Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Moldova borders Romania on the NE border. To visit was a step back in time, beginning with the Harry Potter train ride which took every minute of 13 hours! We were well-advised to buy first class tickets. First Class means you have a private room with a bath, NOT! The room was private but the bathroom was...shall we say, "rustic"? At 2:00AM we were stopped at the border and rudely awakened by stern Russian customs/border agents demanding passports and reasons for our visit. My camera was handy but I opted not to take a picture of the fur-hatted guard wearing a hospital mask. That move would have drastically extended our trip!

This is a picture of our room. It was actually very clean and "cozy".

The seat was the bed and actually was magic! It transformed to a narrow slab during the night!

After the customs interrogation, the real fun began. For the next 2 hours, our train was jacked 6 feet up to change the wheels to fit the somewhat narrower tracks put in place in all Soviet countries. They don't let you out of the train to watch this process so all you hear is metal banging and Russian men yelling at each other for 2 hours. When the Soviets were in power, they purposely made their tracks different to discourage leaving in a hurry.

Once in Chisineau, we stopped to buy "a few" Russian stacking dolls.

The reason for the trip was to attend a closing ceremony for a water project just completed in a little village. Please watch the video in the previous post.

I couldn't resist taking random pictures of real-life people.

The cooks at the school showing off their new running water.

The English teacher at the school thanking the Hinsons for the water system.

Spunky little Romanian children. A second later, the older one tossed his apple core at me. Watch for it in the video! Cute!

These villagers stood outside their gate as we walked by. I couldn't resist taking a picture!

The smiling grandma!

Back in the city, this was a scene on a sidewalk. Everyone smokes!

I gave this little lady a coin just to get this pathetic picture.

Speaking of "pathetic". . . Sometimes the wind is just too cold for fashion!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moldova Water Project

This week was an exciting one in the world of Humanitarian service. We took an overnight train to the neighboring country of Moldova to visit Humanitarian Missionaries, Elder and Sister Hinson. They had just completed a project where the Church funded the installation of a complete water system for a village of 4,000. To this point, all water was from contaminated wells along the streets. Because of the generous contributions of members of the Church around the world, this little community now has fresh water piped into their homes and schools. The townspeople welcomed us like royalty and after the ceremony and tour, fed us an elaborate meal. We were told that each school child brought a portion of the meal to be prepared by the cooks. That means that chickens, ducks, fish, pork, veal, vegetables, fruits, and cheeses were all brought in fresh, from family farms and gardens. We were treated to a marvelous experience as we were thanked over and over again for our Church's generosity.
Enjoy the video.

Monday, November 16, 2009

ROMANIA...The Same But Different!

When my son, Steven finished his first day of 1st grade, I asked him how he liked his new teacher. His reply: "She's the same one as last year, only with a different HEAD!"

Over the years, I've chuckled many times over that statement but it wasn't until living in a foreign country that I understood the "different head" part. My mother taught me well..."different" does not mean "bad" it's just, DIFFERENT.

A sense of humor helps when you live in a foreign country!

We flash these smiles about 100 times a day! We're having a blast!

This week we spent most of our days (and nights) in front of a computer. We proposed a project, and closed out two others that were in process when we arrived. For some reason, those who assigned us to be Country Directors thought we were computer geniuses! Being real estate email masters does not hold a candle to what we've learned here in the last month! Luckily, my computer is also a genius, which has saved it's life many times as I've threatened to throw it into the traffic 6 floors down!

Denny's computer is in the bedroom which is is a good thing! Sometimes you just need your space! I have been known to email him from the living room! Denny is on the High Council and in this picture, he is preparing a talk he will give IN ROMANIAN in 2 weeks! We will travel by train to Brasov for this assignment.

I knew the day would come when I would resort to having my husband color my hair! He is a trooper and as far as I know, he didn't miss a hair! As good as he is...there's no way I would trust him with scissors! I went on the hunt for the perfect salon. (Just shoot me!)

Here we have 'Salon Sauvage'. The 'Frizerie' brought back memories of my teenage years when my hair was permanently "Frizeried". I didn't bite! (I also didn't buy the leather jacket the Gypsy woman was hocking!)

Here we have 'Style Victim Studio'. Call me crazy but sometimes I consider myself a "Style Victim" and this place called my name! I did my homework and learned all the important Romanian words like, "Just a trim" and "Not too short" and "Like I said, NO CLIPPERS!".

Monica did a great job, except for the blow-dry which gave me the "riding in a convertible" look! After my own styling, I was pleased! With tip, it cost $7.50 USD!
Watch out Donlee!

Back to my "Things that are different" theme. . .

This is our washing machine. The folks that brought us the "Easy Bake Oven" made this! It's like the "Easy Bake Oven" but not as fun!

I'm sure the "Easy Dry Dryer" is right around the corner. Until it's invented, this is our "different" way of drying. I call it doing my part to keep humidity in the air of Bucharest!

This is our double bed. We won't go into the virtues of the mattress. We're accustomed to a "KING" so sleeping like pencils for 18 months will be different!

This is our kitchen. In another week I'll be cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 12 here. It is definitely a one woman workspace. Denny will have to email me if he wants to talk! Notice the 15X13-one rack "Easy Bake Oven"!

Sometimes Romanians think we're famous. These new friends wanted their picture with us! THAT'S DIFFERENT!

Our Spokane friends!

This is either a creative way to display your rock collection or a car cover in a hurricane. You choose!

No kidding. Gypsy wagons share the city streets. DIFFERENT!

We love our Mission and enjoy our adventures here.

But, sometimes we think of home and our quiet street and long for the sound of 'Rain birds' and a view of the Spokane Temple.

...and a trip to Chester Store.

Lest you think we're homesick, NOT HAPPEN EN'! We're a bit punchy after our week of computer trials but we're not down! This week, we'll take an overnight train to Moldova to visit a water project just finishing there. My camera will be ready and I promise better pictures than cars with rocks!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


One of the blessings of our mission came this week as we welcomed to the family a new grandson, Henry Jon Ditto. He is a healthy 8 pound bouncing bundle of joy, already filling the Ditto home with excitement only a newborn can bring. Thanks to Skype, we will watch him grow and hopefully, he will know us when we come home.

As part of our responsibilities, we took a trip to Constanta, on the Black Sea coast. We rented a room in a small hotel right on the water and in the early morning hours, I looked out on this scene and emailed Julia my wishes that little Henry would be born that day. By evening, we had a baby! Call it "Grandma's Intuition" but really, the name of the coastline where we were is called "Mamaia Beach". In Romanian, "Mamaia" means "Grandma".

This is our train. The ride took 4 hours from Bucharest.

We went to meet two "NGO's" (Non-governmental Organizations) who provide assistance to needy people in Constanta. The meetings went well and we accomplished our goal which was to find a project that we could submit before year's end. Below is a picture of a new headquarters of "Holt Romania". It was built entirely from donations. The foundation's primary focus is to support disadvantaged families by providing parental counseling and education to reduce the risk of child abandonment, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. These are huge problems in Romania. If you can't afford your children, the state will take on however many you want to give up! Imagine giving away 3 of your 5 children!

This is the director giving us a tour. She explained to us that when the building was finished, they ran out of money for heating the upstairs counseling and classrooms area. It was very cold and needless to say, the area is useless in the winter.

As soon a we got back to Bucharest we wrote a project proposing to purchase and install 8 of these radiant wall heaters to keep Holt Romania busy helping families year-round.

This is another beautiful view from our room on the Black Sea. In the winter, the resort area is brutally cold and windy. The prices of the rooms are very reasonable. Ours was 50 Euros or $75 USD taxes included.

History abounds here! This is an ancient ruins site from Tomis, 400AD. Very cool!

This building is the famous seaside whatever. It is a shell of a building now but it is lit at night and it's a very famous "whatever"! It has only been enhanced by the handsome (and frozen) missionary couple.

One of the people we met with arranged for a driver to give us a tour of the city the next day. This is Sorin, a 21 year old university student. He spent 4 hours with us and then refused a tip!
As you can tell, our mission is full of adventures. Last week we gave away a wheelchair and this week, we traveled to the Black Sea. We love what we do and although we crash into bed at night totally exhausted, we are falling in love with Romania and the people.

Back in Bucharest...a 10 year old boy was baptized this week by a new missionary, arriving 2 weeks ago! Elder Vasquin is from Hungary.

The Branch had a party and it was an event! The chapel doubles as the cultural hall. We drink a lot of water here! This stuff is carbonated and we're starting to develop a taste for it!

Every good meal starts with cheese, ham, olives and peppers.

Before this course was "Saramale" or "Cabbage Rolls". We didn't get a picture of it because it was so good that we forgot!
This picture shows the next course...sausage, chicken, and cabbage surprise!

Finally, the dessert round! I couldn't believe when they brought out trays of beautiful pastries. This one is a cakey thing, sliced and filled with whip cream with jelly on top. Who thinks of these things?

This dessert is a gelatin base with a tower of whip cream and fruit on top.

And this was mine...half eaten before I remembered to take a picture! Needless to say, my choice was a good one! It was a filled eclair with more whipping cream and fruit. Sinful!

This last shot is one we took today at the mission home. We were asked to help with the dinner and serve it after an Area meeting. We did a roast beef dinner for 12. On the left is Pres. Lundberg and his wife. On the right, near the back is the Area President from Germany, Elder Schutzeu, and his wife. It was a big deal and we loved it!
Oh, the experiences we're having!

Back from another day, safe and sound and happy. EVERYONE wears a scarf! It's the law!
(just kidding about the law part!)

Next week: Getting a trim at a hair salon! Don't miss it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


They say that going on a mission changes you and there will be a time when you realize that you will never be the same again. That time has come. With one month in Romania under our belts, we have already had experiences that will change us forever. We hope our hearts can take all that is ahead of us for the remaining 17 months.

The week started with visit to Cismigiu Gardens, a beautiful park in the center of Bucharest. It was here in February 1990 (six weeks after the revolution and the fall of Communism) that Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated the land of Romania for the preaching of the gospel. When new missionaries arrive to begin their mission here, they are taken to this hilltop where the Mission President reads the Dedicatory Prayer. Knowing that this land has been blessed by an Apostle changes everything. Now we look at people differently. Some are more ready than others to hear the gospel message but on the other hand, some are frantically searching for the truth. Even though we are Humanitarian Missionaries and do not proselyte as the young missionaries do, we strive to be good examples of Christianity and spread good will.

(If you're reading this thinking that I've lost my normal flippant sense of humor and gone preachy on you, this is REALLY me! I love what we're doing and I love representing the Lord and His church here in Romania. I am still sarcastic and funny and witty and nutty and I'm a missionary and I love it!)

Enjoy the pictures and commentary for the week.

The photo op at Cismigiu Gardens. L to R: AP's, new missionaries, President and Sora Lundberg, Elder and Sora Dummar, Elder and Sora Linerud.

After the park we headed for an appointment with an NGO that represents the Roma (Gypsy) population. We know it's a good organization if they don't spend money for things like "curb appeal". It was a great meeting.

On the way home we ran into hundreds of flower vendors along a street. People were gathering in lines and we found out it was a "All Saints" holiday. Followers buy flowers by the bundle to take to the Saints (not Latter-day!).

Then there are the vendors who use every opportunity to display their goods. I bought 3 hand-carved spoons($1 each) and had a blast with my Romanian vocabulary. You can tell by the stares how good I am!

The members and the Mission put on a program telling the story of the Book of Mormon. Practices started the week we arrived and the program was Saturday afternoon. It was a huge success as you can tell by the smiles.

This is President Dragoi and his wife. His is our Branch President and played the part of Moroni. The huge Book of Mormon was actually a door from which all the "actors" emerged. Denny was in charge of opening the door gracefully and turning on the special effects (smoke machine). I was on the lights. Shirley Millar would have been proud!

The Missionaries sang beautifully.

Romanians played all the parts.

District President Doru and Sora Turner (the Director).

Today was the absolute best! We were called this week by a member of our District and asked if the Church had an extra wheelchair from the last shipment that could possibly be given her grandmother in a village outside Bucharest. Her grandmother had broken her hip a year ago and was confined to her bed because no one could lift her. Imagine staying in your bedroom for a year! We were lucky that four wheelchairs were still available and that one would fit her. The granddaughter arranged to have her boyfriend drive the 1 1/2 hour trip and we went along to make the delivery. When we turned onto a dirt road I knew this would be a home to remember. In my life, I have never been so close to poverty as we were today. Imagine a tiny mud home where you have to both duck and step over the threshold to enter. The kitchen is in the entry with a wood stove and a counter and no running water. It is about 4' x 6. The bedroom is about 10X10 with 2 beds, a table, a stove. The floor is dirt covered with blankets and rugs. The bathroom is in the back 40. That's the whole house! I hope no one noticed my eyes bugging out of my head!
This is grandma. She is 80 years old and looks 100.

Here we are walking the wheelchair to the door.

Grandma's house. Notice the tiny window.

When we brought the wheelchair in, she immediately began to cry. She hugged us so tight we thought we might fall into her bed. Our cheeks were wet with her tears, and ours. She thanked us over and over and over, in Romanian.

We helped her sit down and she just loved it!

Who would have guessed that a simple wheelchair would have brought out so much emotion?

Ioana, the granddaughter and our new friend. She is a University student who learned English in Utah where she had back surgery as a young teenager.

To our horror, food was served to us as we visited in the bedroom. It was a cheese/pastry thing and we had no choice but to eat it happily. I broke a piece in half and raved about how good it tasted. My cup of juice had something besides juice in it. Bonus! It was actually delicious (Fast Sunday!).

The bowl of pink stuff and flies bothered me but, get over it!

This is the kitchen. It photographed beautifully but really, it was horrible!

This is the cook!

The chickens ran wild in the courtyard.

The well!

The happy dwellers plus Ioana and her boyfriend, Christy. What's not to smile about?

After the wheelchair delivery, we were invited to dinner at Ioana's home. Her mother, Elena, made a Romanian potato salad called "Salata de Beuf". It has a little bit of everything including the usual plus, peas, carrots, olives and something else I couldn't put my finger on! It is then formed on a plate and skillfully decorated. Below, Elena is serving Ardei Umpluti or stuffed peppers. It was all delicious.

We look so happy because our eating marathon is almost over. Actually, now that I look at this picture, I can see a nervous smile. Could it be we're feeling something coming on? Stay tuned. This could get even more interesting!