Sunday, December 27, 2015

First Christmas in Croatia

We had a very special Zone Conference this week at the Mission Home.  Croatia Zone gathered together on Wednesday for training, some caroling in downtown Zagreb,  a fun talent show, a phone
visit with Elder Williams (yippee!), good food, and spending time with some
Nativity Performance
amazing missionaries!  While we were downtown, we walked over to the Cathedral where there was a live Nativity.  We timed it perfectly. The program was starting when we got there. The music was beautiful, and the costumes and set were spectacular!  It was a touching performance and a wonderful way to celebrate this Christmas season, and the Savior's birth.
Elder Poore and Elder Mangeris 
Elder Mangeris
We left on Thursday to head
back to Karlovac and prepare for Christmas Eve.  We met up with Elders Poole & Mangeris, and Sisters Hertz and Yardley at 11:00 p.m. to attend Midnight Mass at the Catholic church in downtown Karlovac.  We went early because we heard it fills up fast. We found a place to sit, but  it wasn't long before it was full with standing room only.  It was a beautiful church with painted murals throughout and magnificent chandeliers and two enormous Christmas trees in the front by the altar.  The organ was loud enough to feel the vibration as we sat on the pew.  We got home at 1:30 and unlike the sisters, remembered to turn off our alarm!

Christmas morning came and at about 10:00 a.m. the doorbell rang.
Elder Poore
Sister Yardley
The missionaries had arrived!  They made German pancakes and fruit salad for brunch.  Sister Yardley shared her caramels with us to make caramel apples. We played games, opened presents, and had a great time.  They were so excited to talk to their families and I can imagine the excitement on the other end as well.  We had two places set up for their afternoon Skype and Face Time sessions which went off without a hitch.  We had roast beef for dinner, with mashed potatoes, spinach salad, and cherry pie. After finishing our riveting Phase 10 game, with Sister Yardley the big winner,  they left about 8:00 p.m.  We were grateful for them as they made our Christmas away from home, a little less painful. We were able to talk with Adam and his family on Christmas Eve, and we talked to Kate's family on Christmas Day.
Sister Hertz
Our unuci showed us all the presents they received,  and thanked us for the gifts we sent them.  Thank you Amazon Prime!  We spent the next day relaxing, because we were two tired old missionaries.  We didn't leave the apartment, and watched A Christmas Carol.  I think the 1951 version is the best one, don't you?  

Our word of the week for our unuci is:  dar which means gift.

Let us not forget the greatest dar of all which is our Savior Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for all mankind. 
Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Making Sarma!

I was out of commission for the first part of the week with a bad cold.  I rested up and was grateful it wasn't Christmas week.  On Thursday, we had to go back to the MUP (police station), and work on getting our visa's.  It's been a long and complicated process, but I think it is all taken care of now.   Good thing because we only have ten days before our application for visa's expire.  What happens then?  I don't know, and luckily we won't find out...
Mira, the master chef!

The sarma is finished!
On Thursday we met Mira at Kaufland's to buy the ingredients to make sarma for our Christmas party on Friday.  Sarma is a traditional dish using pickled cabbage leaves and stuffing them with a seasoned beef/pork mixture.  It is delicious and Mira promised me that she would show me how to make it.  We bought all the goods, and walked back to the apartment,  where we met the sister missionaries at the door. We put on our aprons and got to work.  It was fun listening to Christmas music and spending time with my new prijatelji.  Then came the hard part.  Wrapping the meat mixture in the cabbage leaves was tricky.  Mira had to show us (repeatedly) how to wrap them so the meat wouldn't fall out.  I finally caught on and proudly showed her my finished product.  She looked at it and said, "Bravo".  Ah, success!  We ended up having enough sarma to feed an army.

Karlovac Christmas Party
We had our Christmas party on Saturday night.  There was good food, good company, a wonderful spiritual presentation by the Elders, and fun games provided by the Sister missionaries.  As we sat in the chapel singing Christmas hymns in Hrvatski, I felt an intense love for the people in this little Branch so far away from my home.  We think of our family and friends back home, but know that
this is where we need to be right now.  We love interacting with the people of Karlovac and they appreciate our efforts in speaking their language.  We continue to struggle with casing, gendering, conjugating, pronunciation, and proper accent... but we are making progress...

There are ice rinks all over Croatia.  It's not cold enough to freeze ice, so they have cooling coils set up under the rink, to freeze the water.  We have one here in Karlovac, and there is a sweet one in Zagreb.  There were quite a few people skating today in Zagreb.  It made me think of when I was younger and every neighborhood had a rink.  Kids went skating every day after school, no matter how cold it was.
Ice rink in Zagreb

We had to take the car in to Zagreb for an oil change.  EK dropped me off at Metro to do some Christmas shopping.  The car appt. was at 10:00 a.m. and we thought it would take about an hour or so.  At about 1:00,  I began to wonder what was going on.  EK has a phone, but I do not.  There is no way for us to communicate when we are separate.  It got to be 2:00, and finally I went to the front desk and asked to use the phone.  She didn't speak much English, but she understood what I meant.  EK said they were finishing up and that he would come soon.  He came to pick me up at 2:30.  That's a four hour oil change.  I don't think their definition of an appointment is the same as ours.  We had a good laugh over that one.  We ended up going over to the Arena Mall and we came across some awesome Lego models.  I decided to sit with them a while..

Taking a break with some friends!

We have two new missionaries in Karlovac.  They are Sister Yardley, and Elder Poore.  We are happy that they here in time to spend Christmas with us!

The word of the week for our unici:  Stretan Božić, which means Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas in Croatia

Marshmallow Roasting Stand
We went to Ljubljana for a Self-Reliance Devotional/Workshop on Saturday.  Afterwards, we were able to go downtown and see the Christmas lights. It is such a beautiful city, but we seem to be seeing beauty everywhere we go.  During the day, we came upon two sister missionaries and I happened to know one of them.  The one and only, Sister VanWagoner!  We hugged and visited for a while.  She is happy in Ljubljana and I know they love her there.
Stretan misionari!

We stayed until dark and when the Christmas lights went on, all the children squealed with delight.  It must have been a family night because it was very crowded.  It really was amazing to see, and of course, I took pictures.  I couldn't use my tripod because I lost the camera attachment thingy and I'm having a hard time finding another one.  So, I used EK's shoulder and did the best I could.  One, two, three, hold your breath, snap.  I noticed a cute marshmallow stand.  What a great idea!  They provided long sticks, marshmallows, and a fire for roasting.  There was also a roasted chestnut stand.  All that was missing, was some snow.

We have been having fun making Christmas crafts for a local Children's Organization. Our landlady told us about it.  They sell the crafts and the money goes to families who have children with cancer.  We try to go every Wednesday night and EK is having fun visiting with all the ladies.  He is usually the only man there and they are entertained with his attempt to communicate with them in Hrvatski.  He also looks cute in his little work apron...

Beautiful fresco paintings
Serene and peaceful
We went to Osijek this weekend to meet the members, and to see our friends the Andersons.  It is about 3 hours away from Karlovac and it was foggy all the way there, and back.  They are used to it here and drive as if it is normal driving conditions and zoom right past us slow pokes.  We stayed overnight in a comfortable Hostel near St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.  The cathedral was built in 1898 and is a treasure trove of neo-gothic ornamentation.  The ceilings and walls were painted by Mirko Rački, a famous Croatian artist.  We were happy to find it open so we could take a peek.  We love to explore the churches and cathedrals here. It was EK's birthday on Monday, but I had a bad cold over the entire weekend, so I wasn't much fun.  We'll have to celebrate another day this week.  Oh, I wish they had Nyquil here...
Our host left us fruit for a snack

I found a hair salon for a haircut and color.  The stylist was sweet and very good with the color.  Another girl cut my hair and was very meticulous. I'm not used to having two people do my hair, but they did a great job. I especially liked the shampoo experience. A leisurely head and neck massage, and all the while the lower back of the chair which had a massager, gently massaged my back.   Ahhh, it was a little bit of heaven...maybe I can go back weekly, just to get a shampoo...

It's time to think about Christmas baking.  I can find almost everything I need. One thing that is impossible to find here are pie tins.  Reason being is they don't make round pies.  They are rectangular with a thick crust.  But thanks to my friends Cathy & Mary, I have peppermint extract and candies for some treats.

 Za naše unuke:
The word of the week is:  sišanje (shee-shawn-yea), which means haircut.  I just got one, and Grandpa is looking a little shaggy.  He has an appointment this week.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Varaždin and "What's a Vinjeta?"

Talking myself out of jailtime

As mentioned in the last post, we reluctantly had to deliver Sister Van Wagoner to her new assigned area, Ljubljana, Slovenia.  I learned a great lesson on that trip.  You see, I have gotten quite accustomed to paying tolls on the super highways in Croatia.  You would think that once we entered Slovenia I should have asked myself, "why didn't I get a toll ticket after we checked into the country at the border?"  Or, "what are these checkpoints all about where you have to slow down to 60 Kilometers per hour so all of the cameras can get a clear photo of your car?"  Well, we got through the first checkpoint and I thought all was well.  It was at the second checkpoint about 20 kilometers into the country that I learned the hard way.  It was explained to me in a terrible mix of Slovenian and very broken English by a large Slovenian lady in a uniform holding a stop sign who had signaled us to pull over.  "You not have vinjeta!!  You have to buy at the border.  You not see the sign?  Now you pay a fine!!"  Busted!!  Mary very covertly snapped a picture of me getting a fine and a lecture.  It was a little frightening at first but I just chalked it up as a rather expensive lesson.  The lady said, "I easy on you.  Only charge 150 euros.  Could have been 300!!"  I could picture her saying in her mind, "Stupid American!"  Then, to add insult to injury, for another 15 euros she sold us a 7-day Vinjeta and sent us on our way.    

Elder Fransen performing
Partying in Varažden

On the 27th we drove up to Varaždin in the northern tip of Croatia.  We were invited to attend a party they were having and we needed to get up there and meet the members of the Branch, so we just decided to head on up.  It is a nice little branch.  We were pleased with the turnout and the local entertainment.  The branch president plays bass guitar in a band with a keyboard player, and a guitar-strumming singer.  They play a mixture of Country and Croatian traditional music and were part of the entertainment.  Then there was a local husband and wife duo, joined by Elder Fransen for a couple of numbers, who played only traditional Croatian music.  They also had a cute little magic act that was quite good.  It really was a good time!

In case any of you noticed, there was not a posting last week.  My bad!!  I got so busy with other things I did not get it done.  Well, that did not go over well with management so it looks like I have been demoted from a Co-Editor to "Occasional Contributor".  It's a rough life in the Blogging field!!  I will try to get back in management's good graces, but until then, you will hear from me only "occasionally".

The "work of the week" is "Postivati".  If you do not postivati the law, you will pay a fine.  Definition is "to obey".

Stay tuned for a report on another trip to Ljubljana and guess who we saw there?  Thanks for following our blog!!  Vidimo se.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Is that Christmas I see sneaking around the corner?  Thank goodness Santa has Amazon Prime! We are ready for Thanksgiving.  I found a hard-to-find turkey at Metro and we will have our feast on Thursday afternoon.  No pumpkin, but I'm sure I'll come up with some other scrumptious dessert.  Then in the evening, we teach our first Institute Class.

We are excited to view the new Church Christmas video entitled "A Savior Is Born".  The Church makes it available in selected languages and we found out that Hrvatski  (Croatian) will be one of the languages!  It will be available  Nov. 29th and here is the link:  What a wonderful way to start the Christmas Season.

We have been trying to keep up with what's going on back home and checking the internet, it seems that some of the topics include:  the presidential debate and...Starbuck's Christmas cups.  I had to look closer at the last one because honestly, with everything that is going on around the world, do we really care if Starbuck's put out plain red cups this year?  My opinion is that their caramel apple cider would taste good in any cup.  I could go for one right now...

We attended to a lovely concert at the Zorin Dom in Karlovac after our language class.  We invited friends from the Karlovac Branch.  We sat back and listened to the gifted musicians perform on their harp and flute.  I appreciate good glazba!  We walked home afterwards, enjoying the cool evening air, and the smell of wood fires as people stoked up their furnaces.

Is he questioning his choice?
We were in Zagreb and met the Hallings and Johnson's for lunch.  We went to a nice restaurant and EK had the special of the day... ink risotto.  It was squid ink and I wasn't up to the challenge.  I am adventurous in many ways...but not with food.  He ended up finishing it, but wasn't too impressed (as you can see in the picture).  I had curry chicken which was very good.

Typical cheese choice
While we were in Zagreb, we stopped at Metro which is like a small Costco.  As I was looking in one of the coolers, I spotted something that caused me to gasp with delight.  It was... a 3lb. block of cheddar cheese!  I snatched it up and ran to find EK.  Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but when all you see is white swiss and gouda cheese, you tend to get excited over cheddar!

Budapest, Hungary
 The weather has been beautiful.  November has been like spring.  They tell us winters are cold here, but we are seasoned Wisconsonites.  We are familiar with windchill factor, ice storms, white outs, and the need for long johns.  We are ready for it!

EK had a Priesthood Leadership Conference in Budapest, Hungary last week.  Did we ever think we would be in Budapest?  It was lovely.  The ladies were able to squeeze in some sightseeing.  We took a trolley tour and ended our day with a boat ride down the Danube River.  

God bless you, Elder Williams
Sister VanWagoner

Sister VanWagoner was transferred this week and we had to take her to Slovenia.  It is hard to say goodbye to our missionaries when they leave us.  When we first came on our mission, President Grant told us
that we would grow close to these special young people.  It is so true.  They are a blessing to us.

It has been a rough week as we also had to say goodbye to our dear Elder Williams who returned home due to illness.  He has been such a support for us in the start of our mission and we will miss his sweet and positive influence in our district and mission.  

Our word of the week:  snijeg  which means snow.  We had a light snowfall on Friday and EK was so happy he didn't have to shovel!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Snow Tires are on the Corsa

Is it really half way through November!?  I will have to say the only thing that makes me believe that is the angle of the sun on the southern horizon.  The days are getting quite short, but the temperatures are still quite mild.  It has been hitting upwards of 18 degrees Centigrade during the sunny days.  That is about 65-70ish for you Fahrenheit people.  It is quite pleasant.  The thing I am enjoying most is the fact that the wind barely stirs here.  The weather is very calm.  We have been here six weeks now and have never seen anything that resembles a storm.  Just calmness and a lot of morning fog and rain on occasion.

What's wrong with the Corsa?
Most of the neighboring countries have laws that all cars must be running snow tires between November 15 and the end of March.  Even though Croatia hasn't climbed on that bandwagon yet, since the Corsa will most likely be needing to cross into some of these restrictive countries, we had to get snow tires installed.  In this part of the world, when the Church purchases a car they automatically get a set of snow tires mounted and have them stored at the dealership until they are needed.   Such was the case for us.  So, we made yet another trip to Zagreb to the Autowill Opel dealership to make the swap.  The timing was perfect as we had a headlight go out recently.  When I noticed that, we stopped in to have a service station attendant check on it he opened the hood and said, "complicated".  When I asked if he could change it he said, "take it to a dealer".   There is a certain amount of dis-assembly required and since i have no tools, we just had it taken care of at Autowill.  So far that is the only thing that has gone wrong with the Corsa.  I'm getting rather attached to the little darling.
How long does it take to install tires?

Autowill Showroon full of Opels.
Autowill is a nice dealership and it was here that it happened again--  the slip of the tongue.  The "volim" instead of "molim" when the receptionist was especially kind and patient with my improving Croatian.  This time I knew I did it.  Well, the receptionist smiled, I was embarrassed, and Sister Krehbiel laughed, of course.

Sharing the road with trains in Zagreb!!
 I am getting more comfortable driving in Zagreb.  Sharing the road with trains has become normal to me.  Most drivers are not overly aggressive and if I get by with fewer than 3 horns blown at me in a trip, I feel like I've done well.

Of course, all of this fun is surrounded by great opportunities to testify of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  We spend a lot of time with the the young Elders Williams and Mangeris and Sisters VanWagoner and Hertz.  As you can imagine, we have become quite attached to them.  They are very remarkable young people who inspire us with their desire to do good and share the great message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who will listen.  (In case their moms are following this blog) They are very well behaved and have good manners.  We have had a lot of fun and laughs with them!!  It goes without saying that they are keeping us feeling young!!      

We just accepted another assignment, and that is to teach an Institute class on Thursday Nights starting on the 26th of November.  This is a religion class designed for college-aged single members.  The curriculum is brand new this year with the course of study entitled, "Jesus the Christ, the Everlasting Gospel".  We are excited to team-teach a group of three or four students to start with but hopeful to grow it to 10 or so.  On the 14th we go for training.  You guessed it, another trip to Zagreb!!  Yippee!  Can't wait to play tag with the trains again!!

Next week it is off to Budapest, Hungary for training so stay tuned for that and another exciting adventures.  Thanks for following the blog.  Videmo se!

Dragi Unuci, here is the word of the week:  Zima.  Zima dolazi!!  Winter is coming!!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Castle in Karlovac

We found our first castle.  There are many castles in the mission, but we didn't know there was one in Karlovać. It is the oldest monument in Karlovać (built in the 13th century).  We were hoping to get a tour, but it wasn't open. We'll try again another day, but we did get some great pictures.
Old castle/Old couple
Beautiful reflection

We took a walk down to Centar and decided to grab some lunch at a little sidewalk cafe.  I saw a man with a plate of onion rings, and they looked good.  The waitress took our order and I pointed to the man's plate.  The waitress asked, "lignje"?  And I said, "da".  When it came I bit into a ring and it was a little rubbery.  Can you guess what it was?  Yes, it was squid.  It was quite tasty, but I left the tentacles for E.K.
Bullet riddled building
No, these are not onion rings

 We also walked in an area where we noticed many buildings still scarred from the war.  It is hard to imagine that it was only 20 or so years ago.  As we saw the large caliber bullet holes, we thought of the many people who feared for their lives and for the lives of their children.  How awful that must have been for them.

In response to the announcement from the LDS church asking members to help world's refugees in a  growing humanitarian crisis, we along with many other people throughout the world, gathered together as a branch to do our part.  It is said to be the world's largest humanitarian crisis since Word War II.  We completed 150 kits, which may seem small, but combined with others' efforts  will help ease the burden of some.
Hygiene kit assembly
Mushroom sandwich...yum!

The elders took us with them to visit Ivaca, his wife Zdenka, and their son Krešimir.  They were so kind and gracious and made sure that we had something to eat.  It was a sandwich with mushrooms, red pepper sauce and a hard boiled egg.  It was very good.  We learned of the amazing musical talent the family has.  Krešimir plays guitar, and their daughter is a trained opera singer.  They showed us a video of her singing, and another with her singing a song with Ivaca, her father. He has had no training, but has a beautiful voice.  We went away with warm feelings of friendship and the promise to return.

We had Zone Conference in Zagreb and our district missionaries were in charge of an hour's presentation on achieving goals.  They did an amazing job, teaching by the Spirit. We were proud to be a part of their district.  I did like the fact they ended with a quote by Vince Lombardi.  Being from Green Bay, Wisconsin, it can only be a good thing to end on that note.
Karlovac District
We had language class and I was able to snap a picture of our class.  They are consistent in coming, and their English is improving significantly.  It also helps us with our Croatian.
Language class

Last but not least, we can't forget Elder William's special day.  We had district meeting and afterwards, celebrated his birthday with pizza, cake, balloons, and party hats (thanks to the sisters).  Happy Birthday, dear Elder Williams.
One special birthday boy!

    We went to the gas station to fill up our tank, and I noticed this extinguisher next to the tank.  Interesting safety measures they've taken.

And... Christmas is coming.  We can see it in the lights being put up in the city and the decorations in the stores.  We even bought a tree at Metro (similar to Costco).  We feel a chill in the air and we are waiting for our first snowfall.  I love going out in the evening and smelling the wood fires that are heating the many buildings in the area.
Putting up Christmas lights

The word of the week:  glazba which means music.  We are excited to attend a concert next week in a beautiful historic building where there will be a harpist, and flautist performing.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Fruitful Trip to Dubrovnik

We just returned to Karlovac from the remarkable city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.  There we participated in a very inspiring Adriatic North Mission Senior Couples Conference held in a beautiful and historic setting.  We left our apartment with 6 other couples at around 10:00 am on Monday the 26th and
traveled to the southern end of Croatia along the beautiful Adriatic Sea to the Neptun Hotel in Dubrovnik. We arrived around 5:30 pm, got checked in and boarded a bus to the Old Town.
The bus ride to Old Town.
Walking the wall.
Standing guard on the wall!

The conference was to start on Tuesday at 1:00 pm so we took advantage of the free time to see the sights.  Old Town is properly named.  It was largely built in the 12 century although within the walls are some ancient Roman ruins which date back much before that.  One popular activity is to “walk the wall”.  That is just what it sounds like.  There is a high wall around the perimeter of the city which, for 100 Kuna each, you can walk and enjoy the view of the inside of the city and the beautiful Adriatic Sea and the rest of the city on the outside.

Lots of steps
Really clean water.
Pretty Roman Columns
The purpose of the trip wasn't just to tour around and see the sights.  We assembled for two days of training and planning.  There were a total of 20 couples.  Our Mission President had made assignments to each of the couples,  things like organizing temple trips,  working with the youth, working with single adults, humanitarian projects, recording mission history, public affairs, self-reliance, employment and the list goes on.  It was quite inspiring to see all of those mature couples acting like a bunch of  energetic youngsters as they accepted assignments and reported on their progress.  The sum of the life experience of this group is nothing short of amazing.  Mary and I feel privileged to be a part of this great force.  As I looked at the big picture, I once again saw the Savior's hand in this work.  And "he went about doing good" (Acts 10:38).  His real purpose in all that He did was to invite all to come unto Him (Matthew 11:28-30).  He nurtured, healed, taught, and invited with love and tenderness.  He helped people change and put them on the path to real joy and happiness.  The conference reminded us of the real reason why we are here, a third of the globe from home.  We love this work and feel fulfilled by it.
Beautiful lady with nice produce
On the way back we stopped at a roadside fruit stand to pick up some Mandarin Oranges in the Dalmatian lowlands.  It is a very fertile valley with good soil and fresh water and beautiful produce.

Lunch stop in Bosnia
Then we stopped in Bosnia for lunch.  When the coastline was divided up after the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia got a little piece of it; perhaps 10 kilometers or so.  Just enough so they could have some resorts of their own.  You have to pass through this area of Bosnia to get to southern Croatia.  So we made sure we all had our passports readily available and pulled into a very nice resort and had a great buffet of Bosnian food.  Yummy!!

Lijepa i stretna žena!
(Beautiful and happy woman/wife is the translation)

Then we went home.  To Karolvac, that is.  It was a nice break, but it was great to be back in our little place with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

Stay tuned for another exciting chapter as we report on "Trouble with the Corsa!"  Until then, thank you for following our blog.  As always, we would love to hear your comments.  Vidimo se!

Since I am on blog duty this week I was informed I need to have a "word of the week" for the unuci!

The word is: skol (Pronounced skole)  It means school.  Have a great time at skol!!