Monday, January 28, 2013

January Thaw

Well, the weather warmed up a bit this week.  We got up above freezing.  You'd think that would be great, and it is in a way, but it does have its drawbacks as well.  This is a photo of the road in front of our apartment.  We were waiting for the bus.  So I'm looking at this pile of show and wondering how I'm going to climb over it when the bus gets here.  And it was much worse than it looks in this view!  It was about 2 1/2 feet high and a little bit sloshy.  Somehow we made it over the pile and onto the bus!

This view shows what the parking lots look like (somewhat).  Since the snow was a bit softer, the cars were getting stuck all over town.  Alan helped push a couple of cars.  Since they rarely clean out the parking lots, the snow (ice) is pretty deep.  Then when it melts, or softens out, it is a deep "slosh" - perfect for cars to get stuck in, spinning their wheels!  The tall building in the center is our apartment building.

This was taken the next day, when the pile was even deeper!  Maybe 3 1/2 feet to crawl over to get on the bus!

This machine is coming down the street cleaning up these piles from the side of the road.  Actually only one side of the road got cleaned up, but it's something!
Then today, when the temperatures dropped back down, all those soft, slushy spots had turned into --- skating rinks!  It was a good trick walking to church.  We decided to take the route that had been sanded and salted (well, sprinkled with dirt) instead of the shorter way that would have been like ice skating.

We've been having good attendance at our English group lately.  I think we had over 20 people this week.

One of our friends brings her little angel with her.  She is usually on the grumpy side, but she was making googly eyes at Elder P.!  I think she found one that she likes!
And, the best news of all  -- This week we were blessed with a baptism!!  One of our friends that has been coming to English for quite a while and has been taking the discussions, decided to be baptised.  I have some nice pictures, but our Area Presidency has asked us to be careful about posting photos of the missionaries, so I will save them for now.  But we are so very happy for our friend and for the elders.  We love them all very much!
This is where the baptism was held.  It is at a sauna or bath house.  We were able to rent this room for an hour and have 10 people in it.  There was a sauna (hot room) off to the side and a dressing room and showers.  The water was on the cool side (for cooling off after the sauna.)  And there is an area with sofas where we sang and had testimonies.  We were surprised how many people go to use the bath house.  It was quite busy!  A special day to remember!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We Made it Through Another Week!

Things are changing around town these days.  The Christmas and New Year's decorations are coming down.  We still have the Chinese New Year coming up, but I'm not sure when that is.

On Monday we were able to help the Elders do some shopping and find some things for their apartment.  It takes us some extra time to get anywhere by bus on a good day.  But if it's an extra cold day, or the timing is just right, it will take longer. 

Monday evening we had a FHE across town.  After we got home from the shopping, we headed back to go to FHE at a member's home in Highvill.  It is usually about 45 minutes to get there by bus (10 or 15 by car), but this night it took about 90 minutes.  The traffic was slow, the weather was cold and the bus was crowded!  We had to push our way through to get out of the door when we finally reached our destination.

And, we have discovered that they have set up a bus stop on our street right in front of our apartment building.  Lo and behold, bus 17 comes down our street now, so we don't have as far to walk to catch it or to ride it home.  We're just not exactly sure of the rest of its route.  We'll have to take a trial ride one of these days.

We had our English Club as usual on Tuesday and Friday nights.  We really enjoy meeting the people who come and want to practice English.  And we practice our poor Russian on them too.  We had some people come this week that had been coming to English last year but had stopped coming. 

And we spent quite a bit of time working on paperwork and reports.  I was going to say we got them done, but we never seem to be done!

So, we were able to get some projects ready to close this week.  We were able to get some computers for two organizations in town that work with disabled adults and their families.  Alan calls the one lady the "Sheep Lady" because she invited him to go to the animal sacrifices a few months ago (our translator calls her the "Cheap Lady".)  We've visited these offices several times but I don't recall ever seeing the accountant smile before.

  This man is the director of the Organization of Handicapped People in the Almaty area of Astana
The "Sheep Lady" is the Director of the Organization for Handicapped Persons in the Sari-Arka Region of Astana

The accountant is happy!

This hair salon is part of the organization.  Alan has had his hair cut here twice.  It is a very small place, with no running water.  They would like to expand this place and teach others to do hair.

This is a "tailoring shop" next door to the hair salon. 
This is the sewing lady.  She plans to teach others to sew.  They want to expand this place as well and use the new sewing machine that the church has donated.

We have visited this shop before. This lady makes Kazakh costumes and hats.  She gave Alan and I each a hat that she had made.  And she remembered that we had visited her before.

I tried to get a smile out of this little girl, but no such luck!

Some of the beautiful work in this shop with traditional Kazakh design.

This is Azamat with Alan.  He has been our translator since September, but his school schedule is too heavy this semester, so he has had to resign. 

I wanted to show the back of Azamat's hat.  The tail is practically to his waist!

On our last stop of the day, we were given this little train filled with Happy New Year ornaments and candy.  I am stepping up onto the snow/ice level in front of our apartment building.  It must be aover 12 " deep.  You can see the dark stripes in the snow showing the ice levels from the previous snow storms.  In some places, after a while, they dig down to ground level.  But it is normal to just let it keep piling up deeper and deeper!   It is going to be a sloshy mess whenever it starts to melt!

And another milestone in the progress of the church.  Today we had our first Relief Society Visiting Teaching Conference.  We have visiting teaching assignments for all our sisters.  Another step along the path!
We hope everyone is healthy and happy wherever you are!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"How Many Missionaries Does it Take ???"

So, how many missionaries does it take to move a single bed?  Turns out about 6!  The elders have been looking for a second apartment for quite a while and finally found one.  But they needed another bed.  It just so happens that we had an extra one in our apartment.  Our landlady said the elders could use it, so they came over one afternoon and took it apart.  Everyone grabbed a piece of it and off we went!  Kind of funny to climb on the bus with pieces of a bed, but we got the job done!

These are some photos out our window to the courtyard down below.  Some brave kids decided to play on the mountain of snow.  Once in a while a tractor will come and gather a bunch of snow from the sidewalks around the playground.  Of course, as soon as they do that, it will snow the next day!  In the lower photo, there is a bench towards the top where the kids are walking.  Down below, you can only see the arm rests of the benches.  The snow is much deeper on the lower side.  The wind pushes the snow around.  Some days we can't tell if it is fresh snow, or if the wind has just evened everything out!

We had a chance to go down to Almaty for Zone Conference this week.  The Almaty branch sponsors a music night every week.  It was fun to enjoy the elder's and sister's talents as well as some of their members and investigators.  Almaty has not received accreditation from their city and none of their missionaries have permission to preach at this time.  So their main focus is on English class and music and service projects.
We had a nice visit in Almaty.  Turns out the weather was about 20 degrees warmer.  We could actually go outside with some exposed skin!  And we kept the windows of the hotel room open all night because they had the heat turned up so high.  We were able to get signatures on the documents for the upcoming wheelchair project so the trip came at a good time for us.  
The travel time was not the best ever.  On Thursday, our flight to Almaty was delayed for two hours, so we waited in the terminal.  Then on Saturday's return flight, they boarded us on time, but then we were sitting in the plane for two hours before take off.  It had snowed all day, so they had a lot of planes to clean off and de-ice.  We were very happy to make it "home" safe and sound.

A few photos outside our hotel.  When spring comes, it is going to be a big sloshy mess!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2013!  So it seems that New Year's is a huge thing around here.  The fireworks went well past midnight from all over town.  Some were right in our courtyard!  It was a good thing we had a nap earlier.

The next day everything was shut down.  There was hardly any traffic or activity.  Very interesting!

The afternoon of New Year's Eve we went over to see the ice sculptures by Mega Mall.  The city has set up several places around town with skating rinks, ice mazes and slides.  It was a big attraction and a lot of people were taking advantage of it and enjoying themselves. 

We enjoyed watching for quite a while.  Here's a few of our favorite photos.

I think this is a three generation photo.  The pink thing the man is holding is a baby all bundled up against the cold.  You cannot believe all the layers they put on these little ones!  And the sculptures of Grandfather Frost and his Granddaughter helper are all over town.

This little guy has his own little sled.  They just sit on it and hold onto the handle and down they go!


They are not so good at "taking turns".  They'll go as soon as they can get ready.  You better move out of the way at the bottom.  This is strictly "use at your own risk!"  You can see that it's shiny.  It is very very icy!  Straight ice!

We saw a few big pile ups at the bottom.  If you don't get out of the way in time, watch out!  There were a few kids knocked down and hit their heads on the ice.  Ouch!

Here's an ice maze and a wild cat.  At night they have colored lights on everything and it looks beautiful!

And you can get your photo taken with Grandfather Frost!