Monday, October 26, 2015

Open House in Karlovac

We had an Open House at the Karlovac Branch Building on Friday, Oct. 23rd.  The members worked hard in preparing for the big event.  We cleaned and polished, we made posters, hung pictures, bought  flowers and food and put out the welcome mat.   Our little building looked sweet.  We had about 30 people come, most of them members.  A representative from a local homeless shelter and her husband came.  There was a short program with Predsjednik Raich conducting and President Grant presiding. We met an impressive young man who is to be baptized on October 31st in Zagreb.  He was very kind, as I struggled to speak Croatian to him.  I would speak and he would say, "Bravo"!
Table in the front foyer
I told him he was good for my ego, and he looked confused.  I then explained to him that ego means self-confidence.  He smiled at that.

We will be going to his baptism, but before that there will be a broadcast via Skype in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the dedication of Yugoslavia for the preaching of the gospel.  The broadcast will originate at the ANM office, the exact site where President Monson dedicated this land on October 31, 1985.  After the broadcast, the baptism will take place.  We are excited to attend.
Lovely group!

We took the day off on Saturday (our 1st since arriving) and went to Plitvica National Park which is about an hour and a half away.  I have never seen anything so beautiful and breathtaking.  It is a place with many lakes and waterfalls.  I knew I would take a few pictures, but 300?  Good thing film is free.  It was the perfect time of year,  as the leaves were changing color and it reminded us of home.  On the way home we found a sweet little village named Slunj.  It was nestled on top of a group of smaller waterfalls.  We stopped there for dinner and had pizza at a local restaurant.  It looks like there are many rooms to rent for tourists, and I can see why.  It would be fun to spend a few days here.  Luckily, it is close enough for us to come for the day.

We are off to Dubrovnik for Senior Conference for a few days, so that is something to look forward to reading about next week!  I have my camera battery charged and I'm ready to go.  Let's see if I can break my record of 300 pictures...
The word of the week is:   prijatelj which means friend.
(pree yah tel)  We are making many here in Croatia!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Handsome and Charming at the Salon

We are doing well and are feeling comfortable in our little nest here in Karlovac.  We have learned our way around town now.  We are even fairly comfortable driving to Zagreb as we had to do that twice last week.  Actually, we only seem to drive the car when we need to go to meetings in Zagreb.  Otherwise we are walking everywhere.  We even walk in the rain with our kisubrani (umbrellas).  The fact is, parking is quite a problem so it is just easier to walk.  Walking and bicycling are very common and the streets all have bicycle/walking paths.  Very pedestrian friendly.

Our apartment is in a great location.  We are an easy 10 to 15 minute walk to Old Centar to the south or the New Centar to the Northeast.  These are the business centers of town.  Both have everything we need to survive and each has its own individual atmosphere.  If I had to pick a favorite it would be Old Centar.  It is a lot more charming and European-feeling.  New Centar is more modern.  But, the patrons talk funny in both of them. 

In the Salon Chair
The finished product
I found a good place to get my hair cut.  It is in old Centar.  The beautician, Stefanja, is the landlord of the Sister Missionaries so we had met her in advance.  She did a great job of cutting my hair, almost as good as Greta.  There was another patron in the place.  And as always, we tried speaking in Croatian as much as we could.  The two weren’t bashful about correcting us when we said silly stuff, after a good laugh of course.  I guess when I said the haircut was beautiful I used a word that is more feminine in meaning.  The work was lijep (pronounced lee-yep), which in the dictionary means beautiful or nice.  I thought it fit.  However, they laughed and said zgodan (handsome) for a man.  Then they called me samantan (charming) and Mary said they were giving me a big head and they laughed again.  That was our experience at the Hair Salon.

Sarma and krumpir
Mary covered Zone Conference so I will move right into a food topic.  We were shopping in the rain on Thursday sporting my new hair style when Sisters Van Wagoner and Hertz called.  The Elders had scored a big pot of sarma from one of the branch members, Baka Biba (Bah-kah-bee-ba) and they wanted to share their wealth with us and the Sisters.  So we made a plan to meet at our apartment for a feast.  (Our apartment is always the gathering place for such events.)  We took our groceries and tromped through the rain back home where we found them waiting for us.  Elder Mangeris scrubbed and boiled a bunch of krumpir (potatoes) and threw the large pot of sarma on a burner to warm up.  In half an hour we were gorging ourselves on sarma i krumpir.  What is sarma, you ask?  You take cabbage leaves and soak them in a saltwater brine for a week or two until they get good and sour.  Then you use them to wrap a ground meat/rice/vegetable mixture and place them in a pot with a good amount of the brine and let them cook.  Delicious!!  It is one of the common dishes of the area.  Baka Biba loves to cook for the missionaries!

Stay tuned for a report on our upcoming trip to one of the most beautiful National Parks in the world and the Karlovac Branch Open House.  Goodbye for now and thanks for checking in.  We would love to hear your comments!

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's still raining...

Yes, it is still raining.  For the last two weeks it has rained almost everyday.  It has not affected us.  We just take the kishobran and walk to the market.  They have put sandbags around our apartment building as a precautionary measure.  Last year they had a terrible flood and our building was a foot under water.  Glad we are on the 4th floor!  But sunshine is on it's way according to the forecast.  We shall see...

The highlight of this week was our 1st Zone Conference in Zagreb on Friday.  We were blessed to have Elder & Sister Charles instruct all forty of us.  Elder Charles is the Area Seventy for the Adriatic North Mission, Adriatic South, and Greece Athens Mission.  The Spirit was felt by all, as we listened to their message.  We are so grateful to be here and mingle with these awesome missionaries.  They keep us young at heart!

Zone Conference
We stopped at Food Ness in Zagreb, which is a store that carries American food.  Sister Hertz and Sister Van Wagoner were with us and were excited to see Cheez Its  and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  The selection was limited to a few random things.  The clerk did say a new shipment is due after Halloween, so they will probably have a better choice then.  I found Lawry's Seasoning Salt, so it wasn't a complete bust.

Oh, happy days!
Buying mac & cheese for the elders
 On the way home we shared  Cheetos, Cheez Its, Pop Tarts, and soda for our dinner.  Probably the most unhealthy meal (if you can call it a meal) we've ever had, but look at those smiles.

On Saturday we went to the Mission Home for a CCM meeting E.K. had to attend.  Elder Charles presided at the meeting of all the district presidents, and the mission presidency. After the meeting we were able to spend time with everyone as we all went out to dinner at a local steak house across the street from the Mission Home.  The food was delicious and the company was exceptional!

A special evening 

I had such a wonderful birthday.  The sister missionaries called to sing to me, and ten minutes later the elders called with their  rendition of Happy Birthday.  It was P day,  and we were able to meet them at a local crepe cafe for a birthday treat in the afternoon.  I was spoiled...and it was fun!  Elder Mangeris, Elder Williams, Sister Hertz, Sister Van Wagoner, and Matt joined us. They made my day a special one.

My birthday party
Coconut cream crepes!

The word of the week:  sretan which means happy.  Yes we are!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At the Car Wash

Our apartment building.  We're on the 3rd Floor.
First of all, I really think I said "molim", which is like "you're welcome" in English to the clerk at the store when we checked out.  I did wonder why she snickered a little as I walked out the door.  Maybe I did say "volim".  Oh well!

We are enjoying this Eastern Europe City living.  Every time we go out into the town we find ourselves engaging in conversation with some stranger.  Many times asking "kako se kaze ...?" That means "how do you say...?"  Or "gdje je...?" which means "where is...?"  Most of the time people are very helpful even though they are probably thinking, "glup Amerinaci" (stupid Americans).  Slowly but surely we are picking up on the language.  By the time we finish our mission, we expect to be speaking like a 4-year-old!!

Normal looking car wash stall, right?
I washed the car on Monday.  There is a car wash right next door to the apartment.  I had tried it the week before and with some very vague instructions from the car parts store clerk up the street where I bought some wax/polish, I pretty well had it figured out.  I decided to vacuum first.  There were absolutely no understandable  instructions on the vacuum.  I asked a patron "Koliko Kuna?" which I think means "how much money".  He said "Dva Kuna".  Success!!  Someone understood me and I understood his response!

The vacuum.  2 Kuna for 5 min.
If in trouble, push bottom button.
Top button: soap. Second button: rinse.  Third button: wax.  Fourth button: demineralized voda rinse,  Bottom button: STOP.

Buildings on the river
 Went for a walk by one of the two rivers that run through town.  It is only a few blocks from our stan (apartment).  With all of the rain we have been getting the river is quite high.  We are impressed with the green space and parks in town.
Some of the local wildlife

It seriously rained for two straight days over the weekend.  What a beautiful rain.  One that a Kansas wheat farmer would really appreciate.  Ponedjeljak (Monday) was nice so we took advantage of it and got out for a couple of hours.

Mary and her camera
Our walk in the park
 We met L near the river when I asked "Kako se kaze" as I pointed to the swans.  She answered me "labudov" and broke into a very good conversation in English.  Must have been my accent that gave me away.  She was sweet and friendly.  That is typical of the people we are meeting once we get them engaged in a conversation.  It is easy to love the Hrvatski ljudi (Croatian People).

Entrance to Karlovac Branch Building
Tuesday night we had our first English Language Class over at the Church building.  We met another M.  Our friend M1 couldn't make it tonight. We sat in with the Sister Missionaries as they taught.  M was good and we learned a lot of Croatian by sitting with him.  He also had good information about the city.  He is native and loves his town.

The Church is renting about half a floor on the second level of a building a block from our apartment.  It is very adequate until the branch is large enough to apply for a building of its own.

That's it for now!!  Thanks for visiting our blog!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Grocery shopping...again?

E.K. does not realize what it takes to set up a kitchen.  And he does not realize how time consuming it is in the grocery store, when all the labels are in a different language.  Well, it may take me awhile, but it's a great way to learn vocabulary!  He does not like going to the grocery store. I however, think it's fun.  Picture this, I give him an assignment let's say, to find milk.  He goes on his merry way.  He comes back with  a container with what looks like milk, we pay for it, we take it home, and find out it is yogurt!  Like I said, it takes time...
Zagreb Chapel

We participated in our first missionary transfer, and had to drive to the Zagreb chapel.  In a mission, missionaries are assigned a specific city for a period of time.  Occasionally, the mission president will change their assigned area.  When that happens, they are a part of the missionary transfer.  This is one of the times when senior missionaries are needed.  We may move luggage, we may move missionaries, we may even provide housing for missionaries overnight.  You just never know what we will be doing next.

While in Zagreb, we had to go the the Mission Office.  Parking is tricky, and we were told we could take a picture of our license plate and text it to a phone number we were given.  Mmm, E.K. was a little confused, but he found a patient and friendly pedestrian who talked him through it.
Thank you, kind sir!

We have been on the go and many times we skip meals because of time.  I remember at the mission office talking to S.H. and she gave me some advice.  She said, "you never know when your next meal will be, so never pass up the opportunity to eat".  I thought that was funny at the time.  Now I know what she meant.

We had our first district meeting at our apartment.  The four missionaries (two elders, and two sisters) came over for a planning meeting.  I attempted to make chocolate chip cookies for the 1st time.  I think they were pretty good.  They don't have chocolate chips here, but they have great chocolate.  So, I bought a chocolate bar, chopped it up, and added it to the batter.  The missionaries didn't complain.  After that meeting, we went over to church for another meeting with the Branch President.  We are having an Open House the end of this month, and he went over some things with us. Then we had our new friend L. come over to our apartment with her application for a thesis she is writing, for a doctorate class.  She wanted us to look at it.  By the time she left it was 9:00 p.m. and guess what...we hadn't eaten since 11:30 a.m. Again, I didn't listen to S.H.'s advice.  We'll get better, I promise.
Beautiful Karlovac

Took a walk over to the local shops and found a meat market with a sweet lady butcher who ground me up some fresh beef.  I love lean ground sirloin, so she helped direct me to the right meat. We will go there from now on, and hopefully get to know her better.  There were some interesting things in that case.. that I don't think I will try anytime soon...  On a funny note, we stopped in a store to buy a couple of things.  We visited with the checkout lady and when she said havala (thank you), E.K. responded with volimo,  (love you) but he meant to say molimo (your welcome).  We had a good laugh over that one!
Exploring the local shops
Speaking of food, we had all the missionaries and our favorite local young person M. over for dinner. They are fun to watch as they interact with one another.  I can see that M. respects them, as they do him.  He is an impressive young man. We played a spirited game of UNO and then had a short language session. They left by 9:00 p.m.
Dinner guests

We are getting some good walks in.  We hardly use the car.  On Saturday, we walked over to a baseball field to watch a game between Karlovac (karlovatz) and Split (spleet).  The sister missionaries' landlord is the coach for the Karlovac team.  It was chilly and rainy, but the game went on.  It was fun to watch, and they were good. We (well, really me) only lasted 3 innings, because of the rain and cold.  I can't believe they kept going.  They would have called it back home.

Here we go, our little unuci... the word of the week is:
kisobran  (kee sho bran) which means umbrella, and what we used everyday this week!  Remember to roll the "r"    

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Zagreb to Karlovac

Just backtracking a bit to give my take on the first days in Croatia.  Here goes:

View from our 4th floor balcony
I sit on our little balcony on the 4th floor of our apartment building on a beautiful Sunday afternoon overlooking the sights of Karlovac, Croatia and wonder how we went from a happy homeowners in Suamico, Wisconsin to this foreign land in just 4 and a half months.  What a change, but what an experience.
On Monday, the 28th of September we boarded a plane in Salt Lake City and flew across seven time zones landing in Zagreb around noon on the 29th.  We were met at the airport by our mission president and his wife.  From there we were whisked away to the Mission Home, threw our luggage into our mission-assigned Opel Corsa 5-door.  Not a large car by any means, but adequate and we expect it to be economical given gas sells for 10 Kunas/Liter.  The exchange rate is about 7 Kuna/Dollar and there are 3.79 Liters in a gallon, so you math fans can try to figure that out.  I think it’s about $5.41 per gallon.  I’ll go with that until someone corrects me.  At any rate, it’s more expensive than Utah gas, that’s for sure.

Front view of Mission Home
The rest of the day was a blur.  We got to know our mission president and his wife and the senior couple assigned to handle office business, the H’s.  The H’s had lots of information for us and started right away trying to get us oriented.  They took us downtown to the Mission Office and we spent the afternoon filling out paperwork and getting us ready to apply for our Visa.  We have 48 hours to report to the local Mup (Prounounced Moop which is the police station) and apply for our Visa.  Not sure what the penalty is for not complying, but we didn’t ask and I don’t even want to know.  I suspect incarceration or deportation, either of which I want to be involved in.  We had to go through a mini-drivers education course and agree not to take the Corsa to the race track.  More about that later. 

We made it back to the Mission Home for dinner.  We all walked across the street to a nice restaurant and had a great steak dinner.  By the time we got back we were very ready to go to bed after being awake for 28 hours.  I really needed to get some rest because President G. challenged me to a set of tennis in the morning at 0730. 

Rear view of Mission Home with tennis court
The 0730 tennis time was not a problem because at 4:30 I was wide awake and rearing to go.  We did get the tennis game in and it was great fun.  There just happens to be a really nice red clay court in the back yard of the mission home. 

By late morning I was behind the wheel of the Corsa headed back downtown to the Mission Office desperately trying to stay close to the H’s in the car ahead trying not to run over any pedestrians or get hit by trains or buses.  The drivers are a little more aggressive than I am used to.  The only thing that brought me comfort was that at least we were driving on the right side of the road!!  We actually made it to Mission Office and parked in an underground lot.  We wandered through a shopping mall for a long time and found our way to the Office.  As we were wandering, I was wondering if we’d ever see the Corsa again!

We got our pictures taken for our Visa’s at a local photo shop, finished up the paperwork for the Mup and headed for Karlovac, once again being escorted by the H’s.  This is where the race track experience came.  We drove down Highway A1 in a southwesterly direction.  The highway was in good shape and similar to our interstate highways.  As we got out of town, the speed limit jumped up to 130 K/hr.  For those who are curious about the conversion to MPH try 80!!  Well, we had that little Corsa’s wheels a churning to keep from getting rear ended by the Audi’s and BMW’s that were treating the stretch of road like the Autobahn.  I am sure some were in the 120 MPH range!! 

We made it to the apartment and were very pleased with our landlord (a 30-something woman that spoke good English) and the apartment she offered us.  We moved right in.  Mary described the place in her blog entry so I will not elaborate.  Wow.  This was only Wednesday!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Our first week in Croatia

Where did Tuesday go?  Yes, we lost it...when we travelled through seven time zones!  We arrived in Zagreb and stayed at the mission home overnight.  We have been assigned to serve in Karlovac.  We have a car, an Opel.  Thankfully, we had someone to follow as we drove to Karlovac. What an experience.  Have you ever driven on a road where you couldn't understand the road signs?
E.K. standing proudly by his Opel

 We arrived at our apartment which is a block from the church building.  The church is on the second floor of what seems to be a garage of some sort.  Our apartment is very comfortable with two bedrooms and a modern kitchen, and color scheme of green (my favorite color) and purple.  You could say it is bright & cheery!  We met the landlord who speaks very good english.  She is a sweetheart and I know we can call her if we have any, how do you run this washing machine? The elders were there to meet us and they helped with our luggage.
Our living room

Then we had our first experience in a grocery store.  Glad the elders were there to help.  We decided to celebrate, so we took the elders out to eat at Burger King.  I think they liked that!   The next day the elders helped us with filling out papers for our visa, and then we had to go to the mup (police station, pron. moop).
I love the Ketch up!

 E.K. has done quite a bit of driving this week, and we can't seem to find our way back home.  So we drive around in circles for a while and then I suggest...turning on the GPS.  Works every time.  We went to an english class at church one evening and met two students.  I thought they spoke very good english, especially M.  He actually speaks several languages and is a very impressive young man.  We also met N and he is friendly and easy to talk to, funny too.  I think I love it here...

Almost forgot, we promised the grandkids that we would do a word of the week, so here it is:
 * Dobar dan    (pronounced do bar don)  *means - good day  and  is a popular greeting.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Missionary Training Center (MTC) Experience
Well, here it is.  I will try to prove to Mary that I can be interesting without being too wordy!

Our daughter, Kate, dropped us off at the Provo MTC two minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time on Monday, September 21, 2015.  This facility is located adjacent to the Brigham Young University Campus directly at the base of the Wasatch Mountain Range.  The mountains are so close it looks like you could reach out and touch them.  It is the first of 15 such centers located around the world. 

See this link for more information on MTC's:

Kate dropping us off at the MTC

(Josh, you will be happy to know that I finally learned to add pictures to the blog.  Josh is my 13-year-old grandson who is our main IT support person.)

The MTC is like a well-oiled machine.  It sort of has to be to get 45 senior couples checked in, settled into a room, through the travel office to check plans, to the MTC store to get last minute supplies, get them oriented, and to lunch on time.  (They even allow designated napping areas for those who need them.  For real!!  Not sure if that was a joke or not, but Mary and I laughed about it.) This has to be coordinated with the 2,000ish young missionaries who are in training.  It is organization extraordinaire with a guide at every turn.  We could tell that the week was going to be well-planned with very little time to goof off!
Sister Nance, our afternoon instructor.
We had great instructors and curriculum and learned how to be missionaries in 4 and a half days.  Once again it was proven that we are trainable. 

We made some great friends.
With the Reeds
We met the  Reeds from Provo bound for our home mission in Milwaukee!!  They were bound from where we came from!!  I was just released from that mission presidency to serve a mission myself.  They had lots of questions for us.  What's the winter like? Answer, Lock in the Four-wheel drive on Thanksgiving and take it out on Easter!  They were worried.

With the Edmundsons
We walked a couple of miles with the Edmundsons  from College Station, Texas to the closest CVS Pharmacy to get flu shots.  It's amazing how the distress of getting a flu shot can create a bonding opportunity.

It was suggested that we sit with the young missionaries at meal-time and encourage them.  We took that to heart and had the greatest time.  It seemed they were providing us with as much encouragement as we were providing them.  They are great and so ready to serve the Lord!!  We met missionaries from all over the world.  One lunch was spent with Elders from Costa Rica (that's where our Adam served his mission in the mid-90s), Australia, and Mexico, and two Sisters from Ghana and Samoa.  There were a couple of dozen Americans who were called to serve in the Philippines and a dozen or so who will be serving with us in the Adriatic North Mission.  We met missionaries bound for Spain, Italy, Germany, Mongolia, New Zeeland, Marshall Islands, and the list goes on. 

One of the highlights was a devotional on Tuesday night with all 2,000 plus missionaries and a Seventy, Elder Cardon who spoke with his wife.  The messages were great and encouraging but the real thrill came when we all sang “Called to Serve”.  We rattled the rafters with that one!!  Lyrics for those not familiar with that hymn:

1. Called to serve Him, heav'nly King of glory,
Chosen e'er to witness for his name,
Far and wide we tell the Father's story,
Far and wide his love proclaim.
Onward, ever onward, as we glory in his name;
Onward, ever onward, as we glory in his name;
Forward, pressing forward, as a triumph song we sing.
God our strength will be; press forward ever,
Called to serve our King.
2. Called to know the richness of his blessing—
Sons and daughters, children of a King—
Glad of heart, his holy name confessing,
Praises unto him we bring.
By Friday, we had completed our training and Kate picked us up.  The plan was to spend the weekend with her family and she would drag us and our four 50lb bags and overstuffed carry-ons to the Airport in Salt Lake City on Monday the 28th for our long travel day to Zagreb, Croatia.  Stand by for more!!  Dovidenja i vidi mo se!!  (Translated: good bye and see you later)