Saturday, October 1, 2016

Athens, Halandri, Oinofyta and Ritsona and Frankfurt again.

Marathon Lake

3000 BC graves near Marathon

THE FIRST Marathon!

Beach at Marathon where the Persians invaded.

Cafe on the beach where we got dinner.

Rnady got fish and . . . 

I got this amazing Greek salad and we split both meals.

Unexpected dessert: REAL Greek yogurt, honey and currents.  Wow.

The mound where the Greeks who died at Marathon are buried.

Wednesday : . We are sitting in a really cheap hotel in Athens trying to get aid to lesbos and the Moria camp they burned yesterday. It just keeps getting worse.

We arrived too late to help unload the hygiene kits that arrived today so we drove to Marathon before going to the hotel. We ate fish, bread and Greek salad on the beach where the Persians invaded. There is a big burial mound there.  We have friends on Lesbos who called us in Marathon to ask if they can help : we authorized them to purchase leggings and underwear as the weather is getting colder.
 Who set the fires and why, I don't know.   All I know is that the children had all been moved to another camp nearby because a demonstration was planned. Whether they burned their own tents or those of other factions, I don't know

view from our hotel

It's all Greek to me

Thousands of motorcycles, hundreds of orthodox churches


following mission van to Oinofyta
Thursday : First we met with Marie from Praksis, an NGO we partner with in protecting Unaccompanied Minors (UMs).  Her car had broken down, so we drove up to meet her near the car repair shop.  We got some good ideas of ways to help more.  Next we drove north to Oinofyta camp and helped the Prohaskas unload a van full of hygiene kits, diapers and underwear there and in the next camp, Ritsona.  As you enter the camp, the first tent has a beautiful flower garden planted in old tires along the sides of their pallet walkway entrance .  We toured Oinofyta with Lisa Campbell: she showed us the warehouse, the rooms built inside, the new kitchen, the chicken coop with 85 chickens where some LDS volunteers were mending a fence.  There we saw a film crew from KSL.  Later we got better acquainted with Sarah Franklin and Brandy Vega who interviewed us on film.  We saw the new barber shop and the sewing room where electricians were finishing the wiring.  We saw the space set aside for unaccompanied minors: it is important to move them away from those who would abuse them and get them educated.  We aslo saw some great space in the basement - with huge windows of light - where young single men could be housed apart from families, for everyone's benefit.  Lots of plans, lots of work to be done, lots of water on the floor from a leaking roof over all.
My final conversation was with a large group of young men.  When I asked them what they most needed, they talked together for a moment and then said, "A television, so we can watch football." That seems a reasonable request.  One TV for 650 people.  Anyone want to donate the funds for that?  It would need to be a BIG screen!

new kitchen cooking counter

85 chickens

times for prayer : I saw only one man in prayer on whole trip

new sewing room

Each family gets a room in the big warehouse : we bought all the curtains and rods

space for UMs 

volunteers fixing fence getting photographs
With Sarah Franklin : Hope Worldwide Utah

Lisa Campbell : non-stop work

One of ten commercial washing machines we purchased

Typical meal : that is the whole meal: a little tomato flavored sauce on mashed potatoes

Space for rooms for young single men

Many families choose to stay in tents

Beautiful entry

warehouse with residents
Friday  We spent all day Friday walking around the maze that is Athens.  The pin on Google failed us when we tried to meet up with our young missionary couple, Yuri and Manuela Prohaska, at a sewing machine store.  Somehow, we ended up about 20 blocks away to the northeast of where we should have been: just 5 blocks south of our hotel.  So we took a taxi.  He couldn't find the store either!  
We bought 3 sewing machines and a serger, even tho'I worry that the serger will be abused and stop working in days..  We then carried those back to our car at the hotel and then drove to the next store which was even deeper into the maze.  We found a parking place (miracle) then walked about 10 blocks through what looked like old town Doha.  We went to a sewing notions store where we climbed to the 4th floor and the clerk had to look up the price of each item individually on a computer.  Next was a fabric store with one Euro a meter fabric.I would have enjoyed an hour there!  We bought a lovely soft cotton jersey for the baby mattress sheets but they didn't have any fleece for baby sleep bags.  Then two more notions/sewing stores for zippers, velcro and cone thread holders.  
We ate a great meal of falafel at a street cafe and hauled all our stuff back to the car.  It cost 5 euros to park!!! (miracle). 

Statue of Icarus : while we were lost

Even the taxi driver was lost

finally found the sewing machine store!

Wall art in Athens

narrow passages

Fourth floor sewing supplies

Fabric store

Zippers : 30 cents each

This is lunch : delicious!

Packing Hygiene kits : I folded all those towels and more

Marie's friends

Manuela and Yuri Prohaska : awesome start to a marriage!
Next we drove to the Prohaska parking spot to get the mission van and from there to the Halandri building where we set up tables and stations for making 1500 hygiene kits.  At 5 pm members, missionaries, investigators (miracle), mission president and wife, their daughter Marie and six (miracle) of her school friends came to help pack the kits.  We finished in only 2 1/2 hours (miracle).  Have you ever folded 1500 hand towels?  Well, I now have.

Saturday This morning we met Prohaskas at the Oinofyta refugee camp and delivered the sewing machines.  Such amazing smiles on the faces of tailors and seamstresses. Qais (a very handsome and knowledgeable Afghan tailor) was fixing a pair of pants within 5 minutes. 
I created a pattern and started sewing the first sheet/mattress cover for the baby bed mattresses.  Soon a refugee took over.  Then I copied a pattern for a baby sleep sack : One of those bags that have armholes and you zip the baby in for the night.  I cut out two from fleece, then made one up as the sample.  6 or 7 sewers watched and commented.  I felt so at home.  I could just stay here and work in the camps full time and LOVE every minute of it.
We got some greek salad and gyros or souvlaki for lunch/dinner with other volunteers from Disaster Tech who were installing FREE wifi for the whole camp. Then we  looked over and discussed two or three more projects from Yuri and Manuela. 

Mountain of unsorted donations : really, people?  You have time to sort your own donations!!!

laundry soap

unloading the sewing tables

one of the babies who need beds

The school

Residents assemble tables

Demonstrating how to assemble the baby sleeping bags.  Can I please just stay here?

The seamstresses had made 3 mattress covers by the time we returned in the evening

Qais knows what he is doing : a master tailor who is the manager of the sewing room.  It is in good hands.

Modeling the hat, scarf and glove sets we were offering : they decided they like them

Qais's mother made this "wash cloth" for me

Free Wifi : warning to all residents : do not touch this

So excited to have free WiFi!

This shop was open and being used for 12 hours the first day

Volleyball court

  Next we drove to another camp (Ritsona) about 20 minutes away.It is set in the midst of a pine forest.  A group of Mormons from HOPE Worldwide Utah and Good Deed Revolution - and probably others - were there with a 'build a buddy' machine (think build a bear) which actually got thru customs in one day (miracle).  Each kid in 3 camps will get to choose a body and an outfit.  Nattily dressed sharks, bunnies, unicorns and rabbits were being hauled around the forest.  This camp wants us to help winterize their children's area: roof, boardwalk, two containers for classes, gas heaters like in outside restaurants.  The people running the camp were from Sweden and Iran.  We got home about 8:30.

supplies in Ritsona

Hygiene kits waiting for plumbing . . . 

Beans for breakfast.  Just cold beans

Kids waiting for their Buddies

Lighthouse Relief NGO built this Child Friendly Space.

This was OK for summer and fall, but they need closed tents and floors for winter

Jose lays out what the plan is


Still making buddies.  500 for three camps : well-done!

 Sunday : we listened to Women's Conference, walked one block to the metro and took it to the Acropoli metro station which is only a block away from the Parthenon.  We finished  the morning on the base of the Acropolis, the Agora, and and Mars Hill.  It turns out it was a FREE DAY and there had been a marathon that morning so there were thousands of people there.  The LDS Church is just east of the acropolis and the English branch met there at 2 for the last time this week: they are giving up the building as there are fewer members than ever.  We had a light meal after sacrament meeting and then both Randy and I presented firesides to a group of 30-40 missionaries and members.  We also said goodbye to the Prohaskas: a bittersweet day all around.

display in subway : this is what they found when they dug the subway

Acropoli station : models of the Elgin marbles

Entering the new Parthenon museum

Mars hill or Areopogus

Agora below Mars hill

Big sewers

Hadrian's arch is across the street from . . . 

LDS Acropoli chapel

view of Acropolis from chapel

Fireside group

View out the other side of the church : temple of Olympian Zeus

Goodbye, building!

Goodbye, Yuri and Manuela.  Going home to Switzerland

Monday : We were up, ate and checked out before 8 am and took the metro to Acropoli station to go see the Acropolis and the Parthenon as early as possible. Perfect weather, few people. And , wow! It is even more beautiful and massive and amazing than I imagined. Way worth the visit. Afterwards we wandered around the sites surrounding the base, ran into Sister Heder and some senior missionaries, explored back alleys, ate lunch in a cafe in a steep narrow walkway,  then passed a big beautiful Orthodox Church on our way back to the metro and to the hotel. We caught a flight thru Istanbul back to Frankfurt.


Athena's Sacred Olive tree

Walls reminded me of Jerusalem

Caves sacred to gods reminded me of Banias / Caesarea Phillipi

Another great Greek salad : Randy got pasta carbonara

Schengen Zone problems.. . . 

great photo of interior of new museum.

Istanbul airport : looking across the Bosphorus 

So we got to Frankfurt lateat night, took the train then bus home.
Lovely weather all week but too much work to go enjoy it. We have gotten lots of projects approved: winterization of Child friendly space at Ritsona, sewing machines and barber shop for Ritsona, hats, gloves, scarves for Oinofyta, Ritsona and Thira.
The first 20 baby beds for newborns. 
Leggings for 500 on Lesvos
We also have requested funding for a new roof at Oinofyta.
Funding to house and help Unaccompanied minors in Frankfurt
Parent and child integration in Duisburg 
Housing more UMs in Greece 
Apartments for single moms in Greece : some were raped on the road and need safe places to live away from camps.
Halfway house for older UMs to age 23 so they can get education, training and jobs.
It all adds up to about 1 million 
I was returning a plastic storage container to the church and found Lisa and Melina were having another clothing exchange so I wentback to the office and invited the two young Turkish moms who clean the office building. They each took a bagful and seemed pleased.
We were given more books and games and puzzles for the Rebstock library that Sister Julie Anderson from Wiesbaden Ward has opened in an old German Biergarten. 
In the office we got a request for 400 each brustbeutel, hanging cosmetic bag and alarm clocks for Berlin 
Ordered hundreds of pairs of men's women's and children's underwear for the warehouse.
Finally broke away early enough on Thursday for a bike ride before Randy's last scripture class. Elder and Sister Piepgrass are going home early and wanted to learn blueletterbible and hebrew4christians so we did that after Randy's class
Friday mid-day, I found I had forgotten to send in a small hygiene kit order for Kaiserslautern Stake so randy and I needed to pick the boxes up at the warehouse and drive them to K-town. Thankfully, the warehouse loaned us a Ford Tourneo Connect van big enough for the whole order: 55 pkgs of diapers take up a lot of space. The missionaries let us in the locked parking lot and building.  Then we drove to Darmstadt where the Stake Gold and Green ball was being held.  We got there 2 hours early, but it made no sense to drive home and back, so we took a walk and read some books.  They served a delicious meal: pumpkin soup or chili, fresh hot Italian bread donated by a friend who owns a bakery, many German desserts and mixed drinks.  The Crucy's from our ward are ballroom dance competitors and put on a great floorshow.  By 10 we were both ready to leave so headed home


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this! Amazing work! Lots of love and be well. Barb Huff

  2. I've loved reading your blogs! Keep up the good work! I'm very proud of you, and am grateful for your efforts.