Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Salamis in Northern Cyprus

We have travelled to Salamis three times since we have lived on the Island. Salamis is located east of Famagusta in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. We love to go there because it is said that it is the place where Paul the Apostle first set foot on Cyprus. There is a special feeling when we stroll throughout the ruins there. It takes at least two visits to view all the ruins as it was a very large city in it's day. In about 300-400 AD there was a great earthquake there which left the city in ruins. The really neat feature about this archeological site is we are free to walk among the ruins, sit upon them and touch them! The Turkish government has done very little to preserve the site. It would prove extremely costly and time and labor intensive as well. The beauty of the inlaid mosaic streets and marble colonnades is incredibly well-preserved. Below you will view many of the pictures I took while there the last time (about a month ago).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas 2012 In Cyprus

We have truly learned to appreciate living in Cyprus during the Holidays! Since 98% of the population profess the Orthodox faith there are NO restrictions on street decorations and every store has three or more Christmas trees in the windows! There is no shortage of nativities either, it is amazing! There are even HUGE menorahs on the sidewalks in all the major cities as well. Not Christian I know, but festive none-the-less. Everyone says "Καλά Χριστούγεννα", or Merry Christmas! Even at the gas station!

Even in the foyer of our apartment building are Christmas decorations!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Athens, part 2

Originally we were to be assigned to Athens, but because the Greek government refused to issue visas to American citizens we were re-assigned to Cyprus. Therefore, having the opportunity to go to Athens, Greece is something neither of us ever even thought of, even before our mission call.
When we arrived in Athens it had been raining on and off and everything was quite wet, but we believed we would be able to enjoy the city/country even so, and we were not disappointed.
Driving into the city of Athens is really like driving into any metropolitan city in the world. Lots of people, lots of traffic, and lots of cars.
We left the airport in a van driven by Elder Clark who is a senior missionary from Canada. His wife was born/raised in Australia and works in the Athens Mission Office. Elder Clark is very humorous and outgoing, a delight to be with. Sister Clark is quick and sharp and knows everything about everything you need to know! Ha!
Elder Clark drove us to President and Sister Freestone's home in Athens where we met with all the other Greece Athens Senior Missionary Couples. A lovely buffet luncheon was served and we then convened for a meeting, which lasted the better part of the day. We then all piled into cars and met for supper at a local Athenian Restaurant call, "Three Pigs". The food is of course authentically Greek and very enjoyable.
After supper we departed with Elder and Sister Maxwell to go to their home which is very deep in the city of Athens. After we arrived we chatted for a bit and then went to our room and to bed. We were very tired because we had gotten up at 4 AM to make it to Larnaka in time for our 7:40 AM flight to Athens. (President and Sister Freestone (left) with Elder and Sister Christensen below.)
The next day we all met together to divide up couples in vehicles to go to Mars Hill for a special testimony meeting. Okay here I'm over my head in ways to describe my feelings of being on Mars Hill. Whilst we were bearing testimonies down below us were young people protesting the Greek government in a park. Their shouting was a little disturbing, but since we had nothing to fear we pressed on with our meeting. Just being on that rock where Paul once stood and testified of the Lord was so overwhelming.
(Ascending Mars Hill with the Acroppolis in the background.) And believe me, Mars Hill is just a BIG rock, and behind it is the Acroppolis rising above the entire city in splendor.
Seeing those ancient ruins from Mars Hill is something I shall never forget. After our testimony meeting we said goodbye to President Freestone (Sister Freestone did not come with us.) and pressed on up the hill to the Parthenon, et al.
To ascend the hill to the Acroppolis is a medium hard climb - and good walking shoes are a must. At each level of the Acroppolis there are sights which are unbelievable - the theatre being one of them. I don't remember how many it seats, but it's HUGE! (From above the theatre - senior couples to the right.)
It is still used upon occasion for concerts/plays, etc., even though it is thousands of years old. The stonework is still very beautiful. Although if I were to go there for an event I would definitely take a thick sittable cushion, cold stone and human backsides don't work well together. Ha!
Part 3 is next - stay tuned!

Athens, Greece Finally!

In this post I will attempt to write notes about all the pictures I post here and make comments regarding what we learned in Athens about their ancient civilization and their current state of affairs. To be fair I only write what I have observed or was told concerning current Athens - all or part may be true. You the reader can read online about current Athens. You are also welcome to make comments that may be pertinent to my remarks, etc.
We arose early in the morning (4 AM) in order to catch our shuttle to the Larnaka Airport to make our flight to Athens (Athena). I tried to sleep on the 1 hour and 10 minute flight, but to no avail. I was far too excited. There are currently four couples assigned to the Greece Athens Mission on the Island of Cyprus, we were all invited to go to Athens to meet with the other senior couples in Greece for a 'Senior Couples Conference'. Three couples stayed in the mission home, we were invited to stay with Elder and Sister Maxwell (pictured below) who far out in the suburbs of Athens. The Maxwell's are from Ireland and are an absolute delight to know. We are very thankful for all their kindnesses to us while they hosted us.
After we arrived at the Athens Airport we rode back to the Mission Home with Elder Clark and two of the other missionary couples. Elder and Sister Watson had arrived the same week to begin their mission and so they rode with President Freestone (our Mission President) so they could become better acquainted.
As we entered the City of Athens I began to take pictures out the van window:
As you can see in this photo there is graffiti on the fence - it is on almost every flat surface in the city, and they don't paint it off!
Our first view of the 1896 Athens Olympic Stadium while driving into Athens from the airport. I really felt a chill when I saw this - I have ever wanted to see it up close and personal. Let me tell you a short story about this stadium: It is built upon the original grounds of the first stadium, which was built in 776 BC - that's right BC! When the stadium was being built the contractors ran out of time before the Olympic games started, so they had to build wooden bleachers on one of the sections to accommodate the patrons. The stadium is all completely built of Pentelic Marble - that's right the whole place! Everything you walk on or sit on is MARBLE, except the track! This is the end of the first installment of this part of our trip. More tomorrow.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This and That

Today I have some time so I am going to blog about this and that - whatever comes to mind, hopefully with some pictures to boot! Here's a picture of a interesting traffic sign on Leoforos Kennenty.
First of all let me tell you about my recent health concern. After several days of being really sick with what I thought was the flu I finally called our doctor here. She is called Dr. Lucy because her name is difficult for non-natives. She is married to a Cypriot and has two children. She is also an American born and raised in New York - accent and all! I LOVE and adore her, she is a real person and cares about all her patients. I consider her more than my doctor, she is also my friend. We struck up our friendship almost immediately upon meeting one another. We had to visit her after we first arrived in Cyprus because we were struggling to make Cyprus Immigration happy with our medical papers so we could get our visas to live here. One is allowed to live in Cyprus for only 90 days, then one must have a Cypriot Visa in order to remain a legal citizen.
As I stated before I was really sick and called Dr. Lucy for help. She told me to meet her at the hospital emergency room so she could assess my illness. Now mind you - this was the week when we were without a car, since Tony had to return ours because the lease ran out and our mission president didn't want to renew it. (Our New Car - an Opal 7 passenger)
He was negotiating with another company to provide us with another car. Consequently Tony had to call a taxi to take me to the emergency room at Aretheion Hospital in Strovolos, a bit of a distance from our flat. When we arrived at the hospital I was struggling so hard to walk and could barely hold up my head I was so weak. I also was having trouble thinking and holding my eyes open. When I told Tony I was calling Dr. Lucy I told him, "I feel as though I am dying."
Little did I know how close to the truth that statement was. Dr. Lucy met us right away and she had me put into an examination room immediately. She decided to keep me in the emergency room for awhile to keep an eye on me and to pump me up with a Ringers IV with potassium. She told me I was having an electrolyte "crash". About half an hour later I was feeling somewhat better, but when I tried to get up to walk I couldn't do it. So she decided to admit me to the hospital for further treatment. She then sent me to a doctor who is a nephrologist at the hospital his name is kind of difficult to pronounce, it is - Dr. Efthyvoulos Anastassiades. Is that a mouthful or what? But I liked him immediately. He is THE most thorough doctor I've ever met. Right away he started asking me questions that lead to some answers that only I had known all my life. I have been having symptoms of an illness called 'Familial Mediterranean Fever'(FMF) all my life. I kept saying to myself, "How does he know this?" His questions lead to an almost certain diagnosis of FMF. He was asking me about my family and what was their origin. Of course he could see by looking at me I am of northern European descent, and I told him my father's family were all Scandinavian.
Then he asked, "By any chance was my mother Scottish?" I said yes, with English and a tad of Portuguese. BINGO! He asked if I knew about FMF, I said yes I did because I have a couple of cousins who have been diagnosed with it and two others who have been diagnosed with Thalessemia as well, both diseases are exclusively found in descendants of people who are from Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East. He said he was fascinated by this because I am an American by birth. Then he asked me how long I'd been having fevers and stomach pain, I told him all my life. I cannnot remember not having these symptoms.
(Our friend, Christina came to visit me at the hospital and brought treats for my visitors - here she's enjoying one of the goodies she brought.) Okay - so the upshot of all this is I have to be tested at the Neurologic Institute here in Nicosia, the only place in the whole world where they have experts on this malady. Can you believe it? And we got sent to Cyprus on our mission. There are 14 original genetic markers for FMF, but more than 150 more have since been discovered, so even if I don't test positive for the first 14 that will not mean I don't have the disease.
(Christina also brought me this lovely bouquet of roses.) I will be given the medication used to control the disease, and if it works - then I definitely have the disease. Because the medication will not work if I don't have it. I am excited at the prospect of finally finding a way to be alleviated from these symptoms and constant episodes of being laid out flat for a week unable to function.
This time the disease really tore me up inside and caused a complete electrolyte imbalance almost killing me in the process.
I do not want to go home, unable to complete our mission, I want to feel well and be able to do this work. Dr. Lucy told me that FMF is no small thing, because eventually the patient develops what is called amyloidosis, which doctors have now discovered can be the pre-cursor to lymphoma, among other ailments causing a failed heart, etc. (This beautiful bouquet of flowers was delivered to me after I got home from the hospital. They were sent by my dear friend Linda Mylonas, a member of our little branch here in Nicosia.) [A side note: Dr. Lucy is very proud of the Neurologic Institute because they have discovered a method of testing the blood of pregnant women that makes it possible to find neurological disorders in unborn children instead of having to use the method called amniocentesis, which is very invasive and dangerous for the mother and unborn infant. This is a major scientific breakthrough for such a small clinic in such a small country.]

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Another Visit to the Ancient Walled City of Ledras

Today, in the middle of an absolutely crazy day we decided to go down to Ledras and see if Famagusta Gate was possibly open. We had taken pictures of the exterior, but we wanted to walk through it as well.
So when we got there we discovered it was open and we walked through it all the way out the back and found a HUGE party going on! It was national ice cream day in Cyprus and there were booths all over the back part of the Ancient Wall where they were handing out free ice cream for everyone. How fun! We need this in the USA, so I can get my fill of ice cream for free! Ha!
However we didn't take any, we just walked through and returned through the gate. I hope you enjoy the pictures because it's really very charming to walk through this as it is nearly 700-800 years old. I could visualize the Venetian vendors all along the inside wall 500 years ago selling their wares on a Saturday afternoon. It's truly a thrill to live here and take part in the culture when we can. On Thursday we also visited "Aphrodite's Wall", which is an aquaduct that is found in Larnaka and was still in operation until about 1953!
How amazing is that? We also visited St Lazarus Cathedral in Larnaka as well.
The Orthodox Catholics believe Lazarus was buried in the church,
and even claim to have artifacts consisting of parts of his skeletal remains. I am a skeptic, but others believe.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

We Travel to Lefke in North Cyprus

This post will inform you all of what it is like to travel to the Northern, or Turkish side of Cyprus. As we visited Gloria today in Lefke we were struck (as always) with the stark differences between the northern side of the island and the southern side. Just a reminder, we live on the southern side. As usual we do not wear our name tags when we pass through the border patrol as they are not amenable to our faith, and some others as well. Our primary focus of these Saturday excursions to the northern side is to bring comfort and peace to those members who cannot worship with us in the south because their passports/visas do not allow them travel between the two sides. Many countries do not allow their citizens to travel into Cyprus because they have no agreement to do so. Therefore, we must travel to them to bring them assistance, spiritually speaking. As I said, today we visited Gloria in the north. Gloria is a spunky young adult woman who is in the third year of her studies at the European University of Lefke, Cyprus. She is in her third year of studying and will graduate next year - hopefully. Before she came to northern Cyprus she had been Young Women President and Relief Society President in her ward in Nigeria. Gloria is one of eight children and was raised in the Anglican faith in there. Her parents remain in that faith but she says all seven of her siblings and herself continue in different faiths. They are not interested in hearing about her faith at all, but they do not make her life difficult because of her dedication to it. Here is a picture of Gloria in her very tiny apartment just off campus:
Gloria has been invited by her school friends to attend other religious meetings and when she declines they ask why. She says she tells them, "Because you only have part of the truth - I want all the truth." She is not shy about sharing her faith, nor afraid to speak of it to anyone who will listen. As long as we are on this island we will continue to serve those in the north as best we can. Today we were able to teach Gloria a short Gospel lesson from Matthew 3, then Elder Vargas prepared and administered the sacrament to all three of us. After that we visited with her some more and found out some things she is in need of. The next trip back we are going to try to bring her what she has asked for. God bless Gloria.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our "P" Day Excursion to Saint Nikolaos Monastery

About a 45 minute drive northwest of Nicosia where we live is the village of Orounta, Cyprus. There is located a beautifully restored monastery called Saint Nikolaos. It was restored by seven nuns of the Orthodox Church. Yes, seven nuns. They hired out the heavy work to rebuild the living quarters and then they did all the finishing work themselves. There are huge orchards and gardens surrounding the monastery, all of which are kept by the nuns. The monastery was built in the 1500's and the last of the monks who originally lived in and kept it were all murdered by Turkish dissidents.
Then the property fell into ruin. But eleven years ago these seven nuns came to the rescue and restored everything on the property. It is not huge, but it's very large indeed. When we arrived we found no one on the grounds or in the courtyard, and after walking quite a bit I decided to sit down on one of the benches in the transition between the courtyard and the monastery chapel. In a few moments a nun came into the area, said, "hello", and went into a door just across from where I was seated. She soon came out with two very cold glasses of mint tea, served on a tray with napkins. We thanked her and started up a conversation with her.
She spoke in broken, but very understandable English. We enjoyed her company very much, and the surroundings were so peaceful
. It was truly a little bit of heaven, and I could understand why these nuns had chosen this place.
Elder Vargas took several pictures which I have shared here for you to enjoy.
We hope to visit all the ancient landmarks on the Island while here, and we plan to share them all with you on this blog.

Some Trivia

Our "P" Days are always interesting. I mean we dust, vacuum, mop and do general cleaning. Two weeks ago I thoroughly scrubbed down the "cooker" - that's the kitchen stove for those of you who don't know how Europeans identify certain appliances. It was very messy. I didn't clean the oven though, I saved that for another day - and it will take an hour or more just to clean that. Typically "cookers" are only apartment sized kitchen stoves. We do have a couple of members who own their own homes and have regular sized kitchen appliances. But for a flat (that's "apartment" in Euro-speak) everything is down-sized for space saving purposes. Our flat has a space set aside in the kitchen for a dishwasher, but do you think we have one? NOT!! Instead we use the space for the kitchen trash can and extra storage.
Anytime we need to turn on an appliance we have to turn on the appropriate master switch located in a nearby wall, then turn on the appliance. Even the cooker. Before we take a shower we must turn on the master switch in the hallway to heat the water, wait for a bit and then shower. Having the master switches though is handy because we do not get charged for the little bit of energy used by the appliances, etc., when we have them turned off at the master switch.
We have a hallway between our living room and bedrooms/bathroom that is closed off and was set up as a pantry. It is my intent in the future to remove the items in the 'pantry' to uncover the door and make it useful once more. It cuts off the air-flow between the rooms, making it extra hot in the summer.
When I wash a load in the washing machine it takes approximately 2 hours to complete. It is a front-loading machine, and for a 'white' load I can only put in 3 of Elder Vargas' white shirts and three set each of our underclothing. Very small load indeed. Therefore I must wash clothing three times a week, or I cannot keep up with the laundry. And because of the climate here sometimes we have to shower twice a day, thus creating double the laundry afterward. It is one of the annoyances of life here. In the summer time I do not use the dryer (located on our balcony terrace) to save on electricity because we have to run the air-conditioning so much. I'd rather be able to use the air-conditioning than put a load in the dryer. It's a choice I have to make. So to dry our clothing here is a picture to show you how it's done:
Everyone on the Island owns these portable clothes drying racks. Many people place theirs out on their balconies. We also have a clothes line on our balcony, but I will only use it for sheets, etc., not our personal clothing. But that's just me. One other note on drying our clothing on the rack in the kitchen - even though I use fabric softener in the wash load all the clothing is very stiff after they dry. I told Elder Vargas he could probably screw on his socks, they are so darn stiff! Elder Vargas has taken to ironing his own white shirts/trousers. He says I did them for him for more than 40 years so it's his turn. I'm not crying! Ha! Also, after I prepare the meals and we have eaten he gets up from the table and washes all the dishes. I put the washed/dried utensils, pots & pans,etc., back in the cupboards and drawers and put any left-over food in refrigerator containers.
He even washes dishes for me when I'm preparing meals for church. This week I made food for twenty two hungry missionaries for Zone Conference. I do not make all the food, there are three other sets of missionary couples who bring food as well, but it's still a big chore for all of us. I also make meals for the Young Single Adult activities. They have Family Home Evening on Monday nights and Activity Night on Friday nights. Consequently I do do lots of cooking!
Transfers are next week for the young elders/sisters and we usually drive a couple of them to the airport, or pick them up at the airport, etc. The young elders/sisters are transferred between Greece and Cyprus in this mission. Our mission home is in Athens, Greece and it's a two hour flight for any transferring missionaries from Athens, Greece to Larnaka, Cyprus. And Larnaka is a 40 minute drive southeast of Nicosia where we are stationed. We do lots of driving here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Liberty at Last for Romania!

Here I will attempt to tell about the end of communist rule in Romania. Our friend, Marin always says this, "Communism was fine, but they forgot one thing - LOVE!" He says the Romanian people were so love-starved until the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife.
Revolution Square (Piata Revolutiei) The square gained worldwide notoriety when TV stations around the globe broadcasted Nicolae Ceausescu's final moments in power on December 21, 1989. It was here, at the balcony of the former Communist Party Headquarters, that Ceausescu stared in disbelief as the people gathered in the square below turned on him. He fled the angry crowd in his white helicopter, only to be captured outside of the city a few hours later.
The Arch of Triumph (Arcul de Triumf) was initially built of wood in 1922 to honor the bravery of Romanian soldiers who fought in World War I, Bucharest's very own Arc de Triomphe was finished in Deva granite in 1936. Designed by the architect, Petre Antonescu, the Arc stands 85 feet high. An interior staircase allows visitors to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The sculptures decorating the structure were created by leading Romanian artists, including Ion Jalea, Constantin Medrea and Constantin Baraschi

The Church in Bucharest, Romania

It was upon this very spot (above) that the country of Romania was first dedicated by Joseph P. Wirthlin for the Gospel to be preached to the people. This high spot that you must climb up rocks and rock stairs to reach is located in Cismigiu Park in Bucharest, which is the oldest park in the city. This park is very lovely and very used by the people of Bucharest. It is reminiscent of the pre-1900 parks of Europe. Here is a picture of me in front of the fountain in Cismigiu Park. This is the Bucharest Chapel,
built about 20 years ago it houses all the branches in the city. It is large enough to be a stake center but until there are wards organized in the city there will not be a designated stake in Bucharest. It is a very pretty chapel inside, with many classrooms and a fairly large chapel. The organ is electronic without any pedals, but it is a sufficient instrument for the purposes of the branch. There is a kitchen, and the bathrooms are also appropriate for the building as well.
Here is a picture of me in front of the fountain in Cismigiu Park. The lake is man-made now, but originally it was a natural body of water located in the middle of the city.
We visited this lovely little church in Bucharest. Kretzulescu Church nestled amid the other historical buildings in Piata Revolutiei, this small red-brick Orthodox church was built in 1722 by the great chancellor Iordache Kretzulescu and his wife, Safta (a daughter of Constantin Brancoveanu) in the Brancovenesti architectural style. The interior frescoes were executed around 1860 by the famous Romanian painter Gheorghe Tattarescu.

Visitor Map

Locations of Site Visitors