March 30, 2014

In between appointments one day we walked past the statue of Ronald Reagan.  Hungarians revere him and are grateful to him for helping them regain their democracy when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  
 (An aside:  Some of you might like this comment made by Reagan, 
“There is nothing as good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse!”)

Jó napot mindenki!  (Good day everyone!)  Blossoms are out in Budapest, and sometimes when we walk past them, the smell is so refreshingly spring.  Birds are singing.  Buds are coming on the trees.  We are told that we must watch carefully, because on a warm day trees will suddenly be green!  It will be beautiful.  Daylight Savings Time started today.  It must be spring. 

This week we continued visiting – two foundations that helps children who were born prematurely or who had trauma at birth and have delayed motor skills.  The first one was started by a woman who has been doing this for 40 years.  She has written the ‘curriculum’ so to speak.  We asked her if her methods were known outside of Hungary and that very day someone was presenting her method and the statistics at a conference in Germany that now show most of the children who have attended her ‘school’ are at normal status.  We also met with a school who helps children with their speech and communication, a school for mentally disabled children and the director of the children’s cancer foundation.  All have fascinating stories, many needs and are serving and caring in most Christlike ways.  We are waiting to hear from several of these foundations so that we can submit projects, and waiting to hear if the ones we have submitted will be approved.  In the meantime, we keep visiting and learning.

Here are a few fun things in Hungary that are different than in the US:

There are little pékségek (bakeries) all over – in fact several to a block, some right next to each other.  Here is one selling loaves of bread that weight 3 kilos or 6.9 pounds!

Some items come in different sizes and shapes:  This 1.5 liter bottle is what people carry around to drink – either water (‘gas’ or ‘still’) or soda.  Eggs are always brown, small and only come 10 in a carton.  The common napkin at any eatery is one-fourth of what we are used to – and one-ply.

Baking items mostly come in packets – yeast, vanilla (I did find a tiny bottle), baking powder and baking soda.  The Shake Shake is the only way I’ve found malt powder to use in my bread sticks recipe.  Spices also mostly come in packets, i.e. nutmeg, thyme, black pepper and paprika.

On our Saturday P-Day we took an excursion to visit Parliament.  Any photo we could take of this magnificent gothic building would not do it justice, so we’ve included some ‘commercial’ photos. The Parliament building is a landmark in Budapest.  It is the largest building (691 rooms and 29 staircases) and the tallest, 96 meters (which represents the nation’s millennium from 896 – 1896).  It is one of the oldest government buildings in Europe; completed in 1904 (construction took 19 years). 

This model was made a few years ago by a Hungarian family.  It took them 3 years to build and is made with over 100,000 matches.

This is a section of the carpet in the Reception Room where we were standing.  It was made by Hungarian women using the Turkish method – meaning that when you walk on it, the knots get tighter – or in other words, it does not wear out.  Turkish rugs have every right to be expensive!  This carpet is 70 years old (the original was burned in a war); the one on the other side is 120 years old; they are all in one piece (23 x 7 meters) and are the third largest in Europe.

Beautiful stained glass windows all throughout the building.

On the window sills outside the meeting chambers are these brass fixtures, each space with a number.  These were to hold the cigars of the representatives.  They each had a numbered space.  If the session was boring they could come out and continue smoking. If they stayed and listened to a whole speech and came out and nothing was left of their cigar but ashes, they might say “that speech was worth a Havanna.” 

There are two identical Chamber Rooms.  One is always in use; the other can be used for conferences and tours.  Currently there are 386 representatives, but elections are coming up and they will be changing 199 elected officials.


Looking up at the ceiling of the Dome Room.

The guards move their sword and head and do a little two-step every 5 minutes, change places every 15 minutes and change guards every hour.  Other than that they do not move a muscle.  Well, one of them blinked when Stan asked him a question. The Holy Crown has been used in coronations since 1000.  It has had an adventurous history, much like Hungary.  It was lost, found, buried, stolen and turned up in Ft. Knox, but has now been displayed here since 2000. 

Standing on columns around the rooms are sculptures of kings, rulers and only one female Queen to rule in Hungary, Maria Theresa.  She reigned for 40 years, loved children (she had 16) and was the mother of Marie Antoinette.  Who knew? 

Too much history?  That’s it for this week.  Tonight we hosted our first senior missionary couples dinner at our apartment with 3 other couples who are close by:  President and Sister Smith, Elder and Sister Felsted (YSA couple) and Elder and Sister Bagozzi (office couple).  (Forgot to take a picture.) 
We love you all.  We send our best wishes and blessings.  We are so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives.  We are grateful to be serving in Hungary.  We look forward to hearing from prophets this coming week.  Have a great week.

March 23, 2014

Couldn't resist! This store sells bits of dishes, crystal, jewelry -- lots of good schmuck!

Our days were a bit different this week.  As mentioned, we have visited several organizations and have talked to them about their needs and how we might help them.   It was time to actually submit some project requests, which requires a write up and some paperwork.  We did go out to price some items and then submitted three projects.  The others we are still waiting for responses from the agencies about their wishes and suggested vendors.  You might think that if they were getting something they would be right ‘on it.’  Someone said, “Remember this is Hungary.”

We’ve mentioned before how efficient the public transportation is.  We needed to price some outdoor equipment; I looked up the address and went to Google Maps, found the route and we headed there.  We got further and further away from the familiar city.  Stan was getting a bit worried and kept asking if I was sure about the directions.   We got off as directed – the 24th bus stop – walked the designated block and lo and behold, there it was!  And it was HUGE!  We priced our items, one of which they did not have, but the salesman said they had it at their other store, which was bigger!  Okay U.S. Scheels or Cabellas have nothing over on Decathlon in Hungary.  Well, maybe the ferris wheel and the aquarium and mounted animals.   And then next door was a grocery store we had seen advertisements and bags from, but did not know where it was.  So when we finished, we took a detour to visit Auchan.  And that store had 60 cash registers!  No, they were not all in use, but they were built.  So there, Costco and Sam’s.  

A couple of weeks ago, one of the elders told us about Medvehagyma (wild leeks), affirmed that it was delicious and that we should buy some when we see it for sale.  Within a day or so, you could buy it on most street corners, in the markets and every grocery store.  And then an email came from Delicious Living (online magazine) and it highlighted ramps.  With a bit of looking, this is the discovery.  Medvehagma is the star of Hungarian kitchens in early spring.  It is also called ramps, ramson (in England), wild leeks or wild garlic.  It is a relative of chives; both tasty and nutritious, even being known to reduce high blood pressure.  It is rich in Vitamin C, is from the cancer-fighting allium family and in Appalachia is a venerated folk remedy.  It grows wild throughout Hungary and is popular in salads, soups, eggs, as a side dish or used instead of basil as a pesto.  So far we’ve loved it best over baked potatoes.  One place said it is now popular because 'foraged food is fashionable.'  Have you ever seen this?

As mentioned, McDonald’s is plentiful here.   We tried to find how many actual restaurants are in Budapest, but could not.  There are 35,000 in 100 countries in the world; they’re taking over!  Below is a typical McDonalds here and one that was just featured in the news – the fanciest in the world – at one of our most frequented tram stops.

Typical Budapest McDonalds

McDonalds version of "Have it your way."
The fanciest McDonalds impressive exterior, only betrayed by the always timeless golden arches.
This station building was built in 1877 by the Eiffel Company, which also built the Eiffel Tower. Opened in 1988, this McDonald' became the first in Hungary, and was a particularly symbolic gesture given the timing. The chain's golden arches, considered by many a symbol of America's foreign policy and capitalism, made their way into Hungary shortly before the end of Communism. (from Google Alert)

Notice the grandeur -- unlike  any McDonalds we've ever seen.
U.S. fire hydrants are short and fat; Hungary’s are tall and skinny.

Saturday morning Sharon attended a stake Relief Society celebration meeting so we didn’t go ‘adventuring’ this week.  The theme of the RS meeting was family history (that’s what we want our next mission to be), and here are a few tidbits from the meeting:

  • Family history is no longer about charts; it’s about knowing your family (the teachers said if we were doing anything on the list below, we are involved in family history).
  • Start with your heart, then go to the charts by:
   Stories – everyone has a story.  Discovering their story makes them real.  When finding/hearing a story, be sure and write it down.  “Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful than a book! . . .those little sheets of paper speak to us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers.”  Charles Kingsley
   Photos – With all the writing don’t forget the photos.  “Of all the inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”  Walt Disney
   Pedigree Charts

  • Family history is not just a program, it is a lifestyle!

We are so grateful for Heavenly Father’s Plan that we come to this earth in families and He wants us to return in families.  He wants us to know our families when we walk through the veil.   

Reading the Allegory of the Olive Trees in Jacob 5 this week is another testimony strengthener of the great love and mercy that our Savior and our prophets have for us and our families.   Over and over - 15 times – the Savior wants to give us one more opportunity; and when He grieves that He should lose a tree, the servants (prophets) want to give us another opportunity.  His love is exemplified to the utmost through His Atonement in our behalf.  Elder Holland commented that “returning, repenting, reuniting – at-one-ment – this is the message throughout.” 

March 16, 2014

Looking east across the Duna (Danube) to St. Stephen's Basilica.

Again this week we visited more organizations:  Bethesda (a children’s hospital), a home for the visually impaired operated by nuns, a children’s home (for children who need to be removed from families for various reasons), and a home for the disabled.   There are always many needs in these places, so we will be submitting requests this week.   We are very impressed with the people who direct these facilities and care for those who live there.  And in each home, they are very well kept by those living there – very neat bedrooms and common areas.  They are taught well.   At our visit to Bethesda Hospital, we mentioned our US well-known Bethesda Hospital in Maryland.  He told us there are Bethesda Hospitals in Germany and Holland (probably other places as well).  Did you ever know this name came from the healing pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem?  Bethesda means ‘house of mercy’ or ‘house of kindness’ in Arabic or Hebrew. 

Wednesday we attended Zone Conference for most of the day.  We were blessed to hear from President Klinger (‘best stake president in Hungary’ says our mission president – he’s the only one), President and Sister Smith and Elder and Sister Dyches (from Europe Area Presidency). (We met Elder Dyches a couple of years ago when we were in Reno, NV.  He was Chris and Marjie’s home teacher and stopped by to give them some dinner rolls he had just made.)  The theme was teaching with the Spirit.  A few thoughts from the day:

  • It is not so important what you say to investigators as how you say it – radiating enthusiasm and happiness.
  • We need to help and teach people to find happiness.  If they are not baptized now, they will be much closer to accepting the Gospel later.
  • The Holy Ghost is as important to man as sunshine and water are to plants. Take the Holy Ghost away and our church is no different than any other church.
  • A convert commented, “The Holy Ghost is like an old friend who had guided me in the past, but has now come to stay.”
  • We attend church every Sunday to partake of the Sacrament, renew our covenants and feel the Holy Ghost.
  • Baptism is not the end, it is the beginning.
  • Elder Dyches told the Parable of the Oranges:  a young man working in Arizona was hoping to be promoted in his job.   However, when an opening came up, another newer employee was promoted.   The first employee asked why.  The supervisor told him, “My wife needs some oranges for a party, please go buy some.”  So the employee returned in about 15 minutes with a bag of oranges.   Then the supervisor asked the promoted employee to do the same thing.   He returned in 30 minutes with 2 bags of oranges.  He had called the wife to see what kind and how many oranges she needed.   She told him her recipe called for a mixture of tart and sweet oranges and she would be serving 30 people.  So he asked the grocer and the two kinds were suggested.  He also asked that since he was buying 2 bags, could he get a better price – and did.  Any question why one was promoted over the other?   This had to do with doing the job with real intent.
  • Excuses never produce results.
  • We are accountable for what we have been given.
  • President Eyring has said, “I know when I teach by the Spirit; I always learn something.”
  • “Without the Spirit, no man can know the will of God or that Jesus is the Christ.”  President Joseph F. Smith.
  • You will know through the Spirit why you were called to this particular mission.

Saturday, March 15th is a Hungarian holiday – anniversary of the 1848 Revolution.   Stores were closed.  We walked with President and Sister Smith and Elder and Sister Bagozzi (the office couple) up to Castle Hill. All the way up were fun crafts, Hungarian artifacts and much food to look at, admire and even taste.  It was a bit like going to Swiss Days in Utah (but cooler and fewer people).  

Chimney Cakes --  pastry dough being cooked over charcoal.
They will be rolled in cinnamon and sugar, nuts or seeds.

 We saw the outsides of the Royal Castle and Royal Palace – the complex for Hungarian kings completed in 1265. Castle Hill is famous for its medieval, Baroque and 19th century buildings, many still private residences.  Streets were all very old cobblestone.  We watched the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace, saw groups in period costumes, went into the Hungarian House (a meeting and cultural place), saw medieval ruins, enjoyed the panoramic view of the city and generally walked around with all the people there for the holiday.  The photos and commentary are below, and we will go back on another day to see inside the buildings.  We arrived home in the nick of time as the day turn blustery and very chilly.

Medieval ruins on Castle Hill

He didn't flinch a muscle!

St. Matthias Church, site of coronations and weddings, over 700 years old!

Looking across the Danube to Parliament.

One of 7 turrets symbolizing the 7 Hungarian tribes that arrived in the Carpathian Basin in 896!

Fisherman's Bastion (Square), built to commemorate fishermen who protected 
the city100 years ago and now a favorite overlook.
I finished two great books this week.  One was Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s biography.  I saw it in the mission home when I got here.  You can imagine how wonderful that book was – learning all about him and his life as he progressed toward discipleship, which was the theme of the book.   I first knew about Elder Maxwell when he was the Church Commissioner of Education.  I had no idea about all that he did before that call – politically, educationally (at the University of Utah} and on general Church committees and assignments.  He was amazing!  Of course I would recommend this book.

The other one I loaded on my Kindle to read on the 3-hour train ride, Life’s That Way, by Jim Beaver. This is a true story about a couple (both actors) in CA, married for 10 years before being able to have their daughter.  When she was two, she was diagnosed with autism and two months after that the wife was diagnosed with lung cancer (non smoking type).  This is his (mostly) nightly emails for a year to family and friends through this journey.   It is well written, insightful, sweet, tender, helpful to anyone on this type of ‘journey,’ and very wise.   You would probably know the actors he mentions, but I don’t watch those TV shows.  I only knew a few.  I also recommend this book.

This evening we were invited to dinner at another couples' apartment.  Once again, we are grateful for ours. We did have a very enjoyable time, however.  

We had a 'aha' moment in our reading this week -- that 'enduring to the end' is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christ.  Of course we need to endure to the end, but hadn't thought about it as a principle of the gospel (it's not in the 4th Article of Faith).  That is why the purpose of missionaries is to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."   It says it right there!!!!