Sunday, October 9, 2011

Past Experience Comes in Handy

Twice a year the Ukrainian Church leaders have asked that we conduct two service projects a year. This is about one Branch in Chernivtsi, which we attend on weekends (yes, that means 32 hours a week on a train to attend church).We helped the Chernivtsi Branch with their Helping Hands Service Project on 1 October. They chose to clean up a park, install some park benches, and repair and paint some playgound equipment. It was a great project that kept 21 people very busy for nearly 5 hours to complete.
In order to install the benches, we had to dig holes (very similar to post holes), place the bench in the holes, mix up a batch of cement and fill the holes so the benchers would not wonder off and remain upright! So this phot is to prove that I still know how to dig post holes in hard ground.

There is an old Soviet Mig in the park, so we called it Mig Park since no one else had a better name for it.

We will try to do a littel better on keeping our blog updated.

Tom and Shauna

Carpathian Mountians in Ukraine

Greetings from the Western part of Ukraine.

We just returned from several days in the west region of Ukraine, well know as the Carpathian Mountains. We had heard of the Carpathians since we arrived in Ukraine, as everyone talked about THE PLACE to go on vacation for rest, relaxation, beautiful scenery and fresh, clean air. They were right in all cases. The area once belonged to Poland, Hungary, Austria, etc. over the centuries. Thus it has a very distinct European flavor in the cities and landscape.

The highest mountain is about 6200 feet in elevation.

The mountain streams were clear with lots of evergreen trees. We were there the first week in October, with the leaves just starting to turn into fall colors. The mountain roads and small farms reminded us of Austria. Our trusted driver, Vlad, drove all the way to Lviv to pick us up and guide us on our trip. We did spend a few days working with various Branches so it was not all vacation!

One highlight of the trip was the Egg Painting Museum in Kolomyia (which is actually close to Chernivtsi on the east side of the Carpatians). There we saw how the artists painted the eggs that are so prevalent in Ukraine.

Tom and Shauna

Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrate Anniversary in Istanbul Turkey

Hi,Shauna and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary in Istanbul, Turkey. We spent 5 days in Istanbul and found out why so many people like to vacation in Turkey, at least in Istanbul. Istanbul, formerly Constanople, is located on two continents, Europe and Asia with the Bosphorous waterway separating the two parts.
We visited Roman ruins, many Mosques, several museums and a lot of shopping. Well known is the Grand Bazarr of Istanbul as well as the Egypt (spice) Bazarr. They sell all sorts of things, clothing, food, candies, and everything else imaginable.

We attended the Annual Public Affairs Training meeting for East Europe. We enjoyed meeting all Public Affairs specialists from each of the East European countries and missions. It was a nice time with lots of fun memories. We now know why so many travel agents suggested that one of the best places to visit as a tourist is Turkey. We did not get outside of Istanbul, but maybe next time!
Tom and Shauna

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Growing Food in Space and Ukraine

We were invited to joing the Mayor of the City of Zhutomyr, Ukraine for a tour of the Korolov Space Museum. Sergey Korolov was the mastermind behing all of the Soviet Union's space efforts. In fact, it is his designed Progress Transport vehicle which is the only way astronauts can get to the Internation Space Station since the Shuttle has been retired.
The museum is well done and represents many of the Russian and USSR achievements in space over the years. Korolov was born in Zhutomyr and they made a museum of the house where he was born and across the street is the actual space museum. I was quite surprised when one of the poster exhibits was an experiment showing the growth of plants in space, first on the MIR space station and then on the ISS. Then I recognized the plant growth chambers in the photos taken on the ISS. They were the modules designed and built at the Space Dynamics Laboratory. They were then transported to Moscow for testing and then launched on the Progress to the ISS. Russian astronauts conducted all the experiments and ate the food that was produced.
When I told the Mayor that I worked at SDL, who made the modules and cooperated with the Russians, he became very excited. He aske if I would come back for an interview and write up our history of the program so that the Museum can do a story and display on our cooperative efforts (he was not aware than this was a cooperative effort with the U.S.) They want to grow the international cooperation part of the Museum, and this was a perfect fit. We are looking foward to the follow up interview and story.
Then we had a chance to tour the Nation's largest producer of quail eggs and quail meat in Eastern Europe, maybe even the world. They have about 40,000 quail laying 30,000 eggs a day. They provide quail eggs for all of Ukraine.
We were fortunate to arrive just as about 20,000 quail chicks were hatching. They only eigh about 9 grams when hatched, and are an eating machine. For the first few days while they tripple their weight and size, they like loud noizes. We could whistle and they would come running to you. I guess that is instinct for where the food is. It is amazing how fast they grow and then begine to lay eggs. This photo is of thousands of two day old chicks. They reminded me of a floor covered with cockroaches moving for hiding when the light is turned on. It was fascinating and extremely educational. They gave us 100 fresh eggs that we will boil and put in a salad. They do taste just like chicken eggs, but the shells are several shades of brown kind of like a paint horse.
Having fun in Ukraine.

I Know Where Babies Come From!

I have now learned where babies come from. This answer came to me as I was gazing out the window of our long Marshrutka rides from Kyiv to Zhutomyr, Ukraine. In fairy tales and old stories, I learned about storks. It ws rumored they brought babies to families. I thought they were just mythological and did not really exist.

But, trip after trip to Zhutomyr I saw several very large gray nests on top of power and telephone poles not too far from the road. Often there were several in a row, one on every pole it seemed. There must have been 50 or more over a 40 mile stretch. At first I thought they were ornamental, man-made to look like large bird nests. They were huge, even bigger than an eagle's nest! I knew eagles would not build a nest in populated areas, so that was out. They were close to houses and barns. I could not imagine any bird willing to build a nest that close to human activity.

Then, one day I saw movement in one of the nests. Upon closer examination, I saw two large white and black birds, one standing on one leg and the other kind of dancing around. This got my attention, so I looked closer at the upcoming nests. Then I saw several young birds in a nest, with one of its parents. They seemed to be mostly beak with a wooly covering on thier bodies. I found out they were the young ones being raised by their parents. The parents looked like the "fictional" storks that I read in those old storybooks when I was a kid.

Then I saw in the fields hundreds of these birds looking for food. They were not as thick as seagulls on a Utah field, but there were hundreds foraging on short grassy fields. When I asked a native what kind of bird they were, he said the English word was "STORK". So they really did exist and they were not just in a fairy tale.

Well, if storks are real, then the rest of the tale must be true as well. Thus, I determined that babies come from Ukraine because that is where storks live, waiting their turn to pick up and deliver babies. Just don't ask me how they know where to deliver them. That is someone else's problem to find out!

Interesting notes from Ukraine

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer in Ukraine


Our new mission president, Jorg Klebingat, replaced Lane Steinagel as he and his family arrived on 30 June. We miss the Steinagels, but the Klebingat's are already well adjusted and accustomed to Ukraine since they lived here for about 4 years. He took President Hinckley to view the temple site location options and recounted to us the selection process in which the site was selected, and where the temple now stands. They will do great as we all enter this new chapter of the Kyiv Ukraine Mission.

We are preparing for the next All Ukraine Helping Hands Day, or "Day of Service" as expressed by President Eyring during April Conference. We had a great turnout for ther Helping Hands Day in April and hope to duplicate it in October. In addition to building Branch unity, the media covered many of the projects and reported on them. It is great exposure for the Church as we serve the communities we live in.

We recently spent several days in Crimea where we participated in several Humanitarian Service project closing ceremonies. All the recipient organizations were extremely greatful for LDS Charities support. Typically the assistance is for orphanages, handicapped schools, homeless shelters, homes for the elderly and hospitals. Blankets, desks and dorm furniture, a washing machine and kitchen appliances go a long way to help those in need.

Whilei n Crimea, we took advantage of the long daylight to spend a few minutes near the Black Sea. One very interesting site was the old Soviet submarine tunnel that housed several submarines while being repaired or prepared for sea duty. Built in the 1950's, they were completely hidden from later satellite images. Now they conduct tours though the tunnel and have a nice museum.

We also had a chance to test out the Black Sea beaches. They are very nice, especially as you go further east along the Crimean Peninsula. It has been a cool and somewhat rainy spring, which means the sea temperature is a little lower than they would like. But it was OK for us in getting our feet wet.

We are in a time of uncertainty. If the Church does not replace us, then we have a lot of cleanout to do with our apartment since it serves as our office. If they replace us, then we have to clean up our computers so that they make sense to other people. I never was good a putting together a filing system, and the same goes for a folder system.

More to come later.

Tom and Shauna

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Update from Kyiv

From visiting the temple site to participating in Humanitarian project closings, we seem to be quite occupied here in Kyiv. We have been working with the Ukraine National Public Affairs Council and the Regional Speacilists to put together a plan for next year. Long range planning is relatively new to most of the people we work with, and it has been fun to help them see a vision for the future.

This lovely lady with the hat works with young children that have medical problems. She and her family do "performances" three times a week to the children and their parents. They were asked by the local adiminstration to take these childern from various hospitals and build up their outlook on life. Many will have struggles throughout their life, so instilling a little joy and making them smile is a tremendous accomplishment. They are to be commended for thier work, and their dedication.

We are planning to spend a few days in the Crimea covering Humanitarian Project closings and meeting with leaders to help them in their plans for the upcoming year. When we leave, we hope to have an approved plan in place for them to execute next year. One of the events will be two Helping Hands Days, one in the spring in April and the other in the fall. Every member is encouraged to join in on service projects during those days. The last one, and first one for that matter, was on 2 April. It was a tremendous success. There were many uplifting stories and a common desire to do these on regular basis. It so happens that it fell right in line with the day of service talks of General Conference.

We did spend 4 days in Chernivtsi, a city about the size of Ogden in teh southwestern part of Ukraine. (this is the 15 hour over-night train ride each way). We were able to spend time with Branch members and also participated in a Humanitarian project for wheelchair repairs.

We think there may be a couple designated to replace us. If that is the case, we will be able to determine our departure date. Theya re still awaiting their call, so things can change easily.

Bye for now.

Tom and Shauna

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Riga, Latvia on the Baltic Sea

We enjoyed a lovely trip to Riga, Latvia where we met with the Public Affairs directors for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Riga is a European city that reminded us of Stockholm with a variety of different European architectures. It is at the mouth of the Daugaua River as it opens to the Baltic Sea. With more than 700,000 people, it is the largets city in the Baltic countries. They speak Latvian with many who also speak Russian. Many also speak English and it seems to be used more as time as that is becoming the common language for the European Uniion, which. Their currency is LATs, but will eventually become the Euro.

Even though it was May, the Baltic Sea was quite inviting. There is a large Bay that enables the water to stay quite warm and less salty. We enjoyed walking on the beautiful sandy beaches.

During WWII, over 100,000 Jews were killed in a concentration camp on the outskirts of Riga. They now have a huge memorial park and museum to rememeber what took place.

We were treated to huge palaces built for royalty as summer palaces. They were gorgeous and the gruonds were spectacular. The lilacs were in full bloom and one did not want to leave the gardens tehy were so pretty.

Although small, Latvia was a very pleasant surprise on how modern it is, its beautiful and colorful architecture, how clean and upkept everything was, and what a great place to go as a tourist. We would go there in a heartbeat.

Our host was the Baltic Mission Public Affairs Director, Inara Jegina, who also runs a travel service. So we were well taken care of and saw lots of beautiful sites, including castles, restored palaces, new and renovated sity buildings and structures, and a gorgeous city. We even managed to obtain a Monopoly game in Latvian. Photos are of the city, the Russian palace built 200 years ago, a view of the old town.

Tom and Shauna

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sofia, Bulgaria

We made a short trip to Sofia, Bulgaria to obtain a new visa to complete our mission. While there we took in a few sights of the city. Bulgaria is in the European Union, and was more westward looking that what we have experienced in Ukraine. At the same time, that means things cost more ther than in Ukraine.

This is a picture of a square in downtown Sofia in which there were hundreds of bears, all the same size and shape, but painted to represent each country in the world. Altough we did not look too closely, we assumed the bear painted as the Statue of Liberty represented the USA.
There were many very colorful and artistically painted bear statues.

The biggest cathedral is known as the Gold Dome, which is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and represents SOfia as a substantial landmark.

One of our (my) highlights was a visit to the Bulgarian Military Museum. There were lots of military hardware that stems from the Soviet times.

One was the illusive Scud missile that was used by Iraq in the first Gulf war against Israel and the Allied forces.

Most impressive, however, was the lengthy history of Bulgaria and the excellent displays that were housed in a 4 story museum. Bulgaria was at the crossroads of many invaders and/or occupiers of their land. Located in the Balkins they have been subjected to the Russians, Ottoman Empire, Romans, Hungarians, Germans, etc., etc. They sided with Germany in WWI and WWII, but ended up on the Allied side in WWII. They were a satellite country in the Soviet Union days, but not part of the Soviet Union. They do claim that they protected all the Jews that lived in Bulgaria from the Nazi exterminations.

We enjoyed our brief visit to Bulgaria. We even found a Bulgarian Monopoly game and an Anti-Monopoly game. It will be fun to see what that means.

Bye for now.

Tom and Shauna

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All Ukraine Helping Hands Day 2 April 2011

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine contributed more than 3,000 hours of community service on 2 April 2011 as part of the first ever All Ukraine Helping Hands Day. Some 50 communities were served by over 1100 volunteers throughout Ukraine. Projects included children’s playground repair and painting, repairing park benches, riverbank and park clean-up and many more things. Wearing the distinguishable Helping Hands white and yellow vests, volunteers worked with community leaders and other organizations to make Ukraine a better place to live.

In Chernivtsi, 30 volunteers refurbished the square near the monument to Maxim Gorky, clearing the park of debris, clipping the shrubs and planting flowers to welcome spring. Among the participants were community leaders: the district council chairman for Sadhirskoyi, George Burega, and Head of Environment District Councilman Sergei Melenchuk. In Sevestapol, a children’s playground was renovated with other congregations offering to join in on future projects to better serve the community. Project zaklyuchavsya located at Ivano-Frankivsk was the repair, cleaning and painting children's playground Danyy Maydanchyku. The cemetery in heart of the city of Rivne was readied for spring by cleaning the grounds, removing dead leaves, fallen branches, the winter buildup of trash, and other debris. In Lviv, the weather cleared just in time to clean, repair and paint the benches in Ivan Franko park, located in the heart of the city. City leaders were very pleased with the work and want to encourage such cooperative efforts throughout the city.

In Kiev, more than 350 members and their friends wearing vests with the words "Helping Hands” served in 9 locations, including the traditional clearing and cleaning of Babi Yar park joined by other congregations. Other places were determined to serve the local State Administration and utilities for maintaining green space. In Lutsk, invited friends and acquaintances numbered 35 people, who removed debris in the park Lesya Ukrainka and cleaned the beach on the river bank Stir. In the Mining District of Makeyevka, 25 members of the Church managed to clean the Square located around the Palace of Culture and remove garbage. In Donetsk, volunteers cleaned the territory of the city park, removing the debris accumulated over the winter months.

In Billa Tserka, a well organized group of 40 members cleaned the large park area, inviting other organizations to join in and participate in cleaning up the surrounding areas and festivities. Although in somewhat rainy conditions, 14 joined forces in Zhutomyr to clean the park in commemoration to Yuri Gagarin, removing over 25 bags of garbage and debris, making the grounds presentable and attractive for taking a stroll across the wooded areas. In Maripul, 20 combined their efforts to clean the large housing area that surrounds the church.

That same day, Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked all members around the world to perform a “Day of Service” to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Church’s welfare program. President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, made the announcement during the Saturday morning session at the 181st Annual General Conference. Local Church leaders decide the details of each project and Latter-day Saints are encouraged to invite neighbors and friends of the Church to participate. “The feelings of unity will multiply the good effects of the service you give. And those feelings of unity in families, in the Church, and in communities grow and will become a lasting legacy long after the project ends,” President Eyring said.

His words were demonstrated in deed, and fully realized during the All Ukraine Helping Hands Day, 2 April 2011. The consensus from participants is that this should become an annual event in Ukraine, encouraging cooperation with local communities and other organizations within the communities.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Visit to Armenia

So, where in the world do you think the photo below was taken? About a year ago, I went to Promontory Point to watch a rocket test firing at Thiokol, and this is what it looked like when looking back at the mountains to the east of Tremonton. When we woke up in Yerevan, Armenia, it was hazy with some snow in the higher elevations. It reminded us of northern Utah with the valleys and mountains. We went to see Mt. Ararat to see if we could help locate Noah's ark, but had no luck.

This is what it is supposed to look like most of the year. The climate is not too different from Albuquerque, but it hardly ever snows in the valleys of Armenia. Armenia is located just east of Turkey. It borders Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Azerbijan. The borders are generally closed except with Georgia, which borders Russia. In addition to Noah's ark tourism, Armenia is famous for great fruit (apricots, peaches, apples, pomogranits, grapes, etc.). Their most famous export is wine.

We stayed at the Marriott Hotel in the center of Yerevan, thanks to Jeromy's discout he got for us. It is the best hotel in Armenia and we enjoyed our stay there. It is located on Republic Square, which is a very modern and beautiful area with a great big round-about.

Our hosts were Margarit and Sergus. They took us around for a day to see many of the interesting sites around Yerevan, including the genocide memorial that pays tribute to the 1915 massacre by the Turks of Armenians. This needle statue is located by an eternal flame. The Armenians still do not get along with the Turks, so that is why the border is still closed. The Turks also took land away from Armenia in 1915, which included Mt. Ararat. They still remember it well.

The Armenian Christian Church is the big player throughout Armenia. We went into a few churches and museums to see what they were like. The Apostle Bartholomew carried out part of his ministry in Armenia, so it has a very long tradition of Christianity, since the 1st century AD. Below is a photo of a bible that was hand scribed in Armenian. There are 36 letters in their alphabet, and we could not read a single letter. It has some resemblence to Thai so maybe Britt and James could decipher some of it. There is a single mission that covers both Armenia and Georgia. The two languages are totally different, but the common language that many speak is Russian.

We went to a monastary up in the mountains that was built into and from the rocks in the mountainside. As you can see from the photo, we were in snow at this elevation. It rained in the valley and snowed in the mountains most of the time we were there. We need to go back during apricot season, and hopefully get a better view of Ararat.

Armenia suffers from many people leaving for better living conditions. There are more Armenians in Claifronia than there are in Armenia. Many go to Russia to find jobs, but many do not return as they prefer to not live in Armenia again. It is quite sad, but hopefully things will pick up in the future.

We cannot leave without a picture of the Kyiv temple, and how it looks in January. Our winter has been quite mild, with a little snow and cold. We do not mind it at all. We have been a lot warmer than the temperatures back home.

We need to go to Bulgaria and the Baltics in the next couple of months. We look forward to the adventures. It is hard to believe that we are nearly half way through our mission.

Bye for now.

Tom and Shauna

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter In Kyiv

This is a view of our apartment (on the left) just across the playground. They use the playgound as much in the winter as they did during the summer. We had a couple inches of snow, but it warmed up enough that it is all melted. Some of the grass is still green as the snow melted. Another view of the building construction in the middle of our apartment complex. Almost all of the apartments in view are not yet occupied, so we expect the foot traffic to really grow as they build out the apartments. The new construction will be a health and fitness center with swimming pool. There was little construction during the summer, and we thought it was the slow economy. Since the weather turned colder, there is apartment construction work going on everwhere. I count 14 new buildings goin up from where I took the photo. So the economy must be picking up.
We went to the temple Saturday morning. This picture shows an early morning picture of the temple with a new dusting of snow. The nativity scene is on the right. The temperature has hovered around 32 degrees the last couple of weeks, and all the snow melted by noon today.
Time to get some work done.
Tom and Shauna

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year

We are still celebrating the end of the Christmas season, and the beginning of the New Year. We were surprised at all the Christmas trees, both artificial and real, that were everywhere. The Ukrainians are more festive and really celebrate the new year coming around. It was fun to experience it. These are some carolers from a local church that came by our apartment and sang. They sure had beautiful voices. It was the first time that anyone that we did not know knocked on our door. Kind of surprising.

Shauna's Christmas plant started to bloom and was in full force during the Orthodox Christmas (7 Janaury). Not sure how it knew what country it was in but it really produced.

The day after Christmas, the Stake held a children's party. It was in commemoration of Christmas, but was a cross between our holloween and Christmas. All the kids came dressed up in costumes, with a lot of animals represented. They portrayed a typical Christmas story that involved good guys and bad guys, with the good guys winning over the bad guys. They really had a lot of fun, and it was totally different than anything we had expereienced. We look forward to getting an English version of the storyline and plot.

Now we have to go back to work.

Tom and Shauna