Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday, April 23rd

Last week Rachael and Russ and I had a great time visiting the Kremlin.  First we had a tour arranged but our taxi driver drove right past the Kremlin and half way to our house before I piped up to say, "This is not the right way, folks!"  I am famous for saying that, but it's just because I watch where we are and I like to study maps in order to know where we are. So we drove around and around till we finally arrived back at the Kremlin! (About one mile from where we started)

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We missed our tour so we bought tickets to the Cathedral tour and saw many of the churches.  We posted many of the pictures on Facebook.  Here are some of them again. 

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It was so sunny that day, but FREEZING cold!! It's hard to believe that much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has flowers and warm dirt! Oh well, as long as you have hats, and gloves, and coats here, you can enjoy being outside.

Elder and Sister Holland came to Russia to visit! The Hallstrom's came with them.  We had several meetings with them and had a chance to hear from them.  I was quite inspired by Sister Holland's talk about when she spent two months in the ICU at Utah Valley Hospital.  I don't know when that happened, but she shared the life-changing effect holding her scriptures had on her.  While the doctors were preparing for her death, she came to know that she would, in fact, live. And there she stood, in Russia, telling the young volunteers hello from their grandmothers, who she was here to represent.  She was very sweet.  Elder Holland was very directive in his remarks to the volunteers--this is the time, this is the place, now is the time to make their mission what they wanted it to be.  He told funny stories about the Book of Mormon, such as: there are no "good old days" as one BOM prophet wished he had lived in.  So it has helped me immensely in my work to having heard them.

It was sad to say goodbye to Rachael; we're not sure when we will see her again, even though we can FaceTime with her every day, if there is time.  Michelle will be back to visit next month, thankfully!

On Thursday we went to a gorgeous and entertaining Strauss concert at the New Opera Theater which is a beautiful theater and building.

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Friday we went to the Moscow Circus which was amazing!

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Saturday we saw Spring!

It might come as no surprise to anyone that I am now sick with a cold! A bit too much running around and not enough sleep to stay healthy.   But time is passing, work is getting done, Moscow is reemerging with green buds and warmer days.  We are gaining two minutes in the morning and in the evening.  I heard birds chirping at 3:19 AM this morning.  So life is good!
Easter Sunday, April 16th

Happy Easter, everyone! We hope you'll have a wonderful Easter Sunday and season.  In Moscow it is a season.  A festival starts today and ends on May 9th.  The website says: "The Moscow Easter Festival has turned into a cultural symbol of national significance.  It is a spiritual symbol like the consecration of Holy Easter, a patriotic symbol like Victory Day, and finally for a great many Russians, it symbolizes spring, hope and renewal. " They have musical and other cultural events for three weeks all over the city.  We will see how it is here during this time.

We have had a wonderful week because our Rachael and Michelle have been here.  Rachael came on Monday for a week and Michelle came on Friday for the weekend.  Sadly, they both leave tomorrow.  Happily, Michelle will be back next month! ;-)

Rachael and Russ went up to St. Petersburg on Tuesday by the fast train and visited many of the sites there.  They went to several cathedrals and to the Hermitage.

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It was very cold up there, colder than Moscow.  They knew it in advance and took their hats. They stayed for two days and took the train back Thursday night, but not before Russ started kissing another woman!

My family just loves to hang out with royalty!

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Walking through the churches of St. Petersburg can make you feel like royalty, they are so beautiful!

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Rachael's luggage was never delivered while she was in NYC for her friend's wedding.  JFK had 7500 bags in lost luggage and it never made it to the delivery phase while she was there. She spent two hours on the phone with Lost Luggage and never talked to anyone, so I called from here and spent another two hours waiting for someone to talk to (while doing other things, of course).  Jane, a Delta person, came on and explained that due to bad weather in the south, Atlanta had 10K pieces of luggage that they were redirecting! WOW! Anyway, she was very kind, got the luggage to go on a flight through Amsterdam to Moscow.  We picked it up seven days after she left SFO, at 2:30 AM, where the lady running the Lost Luggage Office took her sweet time to give us the bag, after processing about 20 other bags! We were at the airport to pick up Michelle who had flown in from Zurich.  Airports appear to be little 24-hour cities these days! 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday, April 9th

This is Russ.  I thought I would tell you about my job here in Moscow since Eileen described hers. I am the Area Mental Health Advisor (AMHA) for the young volunteers (in Russia) or missionaries (as they are called in the other countries) who serve in any one of the 14 missions which includes 16 countries in the Europe East Area. The sixteen countries are: Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.  Seven of the sixteen missions are in Russia, three in Ukraine.  The rest of the area comprise the other four missions: Baltic States, Central Eurasian, Bulgaria, and Armenia.

Most of the time I spend between 18-22 hours each week on the phone and spend at least 15 more minutes writing reports for each session I have had with a volunteer.  I normally "meet" with each missionary about six times. About 1/3 of those I work with are women and 2/3 are men, at any given time.

The volunteers and missionaries are lovely people, all dedicated to the Lord and doing their very best in spite of a harsh conditions they face in our region.  The Mission Presidents and their Wives are very, very concerned for the young adults.  So far, I have worked with all 14 of the Mission Presidents or their wives. All have been generous and kind.  It is a privilege to be able to help these young people. They are wonderful!
Sunday, April 9th

We returned to Moscow very late Thursday night, worked on Friday, and on Saturday put together a bed our friend, Pavel, and I went to get at IKEA several weeks ago in preparation for Rachael and Michelle to come this week. It only took FIVE hours! Haha!

Isn't that great?! The partnership with IKEA continues! (We spent three days last May in Zurich building furniture with Michelle at her apartment.)  The partnership is this: You pay, we create and assemble, complete with pictures, and YOU DO THE WORK!!! 

Rachael is in NYC where she attended a wedding, and her luggage is lost.  It's on its way to where she is staying, but she is leaving tonight at 7 PM from JFK to come to Moscow for a week.  Michelle is coming very early Friday morning for the weekend.  We anticipate great fun with our girls!

So now I am all caught up to today. I hope this is a fun read; if not, we understand.  We could tell more interesting stories if we could lie, but you know.......... ;-)

In the meantime, Hannah is now rolling over, Jeremy got an award for his saxophone solo and advanced to state competitions, Ammon went to his first General Conference priesthood session with Nathan and Jeremy, Abby talks to me on Google Hangouts and talks to me after school most days, Buggie and Satchie saw Beauty and the Beast last night, Mark is building interesting things with Legos, Ava is advancing in high school, Janna bought a car, Maddie is killing her mission experience in Philly, Cora and Kylie are getting a new house when it's built (around Halloween--maybe before, because Ben just told me that they have already poured the foundation!).

And Nana and Grandad are missing all the fun in person, but getting it on email, FaceTime, Skype, and Hangouts!

Sunday, April 9th

We were not prepared for the next week's events.  On Thursday, February 24th, we talked to Grandma Crane on the phone.  In our call she said, "I can't understand why Heavenly Father hasn't taken me home."  Well, the next Tuesday she had a heart attack at home, Melanie took her to Kaiser in San Leandro, she had another heart attack at the hospital, and in the afternoon, right as our daughter, Rachael, joined Cousin Jeff, and brother, Richard, and Karen, his wife right as she passed away.  I saw her at that moment on FaceTime and knew that her wish had been granted. Grandma was reunited with Grandpa! It was March 1st and  Russ and I left Moscow on Monday, March 6th, to attend her Friday, March 10th, funeral.  It was such a wonderful experience!

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Grandma had four children; Shanna, her oldest daughter, passed away in 2003.  Three of Grandma's children were there.  All four spouses were there.  She had 23 grandchildren, 22 of whom are living, 21 of whom were there.  Grandma had 49 great-grandchildren. 36 of them were at the funeral.  The grandchildren sang "A Child's Prayer" and the great-grandchildren sang "I Am A Child of God."

Her posterity amounts currently to 82 people presently.  As more great-grandchildren are born, she likely will have a posterity of 100+ people in 2 generations after her marriage to Grandpa, who died in 2007, ten years ago. I know she is having a wonderful reunion with her parents, Shanna, Grandpa, sister, and tons and tons of friends. I want to be sad about Grandma going, and try to cry it out, but I know she is just in another dimension and so happy.  I had a dream, shortly after I returned to Moscow of her and Grandpa and Shanna and me.  We were dividing something up, not sure what.  Everyone was peaceful and happy.  Since then I cannot cry really, even though I miss Grandma a lot, and it is difficult to realize every time I write an email or make a call, that she is not here any longer to receive it.  But I am happy for her.

Two weeks after we returned to Moscow, we had to leave.  We first entered Russia on a 90-day visa, and it was to expire on April 24th.  In order to obtain a 3-year visa, we had to go to Riga, Latvia, for ten days.  We stayed in the Radisson Blu Elizabette Hotel across the street from a lovely park.  We both worked there there.  Russ made sure they brought a table and chair for me to have a desk and we both worked in that hotel room for most of the ten days.

Riga is a lovely town, old--created in 810 AD--there is a lovely Old Town, central market, lots of parks, a National Opera and National Theater, lots of restaurants, a beautiful river with interesting bridges, and very interesting Latvian food and culture.

We went to Stockholm on Tallink to go to the Stockholm Temple.  It was a lovely crossing, followed by a great day in the temple where we met very kind people who we had lunch with and did an endowment session.  We returned to the ferry terminal immediately and crossed over the Baltic Sea into the Gulf of Riga and had a lovely return trip to Riga.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

So much has happened since I last wrote, and I have never had the time to actually add people's emails to our blog to make it private, let alone figure out how that even happens.  So I will catch you up and include lots of pictures so you aren't bogged down in details!  I think my last post caught us up to February 25th when we moved.

Here are pictures of our apartment:

The view outside our 9th floor apartment:

And most importantly, our children:

Sunday, April 9th

My cousin, Trish, love her, mentioned on Facebook that it seems like we are always playing and not working! So I thought I would explain my work here, in case anyone is interested about it.  (I forgive you, if you are not!!! It's not that exciting, although I find it challenging enough to learn how to practice law when I am working with attorneys (6 others) who likely have about 150 years of practice experience between them.)

We work in a building in northwest Moscow, in an area called Kragsnogorsk, next door to the Crocus City and Vegas malls (yes, two malls connected to each other). It is across the street from the Moscow Oblast (county) buildings in which hundreds of people enter daily.  On the other side of their building is the Moscow River, which freezes completely in winter and people ice fish on it when it is not too cold.  I describe all this because my desk overlooks all of it and I love the view through my window!

The church owns two floors of the Kubik building.  The Office of General Counsel is on the 10th floor; Real Estate and Physical Facilities, Publishing, and computer services are all on the 9th floor. Russ has a cubicle on the 10th floor on the opposite side of where my office is in the the OGC. We take the Metro to work, and a bus up a steep hill, to the office each day.  We work all morning, go to lunch together, work all afternoon and go home together. I have a series of committee meetings to attend as well as a weekly staff meeting.  My colleagues in the OGC are hard-working, smart people who are willing to teach me the ropes of practicing law.  Since Russ' work is phone-based, he is able to work at home if and when he needs to, but I need to be in the office as much as possible.

I am responsible mainly for two areas of work.  Real estate leases of meetinghouses, mission homes for mission presidents and their families, and mission offices or any other facilities.  At first I did this in the Europe East Area outside of Russia, and one of my colleagues took care of all of the Russian real estate work.  Now I am being given some work in Russia too.  I am also responsible to track the registration of religious organizations in Ukraine and Russia, as this is required by the governments of those two countries. It is a detailed process that requires tracking of creation, registration, and reporting of them to the government by the end of this year.

This is how my real estate work goes:
1) Someone in real estate or physical facilities sends me a request for OGC (Office of General Counsel) review of contracts for leases or service agreements relating to the real estate;
2) I review the request, determine which law firm who works for us as outside counsel, and send them a request for work, cost, and timing of the matter;
3) I watch over the process as the attorneys and RE/PF people work out the details of an agreement, and then review it to make sure it conforms to church policy and protects the church;
4) Lastly, I give the OGC approval and the RE/PF people get the agreements signed and notarized and registered with the appropriate governments, and then I post them on our internal programs that track these matters so that future attorneys will see a complete history of them.

Not sure if that's very exciting, but that's what I do.  I get to know attorneys in all the countries I am dealing with, and am able to become somewhat familiar with the laws of those lands, mostly implicitly because in reviewing the agreements, I can see what is required in those countries.

An interesting difference between the US and other countries, at least the ones I have worked with, there is no title insurance industry.  Every agreement involves verifying that the person representing him/herself as the legal owner of the property actually has the legal right to enter into a contract.

Also notary public's do not always exist in other countries.  Work often done in the US through notaries is often done by attorneys here and other legal research needed requires a power of attorney to seek government or otherwise protected documents. Many of these procedures cause the work to take much longer than one might be used to.  My job is to monitor the progression of the work, help to facilitate its completion, and minimize the cost of it.
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tomorrow it will be an entire month since I have written on this blog.  I announced that we had to make it private, received hundreds of email addresses, and was unable to even enter them into the website.  So I am going to update you once again.  So much has happened in a month's time that it could be very overwhelming to track everything, but I will tell you the most important things that have happened since February 20th.

1) We have a new friend, Nastia, which is short for Anastasia here.  She was born on Sakhalin Island, over by Japan, and loved there till she was 13.  She moved to Moscow, finished high school and university where she studied linguistics.  She loves to travel, runs her own English-teaching school somewhere down towards central Moscow, and writes children's books about culture based on her travels.  She's been to America several times, I think, and recently went to Sri Lanka where she saw monkeys, turtles, birds, and other nature.  She loves to include all that in her books. She came to dinner one night and we played Scrabble, b/c I brought the English tiles from home, but not the board.  I also brought Russian tiles that I found on Amazon.  She seemed to enjoy the game, which she had never seen before, but we really knew she enjoyed it when she told us that she went home and make paper tiles with letters and has been teaching her students using the Scrabble tiles every since! She writes to us every day to see how we are and is coming tonight for dinner.  She asked us to bring her a US flag and map when we were home. We ordered them on Amazon, and brought them home with us, along with a brand-new Scrabble game, including the board, which she doesn't know about yet.  We think she will be so excited!  She is quite sweet, 25, and has no grandparents in her life, so maybe that's us.

2) On February 24th, we moved into our new apartment, formerly housing our friends, the Christensen's, who went home sadly that day.  Thom was my trainer in the OGC and I love him. Kathryn is the most creative and dedicated problem-solver and made our transition to Moscow amazingly easy.  I miss them every day. We moved things around to suit our needs and love our apartment every day! It is really beautiful.