Sunday, November 22, 2009

Small Hermitage/Spilt Blood Church

The Church of the Spilled Blood. The door entrance of Christ on the cross is the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated March 1, 1881. His successor, Alexander III built this church as a memorial to him.

This past Saturday when we went shopping at the outdoor market we walked by part of the Hermitage Museum - what's called the Small Hermitage. Queen Catherine I put these museums together to have a place to put all of her many art collections from around the world. The statues are made of granite except for the smaller one - it's made of stone. They were quiet beautiful.

Another Christmas Photo

Hello family and friends

Today we put up our own little tree in our apartment while listening to Christmas music on iTunes. Joe bought me an early present at the outdoor market this past Saturday. A porcelain doll. She has a blue dress - the color for St. Petersburg. I love dolls. I haven't given her a name yet.

We put up the tree early because we can't wait to begin the holiday season.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Christmas Tree

We've set up the Christmas tree in the mission office and I'm playing music as much as possible at my desk to keep in the spirit of the season that is not really celebrated here. Packages are coming in for the missionaries that we have begun to place under the tree that they will open in zone conferences in December. We've captured a picture of Elders Shevchenko, Pitcher and Andersen by the tree.

On Thanksgiving Day Joe and I are hosting a dinner in our apartment for the missionaries in our district. There will be about 10 of us. Two elders have items shipped to them from America that will bring our dinner pretty close to the real thing. We will be having whole chickens because Turkey is too hard to find and expensive. The mission office will be closed so we'll enjoy a fun day with the missionaries.

This is our first holiday away from our kids and grandkids. It's a bit sad but we are focusing on making it as much fun for everyone because they miss home and family also.

We have discovered two very important members in our mission! The massage sister (Natasha) and chiropractor brother (Victor). They even come to our apartment!

Joe had twisted his back this past Saturday getting off the bus hauling our cart full of groceries. He's been icing it and I've been massaging it but he just kept walking more crooked and couldn't sleep.

I've had a kink in my neck since arriving here in Russia in August. Joe was twisted back into shape and no longer walking crooked and I received a one hour massage to help my sore muscles. We are feeling much better now. The sister who gave my massage said that the part of my muscles in my left shoulder blade and neck are related to my gall bladder. She suggested I drink water before a meal and wait to drink anything 1/2 hour after eating. Apparently it's common to have changes in our body when going to a foreign country. (DUH!) There as been a lot of changes I just didn't think it would be my gall bladder. We'll see what happens after making a few more changes.

We had exciting news that Joshua made it home after his 120 days on a Navy ship at sea. We were able to talk to him using Skype. He will be home for the holidays and then back to school and back out to sea. He's working hard to make a career for himself as a Merchant Marine.

We are also happy to report the rest of the kids and their families are doing fine (at least from what they tell us). They like to keep things from mom and dad so we won't worry. We love our children. They are so supportive and loving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Estonia Trip to Renew Visas

Here are pictures from our day in Narva, Estonia Monday November 9. We needed to go there to renew our visas with 4 elders. We need to leave Russia every 90 days to renew our visas.

We arrived at 6:30 a.m. It was very very cold. None of the stores open up until 10 a.m. so we walked around a little bit in the dark and went to a convenience gas station/store and picked up juice and the elders picked up breakfast. We were walking around a bit more trying to stay warm. Elder Croskrey didn't have a hat so I loaned him my knitted ear muffs (hence the photo next to the McDonald's sign). He was very grateful (and cute looking!) Such a good sport.
Elder Wignall called the two missionaries serving in Narva and they told us to come over to get out of the cold. We stayed at their place until 10 a.m. and went to the stores to shop. We ended up having very yummy pizza for lunch.

The statue you see is of Lenin. Apparently their is suppose to be a Lenin statue in every city in Russia. Not sure on that fact. This statue was inside the castle courtyard.

Note of interest: The fort was built in the 1300s.

There is one photo that you will see that looks like a wooden box, the photo next to it is what you see when you open the lid - down to the ground below - this was the toilet the soldiers used. Hope no one was on the ground underneath when someone was going...

There is a picture of a semi-truck and other cars in a line up. This is the border crossing going back into Russia. Very small compared to the Peace Arch or Truck Crossing in Blaine!

The photos that are overlooking Russia and Narva were taken on the highest peak inside the castle. The photo of a fort from this vantage point is the fort on the Russian side of the river that separates Russia and Estonia.

Narva is a tiny town, but seemed more modern. There was a store we went to that had quite a few American made food items. It felt a bit like a Safeway. Very nice. I even found a rubber spatula! I could not find a rubber spatula in St. Petersburg. Funny how even the little things in our daily lives become important - even a rubber spatula.

Fortunately there was no problem in obtaining our new visas and when our courier arrived with them at 3:30 p.m. we walked back across the border, filled out new immigration paperwork for Russia and got through just fine. Our 2 hour drive back to St. Petersburg went well also.

It was nice to travel the country side. It looked just like Whatcom County. There are individuals homes as well - no apartments. As you can see from some of the pictures it looks a lot like Whatcom County. But much much colder. Although the weather currently is in the low 30s the humidity makes it feel much colder.

It has been snowing here in St. Petersburg everyday since Tuesday. Everyone tells us it will continue to layer up in snow with snow and sand and start to melt in April. Tuesday afternoon as we look at our apartment windows we saw the largest snowflakes we have ever seen in our lives. Jeanie commented that the Angels must be having a pillow fight because they were as large as feathers. That snowfall left 2 inches of snow. It seems only a week ago that we could look out a window and see the changing of the colors in the trees but almost overnight those trees are now bare of leaves and the roads and sidewalks are covered with ice. Speaking with the elders here they say that spring comes the same way. You wake up one morning and everything has suddenly turned green.

Enjoy the pictures.