Sunday, August 19, 2012

Last Few Days and Final Reflections

I just wanted to add one more post to the blog to wrap up our final few days, our return to America, and add some final reflections on our time in Minsk.  

Sunday was a bit sad, as it was our last day attending the Minsk branch.  We have really enjoyed being a part of this amazing branch the past 4 months.  The Minsk branch has definitely strengthened us while we have been so far from home.  Getting to/from church with all of the kids each week has certainly been more of an adventure than we ever experienced back in our home ward in Lehi (it takes a little over an hour each way, including a lot of walking and multiple metro transfers)!  But the branch is so strong and filled with such wonderful, faithful members, who have gone out of their way to welcome and take care of us.  Because of the government/legal situation of the church in Belarus, which does not allow Jacque or I to hold callings in the branch or even participate much in the meetings, we have loved being there with the faithful members and having the chance to renew our baptismal covenants each week (and our children are very adaptive and loved primary!).  This extended trip abroad and attending the Minsk branch (with so many dedicated, sacrificing members) has given me a valuable opportunity to reflect on my love for the gospel, my service in the church, and my overall faith journey.  We are going to miss our good friends in the Minsk branch.

Monday was a packing and cleaning day (at least in the morning).  We were able to get quite a bit done and still have quite a bit more to do.  The afternoon was more casual and everyone had rest time.  It was super rainy, so we basically were stuck in the apartment for the day.

Tuesday was our last full day in the country so we had to get all of the packing done, which is particularly tricky when trying to keep the different suitcases under the 50 pound limit!  But by late morning we had everything packed up and suitcases lined up by our apartment door, ready to go.  We decided to go on one final family outing for lunch and I must admit that it was a bit sad as we were walking back to our apartment for the last time.  After the lunch the kids had rest time, we met with the landlord and returned keys, we met one more time with Sergei (from church), and then we had a wonderful dinner with the Johns.  After dinner I helped them back to their apartment with all of the household stuff would had bought for our stay over the summer, which we would not be bringing home.  We figured the missionaries would be able to make good use of all of it.  There was more than I had originally thought, so we were all quite loaded down.  Luckily, their apartment is only a 5+ minute walk, so it wasn’t too bad.  We dropped off the stuff and then we said our final goodbyes, which were very sad; we have come to love the Johns over this summer and they have been great friends to Jacque and I and like surrogate grandparents for the kids.  After I returned back to our apartment we got things cleaned up and the kids to bed.  Then Jacque and I Skyped with a friend back home before trying to get to bed early. 

Wednesday started super early and was a very long day!  The alarm went off at 2:20 am and by 3:00 am we were loading up the U.S. Embassy van and were off to the Minsk Airport.  We were there quite early but it just took forever to get through all of the different security checks and everything.  By the time we finally got through everything they were boarding the plane and we were off just 20+ minutes later.  Our biggest concern of the day was the transfer at the Frankfurt Airport.  We had just a 65 minute layover, which may seem like a lot of time but is not when you are taking various shuttles and trains to move between gates trying to get 5 little kids and a bunch of carry-on bags through the security checkpoints and everything.  We were worried that we would miss the connecting flight.  In the end, we got to the gate almost exactly 30 minutes before departure.  They had already given away our reserved seats and said we would all have to be scattered in seats around the plane (not sitting together), which of course was not an option.  In the end, there were nice people around us who were willing to change seats so we could all sit together and before we knew it we were on our way to Chicago.  In anticipation for this day of travel, we honestly were not concerned about the transfer in Chicago, as we had a two and a half hour layover.  However, once we arrived we found out that the departure time to Salt Lake City had been moved up half an hour and then just changing terminals, getting our checked baggage, going through customs, rechecking our baggage, and going through security (where they let us cut in line with all of the kids) took us most of that time.  We got to the gate just a few minutes before boarding, which was a relief, and soon we were on our way to Salt Lake City.  The final leg of the flight was just fine and before we knew it we were in SLC with all of our checked bags and then were able to relax just a little bit before our friends came to pick us up (since the flight left half an hour early, we arrived half an hour early too and ended up with a little time).  By around 5:30 pm we were home (just in time for the buyers of our home to do their final walk through before closing, we got some food and things a bit situated around the house, and then by 7 pm (4 am Minsk time) we got the kids down to bed; Jacque followed at 8 and I got a few final things done and was in bed by 9.  It was a long day, but we were so happy/grateful to be home safely and to have all of the traveling behind us. 

Due to the time difference, Thursday morning I was up with the two little girls by 2 am and everyone else was up by 4 am.  By 6:30 we were all dressed and had breakfast already, so we decided to take a family shopping trip to get groceries! It was actually more like a shopping spree and we pretty much got anything that looked good, particularly if it was something we weren’t able to get for the past 4 months in Minsk.  Once back from the store, I went to pick up Toby and everyone was excited to see him again!  We spent a good part of the day just unpacking and getting more settled in, the kids had a great time playing in the front yard, and then we had our house closing in the afternoon.   After the closing (our house is now officially sold!), we got some pizza for dinner and by the time we got home the kids were all mostly zonked out.  We got them fed and to bed, and then Jacque and I were in bed by around 8 pm, exhausted from the long day and the jet lag. 

Thursday night/Friday morning was much better for everyone.  I was still up with the little girls around 3 am, but the older girls weren’t up until 5 and Jacque and David actually slept until 7 am.  We got everything ready and then Les came to watch the four girls while Jacque, David and I went to look at houses.  We spent a good part of the summer thoroughly researching houses online and had narrowed our initial list of 15 homes down to just 7 to look at once we got home.  We had a great time looking at houses, and by 2 pm we were home and had ruled out 4 of the 7, leaving 2 we really liked and a 3 that would be a really good fallback if necessary.  Our realtor went to work finding out more details about the homes/seller situations so that we could consider everything and ultimately decide which home we wanted to make an offer on.  Friday late afternoon our oldest daughter had an Activity Days activity and had a great time with so many friends she hadn’t seen all summer.  We had dinner and got the kids down to bed and then Jacque was off to a book club for the evening and I was in bed by 9 pm. 

Friday night/Saturday morning was still a bit better in terms of sleep for everyone (pretty much everyone slept until 5 am or later).  I played some Frisbee golf with my younger brother and by the time I got home our realtor had called with a lot more background details on each of the three homes.  Jacque and I spent the next while talking over everything and ultimately we decided on the home we wanted to make an offer on.  After lunch we spent some time at our next door neighbor’s house with the kids and then by mid-afternoon we had an offer on the table and a counter-offer from the sellers.  By dinner time we had accepted the counter offer and we are now under contract.  Not comes the appraisal, inspection, etc., so we are just crossing our fingers and hoping that everything goes smoothly the next couple of weeks so we can be in the new home by the end of September (when we need to be out of this house).  Saturday evening our neighbors had a movie night in their backyard, but Jacque and I were falling asleep not too far into the movie so we came home and went to bed.  It was a great day, and we are super excited about the house!  

OK.  So that gets us caught up on this busy week; now for some final thoughts/reflections on the past four months.  Basically, the trip to Minsk was awesome!  Aspects of the trip were definitely a challenge/difficult and as soon as we got home we were quickly reminded of the many luxuries here in America that we so often take for granted, which we did not have for our 4 months in Minsk.  That said, we do not view the time in Minsk as a hardship at all.  Rather, it was a fantastic learning experience for all of us.  We were able to get back to the basics in a lot of ways, spend a ton of time together as a family (where we had to rely on each other so much), learn so much about a different country/culture, and we had the chance to meet so many wonderful individuals during our stay.  Jacque and I both had some amazing professional opportunities and I hope that I may be able to make future visits back to the country.  We also loved our time with the Minsk LDS Branch.  Attending church each week with the faithful and dedicated members was an absolute pleasure and we all learned a lot from their examples.  Overall, pretty much everything about our trip (except some frustrations with the government paperwork/bureaucracy and the negative interactions with our downstairs neighbor) was extremely positive.  We love the country and the people (who are amazingly kind and helpful) and we count our time in Minsk as a tremendous blessing. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Final Week in Review

This has been a good week.  Sunday was a pleasant day (warm but not as bad as other days).  Our trek to and from church was good and we enjoyed the church services.  It is weird to think that we only have one more Sunday at the Minsk branch.  After church we had a typical late afternoon/evening and had a video chat with my parents.  It was a good day. 

Monday was a fairly casual day.  Both Jacque and I spent a good amount of time working on our class preparation for the upcoming fall semester.  We also had the weekly shopping trip and spent some time at the park.  Other than that, it was a pretty typical day. 

Tuesday was the big trip to the Minsk Zoo.  We took 7 metro stops and then walked a kilometer to final get to the zoo.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the dolphin show is at the zoo too (we had heard a lot about it, but could not figure out where it actually was).  So we spent most of the day walking around the zoo and seeing the animals, and then we went to the dolphin show later in the afternoon.  The Minsk Zoo is interesting because you can get so close to the animals.  The enclosures are pretty small in the first place so the animals are close up anyway, but then there really is not much buffer zone between the animals and the visitors.  That made it kind of neat, but also a bit odd.  You could literally stick your hand in the lion enclosure and touch the lion.  We also saw a lot of overweight animals (probably overfeeding, coupled with small enclosures with little opportunity to exercise).  But it was fun to see the animals and we had a great time.  And while the weather was mostly nice, there was about an hour and a half where there sky got really dark and it was super windy.  We thought we would get poured on, but then the sky cleared up and everything was fine.  On the way home we got some McDonalds for dinner and then got home exhausted from a long day of walking.  It was a good day.  You can see more pictures here.

After the big day on Tuesday, Wednesday was very casual and we mostly hung around the apartment.  We played a lot around the apartment and probably watched too much Netflix.  Then we had a nice Skype session with a friend in the evening after the kids were in bed.  That was about it.

Thursday was a rather casual day and we stuck around the apartment for most of the morning.  Late afternoon we met up with the Johns for a yummy Belarusian dinner and then we took the kids back to the butterfly exhibit (Sara has been asking to go back since we went the first time).  After we got home, we got the kids to bed and Jacque and I got everything ready for an early departure for Lithuania the next morning.

Friday morning started early and we got everyone ready and were out the door to head to the train station at 6:45.  Finding the correct train and getting everyone situated was easier than expected.  We were off by 7:45 and the kids were so excited to be on their first major train ride.  We had our own private compartment and everyone was quite comfortable.  We had the obligatory stops on both sides of the Lithuanian border, where they checked passports and such.  It added some time to the trip, but it was still pretty quick and by 11 am we were there in Vilnius, Lithuania for the day.   

Jacque put together an extensive walking tour of the city on her iPad and we spent the next 7+ hours seeing 20+ historical sites all over.  A lot of them were historical churches, but also a lot of other historic architecture, museums, and monuments/memorials.  Over the course of the day we walked a TON and saw so many great places around the city (both the old and new town areas; my favorite places were in the old town).  We figure we squished a 3 day trip into one day!  By 6:45pm we were back at the train station and ready to head back to Minsk.  You can see more pictures of the day here.


The kids were so excited to get in the beds in our compartment, but first we had to go past the border control again.  The Lithuania side was no problem, but we were nervous for the Belarusian border check.  We have all of the necessary documentation (and then some), but that hasn’t always worked in the past (and we were specifically warned that they might give us some trouble at the border upon re-entry into the country).  But we actually had a very nice lady checking passports/visas, and though there was a tense moment when they were trying to ask for some other documentation but we couldn’t understand their Russian (and I must admit, I got pretty nervous at this point), they finally got another agent come over who spoke a little English and we were able to show the additional documents and then were good to go.   Once we were past the border station, we got the kids situated in their beds!

We pulled into the Minsk train station around 10:45 pm and then got back to the apartment around 11:15 and got the kids to bed.  Jacque and I were able to get in bed before midnight.  It was a long, very good day!

Saturday was a casual day.  Jacque was up with David for an hour in the middle of the night and then I was up at 6 am and hung with the kids for most of the morning to let Jacque sleep in.  We were all still pretty tired from the day before, so today we have pretty much been bumming it around the apartment.  But it has been a really nice contrast to the long, busy day yesterday.   

Now we are down to just our last few days in the country.  We are very excited to get home, get the kids into school, start the new semester at UVU, find our new home, etc.  It will be a busy time, but that is the way we like it! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Week in Review

Sunday was another hot day.  The air conditioning at church felt very nice!  We had a great day at church and then a nice evening together that evening. 

The early part of the week was enjoyable.  We didn’t have much planned, so we just went with the flow!  Monday we actually all went to the grocery store with Jacque, and while she shopped I took the kids upstairs to the play land.  The kids had a great time and it was nice to have AC!  The early part of the week continued to be warm, though it was a bit cooler than it was last week.  The kids spent some time at the park and we played a lot in the apartment.  We also went out to the shopping center and bought a few souvenirs.   

Tuesday evening a Belarusian friend of mine took me to the train station and helped me get tickets for our trip to Vilnius, Lithuania (only took a pile of documents and about 45 minutes to get tickets!).   

Also, on Wednesday I had a goodbye lunch with people at the university (they are mostly all going on vacation the next two weeks, so they won’t be around for goodbyes when it is actually time to leave), which was nice. 

On Thursday I was picked up early by folks from the Belarus High Tech Park to head out for a two-day trip to Grodno to do a presentation at Grondo State University with IT/High Tech industry leaders Thursday afternoon.  Grodno is a smaller city (around 350k population) about 4 hours from Minsk, near the Poland and Lithuanian borders.  When I arrived, I was surprised by reporters wanting to interview me (one from a local and one from a national TV station)... first time that has happened during our stay here (I hope I didn't come across as too much of a fool!)... The presentation went well (around 20 in attendance) and I think we had some good discussions.  After the session, I had a chance to walk around the city a bit and then had a late dinner with the academic director of the Belarus High Tech Park.  Grodno is beautiful and the city has much more of a European feel than Minsk… I wish Jacque and the kids were able to come with me.  See a lot of pictures here and here.

Friday morning I had a yummy breakfast at the hotel and then I had a wonderful tour of the city with a member of the Sociology faculty from Grodno State University.  He has lived in Grodno all his life and he took me to the most interesting historical places, all with detailed explanations (and his English is very good).  Around 12:30 we started the trek back to Minsk and I was home in time for dinner.  Jacque was a trooper, as always, and stayed back with the kids while I was gone.  They did their own Olympics, played at the park, made goodies, and by all reports had a great time without me!   


Today is another warm day and we hope to enjoy the beautiful weather outside (cooler than our apartment!).  It has been a good week.  Now only 11 days to go until the trek home…

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekly Review

Sunday was sunny with clear skies, and we had a nice trip to and from church!  After church we watched a conference talk and had rest time and then a yummy dinner before our weekly family Skype sessions and a quiet evening.  It was a good day.

Since my MBA class is now over, I really don’t have much work at the university.  This means I don’t go in very much and that much of what I do can be done remotely from the apartment.  Monday morning I got some work done, Jacque did the weekly shopping, and then we went to the underground mall to look around, get some souvenirs, and mostly to just get out of the apartment.  Our first stop was actually to stop by the train station to look at getting tickets to Vilnius, Lithuania.  We were hoping to go on Tuesday and new the times and knowing that language might be a barrier I pre-loaded my iPad Google Translate app with the phrases/sentences I thought we would need.  It kind of worked, but mostly the lady behind the counter was just annoyed/upset that she had to make any effort with me.  After I had waited my turn in line for 5+ minutes, when it was my turn and she saw I didn’t speak Russian, she was done with me in about 30 seconds and then kept motioning for me to move away to let those behind me in line get their tickets.  However, I wouldn’t move and kept trying, so she just ignored me and started helping others behind me.  After a minute of this, someone from line who spoke English came up to try and help me, but the lady behind the counter was not having it.  Thus ended my first attempt to get train tickets by myself.  Tomorrow we will try again and hopefully have a native Russian speaker there with me so things can go more smoothly.  After the train station, we had a nice time at the mall, got a few souvenirs, had a good lunch and ice-cream for treat, and then we came home for a late rest time.  That evening we had dinner and a fun FHE and Jacque and I enjoyed our evening together after the kids were in bed. 

Tuesday was another souvenir day.  This time we hit the mall downtown and the outdoor souvenir market, where we got lots of neat stuff.  There are so many pretty things here and we are excited to do a little decorating when we get home.  The kids are also excited to have their own little Belarusian souvenirs!  The rest of the day was fairly typical and we had a nice evening.  

Wednesday was the beginning of the hot weather (earlier in the week was very sunny, just not as warm).  I had a terrible night’s sleep and then was up super early with David and Kaylie, so all together I was running on about 3 and a half hours.  My morning was very lethargic, but we were able to get some things done and then we had our big outing in the afternoon’ we went with Sergei and the senior couple to the Belarusian Folk Village, about 30 km outside of Minsk.  We spent the afternoon there and had a great time.  We had an English speaking guide, which was awesome and she was so nice and super informative.  It was really neat to see how the people lived a hundred years ago and the girls had a great time running around (until the last hour, by which point they were hot and tired and pretty much just complained!).  You can see a bunch of pictures here.  By the time we got home we were all worn out but glad we had the adventure.  We had a quiet evening and Jacque and I went to bed a little early.  

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were fairly nondescript days.  It kept getting hotter and hotter in the apartment, so we tried to get out a bit.  We had a nice long picnic on Thursday at the park and I took the kids to the park for quite a while Friday afternoon.  Mixed in there I was able to get some work done and Jacque and I have been continuously looking at homes online (many very nice homes in our price range, so we are just hoping there is still a good selection by the time we get home so we can go looking and put an offer on one).  Saturday we had the Olympics running on the TV in the background for a good part of the day and we had a pretty quiet day.  The kids have had fun watching some of the events and it is fun to see them get excited! 

Today is another hot day.  The air conditioning at church is going to feel really nice!  Hopefully it will be working today!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekly Review

Last Sunday was a bit overcast, which made for mild temperatures and a pleasant walk to and from church (which was great as always).  After church, we had our normal rest time for the kids, then dinner, and then we had three Skype sessions with family back in the U.S.  The kids were a tad crazy by bedtime, as they definitely enjoyed the Skype sessions!

Monday was a rather nondescript day.  Other than the weekly trip to the store for groceries, we didn’t leave the apartment (it was a bit rainy all day).  The kids did have a lot of fun around the apartment.  The girls spent a good part of the day inventing/testing new models of paper airplanes and I spent a good part of the morning grading term papers (ugh!).  The Johns also came over for a bit in the afternoon, after rest time, and the kids always love seeing them.  After dinner, we had a family home evening on scripture study and then the normal evening routine before the kids went to bed.  Then Jacque and I had a quiet evening before going to bed. 

Tuesday was a beautiful day!  After our normal morning routine, I went into work for a while (and also picked up all of our finalized immigration documents—finally!).  After I got home and the kids had their rest time, we went to a live butterfly exhibit.  The kids were in heaven and I think they could have spent all day there.  These butterflies were ginormous and very pretty!  After the butterflies, we went to get some dinner at a traditional Belarusian restaurant and everyone enjoyed the yummy food!  Then we came home and did our normal evening routine before the kids went to bad and Jacque and I had a quiet evening.

Wednesday was another rather nondescript day.  The weather was quite rainy, so we mostly stuck around the apartment and played/worked.  Jacque also made a run to the store to get tortilla chips (the first time we have been able to get them here; thanks to the Johns for the tip!).  So after dinner and the kids were in bed, Jacque and I enjoyed some cheesy chips and salsa (not quite the same as in America, but still tasty)!!

Thursday was a rainy, quiet day.  It was overcast all day, with heavy rain off and on, so we pretty much just hung around the apartment for most of the day.  It was my last day for my MBA class at BSU, so I spent a bit of time doing final grading stuff and getting everything ready to hand back to students.  The final class session was basically a final exam and goodbyes, so it all went well, though it was kind of sad to say goodbye to my students.  The rain really started coming down as the last couple of students were finishing up their exams, so by the time I had everything finished up (including probably 100+ signatures the school needed from me on documents related to the course I taught) it was a huge down poor.  I was not smart enough to bring an umbrella, so I got soaked on the way home.  Oh well.  After I got home, I chatted with a neighbor friend on Skype for a few minutes with Jacque and then we had a quiet evening.

Friday was a quiet day.  I had a pretty rough night with an upset stomach and Jacque was not feeling well in the morning, so we stuck around the apartment and just tried to get some rest amidst taking care of the kids.  I also finalized grades and got everything submitted to the BSU for my MBA class.  In the afternoon, while the kids were having rest time,  I was able to hash out some rough plans with people at the Belarus High Tech Park to do a workshop in Grodno (about 4 hours away from Minsk), with managers from High Tech/IT business and faculty/students from the IT university in Grodno.  As it looks now, the entire family will likely leave on Monday morning (July 30) and return Tuesday evening after a day of workshops and doing touristy stuff in Grodno.  It should be a lot of fun.  Hopefully we can work out the travel/lodging logistics (which the IT Park will foot the bill for).  Friday evening we had a call with our realtor about property disclosure stuff (quite boring) and we also had ice-cream night, which the kids always love!  Then Jacque and I streamed a chick-flick for a stay-at-home date night!

Saturday was kind of a dull day; another overcast day and we spent most of the morning just hanging around the apartment.  The sun came out in the afternoon and Jacque took the girls to the park while I stayed back with David.  Then we had a nice evening.  

Today it is sunny with clear skies, so we are looking forward to a nice trip to church in a little bit!  It has been a good week!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekly Review 

Last Sunday was another warm day.  We had a typical Sunday morning and then our trek out to church.  Church was nice as always and afterword we had quiet afternoon and evening.  It was a good day.

After a very warm night and little sleep, we had a normal Monday morning.  We did get a rather heavy rain for about a half hour, which I think helped the temperature come down a bit, which was nice.  Once the rain stopped, Jacque did the week’s grocery shopping while I stayed with kids and we made a fort and also played trains!  After lunch and rest time, I took the kids down to play at the park, where we spent the next couple hours enjoying the shade, ice-cream, and the kids roaming around the park and playing with butterflies!  We had dinner and FHE and then Jacque and I had a pleasant evening together.  The big news of the day is that we officially put our house on the market.  We have felt very conflicted as we have tried to make the decision.  We will miss our many friends/neighbors whom we love.  We decided that we needed to get the house listed during the buying season rather than wait until we get home.  I will still be at UVU, we are just looking to take advantage of low interest rates and cheap home prices (hopefully the last move we will need to make?!). We really like the Springville, Mapleton, Spanish Fork area but we shall see where we end up.

Tuesday was another warm day and an early morning (up with Kaylie and David at about 5:30).  We had a normal morning and then we wanted to go out and enjoy the weather a bit.  We ventured out to the largest bookstore in Minsk and had fun looking around.  The kids each got to choose a book, Jacque got a book of poetry (all in Russian) by a famous Belarusian poet, and I got a neat Belarus map.  We wanted to also go to the Belarus National Art Museum, but our efforts were thwarted, as we quickly found out that Tuesday is the day it is closed (who knows why Tuesday)…  So we went and got some lunch and then made our way home for rest time.  After rest time, I took the four girls down to the park and we played for a good 2 hours, before coming back for dinner and our normal evening routine.  Before bed, the girls also got to Skype with friends back in Utah, which they always love!  After we got the girls down, Jacque and I had a pleasant evening.
Wednesday was our second try at the Belarus National Art Museum.  The first thing we noticed once we got in is that this museum is way nicer than the Natural History Museum is; the difference is like night and day.  Anyway, we enjoyed the air-conditioning as we looked at some really amazing art (as well as just enjoying the really neat building housing the art exhibits).  After the museum, we got lunch and desert at a little Belarusian Deli.  It was cheap and pretty good, but the old ladies who clean up apparently didn’t like us being there with some many little kids making a mess.  So we ended up eating outside. By this point, David was having a complete meltdown, so finished things up quickly and got home for everyone to have rest time.  After rest time, I took the kids back down to the park for a while and then we had a yummy dinner and did the normal evening routine.  We also had a Skype session with our realtors and were pleased to find out that we already had multiple offers on the house (after less than 2 days of being on the market!).  So we had several different potential buyers trying to decide what they were willing to put as their best offer.  It was a very pleasant surprise, as Jacque and I were gearing ourselves up for a prolonged and stressful attempt to sell the house.  

I was up early (5:30 am) with Kaylie and David again on Thursday (it gets light here so early, it is just so hard for them to sleep in later).  So I did the normal morning stuff with the girls and after breakfast and everything was cleaned up, I had to meet with Alexander regarding more immigration paper stuff.  On the way home I swung by the store and picked up a few food items and then I spent the rest of the morning working from home.  Thursday is normally my long day, but I did not go in to the office for most of the day.  Instead we decided to go on a picnic...  However, on the way out to a picnic, the entire family got stuck in the tiny, hot elevator in our building... Screaming baby and 2 year-old, crying 4 year-old and 6 year-old, and stressed out mommy and daddy... Our 8 year-old was probably the only one that remained calm... We were trapped for about 25 minutes before maintenance workers were able to get the doors open... then we enjoyed our picnic!!

We had another Skype session with the realtors before my class and we found out that we had 4 offers on the house, the highest being 5% higher than our asking price!  The paperwork got sent over, we signed and returned, and by Friday morning Minsk time our house was under contract!  We can’t believe how fast everything went and now we have to turn our attention to finding a new home (we will be able to stay in our Lehi home until Sept. 30, so we will have a month and a half after returning from Minsk to get into the new home).  After the call with the realtors, I had to run off to class.  It was presentation day for the MBA students to presenting the findings from their semester projects.  We finished class a bit early and I got home in time to catch the tail-end of Jacque’s Skype session with our neighbor.  Then it was off to bed. 

Friday was our 10-year anniversary!  I cannot believe we have already been married for 10 years!  A lot has happened over the past decade.  We had a morning outing to the famous chocolate shop and then lunch out (another brief trapped-in-the-elevator experience too!).  We came back for rest time and had a quiet afternoon before Valya came to babysit and Jacque and I enjoyed an evening on the town!  We visited the big bookstore in downtown Minsk, then yummy dinner, and then we planned to go back to the botanical gardens, only to find out that the park closes at 8 pm.  Instead, we just walked around and talked as we enjoyed the pleasant evening weather.  It was a very nice anniversary!

Saturday was a very quiet day.  The weather was quite overcast (a welcomed change with cooler temperatures) and we enjoyed a casual morning before I went off to teach my MBA class.  After returning home, we had a nice quiet evening; a nice end to the week!

Today is a very pleasant, mild day and we had a great time at church and now are back at the apartment resting.