Sunday, September 23, 2012
This year we combined the Liberty Girls retreat and the Young Stateswoman retreat for double the fun. We learned all about Kaya's world, with a real tepee, Native American Dancers, basket making, corn husk dolls and many more delightful activities. The older girls put on an adult skills fair and Janey made the beautiful cake in the first picture. After it had been sampled, she recycled it into a zombie pack man cake for Daniel friend birthday party the next day.
Whitney got home on a Saturday night from Germany, and left for BYU that Monday morning. A little jet lagged I'm sure, but very excited. She got the opportunity to attend the Foundations of Leadership conference and then New Student Orientation where she made lots of new friends. She turned 18 that weekend, the day before classes started!
Daniel earned a trip the Cedar City and the Shakespeare festival by completing all the requirements in his Shakespeare class last year. Unfortunately, they were not doing any Shakespeare shows appropriate for young teenagers this year, so the saw Les Mis instead. Daniel loved the trip, but came home tired since he tried hard to stay up all night. He made it till 4 am, but also gave himself a cold.
While Whitney, Steve L. and Dad were in Germany, we had the chance to enjoy three days of family reunion with my side of the family. Aunts, uncles and cousins from near and far came out and we had a lot of fun. Here the kids are playing in the pool with Grandpa.
Two weeks in Germany with my Dad and my brother Steve, who could ask for more? As my senior trip this summer the three of us boarded a plane to France. After a couple hours of delay on the tarmac in Salt Lake we finally took off for several hours of mind-numbing flight that included spectacularly bad airplane food and mandatory (non-controllable) viewings of questionable movies such as "the best exotic marigold hotel". By the time we landed in France we were a little late for our flight. Unfortunately the French airport officials thought that it would be a good idea to hold back five hundred patrons at the customs desk for an hour in the name of making a straight line (I kid you not). When we finally were allowed to wave our passports at the officials we tore through the muggy airport, being continually waved on by reassuring attendants who kept telling us that we were in time for our flight. (We had already missed it by about an hour.) We got our tickets re-scheduled and were sooner or later on our way to Frankfurt for real.
Touching down in Germany was awesome. We were thrashed after not sleeping for over twenty four hours, but the thrill of traveling sustained us. We left the airport and hopped on a six-hour train to Berlin. We finally reached our destination and after grabbing a quick meal of Durner (lamb roasted on a spit and then shaved off onto fries) we hailed a cab that took us across the city at the pace of roughly two hundred miles an hour. Once we reached the hotel we collapsed into the beds, having gone thirty-four hours without sleep.
The next morning we ventured out to a European McDonalds and then set out to explore the city of Berlin. Throughout the day we hopped on and off the tour buses as we wandered around the city, inspecting Checkpoint Charlie, The Wall, the holocaust memorials, and a myriad of other historical sights. While the city was amazing, much of it was oriented towards tourists. Most everything had an English translation
available and much of the city was very westernized.
It was even better to get into the eastern part of Germany, where my Dad served on his mission. We got a car and the adventure really began. The next two weeks were a whirlwind of amazing places, people and experiences. Dresden was beautiful, its large main church has recently been rebuilt from the pile of rubble it had been reduced to during the bombings of World War Two. The palaces were gorgeous as well as the River Rind. Meissen's beauty is beyond words, it easily ranks as my favorite spot on earth.
If you ever have the chance to go to Meissen, go. Don't hesitate.
Traveling to Europe made me realize just how superficial mankind is in America. We think that our country is old and settled, but in Germany you wander streets of cobblestone that were laid centuries ago. Thousands of years of mankind have built up on themselves and have resulted in cities that the Romans once traveled through. Wherever you go you can see bits of history everywhere. While we were visiting Meissen Steve and I were wandering the steep cobblestone streets popping in and out of antique stores, Steve bought a beaver top-hat and a metal WW2 helmet. I found a German WW2 field typewriter and a Prussian bronze enamel letter opener.
I'm excited to travel back someday and it was a great finale to my high school experience, not to mention a great start to college.
To start off, one of my favorite things about Germany was the food. Don't ask me to tell you what my best experience was, because I'd never be able to nail down. So I guess the best place to start would be the food. Our first day sight-seeing in Berlin, we visited the DDR museum and next to the museum was the DDR restaurant. Inside we had our first real taste of German food. The DDR restaurant only serves food that would have been available during the occupation, which leads to an interesting menu. I had a delicious bowl of potato soup, with some sausage and vegetables in it. The soup wasn't a broth though, more like apple sauce, only potato flavored. I have never had a more tasty soup in my life. In fact, just about everything in Germany tastes better. Even the McDonald's food. (yes, they have McDonald's in Germany.) After the soup I had half a chicken (literally a rotisserie chicken sliced down the middle and put on a plate) and some 'pommes', or french fries. Not the most adventurous of dishes, but hey, it was my first day. Along with my meal, I had a nice tall glass of something know as appfelschalle, which is actually quite common in Germany. basically a carbonized version of apple juice. Fantastic tasting. I'm glad I liked it, because more than our fair share would be offered to us throughout our trip. At every home we visited they would welcome us in, sit us down and pour us a glass-full. On one such occasion, I had the chance to eat more than I ever had in my entire life in one sitting. She served us a lunch of some terrific goulash, and, half to be polite, and half because it was some of the best food I'd ever tasted, I had seconds and thirds.
Early last month I had the opportunity of spending nine days with some of my most favorite people in the world, my children and the former East German people. Whitney (18) and Steve L (16) and I traveled to a number of places where I lived and/or visited while on my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My two oldest have both taken some German in High School and since Whitney was to start college soon, it seemed like an good opportunity to go. So, we saved up SkyMiles and Marriott miles and continental miles and reserved a trip date over a year ago.
The trip had a number of purposes, first and foremost spending time with my children, second giving them a glimpse into an experience what up till that point in my life, were indeed the best two years of my life. I cherished my time on my mission and it has only been a blessing to me and my family in many ways since. Second it gave my children a chance to experience first-hand, due to my gracious German friends, to become more familiar with the people, culture, sights, sounds and tastes of Germany, the people and country that I learned to love so dearly on my mission. Funny how language skills practice was probably the last reason to go, but it also was key to establishing the desire to go.
While in Germany we visited Berlin, Wittenberg, Leipzig, Meissen, Dresden, Freiberg, Sieffen, Altenburg, Eisenach, and Frankfurt and experienced too many cultural adventures to mention here, but the best parts for me were visiting my friends and making a couple new ones. We started off by making new friends in Dresden.
At church on Sunday we met Sep, then a 4 year old boy at the time of my mission, now grown up, and his new wife Natalie, a Canadian, who translated church into English for Whitney and Steve and afterwards invited us into their home for dinner and later a magnificent dusk walking tour of Dresden that ended up on the Carola Bridge as the sun went down and the city lights came up.
Next we were invited to Rudolf and Birgit's family home in a small town Porschütz, just outside of and up the Elbe river from Meissen. It was good to see them and their family that is growing larger and bigger by the year. Here we had some very tasty home-cooked meals, took a steamboat ride down the Elbe to Meissen, climbed to the highest climbable point in the city in the Albrechtsburger Dom, had the largest ice creams ever and returned to their house for an evening of fun with their entire family and spent the evening together remembering earlier times and experiences we've experienced together and getting to know their children and grandchildren better. We also had an English session with them which was fun for my children and their grandchildren. I had the opportunity to bless Jennifer when she was a baby as a missionary, she is now much older and is also learning English and is a great cook! Hopefully she and her nieces and nephews over time will come visit us in America so we can introduce them to our family (yes, that was meant for you Jennifer). I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father that I got to know this lovely family while on my mission and retain their friendship even now. They are a great example to me of love, compassion, and what a caring family-life really means. I will always cherish their friendship and look forward to continuing it with them and their extended family.
While in Meissen we visited another friend of mine, Ursula, who was also expecting a visit from us, even though her invitation to us never arrived. When I first met Ursula she was was unacquainted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jan-Peter (my mission companion at the time) and I first met her over 20 years ago, just after her mother passed away. In an article she wrote about her conversion to the Gospel for the September, 1994 issue of Der Stern (the Church magazine in Germany), she writes that the gospel of Jesus Christ brought down the iron wall that she had built around her heart and finally brought peace into her life. It was truly a joyous "surprise" meeting for us and I am so glad we followed the promptings of the Spirit to stop by for a visit.
We also had the opportunity to visit Magnus, my second mission president in the Dresden Mission. He lives in a comfortable apartment near Frankfurt where we had the opportunity to meet with him. He has such a positive outlook on life and spreads it to everyone he meets. We visited the temple grounds together and he inspired my son towards his mission in a few years and my daughter with his positive outlook on life. We missed visiting with his Magnus' beloved wife Ingeborg, who passed away earlier this year. I wish they would have had a chance to meet her too. Someday they will.
Later that afternoon we had the opportunity of visiting Wolfgang and Helga, my first mission president in the mission, in their home close to Magnus'. They live in a beautiful home also near Frankfurt and shared their wonderful stories of service to the Lord with us. What a dynamic couple. They have been on the fore-front of the church's progress in Eastern Europe for some time. My children were enthralled to hear of their stories of how the Lord has brought about peaceful changes in countries so that the gospel may advance throughout the world. Hopefully they will write down their unique stories in a book for future generations to read and experience – they would have many readers.
It was great to hear my children's reactions to meeting each of my new and old friends on our trip together, and hearing the lessons they took away from each meeting with them. I am so glad to have had this experience to travel together and the blessings of the Lord throughout the trip. I am so grateful for the gospel and am so grateful that I served a mission. What a blessing it has been to my life up, to the life of my family, and will be to our posterity. Wouldn't it be joyous for our families to maintain these friendships into our future generations? It will be joyous, indeed.