Monday, March 23, 2009

Games with Elders; Tallinn, Estonia

Games with Elders

We always look forward to Thursday preparation day. It gives us a chance to be with the missionaries in a totally different environment. They do their emailing, eat snacks, play games and watch gospel-oriented DVD's. Here Elder Heath, left, and Elder Jouttenus enjoy a game of "Pass the Pigs," which has become a missionary favorite.

Visa Trip to Tallinn, Estonia
The Old Town in Tallinn was really fascinating for us. Walking up those narrow streets and imagining the history that took place there was mindboggling. The Estonian flag is in the forefront of the flags. It's hard to see, but it's blue, black and white. Blue for the sky, black for the earth and white for purity.
Rick is standing in front of a group of buildings which show some of the different types of architecture.
Walking up these narrow passageways and seeing the thickness of the walls gives a whole new meaning to laying stone.
This was one of the entrances to the upper level of the city. The huge gate has a heavy bolting mechanism that would take a pretty strong person to engage.
One of the cathedrals in the city.
Closeup of a cobblestone road. It was fun to imagine the clopping of horse hooves and the jangling of armor as we walked along the streets.
A view from the upper part of the city overlooking the Baltic Sea and some of the Old Town buildings. The turrets were especially fun to see.
This gives a little perspective of the walls and buildings which were built in the 1200's. Look closely on the right side and you'll see a little hole in the wall. We weren't sure if it was a breather hole or a place to put a gun barrel through.
This was the main city center square and there were lots of fun shops and restaurants. The local craftsmen sell their beautiful work in the shops along the streets. There are lots of linen and woodcarving items. We found a lovely nativity set made in Tallinn to add to our collection.
This was a little different archetecture and we thought the two dragon heads were an interesting touch. (Click on the picture for closeup of the heads.)
In the park at the bottom of the Old Town hill, they had a snow sculpting exhibit. Many of them had been broken down, but this one was still pretty much intact.

This area of the park was filled with ducks everywhere. I think they had flown back a little too soon, but we enjoyed watching them trying to keep warm. The back of one of the snow sculptures can be seen on the left. It was a delightful trip and we hope we get to go back so we can see more of this beautiful city.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Women's Day Activity, New Baby Chernikov, Snow Scenes

Women's Day Activity

Sasha, in the forefront, is our Activities Director in the branch. He arranged to come to our apartment and prepare the food for the Branch Women's Day Activity. In Russia there isn't a Mother's Day. They have Women's Day instead on the 8th of March. The activity was on Saturday evening. The country took Friday and Monday off work. Above, Sasha Yartsev and Deema Gavrilov (2nd counselor in branch presidency) are mixing cookie dough.
Sasha had a lot of fun rolling out the dough. He wasn't used to using a rolling pin sleeve and thought it quite unusual. Some of our children may recognize the apron he used. It was made by Rick for Bonnie when she was in college and says, "Hot Dish." He loved using it.
Deema peeled all the potatoes and cut them up for a Russian version of potato salad.

Sveta Danilova was asked to help with the cooking and took charge in the kitchen in our apartment. They cooked chicken and potatoes for making two types of potato salad.

The program was begun with our Branch President giving some appropriate remarks for the occasion. Then Deema gave a spiritual thought about women. Next, the missionaries entertained. First Elders Hiatt and Armstrong sang a duet, accompanied by Elder Jouttenus on the piano and Sasha on the guitar.
Then, Elder Armstrong and Sasha performed a duet.
All the missionaries joined together to perform a skit showing a "woman" putting on make-up. As you can tell, this is a combination of two pictures. As a result, you can see Elder Jouttenus twice. From left to right are Elders Hiatt, Jouttenus, Heath, Jouttenus and Armstrong. They are preparing Elder Heath for the skit.
Here you see all the missionaries again. Yes, you really do. That is Elder Hiatt's right arm and Elder Jouttenus's left arm protruding from the plastic bag. Elder Heath ended up with quite a mess at the end with lipstick all over his face and eye brow pencil in various places on his face. Sister McClelland recommended that Elder Heath put on vasaline before this started and Elder Heath was very happy about how easy the make-up came off. He was such a good sport about the whole thing that it really helped everyone enjoy the Elder's hamming it up.
Sveta worked tirelessly getting the food ready to serve. In addition to the potato salads, she had a fruit plate accompanied by a caramel fountain to dip the fruit in.
Here you can see a shot of the audience with Elder's Hiatt and Jouttenus serving. All the women were served first, then, the men got to eat. You can see the two potato salads on the plates that Lena is carrying. Lena is a returned missionary who moved to Moscow from our branch about a year ago. She is also the sister of our former branch president's wife.

New Baby Chernikov
Here is a picture of Larisa Chernikov with Karina (on the right), Maxim (on the left) and baby, Matvee (in the center). They are wrapped in towels that Anne made for them. The baby had to stay in the hospital for over two weeks because they were concerned about him. Larisa had to stay with him. She finally told them that she would give the baby the treatments which they were giving him and signed a release so she could take him home. Everyone is happy to have them home. They all came to church the next Sunday.

Snow Scenes
Here is a picture of the snow we walk around in every day. The walks are mostly cleared but very icy. The snow from the parking lot to the right of this picture is dumped in the field adjacent to make the mound you see. This is taken half way between our outside apartment door and the Texac restaurant.
This shot is taken from our bedroom window. If you look closely at the little fruit stand across the street, you'll see a mother pushing her baby in a carriage. We are amazed how many people walk their babies even when it's so cold and icy. The building on the right is an elementary school.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Valentine Party, Common Area, Mens' Day, English Class, RS Project

Valentine Party
The branch had a Valentine Day activity and asked Anne to make refreshments. She baked the cake and decorated it. It says "We 'heart' You". The sprinkles were little pink, red and white hearts she found at one of the stores.

She also baked heart-shaped cookies and made frosting so everyone could decorate their own cookies. Sasha was meticulous in putting little sprinkles on one by one to spell Dasha for his girlfriend.

When he finished his three cookies, they read "Dasha and I." I'm sure Dasha was impressed when she saw them on his Facebook page.

Common Area

This is our courtyard from our balcony window. It was such a beautiful day with clear skies and sunshine. We actually had four days in row like that, but the temperatures are still cold and the icy streets and sidewalks are treacherous to walk on.

This is our little rolling cart which we use to haul groceries and other items. It's usually brimming over when we return from our shopping trips. We also use it to carry 5 liter water bottles to the branch building. Since we have a water filtering system in our apartment, we fill the bottles to use for sacrament and drinking. The Church provides the filtering systems for each missionary apartment.

Men's Day

Rick is showing the card and gift he received for Men's Day. The sisters bought the pens and had them engraved with CTR in Russian. They also provided refreshments after the meetings on Sunday.

English Class

We were invited to answer questions and help students speak English in an evening English class. The teacher is on the far right. The students are either graduates of university or full-time students who want to learn English for their own benefit. This was one of the beginner groups.

This is the advanced group that Rick worked with after the Elders left. Anne continued to work with the two beginner groups. We invited all of them to English Club and hope we see some of them there.

RS Project

Medina had her 8th birthday last week and Anne make a new cap for her as a gift with a knitting frame she received from home. She's learning to use it so she can teach sisters in the branch to make things for their families. The first activity for teaching knitting will be on March 20th.