Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Life in Dordrecht

This is the living room of our apartment.  There is a large screen TV in the upper right hand corner - not standard issue for missionaries, but allowed for Senior Couples because they encourage us to stay abreast of the happenings in the city and country where we reside.  We find it helpful to listen to the Dutch language as often as we can - I'm still not understanding much.  It isn't easy for this old brain to ingest so much new data.

There is an old organ that actually works but is not a  valuable asset to our home.  I've played it a few times, but it isn't pulling me to it on a regular basis.  If President de Jonge follows through on his intention to hold "Musical Events" in Rotterdam on a quarterly basis, I will need to start bringing some of my piano solo repertoire up to performance standard.  Somehow the word has spread that I am a concert pianist!  I have no idea how that rumor got started, but President de Jonge wants to pair me with the Grudmunds, who are concert violinists living in Rotterdam (Brother Grudmund directs the Orchestra at Temple Square).  I think I'm out of my league....

This is the kitchen - it is roomy and contains a double door pantry for storage along the left hand wall.  This is the first time I have lived in a place that has a pantry.  (Melanie insists it is a necessity.)   I'm beginning to understand why.

Our bedroom has a king-sized bed.  We're feeling very spoiled.  We've never had anything larger than a queen before.

This is our office room with 2 large desks and lots of storage.  This apartment contains the furniture that was in the former mission office, so there are multiple desks and cabinets.  We have plenty of room to spread out.  Too bad we're so technology illiterate!  The Andersons say anyone over 30 is a technology 'immigrant'.  That certainly describes us.

This is our dining area.  When we have company there is room for six chairs around the table.
We haven't invited guests yet, but we're working up to it.

This is the spare bedroom.  There is another one next to it.  The hint here is that we have plenty of room for visitors.  The down-side is that we'll only be here until the end of April, so the opportunity to experience these accomodations will be short-lived.  I hope the apartment up in Amsterdam is equally roomy.

The bathroom set-up in this country is interesting.  The toilet is never in the same room as the shower/tub facilities.  In our apartment there is no bathtub (much to Elder Beckstrand's disappointment) so we shower instead.  In the right hand corner, out of view of the camera, is our washing machine.  The dryer is in the other spare bedroom.  The toilet, or WC  (Water Closet, pronounced Vay Say in Dutch) is in a separate room.  That makes it nice when one person wants to shower and the other needs the WC for an extended period of time.......which is often the case in our experience.
We're very comfortable here, and were feeling quite content until we went up to Rotterdam to visit the Andersons and Elder Beckstrand saw their spacious bathtub.  Oh, that evil demon ENVY!  Thou Shalt Not Covet, Elder Beckstrand.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The beautiful architecture here in Europe is like nowhere else.  They really love their war heroes.  The Battle of Waterloo was fought not far from Brussels.  I hope we get over there before we go back to Utah.

What a gorgeous sight.  I'm loving every minute!!

This is an interesting little guy.  His title is "Mannequin Pis".
Yes, he is really doing what it looks like he's doing.  And no, he isn't usually dressed.  Sister Tibbitts said this is the first time she's come to this statue that it has had clothes on it.  Someone must have thought it looked cold.

A close-up view.  The story goes that this little boy got lost.   His father was an important government official and sent out everyone in the city to look for him.  He promised that when they found the boy a statue would be created of him in  whatever activity he was found.  I guess he was a man of his word!

Here we are enjoying the most delicious Belgium treat we tasted.  The Belgium waffles are delicious!  They have a crispy sweet crust, and they top them with strawberries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream (or whatever else you like).  Mmmmmm.  These were to die for.

Remember that name.  We want to find more of these!

This was a beautiful church just across from the Grand Place.  It looks like it is about to tip over - (Brussel's version of the leaning tower of Piza) but it is only the photographer.  She is definitely tipsy after that Belgian Waffle!

Our final evening in Brussels.  This is a pretty arch outside our apartment building.  Tomorrow we head north to The Netherlands.  Our destination will be Dordrecht, a city just south of Rotterdam.

We've arrived in The Netherlands.  Our apartment building is directly behind Elder Beckstrand.  We are going to be here for several months and then we will probably be sent up to Amsterdam for the remainder of our mission.  The Young Adult Center in Rotterdam has a Senior couple (The Andersons) who will be teaching us the ropes so we will be ready to take over the Amsterdam JoVo Center when the Senior Couple there (the Pankratzs) go home in April.   In Dutch the words for Young Adults is Jonge Volwassen, which is shortened to JoVo -( we pronounce it Yo-Fo.)

There was a severe winter storm the weekend we arrived.  It was more snow than this country had seen in decades - probably 40 years.  The trains and buses stopped running, and many airports closed.  Heathrow was shut down for several days.  Some of the missionaries who were scheduled to return home on Saturday didn't actually get a plane out of The Netherlands until the following Wednesday.  Ireland and England were especially hard-hit, but Germany, France, and about every western european country was effected.  It wasn't anything like the big winter storms we have in Utah, but they don't have the equipment here to handle a lot of snow.   I wasn't thrilled that they saved their really awful weather for our arrival!  The branch here didn't hold any meetings on Sunday - no one could travel.  It is especially hard for those who depend on their bicycles for transportation to get around.  None of the sidewalks or streets are cleared.  It packs and gets very slick.

This is the church in Dordrecht.  It is actually in an old historic home in the center of town.  It is a lovely building, but the problem is that the city won't allow the church to make any improvements on the building because it is an historic site.  The church is apparently looking for another place where they can hold their meetings - they want the authority to make changes or renovations as needed.  Dordrecht Branch is the only branch in the Stake.  The rest of the units are wards.

We met the other missionaries in our district on Tuesday, Dec. 21st, when we had district meeting.  I volunteered to bring the ingredients to make sandwiches, and after our meeting we enjoyed lunch together.  The missionaries are fun and full of enthusiasm.  After we finished here we took the sisters to keep an appointment with an investigator, then we all went to Utrecht for dinner and a program in the Utrecht Ward.  We didn't return home until around 11:00 pm - a little past our curfew, but a busy and productive day.
This a a view of Brussels outside of our apartment window.  There are buildings of this size and density in every direction.

There was a lovely garden just below our window.  It was fun to just stand and enjoy the beautiful view.

On Sunday we went to Antwerpen to church.  Following the block schedule there was a baptism held for two African converts (Richard and Charles).  This is Richard standing with the sister missionaries who taught him.  They had these authentic Aftrican dresses made in honor of his baptism

On Monday, December 13th, we went with some other elders to the Grand Place in downtown Brussels.  This reminded me of the Grand Plaza we saw in Madrid.  Everything is built around a large square.  Since this is the center of the city, the buildings here are some of the oldest in the area.  They would date back hundreds of years.

We went into this indoor shopping area just to browse.

Belgium is famous for its chocolate.  This store was a good example of the hype and attention they give their chocolate creations.  These missionaries were with us on their P-Day because they were leaving Belgium.

Everything is just so majestic and regal.

This building is a very expensive hotel now.

A church from the side view.

I thought the steeple was especially pretty.

We enjoyed the nativity that had been set up in the square for the month of December.  The people in the scene were all life-size, and quite realistic.

Monday, December 20, 2010

  1. After a VERY long plane ride we arrived in Brussels, Belgium on Saturday, December 11, 2010.  That big smile is because Elder Beckstrand was able to get off of the plane!  President and Sister Brubaker were there to meet us and took us immediately to the mission office.  After going over some legalities we were invited to join a group of missionaries going to Brugge for a P-Day activity.  We're never too tired to enjoy this new country.  Who knows how long we'll be able to stay here?

There was room for 9 in the mission van.  Adding the Beckstrands raised the number to 11, but two very charitable missionaries agreed to sit on cushions in the very back to make room for us.  The building in the background is a large church in downtown.  The city of Brugge is one of the oldest cities in Belgium.  It literally became a ghost town when the ocean inlet that was used as a seaport silted over and couldn't be navigated any longer.  Most of the buildings were built in the 1300's, and have been carefully restored to maintain their original appearance.  Very beautiful!

We're standing in the city square and just thrilled to be here.

There is a Christmas Fair set up in the square for shopping and tourist activities.  We enjoyed real Belgium hot chocolate (their chocolate is world famous) and olie bolin from the little stalls around the square.

In an old 1200's church we say a beautiful statue of Mary and the Christ Child sculpted by Michaelangelo.  It is the only known statue by that artist outside of Italy. 

In conjunction with the Christmas Fair there was a skating rinkset up in the middle of the square for visitors to enjoy.  It was fun watching people of all ages enjoying the ice.  They looked like it was second nature to them.  It probably was.

Aren't these buildings gorgeous?  I was gawking at everything, and couldn't believe we were really here to stay for 2 years.  (Well, close to here anyway.  We're being sent to Dordrecht in The Netherlands, next week.  We want to see as much of Belgium as possible while we're here.)

These are all the missionaries that were with us.  The Senior Couple on the left are the Tibbitts from Provo, Utah.  They were super fun and the office missionaries were exceptional young men.  The sister fourth from the left, Sister Fritz, was going home on December 17th and wanted to see Brugge before she left the country.  After we had seen this quaint little city we returned to Brussels, ate dinner with President and Sister Brubaker, and finally went to bed around 11:00 pm.  (It would have been 3:00 pm in Utah.)  We had been up for 33 hours without sleep, but by then we were in too much of a daze to know we were tired!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's happened!  The visas miraculously arrived and we're going into the MTC as scheduled on November 29th.  We couldn't be happier!  For the first time in memory we had all of our family home for Thanksgiving except for Cami's husband who had to work.  We're now 30 in number, which is a houseful.  We had great food and great fun spending the day together.

                                           Cherie and Cami share a rare moment of quiet.

Lots of cute grandchildren beginning with Tyler and Olivia

Anna and Mylee

Megan and Candice

We were hoping to have everyone back on Sunday for our Sacrament Meeting, but a severe winter storm made it hard for many family members to join us.  We were grateful to have those who traveled arrive safely.  After our meeting we enjoyed 'brunch' together and then in the afternoon President McQuire set us apart as missionaries.  We can now officially wear the badge!  What a privilege!
We arrived at the MTC on Monday morning, November 29th.  Some very nice elders helped us get our luggage out of the car and into our room.  From there we had a lot of 'procedures' to go through.

These are some happy missionaries!  We've looked forward to this date forever and it has finally arrived!  This is the easy part, however.  Now the work really begins.  Classes, classes, classes.

This is our language tutor, Hillary Eckstrom.  She's a darling!
She hasn't let me get discouraged, even though I'm pretty pathetic at Dutch.

There are Christmas lights on the trees in the walkways, and the atmosphere is so beautiful that you feel like you walk about 2 feet off the ground.  We really enjoyed the time we spent here, even though it wasn't long.

Goodbye MTC - We're pumped and ready to go!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Called to Serve

 It's here!  Our mission call arrived while we were on our Church History trip in mid-July, 2010.  We called Tim as we were traveling back to Utah and asked if it had come.  He told us no.  Really... he lied to us!  When we got home we checked the church missionary site and it had been mailed on July 9th.  It was now July 17th.  It shouldn't have taken more than a week to get to Bountiful.  We were baffled until Sunday night when Cherie, Traci, Jared, and Tim (with their spouses and families) came up the basement stairs carrying an envelope from the missionary department.  Tim had gotten it on Wednesday of that week and hid it from us so that everyone could be there when we opened it. 
We were so surprised!!  The family were all able to be with us to hear the exciting news, either in person or through skype!   We were called to go to the Belgium/Netherlands Mission, and would report at the MTC on November 29th.  I told Linford that he was the most spoiled missionary in the church!  He put The Netherlands as his first choice on our application, and he got his wish.  (I was okay with that).  We will be serving in the Young Adult Centers and also in the Institute program.  What a thrill! 
We gave 5 1/2 months to wait--it seems like and eternity.  During that time, however, we have to send for our FBI clearance and apply for our visas, which takes several months.  We also need to study DUTCH.  I hope these old brain cells still work!
   We have been assigned a tutor from the MTC who is really helping us with the language.  Linford is quickly getting his Dutch back from his first mission, and I am trying hard to learn as much as I can.  It's not easy!   We'll probably have to start over when we arrive in the country.  Wish us luck!