Sunday, April 24, 2016

Baseball in Croatia

Batter up!
It's baseball season in Croatia.  Karlovac has a semi-pro team in the European league.  They have won the championship in the past, so we were excited to check them out.  One of the pitchers on the team is from America and is here for the season. Hopefully, we can meet him at a future game.  We went to a game last weekend at the neighboring park.  The opposing team was from Slovakia. We're not sure who won because we didn't stay for the entire game.  I love watching baseball but why does it have to last so long?  Next time we will be prepared with snacks, sunscreen, and a cushion to sit on.

Sisters Bushong, Rusick, Higgens, Martineau
We had exciting news this week.  We found out that one of our sisters who went home early due to illness, is coming back!  Yes, and the best part is she is coming to Karlovac.  Sister Rusick landed in Zagreb on Friday morning and the Grants drove her to Karlovac Friday afternoon.  She is healthy, looking great, and ready to get back to work,. We are happy to have her back.  That means that we will have four sister missionaries for a week.  Sister Higgens and Sister Martineau will go to Rijeka and Sister Rusick and Sister Bushong will stay here.

Happy Birthday E. Mangeris!
Karlovac District (plus two)
 Everyone came over for dinner Friday night to celebrate Elder Mangeris' birthday and to welcome back  Sister Rusick.  He turned 20 on Sunday and we were in Rijeka for Branch Conference.  He has been here for several months, and we know the day is coming when he will be transferred.  We love these missionaries. His companion Elder Pantelakis has fit right in, and they are both amazing with the language.  We had a nice dinner and instead of birthday cake, we had strawberry shortcake for dessert. (with candles of course) The strawberries came from Italy.
Chestnut tree in bloom

 When we arrived in Croatia last October, we noticed numerous roasted chestnut stands on the streets. Which means there are a lot of chestnut trees. It is the first time I've had roasted chestnuts.  They taste like a hard cooked potato and are quite bland. The chestnut trees are now in full bloom, and the blossoms are spectacular!

We are gearing up for the David Archuleta Fireside in Zagreb on May 15th, and working on getting the word out.  He is famous in America, but not everyone knows him here in Croatia.  We would like to fill up the chapel, so publicity is important.  We have several capable people working on posters, Facebook pages, and pass along cards. We are enjoying being a part of the planning committee.

Welcoming committee
 Dinner w/ Petersons & Grahovac's
We visited Rijeka this weekend for Branch Conference.  We stayed at the Hotel Jadran.  When we arrived, this little guy was there to welcome us as we got out of the car. We went out to dinner with the Peterson's and the Grahovac's.  The Peterson's have a week left on their mission and will head home to Utah to plant their garden and hug a grandchild or two... The Grahovac's are taking their place. They come from Germany, but were both born in Croatia. They raised their family in Germany and here they are, back in their homeland. They are fluent in both Croatian and German, and I know the people will be blessed by them being here.  We are happy when we hear of new senior missionaries coming out.  EK said had he known how amazing serving a senior mission is, he would have retired five years earlier!

We headed back to Karlovac on Sunday and will have Zone Conference on Monday.  I'm looking forward to spending a Sunday in Karlovac.  I feel like we haven't been in our home branch in weeks.  We have a baptism next Saturday.  Rajko has attended different churches in the area, looking for the truth.  He saw the sister missionaries and asked them about the Mormon Church.  They have taught him for several weeks, and he has committed to being baptized.  We are excited to welcome him into our branch.  As he learns more about the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the light in his eyes grows brighter, and we are blessed to be a part of it.  Being converts ourselves, it brings back many sweet memories of our conversion.  It seems so long ago that the missionaries knocked on our door in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The decision we made to be baptized, is one that has blessed us in so many ways, and has allowed us to be here to serve the people in Croatia.  God loves all of His children and wants them to return to Him.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ allows that, if we strive to follow Him.

The word of the week:  Stretan Rođendan (stre tan Ro jen dan) which means Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Transfer Week

We love you, Elder Poore!
Elders Mangeris and Pantelakis
This week was transfer week, which means missionaries sometimes move to new areas.   Our two sisters went home this week, after  serving for 18 months.  We said farewell to Sister Washburn and Sister Peterson and wished them well.  They will be forever blessed for their service and this mission will be better for the work they have done.  We also had to say goodbye to Elder Poore who is being transferred to Podgorica which is in Montenegro.  He is excited at the opportunity to train a new missionary and be a District Leader.  He is our Minnesota Elder and we plan on seeing him again after our mission.  We are blessed to meet many amazing people both young and not so young on this mission.  He was replaced by Elder Pantelakis, an experienced missionary who had been serving in Beograd, Serbia.
Proud Papa

Dušan and EK
We went to the hospital last week, to meet the newest member of our Branch.  President and Sister Raić had their baby and he is beautiful!  His name is Luka and his parents are very happy!  We took dinner over to them tonight (and to get another look at the precious bundle).  They have waited a long time for this little blessing.

We travelled to Zadar last weekend and stopped to see Dušan in Koranica, which is about half way between Karlovac and Zadar.  He always gives us a warm welcome and his sweet wife provides us with refreshments.  Many times when you visit people in Croatia, you are served sok (juice) and sweets.  Sometimes they will serve a meal.  They are gracious hosts and sharing their food with you is a must.  Since Dušan only speaks a little English, we were able to practice our limited Hrvatski with him.  It was good for us, as it forces us to concentrate on the language.  I was on the sidelines hurriedly looking up words in my dictionary.  It worked out quite well and the time went all too quickly before we had to leave.  We said our goodbyes and hopefully we can see him again in July, maybe with Kate and Gavin.

Mario and EK
Catch of the day
In Zadar, we stayed at our favorite hotel and was greeted by our favorite desk clerk Mario.  He always makes us feel like we are excelling in our language skills and we know he is just being kind.  We love being near the water, and we walked around Old Town and saw the Roman ruins, the Sea Organ, and walked across the bridge to the marina so EK could take a look at the sailboats.  It was a lovely walk and as we were near a park we heard accordian music and cheering.  A wedding party was making their way through the park and walking towards the marina.  I got a few pictures of the happy group, and the bride even gave me a wave.  We had dinner with the Dever's (senior couple serving in Zadar), and took a ride along the beautiful coast.  We attended church the next day with the Zadar Branch.  We taught a combined adult class.  There are always challenges when you are trying to teach and it has to be interpreted into another language.  You may have a thought that comes to mind and as you are expressing it, you have to remember to pause and give the interpreter a chance to speak.  It doesn't flow as you would like it to. Sometimes you will forget and keep going, and then you look over and see a panicked look on your interpreter's face.  Then you know you need to slow down.

English class
We taught English class alone on Tuesday because the sister missionaries were in Zagreb , and the Elders were busy teaching a Bosnian family on Skype who are living in Switzerland.  The family lives in a French speaking part of Switzerland, and since they do not know French, the missionaries there cannot teach them, so they requested missionaries from here to teach them in their native language, Bosnian.  Our Croatian missionaries were able to teach them because the two languages are very similar.  Isn't technology amazing?

Word of the week is:  riba (ree ba) which means fish

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring in Karlovac

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the trees are leafing, and the weather is gorgeous.. It is interesting because we hear from the locals that they think it's too hot for this time of year.  We think it is a perfect 23 C which is about 70 degrees back home.  We are also told to be prepared as the
Croatian riding lawn mower.
summers here are hot and humid.  We have air conditioning in our living room, but not in the bedroom.  Good thing we have two comfortable couches right under the air conditioner!  As we walk around Karlovac, we see the magnolia's blooming, and flowers everywhere.  EK planted some onion sets last week and I planted my flower boxes.  Last summer I saw beautiful trailing geraniums throughout the city in window boxes.   We found some flower plants at  Pevec and Ivana had some planters on the deck that we were able to use.  I also have a poinsettia from Christmas that is flourishing outside on the patio.  I have a green thumb in Croatia!

General Conference was this last weekend, and we watched most of it at the church.  We brought our tablets with earphones so we could listen to it in English. We stayed up Sunday night to watch the Sunday afternoon session at home. (several time zones away) We love General Conference weekend, as it is a time that we can listen to inspiring counsel and instruction from our church leaders.  When we prepare ourselves, we undoubtedly hear messages that seem to be just for us.  We are looking forward to our Liahona (Ensign) magazine next month, which includes all of the talks given at Conference.

Fresh eggs for our omelet
 One of EK's friends from English class told him about some back stretching exercises he should try. As I watched him demonstrate a few I told him to be careful as he was pulling himself up from a lying position.  It looked like he could strain his back.  I asked him where Toma had found these exercises and EK said, "Well, he thought of them on his own".   I reminded him that Toma is NOT a doctor and I am NOT his mother.  What can I do with this companion of mine?  If you have any suggestions, please comment below...

We are heading to Zadar this weekend, and will be able to see Elder and Sister Dever. They are the senior couple serving there and will be going home in July.  Sister Dever is an excellent cook, and I've tried out some of her recipes.  I started a mission cookbook, and I'm adding recipes from some of the senior couples.  There are quite a few good cooks here in the mission, including the Mission President's wife.  I have quite a collection of recipes and it continues to grow, thanks to their willingness to share.

Transfer announcements are tomorrow, and the actual transfers will take place next week.  We know that we will lose one of our Elders.  We love them both, so it will be hard either way.  Sister Higgens has arrived in Karlovac.  We have two sisters going home next week, so for now they are a threesome.  We all went bowling on P-day at a new bowling alley in Old Centar.  Bowling is different here.  The pins are on strings, so when the ball hits, they tend to flop over rather that fly around.  After your ball is thrown,  it's funny to see the pins being picked up and dangling on strings in the air, until the ones that were left are set back down.

We went to visit Anto Antolovič last week.  The Elders gave a lesson and then he showed us his fruit trees and garden.  He lives about 20 kilometers from Karlovac, and does not have a car.  The bus does not
Fields of flowers.
run on Sundays, so he is unable to come to church.  We are working on some creative solutions that may allow him to get in to Karlovac on Saturday, stay the night and go to church the next day before getting a ride home on Sunday afternoon.  That will have to be addressed in Branch Council.  He would be a great asset to our Branch!

The word of the week is:  proljeće (pro lee eh tsay) which means spring.  Don't forget to roll your "r".