Sunday, November 25, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land

This week we have been busy trying to get all our projects submitted before the end of November so they can be counted for 2012.  So we have gone all over town getting price lists for computers and sewing machines to donate to the different organizations.  On one of our treks through the park, we came across this little girl surrounded by pigeons.  She had some bread crumbs for them and they were happy to see her.
We hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving Holiday.  So, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Kazakhstan, but that didn't stop us.  We made some chicken and potatoes and gravy and apple crisp for the elders.  We asked our elder from Russia what his favorite Thanksgiving food is and he said "Chili!"  Maybe next week, Elder!
One of the members in the branch has a car now!  So the elders and Elder A went with him to go and try to track down some of our members.  That left me plenty of time for my Thanksgiving nap!
We did have another celebration on Saturday as well.  One of our branch families invited us all to their apartment for a Thanksgiving Celebration.  It was also a birthday for three of our group!  Emily, Nils and Emin.  Emily explained the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday to our Kazakh friends and how the first Thanksgiving was when the Pilgrims invited their local friends (the Native Americans) to share in their feast.  And to thank them for helping those of us who are strangers in a strange land.

Some of our Thanksgiving spread!  One of our Kazakh friends didn't know you could eat turkey!

Happy Birthday Emily, Nils and Emin!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just Wait!

One of our first stormy days hit on Monday.  The first thing I thought when I looked at this field by the bus stop is how much fun our Zackary would have to play in this snow!

Waiting for the bus

Everyone is starting to wear their winter coats.
The last English class for two of our elders (Mitchell and Harrison) before transfers.

 Galia getting her daughter Eileen ready to go outside!
I wanted to show a picture of my favorite aisle at Green Market, then this lady stepped right in front of me.  The next photo is blurry, but you get the idea.  Then the clerk almost stole my camera from me.  Apparently it's not allowed to take photos in the store!  I might set up my own cookie store or something.
You can bag your own cookies or candy and then get them weighed and tagged.
This is what we were faced with walking to the church on Friday night for English class.  It is so icy.  We have to hang on to each other to keep from falling!

And people keep saying "just wait until it gets cold!"  Excuse me??

This brave soul is ice fishing on the river.  It only iced over a few days ago.  I doubt it's real safe.  Plus the only fish we've seen come out of here are only about 5 inches long!  We saw about 4 people fishing on Saturday.
Alan and Zhana on our way to get her a plane ticket to Almaty.  She is going to sign documents for the church to get a bank account set up for Astana.  Another step in the process to get a branch here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Senior Couples Conference

This is what we saw on Monday morning.  Our little playground got snowed on.  It looks like winter is really coming.  As long as we're walking somewhere, we keep warm enough.  It gets uncomfortable if you have to wait for a bus or something.  And sometimes it gets uncomfortably warm indoors or on the bus.  They like to turn up the heat!  The trick now is to not slip and slide too much.  We have to watch our steps and hold on to each other.
On Wednesday morning we left for Novosibirsk, our mission headquarters.  We went for a senior missionary conference.  We were able to meet the other couples serving in our mission.  Unfortunately the McClellands in Almaty were not able to attend.  Their flight was cancelled.  The other couples are so experienced in their careers and church service.  It was an honor to get to know them.  We decided that missionaries here have so much more fun sharing our experiences than those couples who get sent someplace like Hawaii!  We enjoy sharing the oddities of life here!
President and Sister Gibbons took us all to the ballet at the theater in Novosibirsk.  This is quite an attraction in the city.  People of all ages come to enjoy the ballet and opera here.

During intermission, we were able to wander around a bit to see the theater.  Apparently when it was built, the architect made it just a bit bigger than the theater in Moscow.  And it cost him his life.
The ballet was called "Spartak".  That is also the name of the hockey team in town.  So we weren't sure if we were going to a hockey game or to a ballet!  It turns out that it is based on the story of Spartacus from old Roman legends.  It was spectacular to see the amazing dance talent as well as to hear the amazing musical talent.
The curtain call.
A view out of our hotel window.  In the distance you can see a bridge crossing the river.  It will be freezing over soon.

The mission office is at the far right side of this building.  They had to close the office for a day last week due to anti-LDS protests. 
It was very cold there.  One morning the temperature was 1 Farenheit which is -17 in Celcius!  And of course, my brother who was on vacation in Hawaii sent a photo from the beach to rub it in!
These are our three young sisters that were baptized in August, September and October.  They planned a special branch family night to celebrate the church's registration and also to say goodbye to two of our elders who will be transferred soon.

I think the Americans totally beat the Kazakhs with the Guesstures game!
We love our dear members and friends!

And our Alina who was taking the group photo!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Around Astana

We had an opportunity to go visit some Catholic nuns who are running a soup kitchen for the poor.  They are of the same order as Mother Teresa.  We had a nice visit with them.  They had a fire in the spring, so they have had some obstacles to work through.  They said they would like to have us come back and help with their Christmas program.  We have some talented people who would like to perform Christmas songs.  Maybe we'll be able to help with some of their clean up project also.

Delightful Sisters!

So we don't have McDonald's in Kazakhstan, but the golden arches are here anyway!  This is a little place called MakDoner that we came across as we were walking home.  A doner is a wrap with thinly sliced meat inside.  The meat is cooked on a spit like they do in Brazil.
It was a bit cooler today and Zoe is showing off her new hat!  And the picture she drew in Primary!
Noah has a new hat too!
Here are a few photos of Sunny and her kiddos!

 Amber is a cute little bumblebee!
 Daniel = Mr. Incredible!
 Michael's getting old!
 Jacob wants that pillowcase filled up with candy!
And here is Chelsea & Lamar's little Damon chicken little!

Official Registration! / Stepnograd

On Monday we received the official registration for the Church here in Astana.  It was a challenging process to obtain all the necessary documents and signatures.  The elders did a great job.  And Elder Anderson and I also received permission to preach.  Also Elder Ajtaliev, so all four of our elders now have permission to teach.
Elder A. with his official certificate
Also this week, we took a road trip out to a town called Stepnograd.  It was established in 1964 by the Soviets because they set up a uranium mine.  Most of the townsfolk are of Russian descent since they were sent here to work in the mines.  Since the breakdown of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is no longer mining for uranium, but they are mining for other precious metals. 
We went to visit a "Creative House" which provides after school enrichment activities for over 1000 children in the area.  The government provided the organization with a location and pays the salaries for the employees, but that's about it.  All of their equipment is very dated, but the leaders are very dedicated to the children and provide many opportunities for cultural growth.
 Their computer equipment is quite dated
 Some of the children with their teacher.  She had the most orangest hair I have ever seen!
 These children practiced a few English words on us and we practiced a few Russian ones with them.
Their dance practice facility.

 We walked over to their other facility and saw some of the projects they had worked on over the summer.  They are quite creative with what they can find to work with.
These children were working on water colors.  They were working on oppossums.
Their ceramic work is really good!
 This shows traditional Kazakh childhood back in the day.
 They have made all varieties of dogs and cats.

These are all kinds of monkeys and apes.

 These children are in a class learning about puppetry.

 I had to get a shot of these ancient sewing machines.  On the one below you can see the crank on the right side.  It is a hand operated one!  No electricity!

They were busy preparing costumes for something.  They love their festivals!
 These are quilt art pieces.  Very cute!
 Love these dolls!  The faces, hands and legs are old nylon stockings.

The traditional Kazakh costumes
This girl sang for us.  She is very good!
 This is the dance class room for the little ones.  They're showing us that the CD player does not work
Now for the real fun!  We were taken down to the basement to see their gym area.  Most of this equipment looks home made but it is well used!

This is the karate instructor.  He is quite a character too!  He is also a veteran of the Afghanistan war.  He teaches the boys about patriotism.  It seems that he runs a tight ship!

These boys put on quite a demonstration for us!  We enjoyed it and told them that our grandson also takes karate and that it teaches him to be a good listener!  Alan talked to the boys about being good citizens of their country.
Some of our new friends in Stepnograd!