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.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Faculty Meeting in Bucharest, Romania

Last Tuesday morning found us on an airport shuttle to Larnaka, Cyprus to catch a plane to Bucharest, Romania for our CES Faculty Meeting for all Seminary and Institute Co-ordinators in Eastern Europe. It was exciting to fly to Romania to meet with all our counter-parts in the whole of Eastern Europe. There in Bucharest we joined the group which consisted of Elder and Sister Kitchen (serving in Muldova), Elder and Sister Westergard (serving in Slovenia), Elder and Sister Mower (serving in Greece), Elder and Sister Erb (serving in the Czech Republic), and Elder and Sister Vargas (serving on the Island of Cyprus). The Co-ordinator for S&I (Seminary and Institute)in Eastern Europe and facilitator of our meetings is Marin (pronounced "Marine") Iachamov (formerly of Muldova, and now living in Bucharest, Romania), and "Felice" (we never did learn his surname), co-ordinator for all southern Italy. (Felice has about 100 teachers in his care.)
Marin creates and executes all our travel plans as well as our hotels, etc. He's a genius. I don't care what you need to know - he KNOWS it! From tekky stuff down to every last detail of Gospel Doctrine and S&I. He is currently serving in Bucharest as a Branch President and has a gorgeous, sweet, lovely wife and two beautiful children, a boy and girl. Marin is so good and so smart and so entirely loveable. I wish I could be around him more often. He came to Cyprus the second week we were here and literally saved us from imploding - our job was so overwhelming. After our conference ended he took us and Felice, along with the Westergard's following in their car behind us to Northern Romania to a city named Brasov. It was there we explored the historic Pelisor and Bran Castles
Pelisor and Peles Castles are still the homes of the Romanian royal family. (Yes, Romania has a royal family. They were restored to their kingdom after the fall of communism.) They are opened certain times of the year to the public. We visited Pelisor Castle the smaller of the two, and only passed by (walking) Peles Castle the large castle. Of course you can read about these two castles on line and view plenty of pictures at your leisure. I will only post a few pictures of them so as not to bore you with a travelogue.
Pelisor Castle you will be interested to know has only 54 rooms. Our former home in Los Angeles, CA (which is an historic monument) had a mere 34 rooms - such slackers! Ha!
Before we began our two-day junket in northern Romania we spent three days in workshops designed to increase our teaching skills. In Eastern Europe teaching S&I is a very tricky ordeal. Our students often have to Skype with us for lessons and they must be created to be precise and to the point in a very short amount of time. Many of our students cannot attend S&I at the branch church buildings, so they have to do home study with our assistance. I am so grateful for our experiences in Los Angeles teaching home study Seminary, we would have been groping in the dark to figure out how to do it otherwise.
We learned some recently created techniques which are used to teach 10 minute lessons in segments, rather than taking an hour or more to teach from the church manuals. And yes! It can be done. We are proud to say we have mastered this technique and will be using this week in our S&I classes here in Cyprus.
It was also very useful for us to meet together because we suffer alone/together certain difficulties unique to our callings, and talking through them helped us find more creative methods of overcoming them.
On Friday we left northern Romania to return to Bucharest and we drove the scenic route so we could visit and view the culture of this beautiful country first-hand. It was an experience we shall never forget. We spent Thursday night in Brasov at a Pensionne - that's like a bed and breakfast, and our room was so pleasant, albeit we had to climb three flights of stairs to get there. Our room was very large, with a balcony facing the city center, taking in the rooftops of the homes in the area where it was located. It was indescribably beautiful, peaceful and restful. It was also very quaint and very European, with wood paneling and marble floors - far better than any hotel in the area. Our bathroom was first class, with all the modern amenities.
We enjoyed the Romanian language very much. It seems to be a combination of Italian and slavic dialect. We understood much of the language because it is a Romance language based on Latin. I'm so glad we brushed up on our Spanish before we left on our mission. Marin assured me I would be speaking it fluently if I only lived there for a couple of months, and I believe he is correct.
Friday afternoon about 3 PM we arrived back in Bucharest at the airport and said our farewells to Marin and Felice. Felice was on his way back to Milan and we were on our way to Cyprus. We boarded our plane to Cyprus at 7 PM and arrived in Larnaka just after 9 PM. It's about a 2 hour and 20 minute flight. We drove home via the shuttle once more and arrived in Nicosia at about 10:15 PM and were back in our flat at about 10:30 PM.
I am following this blog with another one about our travels to the above mentioned castles - and pictures.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Our Monthly Journey to Famagusta

Today we traveled to Famagusta in the Northeastern section of Northern Cyprus (or Turkish Cyprus) to visit with our good friend and member Destiny. Today her friend Godwin (also from Nigeria) came as well. Destiny is feeling much better than the last time we visited, she had been ill with anemia. She said today that after the blessing she received last month from the elders she felt better almost immediately. She certainly looked much better. (Below is a picture of Godwin and Destiny)
I'd like to tell you a little bit about Godwin. He is a friend of Destiny and Jolly (who left to go to school in Denmark last month). As members of the church too often we take for granted our membership and that we feel free to walk among the saints and serve in the kingdom of God here on earth. Well, Godwin cannot be baptized because he lives in the Turkish sector of Cyprus and missionaries are not allowed there yet. The brethren in Salt Lake City are hard at work trying their best to open up all Turkish lands to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Right now Cyprus is not afforded the same blessing as Istanbul, Turkey. Godwin has read the Book of Mormon and knows the church is true, he asked again this morning if the elders could baptize him, but alas, we had to deny him that privilege again. We did have Sacrament Meeting and partook of the Sacrament, although Godwin did not partake of the bread and water because he is not yet a member. Members of the church are not even allowed to pay their tithing to the church if they live in Turkish Cyprus. We were amazed at the strength of character Godwin exhibits, especially because he attends our meetings but cannot yet be baptized. He said he wants to be faithful so that when the time comes he doesn't have to realign his life with the teachings of the church, he will be living them fully when the time comes.
Elder Vargas and I were the two speakers for our little Sacrament Meeting and Elder Vargas and President Fulton (our branch president) prepared and blessed the Sacrament for us. Elder Christensen conducted.

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