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Start of University Olympics
Jun 28th, 2009 by ron

First of all, Mitch finally arrived in Afghanistan.  His group was held up in Germany until snipers firing grenades could be cleared away from the airport near Bagrem AFB so that they could land.  He made it safely and that is all that we know at this time.

 

The weather has been very cool and rainy this week.  I feel like I am in heaven as the heat really bothers me, however they keep saying that it gets really hot here with high humidity.  We have been working on our trip to Czech Republic the end of July for Young Single Adult Conference.  Ron and I will be the drivers as we are renting a van and he and I are the only licensed drivers that have had any experience driving.  It will be a 15 hour drive because we are going through Germany and will take in a temple session at the Fryburg Temple.  We will stay the night in the temple hostel before traveling on to Czech.  Detouring through Germany is a necessity having something to do with Visas and so forth.  Legalities in these countries are so complicated and it is expensive because they all have to get new visas and passports. 

 

The rest of our week was spent getting ready for the 25th University World Olympiade.  It is being held here in Belgrade July 1 – July 12.  Ron and I and all 8 of our Elders are being volunteers!  We have been training this week and some of us will have more training on Monday.  Ron and I and Elders Knight and Christiansen will be working in Archery.  Maybe

We will be the target-put an apple on our heads and we are good to go!!!! We actually think we will be working with scorekeeping.

 

Elders Stadlbauer and Nelson are working in the Volleyball venue and started yesterday.  They handed out towels and swept the floors for practice and said it really was a lot of fun!  Elders Singer and Armstrong are doing Track and Field and Elders Gubler and Jasper are going to do Tennis.  Some of them already have their uniforms however Archery hasn’t been so lucky.  Our luck, they will run out before they get to us and we will not get them.  (I signed up for the uniform!)

 

#1 picture:  This is our invitation that we received to the U.S. Embassy 233 Anniversary of the Independence of the United States.  It is a really big deal to be invited to this social event that is organized for dignitaries and bigwigs.  It helps to know people in high places!!!  I’m sure that is how we got invited!!!!!

 

#2.  There is a large delegation of Russian Volunteers here at the Olympics.  They are from Kazan, Russia.  Kazan will be the host city for Universitiade 2013 so they have sent their volunteers to see how it works.  These kids are all so nice and polite.  They have been so friendly with we Americans and especially nice to Ron.  They have invited Ron and me to Russia to volunteer in their games.  They gave him pictures of their beautiful city and a keychain.

 

#3.  Our Elders and I in one of our Olympic meetings.  Elders, this pic. Is for your Moms!

 

#4.  This is the same meeting with one of the Volunteer Organizers.  She was darling!!!

 

#5.  Lunchtime!  They provide us lunch everyday.  We are with our Translator Nikola Stan.  He is also trying to teach us Serbian but we are pretty slow learners!  We told him that he could teach us Serb if we could teach him the gospel.  Things are going well, although he didn’t eat his ham sandwich because he is vegetarian.  He is going to YSA Conference with us in Czech Republic the end of July.

 

#6.  This city behind us was created for the Olympics.  There are over 12,000 new apartments created just for this occasion.  They have all been presold and as soon as the Olympics are over, the new owners will take possession. 

 

#7.  Srba the Sparrow is the mascot for the Olympics as pictured on this giant balloon.

 

#8.  This is a Serbian Gut Wagon or Roach Coach—whatever you prefer to call them—

Ronnie, this one is for you!  Arizona doesn’t have anything over on Serbia!!!

 

We send our love and want to thank you all for your love and support.  It sure helps to know that we have such a great team at home rooting for us.

 

 

 

 

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The Village Cicevac
Jun 21st, 2009 by ron

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY #88 to my dear Daddy Jack Reber!  That is quite the accomplishment Dad!!!!  We Love You! Also, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO YOU Dad, and to RON and to RONNIE, TODD, MATT,  and JOSH!!!!!  We thought that our week was pretty quiet but as I referred back to my journal, we discovered that we went to Novi Sad on Monday, to Sremska on Tuesday, wrote project applications and reports Wed. and Thurs. and went to Cicevac on Friday.  Last Monday seems like it was a month ago!

Our trip to Cicevac was to see if we could help them with their water issues.  The water running into their homes has been condemned and shouldn’t even be used for showers or laundry.   During our meeting with their Mayor and other City Officials, the mayor commented that even if we can’t help them ( although we hope we can)   it is nice to meet with people who are so happy.  He was referring to Elder Densley and I!  Picture #1 is the Red Cross and City Officials in Cicevac.

#2.  Ron being apprehended by the Cicevac Police—he could barely fit in that car!  We hear that it is hard to out-run the police in one of these clean one-owners!!!!!

#3.  The cute young ladies in this picture are high school teachers and they were so happy because school let out for the summer just the day before!  They had a dance on the last day of school and two huge beer kegs and a beer dispenser were still sitting outside the school.

#4.  We enjoyed wandering through this beautiful park.  Parks are so important to Serbs because so many of them live in high-rise apt.Buildings and have no place to wander except their parks.  They are usually clean and well kept.  This park is on an island with a lake in the center.  The people of this area flock to the lake to lounge on the beaches—not sandy beaches, but rocky beaches. 

#5.  Thousands of people lounging on the rocks!

#6.The weather here can change in an instant.  When we arrived at the lake it was sunny and hot and within an hour the clouds rolled in and it turned off rainy and cooled down so everyone at the beach was trying to get back to town on the same bus!!!!!Our Apt. is only 548′ above sea level.  It’s hard to imagine that it snows here with that elevation but it does.

#7.  The mass transit system here is really good.  Buses run everywhere and almost every hour of the day and night.  After church we walked back to our Apt the long way to show you the buses lined up.  Where were they yesterday when we were at the lake and needing a ride home?

#8.  Ron prefers to take the trolley.  There are many of them here in Belgrade and we ride them often.  We buy a monthly pass for about $45.00 and we can ride the regular bus, the electric bus or the trolleys anywhere in town.

#9.  These are the rooftops and the changing weather as seen from our 11th floor balcony.  We love our view and the breezes that blow!  Today, Sunday and it is still raining and is only 58 degrees.  It was 86 yesterday and about 85% humidity until it started raining.

We send our love to all and thanks for keeping in touch.

P.S.

Mitch left for Afghanistan of Thursday.  Please keep him in your prayers.

Trip to Kosovo
Jun 14th, 2009 by ron

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We have had another amazing week to say the least.  I keep wondering when we will run out of things to say but not this week!  We spent the first part of the week in Kosovo.  When we arrived in Mitrovica, a region in Kosovo, Ron was very ill to say the least.  Those of you who know him very well will understand, he gets like this sometimes when we travel.  We went straight to our hotel and put him to bed and I headed off with the Red Cross.  (They are the ones who took us to Kosovo to see what we might do to help some of the people there.)  Since Ron was so sick, it was up to me to go alone with them.  They took me to meet a family who had lost their home due to conflicts in their region.  Their home had been burned and so they moved in with his parents who lived next door.  Their living conditions were less than desirable.  They cooked on an old wood burning stove in the burned out home.

From there we went to visit a Gypsy family with four children. The father has no job and it is so hard for a Gypsy to get work.  Their home was neat and clean and the children were sweet and polite.  We also visited a modular hospital / clinic that had no water while we were there.  Those who control the water system turn it off quite frequently and there isn’t anything they can do but sit and wait for it to be turned back on.  They also have their power shut off quite frequently, but have a backup generator to take up the slack. 

I forgot to take the camera with me when I left so have no pictures to document this first day on the road.

When I got back to the hotel at 8:30 pm Ron was still really sick.  I didn’t know what to do so I asked him if he wanted me to say a prayer.  There are no members of the church here to give him a blessing, so I knelt down and said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to please bless him. Within 15 minutes he perked up and wanted something to eat.  Another one of those miracles that keep happening for us over here.

On Tuesday morning Ron woke up feeling well and cheery and never felt sick again for the rest of the trip and we have pictures to document the rest of the week!

Picture #3.  This was a resettlement house in a small Serbian Enclave where the Serb Government is rebuilding small 800 Sq. Ft. homes for the Serbs who left Kosovo in 2004.  Their homes were destroyed by the Albanians and so the gov. is rebuilding them a small home so that they can return.  While we were at the resettlement, the Secretary of the Interior for the Serbian section was there in that very house.  Italian military vehicles were outside and the soldiers had their weapons drawn.  They were there to protect the Secretary.  He walked out of the house in front of us, climbed in a military hummer and they escorted him to safer ground.

#7.  This is a small enclave of 35 homes and families.  They own 1000 acres of land together and do all of the farming with just 1 small tractor and a few farming implements.  They are hardworking and industrious and all work together on the farm and share in the profits of this.  We would like to help them with some small tools to help their work along.

 We will make application and see what happens.  We don’t make the final decisions as to who we help.  We find the people and apply and then our team in Germany and Salt Lake make the final decisions.

#4.  We visited a Monastery that was built in the 1400’s.  It was being guarded by the Italian Troops stationed in Kosovo.  (They posed for a picture from those dumb Americans!)  We are amazed that things like Ancient Churches and Monasteries have to be guarded by military but conflicts still occur in this region and they love to destroy Christian Religious sites as the Kosovoan’s are Moslem.   Ron took a picture of the soldiers around their guard shack and they were less than amused.  They headed toward him with their guns drawn.

#6.  This is on the grounds of the Monastery with one of the Monks who live and work there.  They were so nice to us.  The Serbian Orthodox church on the grounds of the Monastery was really neat.  It had beautiful Fresco paintings on all of the walls and ceilings.  It is amazing that they could survive since the 1400’s.    In this picture are Me, Ron, one of the Monks, and Dragica, the lady from the Red Cross.

#8.  These are the Red Cross from Belgrade and from Mitrovisa, Kosovo.  They paid for all of our expenses for the trip and presented us with identical books about the history of the Serbs in this region. 

#9.These people are from the Red Cross in Nis, Serbia.  They have been wonderful  to us.  We were in Nis on Wednesday and went with them to their mountain lodge and retreat.  They served us a lovely 5 course meal on the veranda overlooking the tall pines.  The setting was beautiful and the food very good.  They are in hopes that we can help finance 50 Kosovo children to be able to come to summer camp for a week at this lodge.

There is a very old Monastery near the lodge where we met this cute little Sister Nun.  This Monastery used to be for women and has changed to Monks but two older nuns will be allowed to live out the rest of their days here at this monastery.  She was so kind as to let us take her picture!

As we were driving away from the lodge we passed this oak tree that is over 1000 years old.  The center of the tree is gone,  I could actually stand inside the center of the tree and look up and see the sky but the bark is keeping the tree alive.  It was so amazing. (Picture #11)

There are many green markets around Belgrade where the local farmers come to sell their produce and eggs and other things.  We like to go to them as the produce is so fresh and less expensive.  Ron took my picture while I was buying peaches for Sunday dinner-peaches and cream!

Vist to Nis Serbia
Jun 7th, 2009 by ron

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First of all, THANK-YOU to Caroline & Dick  for the wonderful package.  We received it just today!  The Elders say Thanks as well as they will also enjoy eating tacos, Chili & ranch dressing!!!

Congratulations to Aubrey, our granddaughter and daughter of Ronnie and Jen.  She was baptized yesterday, Sat. June 6th.  We are so proud of you Sweetie!

We had another amazing and memorable week.  We spent Thurs., Fri., and Sat. in Nis,

Serbia.  It is about 3 Hrs. south of Belgrade.  We went there to meet with the Red Cross as we are trying to get a Neo-Natal program going for the southern region of Serbia. 

Our meeting went far better than we could have ever expected.  They are going to help us get into the local hospital to assess their needs and see if they have a need for Neo-Natal.

The Red Cross asked us if we had been to Nis before.  No we had not.  We told them that June 6th was going to be our 40th wedding anniversary and they acted pretty amazed that people actually stayed married that long!  They gave us a guide for the day to show us around some of the historical sites or Nis.  His name is Peter.  He works for the Red Cross as well.  The pictures that follow are of our day with Peter.

  • 1. Roman Ruins located at the fort in the center of their city. Serbia served as one of the headquarters for the Roman Empire sometime after the death of Christ.
  • 2. This is the headquarters of the German officers on the grounds of the concentration camp. Notice the Swastika and the SS which is the symbol of the Secret German Police. They were feared by everyone because they answered only to Hitler himself.
  • 3. The Germans had a concentration camp right in the middle of Nis. It was a solemn feeling being where so many people were tortured, starved, treated so inhumanely and even killed.
  • 4. This is a map of the locations of concentration camps located throughout the whole European countries.
  • 5. This is an old prison uniform that the prisoners had to wear. The prisoners included men, women, and children.
  • 6. Peter, our guide, showed us his grandfather’s name on the list of prisoners who were held in this camp. His grandfather was one of the lucky ones, although he later lost his legs due to frost bite and the poor treatment he received while in this camp. 30,000 other people weren’t so lucky. This is how many people were killed while imprisoned here.
  • 7. The camp was surrounded with rows and rows of barbed wire to keep the prisoners from escaping. Many tried to escape and most died in the process but 152 actually did succeed.
  • 8. This is the barracks where the prisoners were held. The conditions had to be so horrible as there weren’t facilities or room enough. There were 100 prisoners held in each room which must have been standing room only. There was one room where straw was placed along two walls and that was sleeping quarters for hundreds of people. On the third floor was their solitary confinement area.
  • 9. There were single cells lining one side of the area and an open area on the other side where prisoners were tortured and killed in plain view of the other prisoners. I can’t imagine the fear and discomfort that these people must have felt. Those who were imprisoned here were Jews, Gypsies and Serbs.
  • 10. Skull Tower. Back in 1809 there was a fierce battle ensuing between the Turks and the Serbs. 4000 Serbs were locked inside the fort and 10,000 Turks surrounded the fort. When their commander realized that they were surrounded, he fired upon his ammo stockpile and blew his men and 10,000 Turks to pieces, but the Turks actually won the battle. They cut off the heads of 952 Serbs and encased them in concrete to make a monument to invoke fear in the remaining Serbs. The tower still stands today although most of the skulls have fallen off over the many years. Now only 52 skulls remain in place but is a solemn reminder how horrible war can be.
  • 11. After our tour of the city we went to a nice Restaurant where the Red Cross treated Ron and I to a lovely Anniversary Lunch. They really gave us the royal treatment and we are so appreciative of their hospitality and for Peter showing us around.
  • 12. We have another busy week starting at 6:30 Monday morning. We are headed to Kosovo Monday and Tuesday and have a meeting with the hospital in Nis on Wednesday.
  • 13. We send our love to all and thank you for your love and support.
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