Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dinner with the Dances

Last evening, Sister Humphrey and I were invited to go out to dinner with President and Sister Dance. They took us into Olde Towne, to a very old restaurant in a 14th Century German wine cellar--that's what it was built and used for. The waiters were dressed like serfs. The lighting was by candle, which made for nice ambience, but difficult to read the menu. The menu was interesting itself, written in English and other languages, with comments about various items that had been the favorite of this King or Monarch, or such. They offered such things as fawn, pigeon (we've wondered why they haven't found a use for the hundreds of pigeons in Riga), rabbit and deer. I ordered baked vegetables which were very tasty.

The waiter brought a burlap-wrapped bundle for each of us after we had ordered. They were tied with a piece of burlap and contained two delicious biscuits.

The tables, benches and chairs were made of large, old planks of wood. The walls were 3' deep (you could see through openings). We had to walk down to the restaurant from the street level with, again, only candlelight. Fortunately, there was a railing on one side. The stairs were deep and high and curved down to the cellar.

We had a really enjoyable visit with the Dances. One of the perks of being the office missionaries.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don's Donulis

A few weeks ago, as we walked to Church, we noticed a new business going in across the street. It had a sign "Don's Donulis" and the "o's" in both words were donuts. That was our first clue that a donut shop was going to open (we're really sharp that way). We watched with interest as they painted inside and brought bright pink chairs and tables in. Finally it opened.

On the way to zone conference, Sister Gubler, Sister Humphrey and I stopped in and, to my delight, they offer Berliners (in Walla Walla we called them Bismarcks). In case you aren't familiar with Bismarcks they are raised donuts without the holes and filled with jams or cream or pudding, etc. Anyway, my husband introduced them to me many years ago and they are very tasty. And these tasted more like American pastries than anything I've tasted here. And after 11 months of Latvian fare, American anything is a treat.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Latvian cranberries

We found a package of cranberries at the store on Friday. Not Ocean Spray, but Latvian. They come in a different package and amount than Ocean Spray, so I had to guess how much water and sugar to add. Turns out I added a little too much water, but just the right amount of sugar.

So, today I fixed some dressing and baked it under chicken breasts and, with the cranberries, had a bit of a taste of Thanksgiving dinner.

We've been invited for Thanksgiving dinner to the home of a young woman who works for the U.S. Embassy. There will be a good group of people and I'm so looking forward to turkey and all the trimmings. Mischa (the Embassy employee) has already bought the turkey--she has access to such things through her work. Turkeys are not common in Latvia and, if you find one, they are very expensive.

I will bake rolls and make cranberries. Mischa also has a can of pumpkin from America so will make pumpkin pie. My mouth is watering.

Three baptisms in one day!

Yesterday we had the wonderful opportunity to witness the baptism by immersion of 3 choice people. The first is a 28 year old mother of 4 children. The 2nd was her oldest child, a 9 year old son, and the 3rd was a man in his 50s, whose daughter has been a faithful member of the Church for 5 or more years.

The woman and her children have been attending Church for about 4 years but circumstances in her life prevented her from being baptized sooner. She was radiant as she came up out of the water. It was obvious, too, that her young son felt the Spirit was he was baptized.

The 50 year old man is a miracle. His 24 year old daughter was baptized 5 or so years ago and has been very actively involved, teaching Sunday School, and doing about anything else needed in the Imanta Branch. Her parents were divorced and her mother has since passed away. Her father was an alcoholic with a job nor a place to live. From time to time he would come to Zane's apartment and "crash" for a few days. After years of loving him and helping him, he was able to overcome his addictions and began attending Church. She was so filled with joy yesterday to witness the baptism of her father. Love is the greatest power.

Once again, as happens each time I witness a baptism, the Holy Ghost bore sweet and powerful testimony to me that this is the work of the Lord and there is nothing that will bless the lives of people more than knowing our Savior Jesus Christ and our relationship to Him.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I may just receive the Pulitzer Prize after all

After writing the article for the Church News, Sister Jegina (the Director of Public Affairs for the Church in Latvia) asked me to write an article for the Liahona about the Relief Society women's conference that was held in Liepaja 3 weeks ago. I did attend it but didn't know I would be asked to write about it, so hadn't taken notes or pictures--and it was 3 weeks ago!

I searched my memory and came up with a rough draft and sent it off to Sister Jegina. We'll see what comes of it.

My first trip into Lithuania

Elder and Sister Gubler had friends from Cedar City UT (their hometown) visiting last weekend and they invited Sister Humphrey and me to go along with them on Saturday to Lithuania to see the Hill of Crosses. Lithuania is a very Catholic country and the people erected this hill full of hundreds of crosses to declare to the Russian and German invaders that they are Christian. The Russians bulldozed it at least once during their occupation and the people re-built it. I admire their determination to declare their Christianity. There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crosses of all kinds, and a couple of statues of Christ. The crosses and statues mostly portray him on the Cross, although one did not. There is also a larger than life statue of the Virgin Mary. Interestingly there is Star of David also, commemorating the genocide of the Jews by the Germans.
After spending a little time at the Hill of Crosses, we drove into Siauliai (pronounced Shall-lay, kind of), to a very modern mall. Sister Humphrey found a restroom that had very blue lighting (we'd seen the same thing in Estonia). We wonder if it's to hide the dirt?
We all had lunch in a restaurant and our table looked out on an ice rink. There was a hockey game going first, and later just free skating.
The food was probably the best I've had since my arrival 11 months ago. It was a nice piece of chicken breast with a pesto sauce, served with a carrot/cabbage salad and a very small bowl of potatoes that tasted very good, but I don't know how they were prepared. Afterwards, we went to an Italian ice place in the mall to "cleanse our palate"--at least that was the excuse. The Italian ice is very good.
And then back to Riga in time to watch the Saturday morning session of General Conference (at 7p.m. here).
It's a very good thing the Gublers were with us because neither Sister Humphrey nor I had even thought about the fact that Latvian money wouldn't be any good to us in Lithuania. Elder Gubler had thought of that and took some Lits. The friends from Cedar City (Wayne and Maria Smith) treated us all to lunch--using a credit card. So, we got along fine without Lithuanian money.
We were disappointed that we weren't stopped at the border. We had been told that you HAVE to have your passport on you to cross into Lithuania. In fact, one of our missionaries didn't and wasn't allowed into Lithuania. But, we just drove right through--so no stamps on our passports.

Add "teacher" to my responsibilities

On Tuesday afternoon, President Dance sat down in my office and asked how I would feel about teaching English class evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays through this transfer (5 weeks)--starting that evening. He said we could just go down and observe Elder Long that evening and then start on Thursday.

Sister Gubler overheard and said she and Elder Gubler would do it on Tuesdays and we could do it on Thursdays. Since we were out of fruit in the apartment and had planned to go to the store that evening, I was happy to let them do that.

Thursday evening we walked to the Church and taught 8 people. It went okay. There were 3 first-timers but the others had been there before. They are very nice and desirous of learning. We teach the highest level because they can understand English on some level. We can't teach the lower levels because we can't speak Latvian.

Anyway, the lessons are very well-planned and simply outlined. We teach 45 minutes and then have 15 minutes for a prayer and spiritual thought. The time goes very quickly. The students have assignments and do group learning--lots of opportunities for them to speak English and increase their vocabulary.