Sunday, February 24, 2008

24 February 2008 - Train to Karaganda, Kazakhstan

Part of the adventure of being here is experiencing new things and this week we did just that. We took the fast train to Karaganda for another Wheelchair presentation. That in itself was an experience!! Our translator couldn't go, but she took us to the train station at 7:30 p.m. and we found out that we were in a compartment with two Russian gentlemen who loved to drink Cognac; which they did for the next two hours. Of course, they were very nice and offered to share with us, but we declined. They only spoke Russian and couldn't understand what we were saying and visa versa, so we ended up smiling alot at each other!!

We left Astana with 40 mile an hour winds and when we got to Karaganda at 9:30 p.m. it was just as bad and also snowing!! We met our translator for the presentation at the Karaganda train station. Her name is Kshennia. Roy told her to look for a woman with white hair and a man in a Russian hat!! She found us immediately and took us to the hotel.

Kshennia was an excellent translator and spoke beautiful English and will be leaving next week to study in Bucharest, Romania. We fell in love with her from the start! We also told her about ourselves and our Church and what we were doing here so that she could more easily translate for us. She thought it was wonderful what we were doing as a Church.

When Kshennia came to meet us the next morning for breakfast, she informed us that all of the roads were closed to the city!! In fact, the people that were coming from the many out lying villages couldn't be there to receive their wheelchairs.

This is the storm that we woke up to. This is the picture out side window of our hotel. The night before we could see streets but the blowing snow made it impossible to see anything. All schools were closed but everything else seemed to be moving as usual. We were fearful that we would be stranded there but were assured that the train would get through!!

Alexander Mikhilovich, who is the NGO (non- government organization) person who arranged for the 500 wheelchairs, came to meet us with his driver and took us to a State Office building where the presentation was going to be. Alexander himself is handicapped and works closely with all of the government officials and other NGOs for the handicapped people in Karaganda. He is a wonderful man and works tirelessly for those that need help.

These are the government dignitaries that were present. The man in back, Abishev Zhandos Akylserkovich is the Director; the lady in white and brown, Krykava Natalya Alexeyevna is the Deputy Director and the lady in pink, Yugai Olga Vladimirova is the Department Head. All of them are from the Department of Labor and Social Protection for the Karagandinskaya Oblast (state government). Alexander is in the front.

The room was set up like a press conference. There were two TV stations present and five people from the newspaper. Everyone got a chance to speak and thank us and the Church for the wheelchairs. Roy gave his speech again and did a great job!

Here we are ready for the presentation and press conference. Do we look impressive or what!! We just smile alot because we don't know what else to do!!

This lady received the wheelchairs for the handicapped children throughout the city. This is the smallest wheelchair that was shipped in.

The lady exiting the door spoke during the presentation. She very emotionally and tearfully thanked us for the gift of the wheelchair that she had received in behalf of her daughter who is 20 years old. She has been packing her everywhere she goes and because of the wheelchair she and her daughter both now have freedom!! We both cried when she spoke and she hugged us both after the presentation!

This is the doctor in charge of dialysis for one of the major hospitals. He was there to receive two wheelchairs to help transport the patients back and forth to treatment. He wanted to personally thank us for the great help the wheelchairs would be to the patients.

This is Alexander who has become a great advocate for the handicapped. After the presentation, he and some government officials took us out to dinner. They are all just wonderful people. They wanted to know about our family and why we chose Kazakhstan to come to. We told them that we didn't know that it even existed!! But that we love the people and the country. They also wanted to know how we could have six children and 18 grandchildren and still look so young!! What can I say!! After hugging everyone and promising to come back, we boarded the slow train to Astana. It was so crowed because everyone was going home for the weekend. The trip was to take about 3 1/2 hours but because of the weather, it was the only way out of town!! We got on the end car and had to walk through 5 differant cars with every seat full and people standing in the aisles. Finally we found a seat where three college students were sitting.

These two young ladies are Ira and Shebeck who attend college in Karaganda. The one in black spoke very good English.

This is Tatayana and a friend of the other two young ladies. They all live in a town called Arshaly which is about 45 minutes away from Astana. The train stops at every town that why it takes so long! These girls were so nice and made the train trip very pleasant and enjoyable. We talked with them and another young man who joined us later. He also spoke English and is working as a computer programmer in Astana.

This little boy heard us speaking English and came up the aisle to listen. He said, "Hello". Roy said, "Do you speak English?" He replied, "No!" He leaned over the seat for an hour listening to us speak and then counted to 20 in English. He was such a cute kid!
We got home about 9:00 p.m. and we were certainly glad that we were here in our warm apartment!! All we can say is that it is part of the adventure!

Well, that's it from the land of ice and blow!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Friday, February 15, 2008

15 February 2008 - Letters from Kazakhstan

Valentines Day!! We had a wonderful February 14th!! We ate out at our first Russian Restaurant but we will show you those pictures later.

But the big event was the wheelchair presentation that we were a part of in Astana. It is the first of several we will be having in the near future. We will be going to Karaganda on Friday for another one. And we will be going to Kostanai in the next couple of weeks.

The event was held at the Youth Cultural Center. It is a very big, beautiful and cold building where a lot of events are held.

When we first got there, Roy was interviewed by a TV reporter who had the camera rolling while he asked some very pointed questions like, "How does your church differ from other churches?" Roy stood and answered the questions like a trooper being very careful not to say anything that could be taken out of context. He did a great job!

He was also interviewed by the press. This lovely lady was from one of the local newspapers and she asked about our thoughts on their country's acceptance of handicapped people.This is the head table where the dignitaries sat. The two ladies at the far left are from the Customs office and Kulnazira Kurmantayevna who is the Assistant Director of the Children's Handicapped Society of Astana City, Roy and Mira, our translator. There were other dignitaries that were not seated at the table.

We also met a very nice gentleman who is a member of the ruling Party of Kazakhstan. He has a daughter that is married to an American and they live in Kentucky. He gave us his name and phone number and told us that if we ever had any problems at all to come and see him!! He was very kind and grateful for what the Church has done. He is the one that we are listening to.
These people are from one of the adult handicapped societies. Their members did not receive any wheelchairs at this presentation. This was just for the children. They will get those another time. The lady in the red scarf also spoke representing them. The blond lady standing in the back is Elena Anatolyevna who is the director of the Society for Social Adaptation of Children. We are working with her on a project for her organization. This is Kamka Madiyevna who is the Director of the Children's Handicapped Society of Astana City. We absolutely love her!! She has dedicated her life to helping the handicapped and championing their rights. She is the one they worked through to get the wheelchairs here. She received a container of clothing from the Humanitarian Center in 2006 and we are working with her on other projects also. She was in charge of the presentation.

These are part of the recipients of the wheelchairs. Many children received them. They even had very small wheelchairs for the little kids.
They are fitting this young man to his wheelchair. He was very appreciative.

This young lady was so excited she had a hard time controlling her muscles to sit still.

This family was so grateful for the wheelchair for their daughter.

This child tried to tell me in English "Thank you". It was so sweet!!

This father stood in the background and quietly waited for the chair for his child which he was so grateful to receive.
On the back of each wheelchair are the words "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".
Everyone thanked us so much and they were truly grateful for the gift of the Church. Even though it was -39 degrees F. outside with the wind chill factor, we couldn't have gotten a warmer feeling than we felt there.
We have also been asked to go to Kockshatau with Kamka to give out the rest of the wheelchairs. We hope that we can plan to do it.
It was a wonderful Valentine's Day!!
Love to all of you!!
Elder and Sister Welling

Saturday, February 9, 2008

9 February 2008 - Letter from Kazakhstan

A couple of weeks ago we went to the new government district to deliver some papers for the NRT (Neo-natal Resusitation Project) that we are trying to get approved for July.

This is the building that we went into to deliver the papers. It is extremely long and crosses the highway. Notice the four lane highway going through the arch. We entered the first door on the right of the arch but foreigners are not allowed past the foyer, so Mira had to take them up for us.
This is the rest of the building to the right of the door we entered. Notice the round tower-looking-end of the building. The left end looks just the same.

This statue is on the Mall (similar to the Washington DC Mall). It is called "The Tree of Life". It is from a Kazakh legend that sounds a great deal like the story of Adam and Eve.

This is Anne and Mira posing in one of the Kazakh pieces of art that decorate the Mall.

These are another set of buildings going down the mall, and yes they are as crooked as they look but they are meant to look that way. Unlike the Washington DC Mall, the majority of these buildings are not government, but business and industry. Mira and Anne are in the center.
This is half way down the Mall looking back at the "Tree of Life".
This is standing in the same place in the Mall but looking the opposite direction. Notice the building at the other end with the arch in the middle. It isn't a government building that crosses the road. This building belongs to the largest oil company in the nation.

This is a new building going up on the Mall. This is the most common sight in Astana. In some places you can see as high as 40 or 50 cranes at once. There is that much construction going on.

This building on the Mall is jokingly called the "Cigarette Lighter". Not only does it look like one it has caught fire a couple of times while they were building it!!

We had a most enjoyable day on the Mall!! We walked a good 5 miles that day but it was beautiful!! The wind wasn't blowing and it was sunny, but cold!! It's always cold!!

Thanks for your support and prayers in our behalf.


Elder and Sister Welling

Saturday, February 2, 2008

3 February 2008 - Letter from Kazakhstan

Last week we went to the Astana Park and these ice sculptures are in the park. We have been wanting to go down and see them for some time and when it warmed up to zero, we went.
This is probably as close to a camel as I intend to get!!
This looked like the Utah State Aggie Mascot!! Doesn't he look cool!!

There is ice all over the ground so you have to be careful when you walk. In the background is a slide where the kids play.
Farmer Roy standing by the cart that is being pulled by a camel!! Isn't he cute, the guy of course.

It looked so beautiful that we had to go back at night. It's harder to see what they are but the lights are sure pretty.

There are about 5 big slides that the kids just have a ball on! This is Anne standing by one of them.
This little girl just went down the slide. I just had to get a picture of her!!! See her grandmother's beautiful fur coat!!

This is a picture of Kazak horses and riders..

This was our favorite one. It was beautiful in the day time and even better at night!!
The park is just four blocks north of us over the river. They build it in November and lasts until April.
We just wanted to show you that we are getting out once in a while. Especially when the weather is warm it is a lot easier to be out.
Thanks for your love and support.
Elder and Sister Welling