Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter Fun!

Since it was a beautiful day today, sunshine and warm (ish) only like 10 F, we decided to walk past the skating rink on the way home from church.  The past couple of weeks it has been stormy on Sunday so we were happy to have nice weather today.

This is the same place that has the farmer's markets in the summer and fall.  It could use a zamboni for perfect conditions, but everyone seemed to be having fun.

Here's some ice sculptures and a Happy New Year Message on the store behind it.

This is an ice fountain.  Very clever.

This one has a flower display inside the ice.
Down the street a block or two is the river.  The city has built some awesome slides for the kids' enjoyment.  And there are no signs warning you to use at your own risk!

The slides go from the bank of the river down to the frozen river.  The sides are built of blocks of ice and the slide is nice and straight ice and very slippery.  Some kids use sleds, or go down on their shoes, or a piece of cardboard, or these little "butt slides" or just slide down on their behinds.

One side seemed to be used by smaller kids and the other side had bigger kids.  Some parents and grandparents were going with their kids too.

There are stairs, but some kids like to climb up the hard way.


And in case you don't have your sled, these are for sale nearby.

There's a snowmobile giving rides up the river.

This guy was on cross country skis.

And a guy ice fishing inside his little bubble.


Here is Alan in front of the beach where they come to swim in the summer.

The snow is pretty deep out here where nobody walks.  These are my footprints.

A stroll in the snow.  Not quite like the beach!

This is where they've been cutting out the ice blocks.  They've cleared the snow away from here.

They're still trying to get more ice.  It's so thick now that they have to use a cement saw to cut squares 6 - 8 inches deep and then use a bar to break off the pieces.  The blocks they're getting now are smaller than the first ones they were getting.


Camping anyone?

So, down at this part of the river, the stairs are covered with snow.  It was either climb up (in my skirt) or hike back to the stairs.  So, yes I did climb up this hill!  It was quite a walk and a work out!  Had to have my senior missionary nap after that!


One More Party!

A few months ago we visited with the nuns here in Astana.  They have run a soup kitchen for the poor, but have had to stop because they had a fire.  They had mentioned that they could use some help for their Christmas party for the children.  We collected toys from the branch members.  Some toys were also donated by a woman Alan met on his trip back to the US.  When she learned of his mission assignment, she wanted to donate to the children of Kazakhstan, so she made a special trip to the Phoenix airport to deliver them to him when he was returning to Astana.

Our former translator, Emin volunteered to help.  He did a great job as Father Frost and entertained the children and handed out gifts.

They like to get dressed up for parties

The children recited a poem or sang a song for their gifts!

Coolest Grandfather Frost and his Granddaughter



Time for treats!  The elders got to help serve the cake.

Christmas Week / Parties / Closing Ceremonies

The past couple of weeks we have been busy trying to finish our projects for 2012.  We were able to get everything approved, but we had to have some corrections made in the paperwork.  Also, since our translator Azamat has gone home for the holidays, we have had to rely on Alina, Emin and the elders whenever we can for translating help.  And it was very cold!

We were invited to dinner at the apartment of a man who is trying to sponsor a church member to come and work in Kazakhstan.  George is from Nigeria but has been living in Armenia for ten years.  He is trying to move his family out of Armenia due to economic conditions as well as other issues.  Since he and his wife's children are biracial, they are not well treated there.  He is a chef so we were invited to dinner to meet him and his sponsor.  The elders came along too which is good because we used their translating skills!  So here we are visiting with these nice people that we just met and they want us to stay and visit as long as possible!  We were able to share stories and have a lovely time even through our differences!  We hope George and his family can get the visas and other problems worked out so they can move here.

And we had a change in missionaries too.  We lost one elder to Almaty and picked up three new ones, so we are back to four elders again.  We think we're going to enjoy working with these young men.  They are happy to be here and get to know the people of Kazakhstan.  Until they receive permission to preach, they will be focusing on service and English.

We had a fun Christmas!  We were able to have two of the elders phone home on our Christmas morning (Christmas Eve in the US) and two the following morning which would be Christmas evening back home.  It was fun to be on this end of the phone calls and hear their excited families so happy to be able to talk with their missionaries.

We enjoyed our skype call to watch Heather's little girls open their presents.  I told a friend here that our little Chloe loves Elmo and she stared at me like "Who's Elmo??"  So I asked if she knew Big Bird??  Nothing!  So I guess Sesame Street has not hit Kazakhstan. 

Later that morning we went to visit the SOS orphanage house.  They sent a car and driver to pick us up for the 30 minute drive outside the city.  They had received the beds the church provided for them and invited us out to see.  When we first visited the house it was in process of remodeling.  It is very nice and homey now.  There are 12 teen aged children living there.  They have been in the orphanage system since they were babies.  They are very fortunate to be in such a good program.  I'm sure not every young orphan has such nice people to care for them. 

Of course they want to give us treats!  Candy, cookies, and they always offer tea!  One of the candies was so good!  Chocolate with orange filling.  We had to save the wrapper to try and find it at the store!  And, luckily, we did find them on Saturday!  Color me happy!

We had received an invitation to attend a celebration at the boarding school for their New Year's Celebration.  It was a special, hand made invitation especially for us.  It was on Friday.  It was fun to go and see the children again.  Some of them remembered us and kept waving at us until we waved back.  One little guy came up and gave us hugs and sat on my lap for a while.  I'm pretty sure the teacher wanted him to be back in his place, but I enjoyed it!

The Bunnies

The Frogs

The Princesses

The Honey Bears

They all help decorate the tree!

Father Frost

 Happy New Year!
Proud parents getting photos of their kiddos!  These schools go all out on their productions!  I told the elders I bet they never dreamed they'd be doing something like this on their missions!  The school director asked Alan to say a few words to the parents, so we were happy to have the elders with us.  The other guest speaker was the Minister of Finance.