Monday, August 31, 2009

Hello From Afghanistan

We've been blessed to be able to hear from Dad quite a bit. We are able to exchange emails frequently and occasionaly get phone calls. Isn't technology wonderful?! We love being able to hear from him so often and are so thankful he is doing so well. I've copied a few things from his emails so you can know what he has to say about his experience so far. The pictures and the emails from him come seperately and don't necessarily correlate. The pictures show some of the countryside, school children, and the village elders. It's a little bit long, but it is so interesting that I didn't want to cut any of it out!

"Lunch was rice, goat, flat-bread and melon (pretty much standard fare from what I have seen so far.) I love the bread and the goat is surprisingly tender and tasty. I think that they cook it in a pressure cooker to get it so tender. I will try and find a picture of one for you (the cooker, not the goat) they look a little bit like an old wine urn with a screw down top. They fill it up, screw down the lid, then heat it on the fire until done.
Things here are going well. We (the four person team I am working with) have found ourselves assigned in the eastern portion of the Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The location is very similar to Utah, inasmuch as we are located at the upper end of a very long high valley that is surrounded by several ranges of tall mountains (5000-10,000'+). The area has a large number of very small villages that have survived for many generations on an economy based around subsistence farming. They have had little opportunity to rise above their circumstances due both to the many years of war (this is one of the Provinces that led to the defeat of the Soviet invasion in the 80's) and also rampant corruption in the subsequent governments that have variously tried to control the country. The people seem industrious but not innovative, and their lifestyles today have changed little from what must have been the standards of thousands of years ago. The homes are built in extended family compounds surrounded by high mud/brick walls and house some 15-30 people. The families work closely
together, with the women shouldering the majority of the workload, carrying water from the river unless fortunate enough to have a well, searching for wood for cooking in their open hearths, and caring for the crops grown in small terraced plots cut into the mountainside. They grow primarily wheat (with winter precipitation) and then later corn and just a few simple vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes. They have no cold storage and anything not eaten quickly cannot be preserved. Modern conveniences such as automobiles and irrigation struggle to find a place in communities without roads, and in villages too small to field sufficient labor or organization to cooperatively build canals and reservoirs. Instead, burdens are carried by donkey, and water by buckets. While many used to be able to receive good educations, including degrees in engineering, the years of war have almost eliminated that, and now a "high school" diploma might only represent 8 or less years of sub-standard schooling.

Our role here is to support the local government and work to stabilize and secure the area. We are working closely with the Districts and Province to help them gain the respect and support of their populace. Some of the means we are using is development projects to build roads (a "road" sometimes being very similar to a dirt farm road wide enough to allow one vehicle as opposed to the single or double track trail currently in place.) We are also developing small water driven generator projects t
hat will provide limited electricity for a light or two and hopefully some means of cold storage. Another favorite is called "pipe schemes" in which water is brought from a spring or river through a series of rudimentary pipes to allow a single spigot on a 3/4" line to reach homes in the village. All of this work is done primarily by hand, including the road development, with the labor force consisting of men and boys of all ages. They have their own tempo also, and it is not too fast paced.

The FOB (Forward Operating Base) here has all the basic amenities with my favorite being the hot chow and the cold ice cream! Living and working from tents and sleeping on a cot is just fine and the Army has been nice enough to provide some rudimentary air conditioning which has brought the temp in my sleeping tent down into the 80-90 range. On the plus side, the guys working in the valley below us are enjoying temps well over 120 and reportedly reaching 140 in the month of August! We also have a small chapel here and believe it or not, enough of us to get together for LDS services. Last week there were three of us, and yesterday we found we had grown to five.
I hope to enjoy each day for what it is and for what it brings. It is not doing what we love, it is loving what we do and seeing and recognizing the Lords tender mercies that are all around us. The ways that He will touch our lives is endless and far exceeds our ability to appreciate.
With all my love, Russ"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Temple Dedication

I wanted to take a minute and just say how thankful I am to be so very blessed. Yesterday Parker and I were able to attend the Oquirrh Mountain Temple Dedication. We had to be in our seats 30 minutes early, which gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and how blessed I am. The dedication was beautiful and I loved listening to the words shared by President Monson and other church leaders. Their faith and examples are astounding and I am so thankful that they sacrifice so much to give us so much. I don't know what we would do without the Gospel and I am so thankful for the Prophet Joseph Smith who restored it to this earth. We have so much!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Birthday!

This last week we celebrated Rusty's 19th birthday! He got to spend the day partying with Alicia --I'm told there was lunch, a movie, and some shopping involved. (The rest of us were super jealous that we couldn't join them because we were all stuck at work.)

Then we all got together that night for yummy dinner and some games. He could pick anything or anywhere for dinner and he picked KFC (Keep in mind that this is the same guy that told us not to get treats for his birthday because he doesn't want to get fat. Did he think that big bucket of chicken was low-cal?) :)

Rusty, true to his mischevious nature, peeled the frosting out of the middle of the oreos and waited to see how long it would take us to notice that our frosting was missing!
Alicia found this amazing shirt for Rusty. It has a battery pack (Seriously!) and the shirt recognizes sound and movement. Below is a clip of the two of them, in all their craziness, playing with the shirt.

Hope you had a great birthday bud! We love you so much and had a great time celebrating with you!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome Home

He's back! Last Friday night we got to pick Rusty up from the airport. He's been doing some specialized training in the National Guard and we are so glad to have him back home! There was a small mishap with the balloons--they weren't being supervised properly and they escaped from the car and floated away before we left. So, we had to stop to pick up some more balloons on our way to the airport (thank goodness Macey's is open all night). But it was really late and we were all so tired that we just thought it was so funny.

He definitely came home with more than he left with. :) We were laughing because the bag mom was carrying was almost bigger than her! All you can see from behind are her little legs poking out.

Rusty, we're so proud of you and all the hard work you put in to get to graduation. And we're so glad to have you back home!

Monday, August 17, 2009


The word aerobics came about when the gym instructors got together and said, "If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it jumping up and down." ~Rita Rudner

Yogalates. Yep, it's a real word. Parker and I try to go to the gym a couple of times each week. Some weeks we're a lot better about going than others but we always try to make the effort. (It's the thought that counts, right?) Lately though, I've been really bored with my regular work-out and have had no motivation to go the gym. What better way to stop boredom than to try something new, right? I discovered pilates earlier in the summer and have absolutely loved it. I did a little research and found out that the instructors I go to also teach several other types of classes. One of them being yogalates. I thought I'd give it a try. It's just like it sounds--a blend of pilates and yoga. Pilates works your core muscle groups and is a really good work-out. Yoga uses different stretching techniques and works to calm your center and help you release inner frustrations. I thought I was in for a relaxing-muscle working-inner calming work out. Boy was I wrong. Let me tell you, it's A LOT harder than it looks. I discovered that I have no flexibility whatsoever and muscles I didn't know existed (and yes they are still sore). However, it was a lot of fun, really energizing, and I got a great work-out for my entire body without having to hit the treadmill or do aerobics. So if anybody out there is looking to get away from their regular cardio exercises, I'd definitely recommend yogalates.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Geico...In My Living Room!

I think at some point or another everyone has seen the Geico commercials featuring the stack of cash with big eyes. You know for sure it's the legitimate Geico cash because the catchy little tune "It Always Feels Like Somebody's Watching Me" is always playing in the background. (Just in case you haven't seen these commercials and have no idea what I'm talking about, you can click on this link here and watch one of them. Well, to get to the point, this little guy is in my living room! No joke. Anytime I sit down to read or watch tv, he's sitting at the edge of my couch and is ALWAYS WATCHING ME. To make things worse, the minute I see him, that song, or should I say that one little line, starts playing over and over in my head. Help! I wasn't sure anyone would believe me, so I got a picture of him as proof.

Okay, so maybe it's an imposter. But do you see the resemblance?! And he really is always watching me! (Darn that little song.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Birthdays, Birthdays, and More Birthdays

July is pretty much the official birthday month for both of our families. I think there are 6 birthdays we get to celebrate, not to mention the July holidays that we all get together for. It all makes July a busy month for us, but we love it! Here are a bunch of pictures from a birthday dinner at Happy Sumo.

Friday, August 7, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance--Season 5

Let's just consider this post my shout-out for the month. Being a dance nerd I got sucked into this show a couple of seasons ago, and of course, have now gotten Parker sucked into as well. We don't watch a lot of tv and we definitely don't watch a lot of reality shows, but this is one that we have really enjoyed and gotten into. Last night was the season finale and I am just so excited that Jeanine won! She was my favorite from the beginning and we have really enjoyed watching all the new choreography and dancers this season. We have a lot fun watching partners get matched up and debating who is going to make it through the next round. I'm so excited that Jeanine made it all the way through!