Dear Friends and Family,

I was going to start this message by telling you about the holes in the ground with a pipe that are the public toilets here in many places like bus and train stations and even the newer Vladivostok Airport. But I decided that I am just being too negative and so I am going to talk about all of the positive things here. One positive thing is that I have been sent here instead of someone who has a weak bladder. I can go for hours without having to use a facility and always carry wet wipes and tissue with me that I brought from home. Not sure what I will do when I run out. I am also blessed at my advanced age that I can walk so far and am in very good health.

Some other positive things. Our apartment, and most apartments here, have a wonderful electric hot water pot that makes boiling water almost as soon as you can get the tea bag in your cup. There are many wonderful herb teas availbale here and Russians love their “chai” maybe even more than their “kofe”. All of the apartments that I have been in so far (and that is quite a few) are very clean inside no matter how humble the outside may look. The stairwells can be stinky and dirty but the apartments are clean inside. Haven’t been in one with an elevator yet so I am also glad that I can walk up many flights of stairs.

You see very few ugly window blinds but instead there are beautiful window treatments (drapes and curtains). I am taking pictures of some that I might want to try to replicate when I get home. The ice cream here is also pretty good. It comes in a plastic bag.

The trees here are finally leafed out and there are tulips blooming by several of the war monuments and public areas. They are so beautiful! It is like having a second Spring because the tulips that were everywhere in Istanbul a month ago were just at the last stage of bloom. We were told when we were there that tulips actually originated in Turkey and the story is that some royalty from Holland many hundreds of years ago did a favor for the Sultan in Istanbul and was offered jewels in return. All he wanted, though, were tulip bulbs which he took back to Holland. (Haven’t verified the truth of this).

There is all kinds of fixing up and construction going on here in Nakhodka. There are half a dozen new apartment buildings going up near us and just down from the store where we usually shop they are building a new large grocery store. It should be done soon and I am hopeful that it will be wonderful and have lots of the things I need in one place.

We had an appointment on Thursday of last week at a day care facility to assess their needs but it didn’t pan out. Our translator set us up with a meeting with the director of the seaman’s center here in town. Our little branch of the church shares space with them. He used to be in some kind of social work with the regional government and thought he could set us up with some groups that could use our help. He also gave us complimentary tickets to a performance at the center last Friday night of a jazz quartet from New York. Jazz isn’t our favorite music but it was a nice diversion.

Our translator’s mother is a nurse in a maternity hospital and she would love it if we could buy some blankets for use there but she said the director would most likely just take them and sell them. There is central heating all over town and it is turned off early in April and there have been some cold rainy days and the patients get cold. There is also central hot water that is turned off at the same time but we have a very modern apartment with a small hot water heater so we don’t have to heat water for a bath and dishes.

We also have discovered 5 open humanitarian projects from a year ago or more. We have been spending time as sleuths trying to get all the facts on them so they can be officially closed out. You know how it is, no job is ever completed until all the paper work is done.

And I will close on another positive note with the attached picture of shopping in Nakhodka. Bet you can’t find this where you shop. There are also baskets of chicken feet that have been washed very white and clean, if that tickles your fancy. The picture is of me and our sweet translator. Love to all! Elder and Sister R