Sunday, January 27, 2008

January 27, 2008

We had a young husband/father come home from Iraq this week. He has been in the desert for 15 months as an MP. Those that know him say he has changed. How could he not be? His two young sons, ages 3 and 4, are getting reacquainted with their daddy. The youngest is still very suspicious of him and emotional and stand-offish. For half of his young life he has not been with his father. His wife is so elated and happy. We are thrilled that he has come home safely. We wish that they could all come home safely! And now he is to go through a 7 day "reintegration training". This is not a bad idea. Elder Karn says they had no such program in the days of the Vietnam War and within 48 hours of shooting the enemy you were back home without any kind of intervention. Some did not reintegrate and they had good reason. Anyway, we have visited weekly this young husband's wife for the last 2 1/2 months. We have appreciated the opportunity to get to know her and the two boys. The boys both call us Grandpa and Grandma Karn. Our standing appointments are now over and we are glad this story had a happy ending. We are not sure if they will PCS (permanant change of station) now or finish out the 3 years here in Baumholder. We hope to get to know this soldier better as we certainly love his family and we appreciate his sacrifice.

Our volunteering has opened up some opportunity for learning new skills. At the Creative Arts Center, where we spend 3 hours every Friday, we now work in the professional framing shop. Bruce gets to run fast and noisy machinery cutting up the fancy molding and also working a cutter on the matboards. Pam gets to sort and stack the thousands of decorative moldings and hopefully in time do some dry mounting or frame making. It is a really fun place. They loaned us some pictures for our bare walls. We are making friends there and also having a great time.

At the Thrift Store where we spend 4 hours volunteering every Monday we mostly sort out contributions. Most of the stuff people leave is junk or garbage. Every once in a while we come across some clean, folded, barely worn clothes. We appreciate that! What the Thrift Store is unable to use is contributed to the German Red Cross. Last Monday we reported to work on time and found the store closed. We forgot it was a holiday! The birds are singing like Spring is approaching. We hope they are right! Although Mother Nature can fool herself and make us sorry. But the daffodils are coming out of the ground and we have consistently been in the 40 degree range for a few weeks. There is some budding growth on the trees and bushes. I am excited to see the Rhododendrons bloom but that won't be for a few months I am sure.

We have had a long Sunday today. We both spoke in Church and Pam taught the Relief Society lesson. Then we had the young missionaries over for dinner. Now the dishes are washed and we are in our relaxing clothes. We are grateful for some "down" time to recover. We have some traveling to do this week so it is nice to take a break.

Hope all is well with all of you.
Sister and Elder Karn

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January 23, 2008

The photos are of Baumholder on a clear day (well, almost clear).
Many of the folks from the western United States think navigating in the eastern United States is tough. They talk about the roads not going straight and things not being laid out in squares. If you take that scenario and multiply it times ten you can come pretty close to what navigating in Germany is like. Because we are up for any challenge, well almost, we have found most every place in the dark. (The days are short this time of year and most of our visits to people and places are at night.)

As legal aliens we have some things that we need to accomplish to comply with German laws. So far we have obtained our residence permits/visas, been registered in the town we live in, been set up to pay German sales tax on the things we buy on post, opened a checking account here and transfered money. Are we slick or what?

Our next hurdle is to get German driver's licenses. The first hurdle in that task was to get an official translation of our drivers licenses. It took one trip to find out where to go and a couple of phone calls but then we were ready for the translation. In order to not have to send our drivers licenses away for a few weeks and not be able to drive legally we needed to go to Wiesbaden to the ADAC (like AAA only they have more services) and wait while we got the translation. We were told that if they had other customers we would have to wait until they had time to translate them. Fortunately, it took just minutes.

We have had a problem a number of times where we had no idea how to find things locally and struggled to get the job done. The address in Wiesbaden looked like a tougher task. We broke down and got a GPS with Europen maps. I would tell you how expensive that was but I don't think my finger can type those scarey numbers. Anyway, we engaged the GPS on its maiden voyage to take us to the center of Wiesbaden. It was flawless! We were impressed! She (the voice on the GPS) spoke calmly and with confidence and never made a mistake. And check this out - very near the ADAC place was an Italian resturant that we stopped at. I ordered pizza - big surprise there - and gave some to Pam. (Yes she did order her own lunch) She said it was the best pizza she had ever had. If it hadn't cost almost $150 for the translation she would like to do it again.

So we now have official translations of our licenses and are approaching the next hurdle. The next step is to go to the government building and see what we do next. The good news is that we have six months from the time we arrived in country to get our German drivers' licenses.

Germany honors some states drivers' licenses and not others. They honor Utah (where our licenses are from) but not CA, NY and many others. I don't know why - I'm just reporting the facts.

We were told that Baumholder gets lots of snow so a while back I bought a snow shovel. It has worked extremely well and no snow has shown up yet! (The snow shovel was insurance that I wouldn't have to use it.) Most days continue to be above freezing and some have been up to 50 degrees. We see lots of rain and clouds but very little of whatever that yellow ball in the sky is called!

The major deployment of the troops from here has again been delayed. We understand that this is the third delay. The current projection is for some time in April but as soon as the report came out that the date had been slipped to April rumors started flying that it will be slid again. Only time will tell!

Our work and association with the members of the church and the military continue to be very sweet. We build friendships every where we can. We volunteer at the Thrift Store and the Arts Center on post. Every time we go our job is different and we have lots of fun and help some folks out! Is that cool or what?

In the branch we continue to serve and visit. Every now and then there is a chance for an old story teller to throw in a story! It's hard for me to think of a story but I do my best!

I think that's the news that is the news from here!

The Rambling Down the Road Karns

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

From US Army Garrison, Smith Barracks, Baumholder, Germany

There is a large artilliary museum on post. This is a photo of an old Russian tank destroyer captured in the Gulf War.

On Sunday we had the treat of hearing a talk given by the son of some dear friends from back home in Ogden. He is living here in Germany in the US Military Kaiserslautern Stake with his family serving in the Air Force and was just recently called as a high councilman. He visited our branch for his first assignment and we had the privilege of meeting him. Even though it is a worldwide Church, it is a small world!

A couple of weeks ago we received an email from a senior missionary couple serving in Australia. They were given our email address by the Church Military Relations department. Their grandson is stationed here in the Army and he was asking his grandparents about getting a serviceman's scripture set (miniature for ease of carrying). They had asked Military Relations for the name of an LDS chaplain here. There isn't one right now so we were the next hope. After some asking around we found his unit and his neighbors. We also emailed him because his grandparents gave us his email address. We have an appointment to meet with him and his wife this evening. No one in the Church knew he was here because he is not active. . . . but a small world!

What did missionaries do before email technology? Our mail from the USA, even though it comes through a military APO service, usually takes 2 to 4 weeks. Thank goodness that the cost is just the same as it would be stateside. A German stamp to mail a letter within Germany is equal to 75 cents, USA money. Although I think the mail would arrive much faster! We love the ability to communicate so quickly with friends and family through email. It is instantaneous! Most of the wives of the soldiers here have "webcams" where they can also see their loved one as they talk over the phone.

In the past month we have had 3 young mothers give birth. The last was just Sunday. She is Russion and it was her first baby and last month her husband was sent back to the States as a PCS (permanent change of station). However, she doesn't have a visa so she couldn't go. She gave birth a week early and her husband will be here in a few days though for a short visit. But now she must find a way to get a visa for the baby so she can go back to Russia and gather all the necessary papers to go to the States. And the Army wants her out of the military housing by March 10th. The branch is doing all it can to help.

We continue to serve where needed and find many blessings daily in doing so. Our prayers are with our family and friends and we miss you all.
Sister and Elder Karn

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2008 Looks Great!

January 8, 2008

The photo is of our meeting house. We meet on the bottom floor. That is our little red rented vehicle out front.

There were a few days that we slowed the pace a bit because we both had a touch of a cold. Pam had it much more than I did but with chicken soup and everything else we could think of we got past it. The weather has been cool (running just above to just below freezing most of the time) and wet. We haven't had much snow but lots of days with light rain. Some days we have a few moments of sun then longer periods of light rain. The weather changes fast here. I know every place in the world people say that the weather changes fast there but I submit that in my experience this place has them all beat by a mile (well over a kilometer)! Additionally the wind blows quite a bit and with the dampness it really feels down right cold. The short periods of time that we had snow on the ground it felt much warmer that it does when it is just rainy and damp.

Our days have really filled up now and we are back at full throttle. We take some time each week to try to clear the obstacles in our way. We now have a bank account and have money in it. And we have a "pin" number to use with our card to access the money. We don't have the card so we can't get to the money yet. The money in the account is there to pay the mission for our rent, utilities and use of the car. So far (we are now in our third month) we have not paid them anything. I recently told the mission financial secretary that we had never lived so cheaply. We don't pay rent, utilities or for the use of the car! Is this a great mission or what? Of course our bill keeps going up and she said she knew where we lived! I told her we had put their name in the hat to see who gets paid this month and that their name was drawn! Hopefully they will get paid this month. If only we get the card.

We have also started working on what to do to get German drivers licenses. We now understand that we may have to go to Frankfurt to have our licenses translated and then we can apply. We plan on applying one at a time because we understand that we will be without licenses for about two weeks when we apply. We were told that we have six months to do that after we arrived in November. And for those who were in Germany long ago and think that all we have to do is apply for international drivers licenses - they don't accept international drivers licenses any more. We have to surrender our Utah licenses to make this all happen. The good news is that they honor Utah drivers licenses but we don't have to take tests or the driving school. Many states, including NY and CA, they don't accept for transfer and those folks have to take the drivers school, written test and driving test. I don't know why - I'm just letting you know how it is.

We have had some wonderful days recently. The branch has been wonderful. What great young soldiers and families we are around!!! We have so much respect for these young service members (both the single and the married ones) and their families that bravely face whatever is ahead of them. It takes special people to pack up and go to a foreign country and be prepared to be seperated. The deployment is hard in many aspects. The climate where they are deployed alone would drive most to the breaking point and then to do it dressed up for combat and under the stress of being shot at or blown up really seperates them from the average person. Most folks have no clue what stress and physical hardship these folks go through. Then back at the family there are the challenges that young families face: the uncertainty of the safety of their loved one, being a single parent 24/7, dealing with the military, being in a foreign country without extended family, handling everything on your own for the family! Our visits with these families is really sweet. We often thank them for their sacrifice and tell them it is not only from us but from everyone that has put on a uniform or served and sacrificed for others.

It has been our sweet privilege to meet with and teach a family about the Gospel of Jesus Christ this past week. There are 6 members in this family and they all attended Sunday meetings this past Sunday.

We continue to volunteer on post. On Mondays we work at the Thrift Store and on Fridays we will be working at the Arts Shop. (Formerly the Arts and Crafts Center) We do whatever they ask us to do - clean, sort, paint, or anything else.

We have found the Brigade Chaplain and will now meet with him until he deploys. And we continue to meet with the Senior Garrison Chaplain so our list of folks to be in contact with continues to grow. We are getting known on post.

All our love to family and friends!!!

Elder and Sister Karn