'm dying to find out how he is, but somehow I feel that he's better. I love this gospel, and know how much it means to me in my life and it's just so wonderful to see it change the lives of others. What a privilege it is for us to be here in this part of the world and see the great work that is going on by so many good people.
   Friday we went to a hospital to meet two doctors that are partnering with us to bring the Neo-natal training to their hospital. The training will be the 7th through the 9th. Sixty medical people from Banja Luka and the surrounding area will be in attendance. The church is sending a team from Salt Lake to do the training. Those 60 people will then go out into their communities and towns and train other medical personnel, especially those that have to do with delivering babies. This is our first time seeing this happen, so we are excited and thrilled to be a part of it. On our way to the hospital, we were putting the address into "Ned" our GPS , the street name intrigued us. The street name was, "Twelve Babies"  We asked the translator if it was correct. He told us this story.

Never to be forgotten... During the war in 1992, in the hospital, the department of intensive care, Clinical Center of Banja Luka, due to lack of oxygen that was necessary for adequate treatment, from 22nd of May to 19th of June 1992, 12 babies died. After 13 years of struggle with severe disease, died the thirteenth infant, SlańĎana Kobas.
The needed oxygen was impossible to deliver by land to Banja Luka because of the blocked road to Serbia. The only way for the oxygen to be delivered was to air, but because of the ban on flights over the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Security Council, the plane that was supposed to deliver oxygen from Belgrade to Banja Luka, was not allowed to fly.

That sad period in our history will never be forgotten, and that is why we must build a future in which something like this must never happen to anyone. This tragedy wrote sad pages in the history of our hospital.

It is hard to describe this kind of suffering on paper, but it lives in our hearts and in the hearts of those families who suffered that pain.

The street in Paprikovac, where the Clinical Center of Banja Luka is , in which died new born babies, is called "Twelve babies“.

When we went into the NICU there were only about 5 babies in little incubators, but I just know I saw "13" My heart just cried for those families. Children are always the losers in adult conflicts, aren't they? What an amazing opportunity it is for us to be in the same hospital where there is so much history. My heart felt question is this, "where was I in 1992? I never heard this story, never cried for those babies, never even knew what was going on. Where was I? You might also want to see this u tube vidieo.  Twelve Babies
It hasn't been translated, but very moving, non the less.

On the way home, our translator took us a different way, so we missed all the mess. But just across the border we got pulled over by two Croatian policemen. In our own country, it's traumatic know you might get a ticket, but in a foreign country it was really scary. They were just doing registration and drivers licence checks. We were fine. Had all the the proper stuff. Da, Da, Da, yes, yes, yes. Dobro Dan...good day!
    Today I've done laundry and caught up from not having a prep. day at home. One always has to pay the piper when one plays, don't they?
    We have another busy week next week, starting Monday morning. We are going on a tour of the Caritas facilities here and around Varizdin. 
   Another week goes by, we miss you and love you all. I love your comments, I know it's a bother, but it's nice to know that your out there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Potato salad and pickles....

   So easy right? Making potato salad is something I can usually do in my sleep. In fact I remember a few times in the last 35 years that potatoes sitting cooked on the range magically got peeled and cut up an put in the fridge while I WAS sleeping...maybe it was Jim, or maybe I was really doing it in a sleep walking daze. Who knows? Anyway, last week the missionaries asked if we would host the members over here to watch the Sat. morning session of conference. We are the only ones in the branch with Internet. Of course, we'd love that opportunity. So we decided to make things easy. This is where the adventure begins...
   Menu for easy get together: Yummy fresh bread
                                              Meat and cheese
                                              Potato salad

First stop at the grocery store, I found the deli meat counter was having a great sale. At least I THINK it was a sale, they were swamped with people, buying all sorts of stuff that I don't have the foggiest what it is. Finally the little girl that knows me, smiles and says "Hello" ahhh good sign, she remembers that I don't speak Croatian! Next she helps me figure out what kind of meat is what...Okay, turkey, ham and salami stuff. That should do it. Ya, a half a kilo of each. Whooooooo that's plenty. just kiddin' not a real half a kilo. It was like a pound and a half each. Such a dork! I bet she just laughed her guts out after I slunk away!

Next stop: the bakery where one of our members work. She is a little hard to get to know and a little leery of us. But she is one of two in the branch that speak English, so we are really trying hard to get to know her. She won't sell us bread, something went wrong in production. They didn't put salt in the bread so it's yucky. We asked her if she wanted us to come get her and her family for conference tonight. No, they can't come. Her husband isn't feeling well.

Next stop: another bakery. Success, came home and ate lunch. Bread was as usual, awesomely wonderful!

Potatoes and eggs were cooked and cooled so I started the potato salad. Do Croatians eat potato salad, Jim asked....hummmm don't know the answer to that one!  At least not until I started cutting up the dill pickles. Well, they LOOKED liked dill pickles. I tasted one. YUCK! Pickles, but really yucky, no hint of dill. We translated the label and it said, pasteurized cucumbers, no additives. No taste either. I sent Jim back to the store. It's across the street. I don't care how much it cost...bring me home dill pickles and a diet coke! We'll I got a Coke Zero and pickles that were in vinegar. Still no dill, but better than pasteurized cucumbers! I don't think they eat potato salad. In answer to Jim's question. If they did, they would have dill pickles, right? So I made my first Croatian style potato salad. Hope someone shows up! I might have to shove it down the missionary's throats..I put tons of onions in it just to give it some Jim will not be eating it.
   Two days later...only one member showed up to conference, and she was too shy to eat. So I ate potato salad. Turned out even the missionaries even wouldn't eat it. They don't like Croatian pickles! So I put it in a container, hung it on the side of the dumpster and within 15 mins. the Roma's had it. Hope they liked a little bit of my American madness!
   I know this is a silly, not important blog post, but tonight I feel a bit tired and this will have to do. We go again to Bosnia tomorrow. I'll write about something important when we get home. My love to all of you!

Ahhh! Potato Salad...Croatian style!

Our pickle haters, Missionaries
Elder Nita from Henderson Nevada and Elder Lee from Cedar City

This has nothing to do with anything, but made me laugh! I took this from our car window. They were in front of us in traffic. Down town Varazdin.