Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Nicosia, Cyprus Saints and the Country

I want you all to know how much we already love and appreciate the Nicosia, Cyprus Saints. They are so sweet and very helpful to us, and make our calling here much easier. We have Family Home Evening every Monday night and Friday night we have the Young Adults Activity Night.
They keep Elder Vargas on his toes to come up with new games, but I think they find his games fun and informative. He uses the games to teach Gospel principles and doctrine. This past Friday evening he created a scavenger hunt centered around the early Pioneers of the church. We found it interesting that they weren't very well informed about the Pioneers of '47. They know some things about them now though.
I cook dinner for the group on Friday evening, and this past week I made penne regate with a homemade meat sauce, rolls, green salad and ice cream cones of neopolitan ice cream for dessert. Everyone enjoyed the food. They were surprised that they liked my cooking, since this meal was decidedly American/ quasi-Italian. They weren't sure about the meal because they all come from so many different cultures, and because it was the first dinner I had prepared for them. It was a success - nothing left. I always feel if there's no food left then the meal was a success or they were starving to death! Ha! We had about 12 folks present for the meal, plus myself and Elder Vargas, so it was a fairly large group. This coming Friday I hope I can once again capture their taste buds.
Tonight was the first night we've been able to have our doors/windows open to let in the air. It's still fairly humid, but the heat has dwindled down significantly, probably somewhere in the high-mid-80's. Usually it 100 degrees F or better. I am thankful for this break, believe me. I worry about paying the electric bill for using the air-conditioning so much, but the heat/humidity is so high there's no living without it.
Let me share with you some information about Nicosia once more. I know I gave some historical facts in a previous blog, but I have a little more I'd like to share with you.
Nicosia, the capital city in the heart of Cyprus Without a doubt, the 1000 year old capital should be on every European visitor's agenda. It lies roughly in the center of the island, within easy reach of the other towns.
To walk through the old city is to step backwards in time. Narrow streets and old houses with ornate balconies jut from weather beaten sandstone walls, and craftsmen in small workshops practice trades unchanged for centuries.
Apart from the unique places of interest left from the ancient times with memories of many generations, the present Nicosia is a dynamic metropolitan city with a highly developed infrastructure and an attractive modern look. The uniqueness of such a combination makes the capital of Cyprus a place worth knowing and certainly a place worth visiting!
Nicosia (Greek Levkosía) the capital of Cyprus, is now Europe's only militarily divided city. One of the world's oldest cities, Nicosia was the center of an independent kingdom as early as the 7th century BC. Known in ancient times as Ledra, it came under Byzantine rule in the early 4th century AD and passed to Guy of Lusignan, the Latin king of Jerusalem, in 1192. The Lusignan kings held Nicosia until it was captured in 1489 by the Venetians. The city passed to the Ottoman Turks in 1571 and to the British in 1878. It was made capital of British-ruled Cyprus in 1925. Nicosia became the capital of independent Cyprus in 1960. The city has been divided into Turkish and Greek Cypriot zones since the Turkish invasion in 1974. Then there is the old town and Laiki Yitonia , where the paved areas with no cars and pavement cafe's is charming and full of character and a must for the visitor who wishes too see what the town looked like in years gone by. Nicosia , as all the other towns of Cyprus have grown very much larger , very quickly, and since the invasion in 1974 the population has boomed to 165,000. The growth has been outwards over the Mesaoria plain. We have been told because of the current Syrian conflict we can expect an influx of as many as 200,000 refugees into Cyprus within the next year or so. I have NO idea where they will live here, and with the unemployment rate of more than 10% currently there will certainly be no work for them.
In Platres and the surrounding villages you could find no greater contrast to a conventional beach holiday! These villages are situated high in the Troodos mountain range (we love the Troodos Mountains!) famous for its refreshing mountain air, magnificent pine, cedar and oak forests, orchids, lavender and mineral springs.
The old town is a picturesque fusion of 16th-century walls, pedestrian precincts, pavement cafes and squares, brimming with charm, character and sightseeing opportunities.The walls that completely encompass the Old City date from the Venetian occupation in the 16th century, and have a circumference of three miles (five km). Eleven heart-shaped bastions are interspersed along the walls, which have only three gates, in the north, south and east. One of the gates, the Famagusta Gate, has been restored and serves as the Lefkosia Municipal Cultural Centre, used for exhibitions, conferences, lectures and occasional performances. The gate’s vaulted passage leads on to the moat encircling the Old City, which has been planted to create a garden.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Yup, that's what I said, "Immigration."
In order to get our visas for Cyprus we must run through lotsa' hoops! First we had to open a bank account, then we have to deposit money in it, then we cannot deposit anymore money in it till we do a wire-transfer deposit from our bank in the USA. Then we cannot bank online till we get a subscriber number, then we have to wait for said number to come in the mail. Now that's all well and good, except for one or two glitches! Each one of the above steps are given to you one at a time - when you open your bank account every time you need one of their services you must wait a week for whatever paperwork needs to arrive in the mail - this turns out to be a very lengthy process. But this is how they do things on an island in paradise!! Ha!
Oh - and they don't tell you any of this stuff up front. As when you open your bank account your are not told you will need a subscriber number to do banking on line. Every time you need a service you must go downtown to the bank apply for it and then wait a week. We are just not used to doing business like this and it is super frustrating!
So we currently have all the other paperwork necessary to get our visas, but we are currently waiting for our wire-transfer to go through and to receive our subscriber numbers to bank on line - that will take another week. In the mean time, rent and utilities come due shortly and we are hoping all this goes through or we'll be chasing all about Nicosia paying bills in cash. (Not a good thing here.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Home - Nicosia, Cyprus

We currently live in the old city of Nicosia, Cyprus. Actually it is the "new" city of Nicosia, as the ancient city of Lefkosia is located within the perimeters of Nicosia. Lefkosia is the Greek name for the ancient city. The ancient city of Lefkosia was a walled city built by the Venetians. The impressive Venetian wall surrounding the old city of Nicosia was built between 1567 and 1570 . The wall has an outline of 4,5 km and it originally had three city gates. The most famous,Famagusta gate, is being used today as a cultural center. In some other parts of the wall are services of the city administration. The old center lies within the boundaries of the wall, but the modern Nicosia has grown beyond its original limits.
This Venetian fortification complex has a circumference of 3 miles, and contains eleven pentagon-shaped bastions named after eleven families, pillars of the Italian aristocracy of the town, who donated funds towards the construction of the walls and the three gates, Porta San Domenico Paphos Gate, Porta Guiliana -Famagusta Gate, and Porta del Proveditore -Kyrenia Gate-. Experts contemporary to the construction of the walls have considered them as a prime example of 16th century military architecture. Their design incorporates specific innovative techniques, marking the beginning of a renaissance era in fortification construction. These include the positioning of gates to the side of the adjoining bastions, so they could be more easily protected in times of siege, and leaving the upper half of the wall unlined with masonry, so as to increase its ability to absorb the impact from cannon shot. The Venetian walls are located in Nicosia, Cyprus and can be found today in Nicosia. It is a major and tourist attraction as they are the oldest walls built in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In 1567, the Venetians commissioned the Italian military engineers, Giulio Savorgnano and Franscesco Barbaro, to design new fortifications for the city of Nicosia, in order to protect the inhabitants from imminent Ottoman attack. The new walls replaced the old-style medieval fortifications which engineers deemed inadequate to defend the city. The Venetians demolished several churches and palaces within the city as well as buildings lying outside the new walls, both for the acquisition of building materials and for a clearer field of vision for the defence of the city.
At the same time, the Pedieos River was diverted outside the city either in order to protect the residents from the flood or in order to flood the moat, which encircled the new walls. Nonetheless, these fortifications were in vain, and the city fell to the forces of the Ottoman admiral, Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1570 before the Venetians had completed their construction. The Ottomans captured the bastions almost intact, and they remained almost unchanged till the British era. According to Assyrian sources from the 7th Century BC, today's Nicosia then used to be a city named Ledra. In about 300 BC, the son of the Egyptian king Ptolemy, Lefkos, rebuilt the city, and his name is immortalized in the modern local name of Lefkosa (Turkish) or Lefkosia (Greek). Nicosia is the Frankish name of the city, and is thought to have appeared in the late 1100s. The name is mostly used by foreigners. The capital of the island, it is divided into Turkish occupied and Government controlled sectors by a boundary known as the green Line, which runs in an East-west direction.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our Flight(s) to Nicosia, Cypress

You may be wondering why I would bother writing about our flight(s) to Nicosia, well . . . it was an adventure, that's why!
Flying to Nicosia from Salt Lake City, UT (SLC)is an experience never to be forgotten. We boarded American Airlines for our first flight in SLC at 6:00 AM, which took us to Dallas/Fort Worth, TX Airport, we then deplaned and RAN to our next connection there, which was to Miami, FL, we deplaned and RAN to make our connection at British Airways for our flight to London, England. [I have capitalized the word RAN to help you understand we RAN!!]
Things calmed down a bit as we settled in for our 9 hour flight across the Pond (the Atlantic Ocean), eventually landing at London's Heathrow Airport. We were fed a delicious steak dinner and then read or watched the telly (TV) or slept for the next 9 hours. The sound of the jet engines does NOT lull you to sleep - it lets you doze and wake up, doze and wake up. Consequently by the time we landed we were dog-tired, having gotten up the morning before at 2:30 AM to catch our flight out of SLC.
We landed thinking we had an hour and a half before our flight to Nicosia, Cypress, but that was not to be. We RAN to find terminal 3 at Heathrow only to find out we had to take a bus to terminal 3. 27, yes 27 miles later we arrived at terminal 3, again only to find out we had to catch another bus out to the tarmac to board the plane. Fortunately this bus ride was only about 15 minutes. We then were seated and prepared for the 4 1/2 hour flight to Cypress.
We were served a lovely HOT English breakfast consisting of: sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, a roll, juice and water, which was in a sealed plastic container the size of a pudding cup (interesting).
When we arrived in Larnaka, Cypress we deplaned to find a welcoming committee of three other senior missionary couples, Elder and Sister Christiansen (of the Larnaka Branch), Elder and Sister Smith (of the Paphos Branch) and Elder and Sister Niebuhr (whom we are replacing in the Nicosia Branch). They took our luggage for us and rushed us to their van and took us to the car rental office for our mission car where Elder Vargas (Tony) had his name put on the insurance contract so we could drive on Cypress. They couldn't add me on without charging us a daily fee until our insurance contract is up in the Fall, so I declined and will have my name on the new contract in September.
We then drove to the Christiansen's flat where we had refreshments and got to know one another a bit more. Then we got into what would be our car (a Ford Fiesta) with Elder and Sister Niebuhr and drove from Larnaka to Nicosia, which is about a 45 minute drive. They dropped us off at our flat, settled us in and then went to their hotel, which is just across the street from our building.

Finally at the MTC!

Our plane ride to Utah was very short and we were driven by shuttle to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). It has changed tremendously in the past 22 years since we took our son Miguel there. It is now a secured facility, with drop-down gates and security guards to monitor who enters them. However, once inside the doors we felt the immensity of the Holy Spirit and the work that is done within those hallowed walls.
All who greeted us and saw to our needs were kind and courteous and so helpful. We appreciated that most especially since we were new to this atmosphere. Miguel has always said he loved being in the MTC and knew that we would too.
We were quickly processed and taken to lunch, which we had missed due to the hour of our flight. After lunch we received our missionary badges and room assignment. We were taken to a common room to receive orientation, where we were introduced to the group of senior missionary couples who had preceded us and finally we were all assigned Districts - our District Leader was Elder Noel. Elder Noel and his wife were assigned to Siberia! All this took up the entire afternoon and we were dismissed to dinner and afterward went to our rooms for the rest of the evening. Bright and early the next morning (and every morning after that) we reported for breakfast at 7:00 AM, then classes from 8:00 AM to Noon each day with our assigned morning instructor, Brother Wozniak. Then we would go to lunch and return to classes with Sister Cluff in the afternoon. Our classes consisted of the use of "Preach My Gospel", and on Thursday we were given assignments to teach "investigators" in a room set up like anyone's living room. We performed this assignment twice on Thursday, in the morning and afternoon. Because we flew out Friday morning to Cyprus for our designated mission assignment we did not get to do this again.
Our flight to Cyprus began by rising at 2:30 AM on Friday morning and departing for the Salt Lake City Airport via American Airlines. Accompanying us was a young sister missionary (Sister Christianson) who was on her way to Houston, TX for her mission. We parted company with her at the Dallas Airport because we were flying on to Florida. We then RAN to meet our next flight to the Miami Airport. We arrived in Miami Airport and literally RAN to our next flight on British Airways for London's Heathrow Airport, where we boarded a 747 for our flight across the Pond (the Atlantic Ocean). This flight lasted for about 9 hours. When we landed at Heathrow we found we had to catch a bus to the other side of the airport, which was about a 25 minute ride - we had to stand the whole way. This took us to the area where we would board our flight for Larnaka, Cyprus. When we arrived at the waiting area to fly to Larnaka we were surprised to have to board another bus to drive us out on the tarmac to the plane - this took another 10-15 minutes of driving. We boarded a British Airways 767 and flew another 5 1/2 hours to Larnaka.
When we deplaned we found we were met by three sets of senior missionary couples from Cyprus, including Elder and Sister Niebuhr whom we were replacing. They drove us to Avis Car Rental in Larnaka so Tony (Elder Vargas now) could get his name on the Nicosia, Cyprus car rental agreement. Afterward we were off to Elder and Sister Christiansen's flat in Larnaka to fellowship with the other missionary couples, we had some refreshment and then off we drove to Nicosia, about a 45 minute drive from Larnaka. Elder and Sister Niebuhr brought us to our flat which is located at: 11 Triptolemou Flat 303 1087 Nicosia Cyprus So don't say you haven't got our address now! This flat (they are not called apartments, but flats) was formerly Elder and Sister Niebuhr's - they moved themselves into a hotel just across the street from our flat so we could settle in since they were going home Thursday. The Niebuhr's have been so generous and kind to us. They filled our fridge and pantry with food and even all the necessary toiletries, as well as cleaning products for the flat. We were so impressed with this. And I might add right here, we will NEVER be able to thank them enough for everything they have done for us. We of course will follow their lead and provide the same for the missionaries who will replace us in a couple of years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A New Life

Yesterday morning we packed our car with our suitcases and drove down to Santa Monica to the Westwood Chapel, where at 9:00 AM we spoke in the Westwood First Ward Sacrament meeting. Presiding over the meeting were Mark Bragg, President of the Los Angeles California Stake, with President Christopher Badurek, his second counselor. I spoke on the importance of Family History and Tony spoke on 1st Nephi 3:6 and 7. We finished and were greeted warmly by many in attendance.

That afternoon we drove to the Los Angeles Stake Center and spoke in the Wilshire Ward. I spoke on the value of service to others, and Tony spoke on service and what our purpose is in this life. Afterward we were again greeted by so many of the members who reside in the wards in that wonderful building.

Thus ended our work in the Los Angeles California Stake. Which saddens us, however we have been called of the Lord to serve God's children on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean.

We then drove to our son, Miguel's home, where we were treated to a lovely lunch and later a delicious supper. We also went to Miguel's to spend the night, as he and Greg were going to take us this morning to LAX to catch a flight to Salt Lake City, UT, where we boarded a shuttle which brought us to The Provo Missionary Training Center, where we are preparing to go to Cyprus to teach the Gospel.

We are overwhelmed at the complexity and spiritual atmosphere here. Everything is SO orderly, and all who serve or work here are so good to us. We must report to the Travel Center here at the MTC on Friday morning at 3:30 AM to get on the 6:00 AM flight that will begin our very long journey across the world to Cyprus.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Feted by Our Friends

We were so blessed Saturday evening by our friends, Paul and Suzanne White at their home. They invited many of our friends, and in honor of our mission to Cyprus they provided a beautiful menu of Greek food for us all to enjoy. The weather was beautiful, so instead of dining in the house we all ate outdoors on the patio. It was wonderful to share a meal and talk for several hours about our lives and how they intersected with the lives of the other Saints in Los Angeles all these many years.
Those who honored us with their presence were, President and Yvonne Bragg, President Richard and Linda Smith, Paul and Suzanne White, Bishop David and Gala Scoll, David and Marissa Gage and Jack Richards. Also attending were several of the children of our dear friends. President Badurek was unable to attend and was missed. Tony and I were so touched at the kindness of Paul and Suzanne to offer to use their home for the dinner and social hour.
We leave for Cyprus content in the knowledge we are leaving the Los Angeles Stake having done all possible to build up the Kingdom of God in this area with all our dear friends. They will go on in the cause to do even more than has ever been done before. Goodbye dear friends - we will miss you more than you will ever know.

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