Monday, 30 March 2009

Sightseeing in Moscow with Scott & Kristine

Scott & Kristine in Red Square

We have been blessed to be able to share Moscow and the Russian culture with six of our seven children and their spouses. Scott & Kristine arrived Wednesday, March 20, via their visit in Switzerland. This was a day later than planned, since they missed their flight out of Zurich due to an accident in the tunnel that made them take a detour. By taking a sleeper train to Austria, they were able to fly from Vienna to Moscow and arrive a day later than originally planned. They still were able to see several of our favorite places in Moscow, the circus, and take a day trip to Sergiev Posad.

Scott & Kristine arrived in Moscow Wednesday afternoon (March 25). We never tire seeing Red Square especially at night when the lights give it an almost Disney Land look, so we took them there that first evening to see this famous icon of Russia. Jet lag didn't seem to be bothering them, and we went almost nonstop from then on.

St. Basil Cathedral in Red Square (Sam & Narene)

We did lots of walking. Here are the "twins"
(as Kristine referred to Scott and his dad),
leading the way with Kristine and I close behind.
By the way, Sam is on the left.

Kristine with Novodevichy Convent and the
Moscow River in the background.

The Cathedral of Smolensk at Novodevichy Convent was built in 1524, and most of the other buildings were added in the late 17th century by Peter the Great's half sister, Regent Sophia. Peter had Sophia confined here for the rest of her life when he reclaimed his throne in 1689. After his death, Peter's first wife came to Novodevichy Convent from the convent in Suzdal where she had been confined by Peter the Great who did not like her. I read that since the convent had such famous nuns, it was very wealthy due to the donations of the Tsars and their families.

The Cathedral of the Virgin of Smolensk
(Kristine, Narene, and Sam)

Many famous Russians are buried in Novodevichy Cemetery. Some were political or military leaders from the Soviet era. Others were known for their profession or arts. Most have prestigious headstones, often with a statue to memorialize the buried person.

Scott & Kristine by one of the statues in
Novodevichy Cemetery.

Nikita Khrushchev, former Russian premier.

Kristine in front of Yeltsin's grave.
His monument apparently represents the
red, blue, and white Russian flag.

The first time we came to Novodevichy, there was only a covered mound where Yeltsin is buried, the next time we came it was covered with a tent, and on our third visit we saw it with the monument as it is now.

A military leader with his many medals.
On national holidays, the Russian war veterans like
to wear their medals, and they seem to have many.

All along the walls of the cemetery are small cubicles containing the ashes of those who were cremated, as seen in the photograph above. Many of these have pictures of the deceased. Some are children who died during World War II.

Flowers are seen on some of the monuments.

After our visit to Novodevichy, we went to Victory Park on Poklonnaya Gora, which is the hill where Napoleon waited for his troops to surround Moscow in 1812; but instead they were defeated. In 1834 an arch was built to commemorate the Russian victory over France, but it was moved to the present site in 1968.

Grand Triumphal Arch
Commemorating Napoleon's defeat in 1812.

Victory Park
150-meter high column topped with a statue of
Nike, the Goddess of Victory.

Victory Park was finished in time for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War, which is what the Russians call World War II. Leading up to the tall column and the museum behind it are five terraces that symbolize the five years of the war (1941-1945); and there are 1,418 fountains (one for every day of the conflict). Of course, the fountains are turned off until warm weather arrives. We have been to the museum twice before, and it has impressive dioramas of the significant battles of the war; but on Thursdays it is closed, so we only saw the monuments outside on this visit with Scott & Kristine. One monument is in somber memory of the holocaust victims.

A closer look at the tall column.

Escalator at the Park Pobedy metro station,
reported to be the deepest in the world
(90 meters down).
The name means Victory Park in English.
(Scott is impressed with how deep it is.)

Scott & Kristine were also impressed with how
long the lines are at a McDonald's in Moscow.

Russian officers in Red Square

Leaving McDonald's, we went once again to Red Square. It was temporarily roped off while these officers were practicing maneuvers on horseback. A short while later, we were able to enter at a different entrance. We continued walking going across one of the several bridges across the Moscow River and saw the huge Peter the Great statue in the river.

Moscow River and the Kremlin wall

The Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer seen across
the Moscow River at the left.

Sam and I have been inside the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer and wanted to show it to Scott & Kristine, but it was closed.

Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer,
also known as Cathedral of Christ and Savior,
is the largest church in Russia. It holds
10,000 worshipers.

This is not the original building, which was completed in 1883 to celebrate the 1812 victory over Napoleon. Stalin had it destroyed in 1831 and planned to build a huge Palace of the Soviets on the land, but it was thought the land was too boggy. In the years that followed, the space was used for a year-round swimming pool among other things. In 1999, it was rebuilt mostly with private funds as a replica of the original. This time it took only four years to complete as compared to the 44 years it had taken for the original building.

This is called "Adult Vices." Each figure
represents a vice adults do that harms children.
It includes stealing, drugs, greed, gluttony, etc.

Marriage Trees
On this bridge across the Moscow River,
brides and grooms lock their padlocks with their
names and wedding dates inscribed to signify
their eternal love. The "trees" are metal.

I want to have a Marriage Tree in our yard in South Dakota where Sam and I and each of our children and their spouses will have a padlock and where our grandchildren will add theirs when they get married to symbolize our eternal love for each other. Our 50th wedding anniversary will be June 5, and I hope to have this in place when our family gets together to help us celebrate.

Kristine & Scott by a Marriage Tree.

As we crossed the bridge, we saw this sunset
with one of the Seven Sisters silhouetted
in the distance.

We ended the day by going to the circus, which I will write about in another blog. The next day, Friday, we took the electrishka train to Sergiev Posad; and I will have a separate blog for those pictures, too. Saturday morning, we went to Izmaly for souvenir shopping and to the Asian Market for that experience and ended the day by going to the Armory in the Kremlin.

Izmailovo or "Izmaly" is the largest souvenir
market in Moscow.

Looking down on the rooftops of "Izmaly."

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Scott & Kristine's Visit to Moscow

This morning we said our goodbyes to Scott & Kristine at the Domodedovo airport and then took the express train back to the Moscow metro to attend the special 2:00 p.m. meeting to reorganize the Yugo Zapadnaya branch. (I will post some pictures and tell about Scott & Kristine's visit in the next blog.)

Until today, the Yugo Zapadnaya church group has been part of the Kakhovsky branch, but meeting for convenience in the Moscow West Mission office to be more easily accessible for the members living in that part of Moscow. Yugo Zapadnaya is on the red metro line, and the Kakhovsky branch is on the green line. Instead of getting off the metro at Sportivnaya, we will now go one more stop and get off at Universitet and meet in a newly remodeled building. The former president, President Karneov, has been called to be the counselor for the new branch president.

As we met today with both groups, we saw several people who work in the Service Center and Meridian building who are members of the Kakhovsky branch. It was also nice to see Nactya, our dear friend and former translator, who sat by us. After the meeting, we walked back to the metro with Elder Aiken and Elder Blodder.

Here are some photos I took out of the window of the train as we returned from the airport to Moscow, a 45-minute ride.

There are many birch trees . . .

. . . and pine trees in the countryside.

Dachas are small summer homes where people
who live in an apartment in Moscow like to go
to have a garden and get out of the city.

I don't know if this is a dacha or
a regular home, but I thought it looked picturesque.

More dachas. They often do not
have electricity or running water.

Getting closer to Moscow.
See the apartment buildings to the left.

We think the tall smoke stacks in the background
may be part of a hot water plant that
provides hot water into apartments in Moscow.
Train tracks are in the foreground.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


This morning we first went to the International Branch and then hurried to our Yugo Zapadnaya Branch after sacrament meeting. Chris & Greg Shepard have completed their mission and are flying home to Texas tomorrow morning, so we went to hear them speak and to say our goodbyes. We have shared so much with them and have such good memories of times we have been together. You always feel good when you are with the Shepards; they are not only fun to be with, but they have good values and are spiritually uplifting. We will really miss them, but will definitely stay in touch and look forward to getting together in the U.S.

Greg & Chris Shepard
(photo taken at the Christmas Mission Activity)

We were a little late getting to our branch, and Priesthood and Relief Society had already started. There were nine sisters in Relief Society this morning. I gave the lesson last week, and it was Sister Natasha's turn today. The theme of the lesson was taken from the Parable of the Ten Virgins and being prepared.

Elder Neipp and President Karneov were the speakers in our branch and gave good talks, which were translated for us by Elder Aiken and Elder Terrell. Elder Neipp has a wonderful voice, and he accompanied himself while singing "O, My Father." It is one of my favorite hymns, and he sang it beautifully. Of course, he sang it in Russian; but here are the meaningful words in English:

O my Father, thou that dwellest
In the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence
And again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation,
Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood
Was I nurtured near thy side?

For a wise and glorious purpose
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet oft times a secret something
Whispered, "You're a stranger here,"
And I felt that I had wandered
from a more exalted sphere.

I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav'ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I've a mother there.

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I've completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.

When I have said my last mortal goodbyes to family and friends, I would like this hymn to be sung at my farewell (more commonly referred to as a funeral). It is my most cherished wish that one day I will be reunited with my dear family in that high and glorious place where we will be a "forever family." I pray for this blessing every day of my life and am so grateful for my temple marriage to the good husband to whom I am sealed. Nothing is more important to me in this world than my family, and I pray that each and every one will have the desire to also want these eternal blessings.

Sooner than it seemed possible when we arrived in Russia, our mission, too, is fast approaching its completion. Our visa expires April 30, and we will be flying back to the U.S. the day before. We will first go to Salt Lake and spend a couple of days with our family members in Utah, and then hopefully Todd will have found a minivan for us to drive home to South Dakota.

I am sure there will be more tears when it's our turn to say goodbye to our dear friends here in Moscow, but I expect I will have tears of joy to be reunited with our family, too. I love them so much!

Elder Wilhite & Elder Neipp with the beautiful voice
Yugo Zapadnaya Branch
Moscow Mission

Elder Chemezov from Ukraine & Elder Knuth
Yugo Zapadnaya Branch
Moscow Mission

Yugo Zapadnaya Branch
Moscow Mission
Photo taken March 8, Women's Day.
All the ladies received flowers and candy.

In the front row of the photo above are Elder Blodder & Elder Aiken from the Moscow West Mission, who are the office missionaries. Although we are now in the Moscow Mission, Elders Blodder & Aiken attend church with us on Sundays, since we still are meeting in the Moscow West Mission office. Elder Terrell (in front of Sister Ireland) and Elder Cannon (left of Elder Ireland), APs to President Collins, also meet with us in the Moscow West Mission. Elders from the Moscow Mission pictured in the photo are Elder Chemezov (back row, extreme left) and Elder Wilhite and Elder Knuth in the back row to the left of Elder Neipp. These young Elders and the others we have known in Tver and in Moscow are awesome, and we thoroughly enjoy our association with them. We love the members in the Tver Branch, and now we are blessed to be part of the Yugo Zapadnaya Branch. We will miss them when we return home.

Relief Society Sisters on Women's Day
Yugo Zapadnaya Branch
President of the branch Relief Society, Sister Natalia,
is standing behind Sister Ireland.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Training in Samara

On March 11, we flew to Samara, Russia, to train the humanitarian couple who had arrived a week earlier from New Zealand. They didn't go to the MTC for training, so we were anxious to meet with them and provide training for doing humanitarian projects. It was helpful for the Grays to have the Gabels there a couple of days before the Gabels completed their mission and returned to the U.S., as the Gabels provided an orientation to the city and culture and to their humanitarian projects.

Samara is in the southeastern part of "European Russia" and has a million and a half people with more than three million in the metropolitan area. The Samara River separates the city into two parts and flows into the Volga River. Samara is located on the left bank of the Volga River, which is the longest river in Europe. It is a leading industrial center and is known for its aerospace launch vehicles, satellites, and space services, for chocolates made by the Russia Chocolate Factory, and for various other products including Rodnik vodka and Zhiguli beer.

During World War II, Samara provided the front with aircraft, firearms, and ammunition. After the war, the defense industry developed new factories and became the missile shield center for the country, with the result that it became a closed city. It was at the Samara Progress Plant where the launch vehicle, Vostok, that delivered the first manned spaceship to orbit was built.

Roger & Sue Gray from New Zealand,
Humanitarian Missionaries in Samara

After spending the day training, we took a bus to the center square and then walked around looking for a place to eat.

A monument in city square
(The slender lady at the right is a typical young Russian
with her narrow stiletto high heels,
slim-legged pants, and fur jacket and hood.
Her little girl is at the left.)

We had a little trouble figuring out
the Russian menu, but we enjoyed the
blinis at this small restaurant.

I like watching them make blinis. They pour
the thin batter onto a hot griddle (to the lady's
left) and then level the batter by swinging
a wooden paddle around in circles.

We ordered chicken and cheese blinis, and I also wanted mushrooms in mine; but instead mine only had mushrooms. I liked it, though. For dessert, we had jam-filled blinis. We liked the strawberry ones better than the cherry, although both were good. Blinis are similar to crepes or pancakes; but the batter is very thin, and they are folded in half and then in quarters with a filling inside.

We had planned to take the Grays out to dinner the next day; but since their apartment was across the Samara River a distance from the center of the city, it was more convenient to eat at their apartment - and the food was delicious. They had brought quite a lot of food with them from New Zealand, and I wondered how they had any room for clothes. We did have some good ice cream cones the next day.

It was hard to decide what flavor to get.
We finally decided on chocolate chip.

Before taking the bus back to their apartment after eating our blinis, we walked around a little to see some of the city. It was difficult to see much out of the bus windows later, because they were quite dirty.

Walking tour of Samara
(Sue Gray and Narene)

Many of the buildings needed repairing
at least on the exteriors.

The snow was piled along the roadside, and
the walks were slushy and full of puddles in the
uneven surfaces.

The weather was quite nice while we were in Samara. On the second day there, we took the bus and went to Ashan's grocery shopping with the Grays. As we walked through the Metro Mall, I noticed an Ecco shoe store. That is the brand of the brown boots I had gotten last year that have been so comfortable, but now the zipper is not dependable. I did get a pair on sale in black.

It was nice getting to know the Grays, and the training seemed to go well. They will be a great humanitarian couple, as will the Lowrys, whom we trained in Voronezh. One of the neat things about our mission is meeting these special couples who have come to serve. We are looking forward to being with all who will be at the Area Humanitarian Conference in Armenia April 23 and 24.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Training in Voronezh

We flew to Voronezh in southwestern Russia on March 4 to provide training for a recently arrived humanitarian couple, Dan & Dellene Lowry. They had invited us to stay with them in their two-bedroom apartment, and we had a pleasant visit with them.

Meeting in the Lowry's apartment
with the young missionaries and the lady and
daughter they were teaching.

The Elders have an apartment above the Lowry's.
Sister Lowry plays the flute well, and we sang
a couple of hymns while she played.

Dellene & Dan Lowry
Humanitarian Missionaries in Voronezh

The next morning, we took the bus to meet the Public Affairs lady who had arranged a meeting with one of the local officials at the city office building. We met her in front of the library located in the city square.

Lenin monument in the city square
with the library in the background.

Concert Hall across the square from the library.

Another view from the city square.

The young Elders were the interpreters at the meeting where the government official was introduced to the Lowrys and us, and information was shared about our Church and the humanitarian service provided.

It was a very cold day, but after the meeting we went for a walk to see more of the city. We stopped to take photos at a war memorial area. During World War II, fierce fighting took place in Voronezh between Russian and combined Axis troops. Here the Germans launched their attack on Stalingrad (St. Petersburg).

Wreaths had been placed on the memorial
on the Defenders of the Motherland Day,
which was February 23.

The eternal flame in front of the war memorial.

The war memorial tower

Sam & Narene in front of the puppet theater.

Narene and Elder Wheeler acting like puppets
in front of the puppet clock.

Narene and Dellene touching the dog that is
supposed to bring good luck.
The dog's right ear has been welded on after
it had been broken off and stolen.

Peter the Great monument

The Cyrillic letters say
Emperor Peter Great

The city was founded in 1585-1586 as a fort on the Voronezh River. Peter the Great built Russia's first fleet of ships here.

The park where Peter the Great statue is located.

There was a lot of snow on the ground, and the build up of ice and ruts made for careful walking. We could be walking side by side, and one of us might be on packed ice six inches above the other due to the bumpy ruts. Although we have been walking on a lot of ice this winter, it made us appreciate walking in Moscow where they do try to keep the snow and ice from building up on the roads and walks even though it still can be very slick.

We walked to the end of the street passed
this large building on our way to a cathedral.
(I am in the foreground holding a tulip
that was given to me by a girl on the street.)

The largest cathedral in Voronezh.

We walked past this unusual monument
as we looked for a place to eat.

We found the Italian restaurant the Elders had
mentioned. The food was very good.
Even though we ordered the businessman's lunch,
the Lowrys were served different food
than we were; but Sam and Dan traded plates.

On our walk, I stopped to admire this lady's
hand painted things and bought a small covered dish.

On our way back to the Lowry's apartment, we
got off the bus so we could get a picture of
this interesting church. We stopped at a grocery
store and then walked the rest of the way.

Elder Ficklin (right) forgot his
backpack, and he and Elder Wheeler
came down to get it that evening
wearing crazy hats.

This is the LDS chapel in Voronezh. It used
to be a theater, and the Church has remodeled it.

After spending two days in Voronezh training
the Lowrys and seeing a little bit of the city,
we went to the airport in a taxi. There are
many trees in Voronezh, and that is why
Peter the Great had his shipbuilding here.