Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy December

Bob here: Here is a summary of the latest news. Last week KLynn was called and set apart by our Area President as a service missionary for the duration of her stay in Moscow. Her assignment is to serve as an ambassador for the Church to the diplomatic community. This assignment will be a great help to KLynn and give her direction. She was recently released as Relief Society President to allow more time for her work with the International Women's Club, which has been pretty demanding. She is doing a lot of good. The same day KLynn was set apart we left for Hanover Germany to spend the weekend with our son Rick, his wife Vanessa, and their three children. They and Germany are a breath of fresh air, and Rick and Vanessa were gracious hosts. We spent much of the time at the Christmas markets in Hanover and Celle, which were beautiful. Their five year old daughter, Chrissie, is picking up a little German. Her vocabulary and grammar are limited, but her pronunciation is native quality. On Thursday afternoon I flew to Kyiv to give a presentation Friday morning on the American judicial system for a group of law students and young lawyers as part of the Ukrainian Law Week celebration. It was fun to play teacher for a day, and a lot of the students wanted their pictures taken with me afterward. It's the closest I'm ever likely to come to achieving rock star status. They also gave me an exceptionally cool-looking plaque to hang on the wall. I'm not sure what it says, but I'm sure it's something nice. I can make out my name, sort of, written in Cyrillic, and I recognize the Ukrainian national emblem at the top, but the rest of it is pretty much unintelligible. I'm continually behind at work, but hopefully I can get caught up a little over the New Year holiday. KLynn and I have tickets for the "Old Circus" this evening. I hope we can get there. We hear political demonstrations are expected downtown, and who knows what that will do to traffic and metro. Americans have been advised to avoid the downtown area. Merry Christmas to All!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving and IWC Winter Bazaar

Here are this week's pictures. Top left is the expat Thanksgiving dinner at the Swisshotel. KLynn and I sat next to Ron and Gloria Glass, and other friends were further down the table. It was a nice evening. I will miss these people when they leave Moscow. The top right picture is KLynn and some of her lady friends from various countries. They are an exceptionally nice group of women. The bottom pictures are from the International Womens Club Winter Bazaar at the Radisson Hotel. KLynn was in charge of the raffle. They gave away 160 prizes, all of which had to be gift wrapped. KLynn had help from some of the sister missionaries. It was a huge event, with 70 embassies participating, selling products from their countries. It drew a crowd of thousands of visitors. All of the proceeds go to various charities. The bottom right picture is the booth advertising the Embassies of the World Dinner and Ball in February that is KLynn's next big project. The sister missionaries made a good impression on the others who helped with the Bazaar. The president of the IWC, the wife of the number 2 person in charge at the Indian Embassy, told some of the other organizers that KLynn can do anything because she has such great connections through her Church. It is partly true.

This last week I attended a meeting of the temporary board of directors of the new Church legal entity in Istanbul. We are in the process of getting it fully operational. It's a good time to be here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

. These are some pictures from last Sunday. We had Lary and Marianne Walker (KLynn's brother and his wife), Chad and Bethany Packard (KLynn's cousin and his wife), and Venture Mahonda over for Sunday dinner. There is also a picture of KLynn and Festus (a recently baptized member from Nigeria) taken at Church. Venture and Festus both want to serve missions. Venture has now returned to Tanzania, and hopefully will be going to BYU this spring. He plans to go to the Temple in South Africa first. This morning, quite unexpectedly, KLynn was released as RS president. Our bishop wisely felt that KLynn was being spread too thin trying to do her IWC work on top of Relief Society. He told her that she had been "called" to her work with the IWC, and there were others who could serve as Relief Society President but no one else who could do what she is doing with the IWC. It was a little emotional, but I think KLynn feels it is for the best. She is SUPER busy with all she has going with IWC. She has also been an outstanding RS president, and she is loved by all the sisters in our ward. She's done a lot of good. This afternoon we went to a Christmas bazaar at the Italian Embassy. It was a bit of a madhouse, but KLynn wanted to make an appearance so the Ambassador's wife would know she was supporting the event. KLynn briefly introduced me to the Ambassador's wife, we had gelato and (wonderful) ravioli, and so it was a successful visit. Tomorrow I'm off to Istanbul for a quick trip, and Thursday we're having Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel with a group of expats. KLynn and I (especially KLynn) socialize a lot here, mostly with people who aren't members of the Church. It is a little different than our past life, but we enjoy it. We've met some truly outstanding people here. November is Moscow is pretty gray and drab. We're looking forward to visiting Rick and family in Germany and Christmas after that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Moscow Driving

So the other morning I was driving to work. As I pulled up to an intersection to turn left the arrow started flashing (meaning it was about to shut off). I stopped to wait for the light, and a few seconds later a full-sized bus rear ended me. The Camry absorbed the impact pretty well, but it made for a bad beginning to the morning.

The latest on KLynn's adventures is that she now has a major role in the International Women's Club winter bazaar in a few weeks. She tried to get out of it, but the president "begged" her to accept, so she did. It is another big fund-raiser, with about 60 embassies participating. The embassies sell items from their respective countries, with the proceeds going to charity. It should be interesting. KLynn is in charge of gathering items from the various embassies to give away as prizes for a "lottery" they are running as part of the event. She sees this as another opportunity to give meaningful service, and at the same time build contacts with the embassy women, and hopefully create more goodwill for the Church. She is effectively on a full-time public affairs / government relations mission here and is having some pretty unique experiences. I'm way proud of her. KLynn volunteered me to "MC" part of the program. Here we go!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

These are some pictures from the Marine Corps Ball, celebrating the founding of the Marine Corps. The ceremony presenting the colors was way impressive and patriotic. The food was good, but the dancing afterward was too much like a high school prom for our grandchildren.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 2011 Report

(Bob here): It's been way too long since I've added a post. Moscow is getting to be seriously dark these days. Next week it's not supposed to get above freezing for three days running, so winter is around the corner. Friday was a holiday in Russia, so I stayed home from work and enjoyed a day of relaxation. No one seems to know exactly what the holiday is to celebrate. It used to celebrate the Bolshevik Revolution I think, and they're trying to come up with a contemporary justification.

Our life here is still interesting and busier than we'd like. I seem to deal with a constant stream of problems that arise somewhere every day. Some good things are happening, like we organized the first Church legal entity in Turkey a few weeks ago; and some things are not so good, like passage of a restrictive religion law in Kazakhstan last month. I've been traveling to the point that I needed to have additional pages sewn into my passport -- it feels like a small novel now.

KLynn is now on the steering committee of the Moscow Chapter of the International Women's Club. She's the only American on the committee. She is in charge of the "Embassies of the World Dinner-Dance" in February. It's a charity fund raiser black-tie dinner hosted by 15 to 20 embassies around town, followed by a dance and silent auction at a downtown hotel. This kind of fell into her lap because some other women are leaving Moscow before February. She is more than a little stressed about it, but she'll do fine. This is supposedly one of the major "society events" of the year in Moscow and attracts a lot of high profile people. KLynn will be working closely with a lot of the ambassador wives and hopefully will be able to become something of a good-will ambassador for the Church. This is quite a change from the dairy farm in Idaho where she was raised. I think she's starting to go native here in Moscow. A few days ago she was going to an IWC meeting. She missed the shuttle bus from our neighborhood to the local metro station, so she caught a "gypsy cab," which is common practice here but to westerners it looks eerily like hitch-hiking. (We have a car, but Moscow traffic is unpredictable.) She goes shopping at a local market. She takes her little pull cart and gives candies to the families who run the booths there where she buys food. A lot of them are from Central Asian countries. They don't speak each others language at all, but KLynn has developed warm relationships with several of them. She is quite an amazing woman.

Tonight we're going a the "Marine Corps Ball" at "Spaso House," the residence of the American Ambassador. (It's a beautiful home. There are pictures on Wikipedia.) A neighbor who works at the Embassy was able to snag tickets for us. That will be fun. Our neighborhood here feels almost like Utah. The six-plex across the street from us is rented by the U.S. Embassy for employee families, and four of the six families are LDS -- Russian speaking returned missionaries. I walk to go home teaching.

The highbrow stuff we do is about 5% of life. The rest is ordinary living. I put in long hours at work and fight traffic going and coming. KLynn keeps busy mainly with homemaking and a group of women from the international expat community with whom she has become good friends. Her best friends are from Honduras, France, Poland, and England. We've also made good friends with several young African men who joined the Church here in Moscow. Many of them were enticed to come to Russia by unscrupulous travel companies in Africa who charge exorbitant fees based on promises of employment and housing that are totally false. These poor fellows get stuck in Russia with no language skills and nowhere to go. A lot of them are attracted to the Church, where they find a friendly support group. We've had a lot of them to dinner, and they are a nice bunch of guys. Each of them has a story. We are also friends with a group of Filipino LDS women who do domestic work here to support their families back in the Philippines. (I ran into the cousin of one of them at the little LDS branch in Istanbul lasts month. Talk about a small world!)

Our daughter Cindy and her family were here for ten days in October. Her husband Joshua just finished a medical fellowship in Germany and Austria. We enjoyed spending time with them. We've also seen our son Rick and family a few times since they've been in Germany. They're doing great, and it's been fun to try to speak a little German again. We're spending Christmas in Utah and will see four of the six children. It's hard to be away from them so much.

I'm not quite sure where all this is taking us after the next couple of years that we'll likely be here in Moscow, but it has definitely changed the course of whatever will come next.

Here are a few pictures from home and a trip to the market. The baker gave free breads to our granddaughter, Thomasin, when she was visiting a few weeks ago. She had been standing up on a stand and staring at him baking flatbreads in a big open oven. Today he gave us a bag of goodies to take home. They are very nice people at the market. KLynn often brings little candies to give out as "thank you's" to her friends, many of whom come from central Asia.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Report from the New Moscow Stake

June 5, 2011: (Bob writing)

This weekend KLynn and I witnessed the creation of the first LDS stake in Russia. Elder Russell M. Nelson came and organized the Moscow stake. KLynn and I feel very privileged to be here at this time. It is now a Russian Church in Moscow. It was an unforgettable experience.

Elder Nelson recounted how in 1985 President Benson assigned him to open the doors of the Communist countries for the preaching of the gospel. At the time, the Church was not well received, to put it mildly. Elder Nelson told how he and Elder Hans Ringer came to Moscow in 1987 and attempted to meet with the Minister of Religion of the Soviet Union. The Minister would not return their phone calls, so they went to his office and refused to leave until he finally agreed to talk to them as he was leaving for the day. The Minister of Religion said that to be registered the Church needed eleven members within a single political district. Elder Nelson asked if the Church could open a reading room or something of the sort to gain the required number of members, and the Minister responded, "No, you need to be registered to do that." Elder Nelson asked, "But how can we get the required number of members?" The Minister responded, "That's your problem." Elder Nelson and Ringer went to the Kremlin and sat down to think, but they couldn't see a way out of the "chicken and egg" problem. Then Elder Nelson told how the Lord accomplished it for them. Without going into the truly remarkable details, which are recorded in published histories, within a short time eleven people had joined the Church who lived within a single political district in Leningrad. This enabled the Church to establish a National Religious Association. The Vice President of the Russian Federation announced the registration of the Church at a concert by the Tabernacle Choir in the Moscow Bolshoi Theater in June 1991 - twenty years ago this month. Elder Nelson recalled other remarkable experiences he had in the early years establishing the Church in Russia. I took notes in my journal as fast as I could write. Elder Nelson's son, who was one of the first missionaries to Russia, came with him and bore testimony. Also present today was Elder Dennis Neunschwander, who was the former president of the Vienna Austria East Mission when the gospel was first being introduced into the Communist countries. The area covered by the Vienna Austria East Mission now contains 22 separate missions. Elder Neunschwander later became the Area resident of the Europe East Area. He is now an emeritus general authority, and he and his wife are serving an 18 month service mission preparing the history of the Church in Eastern Europe. Today was a faith promoting, exhilarating, and emotionally draining experience. KLynn did a beautiful floral arrangement for the podium, which added significantly to the meeting. There was a feeling of excitement in the air, as the members sensed this was a significant step in the advancement of the Church in this part of the world. As I looked at the large assembly of people gathered for the conference I thought of the hundreds of missionaries who have served here over the past twenty years, and the tremendous investment of time and resources to bring the Church to this point. There is much more work to be accomplished, but today was a great milestone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter in Russia

Some of the Philippine women and single sisters in our branch--for Easter dinner.

Russian Church by us. Midnight --Saturday night-Easter services that I went to. He would chant -Christ is Risen--to which we would say-- Indeed He has Risen--all in Russian of course!! It was

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cemetery and Convent South of Moscow

This is a small church and the bell tower inside the convent. The bell tower was built in the 15 hundreds. The weird design is actually Yeltsin's grave marker. The other with the head on the stone blocks is N. Krushtoff's (I don't know how to spell it--and spell check isn't working!)grave. Bob and I used to be so afraid of him when we were little.

"Spring" in Moscow

The first flower of spring--a little purple crocus!. Me at my market. This is the canal that I walk over on my way to market--this was April 14th--still frozen. This is a pond outside the Nov.... Monistary that we were at today--Saturday April 16th --starting to thaw a bit!


This was a Easter market--these are decorated eggs. This is a 14th century church--a cute dirndl and fun street--we took a buggy ride

Sunday, April 10, 2011

KLynn's Big Birthday Adventure

Bob here: KLynn and I are totally spoiled living in Eastern Europe. KLynn's birthday is Monday, and to celebrate we took a three-day trip to Vienna, Austria. We left Thursday morning and just returned a few hours ago. It was WAY COOL! For a music geek there just isn't a better place. [At one subway station there is a pay toilet facility that features piped in Strauss walzes.] KLynn and I spent most of our time shopping for grandchildren, going to concerts, operas, visiting castles, and enjoying one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Last night we attended a performance of "The Elixer of Love" by Donnazetti (sp?) at the Vienna State Opera House. It was beyond amazing. The building makes every other opera house I've ever visited seem like a poor sister, and the talent on stage was equally outstanding. KLynn and I felt very blessed to be able to be there. The cab driver who took us to the airport this morning said the original opera house was destroyed by American bombers during the war, and the people of Vienna joined together to reconstruct it as close to the original as possible. Hurray for the people of Vienna! Thursday we attended a symphonic concert at the "Golden Hall" in the Vienna Musik Verein, which was just behind our hotel. I would describe that in equally glowing terms. Friday we attended a performance of the operatta "Die Fledermaus" at the "Volksoper," traditionally the opera house for the common people. It was great too! KLynn and I thought of her sister, Wendee, who sings an aria from that work. Vienna is an expensive city to visit -- think New York with a bad currency exchange rate -- so it will be a while before we go there again, but we will definitely want to go back in another year or two. Last but not least, we found this great little French cafe that was always filled with locals. We ate there a lot and brought some pastries home with us on the plane. Tomorrow it's back to work.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Moscow and Istanbul pictures

Old ruins and mosaic from Haggai Sophia

Moscow: March 26, 2011

It's a beautiful wintery Saturday morning. Spring officially arrived some time ago, but it still feels like a typical Salt Lake January outside. We get a little snow about five days a week with no end in sight. It's hard to imagine that we were complaining of the heat last summer. Just the same, we love living here. This morning KLynn is down in the kitchen preparing food for a branch social this evening and for a farewell open house tomorrow for Kent and Janet Rust, who are long time members of the Moscow Branch. The Rusts have been called to be mission presidents in Ykaterinburg (Siberia), and they are leaving Moscow this week for the U.S. to prepare. They will be missed. I spent a week in February in training meetings in Salt Lake and then at the J. Reuben Clark Law Society conference on the SMU campus in Dallas. It was valuable training, but humbling to realize how much I still have to learn. I'm sure I'll still be learning when it is time to leave. The day I returned to Moscow we got word that KLynn's sister Karyn passed away, and KLynn left the next day for the funeral in Wyoming. I'm grateful she was able to go. I would like to have gone, but work did not permit me to leave again so soon. I have matters I'm working on in several countries -- Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Georgia and others. It's a constant challenge to keep up with the steady flow of work, but it is interesting and rewarding. There is a lot of work to be done by a lot of people to keep the Church going and growing. I'm grateful to be able to play a small role. Last week KLynn and I spent a few vacation days in Southern Spain. We stayed in Seville and took day trips to a few other Andelucian cities. It was beautiful, and we enjoyed the warm sunshine!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Report in Early February, 2011

(This is Bob)
I'll begin with the customary apologies for not posting anything for so long. Life continues to be interesting and rewarding here. Of great significance to KLynn and me is the recent birth of two new grandchildren: (Harriet Eloise Schkrohowsky born to Cindy - her fourth; and Esther Olivia Crittenden born to Lizzy - her first). I just returned from a delightful visit with Cindy to see the new baby et al, and KLynn is in North Carolina with Lizzy, returning on Saturday. I had originally planned to go to North Carolina as part of this trip, but work commitments forced a change in plans. I'm looking to seeing Liz and new baby in May at a family vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia. Far less happy is the health news from KLynn's sister, Karyn, who is gravely ill and battling cancer. KLynn was able to visit her in December, which was a memorable but bittersweet experience. Times like this remind us of the important things in life and make us grateful for all of our loved ones. It is also a reminder to not put off life experiences you want to do. We appreciate Internet communication and jet travel that allow us to stay connected with family while we are living away. Meanwhile, the past few months have been eventful here. In December, KLynn and I met Rick for a few days in Hanover, Germany. Rick and family are planning to spend ten months in Hanover beginning next summer, where Rick will be training at a neurological institute. Rick attended a seminar somewhere in Austria or Switzerland in December, and afterward he spent a few days with us in Hanover to visit the institute and make living arrangements for his family. We were introduced to some church members in Hanover through people we know in Moscow, and Rick will rent their upstairs apartment next summer. It was a fun visit. KLynn fell in love with Germany - especially the Christmas markets - and I enjoyed a visit to my mission country after many years. KLynn and I are excited to have Rick and family less than a three-hour flight away! Cindy's husband, Joshua, is finishing his residency this summer, and they will be spending a few months in Germany and Austria this summer and fall doing a fellowship in orthopedic surgery. It will be SO good to have family relatively close. KLynn and I are already planning a "Sound of Music" tour with grandchildren in Saltzburg. I was concerned about KLynn spending Christmas away from family, but it turned out to be far better than either of us expected. On Christmas Eve (which is just an ordinary day in Russia), we had dinner at a restaurant by Red Square and walked around the Kremlin. Christmas morning we had a nice time opening gifts from the grandchildren and each other, and talking with family on the phone. That afternoon and evening we had people over from the LDS Branch. We had four young African men, the Russian wife of one of the Africans, their baby, and a young American woman who is here teaching English. KLynn, with funding from members of the Branch, had prepared gift bags for each of our guests (and others), and they were very appreciative. One young man in particular, from Tanzania, has had some serious challenges here in recent months, and he sent us the nicest text message afterward. It gave us the true spirit of Christmas. Russia pretty much closes down for the first ten days of January for the New Year's holidy, and for part of that time KLynn and I visited our East Coast children and their families. For this expat life to work long term we need to keep connected with the grandchildren, and so far it seems to be working reasonably well. I also had two work trips to Istanbul in January. KLynn came with me on the first trip. We had some time to see the sights in the Old City and loved it. We were also privileged to represent Latter-day Saints Charities at a ceremony for delivery of wheelchairs to a foundation for handicapped people. The ceremony was in an auditorium downtown. TV and newspaper reporters were there, government officials, a local actor, a school choral group, boy- and girl scouts, etc. It felt strange to have instant and unplanned "celebrity status" for the event, but it was gratifying to see how much good LDS Charities does. (I made a very brief speech through an interpreter and got loud applause when I quoted the Prophet Mohammad on the importance of caring for others, and equally loud applause when I quoted King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon.) The most moving part of the ceremony was when wheelchairs were presented to the individual recipients, who were carried up on stage one at a time by family members. These people were seriously handicapped, and up until then they had been essentially imprisoned in their apartments, because they had no means of mobility. The families were extremely grateful. LDS Charities has donated tens of thousands of wheelchairs in Turkey over the past few years, but when we saw some of the individual recipients the number took on an entirely new meaning. KLynn and I came away wanting to serve an LDS humanitarian service mission some day. My second trip was all work until late in the evenings, so it is just as well that KLynn didn't come with me. I've been in Pittsburgh the past few days, so it will feel good to be back at work tomorrow and try to get caught up on a few things.