Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hello from halfway around the world!  Green is everywhere and we are so grateful to be enjoying nice weather and not have to wear coats and boots!  Unlike home where the wind blows, it hardly ever blows here.  We find our surroundings very humble but our apartment is sufficient for our needs and we find it very comfortable and accommodating.  We are happy to be serving here in such a far away land - to try and further the gospel here.  There are so many prepared to listen and learn of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel upon the earth once more. 

As we have shared before, we are grateful and happy to be doing missionary work with the Elders and Sisters in the homes of their investigators as well as our home.  We work in the office daily and as a special treat, the Mission President took us and the other couple that came out with us, on a trip to the southern end of Armenia where he visits once a year.  There is a couple of members there that are too far from any branch and so we had sacrament meeting with them and enjoyed feeling the Spirit as we worshipped together.  They live in Davit Bek in the top of the mountains.  It is beautiful there.  They live on what they produce.  They have a huge garden, pigs, chickens & cattle. 

Here is one of the ladies on her porch.  She was so grateful that we came and we enjoyed very much visiting them.

Here is a portion of their place with the cattle and chickens, garden and the outdoor toilet.  This was my first experience with a "squat toilet." Not my everyday preference but with no other choice as we traveled across the country, you just adjust to whatever - when nature calls.   In the dead of winter, I can't imagine how difficult this would be.

Here is both of the ladies that we visited with the Mission President and his wife. There were three granddaughters that we were able to visit with also.  We watched the Restoration movie with them before Sacrament meeting and afterwards the little girls took off running to play among the green trees along side the property.  After the sacrament, we had a testimony meeting. Our driver who drives for the mission, translated for us.  It was a very spiritual meeting and was so wonderful to experience!

On the way there we visited many historic sites which we are going to share with you now.

We spent two days and two nights on this trip.  We stayed at a place called Goris.  Below are pictures from where we stayed.  The rooms were cold at night but you sleep with big comforters that keep you warm enough.  The shower didn't have curtains so trying to keep the water from splashing all over the floor was challenging, but we managed.  It rained and there was thunder and lightning both nights.  It was fun to be warm and just "hear" it outside!

 Here is a picture of the city from the balcony of the bed and breakfast we stayed at.  At night this same hillside is lit up as there are caves along the base of the mountains.  Here is a night shot:

Goris is a very serene and green looking valley among the surrounding mountains.  The city is very old but to see so much green was very refreshing!  When you are down in the city among those that dwell there you will see their very poor circumstances, which is always humbling.

Leaving Goris you can look back on the city as we climb the road out.  You are seeing the city 180 degrees from the previous picture.  

On one of the days there we went to see a place called Tatev, which is a very ancient monastery.  The best way to get there is by Ariel Tram, which is the longest such tram in the world.  It is only about 6 years old.  Below is a picture of the other tram that is passing us, so you can see what it looks like.

  From the tram you can see just how beautiful and big this mountainous region is!  Note that this was a dual cable car tram - one going in the opposite direction from the other on a parallel cable system.  The dual cable sets can be seen below.

This view is just after we left the station passing over a small village below.  The cable runs along the canyon rim and goes to the monastery which is located in the far distance which you can't see here but is in the hazy portion of the picture.  From the vantage point you can see many mountain ranges and the beauty of this country.

Continuing on the way a very small village can be seen far below and it was so green.  The pictures just don't do the green justice as it was intense.

If we had chosen to drive the roads to the monastery, we would have had to endure a very long and tiring journey as you can see by all the twists and turns of the road.

Looking back from where we came to show how deep the canyon is and the ruggedness of the country.  You can see the three cables - two that the cable car road on and the center one was used to pull the car back and forth.

As we approached this last cliff we were provided a teasing view of the Tatev Monastery.

The Intrepid Explorers with the Monastery in the background.

This the Poghos-Petros Church (Paul & Peter), part of the monastery.  It was built in 902 A.D.  In the front is the bell tower. and entrance into the chapel.  The large central feature is the dome and was the largest ever built at the time.  The church was built for Bishop Ter-Hovahannes who was born a peasant but when a young boy he joined the monastery after being sent to tend the Mayor's chickens by his step-mother and then losing the flock.  At the monastery his intellectual prowess was recognized and he soon ascended to become the Bishop.

This is the courtyard of this very large monastery complex.  This monastery was founded as a university in the 14th century.  There were around 500 monks who studied here in the arts of science, calligraphy, miniature paintings, music and humanities.  It was one of the last universities of its kind in Armenia.  All around you can see traces of the classrooms, dormitories and residences.

This is one place where either some dwelled or was a kitchen for you can see the hole in the ground where they made bread in what is called a vertical oven.  It is about 6 feet deep, lined with stone and a wood fire is built inside to heat it up.  When the wood is burned to coals the stone is hot enough so that they slapped the bread up against the side of the oven and it cooked that way.  Actually they make bread that same way all over Armenia today.  It is good!  You can see Larry waiting for the next batch to come out!  Don't look over the side if you are afraid of heights, which is why Larry is looking at me instead of over the side.  It is a few thousand feet down and this is right on the edge of the cliff!!!!!  Notice the fantastic view out the window and down the mountainside?!

Our Mission President is only about 5'4" and has to duck to come out of this old part of the monastery where someone lived.

This large stone wheel is used to crush the olives in preparation to go to the olive press for making olive oil.  This monastery was well known in its time as producing quality olive oil and was marketed all over.  You would pick up the wooden end and walk around the circle causing the shoe shell to revolve about the center pin and crush the olives.

This is the next phase of making olive oil - the olive press.  The wooden screw jack was rotated much like a windlass on a sailing ship which caused the press to exert ever increasing pressure on the olives, squeezing out the oil.

After leaving Tatev, we wondered at all of the history we just learned and gained a deeper understanding of the Christian legacy of this country.  They were good people who were able with what they knew, to worship Jesus Christ in the way they saw fit at the time.

On our way back home we stopped at a lookout place called "Old Khndzoresk" (Canyon of the caves).  It was breathtaking as you could look out at every direction and feel the quiet peaceful valleys below.  

 Another view showed this with the rock formations unique to this place, dotted with a cave or two.  Notice the mountains in the distance.

This shows more caves where people once lived but below you can see a cave that is still being used by a family for their dwelling.

Below is a picture of another view which was what the cave dwellers could see from their "front yard".

Over one side you could see a large rolling field with some cattle and a herder.
This was so serene that we didn't want to leave.  We thought how wonderful it would be to come here and sit and read our scriptures or pray and enjoy the beauty and quiet of this place.  This was NOT a tourist place but a place out of the way.  Our driver had relatives that lived close by and he knew of this place and how to find it.

 Here we are, the serene seekers enjoying together this peaceful place.

We must show you our driver, Ruben, who is Armenian, and has just taken up a love for golfing.  One of the former missionary couples sent him their golf clubs and every chance he gets, he will hit one out over the mountain side for fun!

We will close our blog and just share a couple of photos we took of some Armenian dancers we saw performing.  A few months ago a few of the senior couples and the Mission President and his wife went to an Armenian dance festival and was fascinated by the grace and beauty of these dancers.

We think of you and wonder how you are doing in your everyday activities and adventures.  We love our mission and we love this country and it's people.  We have a lot to learn from them.

Remember these few trips that we have taken is not what we do here.  The Mission President wants to expose us to the culture and land of this great country in which we have been called to serve.  There is so much history here that speaks to the religious background of those we help teach.  Christianity runs deep in every aspect of their lives and in all parts of this country.  There are church's everywhere and historical monasteries of old.  These people have a faith in Jesus Christ but at the same time are hungry to hear the truths of the gospel.  Many have been prepared and will be prepared for the message that the missionaries bring.  We are happy to be part of that service.

Until the next blog, we send our love to each of you.
Elder and Sister Eyre

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