(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.