Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011 - Sister Griffiths

I can't remember where I left off on my letter to you, but I think I was telling you about the food that Sister Carter prepared for us to give us a taste of Armenian food. We had a cucumber, cheese, tomato, parsley, cilantro, and cabbage salad in vinegar and oil dressing. The main dish was cooked hamburger and onions stuffed inside tomatoes and rolled up inside cabbage leaves and cooked in a big pot. You always have bread served at every meal usually with butter and jam. They are famous for their juices so juice was served also. It was all delicious. After lunch, we went to the mission office to meet everyone. About half were Armenian people employed by the church and the other half were 3 couples that are one missions to help with the office, humanitarian, and employment. We are the first to be called here as member and leadership support mission. They were all super friendly. They copied our passports for us to carry with us and put then put our passports in the safe.

President and Sister took us and the other couple to see the city. Our first stop was at a memorial to the Armenians that were killed by the Turks like Hitler killed the Jews. He did this to help give us a little bit of the history of the Armenian people so we could understand them and their culture. Next we went to a church which was the size of the Salt Lake temple but very Eastern in its looks. In Armenian, most of the people belong to this church. It is part of their identity. It is like being very proud to be an American and most everyone is the same faith. He then walked us 4 blocks to the shoe con which is like a big farmers market covering about a mile. Try to imagine 100 garage sales. They sell everything. We bought fruit, vegetables, silverware set, a heater, and light bulbs. They sell meat so there were pigs feet laying out for example and if you wanted so beef they would cut it off with a hatchet. It definitely let us know that we were in a third world country. With all of us new comers wondering what we had gotten ourselves into as we braved the cold weather, they took us to a Armenian restaurant. It was decorated with Armenian decorations and they had people that were dressed in their native costumes play music that is traditional to their culture with older instruments like a harpsichord. When they took a break, modern Armenian music would play on a 40 inch tv. Sister Ayer was afraid to order anything on the menu after our visit to the shoe con and settled for a bowl of soup. When her soup came out it had a big one in it with beef on it and cilantro (which she hates). I order the beef stroganoff which was wonderful but here instead of noodles they serve it on French fries. Then for a trip back to America, we got donuts and I had a soft serve ice cream cone which tasted like dairy queen only a little better. We then went back to our car and paid the parking man. There are men on the street that save you a place to park and you pay them when you get home. At this point, we were suffering from jet lag and went home and slept until 8:30 the next morning.

The next day was Thanksgiving and we ate in areas of which there are about 6. The missionaries were in charge of preparing it except that in our area Sister Carter cooked the turkey. I think it was to make sure that there was turkey for the new senior missionaries from America. I was very impressed when I got to the church. There were only about 20 in our area but they had made 10 pounds of potatoes which they had hand mashed. They had mixed vegetables, cucumber salad, and homemade rolls. For dessert they had made several. There was a berry, pumpkin, banana, and peach pie, brownies, and cake. All were excellent and some of the best pie crust I have ever tasted. Afterwards, we watched the movie, 17 Miracles. It is really good and most of us needed a tissue somewhere through it. That night, we had turkey sandwiches and dessert again with the senior couples at the mission home of which there were six. It was fun to hear the stories of the mission as us new comers learned from the seasoned missionaries.

After a couple of hours of training with the President, we dropped off the Ayers at the mission office to be trained and start their new life. We drove with the Carters to Vandezor which is about 2 hours away from the city we were at. The roads were bumpy and the driving is interesting. There is a right side and a left side of the road and you are allowed to drive on either side as needed. Here they use the horn not to yell at someone but as a warning to tell someone you are going to pass and to be careful. Several times, I didn't think I would live to enjoy the mission as I saw several close calls whereof a head on could have happened. I smiled as I watched my sweetheart's reaction to it all. We were both glad that we didn't have to drive and President Carter loves to drive. We were just glad that he had a suv. The missionaries were great there and we all enjoyed pizza that had a really thick crust and lots of cheese. Some of the best pizza I have ever eaten. It was huge and only cost about $6 with all the toppings on it. Things that they can make here that they produce are cheap here but things they have to import are really expensive. We bought a blanket for our bed that cost about $80.

That afternoon, we drove about an hour to the city where we live Gumri. It looks like a little Cache valley in size but is very Russian with the cement buildings and 3rd world look about it. We went to our apartment which is in a 4 story cement apartment. It is a lot nicer than I thought it would be. We have an entry area with a book shelf and large sofa chair to welcome people and a bathroom all on the right side of the apartment. This area is not heated which is why we bought the heater for the bathroom. On the right side is a bedroom with twin beds. dresser and a balcony you can hang your wash on of about 6 feet. A living room with a computer stand , a couch, love seat, coffee table, cherry wood dining table with 6 chairs and a 40 inch TV and dvd player. Next room is the kitchen which has cupboards, sink, and build in clothes washer on one end, stove and refrigerator in the middle and table and chairs with wrap around bench to sit on next to window. At the end is our bedroom which is like the bottom of a U with the little bedroom, living room and kitchen on one side and entry area and bathroom on the other. To stay warm, you close all the doors to each room when you leave it and hurry quickly in the bathroom and entry area. We have water twice a day from 8 to 10 am and 7 to 9 pm. President Carter had them put in a holding tank that gives us about 10 gallons of water to use during the off time that comes out very slowly but we love it. We are much more understanding about Ken's letters home telling us about no water, brown water and no electric fans although ours is no heat. We have heard that the summers here are very hot so Ken, Jason and James will get more empathy from us at that time. James and Dan are getting cold weather empathy now as we are very cold a lot of time. Elizabeth, your empathy will come probably in spring and fall.

I will write you more about the elders in Gumri and life as a missionary here in my next email. I have to go get ready to go with the missionaries to visit two sister investigators. They will catch a cab where they live, pick us up and we will go there together. It costs about two dollars for a cab and you agree on the price with him before you get in. With our suits and dresses, we look like very rich Americans. After they drop you off, you usually walk 2 or 3 blocks to their homes in the cold and ice roads. There are very few lights outside at night so a lot of the time it is dark. But, we are loving our mission and the people here. They are so warm and friendly. We haven't been here a week yet and it seems like we have been here for weeks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27, 2011 - Picture

Picture over Skype of the living room of their apartment.

November 27, 2011 - Sister Griffiths

Our sleeping schedule is off because of the time change and the craziness of the last several days. We got up at 4:30 this morning. We went to bed at 9:30 last night which is the earliest since we left on Monday. We are going to try for the early to bed and early to rise missionary motto now that we are finally in our own apartment and life has settled down. For us, contact with all of you either on email or Skype is wonderful!! We would love to hear from my brother, our sisters, relatives, cousins, and friends as well as you hold a dear spots in our hearts and we wonder what is going on in your lives as well.

Our trip to Washington DC was pretty uneventful. It was pretty disappointing when I got there and Dan and Lindsey's family wasn't there to meet us. The only way I could leave all of you to get on the plane was to tell myself it was just a trip to see them and then over to see Johnny and Becca. However, as we were riding the shuttle over to the next terminal, two people asked us about where we were going on our mission since they saw our missionary tags. This got us both excited as they shared with us some of their missionary stories and the courage to go forth.

Our plane to Vienna was the Austrian Airlines. It prepared us a little for the European language and culture. I don't think that I have ever gotten on a plane and heard a waltz playing. It was a ten hour flight but they spoiled us all the way with snacks, dinner, movies, breakfast and constant attention. When we arrived, another couple going to Armenian met us. We took the train into the city to see the historic points of interest. We were trying to figure out the subway ticket machine when a young woman saw our missionary tags and helped us. She even took us to exactly where we should go since there was construction. The buildings were so beautiful that they almost took your breath away. We also went to an art museum for Dad (James can appreciate that). It was in the largest castle I have ever seen with grounds that had fountains and bushes the size of 3 football fields. We took the train back to the airport. Did I happen to mention on this excellent adventure that it was super cold outside and that we did lots of walking to prepare us for Armenian? They have a McDonalds in the airport, but this is very European. We had an Austrian dessert, which was to die for, with fresh strawberries, cake and lots of very creamy whipping cream. It was served on a glass plate, with a cloth napkin and glass of water. It even sold shrimp and steak. At this airport, you go through security at the gate that you are leaving from. There is a 17 pound limit for carry-ons. Thanks to dad's excellent engineering, we just divided our carryon in half with the extra bag he packed. We had dinner on the plane and slept so that we could adjust to the time change.

We were met at the airport by President and sister Carter with carnations for Sister Arye and I. We jammed all of our stuff into a huge van like the one we had when you were kids. I have decided since I have gotten here that the motto is Shove with Love as you squeeze into transportation cars and vans. The roads were pretty dark and bare as we took the 30 minute drive to the mission home. Dad said it reminded him a lot of Russia. There are bars on all the first floor buildings and apartments. The serious crime rate is extremely low but stealing is a real problem. The attitude is that "I knew you would want me to have it so I didn't bother to ask." Even the mission van is in a locked gated area next to the home. I told my sweetheart, "We are not in Cache Valley anymore" like Dorothy told Toto when she said "Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore".

The other couple took a nap but Elder Griffiths and I decided to explore where we were at after breakfast. Most of the buildings are made of cement or cinderblock so they look a lot alike. Most all of the signs on the buildings are Armenian and a few of them are lite up with lights at night. Most of the roads are two lane and outside of town some are not in very good conditions due to holes in the road. One apartment will have a side walk and the next one has dirt or crumpled sidewalk. As we walked down the street we saw lots of clothes hanging out to dry on the sides of buildings that are usually 3 or 4 stories high. It is cold outside but they tell me that the air and wind dry them. The we passed on our walk looked like little 7/11 stores only not as nice or big. People here shop quite often so a little store close due to public transportation is a better plan.

We walked across the bridge to a park and you could tell that when it is warm outside it is full of families with their children playing on the playground and having picnics. Everyone we passed was bundled up in warm clothes and were looking at us. I gave them my best smile but got no smiles back. When I asked my sweetheart about this, he said that we are all dressed up with our missionary clothes and they think that we are rich Americans and not too sure if we are safe people. In Armenian, everyone brings their trash to dumpsters on the street. I will never take our trash man for granted again. When we got back, we had an Armenian meal. It was flat bread which is wonderful and is the size of a platter. You would think that it would get stale after a day or so but it doesn’t. The internet is starting to act goofy so I am going to send this since it is not saved.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 26, 2012 - They have arrived!

We arrived safely in Armenia (Wednesday night our time). We are being sent to the city of Gomie in the north eastern portion of the country. It is a new place for senior missionaries and the apartment doesn't have an internet connection yet. You may not hear from us again until it does. Everything is good here. We are staying in the mission home. Yesterday the President and his wife took us on a city tour. Today we are all getting together with all of the missionaries in the local area for Thanksgiving. – Dad

We got to Skype with them on Thanksgiving. They were still in the mission home and getting ready to transfer not too long after I talked to them. They seemed to be doing really well and were enjoying their experience so far. My Mom wrote a brief note about their experience in the MTC, but in the process of getting their stuff out the door the morning they left it got misplaced. They had a wonderful experience and enjoyed being there. They were with couples who were going all over the world. They learned so much and the Spirit was very strong there. My Mom said it was one of the greatest experiences of her life. - Elizabeth

November 21, 2011 - Last night family pictures

Pictures of the family in Utah right before their goodbye to Jenny, James, Ken & Jason.

 Mom & Dad right after they checked in their luggage.
Dad was very proud of himself. They had three bags and two of the three were
exactly 50 pounds and the other one was 49 pounds.

 Elizabeth & Susan at the airport.

Mom & Dad's flight was delayed an hour, so we all went out to eat for breakfast.
We dropped them off outside when we went back to the airport.

Off they go to serve the Lord. 
Let the excitement begin.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 13, 2011 - Mission Farewell Talk Pictures

James, Ken, Dad, Mom, Elizabeth, Susan, Jason and cute little Sarah after parent's farewell talk.

Mom & Dad after their farewell.

Susan, Jason, Sarah, Eck & James at house enjoying the lunch.

Katie, Jordan & Ken also enjoying the lunch.

Mom getting the lunch ready.

Mom & Dad waiting to be set apart.

The first picture or Elder & Sister Griffiths and Ken, Elizabeth, Jason, James & Susan.

November 14, 2012 - Our mission farewell

Mom & Dad had their mission farewell yesterday. Their talks went well and everyone loved them. They had numerous friends there to hear their talks and to wish them luck. They had a small get together yesterday, with a few people stopping by to wish them good luck. They got set apart later on that night. Their blessings gave them a lot of good advice for them while they are there.

How to contact them

My Mom's email address is KarenGUtah@gmail.com
My Dad's email address is dbrentgriffiths@hotmail.com

Friday, November 4, 2011

Our new mission blog

This is actually Elizabeth writing this. I created this blog for them so that everyone can keep up with my parents on their mission. I will be getting pictures and emails from my parents to keep the blog updated. I never know how much they will email me updates, but when I get them I will add them. They will read the comments that you make on the blog, so feel free to share your comments on the blog.