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.