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.