Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27, 2013

Well, there's not a lot of news around here these days.  We've had a few warmer days, but we've been warned that it's too early to celebrate the end of winter just yet!  We're noticing that some of the ice sculptures around town have been taken down.  Yesterday we saw some new decorations being put out along the riverbank.  It looks like tulip lights!

We have had a few missionary discussions with the elders and some investigators which is always a great experience.  They are starting to fill their appointment books!

And we started up our English Club again.  We used almost all of the 50 chairs at the church, so we had a great turnout.  We were discussing personal qualities.  Alan asked our group to tell us what they liked about themselves.  We were blown away by the responses:  "I am good at forgiving other people."  "I enjoy helping others."  "I am good at seeing the good qualities that other people have."  These people are just naturally good and kind.  We were very impressed! 

Last night we were discussing families.  They mentioned that it is the basic unit of society and that we have a responsibility to help our families.  One of our favorite comments was that the main rule in their home was to have respect for one another!

Every other transfer, the elders are able to go for a "cultural event."  We met at Congress Hall to go see a concert of traditional Kazakh music and dance.

You can see that we're all ready for a fun evening.  So after we went inside, we learned that the concert had been cancelled!  Maybe another time!
Since it was Valentine's Day last week, and we were on the road all day going to Stepnogorsk, we treated ourselves to a special dinner out this week.  This is at a restaurant at the top of the China Palace.  It rotates so you can get a good view of the city.


The building with the blue dome is the president's residence.  At the right is the new mosque that opened in July.  The apartment buildings behind the president's house is called Highvill.  Many of our American friends live there.

The pyramid is to the right.  You can barely see part of the base.  I thought we had it in the photo, but I guess we missed.
The food was pretty good, but we thought our little China Bay cafe in Tucson is still way better!
We had an email from Elder and Sister Shaw the other day.  They were the couple here before the Maxwells who were before us.  They asked how the work is progressing here.  We invited a couple of sisters that they had known to come over so they could talk to them on skype. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Balamai Children's Center / Sensory Room

We had another closing ceremony this week.  This was at a handicapped children's center we have visited previously.  The Zone Leaders were in town so, they invited all of the missionaries to come.  They got to have a tour of the center too.  We learned that you can't always depend on the GPS.  We walked around in the cold wind on a sea of glass (ice), and when we got to where the GPS said we were supposed to go, we were hopelessly lost!  But we finally made it.  The first photos are not so good, because my camera was frozen!

The children were doing a little race across the carpet.  One little guy rolled over and over until he made it across the room first.

This is the group of older children at the organization.  The director asked the elders what they are studying in school.  One of them said "Music"  So he got the opportunity to perform for us all!  He sang "I Am a Child of God"  Everyone enjoyed that.

Then it was time to visit the Sensory Room.  This is the new equipment they have recently had installed. 

First Elder A and Nurgissa got to try out their braiding skills.  Then they brought in a little girl to show us how she can use the equipment.  The teacher told a story like she is participating in a fairy tale.  This little girl just beamed!

Practicing walking on different surfaces.

Part of her therapy is to use her hands more.

Nap time for the children.

And of course, they had to feed us!
We all had a great time at Balamai!

Then we came back to our apartment for District Meeting.  While the elders were eating, I took a photo of all the shoes, boots and coats.  There's a lot of miles on all these boots!
And later that evening, we had another English club activity, so it was a long, full, rewarding day!  So glad it's over!


Stepnogorsk Children's Creative House

We have had another great, busy week, almost to the point of exhaustion!  We have received a request to help an organization for handicapped people to receive equipment for a hair salon.  The handicapped people will be able to come for services (free, or reduced prices) and provide employment.  So, we had this list of items (in Russian) and we wanted to see what the items actually looked like.  Come to find out, that the warehouse is within walking distance of our apartment.  Here's a few of the items we looked at. 

I love this child's chair

This is an awesome pedicure chair with massage and jacuzzi.  Maybe too awesome?!

Alan has been wanting to get a good shot of the traffic officers.  They use the wands to direct traffic and if they point it at a car, they better pull over.

OK, now for the real fun.  We had to go to Stepnogorsk on Thursday.  The church has provided some equipment for their children's creative house.  This organization has two separate locations.  When we visited before, we rode a bus.  This time we went by car.  It is 200 km out of Astana, around 3 hours.  The road conditions were OK part of the time, but in some places the snow was blowing onto the highway even though the plows were out trying to keep it out of the road.  At one point we came across a car that was stuck in the snow.  We stopped to see if they needed help, but they already had someone helping them, so they told us to go on.  Here's a view of the road at that point.  Probably a bad idea to get stuck out here.
This town was established around 1960 by the Soviets for nuclear and/or biological weapons.  Now, the main industry is mining. 
They were happy to show us their new equipment.  The dance teacher was especially thrilled!  She used to have to use a pair of scissors to get the CDs to eject from her old player.

And we got to visit with our dear Anastasia.  She has been living in Stepnogorsk for the past few months and we've missed her!

The second location is also very happy with their new equipment.  This young lady is showing her awards from participating in many festivals.

Then we visited the Balapan Children's Center.  This place cares for about 20 young handicapped children and has about 50 older handicapped adults.

This little girl is not able to walk.  We were able to deliver a wheelchair to her from the wheelchair project in Astana last year.

Everyone was very happy about the wheelchair, except the little girl!  It will take a little getting used to, I think.

This is the outside of the building.  They are located upstairs.

This is the chapel area that is being remodeled.  It will be very beautiful.

And a little chapel too.

On the way home, the snowplow came right by us.  There was only room for one car at a time here and the drifts on the sides were as high as the car windows.  We're very glad we made it there and back safely!

And I wanted to show the railroad crossing sign.  I think it's so cute. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Great News!

So we were given some wonderful news this past week.  All of our elders here in Astana now have their permission to preach certificates.  The missionaries in Almaty were told they can expect to receive their certification within a couple of months, so that's progress at least!  One very exciting thing is that the church has decided to move forward with translating the Book of Mormon into Kazakh.

So, Elder A decided it would be great to have some of our elders speak in church now that they have permission!

We had a chance to visit with a shoe repair man who is deaf.  He is requesting some help so he can train other deaf people in his trade.

This is the shoe repair place.

We needed a sign language translator, plus our Russian / English translator.

They had heard of our other work with the deaf community.  They told us that many of the hearing impaired people move to the city since there are more opportunities here than out in the villages.
We had a party for our English group people and the branch members.  We had a great turn out and everyone had a lot of fun.

Alan is playing Jenga with Mira, our visa clerk.

Our little American girls teaching the games!

And here's what our benches by the river walk look like these days.
So, this is a short post, but the computer has challenged me every step of the way this time!  Until next time.......  Best Wishes from Kazakhstan!