Sort of back to normal for work today - but there is so much piled up, of course we didn't get it all done!! Pres. F. had a couple of meetings here this morning and then he had to go to the U.S. Embassy to get more pages put in his passport - I guess it was all filled up. One of my tasks today was to make bookings at a hotel in Thessaloniki. First, I emailed them and strangely it came back right away with the message "Rejected - not opened" - I have never seen that before. So, in light of how our computer system misbehaves, I thought that it might be the computer's problem and I tried it again. Same result! Then I called the hotel itself and when the fellow learned that I wanted a booking in January, he just flatly said "No more bookings! After Dec. 31st we are closed!!" I expect we will have a rash of businesses closing as of the 31st. It is really sad - you wonder how long Greece can last at this rate.
Saturday, 29 December 2012
For an activity, the young missionaries had made arrangements to help distribute food at a Greek Orthodox church. They dressed nicely in casual clothes, but when they got there the people said there had been some misunderstanding and so, our missionaries didn't get to help! About 1:00 pm - we all gathered at Halandri chapel for some activities. There were two presentations of a spiritual nature. First Elder Elks spoke about Patriarchal Blessings, (he is a Patriarch) - it was really interesting. Then President Freestone spoke about the area - Adam-ondi-Ahman. His land is right next to this area - (he grows corn and soy beans). It is not a subject that is covered much and we all found it absorbing. After supper we watched a movie called "Front of the Class" - it's about a young man who has Tourette's Syndrome whose ambition was to be a teacher - it was really inspiring - beautiful story.
🎄 CHRISTMAS DAY 🎄
We got up at 5:00 am and joined everybody at Karen & Gord's Christmas Eve gathering via Skype. Jani, Rick & Renee, Brenda & Dave and families were there and we were able to join in the tradition of expressing our gratitude for the events of the year etc. It was so nice to hear everyone's comments and testimonies - we would rather have been there - nevertheless, it was a very precious hour for us. We couldn't go back to bed as we had to make a huge batch of curry - three large pots to be exact - Sis. Elks was doing the same as we were planning to be able to feed 80 people - mostly single members that had no one to go to for Christmas dinner - and since a lot of them are African we reasoned that they would enjoy a good curry rather than English style meat & potatoes!! The preparation of the curry took a lot longer than we thought and we were supposed to meet down at Acropoli by noon to help set up for the meal etc. - with the meal being served at 2:00 pm. We didn't make it in time for the setting up, but were there in good time with the food. Later, after all the guests were gone and the clean up done - we all went upstairs to the Young Single Adult lounge (where all the soft seats are) and we watched the Muppet Christmas movie- which is basically Charles Dicken's Scrooge story. I liked it - it was really well done for a Muppet movie. Another late night getting home and then we started Skyping our kids - it was only 1:00 / 2:00pm on Christmas Day for them. It's a miracle the way we can just reach across the miles and check in on everyone. It was wonderful to see and hear about their wonderful day.
Our first job of the day was to be at the airport at 7:00 am to pick up Pres. and Sis. Freestone!! Poor guys - they had to get up at 3:00 am in order to make this flight! Brent did an extra run for the mail this morning - just in case there were any more Christmas parcels. He also picked up the meat we had ordered at the deli. We cooked the turkey breast and the a couple of chicken breasts for the Christmas Eve dinner at the Mission Home at noon - our contribution was the meat, slivered carrots, gravy and cranberry sauce. All together, there were 12 of us for dinner. It was very good - really Christmassy. Sis. F. made a Spicy Pumpkin cake which fit right in - it was delicious. We didn't dally there as we had to be down at the Acropoli bldg. by 2:30 to meet the rest of the missionaries. We played a couple of games - one where each of your team grabbed a musical instrument (toy kind) and were given 15 minutes to work up a skit. Bro Elks, Sis. F. and I were judges!! The skits were hilarious and we finished up giving them all the same score!! In the next game, your team lines up and each person on the team runs to a table on which there was lots of wrapped candy and a pair of welder's gloves - the object being the first team to unwrap the designated number of pieces of candy was the winner. Following that, the young missionaries went up on Mars Hill for a testimony meeting. It was pretty cold, so a few of us oldies gave it a pass (for safety sake) a just waited in the "Young Single Adult" lounge. When they came back we watched a movie called "Silent Night." Then it was time to go home. We are not usually out that late and we really enjoyed the Christmas lights on the way. I guess, being Christmas Eve accounted for the lack of heavy traffic and it made it an unusually pleasant drive home.
Still windy and cold, but not raining. We had a special Christmas program at Church today - it was really nice. The Primary children sang three songs for us and then four of them played some carols on the piano and we had some short talks. We had fun sorting out transportation for the Thessaloniki missionaries who were to come down today- we thought they'd be here by 5:00 or 6:00 pm, but they didn't arrive until much later. There were two to pick up from the train at 9:00 pm and the Colliers were driving and their arrival time was also 9:00 pm and we had to be here to let them in!! After a few phone calls, we got Maxwells and they agreed to pick up the ones from the train - they are so sweet to help. We made a big shepherds pie for our supper and I made two 9x13 Chocolate cakes for the dinner on Tuesday (couldn't find a slot closer to the day that I could do that!). After supper with the Colliers and the missionaries that were here, we took the Colliers over to the Mission Home as per Pres. F. instructions (He is still in Cyprus, due to arrive back here tomorrow morning). Pres. wanted them to stay with them over Christmas as they will be going home Jan. 9th - this way they can have a nice visit before they go.
Friday, 28 December 2012
Cold & raining - miserable today. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT !!! I have now lost TWO schedules of the planned events for the Christmas/New Years week, with my added notes all over them and the second schedule had the Curry Chicken recipe on it. There are just not many places they could be and we had looked and looked - it was sooo frustrating! As we were about to go grocery shopping, I got Sis. Elks up early (I think) so we could buy our food right away. The store was really busy and it took us longer to do it. The guys that are fixing (or trying to fix) the pump at the Mission Home arrived about 11 am so Brent went over then. Unlike the first guy, these guys were electricians. They checked wires and changed a few things and the pump still didn't work - so they left!!! This afternoon some more guys came and once again, Brent went over and they obviously knew what they were doing as they had it working in no time - I don't know what the problem was. It was the Halandri Branch Christmas party tonight. Wonder of wonders - the overhead heaters had been repaired and we were reasonably comfortable. I had made Mars Bar Squares to take, but I got the measurements wrong for the base - I put in twice a much Krispies and so it didn't hold together - the Elders thought they were just fine!!! but I left them home anyway and picked up some cookies from the deli on the way. As the food was being put out, to my surprise, there were my crumbly Mars Bar squares!!! - the Elders had brought them!! The rest of the food was great - everyone had brought something so the variety was amazing.
Auntie Kay's birthday - wish we were there! Brent had to make six trips from the car to the house today with all the packages of Christmas mail!! Pres. F. withdrew money from the ATM and some of it turned out to be counterfeit!! He went back to the bank and after a bit of arguing they replaced it - BUT - upon checking his balance, he saw that he had been debited twice for the same transaction! He had drawn out the full amount that was allowed per day - so you know the machine wouldn't give the money twice in a day! He told the girl what had happened and asked her to correct it and she said, Oh! we can't help you. You have to contact your bank in America for that!!! Our landlady said that that was not correct - that the bank here is supposed to contact the U.S. bank about it!! We drove Pres. & Sis. F. to the airport. They are doing their Christmas activities with the missionaries there a bit early. On the way home we went in to Ikea and purchased a very large pot - we seem to be needing a bigger pot more often with all the food we have been providing. Next stop was the deli - they really have better meat than the super markets - so we ordered a turkey breast and some chicken breasts for our dinner on Dec. 24th. and a bunch more chicken breast for the dinner on Christmas Day. Meanwhile Brent gets a call from the Maintenance supervisor to meet a repairman at the Mission Home who is coming to fix the pump on the boiler - 2 hours later, Brent comes in with the report that this guy doesn't know how to fix it, and has gone home! So it was back to the supervisor and he will have another guy over there some time tomorrow!!! Only in Greece!
President F. was over here at 7:30 am this morning!! He had to pick up the sisters - one of which was going to Cyprus - so he could get help entering their address in the GPS (they have a new apartment). A bit later, Brent had to go over to the Mission Home to let in a maintenance man to see why the boiler won't stay on. We had Sister A. stay here with us until the sister who was coming from Cyprus to be with her arrived. Sister A. is a super sister and she did tons of shredding for me. The two elders from Pireas who borrowed the Assts' car returned it and they stayed for lunch too. The Elks arrived back from Cyprus and brought the Cyprus sister here and Pres. F. was going to drive the sisters to their apartment, but Brent offered to do it for him as Pres. leaves for Cyprus tomorrow and could use the time. Brent had so much to do and ran out of time, so he ordered a cab and gave them the fare to get home - the Metro is still on strike!
Brent had to go to the Police Station today. He had to get a paper witnessed that says that our lawyers can approach the Insurance co. of the guy that's laid charges against Brent for running into Brent!!! to find out what information they will be using in their case. We are still hoping that we'll be gone from Athens before it hits the court - our lawyer still feels that is what will happen. There are lots of strikes on today as well as demonstrations - no reports of disturbances though.
President F. held a Presidency meeting here, but Elder Elks was absent as he and Sis. Elks left this morning for Cyprus. We made Squash Soup for lunch - it turned out really well.
Here it is halfway through December and the trees that lose their leaves are beginning to look bare, but there is not much color in the leaves that fall. We noticed a shrub at the side of the house however, that was turning a pretty pinkish color so we took a photo of that. As you can see there is still lots of green foliage that stays right through the winter.
Did some shopping in a hurry because we had to get back for a delivery - there was no delivery at all!!! It was supposed to be a prep day, but because of that delivery, we had to be in the office so we just went ahead with things that needed to be done. The nice thing at the end of the day was that the Assts. treated us to Noodle Bar supper. They are so sweet.
We went over to Halandri to turn the boiler on early so that the building would be warm when others came. It didn't help much as it was still cold after an hour. There are some ceiling heaters that really help, but they are not working at the moment! Brent & I were the speakers. Attendance was really poor - maybe people found out that we were the speakers!!! There were only 14 there and five of them were children. Pres. Hicks decided because of the cold and one of the teachers absent that we would skip the last meeting. Just a real dreary day!
We did a quick shop and hurried back to help Colliers get packed up to leave at 10 am to return to Thessaloniki. Our cleaning lady Kristina came and did a wonderful job. We found out that she will be spending her Christmas in Poland, so we won't see her until Jan. 12th! The Assts. were here all day working hard on their assignments - there will be some changes in the schedule of events for the Christmas/New Year period as a result of the meetings with the Area President!! These Assts. work really hard - we sure enjoy them and appreciate them.
The Colliers arrived from Thessaloniki late last night to stay with us. Today is Greece Zone Conference. We were supposed to hold it at the Acropoli building, but the road is being dug up out the front of that building and as a result there is no electricity there. Our assignment toward the food was to bring 32 baked potatoes - and we did - a nice easy assignment for once! When we got to Halandri, we found it freezing - the heat had not been turned on and it took at least an hour before it was comfortable. The meetings were really very good and the lunch was excellent - especially the potatoes!!! 😄 The Colliers had brought two elders down with them and so we had eight for supper. We were all tired, so we ordered in slouvaki "sticks" and they were great - (hardly any clean-up to do!)
A REALLY cold morning!! OK! not so cold relatively compared to home, but we don't have effective heating and the homes are not insulated here - so! for me, it was cold. We have a grandstand view of the renovations going on opposite us and it's hard to ignore. Brent continues to "murmur" about their procedures and marvel how little they have accomplished in the time they've been at it. It appears that the cement that they poured recently was not up to standard and they are now re-pouring a section of it!!! Pres. Freestone phone with an emergency request for the legal document, regarding proselyting procedures that our missionaries must follow. Our Area leaders apparently were not familiar with these procedures and wondered why our missionaries were not contacting on Sundays and holidays. Fortunately, last August, we had submitted this document to the Area Legal Dept. for up-dating and found that what we had was still valid. In any case the Area President will be reviewing it and interpret more exactly what it means for our missionaries and what they can do.
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
The Mission Tour is ongoing in Cyprus and will finish up here in Athens on Friday - so The Thessaloniki folk will come down to Athens for it. That includes the Colliers and we heard that Sis. Collier was having back problems again and since it is a six-hour drive for them, we wondered if she was going to be able to make it. I phoned her this morning and she is much improved and is planning to come - they will stay here with us. Planning for Christmas is taking shape - the policies for missionaries Skyping their families has been set and they may have 30 minutes, either on the 24th or 25th. We have only European missionaries here and some of them hail from places where they celebrate on the 24th more than the 25th. Another cold day here and I took time out to treat myself - I love cleaning cupboards, so I did half of the kitchen cupboards - it's good therapy for me! The Assts. set up an appointment for Harry to come again tonight - this time he made it without complications. We had a lovely lesson on the Restoration and the Sabbath Day. His input was amazing for one so new in the Church.
Mail Day - not as many packages today. There was a Mission Presidency meeting here this morning and Elder Elks is actually Pres. Elks, 1st Counsellor (as well as being a Patriarch) - so Sis. Elks came along with him. She and I set to and made a big pot of soup and then reorganized a couple of cupboards - it doesn't take long before they become disorganized again - especially when the elders go searching for materials!! Around lunch time, the water heater guys came to fix our problem and,joy of joys! - we have hot water again! 😁 Pres. & Sis. F. have so much going on! - tomorrow they fly to Cyprus to start the Mission Tour with Area President Teixeira. They have been working so hard to get everything right that they have just about worn themselves out!! We were supposed to sit in on a meeting that the Assts. had scheduled with Harry - but he had been left with his little daughter, Maria, and he stopped by with her to apologize. They just visited for a little while and Brent & I organized some coloring pages for Maria to color - she colors really well for a 4 yr-old. They weren't here long and Harry's wife called that she was "home now" - so that ended the visit.
It is now 14 months since we entered the MTC! Brent called the water-heater company first thing this morning, but they can't come until tomorrow. Ugh! I spent nearly all morning (with interruptions) working on materials for missionaries that are returning home at the end of Dec/Jan. We learned that Pres. F. didn't get home until 2:00 am and then he was up again at 8:00 am!! I don't know how he does it! As it was Prep. Day, Elks cam after lunch and we just relaxed - swapped stories and had supper together. We sure appreciate having them around. After they left, Julianna came and Brent helped her with a job application - she is the one who is trying to support her parents and sister and has gradually been having her wages cut until now she has been told the store disclosing Dec. 31st!!!! It's a really sad situation and she is so sweet and caring. We truly hope something will work out for her.
Well! I refused to have a cold shower!!! So, I boiled water in the kitchen and washed my hair in the sink there - then I filled a glass jug with warm water and took that to the bathroom to have a warm wash. As I was halfway through doing that, somehow the jug slipped into the bowl of the sink and tons of glass bits and water went flying everywhere!!! Oh well! I tried! Pres. F. had to fly to Frankfurt for the day, so we picked up Sis. F. and took her to meetings with us It was pot-luck at Church today, so that took care of one of our meals, however, we did make chicken soup with rice noodles for supper,and the Assts. joined us for that. They are so nice. Yanni spoke at Church today - he leaves for the States tomorrow and will be met by Andros' - after Christmas he will attend BYU-Idaho for more schooling - I think he will do very well. His talk today was excellent - we are going to miss him. At about 8:30 pm Sis. F. called to Pres. had been delayed by a big winter storm in the Frankfurt area - there is 4 in. of snow on the runway and services are in disarray. The plane that he was supposed to fly back here on was still sitting on the ground in Thessaloniki, Greece, waiting for clearance to go to Frankfurt!!! Had things been normal, Pres. F. should have been landing in Greece an hour and 20 minutes from the time Sis. F. called!
Very cool this morning and it looks like we will get rain. Brent took President's car down to be washed and cleaned - getting ready for the Area President's visit next week. As he was doing that, we lost power here in our building!! Here I was sitting in the semi-dark with backup systems beeping away, waiting, non-too-patiently, for Brent to return. Once he returned, he was soon able to determine that there was a ground fault connected to the hot water system. So, that then allowed us to have lights, computers and most everything but hot water which made me feel much better. Then we reported the problem to the Area PFR and he said he wouldn't be able to get any of his guys out here until Monday and that we should try the landlady as she might be able to get her guys on the job sooner! She was in the same boat - so we are waiting for Monday! Later, we went to the airport and got President who came back from Thessaloniki. Brent made potato pancakes with shredded potatoes for supper.
Mail day! When Brent got back here it took him 4 trips from the car to the office to get all the packages inside - Christmas mail had indeed begun! After lucy, we got the call to drive the sisters back to the Metro and we received a little package of cookies from Sis. F. - Yum! Spent a lot of time updating the office manual today.
Went for haircuts today and they told us that they are closing at the end of December!!! 😭 They are losing money as people are just not coming in like they used to. It is so sad because they are such nice people, beside the fact that we'll have to find another place to go!! Sis. F. invited the sisters to come up to the Mission Home to help her with some Christmas preparations, so we picked them up from the Metro and dropped them off at the MH. I think they made gift bags and cookies that will be part of the activities during Christmas week. It was a nice gesture from Sis. F. that made the young sisters feel loved and remembered. Tons of work to do.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
Our RS President was involved in a car accident! Fortunately she was not seriously hurt, but the car is heavily damaged and her nerves are totally rattled! A truck ran a stop sign and she couldn't avoid colliding with it. It is not very surprising, as they run stop signs and stop lights all the time here and the police do nothing about it. It reminded us of Brent's accident last April - you never quite get rid of that anxiousness when driving, and that accident still hasn't been resolved yet. We drove Pres. F. to the airport and did a bit of Christmas shopping on the way home - purchased a tree-top decoration for our tree in the office - now it looks very elegant!! I also found some Vegemite - Yum! The Assts. are handing out a form for everybody to fill in as part of Christmas activities. It is loaded with boxes and each box has a missionary's name in it and we are to enter a short sentence saying something nice about him/her. I struggled for a while doing that and it takes a lot longer to do than one would realize - I hope I get mine done before Christmas this year!!!
We had free entertainment this morning - a large cement truck and a huge crane truck arrived to pour concrete at the house across the street that is being added on and renovate. The crane truck had a huge arm that unfolds and reaches over great spaces in order to dump the cement where they want it to go. Up high or down low, it didn't matter - it seems it could reach anywhere. Brent is a little better today, but the throat is still a bit scratchy. I had a bit of a scare as I went onto the net to do a web-checkin for President's flight tomorrow. Somehow the flight that I had booked for him ages ago, had become mixed up amongst a bunch of other flights that I had to change for him a couple of weeks ago and was accidentally cancelled!! It is very easy for things like that to happen when you are talking to these girls. Even though they speak English, it is with a very heavy accent, and very fast, and I find it almost as difficult to understand as their Greek!! It was extremely fortunate that I found out this today as I was able to re-book so it all worked out.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
First thing this morning an oil delivery truck arrived at the mission home and subsequently came here after the men filled the fuel tanks with oil. We have hot-water heating here which is heated by an oil-run furnace. The tanks get topped up now and hopefully that lasts until around mid-April when we should no longer need heating. The process of filling the tanks is very smelly and I ended up with a head-ache!! Small price to pay for heating though. That little operation cost 7,000+ € Since it was Prep. Day and Brent had to go to the bank anyway, I got a bit of "Christmas" shopping done in the way of decorations and lights and a few fun things to use here. The rest of the day was "clean up and catch up"on personal stuff. After supper, Pres. F. turns up with a wonderful custard dessert that Sis. F. over to help "Elder C." feel better. They are so sweet.
President insisted that Brent stay home from meetings today so he could relax and recover, but they did come and get me to go to meetings. It looked like we were going to have a small attendance again, but as the meeting progressed others came and it looked better.. Right after meetings, Pres. & Sis. F. had to go to Acropoli, but they kindly dropped me off first. Brent says, he feels better, but still has a funny feeling in the back of his head and minor dizziness now and again. We shared Sweet & Sour Meatballs and rice with the Assts. for supper and watched "Music & the Spoken Word." Up to that time everything had been wonderfully quiet and restful, but then things began to happen all at once. We got a call from the Frost Family that they were coming over with a treat and Jani Skyped for help with getting her furnace started again!! Rich was flying and was in Hawaii, and it was -11C. - so, she needed her furnace!! Brent walked her through the process of re-starting it and everything was OK then. Shortly after that, the Frosts arrived - Sis.Frost and her four with scrumdillyicious cinnamon buns. Reminded us of home so much!! They are super people.
We did our grocery shopping and shortly after that Pres. & Sis. F. picked us up (about 10:15 am) to go to the RS activity at Halandri. Two other people brought soup and others brought bread, squares, salads, etc. Our special guests were a group of mentally challenges ladies from a home that our Humanitarian missionaries' efforts have been focused on during the past year. The program was made up of several violin presentations and our guests had prepared some songs and a Greek dance. Their presentation went very well and they were so excited to share it with us. Our ladies had made some fabric carry bags, decorated with crocheted flowers for them. It was so fun to see their excitement as they opened their gift and it made you feel quite humble and grateful that we could make them so happy. It brought huge smiles from them - even from a couple of them who previously had not smiled or interacted at all. After that, we ate lunch and the food was a great success and we didn't run out, which had been feared. The guests left and then we watched the General Relief Society Broadcast. Following that, the Sr. Couples sisters met to plan the food for the Christmas/New Year week. There is so much scheduled to take place, that we don't know how we are going to be able to get all the food prepared - unless we miss some of the events!! That won't happen because of the distances involved in getting to the Acropoli building. None of the sister drive here, so we have to go when the men go. I guess it will all work out! after that meeting, there was a baptism and that took us up to around 5:30 before we could leave. We had left the chapel and got a call to say that nobody there had keys to lock up - so we went back and Brent ran in to fix that. Luckily there were two young elders there because, as Brent was on his way back to the car, he had one of hose vertigo events and was caught by the elders before he hit the floor. President went in and by that time Brent had recovered his balance somewhat, but President said he was in a cold sweat, nauseous, and felt like he had a bit of a fever!!! Brent didn't feel good when he got home and went to lay down. Later, he got up and looked up vertigo on the internet and the symptoms were exactly as he had experienced, so he felt better about things. He has had it before, though not as intense, but knows how it feels and how long it takes to recover.
The rain is still pouring down and Brent had to go for the mail in it (in the car). Sis. Freestone came by with a most awesome dessert. Kind of a Christmassy tasting square with a spicy syrup to go over it and topped with cream - oh wow! was it good. She sure takes good care of us. Spent most of the day getting end-of-month stuff done and making a huge batch of soup for the RS meeting at Halandri Chapel tomorrow. We will have the sisters from all three branches attend and some special guests.
Monday, 3 December 2012
The Assts. have moved in permanently to the downstairs missionary apartment now as they have a lot more "office" work to do than previously, so this saves valuable travel time. We are happy as they help us a lot every now and again. For instance - they are invaluable when we get someone at the door speaking in Greek or someone on the phone that we can't understand - and - they helped us put up the Christmas tree this afternoon (not really their job, but a nice little break for them). It looks really nice. It began to POUR again tonight!! I bet the humidity is 110%!! It's really uncomfortable.
The Christmas lights don't show up so well in this photo!
President Freestone flew over to Crete today alone to visit with some members. Sis. Freestone called from the Mission Home to tell us that their landline phone is not working. Brent and I went over and finally Brent found that the connector box outside had somehow become wet. So he took a hair-dryer to it and before long the phones were working again. Amongst my regular jobs, I have started to update the catalogue and the office manual. It'll probably take me until the new office couple arrive so I hope I can have it ready by then. President had a rough take-off coming back from Crete. The wind was howling and they were sitting in the plane at the end of the runway with engines roaring and foot on the brake, waiting to take off between gusts. They finally managed it, but the plane was going from side to side down the runway and even after it got into the air. He said it was pretty scary!
The Gardenia bush has begun flowering again. We took this photo before the rain ruined its petals.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Brent went for the mail and then we had to clear up a fraud query on one of the elder's ATM cards. Apparently the elder tried to use it at a store to buy something, but it wouldn't work - so he gave them his personal credit card and that worked - BUT - the Church ATM card was debited anyway. Hopefully they'll give him a refund. Elks came over - Pres. Elks was here for the Mission Presidency meeting, but he and Sis. Elks came earlier - Pres. Elks, so he could help Brent with some of the Finances, and Sis Elks, so she could help me re-organize some storage cupboards. We dumped a lot of old stuff and recovered some much needed room so we could better organize everything and spread out a bit. It was terrific to get that done, but having great company with you to do it is a huge plus - they are so neat. We finished up eating together as the Mission Presidency meeting went so long.
A sad morning with Elder A. returning to his home. He is an absolutely super young man who served a wonderful mission. We will all miss him greatly. Although it is Prep. Day, the end-of-month chores begin now and I spent most of the day working on the December supply orders. We learned today that Brenda's family will take part in the Heritage Park Nativity Pageant in Calgary. The Church has been putting this one for many years now and it has become quite popular. It will be a wonderful experience for them. It is held out-doors and they have an authentic looking set and they use live animals as part of the presentation.
There was a very small attendance at Halandri today! Harry was supposed to speak, but his little 6-mth old boy was sick and he couldn't come. Pres. Karampboulas spoke instead. He was very good. The Assts. and Elder A. attended Athens 1st Branch, which gave Elder A. an opportunity to say good bye to all his special people (he had been serving in Cyprus for the last 4 months so it's been a while since he saw them here). They arrived back here having not eaten since breakfast and they were very hungry so we made chicken breast in gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots,and the "tomato, onion, zucchini, cheese" dish that I make. That filled the hole!
Busy day for us in the office - except Brent took "time off" to make some banana bread as the Assts. met with our special new member, Harry, here in the office and banana bread is a real favorite around here. Elder Antonopoulos and the Assts. went over to Elder A's grandfather's place for a meal. Elder A. leaves on Monday morning and when missionaries leave they are given a bit of leeway to do things like this - especially since this grandpa was the one who contracted West Nile virus earlier this year and we just about lost him. The whole mission was fasting and praying for him and unlike a lot who didn't recover (especially at his age) he made a remarkable recovery - the doctors were amazed. They said the food was fantastic - even though it consisted of things reasonably strange to them - like fried octopus.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
It's not raining today - but still cool & overcast. Yanni came for his last Temple Prep lesson. His trip to the States is all in place - he leaves in a couple of weeks and will go to the Andros' Pres. Freestone's daughter is helping him by checking out a place to live. We are so happy for him that he has this chance which has occurred as a result of his mother's passing and leaving him an inheritance - so he is going to BYU-Idaho to school. At 2 pm we drove Pres. & Sis. F. to the airport - another trip to Cyprus. We had "Noodle Bar" brought in for supper.
Thirteen months since we arrived in Greece! Pres. went to the airport to pick up Elder Antonopoulos who finishes his mission on Monday. Meanwhile, Sis. F. needed a ride back from her dentist appt. so we went to get her. Then, around 1pm Pres. & Sis. Freestone came with Elder A.to get us and we went for lunch. We were going to a favorite place of Elder A's to get a "gigga" which is a huge gyro, but when we got there, it was closed. There were people inside and they directed us to another little place not far from there. It turned out to be really nice, but they didn't have "giggas." We did however have a dish made of chicken, onion, tomato, lettuce, sauce, cheese between two very large pitas, cut in four - topped with fries! It was huge, but we all shared it and it was very good. Later the young missionaries all went up to Mars Hill with Elder A for his farewell testimony.
It began pouring rain last night and kept it up until mid-afternoon today - crazy!! President came and met with the Assts. most of the morning and then he had to go down to the Acropoli building again to do interviews. I worked consistently all day, but at the end, didn't really seem to have made much of a dent in my list of things to do! Brent got a help call from the Church's bank- seems like they made a pay to us action instead of deducting from our a/c, He had to race over there and help them sort it out!! The Assts. drove him over so he didn't have the long, time consuming walk from where he parks. They are good guys.
We were at a training meeting all day at the Acropoli building. Brent still hates driving down there, so we hitched a ride with the Assts. and came back with Pres. Freestone. He had to be down there by 8 am and we opted not to go that early!! The meeting went well - the young elders and sisters are amazing. Our contribution to the lunch was really easy this time - we were asked to bring a garden salad and dressings!
First, we went and picked up Pres. & Sis. Freestone from the airport. It was Prep Day and next, we picked up the Elks and did a quick trip down to Sounio (Poseidon's Temple). There is not much there to see in the way of ruins - only the temple really - but there are digs in progress in the area back of the temple, toward the more populated area. As you might remember, the temple actually sits atop a bluff which has the sea on three sides, which is why the settlement was behind the temple. At the digs they are uncovering traces of buildings, wells etc. so eventually it will be a larger attraction for tourists. It is a remarkably peaceful place - there were not very many people there - tourist season is virtually over, but while we were eating lunch in our car, three big tourist buses arrived - so I guess it isn't completely done yet. It was kind of cool, not raining, but overcast - it was lovely to get a break from the busyness of Athens. We drove back on the coastal road which is always great and when we arrived at the Office, there were four elders sitting on the steps waiting for us!! So much for our break! They had come up to retrieve some winter clothing from their bags in the storage room.
Sis. Elks and I having fun!
Two fellows at the digs - they're not doing much - maybe that are on a break???
It happened suddenly that Brent was to ordain Yanni to the Melchizedeck Priesthood this morning. Because we were speaking in the other branch today, we had to figure out how this was going to happen - but it all worked out in the end. While we were in the middle of doing that, Brent got a call telling him that there was no power at the Halandri building!!! As we had to go over there anyway for Yanni, Brent was able to look at the power problem, but found that it was just cut off! We later learned that it was a mistake resulting from a "clerical error!" We gave our talks at Athens 2nd Branch and I felt they went better than last month's talks at Athens 1st Branch, where we had to have translators - however, there was something wrong with the microphone and we sounded a bit garbled!! There's always something wrong it seems.
Friday, 23 November 2012
While we were grocery shopping we got a call from Elks to say that they were waiting at the Mission Office to get the key to the van! We knew they were coming, but not that early. Fortunately, we were just checking out and made haste getting back to the office, but the Assts. heard them and let them in to get the key, so they weren't held up too much after all. There were fears of a big protest getting out of hand today. The protestors numbered about 22,000, but there were 7,000 riot police on hand and there was no violence. Apparently it is a commemoration of an event that took place in 1973. There was a student uprising at the Polytechnic which resulted in a number of deaths and they are still protesting 39 years later! One of Elks jobs is looking after the apartments and the sister's bunk beds had no ladder to the top bunk and it was therefore difficult to get up there - so the Elks got twin beds out of the storage at the Mission Home and took them over. They then dismantled the bunk beds and took them to one of the elder's apartments which was a larger unit - then they came back here and we had lunch together and a good visit.
There were a lot of parcels at the post office this morning - Brent had to make two trips in from the car with them. I managed to get my talk finished for Sunday before lunch and then spent a lot of the afternoon on the reconciling of receipts to the statement - it took ages as there were a lot of flight changes recently and they generated multiple receipts with only the booking reference to help you match them up. Then one of the sisters called from Cyprus to ask if I could get her bag from the storage downstairs and call her back so I could tell her what is in her bag!!!! Apparently the weather has turned cold over there and she is freezing. Brent helped me dig out her bag and we told her what was in it so we could pick out what she wanted and send it over with Pres. F. next week.
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
We were up early and into the car to take Pres. & Sis. F. to the airport. On the way back Brent stopped off at the bank to get money - I waited in the car and it was 45 minutes before he came back - some kind of a hold up with their accounting! We taught Yannis another Temple Prep class. It took a long time to get through it because Yannis knows so much about language and customs that we kept getting side-tracked. It was really interesting though.
What a day! There were two meetings before lunch - three deliveries of orders which meant checking them off and putting them away - had hotel bookings to do and web-check-ins for flights - and so on. Pres. slowed down enough to just have a chat with us this afternoon - it was really nice - he doesn't have time to do that very often We ate meat-ball stew with the Assts. and shortly after "fell into bed."
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
Meeting Day and we made our Pineapple Curry with all the trimmings and also Basmati rice. They seemed to like it OK! Didn't get much extra done today - just those things that came on the e-mails and the phone. Sis. Elks got stuck right into doing more shredding for me - she's great! At the end of the day President showed us a video called "Prepare for the Coming of the Lord." Originally, it was a talk given by Pres. Ezra Taft Benson in April 1981, but pictures had been added to the audio illustrating the points he was talking about - earthquakes, wars, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, fires etc. etc. - was very impactful.
The President and the Assts. left here about 8:30 am and went to pick up the rest of the missionaries - they went on a "missionary outing" to Nafplio. It was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic. It is a popular day or weekend trip in the winter time for Athenians. We are in charge of the main dish for meeting day tomorrow. We went shopping for ingredients for Pineapple Curry. We tried three stores looking for shredded coconut and found it at the third store. We never did find any crushed pineapple, so we're going to have to "crush" it ourselves! Brent actually put the central heating on today - the cool finally got to him! Yea! or I'd still be waiting to warm up!
It was pot-luck at church today, so we got up a little earlier to make sweet & sour meatballs and rice. Elder Fingerle (Area 70) spoke at Sacrament meeting and basically counseled the Greek members how to handle the difficulties they are faced with here. It was very comforting and informative - he is a great speaker The President asked us to drive Elder Fingerle and President Kosifou to the airport as he was going to be in meetings when they had to leave, so that meant that we missed pot-luck at the Church! Oh well! we came home and made soup. The Assts. came and spent most of the afternoon working on some inserts for the Books of Mormon that they hand out - also framing baptism pictures to go up on the Baptism board. We watched an amazing performance of the Tabernacle Choir's special Remembrance Day rendition. That's the nearest we got to recognizing Remembrance Day this year.
Sunday, 11 November 2012
We had a baptism this afternoon and it is up to the elders to go and fill the font. That little job often turns out to be a huge problem in that the elders are not very proficient with the technology involved with heating the water etc. Today was no exception - we received a call for help and Brent tried to "walk them through" the process telling them which switches should be on and which levers should be "up" etc. Shortly after that, another call for help as the water was still cold - so, Brent went over to help. That is about a 40 minute journey each way - if the traffic is good. I had wanted to go and purchase a jacket on our way to the baptism and was afraid that I would not be able to do that, but Brent got back just in time for us to barely fit that in. We arrived at the baptism just as the service was starting, so all was well.
Because of the strikes we had no mail until yesterday, but Brent went again today (which is one of the regular pick-up days) to get what was there. It was a beautiful clear morning, but cold at 14C. - later it reached 19C. Pres. F. asked us to go to the airport to pick up the Cyprus Nicosia District Pres. as he was occupied with meetings. Pres. gave us the flight number and the arrival time. We got there at the appropriate time, but there was no flight from Cyprus arriving at that time!!! It was then that I realized I had left the office cell phone at the office - fortunately, Brent had his with him and we called President to ask what the flight number was (we had also left that at the office 😧 ). Thus we learned that the arrival time for that flight was 19:45 - not 17:45! Needless to say, we felt dumb because we should have check it all before we came.
It's been pouring rain all night and gradually petered off during the morning. A vote to agree with more austerity measures went through tonight by a small margin - That resulted in rioting around the Parliament building - molotov cocktails - stun grenades - tear gas, some detained and a few arrested. They are really in a difficult situation - I don't know how they'll manage with even less money. Conversely, work in the office goes on as usual.
Brent didn't have to go for mail this morning as the post office was closed because of the strike! We had a shortened meeting day with no Greek class because some of them couldn't get here on the metro because of the strike! Two of the sisters helped me today by doing some copying and framing pictures and laminating them to put on the board which was a great help - besides we have fun together.
Thursday, 8 November 2012
One of the banes of my life here is changing/canceling and/or (sometimes) booking flights. That was my first job today. I began around 9:30. I tackled the ones on Aegean Airlines and they went smoothly. Next, I tried to make a booking on Cyprus Airlines - we don't normally use them and I have never had to. the first try (on-line) went OK until I got to the payment page. Upon trying to submit the payment, I got a message that the booking was made but could not be completed and I should call the help number. They told me that the credit card was blocked - and could I use another credit card. Then President gave me his own personal card to use. I tried a second time with President's card - same result - the card was blocked, but she did say I hadn't filled in the security information (I knew I had) and they suggested I call our bank. However, I tried a third time, looking to see if there was any spot that I didn't fill in - so I carefully went through the process and then stopped at the payment page and call them and we "walked through that" together. It still didn't work and told me again to check with our bank!!! I called President and he said to call finance at the Area Office Germany. That person wasn't there so I left a message and waited!! An hour and a half later I couldn't wait any longer and called again and did get the girl. She checked both credit cards and found that they were active and had not been maxed out - she said the problem is with the vendor (airlines). We tried calling the airlines on a 3-way call as she was going to give them her own credit card numbers to make the booking. We got the airline and began the process again, but before we reached the payment page, she told us the the flight had been booked now and we needed to go to one of their offices before Friday and pay for it!! that they couldn't take credit card information over the phone!!! That was the first time we heard that! I don't think President will be flying with that company again any time soon. The Elks came over again specifically to help Brent with the finances - there were a lot of errors made in the books a long time before Brent had anything to do with them and they have continued to carry through until now. So, with the expertise that Elder Elks has in that area, they are gradually getting the books as they should be. Sis. Elks and I had a great time cleaning out a cupboard which resulted in a lot shredding of outdated materials. The storage cupboards are at the overflow point and it is hard to find anything, so a good clean out will make things much better. Elks stayed with us for supper and that was followed by the usual happy gab-fest.
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
The big 48 hour transportation strike is now in effect until Wednesday morning and we have just learned that taxis have also joined in. Brent went to get some items from the deli for the meeting tomorrow as "commercial stores" will be on strike tomorrow. There have been demonstrations going on along with the strikes, but we haven't heard anything about how they have been going. We guess all this is because there is another vote on the austerity measures on Thursday!!! We had another lesson with Yannis tonight. It is great fun meeting with him and he takes the information in so well - he actually teaches us as much as we teach him.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Last night, Pres. & Sis. Freestone, having just returned from Madrid, did a load of washing and put it in the newly "repaired" dryer - it didn't work! They were not happy! There they are on a Sat. night (late) having to hang washing up anywhere they could to dry. I think they are getting a new one on Monday!! No other branches were meeting with us today, but the attendance was better than normal. Poor President - now they have no lights on one whole circuit of the Mission Home. A bulb "blew" and knocked it off. President and Brent spent one and a half hours checking all the breaker panels they could find, but they were all OK so there must be one other obscure place to find. The kitchen was without power, including fridge and stove. It's fortunate they have another full kitchen downstairs so all the stuff from the fudge upstairs went down to that one.
A little girl, Anne, was baptized in our Branch today. She had both her grandmas come here from Utah for it and there were more non-member friends of the family in attendance than there were members! A lot of them were from Anne's school. It was a lovely service and Anne had a very cute dress for her special day. The family hired caterers for the occasion and the food was tremendous. This is not the normal thing in the Church - but it allowed Anne's mom to really mingle and visit with all her non-member friends nicely. We've had a couple of emails from our dear friends serving in Moscow, Russia, telling us about a youth group (sponsored by the government) demonstrating against the Mormon missionaries - basically saying that we are a sect and the missionaries are spies working for the CIA and the FBI and that they are trying to instill in the Russian people, civil society and democratic ideas!! The missionaries were told to stay in their apartments that day.
We received an email this morning - pictures of the grandkids in their Halloween costumes. They looked great! Most of the missionaries that had the flu bug are on the mend now, but there is a new report of another missionary down with it this morning!! Today, we worked hard, but it was really a frustrating day. You would try to tackle a job, only to find out that all the info' had not bee given and you would try to call people about it and you couldn't reach them - or - they didn't have that info' and they'd have to call someone else to get it!!! Just brick walls on everything we tried to do, it seemed. Oh well! We had a 24 hour transportation strike today and we just learned that there will be a 48 hour strike beginning Monday morning at 5:00 and finishing on Wednesday morning at 5:00. The roads were jammed with cars today - it was impossible to get around. It's crazy! At 10:30 pm we went to the airport to pick up Pres. & Sis. Freestone who were returning from Madrid.
Friday, 2 November 2012
Elder R. and companion emerged from their "confinement" today. He looks a LOT better and I think he is REALLY glad to be out of the apartment! I tackled the Book of Mormon order today and finished up doing an inventory of our stock in order to get it done - AND - wonder of wonders - when I clicked the "submit" button, it actually went on the first try. That's the first time I've ever had it work for me on the first try!!! During the spell of sickness with the missionaries, one of them was hospitalized over night so they could do tests, and he apparently didn't have the "right" health care card for those who are of the European Union. It finished up costing $3500.00 for 24 hours stay! So now, President has us scrambling to contact every missionary to make sure they have that card - if not - they must get it.
Halloween!! but not so much for us. We have had 5 other missionaries down with the "bug" and I did my morning check on all the sickies to see how they were faring and found that they were all on the mend - so it's all looking better now. When President is away, he phones to get a report about such things - it'll make him happy that everything has improved. We learned today that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir now has it's own YouTube Channel. It will have the weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" and an archive of their favorite programs. We'll really enjoy that.
We picked up Pres. and Sis. F. at 5:45 am and drove them to the airport. This time they go to Madrid for a conference. Received 6 emails this morning from family and friends telling us all about their experience at the temple dedication etc. - it's always a joy to receive emails from home - it is such a boost for our morale! We're happy to report that Elder R. is on the mend and he felt no need to be going to a doctor. In fact, he felt so good he wanted pizza. He's a big young man and hasn't eaten much for about four days, so he was probably ravenous (but pizza!). Oh well, we let his companion order the pizza and we imagine it went down quite well. My work day was totally disrupted which makes you feel like you haven't accomplished a thing! Anyway - Elks came over for something and we had a good visit with them - and - did get a bit of work done at the same time. We were asked to teach the Temple Preparations lessons to Yannis and he came for his first lesson tonight. He speaks quite good English and is trying to get into BYU/Idaho university. The lesson went well and we also learned a lot from him about the history of the regions in and around Greece. He sure knows his history and it was fascinating.
I found on "LDS Living" a piece about the dedication of the Calgary Temple. It had some video on it and one of the clips looked like Rhys and Erik. I sent it to Brenda so she could tell me if it really was them. That video also showed four interviews and one of them was Karen & Gord's grandson! Elder R. is certainly not any better today. We were invited for dinner at the Mission Home and thoroughly enjoyed that. It looks like we might be taking Elder R. to the doctor tomorrow if he's not improved.
We got up at about 3:30 am and had no trouble using the link to connect to the Youth Cultural event and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. We saw both Zoey and Zane and a few other folk that we knew. The performance reminded me of twelve or so top-notch roadshows pieced together. It was spectacular! It basically covered the history of Calgary in segments and the growth of the Church there. We saw a picture of Grandpa Ellingson! It was truly amazing. Athens 1st Branch had to come and meet with Halandri Branch this morning because of demonstrations in the Centre so it was very full and felt almost like a real ward - except that it was mostly in Greek! Elder R. is not good today and is confined to bed - I'm not surprised - he was really dragging yesterday. We had roast pork and veges for dinner and took some downstairs to them, but Elder R. didn't feel like eating. We kept thinking all day about our families attending the dedication of the temple. Mike Skyped in about 1 pm his time and told us a bit about his experience. He was part of a small choir of 20 that sang.
Another cool morning - I suppose that the warmer weather has left us for now 😞 Just another busy day with grocery shopping and packing up orders etc. We went to the airport to pick up the Assts. Elder W. is still not completely better and Elder R's "cold" just seems to hang on forever. They both looked really tired.
The sun is out today, but the morning began at 17C. We had the little wall heater on. We could put the central heating on, but it's a bit early for that yet Here it is "end of month" again and I've begun to do the orders for November. The time is flying! Mike sent us a link so that we can watch to Youth Cultural event on our computer. The youth come from the Calgary Temple District and the performance will be on Saturday night (Calgary time) which is the eve of the temple dedication.
The Colliers went home to Thessaloniki today - it was great fun having them stay. The Elks came specifically to help Brent get the owners of two new apartments, "vendor approved" which is a huge process. They spent hours working on that. They had to get missing information from the vendors in order to proceed and that's always a pain because they don't understand our way of doing things to which we must adhere! Sis. Elks helped me with some of my jobs and we finished up sharing lunch and supper with them and had a super time together. Two of the Cyprus couples flew back tonight and the other go tomorrow.
Wednesday, 31 October 2012
We were up and at it early today as our group was going to visit the Corinth canal and the ruins at Corinth for a day trip. There were ten of us going to Corinth and the remainder chose to go to Delphi (we had been there before). The drive to Corinth was rainy and foggy and wasn't great for seeing the views. We arrived at the Corinth Canal first and we were surprised at how far down from the top it was to the water. Where we were standing on a bridge, it was 148 ft. down to the water. We watched an open-top tourist boat go under us - it was fairly small, but some ships under a certain width can go through, but they are pulled through by a pilot boat. Then we went some miles further into (new)Corinth. The weather had more or less quit raining by then and we stopped at a park right on the edge of the Gulf of Corinth - there was a big statue of Poseidon there. Even though it had quit raining, it was still overcast and threatening which was a shame - it would have been a spectacular view of the Gulf and the land on the other side if the sun was shining. We travelled on through (new) Corinth to get to (old) Corinth ("Corinthia"). There is a great lack of road signs and directions to points of interest so we basically found the ruins by driving around until we could see we had gone too far up as when we looked down we could see the temple of Apollo. Being off-season and not a pleasant day, we practically had to place to ourselves. It covered a huge area and we ambled around taking in what once was a marketplace, stoa, springs, fountains, a Roman amphitheater and the temple of Apollo - at least that's what the little placards in various places said - you had a hard time picturing what was supposed to be there as what you really saw were heaps of rocks and some "foundations" of structures. The sun came out and it felt really good, but there was still and pretty stiff, cool wind. We walked down a little streets nearby and looked at the little shops - Corinth is known for its fine pottery. We found a little restaurant that had an upstairs patio at the back which overlooked the temple and the digs and had some lunch there and it was good. The trip home was uneventful, but, because the weather had cleared we could see a lot more of the countryside and closer to Athens, we got a really good look at Piereas which is the port to Athens. There were lots of ships in the area waiting for their turn to dock. A good time was had by all
The Corinth Canal
All, but two of our group and Brent (who was taking the pic)
Some of the ruins
This is Acrocorinth. What you can just make out is the remains of the fortified citadel of ancient Corinth. The is also a temple of Aphodite up there.
This is the temple of Apollo. It looks like all the other temple ruins, but these columns are made from a single piece of stone. The others I've seen seem to be sections of stone placed on top of each other.
Saturday, 27 October 2012
The Couple's Conference continues - we were supposed to go up on Mars Hill for a meeting, but it had been raining and the rocks are slippery and lethal when they are wet. My knees were hurting as well, so Brent & I didn't go up, but stayed in the lounge at the Young Adult Centre. We spent most of the morning there alone, except for two sets of missionaries that came in to get their mail. Eventually the Colliers and Colemans came back and we all went to the Arcadian for lunch. We had moussaka which is very good there. It had stopped raining, but none of us wanted to go shopping, so we went back to the Acropoli building. Brent found a jig-saw puzzle and we helped him a bit between visiting. The plan was to go back to the Mission Home for pizza night there. We had our car, but President had to come back down to get the Cyprus couples. We left about 4pm to get the car from the parking place that we rent and found that it was completely blocked in by another car - parked across the back of us and the two cars parked on either side of us!!! Brent was livid! He and Elder Collier tried to move it, but it was in gear and the handbrake was on so it was impossible. Fortunately, President called to see where we were and how things were going (not knowing about our plight) and so he got an ear-full! He told us he would bring the other men that he was to pick up at the Acropoli bldg. and come and move the offending vehicle. So, before long they all arrived on the scene and disappeared down to where the cars were. Sis. Collier and I waited up top by the entrance. A black sports car came into the parkade, went down and came back up almost immediately and parked in a little spot close to where we were standing. A guy and a girl got out and left. Pretty soon, this guy came back and walked down the ramp to the cars. (I thought that he must have seen our guys trying to move the car and was going down to lend a hand). Within a couple of minutes another two young men came and went down to the cars. We began to feel a bit nervous about things!! but it wasn't long before our guys appeared and said the car was freed. It seems that the driver of the offending car parked across the back of our car because he thought it was his buddies' car and was told he could park there!! Anyway, he moved it out of the way, but not before Brent let him know in no uncertain terms that he was not happy with what he had done. I was really afraid of what Brent had said to him, but was assured by the other men that he didn't disgrace himself!! So the rest of the evening was mild in comparison to the car incident, nevertheless, it was a lovely evening.
It is one year today from when we first set foot in Athens!! which makes it less than 6 months until our release date. Today is the beginning of the Greece Athens Mission Couples' Conference - which also takes in the Cyprus couples (four couples, three of which we have never met, only talk to on the phone). Bent went to the airport with the van, and President went with the "7-seater" to pick up the Cyprus couples. We were all to meet at the Mission Home for lunch and our contribution was, deviled eggs, carrot and cucumber sticks, little dill pickles and pickled beets - this was to accompany buns and cold cuts and a salad. It was great fun to meet the Cyprus couples and after lunch, we had an introductory time where each person was given a few minutes to tell about themselves - it was interesting and fun. Following that, there were four presentation - two of them were on the serious side and very interesting and the other two were also interesting, but very entertaining and fun. Then we went to "3 Pigs" in the rain!! and a good time was had by all there.
We went down to Athens 1st Branch and gave our talks! Being as it is the Greek branch, to give your talk, you have an interpreter standing beside you and you deliver a sentence or whatever you think is manageable to the interpreter. I felt this method really messed up the flow of what I was trying to present - one hopes that the audience will make up for the disadvantages of hearing it that way. After that meeting, we left and went over to Halandri Branch. It was their Branch Conference and usually the talks at branch conferences are top-notch and they didn't disappoint this time - they were excellent. Came back home and spent the rest of the afternoon tidying up and preparing for the Collier's arrival this evening - they were driving down from Thessaloniki (6 hours). The weather had turned dark, cold and threatening - so we made a large pot of soup which seemed appropriate. They arrived about 8 pm and we shared the soup and had a good "gab-fest!"
Sunday, 21 October 2012
We picked up Pres. & Sis. F. from the airport this afternoon and they told us that yesterday, they had trouble getting into Greece at Thessaloniki coming from Cyprus, because their residency permit is in the process of renewal. He said that for a little while he was wondering if he would have to have Elder C. fill in for him!!! Very funny! Anyway, they were able to reach our lawyer and she explained to the officer what was what and it all worked out. But, holding up the line at customs in Greece is not something you want to be the cause of, as the people just let loose with how they feel about having to wait!! Not a pleasant experience! It was one of those beautiful clear days here today.
We had a strong wind which blew all the smog away and you could see for miles & miles - so Brent went up onto the roof and the following is what he saw -
The view from another direction
This one is looking about 30 km to the sea. You can get perspective by looking at the ship which is just left othe tall building -
Lots of mail this morning - including the 2nd package of my supplements, so now we know that it generally takes one month for the product to get here which should help with getting futures orders on time 😀 Brent was out most of the afternoon going through the hoops in order to pick up the repaired van. Another example of how things are done here where the customer has to go the garage and get a paper and take it to the Insurance company, who signs the paper which gives the garage the OK to release the van to the customer!!! Later, Brent & I had to deliver some stuff to one of our branch members to a place that Brent had not been to before! When that happens, rather than go through the stress of finding the place and then trying to find parking, we take a cab. That's what we did - and it was such a hoot. The driver was Greek, but had lived in Canada and in London (even drove taxi in London) so his English was fairly good and he shared his feelings about Greece, the land and the people and the politics and even some of WW11!!!! He told us that he had learned in London to be a courteous driver, but that doesn't work here because they are terrible drivers and so rude!!!' He took us through areas that were very new to us and it was interesting, but really, just the same as we had seen elsewhere - very densely populated side by side buildings with no green spaces. It was not far from "the Center" but when you get a lot further out from there, the homes (even though they "single family dwellings" for the most part they are two to three stories high) but , they have gardens and trees around them and you feel like you can breath! It was a nice little diversion.
Friday, 19 October 2012
Today, we understand, is a national strike here in Greece. Transportation seems to be affect at different times, including the airport. It is very fortunate that President and company flew out last night!! Brent & I went out to do a bit of shopping and everything seemed normal. President has been having trouble with his phone - it rings people when he isn't instigating the call!! It has the "touch-screen" and so he got a new phone with buttons instead and a spot for two SIM cards. The procedure to get it working seems simple, but it turned out to be a pain. First off, the SIM card in his old iPhone is smaller than what fits into his new phone, so I gave him a new card and he departs for Cyprus expecting that I would have the phone company activated today. The phone company called to say it was done and ready to go. I tried to call Pres. to tell him that - BUT - I got a strange voice speaking Greek. It took hours of calling the phone company and TRYING to explain the problem and they trying to make sure I had given them the right numbers and that the card was in the phone and then, me trying to reach President to confirm all this. I asked the man at the phone company (Georgios) to call the number and tell me who the person on the other end was - come to find out, it was an Albanian man and Georgios seemed surprised - anyway, I finally got through on the Assts' phone and learned that Pres. did not have the new SIM card in the new phone, and he was trying to down load the information from his old card (which wasn't working because it was too small). Pres. got the right card in the right phone and it all worked after that. So I had to call Georgios and tell him it was our fault after all!! 😞
Had a little scare over some "missing" letters for some missionaries. I distribute the mail which comes in for the missionaries and yesterday, I took some letters to that meeting for some of them. Later on In the day I couldn't remember having given them out and I couldn't find them in my bag. So we had a worrisome evening, looking in cars and bags and purses and trying hard to trace my steps - no luck there. This morning I had planned to call around to people that were there and see if anybody had seen them. I thought I would start with the sisters just in case they had somehow received those letters in the interim - and thankfully they had! The Assts. had seen the mail sitting on the desk at the meeting and gave them out after the meeting. Whew! Was I ever relieved! Pres. & Sis. Freestone and the Assts. are headed for Cyprus this evening and so they were all here this afternoon preparing for that. At one point Brent asked the elders, "Do you have your passports?" Sheer panic crossed their faces as they realized that they didn't have them and they were back in their regular apartment, not here in the downstairs missionary apartment where they have been staying for th last week!!! Fortunately they had enough time to get there and back. Thank goodness for "Grandpa Clark checking up on the kids." President would not have been happy if, as they set out for the airport, they announced that they didn't have them!!!
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Brent and I finished making our Shepherds Pies (3- 9x13 pans) and President was supposed to pick us up at 9:20am. He is always punctual so we were surprised when he wasn't here then. He finally called at 9:30 and told us that the garage door wouldn't open and we needed to take our car and get him. We did! Now we were late leaving and eventually got caught in the traffic and if took us over an hour to get to the Acropoli bldg!!!! He actually missed his first meeting all-together. However, we were in good time for the Training meeting. The morning part went really well and the lunch was a success. Our Shephers Pie was well liked! The afternoon part was very good also. President had a couple of interviews after that, so we had to wait for a while. We finally got on the road by 6:30-ish and on the way, Pres. decided we should try out a Mexican restaurant they had seen. It was called "Dos Hermanos" and was one of the better restaurants. The food was quite good and we enjoyed it. The Assts. joined us and we had a bit of a giggle when one of them tried a bit of a teeny green pepper - it turned out to be a habanero!!! He was not too comfortable for a while. President, on the other hand, loves hot food and ate a whole one, but even he was perspiring profusely after eating it.
Assts. came up early to work on the presentation for the training meeting tomorrow. I had lots of e-mail to attend to today. Also, there was problem with the bikes in Cyprus. Apparently, the bikes are in bad shape, most of them in need of repair, which is costly, and two of them were stolen. The budget for the bikes doesn't begin to cover what is required and there is a new policy that will be implemented where the missionary will be responsible for any damage incurred to the bike! We are in a lovely period of weather where the days are nice and warm (not hot) and the evenings are cool - however - the humidity is up, but it's bearable. Brent and I worked on Shepherds Pie to serve 24 people at the meeting tomorrow.
The pomegranates are just about ripe -
It was a pretty quiet day. We had to prepared food for the pot-luck meal in between watching the re-broadcast of the Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon sessions of General Conference. Fortunately for us it was in English. For whatever reason, we only had 11 in attendance and four were Brent & and I and the Assts. Some left right after the first session leaving us four and two others - then those other two left before the second session! We did enjoy watching it in peace and quiet though.
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
We were thrilled to have our cleaning girl, Kristina, return to us today after being back in her native Poland for three months. Nobody was sure that she was going to come back and trying to communicate with Lucy and Anna about it gets you nowhere - they are Polish girls who speak Greek - so it was a lovely surprise and she brought chocolates for us too. She cleans faster and better than the others, so it is great that she's back. It was Harry's baptism today and the Assts. were going in top gear, trying to get everything done for it and also preparing for the training meeting next Tuesday. They went and filled the baptismal font - which takes a couple of hours and even bought some goodies to go towards the snacks right after the baptism. Brent & I also did up carrots and cucumbers "sticks," some diced cheese and some little cheese puffs that you bake in the over. A lot of people were in attendance for the baptism. Harry is a unusual type of Greek convert in that he has great leadership talents. So the baptism went beautifully and the eats after were a success.
Sunday, 14 October 2012
When Brent went for the mail this morning,he found that my supplement had arrived - I'm saved again - for which I am very grateful. The problem continues regarding money needed for Cyprus and Brent is really stressed about it. He is the person in charge of having funds available for mission business and unfortunately some large unexpected expenses have hit all at the same time - including this one rude man from Cyprus who only submitted his bill Wed. and has been yelling on the phone ever since for his money!. He doesn't seem to understand that it takes up to three/four days to transfer money to the bank over there. Not fun! I finally got the "help desk" to enable us to get the web site regarding strikes in Greece. Ever since the new firewall went in we have not been able to get it along with a lot of other stuff that we regularly referred to for information - but that was an important one for us to have so all is good there.
Brenda e-mailed this morning telling us how nice their shift was at the temple open-house was this time - they were warm and inside. They saw a lot of Gord & Karen who were in the same area - and Brenda was also working alongside a sister named McBride. She asked Brenda if we knew the Maxwells who are in our mission. They are friends from Ireland!!! I phoned Maxwells and shared that news and they were delighted to hear about their friends there. It's a small world. Pres. came over - an important e-mail came that he and the Assts. needed to respond to together. Brent & I left them to it - we went to get haircuts - and when we got back Pres. and the Assts. were still at it. It's much cooler now and feels a little more conducive to work - good thing too -there's lots to do - among which today was, fixing up cell phones and checking out new ones. We made soup for lunch and Brent had made a banana loaf which was very welcome.
Thursday, 11 October 2012
See that date?? Yes, we've been on our mission one year! Six months to go! It didn't really feel like it to me until I looked back on my blog and then it all started to come back to me and I was surprised at all the events I had forgotten - I'm sure glad I've been keeping this blog. It seems like you can't keep a good man down as Pres. F. came over to finish his meeting with the Assts. I went over the whole office with a bleach- rinsed rag before he came!!! We don't want to catch that bug. So while all of this was going on, I tried to do my work which is piling up again with elders calling in with orders and the like. One of our young sisters goes home tomorrow and it's a bit different as she is the only one going home - usually there is a bunch leaving together. Anyway, Pres. & Sis. F. took her to lunch and then to do some shopping which is kind of a tradition when you are going home. In the evening they brought her here so she could check her bags for weight - they were over!! For about 45 mins. Pres. and Brent help her discard stuff - check the weight - discard some more stuff - check the weight - re-distribute belongings in the cases to make it even out a bit - then check the weight. This time everything was good!! They were so patient with her - I would not have been! Then they took her back to the Mission Home to sleep there on her last night, making it easier to get her to the airport in the morning. After they left, we got some food in for the Assts. after learning that they had not eaten since breakfast!! They weren't going to tell us either.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
We were not off to a very good start this morning! First thing - Colemans called to say that Sis. Coleman was down with "the bug" (the same kind that Sis Elks had) so they would not be coming to meetings - then Sis. F. called to tell us that she had not slept well and excused herself - so that reduced our numbers to nine. Things began unfolding as usual with the Mission Presidency meeting first, followed by the Greek Class and then lunch. Lunch was great - Sis. M. did Chicken San Remo with noodles and she had just enough spice in there to make it delicious. We had garlic bread (warm), fruit and topped that off with real apple pie. Brent thought he'd died and gone to heaven. After lunch, Pres. F. was meeting with the Assts., when all of a sudden he took off like greased lightning, headed for the Mission Home! Sis. F. was so surprised when he burst in - he was ashen and sweaty and NOT looking good. He came down with "the bug" also!!! Poor soul, he's just barely over the sinus/bronchial thing that he had. Also - Sis. Elks, who is just getting over "the bug" has the beginnings of shingles!!! The Elks had another "whammy" - they got news of the death of a former for-mate and friend in South Africa who crashed his car into a bridge abutment in the rain - his wife is left with 10 children! Lots of "sad" happenings today.
Monday, 8 October 2012
It's Prep Day - but not so much for us as two elders need to come up here to pick up some clothes. Also, there is supposed to be a delivery so we need to be here for that! We were going to do something with the Elks, but with what I just mentioned and the fact that she is trying to get over a "bug" of some sort, we jus stayed here all day. The Assts. came in the late afternoon to do their e-mails. I am still waiting for an order of supplements that Brenda submitted Sept. 14th and I am just about out!! I don't know what's happening with the mail here - the last order only just made it in time as well, so we purposely ordered "early" to avoid that kind of a situation again!
It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada! Oh - I can almost taste the pumpkin pie!!! Sis. F. called us for a ride to Halandri Branch because Pres. F. had to go down to Acropoli and he was going to be staying there all day in meetings etc. until around 7pm - that was too much for her so we took her with us. About halfway to Halandri, Pres. called to say he was stuck - the roads were barricaded ! So we wondered if we were going to see him arrive at Halandri later. Then he called again, still trying to find a way around the blockage and said that it was because of a race - there were hundreds of people standing around in running gear with numbers on their shirts. When we got to Halandri, some sisters pulled up from the Athens1st Branch who have morning meeting times also. We tried to understand what they were saying to us, but couldn't make it out. Then we saw the Assts. and they told us that as had been announced last week, the members from Athens 1st Branch were told to attend either Athens 2nd Branch or Halandri this Sunday because the whole Athens 1st Branch Presidency would be involved all of Saturday night and early Sunday morning translating into Greek the Conference sessions thus canceling Athens 1st meetings. After trying several times to connect to Pres. F. with out success, I finally got through and learned he had made it to the Acropoli building OK and he did know about the cancelled meetings and was already involved with some other business We brought Sis. F. home with us and we had dinner together here. We made up our meatball stew recipe - Potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms in a Cream of Mushroom soup gravy and that went down OK. We had a lovely visit with Sis. F. sharing stories. We watched the Sunday morning session of General Conference and absolutely loved Pres. Eyring's and Elder Holland's talks.
Groceries cost 150 euros today because we have had lots of folk to feed this last while! I am still trying to catch up on my tasks - I am beginning to wonder if that is always going to be the case! We went with Pres. & Sis. F. to a baptism this afternoon. We usually take some snack-type food for eats and drinks after the baptism and Pres. needed to pick up some cookies. He stopped at Max Perry's which I thought just sold chocolates - but they also sell cookies!! Ever since we got here, we have been passing that store and I keep wondering how good their chocolates are!! - but because it is in such bad place to try and park, Brent has not been willing to stop there. So - at last I got a quick "look-see" - and I did see some "real" chocolates, but we were in a bit of a rush and will have to go again to check it all out properly - especially since "our" favorite chocolate store "Leonidas" has finally shut down after not being open for business for about two months - but, never fear, there is still a Leonidas at the airport so we'll survive! We have been noticing a lot of different bird calls lately - very pretty songs - so I wonder if there are birds on a migrating lane through here?? We watch the Sat. morning session of General Conference at 7pm our time. We were astounded with Pres. Monson's announcement that young elders may now go on a mission at age 18 and that young sisters may go at age 19. That is terrific news.
Saturday, 6 October 2012
President was over here for a short while today - he sure didn't look much better! The Assts. came and worked here all day - poor souls, they have such a load of work to do. I helped them book their flights for the end of this month. We ran into trouble again doing that - we went through the process on-line all the way to the end where you pressed the button to "book the flight." It wouldn't do it, and there appeared a red banner telling you that you have to call in to complete the booking. I did and asked the girl why this was so? She didn't know, but she helped me get all three flights booked!!! We went through about a three/four month period last winter where this happened - it's just so inconvenient and time consuming!
Thursday, 4 October 2012
Cloudy and cool this morning and we did get some light rain for a while. Our dear Pres. freestone still sounds awful - with his sore throat and cough. He actually came over here to work on a report that he HAD to get in. a lesser man would not have done that! Thankfully, it's been very quiet here for a change allowing us to do some much needed catch-up. We had trouble with the phone system again today - we were not able to get any calls through to Germany, but we were able to get the States and England!! Another frustration is that I haven't been able to get some Church videos and other sites that we use constantly to help us in our work since we got that new firewall.
On a brighter note - it has been too hot for the roses to flourish during the summer, but they are doing nicely again now -
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
The Elks and two elders were here early to get the van so they could move the furniture etc. into the new Ilion apartment. In the afternoon we had a man come in to do preventative maintenance on the A/Cs. That got a bit dicey when Brent saw how much "stuff" had collected on the fan blades of the unit in our office and the only action the man was taking at cleaning it off was to spray some cleaning liquid on the blades through the grill where the air comes out. This liquid was something like "Fantastic" (what we use in Canada to spot clean greasy marks from walls and floors etc). The difference was that we, having once sprayed a spot, would clean it off with a paper towel or rag - but - he would spray this stuff on the fan blades, through the grill and then wait for it to "soften up" a bit, then turn the unit on and expect the buildup of dirt to let loose and fly off. It actually did fly off a bit - making a mess on Brent's desk - but no where near getting the stuff completely off and clean. I thought Brent was going to lose it with him. Brent has worked on these units and taught students how to care for them for years and this was not up to his standards. There was a little discussion and then the guy let Brent get in there with a bit of rag on the end of a stick and scrape the blades until clean! When he was done, we turned the unit on and it was so much more efficient at moving the air through, we thought it was on "high."
Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Jani & Rich made it home safely. They were able to get on a flight to Montreal going stand-by and thence by WestJet to Calgary. We had a lovely Skype visit with them. Brent did the mail while I iced the birthday cake and tried catching up on my jobs, but it's so hard to do that when everyone is here. Pres. F. has a nasty sore throat and sounds awful - he's going to get an antibiotic later today. The lunch was a success in spite of him not feeling well. Now my big push regarding my tasks is to get new lists produced with all the new missionary information on them.
Wow! a new month - where did September go? I was sooo tired today - too many late nights and anxious about not being able to keep up with everything. More clothes washing than usual today because of all the visitors. We have meetings tomorrow and we had to plan the lunch for that. I finished up opting to do the birthday cake for Pres. F. so we needed to do a little shopping. I decided to do a Bundt cake - Sour Cream Banana Party Cake - which I make often at home - but then I couldn't remember the exact measurements of ingredients, so after unsuccessfully checking on-line for the recipe I took a chance that Brenda might be able to find it for me. Bless her - she did - and I got it made in time - so it all worked out well. Elks had some work to do up here and they finished up eating with us and as usual, it was a hoot. The Assts. were back again and so they had the left overs - of which there was plenty.
Up at 3:45am!! Got to the airport by 5 am - just as well too, as the line up was already huge. We stayed with Jani & Rich until they were checked in and had their boarding passes - didn't want the risk of anything going wrong for them as this stage. With that accomplished we said our goodbyes again - that's the really hard part - but the great memory of their visit somewhat compensates. Church was anticlimactic after that, but the "special" investigator was there with his two darling little ones - 18 months and 3 yrs old. RS was a special meeting today. They had a presentation with four sisters taking the roles of former General RS Presidents - telling some of the spiritual experiences they had during their term of service. Following that we had a little lunch. It was all very nice. Frosts invited us to dinner and that was fun. Alyson(mom) is about Brenda's age and they have four children also. It was kind of like being at home - almost!
Colliers went with Pres. F. down to the Acropoli building for their meetings. Pres. also took the car we drive - the Cosair - because it is small and easier to park which left us with the Saphira - it is awful to drive - it is an automatic that drives and shifts like a manual!! but, it's wheels go around and that's what counts! Meanwhile, Jani & Rich had docked and were making their way up here in a cab - which Brent intended to pay for because he was loathe to drive about 30km. to an area which he didn't know. It worked out well - they arrived without fuss and it only cost 38 euros. Once again, it was absolutely super to see them and what a story they had to tell about their wonderful adventures in Venice and on the cruise to the ports and islands in the Adriatic. They also brought a a beautiful set - letter opener and magnifying glass - made of Venetian glass. It's gorgeous - almost antique looking. We talked and talked and viewed lots of their photos and then settled down to try and find out about their reservation for a "stand by" ticket to Amsterdam. They had a request in for the 5:20 flight, but that is not a booking and we were not getting anywhere with it on-line or on the phone - so we had a bite of lunch and worked with their baggage to get the weight distributed more evenly and went on out to the airport to work out their flight arrangements there. They asked at the counter - showing them their reservation request - and were told to report the wicket #65 at 4:30pm - about 45 min. wait. Close to 4:30 we went to that wicket and there was already another couple there. You take a big chance when you try to fly stand by and when Jani saw the other couple, she whispered to me that if they were KLM staff, they would have priority over her and Rich. Great! - but we didn't know if they were KLM staff!! 4:30 came and went and all the staff were swamped trying to get ticket holders processed - our girl included - so that we finished up waiting another 45 minutes before anything much happened. We notice "our girl" was having some difficulty with two men - come to find out they had tickets and were about the last passengers to check in only to find that the plane had been over-booked and they had no seats left for these two men. They were not happy and that kind of put an end to Jani's hopes of getting on that flight. The next thing was, they told those of us who where waiting to get on the flight that there were two "jump seats" (seats that the flight crew use when taking off or landing) available - and - you guessed it -the two in front of Jani & Rich were KLM staff. So! "back to the drawing board." Next thing to do was to go to the desk where they try to help you get another flight - they couldn't help us much in the time constraints that had to work with so we went downstairs to the travel agent and Jani & Rich finished up paying for tickets to get to Amsterdam via Rome. We went back home to get an "early" night and be up at 3:45am to go back to the airport!!
Was commandeered to do one of the jobs I loathe to do today - that of changing flights. Pres. F. needed to move three flights from one week to the next - yes, it was only three flights, but when I call in to do it, the English speaking Greek girl's accent is so heavy and she speaks so fast (even in English) that I often have to have her repeat things and I find that embarrassing and difficult. A few times in the past I have missed key points in the process which can be very expensive - fortunately I have not lost any money that way yet!! The Colliers arrived this afternoon after a 6 hour drive down from Thessaloniki. Elder Collier had knee surgery some months back and this was his first attempt at such a long drive and we were concerned about his knee standing up to the task, but even though he was tired he said it was OK. We were going to take them out to dinner, but when we considered our choices of the few places we knew, we decided to just cook at home. The Assts. have been staying here for most of the week because of the changes going on, but decided to go back to their own apartment tonight. They had moved into this apartment about two weeks ago and had picked up a bunch of keys, which they assumed had a front door key on it. No - it did not - so they called us in hopes that we had a spare key. We didn't -so back they came to sleep another night up here and would try in the morning to get a key smith. An expensive lesson as I understand they charge around 40 euros for that service!
The new missionaries, having had their training meeting today are dispersing to their assigned areas today. Six went to Cyprus and we drove some of them to the airport. We had to purchase 6 of those big bottles of water today - the kind that fit on the water dispenser. The temperatures have been so warm the last couple of days (31C. to 36C.) that they have finished off two bottles in two days!! The office was busy again today - Pres. had a mission presidency meeting and that meant that their wives were here also "hanging out" during the meeting - they are always fun to be with. We haven't had a "quiet day" since last Wednesday and we have to plan carefully to fit everything in before the Colliers come down from Thess tomorrow and Jani & Rich arrive on Saturday morning early.
We made breakfast for the Assts. after which they helped me with the photos of the new missionaries that are to go up on the Mission Board. Brent had taken their photos and when I printed them on the "hoopty-do new laser color printer" they came out very dark and muddy looking. I tried changing settings on the printer and on the computer, but I wasn't able to produce good photos. So the Assts. helped me with that - and we finished up having to send them to our little old HP Desktop and then they came out clear and the color was right. So much for the color laser printer!! All the new missionaries and their trainers went to the Halandri Chapel for an all-day training meeting. Some of us were asked to help with the food for their lunch. Brent & I had to do baked-potatoes. The lunch consisted of Chili over baked potatoes, plus Greek salad and coleslaw and French bread - topped off with chocolates coated ice cream bars for dessert. We came back to the office, but had to go back over later to help transport some of the missionaries back here - this help required because of a National Strike here in Greece today. Things got out of hand down at the Acropoli building as demonstrators tried kicking in the glass doors and setting garbage bins out the front on fire. Our new CES man, who was formerly a police inspector in the U.K. took care of everything - calmly closing the metal doors and sending everyone home.