Now of course, Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday. There are not pilgrims and indians to dress up like and no stories of how the indians saved our necks. (We repaid them so well too) But for the missionaries, this is a super pday, a whole day with no missionary attire!
They always have a big Thanksgiving fete up in Budapest for the missionaries in that Zone, so I decided that our missionaries should have something as well. We did the whole thing, thanks to packages from home. But I am still a lousy pie maker. These two cute girls are our sisters in Szombathely. The elders were happy to eat anything I put in front of them but the mash potatoes with turkey gravy was the real essence of the meal for them.
The first part of December I decided that Hungary was not such a bad place in winter. It was cold but not as cold as Utah. We were going on our walks every morning except when it was raining too hard or blowing too hard. When the wind blows in sopron it really can push you over. And I am a fair weather walker so I wasn't much for that. But on the whole, the weather was okay and we only had 2 mornings we had to scrape car windows. And best of all, there are still flowers. These pictures were taken about Dec 7 or 8th. Not too bad. There are beautiful pots of pansys everywhere. It's not Hawaii but I decided that I could do it. None of this 3 feet of snow that I had been led to expect.
Here in Hungary, Halloween is not a traditional holiday. But as with all things American, the kids are really picking it up. And so we had a Halloween party at the branch and invited all of our English Class students and investigators and, of course, all of the members.
But getting ready for such an event is no small effort without a Pumpkin Walk committee to help. I made dozens of sugar cookies for people to decorate. They really liked this and everyone wanted to know how to make icing. I looked for cookie cutters but they don't use them here, so I settled for round cookies. We made chili for a small supper. Making chili for 50 in a kitchen too small for two is a neat trick. I would have given a lot for my big stew pot at home. Instead we used one small crock pot, two small pans and two large bowls. These pictures really don't do justice to the mess that reigned in my tiny kitchen. There is just a tiny space to work on and nowhere to set anything down. But the good thing about little - it cleans up quickly! Our church kitchen has only 2 cook units so warming up was a slow process!
We played Halloween bingo in one room. It took me two days to manufacture the bingo cards and they are now safely stored for next year. Sorry about the quality of the picture, but you get the idea. I was amazed how much they liked this game. Most had never played it before. We carved pumpkins. I hate carving pumpkins but they liked it a lot and all took home their pumpkin with a candle. This weekend is Day of the Dead, which amounts to Memorial Day and so the graveyards are full of candles. So they like the thought of a candle on their doorstep. And here I am. The Wicked Witch of the East. They all liked my necklace which had little ghosts that twinkled on and off. The four elders dressed as the Madagascan penguins. They were a big hit.
But the great thing was that we had almost 50 people there and more were nonmembers than members. . A little bit of gospel was shared and a lot of friendship and friends of the church are awfully important for us here. It seemed to be a big hit. We have never had that many people in our building I am sure. And while I was playing the "witch" in one room, Elder Hintze was in the hall preaching the first discussion with everything that was in him. Somebody had asked about all the pictures on the wall and that was all the lead in he needed.
General conference in the Mission Field can be a lot of fun. We got our translated disks of the Hungarian during the week and on the weekend, we had conference just like everyone else except we had a wonderful meal on Saturday and Sunday between sessions. On Sunday we had 24 watching conference, 4 of whom were investigators.
We finally found a clear day to get some pictures from the observation tower. If you are interested in seeing more you can see my web album where I am downloading them. http://picasaweb.google.com/karenchaslem
Every day that it doesn't rain, we try to head out to walk for an hour. Senior companion for the day gets to choose the route. We have tried to find as many new streets and alleys and backways as we can and have found a lot of interesting things
We walk up in the hills were we found a lookout tower, "Sörházdombi". Unfortunately, on this day the air was hazy.
We find a lot of interesting and very old architecture, mausoleums, and churches, some built before the founding of our country. We go slumming along Villa Street and find many beautiful homes. There is a lot of Austrian money here. We meet a lot of friendly dogs along the way, it seems like every house. On a street we call "Kutya Utca", Dog Street, the first dog stirs up the dog next door and in turn the dog next door stirs up the dog next to him. This is one of the nice friendly dogs. Too bad you can't hear it as well as see it, but I'll bet you can imagine it!
And then at the end, we are always glad to see home again! Our apartment is left half of the main floor. The sweet little green car is ours.
Our first Branch Party, a Kirándulás, and outing with a little hiking and exploring and touring and such. Anyway, we felt it was a huge success. Bruce and I planned way too much food but our great little RS president just quietly and efficiently wrapped it up and dispersed it out to those who needed it. We had a lot of guests there from our english class. We were pleased and we talked a lot with them. One asked to have the Elders come and talk with her. This is Bianca Révész. She is our only YW and she is a charming young lady. I wish that she had more friends. We are going to talk to the District President about having district activites for the youth. Districts are a new thing here. They were created only in June. Activities can now be more easily planned on a regional level. Outside of the Stake around Buda there are three districts, one west (ours), one south and one in the east. Notice our food. We had lots of fixings for sandwiches but we also made sish Kabab. Only we used sausage for meat. The uniqueness made them quite a hit. Bruce and I downloaded a recipe for a Greek Salad on the internet and fixed that. it just had all colors of peppers, onions, olives, tomatoes and feta cheese. They loved it because they love peppers, "paprikas" here. Marcsi and Ádám are the two in the background. They are members who are trying to help us with Hungarian. I am discouraged about it and they help to keep me inching along. We recieved a new Elder from the MTC. His language is so good. If only we could have had 10 weeks at the MTC. But the Lords must have other plans.
We had our first waffle night here in sopron. It is supposed to be a young adult activity to bring together and strengthen the youth, but in our little branch there are only 2 young single adults so we use this night to bring together and strengthen the Branch.
This is me making waffle in our closet that also serves as a very small kitchen. the waffle irons we could purchase were not very good and they don't get hot enough, but we make do. Waffles are just a bit rubbery.
Here is Bruce visiting with the folks Ping Pong is the standard past time on waffle nights. About every other week we need to come up with an additional activity, like a movie or games or such. Suggestions will be willingly taken! I didn't imagine that this would be part of my missionary work but it all such a lot of fun!
All of the streets are not tiny narrow like this but many were build when horeses and carriages were the means of transportation. I keep having to remember that much of this city is older than our country.This is our first apartment. It is one the Elders are using and they moved in with the other set of Elders here in Sopron. It was pretty spartan living. Notice that one of the beds is a stack of cushions. The trains ran through our back yard, and there are lots of trains here. You will notice that one of the beds is not a bed but a stack of cushions. I did have to take a day to clean under the stove and refrigerator. And to clean down the sides of the stove. The kind of dirt 19 year olds don't see. But other than that the Elders had it neat and tidy for us. It is good to see what the life of a missionary is really like. I like these elders very much. They have wonderful hearts and work hard. And they can speak hungarian!
The next set of pics is our new apartment. It looks alot nicer. We do wish it had a bit more furniture, like a chair and a book shelf, but we are very happy here. Please notice our fancy dryer. It is the way everyone here drys clothes. Stoves work on an on and off system. You have to have a thermostat and keep turning it on and off. Our landlady is also one of our members and she is a great lady. She tells me that she has this feeling that we have me before. I keep telling her we were friends in the life before. We love working in Sopron. I have not taken a picture of our little church yet. We have the third and fourth floors of a building here and the Elders live on the fifth floor. It is pretty hard to tell that it is a church. We understand a real sign has been ordered. Bruce has been made the new branch president in the Sopron Branch. His job (and mine) is to train. It is hard to do this when you don't have the language but we are managing. We use a lot of the Elders time so we try to shorten tasks of their days by getting their cleaning to the laundry, taking them to the store so they don't have to walk, and anything else we can think of so they have time for "finding". They take a table with posters into the town square. They call that "tabling". The try to talk with everyone on the street. They call that "streeting". Here are two of our great Elders as we are on our way to meet with the a ward member. One of the great difficulties here is the membership records. The records are only updated when the branches turn in changes. And the branches never turn in changes. So the ward records show members who moved years ago. The process for updating the records is a little difficult and requires a lot of paper work for the branch and/or missionaries. And they just don't do it. We have found that of our 35 family units, 5 are not here for sure and others probably. We have only visited 1/3 of the members so far. We search the area record book kept by the Elders and these things have been known for some years but no changes have been. This is not just a problem here in Sopron but all over the country. Part of our efforts here is to get at least Sopron straight. Bruce is spending a lot of time on it. We walk all over the city tracking down addresses so that we know right where to go when the elders get some free time for us.
We also cover the areas of Szombathely and Papa. We have been asked to start an outreach program there, which amounts to activities for the Young Adults. Szombathely thinks that with only 40 active members maybe we should start by inviting the whole branch. It is called waffle night (Gofri Est) as we always fix waffles and have activities. we already invested in the waffle iron and think perhaps we should have 2.
Szombathely at one time had almost 200 active members and were divided into 2 branches but then there were some problems and we have just one branch with 40 active people. If Bruce and I go down there to track down all their addressess we will be here for more than 18 months! This is the wonderful church building in Szombathely. This is a wonderful work to be involved in and we are very happy. We miss our children alot and are so grateful for google chat and skype because we can talk and see each other. But if you decide to come on out Sisters, leave your heels at home and bring comfortable walking flats
Our first real week of work. We had a fun experience. We helped the Elders set up a table in the city center and then we went to the square to sit and practice the language. An elderly gentlemen came up to us and started to speak. We practiced our very little bit of hungarian with him. He gave us his address and phone number and we will go by with the Elders to visit him. The Elders also had a good time and found 3 new contacts. One has had contact with the elders before and then moved and lost track of them. They had tried to use the internet to find them but couldn't. But now we found them. I, Karen, am going to teach singing in primary, visit the Young Women or in our case, Young Woman class, teach temple prep and write the ward newsletter. Bruce will be busy with the Elders quorum and also teaching temple prep. We are also the new teachers of the advanced English Class. We are going to cheat a little and take our MTC grammar guide which we thought was well developed and teach it backwards. We are visiting in the homes of all the members and also tracking down all of the inactives. It has been done before, tracking down the inactives, by other sets of missionaries, but maybe this will be their time to change. We are learning to adjust. You are forced into obeying the "eat less meat" thing because it is so expensive here. And you can't just go to the store and buy what you need for a recipie. They do have big grocery stores here but strangely enough they cater to hungarian cooking, which i know nothing about. It is hard to find oatmeal, raisens come in little single serve packs, I can't find cornstarch, brown sugar is limited and not ground small like ours. They have great chocolate but no chocolate chips. Milk comes only in a liter and is expensive. We are training ourselves to like box milk. Baking powder, soda and spices are deceptive and hard to find. They don't use much cinnamon and I haven't found nutmeg. We mostly like just to eat bread and cheese and tomatoes and we did find a few ready to eat meals that were okay and better than cooking. Chicken breast is $4 a pound. There are no dryers, just big drying racks. Bruce bought his shirts from MrMac and after the first wash we find that they have permanent wrinkles that we can't iron out. Washers are very small and usually in the bathroom with drainage into the tub. They have the most wonderful chocolate and ice cream here. We just have to pretend that we don't know that.
We are here and in a wonderful little city called Sopron. we have had difficulty remembering how to log on to our blog. Christie finally has us under control and we are on line but are out of time. pday rules you know. we miss everyone but have a wonderful feeling that we can be of use here in Sopron. sopron is in the very west portion of the country, just 45 minutes from Vienna. It is very hot here right now. We did get a chance to bear our testimonies in Hungarian last Sunday. In fact we spoke in two different branches. Our area of responsibility will keep us moving around quite a bit and the only part I don't like is that we have to check on the Elder's apartments every 6 weeks to make sure they are keeping them clean and in order. We will post again as soon as we can and add picture. We are having to use an internet cafe right now. We are using one of the Elders apartments until our apartment comes open the first of September. Oh, and we have the cutest green car called"sweet pea".
One week from today we will check into the MTC. Are we ready? No, we are not!!! The most important jobs are at the top of the list and what gets done, gets done and the rest will be left to someone else. We have enjoyed these last few weeks with family. I am certainly glad that we have become fluent on skype because I intend to use it often. We do not speak in church until the 9th of August, after we have been to the MTC. And on the 10th of august at 4pm Bruce and I will be on an airplane that will stop for a few hours in france and then we will fly on to Hungary. so you can expect the next blog will come to you from there. Well, maybe we'll have a chance to tell you about the MTC experience. Actually I am not letting the reality of leaving mix in with the "someday we will be going" non-reality that I live by. Learning hungarian has been a adventure! Our brains are sore. We can speak a few little things and we know most of the grammer, but knowing the grammer does not mean that you can speak. We listen to our tutors pray and struggle to understand. and they speak slowly. But I have an intense desire to learn the language and intend to hire a tutor once we are there. I will not come home until I can speak hungarian. and we have to come home as scheduled because we will not be able to stay away from our grandchildren one minute longer than that. Seretjük! (We love you all)
We finally recieved the call: Budapest, Hungry! It was a bit of a surprise as it wasn't a place even in our thoughts. We told the Brethren that we would be interested in the position of architect at the polynesian cultural center in Hawaii, but were willing to go anywhere. Salt Lake decided that we were needed "anywere" it seems. It is exciting to think of the experiences before us. We don't think that we will learn the language at the MTC and I can't imagine being there without being able to commuinicate, (I'm hoping Rosetta Stone comes in Hungarian) but those things will all work out. We have been warned that Hungarian is one of the hardest languages to learn. We are scheduled to leave on Aug 3, and as we list up all the projects we want to get done before we go, the time seems very short. We think of the many things that will be happening at home during our 18 months away; a new grandchild will be born in the fall, Emily will finish nursing school and take her state exams, Andrew will finish his education; but Bruce and i have a very strong feeling that this is an important thing for us to do and that this is our time to do it. We know that the Lord will take care of our family at home if we give our time and money and any talents we can scrape together in His service. We have strong testimonies that we hold Gospel truths that can change lives and improve people.
Bruce and Karen Haslem are serving a mission in the wheelchair initiative for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They will be serving as service missionaries in the Quezon City mission in the Philippines. This blog will help us keep in touch with all our friends and family and let you in on what we're doing with our time away.