Went shopping as usual. Christina phone – she couldn’t get here because the buses are on strike!!! For the last 5 days the metro, buses and trains have been on strike intermittently. It's all over another austerity move - to take about 500 euros from the metro workers monthly pay of 2500 euros. Worked on getting the February Supply order in. Elks stopped by with more new bedding for the missionary apartment downstairs. Elks stayed for supper and we ordered in Chinese food that was pretty good. It was another dreary day with some rain and a little bit of sunshine here and there – quite cool though.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
President, Sis. F. and the Assist. Went to Cyprus this morning. I worked most of the day on the Young Women lesson to teach Caitee on Sunday.The tec. guys called to fix the Assistant’s computer. It would have been better if they had been here, but we tried to help the best we could. There was some problem with the Assists' “Common Files” - as they were working on them they would sometimes disappear – and when they went to open them, sometimes they couldn’t – but they’d be there the rest of the time!! They do a lot of figures and the problem is a great inconvenience. Anyway, the tec. guy can’t fix it until they get back from Cyprus – it sounds like they think it has something to do with the firewall. President ordered some whistles for the missionaries to carry for safety. Brent’s not impressed with these new ones – they are not loud like his whistle it – they are a higher pitch, but ARE very shrill though.
Pouring rain today, but not that cold. Spent nearly all day working on the new Office Manual. It’s pretty hard to do a good job after being at it for nearly eight hours solid – I really began to lose focus towards the end of that time. The new monitors are all hooked up. They are a little bit bigger and I think they have more pixels because the picture is amazing – it’s so much clearer. The Assts. got the transfer itinerary finalized today. That is a huge job – making sure that people get moved to the right place at the right time – both coming and going! - I get a headache just making the plane bookings for them!
Went down to the residency office this morning. We parked at the Eko garage (about 6 blocks away because parking is impossible on the street) and walked to the office. We just gave them our passports and expired residency paper and a photo and they put everything together and within half an hour we were out of there – it was great knowing that we were “legal” again. Went to the deli on the way home and purchased some interesting edible – it turned out to be a pickled caper flower bud. It looked like an odd shaped olive with a long stem and it tasted somewhat like an olive!! The monitors that were ordered as a result of my monitor “dying” came today. The are a little bit wider (which is nice). Another nice day, but a bit cooler – 16C. Elks cam by to deliver new bedding for the missionaries’ apartment downstairs and, of course, we had to have a little visit. That downstairs apartment hasn't really been up-graded for a couple of years and pillows were missing and they were short of sheets, blankets and duvets. Some stuff had to be thrown out it was in such poor condition and with another batch of new missionaries coming on the 29th, it will be nice to have it looking better.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Meeting day today and it was mail day too – so while Brent we nt o get the mail I cleaned up the office. President, the Elks and Elder Maxwell arrived, and Sis. Elks helped me by shredding old documents while the Mission Presidency were meeting. I had to do 14 more flight bookings to day for transfers – and because of that annoying phone-in requirement for those with U.S. credit cards it took me ages. We made carrot soup for lunch and the Elks stayed. President and the Assts. went down to Ines’ restaurant for lunch – it was her birthday and she invited all the missionaries to it, but we didn’t go. While Sis. Elks was shredding she noticed that some of the documents were way more recent than 2005 – somehow one of the 2012 storage boxes got into the pile to be shredded and after she had noticed that they were 2012, she came to me and asked if she should be doing them!!! I’m glad she noticed before they were all gone, but it can’t be helped, it's just one of those things. Elder Elks helped Brent a lot today as well. We are so grateful for all they do for us. It was another nice day – 17C.
A beautiful day – got up to 18C. Worked on getting President’s March flights booked. It is such a pain as you can do it online only so far in the winter and then you have to call in and finish it with the airlines’ people – all because our credit card is issued from the U.S!!! We really don’t know why it only happens that way in the winter – we suspect that in the tourist months they don’t have time to check all the credit cards!! Anyway, that takes a big chunk out of one’s day and I resent that as it doesn't seem to me to make much sense - being that part of year they do it and part, they do not! Being Prep Day, the Assts. Were here to do their letters – all the missionaries do their letters on Mondays – they have to go to an internet café or someplace where they can use someone’s computer – the Assts. Are lucky because this is their “home base.” They were given some Spring rolls and a noodle dish from Dolly (one of our Filipino ladies) and they shared it with us for lunch. 😛
There were a few more people in attendance at Church today. It was a special day for the Frosts as it was the twins - Tyler and Caitee’s – 12th birthday and they both graduated from the Primary program. Tyler was sustained to be ordained as a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. When we got home the pork roast just about done and we had mashed potatoes, Brocolli/Cauliflower with cheese sauce and carrots with the Assts.. We hadn’t quite finished lunch and President & Sis. Freestone came over with his brother and wife to see the Office and meet us all. They are great people. Although he’s a U.S. citizen, he’s a lawyer and they live in England. Bro. Hicks (from the Embassy) had given Brent Pres. & Sis. F’s lost passports at Church so he returned those to President then too. We received an alert from the U.S. Embassy that a bomb had gone off in “The Mall” – one of the bigger malls in Athens and one that we shop in occasionally - it was a small bomb and only two security guards were injured, but even so, it’s not nice for that to be happening in a public area in broad daylight.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Did our grocery shopping. Elks came by around 10 am – they were headed for Thessaloniki as they have to speak there tomorrow. It's a lovely sunny morning and we would love to go on that journey with them - it would be a hoot. They collected mail to take up there for us. I am still plugging along up-grading the Office Manual – it takes ages – I think I got everything noted about the White Binders for new missionaries and finished up tidying up the spot where those materials are stored that you use to make those booklets.
It’s raining again, but not so hard this time – it sure is dreary though! Karen Skyped in response to my email for help regarding a “Word” document on which I had lost some of the text that I had entered!! I actually had multiple copies of that document and I just couldn’t find the one that I had been working on. So now, after deleting all the “wrong” ones, I should be OK!! It was nice to have her moral support and a good visit as well. I continued to work on up-grading the office manual. It’s taking a long time – I hope I can get it done before the new office couple take over. We haven’t received any notification of anyone coming to serve in that position yet! We had a great experience tonight. An Elder Peterson, serving in Albania had contacted our Assts. to see if they would do a Baptismal interview for a young Greek person – since the little guy only spoke Greek and they had been trying to do the interview with his mother translating. The problem was that the Mom seemed to be telling her son a lot more than just asking the question and fielding the answer!! So Elders Wilderspin and Jensen did the interview on Skype and we got to listen. It was pretty cute, but in the end the little guy (age 8-1/2) decided, he would rather wait until he comes back to Greek because he can’t understand anyone there in Albania.
We went to KEP - the residency permit office - in response to their asking us to come and renew our residency for another year. Ethel (lawyer) was concerned that they would insist that we show that we had 48,000 euros in our bank a/c. So, we met Ethel there and she basically did everything. All we did was give her our passports, residency blue papers and sign papers there. In the end, we find that Ethel has somehow managed to get them to extend our papers to cover us until we leave - we just have to go back next Wednesday with our passports etc. plus a photo each. We didn't have to beef up our bank balance or anything, so we are very grateful. We called President as soon as we got back to the office with the good news and about a half hour later, President arrives with cupcakes from Sis. F. to help us celebrate!!! She is a sweetie.
We have thunder/lightning and pouring rain today!!! It gets sooo dark - it's like dusk instead of daylight. We received a packet in our mail box at the post office yesterday with no address on it. It was mailed in China and the return address was very clear and had a phone number on it. We took it to our meeting and asked everybody there, but no one knew anything about it so we opened it and found a large card with a Greek name on the outside in a plastic envelope together with a small gift wrapped box. We called the phone number and were pleasantly surprised that the person spoke English so well. The sender's name was Suzie and Brent asked to speak with her, but she was not there but they gave us her cell phone number. Brent called that number and got her and she also spoke English quite well - however, it took a couple of tries to get her to understand that we were calling about her package with no address on it and that if she would give us the address we would send the package on. So she asked us to email her so she could read our email address and thereby send to us the much needed address for the package. Mission accomplished! Another bizarre thing - We received a call from DHL saying they had a package to deliver and it said "tags" on it and they wanted to know what that was. We explained that they were the badges that our missionaries wear on their jackets. He said that the value was 73 euros (which was about right) and asked if we had a broker (we didn't) and he went on to explain that the broker cost would be 101 euros and taxes etc. would be 150 euros!!! Total - 251 euros! and followed that information with the question - "Do you want them delivered?" We told them to return them to the sender! We order tags from the BYU Bookstore MTC branch and I'll call them tomorrow and let them know what we've done and asked them to send them ordinary mail.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Today is the Specialized Training meeting. President had to go early, so we drove Sis. F. The training was centered around ways to improve or make more effective "finding" and goals to help the Church progress in Greece. We have been quite static over the past couple of years, so we are trying to move effectiveness up a notch. The presentations were really good including a little video called "Butterfly Circus." Around bedtime, Brent spent about 20 minutes outside in the cold trying to make himself heard so he could get back in! He'd just stepped out to check the level in the fuel tank and had accidentally locked himself out. He finally got the missionaries downstairs to hear him and then they were able to reach the window in our rooms!! We had a good ho! ho! about that.
First thing this morning, I submitted our information for our return ticket in April because, we feel that when we go to the residency permit office, if we have this ticket showing that we are gone on that date, it might help us having to avoid having to show that we have another 48,000 euros which they seem to be requiring. We will be going with the lawyer to do this - hopefully it will work out. There is a training meeting tomorrow and the sister in charge of the "main course" has chosen to do hot dogs - so we went to the stores today looking for sauerkraut, relish and mustard. Mustard was not a problem, but the first items were. We finally found the relish and sauerkraut at the Super 8 store. We also have some left-over chili so they can make chili-dogs if they want.
Brent was up early to make Hawaiian Beans to take for pot-luck at Church today. Again it was freezing in the Chapel. Brent turned the furnace on, but it takes so long to heat up the place. Pot-luck was good as the Frosts and Hicks and Karampoulos families were back and their contributions to the food really make a difference. President had two branches to attend and then do some interviews after down at Acropoli, so we took Sis. F. to Halandri with us. We had a nice restful afternoon for a change.
Elks came and got the van this morning. They are closing another apartment and have to move the furniture into storage. It's going to be a tiring day for Sis. Elks - she is small of stature, but huge in desire and tends to wear herself out on projects like this. There was a request for men's coats and shoes on the email this morning for the homeless - the cold has generated a great need for such items right now. Our cleaning girl Christina returned today after having been gone for three weeks - she went home to Poland for Christmas and brought back some Polish chocolates for us - Yum! After moving the furniture, Elks came back here so that one of their helpers, an elder due to go home soon, could fill in a form regarding his university entrance and send it back to his Mom as she needs to submit it on Monday. We had a good visit while he was doing that.
Brent is still bringing back lots of packages for the missionaries - I guess it is late Christmas mail. We had one letter come today for a sister whose twin is serving in Brazil - it was mailed 28 Nov. 2012!!! I had a hard time trying to reconcile the receipts to the statement today - it usually only takes a bout 20 minutes to do that job - but because of interruptions and having to book flights again in the middle of it all, it took me about four hours . I shouldn't try to do that in the day - I should do it in the early morning when things are quiet - or after supper.
Thursday, 10 January 2013
President & Sis. F. were over here early to pick up the Assistants - they are all going to Thessaloniki, then Cyprus, then back here on Monday. They left at 7:00 am. About 7:20, the phone rang - Elder W. had forgotten his passport!!! and they were headed back here to get it - AND - Pres. decided that having to do that would not leave him enough time to park in the "long-term" parking and get to the check-in on time - so Brent went with them and brought the car back here. It was a nice sunny day - but cold and windy! We are playing catch-up in the office today. It's the first day in ages that nobody has been around, so it's nice and quiet. This afternoon we went looking for a new hairdresser - one that Frosts recommended. I think I said in a blog last month that our old guy was packing up shop and going back to the UK as they were losing so much money here. Eventually, we found the new place and it is in a ritzy area. We asked right off about the prices and found that they were about double what we had been paying, but they do speak English and I'll likely only need three more visits to the hairdresser before I go home, so we decided to go with it. (Their prices are only a little higher than Canada) I sat in the chair to have my hair washed and I knew immediately why it costs more. You sit down and put your head back into a "padded neck-slot" (my words) and you begin to feel the rest of the chair moving - little "balls" gently moving up and down, massaging your back - and the shampoo girl didn't hurry but spent a bit more time washing your hair and massaging your scalp. I could get used to that!! I'll definitely go back there.
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
Brent left about 7:00 am to meet the Elks at the garage - his gar needed servicing. They cam back here to wait for it to be done. We had a great day. Elder Elks help Brent with the finances and Sis. Elks did a myriad of little things for me, plus a load of shredding. They are so nice. The car was done and we invited them to stay for supper as they have no heat in their apartment. It seems that because other tenants don't have enough money to pay their share of the oil, the landlord hasn't got enough money to purchase the oil - so everybody suffers. Crazy!
Snow! Snow! Snow - lots of it - and it went on all day! We have a Couples' meeting tonight and I have been asked to bring a dessert, so Brent and I set to and made up the naniamo bars that we were going to do at Christmas and never had time to do! The consistency of the butter and even the Bird's Custard powder that they have here is different - we hope they turn out OK. Pres. had a Mission Presidency meeting here this morning and we made some Chinese Chicken Noodle soup for lunch. The supper at the MH was really nice and everyone liked the naniamo bars! It was a lovely evening - a bit sad saying goodbye to the Colliers though - they fly out tomorrow morning at 9:00 am.
Snow in Athens -
The sun is shining brightly today - but it is cold. We received another email from yet another person - this time, from Germany - regarding my broken monitor. It was an inventory form requesting details of all computers and monitors in our office "to see if more than the one monitor needs to be replaced" and continues - "as soon as I get the forma back, I can order the monitors." I wonder what they would have done if there were no other monitors that I could use in the office - I took the Assistant's and so now they don't have one. I went to the drug store to get one of my prescriptions filled and was told they didn't have any because the suppliers are holding back on deliveries until a price increase has been settled!! and I am to check back on Wednesday. Just as well I keep a few packs on hand for such emergencies. We went to the "Super Theta" store (carries international brands) to get some A&W root beer as we have been invited to the MH for supper with the Colliers (who go home on Wednesday) - we wanted to treat them all. Sis. F. thought we were joking when I told her we would bring some. Brent talked to Ethel about the renewal of our residency situation and she told him that we need to go (with passports and our bank statement showing that we had the 48,000 euros when we arrived here) to KEP (residency permit place) on Jan. 17th and meet her there. The supper at the MH was great and we played dominos after - a game called "Train Wreck."
Sunday, 6 January 2013
The wind was blowing hard this morning and as we left for Church it started to pour! - BUT - when we came home, the rain had stopped and the clouds were breaking up and the sun was shining through brightly. It was 7C. Another small attendance at Church today, but the meetings and the lessons were really good and a lovely spirit prevailed. We make "Emily's Chicken" for dinner. The Assts. really liked it too. A question arose as to whom the Colliers were going to stay with when they come down tomorrow. The Elks left after Sacrament meeting to drive up to Thess. and bring them down. We thought they were going to stay here with us, and Pres. and Sis. F. thought they were going to stay with them at the Mission Home!! I called them and they decided they would stay with Pres. and Sis. F. seeing they were going home on Wednesday. We got an email from the Church's ICS dept. asking us for the details of the monitor (make, model and Serial#) so they know which monitor it is, then "they can authorize a repair or a replacement, and they'll determine how to replace it if needed."??!!!!!
It was one of those funny days - everything I tried to do - I hit road blocks. One huge one was when my monitor quit. It had been flickering for about a week and now it quit altogether! We tried another monitor on my computer and it worked fine - so my monitor is broken. We told Pres. F. and suggested that we go an buy one, but he told us to check with our Area PFR first. We contacted him and he said he had to forwarded our request to Church's ICS dept. and they would advise us as to how to proceed. So here it is Sat. and it's only just starting the weekend in Salt Lake, so we probably won't get any response until Monday!!! Fortunately, we were able to borrow the monitor from the Assts. computer so I am still able to do my work, but the Assts. don't have theirs. I got some of the orders done, but am hung up with the "On-line Store" one as I want it to go to an address different to the billing address. I'll try contacting them on Monday. The Elks came by with new bedding for the downstairs apartment 😊 The Assts. are doing a deep clean down their and it will be really nice to have the new bedding to replace the old smelly bedding. It's looking a lot better.
It took Brent three trip from the car to the house to bring in all the mail today!!! I thought all the parcel traffic was over for now!! Pres. was over here this morning and one job he gave me was to book three flights for the Assts. That took an hour and a half (with a few interruptions) because, during the off-season the airlines will let you book on-line right up to the "Book Now" place and then you have to call in and they can bring up the booking that you started and then they proceed to go over everything that I entered, with a few breaks while she goes and checks different things. All this, because we have a U.S. credit card. So after they check with "the bank" they tell you that it's OK and they email you the e-ticket! It's so frustrating to have a 20 minute job take that long - especially, when in the summer, none of this happens, you just fly through the whole process completely on-line!! We don't know what's going on with the traffic - we went to the stationery store this afternoon and it was so bad!!
Pres. F. called Brent to go over to the Mission Home and look at his furnace as an inordinate amount of oil has been used - about 2000L. in one month! Brent couldn't find a problem and Kelly is going to have his man look for the problem. It was quiet in the office this morning - a nice relief - only the Assts. are here now. Ethel has no real information concerning our residency renewal - except that they seem to be needing a bank statement proving that we have enough money to support ourselves. We should be leaving in three months and have enough for that period of time, but she is worried that they might just insist that we have enough to cover a year!!! We'll have to wait and see what they say.
We had another two sisters traveling today and President F. was up early to take the one sister to the airport to fly to Cyprus. That left a spare sister here so Pres. dropped her off here at the Mission Office and she worked with me all day until about 7:00 pm when Pres. came by and picked her up to take her to the airport to meet the sister coming over from Cyprus. She put Christmas decorations away and began a mountain of shredding - it was really helpful and she is so nice to have around. Elder Rahal and his new companion left here today to go to their area - we will really miss him. We received a call from whoever it is that handles the renewal of our residency papers. We are supposed to go to their office and get some forms that we have to fill out. We talked to Ethel (our lawyer) and she is looking into it for us.
New Year's Day! Wheee! We received a call from President F. at 6:15 am!!! He had already take the sisters returning home to the airport and called to tell us to have the "returning" elder be ready to leave by 6:45 in stead of 7:00 am as the traffic was horrendous - he figures it was because all the Greeks were heading home at that hour after the New Year's Eve celebrations! It was sad to see him go - he's a great young man and we all love him. Later there was a trip planned to go to Delphi for those that wanted to go - they were supposed to meet at the Mission Home at 8:15 for that. That even got delayed because Pres. F. couldn't get back from the airport by that time! We opted not to go as we had been there in the summer. We played "catch-up" in the office and after lunch the Mawlams came over to do their "New Missionary Check List" for me and that turned into a great visit with them. They have a lot of Church experience - he has worked for the Church and has also been a Stake President - just the kind of people needed in Thessaloniki right now. We asked them to stay and eat with us and when the Colliers returned from Delphi we ordered Slouvaki sticks and gyros and had a fun time eating and talking about Thessaloniki, so they had a very productive visit.
Brent went to the post office and retrieved yet again, more parcels for the missionaries! He picked up bread on the way home and he said the everything is really busy and the traffic is awful. The Assts. went to the airport to pick up Elder Jensen. Because of missionaries going home, there has been a mini-transfer of sorts and Elder Jensen came over from Cyprus to be a new Asst. replacing Elder Rahal who is now replacing the missionary that went home. With Colliers arriving early afternoon - we made a big pot of hamburger vegetable soup - we threw in the mashed potatoes and carrot leftovers from yesterday and it did the trick - it tasted yummy! Colliers arrived at 1:00 pm and Elks were supposed to arrive at 2:00 pm, but they were 40 minutes late because the traffic was insane! (it was worse than Christmas - New Years is a really big deal for the Greeks). It was Prep. Day so Colliers, Elks and Brent & I watched "Mobsters and Mormons" - it was hilarious. Later Brent & I and the Colliers were invited to the Mission Home to have dinner and meet the Mawlams (the people replacing the Colliers in Thess. who just arrived this afternoon). Supper and the company was excellent. Just after that, the sisters who were going home the next morning arrived and needed help with their suitcases - some were overweight and one had a steel rod sticking out of it that had to be cut off. Elder Clark to the rescue again - all in a day's work!! The elder returning home went with Elder Rahal to see Harry and tell him goodbye - they came back with a present of a 19L. can of fresh olive oil - we were astounded! It has a very different taste - it has a bit of a bite to it and is actually olive green in color.
It is STILL RAINING!!! HARD! We have never seen rain this heavy and the run-off is making driving very difficult. Even the Greeks are surprised that it is continuing this long. Again, there were only a few at meetings today. Christmas/New Years is a great family time for Greeks - even Church attendance takes second place!! The two elders from Thessaloniki are still staying here. They never get a chance up there to do "exchanges" with other elders because they are the only elders up there, so they are spending the week down here and going on exchanges with different elders in this Zone.It's nice to do this as they learn different things from the different elders. Anyway, they stay in the downstairs apartment with the Assts., so we have four elders to feed for the duration. They were so excited to have pork roast today. They went down to Acropoli as it was supposed to be the traditional Mars Hill testimony meeting for the leaving missionaries - we thought that the rain would prevent it, but down there, it had all cleared and they went ahead with it as planned. We made custard dessert for them and they enjoyed that when they came back.
Boo Hoo!! It's pouring rain and the missionaries were hoping to go out to Harry's property and help him with his olive harvest, but that is off. The missionaries are really disappointed! When we did our shopping this morning, we used the underground parking - never bothered to use it before this, but it worked famously - much better than getting wet!! I had been trying to book a hotel in Thessaloniki for the new couple coming on Monday. The one that we use is closing and the Colliers came up with the bright idea that the Mawlams could stay temporarily in the vacant sister's apartment for the six days before the Colliers leave - so that works really well. Elks stopped by to pick up his replacement eye-glasses that his kids had sent over to use so he can get his other pair fixed - as always we had a great visit with them.
Brent came home with a mountain of Christmas packages again! the departing missionaries have their farewell luncheon and interviews at the Mission Home this afternoon - so the companion(Elder Kopischke) of one of the leaving elders came here to the Mission Office to wait during that time. We put him to work and he helped us out quite a bit. He is really nice - his dad is a General Authority.