Hello to all from where West meets East!

We have spent 6 nights in this fascinating city where the European continent is separated from the Asian continent by the Bosphorus Strait. We arrived last Sunday morning at about 10:30 AM and were met by another missionary couple who took us to our hotel and then to church. It was a very international branch of the church where everything that was said in English was restated in Turkish. There were Americans there, Europeans, Africans, a lady from the Phillipines as well as some Turkish members, totaling about 40 people.

It is a city full of mosques and minarets where the call to prayers are heard 5 times a day, the times vary depending on the sun I am told. The people fill the narrow cobblestone streets as well as the wide boulevards like ants and the taxi drivers are constantly honking at them and I think would really run over them if they didn’t move. We have enjoyed turkish food at outdoor cafes and seen all the tourist sites: the grand bazaar, the spice bazaar, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace and a few others.

We have also enjoyed a very helpful conference and been instructed on exactly how things work in Russia. In spite of the collapse of communism, the government is still in complete control and you can’t even give things away or help people without their permission and mountains of paperwork. This will be a very delicate mission for us – we will have to tread lightly and follow all their rules. There are 22 couples here from Eastern Europe, not all from the Russian Federation but it has been most helpful to talk to the ones who are and begin to get an understanding of the Russian mentality.

These missionaries come from all walks of life and one of them is a chiropractor and has been able to help Jim. They are all terrific people, especially the two couples from our head office in Moscow who put on this conference.They are so capable and are serving exactly where they are needed.

Our hotel serves a complimentary breakfast up on the top (6th) floor each morning and it looks out over the Sea of Marmara. Last night we walked to the (Princess) Diana Hotel and all of us ate dinner on their top floor which had not only a beautiful view of the sea but also of the Bosphorus Strait and the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. As it got dark the minarets were lit and it was beautiful and the weather very pleasant. On the way home some stopped to get Turkish ice cream. It is served by a man in a fez and he puts on quite a show. His antics are difficult to describe but he has a long metal spatula and dips some and holds it out but turns it and pretends to drop it as you reach for it. It is most entertaining but the ice cream is like rubber. I expressed that opinion and one of our group said that it is a mixture of play dough and glue. Jim and I opted for a real international experience this evening and went to McDonald’s where I got some real ice cream. We fly out Saturday to Moscow and then to Vladivostok, arriving on Monday morning.

I cried as the plane taxied out to the runway in NYC, knowing that it would be my last time on American soil for 2 years.

Got to go one afternoon in Istanbul shopping for Turkish carpets with our Country Welfare Director. They were such a deal at about 8,000 dollars but fun and interesting for me. Everyone in Istanbul has a brother or a cousin, or an uncle who can make you a good deal on carpets – almost free! I will send pictures of some bowls I bought when we get internet set up and also post some great pictures from Istanbul.

We have been in Russia for a week and a half now but won’t get internet installed until the middle of the month so our new news will have to wait. Love Elder and Sister R.