Friday, August 24, 2018

Family summer trip - Day 1-3 Traveling and Istanbul

We found out on this trip that it is very far to get to Africa. It is very far and the flights are loooonnnngg.  I have to say a flight to Europe feels short after this trip, ha ha. 

After flying for 13 hours we broke it up by spending 24 hours in Istanbul so we could check out Turkey before we continued on for another 8 hours of flying to get to Tanzania.

In LAX we found the lounge was a nice place to hang out, get food and Ashley even took a shower because she didn't have time to take one at home at home. 

On our 13 hour flight to Turkey...we slept, watched lots of movies and ate a lot of food. 

My favorite part of the plane was the camera on the front of the plane that let you look out while you were flying. You could either look straight out or straight down. Anyone could have a good view of outside no matter where you were sitting. 

We got into Istanbul about 5:00 with a plan to drive into the city to dinner after we went to our hotel to drop off our bags. It took a good 45 minutes for the free shuttle to come, then after getting a taxi and getting into town (after convincing the kids to leave the hotel room again) it was now about 8:30. 

We were dropped off near a restaurant that was recommended but it was closed so we wandered around looking for a place to eat. We went into a mall (had to go through security and a bag check) and then finally decided on an Italian place. It actually ended up being really good. I ate a chicken salad, Taylor ate a pizza and Ashley had homemade pasta with a large ball of cheese on top of it. We were done about 10:00 pm and everything was closed by then so we just came back to the hotel room.  

That night I slept until 3:00 am local time and then couldn't sleep any more so I finished reading a book for 4 1/2 hours until everyone else woke up. I was hoping to get on the local schedule but we have another overnight flight so I wasn't sure it was going to happen. 

The breakfast buffet was inclusive of a lot of things, all kinds of things including honeycomb, all kinds of breads, cheeses and this wide array of olives (I hate olives though). The only thing they were missing in the whole city was pork products which means no bacon, ham or sausage for breakfast. Well they had their own chicken sausage that look like a hot dog dyed red and tasted like baloney. We found enough to eat and tried fruits we hadn't tried before and watched the ladies at the table next to us fill their bags with the mounds of food they had brought to their table, ha ha. 

We had 24 hours in Istanbul and since we spent the 1st part of it sleeping we wanted to make the best of the rest of it.  We decided to go to the Grand Bazaar first.

The Grand Bazaar has over 4,000 little shops in a labyrinth of an old building with frescoes fountains and a dizzying array of gold jewelry, metal pots and tea sets, purses, shawls, rugs and other souvenirs. 

We bought some small things and some Turkish delight from this store which was a fruit concoction with no added sugar all rolled up.  

We got some interest from people but no one had asked to take a picture until this guy.  

After that all the shop guys around him wanted to have their pictures taken with Jeff and Ashley as well. 

The dollar was strong when we were here and we could get a lot for our money which is nice. We took a taxi drive to the city and it cost 65 Lira which was only 10 bucks or so. We had some nice meals for cheaper than what we would spend at home.

The next stop we wanted to see was Haggia Sophia.  As we were in line to get in an English speaking guide approached us and we ended up hiring him. He was very nice and throughout the day we would meet people that would know him and say we had a great guide with us.  (After spending almost 5 hours with us it only ended up costing us like 65 dollars for the day)

Haggia Sophia was the original center of Christianity.  Constantine had it built and it was destroyed and rebuilt 2 times after conflicts. Istanbul used to be called Constantinople.

This is the spot where there were old columns and lintels.

It was a Christian church for about 1,000 year and was been a mosque for about 400 years, now it's a museum. When it was made a mosque some of the ornamentation was changed. The door used to have a cross on it but now it is an arrow.  They left a few murals including this one above the door because it shows someone bowing down to Jesus and they say that it's evidence that the ancient way of praying is the same way that Muslims pray today. 

Inside the building a lot of the artwork was painted over and large round medallions were hung up to decorate the mosque and cover the frescoes, angel faces were painted over and the main pulpit was re-orientated 17 degrees to the right to allign with Mecca.

In sections of the church our guide pointed out that the marble was different colors because they were taken from different regions and even harvested from different temples and palaces.

I remember when studying about Haggia Sophia in school thinking how it was a shame to ruin such a historic church but now I understand more about it. They kept all of the Christian icons and things in storage so they weren't destroyed (though I imagine the glass windows were destroyed when replaced). They moved the baptistery to a courtyard to make way for a mausoleum so it could still be on display for example.   

I learned more about the Muslim religion that I didn't know before too. Our guide explained that fundamentally that they believed that Mohammed was the final prophet or messenger before the coming of the Lord. They believe that Christ was a prophet too but Mohammed was the prophet to come after him and the Koran was an unchangeable book of scripture protected by God, whereas the Bible had been translated multiple times (even though he said it gets updated every 100 years or so).

It was interesting hearing history and religion taught to us from someone with a very different lifestyle and beliefs but because he was such a nice, kind person it helped you respect his view of things.   

This round circle in the floor of the church was declared the center of Christianity during Constantinople's time. 

All of us under the dome with the chandelier and the angels with the painted faces (they are trying to restore them to their original look since it's now a museum). 

The next place we visited was the Basilica Cisterns. 

This was a great place to visit but it would have been easily missed if you didn't know what it was. The outside was just a small building but you descended to a large underground room held up by columns.  The storage of the water for the city was brought over 40 km from a forest lake to the city and then cleaned from algae by the fish that lived in the water. 

They are renovating it right now so it was mostly drained but they are in the process of making it with glass floors so you can walk on it and see the water and the fish underneath. 

Th columns were taken from other palaces and temples and brought in to build the cistern. There were two columns with medusa on them. It was also nice and cool down in the Cistern which was a nice break from the humid heat. 

Since the Blue Mosque was closed for prayers we took a break at a rug shop that our guide brought us to (guess this is pretty common practice) and we were introduced to a lot of things we could buy. Notice the cat in the background...when he first pulled this bedspread out it covered the cat and he said "he doesn't mind, he's used to it".

Cats were everywhere in the city...they were just part of the shopping experience. 

Once it was opened again we got a chance to see the Blue Mosque.  To go inside Ashley and I had to wear head coverings, and we all had to take our shoes off to walk inside on the carpet. 

This was a "map" of the mosque.

I guess before people pray in the mosque they have to wash their hands, feet, neck and more to be clean before coming in to the mosque to pray. 

Men are on one side and women on the other. It was nice to go into the mosque and see it but it was nice when we got to take the head scarf off because it was annoying and hot. 

The Hippodrome - this was a place where they used to have chariot races but the only part that is left intact was an obelisk built by the Egyptians and one built by the Romans.  Our guide is posing with us. I was very glad we had him to explain things to us and take us around because we would have just wandered through places and not known 1/2 of what we learned. 

We got back to our hotel with plenty of time to eat lunch (even a nice hotel lunch for all of us was like 20 bucks).  We then got on the plane for an 8 hour overnight flight down to Africa. 

They fed you well on Turkish airlines...we ended up eating a lot of meals on the airplane by the end of the trip. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

June Graduations

June was the month for graduations. The first one we went to was Jared's high school graduation. He is planning to go to college in Monterrey in the fall. 

Angela and Robert came down to see it too. We got to the school in plenty of time to see the graduation and save seats. 

Jared going across the stage.

Afterwards we went to Korean Barbeque to celebrate. 

Right after school got out we had a beach day with a van full of teens and me. I got to be the chauffeur and they got to enjoy the beach.   

It was one of the only times I even went to the beach this summer since Ashley has enough friends that drive she went on her own with other people the rest of the summer. 

The beach ended up being a little cool still so we ended up coming back home and they went into the hot tub and watched a couple of movies. 

On the first Sunday in June we hosted a teen break the fast and a fireside viewing party. 

One of my projects this month was figuring out how to make money leis. I made a couple for Taylor. I'll have to remember this for future graduations.

The night before Taylor's graduation we did another beach day to visit my cousin Shavonne and her family. We had a great day at Huntington beach and let them borrow our boogie boards, showed them how to catch sand crabs and enjoyed a great day. 

Taylor Rose, Taylor and Ashley playing smashball...

After the beach we went to Spaghetti Factory for dinner.

Ashley with her cotton candy drink.

After dinner we walked on the pier.

Ashley getting in on the photos.

Taylor and Taylor did their own photo shoot. 

We enjoyed the sunset and then drove home to prepare for Taylor's graduation the next day. 

We woke up bright and early to go to Taylor's graduation at UCR the next day. He had to be there even earlier. 

Waiting for the graduation to start. Out of all the hundreds of people we ended up sitting behind Taylor's buddy and his family (Brandon photo bombing).

Parker and Taylor both graduated from the physics department. 

Taylor and the "guys" have been friends from high school.  

Taylor has known the Brandon and Parker way back from his AYSO soccer days.

So proud of Taylor! He even graduated Magna cum lade and got a medal. Way to go!

Since we only had 6 tickets for the graduation (and it was early in the morning) we had everyone over to the house to swim and eat to celebrate Taylor. 

Shavonne and her family came up for the party too which was nice because Angela did get to come to the beach. Shavonne was a favorite cousin growing up. 

Since this all happened the day before Father's Day we handed out goodies for the dads too to honor them.

Update from Jacob

June 3rd 2018

This transfer Is going by really fast! We've been very busy lately, especially with a lot of exchanges. This past Tuesday I was able to go to Wilkesboro with an Elder that I was his first district leader. It was great to see him again and see how much he has changed. The area we went to was in the hills of western North Carolina, and it was beautiful! That's one thing about this zone, is that it is the most mountainous zone in the mission, and I love it! I've just been seeing flat my whole mission haha. 
      We also went on another exchange this last Friday, and I was able have an Elder come here. It was weird having to plan, since I haven't been here very long, but I'm getting the hang of things! There's definitely a lot of work to do here, so it's nice to keep me busy. 
      The rest of the transfer before President Alexander leaves is booked crazy. This upcoming week we have MLC on Tuesday, exchanges with the assistants on Wednesday, and then 2 district meetings and interviews with President on Friday. It's fun to be busy! However i am always super exhausted. I have fallen asleep in the car a lot lately haha. 
      Something I've been really trying to focus on is focusing on the positives to everything, and the solutions to problems. It's been easy to see problems in the zone and worry about what we can do to fix it. But now I just want to see the bright side of everything and help the zone see that as well! 
I love you family! And have a wonderful week! 

June 19th 2018
Hello Family!

     Great week! Very busy with lots of meetings! It was also very hot, but not too humid. In coming to North Carolina I thought California gets much hotter, and it would be a breeze coming here. That's not really the case 😅. Without the humidity it's fine, but ass soon as it gets humid... no bueno. The nice thing is that everyone is out in the summer! Everyone just finished school here, and is out and about. It makes missionary work much easier. 

      There is a lot of work here to do in the hickory ward. There's enough to do where we can always be doing something productive, but the challenge is deciding what is the most effective use of time. Almost the whole ward here just changed callings this past Sunday. There are a lot of new people in certain positions, so we're excited to be able to meet with them and get to discuss the work. The Bishop here is really wonderful, very missionary work oriented. We have also been meeting a lot of inactive members who love the missionaries more than the regular member! One we met offered to give us free haircuts, another gave us a few bags full of food. Southern hospitality has been the realest here in Hickory. Haven't met a mean person yet. 

      We had MLC (Mission Leadership Council) this past Tuesday, and it was kind of sad, because a lot of what we talked about was how we can help the new mission president adjust. This was the Alexanders last MLC before they left and it was a very special one to be at. President Alexander wanted to make this one fun though, so as part of one of the trainings, he had us build rockets and we launched them. Definitely a meeting to remember! Last Friday we had our last interviews with President Alexander, and that was also a special moment. That day was exhausting though, because right after that we went to 2 district meetings. Luckily though, we got to take a nice nap today.   

      Elder Gurney and Elder Bibo are both wonderful Elders. Sadly Elder Gurney goes home in a couple of weeks, so I need to learn the zone really well before he goes. It is very fun being in a trio, and you just feel unstoppable walking down the streets. The funny thing is, we're all very interesting looking people, so putting us all together fulfills the scripture saying we are a peculiar people. We have me standing at 4'6'', another Elder at 6'5'', and the other is half Cambodian. It's been a wonderful time serving with these Elders.

     It's sad to think that my time here is waning, I'm doing my best to sprint to the end. I've had some worries about coming home and losing the light I've gained on the mission, however, through a recent read-through from the Book of Mormon I've gained some hope. We just finished a Doctrine of Christ read, and it was life-changing. I've realized an understanding of, and commitment to live the doctrine of Christ is the most important thing I can do to keep this light. As I've read, I've understood so much more what the Gospel that Christ taught entails, and I start to see it in everything. I know that Christ lives today, and leads his church. I know that the end goal of this life is to live with Him and our Heavenly Father, and the only way to do that is through living the Doctrine of Christ. I love you all, and wish you the best in all your summer endeavors! 

-Elder Beaulieu 

June 26th 2018

Hello Family! 

      Wonderful week! Just wonderful. We've been having a lot of fun trying to send Elder Gurney off right. Being in a tripanionship is crazy, but it gets a lot of work done! We have been very busy this whole transfer, there's a lot to do here in Hickory. The people here are the nicest of any area that I've served on my mission. Even when people aren't interested their never rude here. We actually got a call a few days ago with someone looking for Charles. apparently she was looking for a missionary that had given her his card 2 years ago, and she kept it all this time. She needed help moving some thing, so we gladly accepted. We quickly found out that we were moving this ladies' daughter out of her house without the daughter knowing. Apparently they got in an argument and the missionaries got caught in the middle of it. But! Nevertheless, we helped anyways, and she actually knows a lot of the members of the ward! We're planning on seeing her again soon as well! 

      Crazy thing is that we only have about a week left in the transfer! The trio will probably be getting split up, because a lot more missionaries are going home this transfer than coming in. I'll have to be the one who knows what he's doing pretty quickly, which as a missionary, I never feel like I know what i'm doing. I am excited for the new mission president to come in! We will be meeting him next Friday with a meet and greet, and the following Tuesday there will be an MLC. Going to be a big change but super exciting! 

      Something I really love about the south, is their reaction to seeing little people. They are just the sweetest people, but they aren't afraid to say anything. Some people scream, some get a really big smile, and some run up and hug me. It's been wonderful though, because I've been able to use it to further the Lord's work here! We may not be able to share any spiritual message to these people, but they have seen the missionaries, and it's a lot easier to remember them when there's a little person haha. That's something I've been learning as a missionary, is that each of us have different talents and abilities. God doesn't ask you to use what you don't have. He requires you to get out of your comfort zone, but he doesn't expect you do to more than you can. I've seen some of the most awkward missionaries teach, and at some points of their teaching I stop and stare at them thinking "why did you just say that?" However, I would then look at the person we're teaching looks like we just answered all of her greatest questions. I've seen the Lord just asks for your heart, the skills will come through time, but he needs your heart. Once he has that, the spirit is able to work through you to help His children. 

      We were teaching this miracle family we found, who is the friend of a recent convert family. There was many miracle in us being able to find them, but that's another story. What I saw was one of the boys wearing a shirt from a youth camp. On it, it said "born to change the world." I pondered on that and thought how true that really is. We are literal children of God, and we are here to live the gospel of Jesus Christ so we can make it back to God one day. For us who have the gospel, and bring others to Christ, are changing the world, sometimes one person at a time. God wants you back, but he also wants you to be a part of his bringing his other children back. I love this gospel, I know it's true. 
-Elder Beaulieu