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.