Monday, December 22, 2008

Thanksgiving "Armenia Style"

Sister & Elder Dow, Sister & Elder Dutson (office couple), Kate (Peace Corps volunteer), Sister & Elder Smith, Jim Campbell (standing - Gold's Gym project manager), and Cliff Barton (USAID).
Here we are 27 November 2008 at the Hotel Marriott Armenia. The menu wasn't traditional Thanksgiving - more like elegant gourmet - we enjoyed it all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I am finding that missionary duties often get in the way of blogging - I check all our kids' blogs every time I get a chance, but finding time to actually blog myself is rare. For the first several months we were here, our internet connection was sporadic, and now that it has improved over the last couple of months, we have been busy doing remote workshops in Gyumri (Northern Armenia) and T'bilisi Georgia. Next week we do a 3 day career workshop in the village of Ashtarak - about 40 minutes from here. We were invited by our Mission President and his wife to a 7:00 PM Thanksgiving dinner at the Marriott Hotel Restaurant in Republic Square here in Yerevan. I am trying to post some pictures Sister Dunn took as we were arriving that night, but my computer is not cooperating. I'll try again when I get time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The above 3 pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago when we attended some closings at village water projects which were funded by the Church and are now completed. We accompanied the Fluckigers from Idaho, fellow humanitarian missionaries - they did all the work with these projects - and invited us thinking we would be replacing them - but this week we received word that a couple from Blackfoot, ID are coming - happy news! This is of most of the senior missionaries in the village of Odzoon, one of the countless Armenian monastaries in the background. We all listened to the local priest do his chant inside the 4th century structure and then upon his invitation we sang "I am a Child of God" with some harmony. We were en route to our Senior conference that didn't really ever happen due to the Russian/Georgian conflict that same weekend. Our Mission President had to evacuate all the missionaries out of Georgia later that same day. In fact he even saw a couple of planes in flames on his way to T'blisi. This kind of news is not good for recruiting senior missionaries to Europe East Area! Things are still up in the air as to when the Georgia missionaries will be permitted to return - right now they are tagging around with the Armenia elders until they get word to go back. One of the senior couples that was up there has been sent to Prague to process missionaries from Russia coming there every 90 days to renew their visas. We will also be receiving missionaries from Russia renewing visas. We were told that 8 will come every week for the next year - all this air fare must be costing the Church tons of money. Russian law actually states that all foreigners have to return to their country of origin every 90 days and remain there for 90 days before returning to Russia, but as of now the law is not being fully enforced. It is easy to see why the Church now only calls missionaries to serve in Russia from Eastern Europe. All is well here in Armenia.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Random shots

Flowers, apricots, and sunshine on our coffeetable.
We recntly found this park near our office. We walk through here on our way to and from the bus stop.
We took this while climbing up the cascade the other night on our way home from an evening workshop. There are many gardens and fountains included in the cascade and it's especially beautiful at night with the lighting. It's a work in progress and will be breath-taking when complete. Actually much of Yerevan is a work in progress - there is building construction everywhere. I'd love to come back in 10 years and see what it has become.

More from Trip to Ani

Typical farming equipment in this part of the world.
I asked Dad to get nearer to this russian thistle so I could include it in a picture of him - he took me seriously - ouch!
Some lovely desert color.

Trip to Ani

Here we are at Ani - well, actually Ani is now in Turkey, so we are across the ravine from the actual city ruins, since the border is closed. Ani was once the capital of Armenia, back in the 8th century, I think. We took our P day and went on this day trip with a tour group from Yerevan. Three other Sr. Missionary couples also went.
On the way back from Ani, we stopped at this Church that was built in the 4th century. There are caves under the building that were used in times of attack. We dropped down into one which was a nice break from the heat.
The tour package said it included a meal. You never know what that might mean, and in this case it was a picnic by the side of the road. The vans just pulled over - some women spread a couple of tablecloths on the ground, sat down and began cutting up tomatoes. They handed a some bread to each person and offered cold soda - that was it. Cows had recently been in the area, so we had to watch where we stepped - very rustic - but somehow charming - like stepping back in time. We had a great day complete with a touch of sunburn.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


This is our Malatia Branch meetinghouse. The building also houses a small market on one end and a taxi service on the other. It's about a 30 minute bus ride for us from our apartment. We often see pony cart rides being offered around the central square in Malatia.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mother of Armenia

On our morning walk we often go through the Mother of Armenia Park not too far down the hill from us. The statue is very large - you can see it from all over the city of Yerevan. She is flanked by a missle on one side and a tank on the other. The view of the city below is taken from the base of the statue. We like to walk there, because it gets us out of traffic and the walkways are nice and broad. We don't see many people out for exercise except here in the park. The Mother of Armenia is where a Dedicatory Prayer for the country is said every June 24th - she is actually a holdover from when idols were worshiped here, but now she somehow blends in with the state Christian religion. Doesn't look like a force to reckon with, with her sword and shield?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

window view

The view out our sunroom window. I don't know if you can see the barbed wire along the top of the wall. Can you believe it - We are next door to a Russian military installation! It's a far cry from East Dover.

Yerevan Shenka

Can you see Dad? This is our apartment complex - our building is actually behind this one.

Bye Bye McOmbers!

Our Branch held a going away party for the McOmber family who have been here in Yerevan for 3 years. He works for the US Embassy as a PA. Our Malatia Branch is small - and now that the McOmbers have left, even smaller. We love the members - they are all so kind to us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yerevan beauties

Two of these are of the Lighted Fountain Music show at Republic Square last Friday evening. They have a program every weekend night during the summer months - very impressive! We walk by these flowers during our morning walk in the park.


Felix and George are 2 young men from T'bilisi, Georgia who stayed with us at our apartment the night before and the night after the YSA Conference in Jermuk 2 weeks ago. Felix is about to serve his required 2 years in the military and then wants to serve a mission and become a police officer. George and his mother are moving to Moscow this week. Both Felix and George are the only members of the Church in their families and have been members less than 2 years. They both speak Georgian, Russian, and English very well. Great guys! One picture is of the dining room at the hotel we stayed in at Jermuk and the other picture is of the outside of the hotel.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Dad and I strolled through a nearby "Shuka" a couple of Saturdays ago. I wouldn't recommend the milk - we've only found one brand we can tolerate - and even it isn't good straight. The woman is making lavash - she will lay it on the padded board in front of her and then slap it onto the side wall of the round oven to her left. It cooks fast and Armenians love their lavash which they wrap around things like we do with tortillas. Dad bought me this bouquet for mother's day and it lasted very well, in fact we just tossed it today. Thunderstorms here this morning, but now the sun is peaking through.

This sweet sister insisted on cooking dinner for all of us missionaries at the office building the other day. The meal was typical Armenian - lots of fresh herbs, lavash, eggplant, tomatoes & cucumbers, and barbequed meat - all very tasty. The young elders are L to R: Shipp, Hargraves, Meacham, Orrock, & Packer (Boyd K. Packer's grandson) - that's Elder Doty on the far right - he and his wife are the Seminary & Institute sr. couple.

An evening view out our living room window . . .

Monday, May 5, 2008

cafe lunch

On Friday, Dad and I attended a job fair at the Marriott. We had a plan to meet our translator, Kristina, at the fair at 13:00, and we were hurrying so we hadn't had time to eat, so we grabbed a quick lunch at the cafe in front of the hotel.


For FHE tonight we met the other 4 Senior missionary couples at the Afrikin Flat Restaurant in Yerevan. After a very good Armenian dinner some of us went over to Republic Square to see the fountain lit up, but it wasn't running. I did snap this picture of one of the 4 main buildings surrounding the square, which is touted as the most beautiful public square built in the 20th century.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Dad and I got caught in the rain tonight, walking from market to market on our way home, and of course we'd left the umbrella at the office (the top picture is of the Center Chapel / CES Building and our office is one of those basement windows, the other one is inside the office). It takes us about 4 or 5 markets to get everything on our grocery list, but it's fun and the merchants are very friendly and helpful. When Dad reaches into his pocket for change and holds out the palm of his hand to see what he's got, they often reach right into his palm and pick out what they need - it happens frequently in various markets. Bread dries out completely after one day, so we have to buy that every day; fortunately it is one thing that is pretty cheap. Most of the fresh produce is displayed outside the store and you pay a clerk right there on the sidewalk after he or she weighs it up.

We are trying to learn the language - not even a glimmer of a hope we'll ever be fluent, but enough to survive - but whenever either one of us uses a word or phrase in public, EVERYONE turns to look at us. I said "kargahnell" when we wanted to get off the marshrutny the other day and everyone whipped around to see who said that. When we got to the office I asked one of our Armenian friends what I should have said, and he assured me I'd said it right - he smiled and said my american accent was what they were reacting to - so I guess we don't exactly blend in. The marshrutnys are often crowded with not enough seats for everyone, but usually a man will offer me a seat and he and Dad stand crouched over since a marshrutny is just a 15 passenger van - certainly not big enough for a 6 ft man to stand up in - anyway, Dad hangs on and keeps his balance as best he can as we weave in and out of heavy traffic on often bumpy narrow streets. And the driver keeps right on stopping to let more people climb aboard. I'm not kidding, sometimes I actually laugh outloud it's so ridiculously packed with people. They must break world records. It is such a blessed relief whenever anyone gets off and we all adjust to more space, maybe someplace to put your left foot, or being able to sit with your tush completely on the seat instead of just halfway.

For the second time since our arrival, we about got shaken out of our bed the night before last with their 21-gun salute, which I guess is their custom to mark any major event or holiday. The first time it happened, at the inauguration of the new president, I seriously gained a measure of insight into what it must feel like to be bombed! Our old soviet-era apartment building shook with every blast! They do it late at night and it sure gets everyone's attention.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Dad's had a nasty cold, so we've stayed in our apartment for 2 days, but he's some better this morning, so it will be nice to get out into the sunshine today. We are attending a job fair at the Marriott this afternoon. It's sponsored by the American University of Armenia and the American Embassy as well as others. This picture shows the Marriott in the distance - it is a newly rennovated building, part of the Republic Square, formerly Lenin Square. We hear much of Maine is under water with spring flooding and also that Bill and Corinne Roberts are moving to Bowdoinham, ME where he is taking a job as lead draftsman. Have a great day, everyone! We love all of you and your emails and blogs!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Albert & Heidi in front of a government building in Sophia, Bulgaria.
April 23rd 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

President Pieper said that missionaries serving in Europe East are more deeply touched than those who serve in the rest of Europe. He thinks it's because this area has remained in darkness so long.

Elder Pieper said they took a group of 50 people, journalists, scholars and government people to the open house of the Helsinki temple. Afterward an atheist conducted an interview on the media. He said that he had had an experience that he had never had anything like it before. He had visited the Mormon temple. He said the churches in Russia were dark. People came into them, knelt and there was no light. What he saw in the Mormon temple was light for a future, not only for the individual but for families including ancestors. He said that there is hope that a soul, even mine, and he pointed to himself, can receive salvation. Since his interview the media in Russia have changed.

The ancestors of the Russians are working on their posterity. There were 15 family history centers in Eastern Europe a year ago. Now there are 350. People are clamoring for them. They are having dreams, like a sister who said that her sister appeared in a dream and asked her to do her temple work. Twenty five million Russians died in World War II.

Elder Pieper and his wife befriended a couple a couple years ago. The man is a Colonel and used to aim guns at U.S. planes that came close. One day Elder Pieper felt inspired to invite this man to go with him to a youth conference. After the conference this Colonel said, "Now I have hope for the future of Russia." Eventually his wife called the Piepers to say she thought her husband was ready to listen to the missionaries. When he said he wanted to be baptized a young missionary looked him in the eye and said you can't. This tough old Colonel wanted to know why. The young elder said, "Because you are not ready." This Colonel was not used to having someone in authority talk to him that way and he was upset at the young missionary. However, the old Colonel spent the night in prayer. After that night in prayer he said the elder was right. He wasn't ready. He was baptized and this spring he said he wanted to go to general conference. He attended the Piepers and Elder Pieper sealed him and his wife in the Salt Lake temple and on April 3rd he and his wife had baptisms performed in behalf of their mothers, both of whom had died on an April 3rd.

The Europe East Area covers 11 time zones and extends from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. It's the biggest Area in the church. Elder Pieper has to cover only 9 time zones. He and his family have lived here 10 years now. He said the people in this Area have no hope except in the Church. Everything they have ever hoped for has never come to fruition. Those friends that were baptized wish they had known the gospel earlier. She wishes she would have had 8 children. The people in Eastern Europe love to see our families' pictures. They need to see that fathers are authorities in their homes, because in East Europe women traditionally run the house.

The newly sustained Seventy from the Ukraine is a wonderful man, Elder Pieper said. He was demoted twice by his company, because they didn't want someone with strange beliefs in a high position. Picketing and demonstrations formed outside their Branch meeting place.

Those are some of the things Elder Pieper taught us 22 senior couples as we sat at our tables in a Best Western City Hotel in Sophia, Bulgaria.

We've visited 4 of these Orthodox Churches, including the Armenian Apostolic churches now and they are really dark. They have no pews. People buy candles and light them. They really are like dungeons and the murals are ancient and dim. I'll see what we have for photos and attach one.