Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Eventful Week

This has been one of the more eventful weeks since we arrived in Moscow. For me (Bob) it began last Friday, February 10. I flew to Istanbul and met that afternoon with Church and temporal affairs leaders regarding preparations for the first proselyting missionaries in Turkey and other matters affecting the Church. Four young Elders from the Bulgaria Sofia Mission arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday the 14th. On Saturday morning we held the organizational meeting for the new Church legal entity in Turkey. I conducted the business of the meeting, which consisted of choosing officers and members of the board of directors and board of auditors. We needed sixteen Turkish residents to fill all the required slots, and we had just enough. The person who was selected as treasurer and a member of the board of directors is a young Turkish man who was just baptized a month ago. He became interested in the Church through the Internet, looked up the Istanbul branch and was baptized a few weeks later. I have the feeling he will become an important leader of the Church in that country. My participation in the meeting was something of a cross between conducting a business meeting at my old law firm, using Robert's Rules of Order to entertain motions etc., and conducting a sacrament meeting with an exceptionally large number of sustainings to Church callings. Everyone who attended sensed it was a historic moment for the Church in Turkey, and we all felt privileged to participate. Sunday morning I flew from Istanbul to Salt Lake City for annual training meetings. I arrived around midnight Sunday night and stayed with Mindy and family in Kaysville, which was wonderful. I met Rob and the girls for dinner Wednesday night, which was also a highlight. I tried to call KLynn regularly while I was away, but it was hard to find her at home. She was in the throws of final preparation for the Embassies of the World Dinner and Ball, which was last night, February 17. Her week was more eventful than she wanted. On Monday, four days before the event, the Russian Military Band, which was to provide music for the dance, cancelled. KLynn had to scramble to find a replacement. Fortunately, a few weeks ago someone recommended that she contact a German fellow here in Moscow who organizes events professionally. He stepped in at the last minute and booked a band which turned out to be fabulous. KLynn was pretty definite about the kind of music she wanted, and they came through perfectly. The music was lively but not overly loud, and the atmosphere bespoke a formal ball rather than a dance club. (It was WAY better than the U.S. Marine Corps Ball we attended a few months ago.) I left my Salt Lake meetings early to arrive back in Moscow yesterday afternoon in time for dinner at the Swiss Embassy. The flight to Moscow was delayed out of New York, my luggage was delayed getting off the plane, and there was a HUGE traffic jam on Lenningradsky Shosse, the main road into the city from the airport. By the time I made it home, changed into my tuxedo a drove down to the hotel to meet KLynn, we made it to the Swiss Embassy exactly when dinner was scheduled to start, at 7:00. It was a small but appreciated "tender mercy." We had a very nice time at the embassy. The evening began with drinks and visiting with the embassy people and the other guests. Seating at the long and beautifully set dinner table was assigned, and I was able to sit near the ambassador, who is one of the most charming men I have ever met. KLynn had to excuse herself from dinner early to go back to the Ritz Carlton Hotel for last minute preparations, but I stayed through the multi-course dinner and visits afterward. After dinner, without really trying, I found myself and the ambassador standing by ourselves for about ten minutes, and we had a good discussion about the Church. The ambassador spoke very highly about the Church's reputation in the business world. (He was a Swiss banking lawyer before becoming a diplomat.) I was able to tell him about some of the challenges the Church is facing in that part of the world, and he seemed interested and sympathetic. Around 9:00 I got a ride with some of the other guests to the hotel and I was immediately WOWED by all the activities KLynn had arranged. Before the doors to the ballroom opened the guests gathered in the large lobby on the mezzanine level. The theme of the evening was "Venetian Carnival," and many people wore ornate carnival masks (KLynn's was white with sparkles and feathers). A baritone sang to piano accompaniment, and there were mimes, jugglers, artists doing portrait sketches, and young ballet students from the Bolshoi Company (who provided entertainment during the dance) mingling among the guests. The atmosphere was festive, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. KLynn had borrowed a large greenery arch from our office building and decorated it with flowers, cloth, Christmas ornaments, etc. There were many other "KLynn-esque" touches that added flair. We didn't have a camera and don't have pictures to post now, but there were several media photographers present last night, and we'll try to get some pictures from them and post later. KLynn, as the organizer and unofficial hostess, was in exceptional form. She wore a new black dress she had bought for the occasion, and she was radiantly lovely. KLynn took me in tow and introduced me to several people with whom she had become acquainted planning the event. We had nice visits with the ambassadors from Iceland and Madagascar and their respective wives, and we briefly met the ambassadors from Colombia, Iraq (whose wife is from Finland), the European Union, and the new ambassador from the United States. The daughter of the Iraqi ambassador is a student at the Anglo-American School near our home, and she was one of the artists KLynn had doing sketches. At 10:00 they opened the doors to the ballroom and the dancing began. The Ritz Carlton Moscow, situated across the street from the Kremlin, is one of the most elegant hotels I've ever seen, and the ballroom was exquisite. KLynn and I enjoyed dancing together and visiting. Besides several of KLynn's friends from the International Women's Club, we met the wife of the ambassador from Angola and her daughter who had recently arrived in Moscow. They were dancing up a storm. The master of ceremonies for the evening was a young man from England who hosts a travel and culture show on local Moscow television and occasionally on the EuroNews Network. He was wonderful. He also has an excellent singing voice, and during a break for the band he sang songs from "Phantom of the Opera" and "Jekyll and Hyde." Three young ballet dancers also performed. Altogether the evening was a great success. I was immensely proud of KLynn. She is having a great experience here and having a strong impact for good, both inside and outside of the Church. Everyone she meets knows why we are in Moscow, and she is able to leave a positive impression of the Church with many people, including people of influence in their respective countries. By the time the festivities wound down at 2:00 a.m. KLynn felt relieved and gratified that her efforts had paid off so well. In a few months she will begin preparations for next year's ball, and who knows what else. On Tuesday KLynn is leaving for the U.S. to visit Rebekah, Lizzy and families, and I'm heading back to Istanbul for the interim mission presidents' seminar. And the beat goes on.

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