Sunday, January 24, 2010

The end is coming!

No, not the end of the world (as far as I know) but the end of my mission. I learned from my sister Karen that a couple with whom she works in the Provo Temple just received their mission call--to the Baltic Mission. They leave in March.

I had reason to question whether anyone would be coming. I learned from a couple in Ukraine that their office couple went home the first of December and they were called in to learn how to run the office. Their assignment is as a CES couple, so office wasn't what they knew to do. They still hadn't received word of an office couple coming.

The week before I learned that in another mission in Europe the office couple goes home in May, one of 2 senior sisters goes home in June and the mission president changes in July. So, I was beginning to wonder if my mission would end.

Not, that I'm in a hurry to leave, but I do want to leave at the end. Unless this couple coming with tremendous skills and/or are quick-learning, my departure date will be 11 May. Otherwise, I may leave sometime in April.

It's been a unique and, in many ways, a wonderful experience and, inasmuch as the more we learn to rely on the Lord, the more we grow, I may say that this has been the best 18 months of my life. The hardest in some ways, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

A modern-day pioneer

Evijah is a woman in her 40s who was baptized in August. She has been amazing in her devotion and commitment and her involvement in the branch from the very beginning. She began by taking advantage of Sister Gubler's "how to lead music and play the piano" lessons. Evijah was soon called to be the music coordinator in the Branch. She leads the music in sacrament meeting and oversees 3 other sisters, giving them the opportunity to also lead the music in sacrament meeting and in Relief Society. She learned how to play some of the simplified hymns to surprise her husband and her mother for Christmas. She is also the Relief Society secretary and teaches a lesson once a month.

As though that isn't enough, I learned last Sunday that she walks 2 hours to catch a bus for a ride into Riga (probably an hour's ride), stays for the 3 hour block, and then catches the bus back to Cesis and walks 2 hours to her home--which is heated by a wood stove, so the home is cold when she arrives there. And she does that with pure joy. She loves the Lord and this is what she needs to do.

I can no longer complain about this being the coldest winter in 15 years!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


This is a picture from my office window. We've had snow nearly every day for a couple of weeks. It doesn't fall heavy, like at home, so it doesn't accumulate like at home. And that's a good thing since they really don't know how to handle snow removal here.

Today was the first day it didn't snow and people were out shoveling in front of businesses--some of them. There are some places that will have snow until I leave, I suspect.

I took this on a day when most places were closed. Usually the parking lot is full. The lot would never be considered adequate in America. Way too many businesses and inadequate parking. Delivery trucks particularly have difficulty. But, I haven't heard any crashes, so I guess the drivers here no how to maneuver.

Pelmeni--a Latvian staple

Well, I've heard of Pelmeni ever since I arrived here and what I heard didn't make me excited to ever try eating it. But then we started hearing from the Americans who live here that it's really good. So, we bought a package of it in the freezer section and tried it.

It turns out it's just filled pasta, somewhat like ravioli without the sauce. You can boil them or fry them. We opted to boil ours. They aren't half bad. And, as one of the young elders said, if you put sour cream and Texicana on anything, it tastes good. That's how we ate them and they did taste good.

Christmas dinner with Latvian and Russian friends

Elder & Sister Carson, the CES couple, invited us and some Latvian and Russian friends to dinner at their apartment. Sister Carson fixed chicken cordon bleu and we took a carrot cake (becoming our favorite dessert to share).

In the middle picture is Zane (Latvian for Jane) and her Dad. Zane joined the Church 5-6 years ago and is a great strength to the Branch. Her Dad was baptized in August, after having overcome alcoholism and making dramatic changes in his life. Zane's mother is deceased. Seeing her father baptized was a very joyful day for her.
In the background are Elder and Sister Carson, with Sister Humphrey in the middle.

On the right is Dmitry (Dimi) and on the left is Aleksanders (Sasha), two Russian single adults. Dimi has been a member of the Church for a few years and is a stalwart of the branch. Sasha is a returned missionary.
The young couple on the couch are Janis and Lina. He is Latvian and she is Lithuanian. All of these people speak at least Latvian and Russian. I'm in awe of their linguistic abilities.
Elder and Sister Jacques are next to Zane and her Dad. They are from Rexburg ID and have been serving here since September. They are a delightful couple and doing a great work here. The blonde next to them is Sveta, a returned missionary. She is teaching President Dance to speak Russian. She is the Russian Branch Relief Society president and a great strength to that branch.

I don't suppose I will ever get used to being surrounded by Russian people, hearing Russian being spoken. When I was raising my children in Walla Walla, and even 2 years ago, I never would have expected to be in this place, having these experiences.

View from my bedroom window

Multiple apartment buildings are built with shared parking lots/back "yard."
We are blessed with an apartment that has cross ventilation--Sister Humphrey's bedroom looks out over the street, and mine looks out over the back. The pictures are of the two buildings that are joined but have separate entrances. The pictures probably make them look better than real life, now that I look at them. Looking out my bedroom window, I can look into the rooms across the way and, if someone is near the window, I can see them.

The picture to the far right, shows the "drive-throughs" that are common here. This one doesn't lead to a street, just to another parking lot. One just like this has been created at the bottom of our building and makes our coming and going much more pleasant--no potholes, it's lighted and, when we are going to catch the bus to the grocery store, we can wait in it's protection until our bus comes.

I took this picture because it looked neat to see the snow slipping off the roof, but just hanging there.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A new and surprising way to fix potatoes

This isn't Latvian, but it's unusual enough to share with you. My companion, Sister Humphrey, had talked for months about the potatoe candy that was her family favorite every Christmas. I love potatoes about every way I've ever had them, but I just couldn't imagine it in candy. But December came and Sister Humphrey made them. She boiled a potatoe, let it cool, mashed it up with a lot of powdered sugar, until it was of the consistency of dough and could be rolled out. She sprinkled powdered sugar on the counter, rolled the dough out, spread peanut butter on it, rolled it up (like a cinnamon roll) and cut it into candy-size pieces.

I was very surprised to find that there was absolutely no way you could discern the potatoe flavor (with all that powdered sugar and peanut butter). It actually tasted like the white chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups (minus the white chocolate). Very sweet but good.

I don't know that this is a good criteria for how good anything is, but the missionaries loved them. President Dance, on the other hand, couldn't even finish a piece--too sweet for him.