And why are they not frozen? Because their hearts are warmed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Welcome to our blog! We hope you enjoy our travels and dialogues as we journey to Anchorage Alaska for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We hope that all have had a very Merry Christmas and you are all set for a productive and happy New Year.  We have had a wonderful Christmas season here in Alaska.

One of the things that has made Christmas so good for us, even though we're far from home, has been the thoughtfulness of our Bishop and his family.  As we mentioned in the last post, they sent us a 12 Days of Christmas that included a little gift for each of the 12 days.  You saw the first one (the Santa's hat) and each one was geared to the number of days.  They were all quite clever and, since our bishop is a dentist, a number of them were oral hygiene-related - toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss.  The best one of the group, though, was the 5th Day of Christmas - Five Marvelous Minnionaries!  Each was an individual, four were elders and one was a sister.  Here are a couple of pictures - the sister minnionary and the outfit for one of the elders --

We took them to the office and everyone went nuts over them, both the senior couples and the young missionaries.  Again, thank you Ponds for the all the effort and thoughtfulness you put into things.

Another of the things that made our holiday nice (and hectic!) was dealing with the DELUGE of mail, mostly packages, that came to the mission office.  We had truckloads of boxes delivered almost every day for the last couple of weeks.  Then it was our job to sort it all out, forward stuff to the outer areas and get the local stuff all handed out.  There were days when 5-6 people were all working together on the mail.  It was fun to play Santa Claus!

We received all manner of boxes, packages and letters, but the most interesting package we received was this one --

Yep.  As you can see, it came just like this.  We don't know how they got the stamps to stay on and the potato was in amazingly good condition (much better than a couple of "fragile" boxes we got).  No, it wasn't sent from Idaho.  It came from Wisconsin.  If there was a particular story behind it, the receiving elder wasn't sharing.

On Christmas Eve we (the senior missionaries) were invited to the Mission Home for dinner.  The dinner was excellent.  We had deep-fried shrimp and beef ribs (with all the other goodies).  Then we played a game of Farkle, watched a couple of church videos on Christmas and then read the Christmas story from Luke 2.  It was a very enjoyable evening.

Sorry the light wasn't the best, but here we are.  And, just because I know one of you yahoos will bring it up,
those are sparkling cider bottles on the table.

On Christmas Day, we got up late (no kids - no 4 AM!) opened our gifts and went to one of the other missionary couple's apartments for brunch.  It was the first time in 43 years that we have opened gifts on our own.  Kind of interesting, but enjoyable none the less.

And before we leave Christmas, thanks to all who sent cards, letters or gifts, it was wonderful to be remembered by loved ones.

The other thing that occurred this last week, although some of you in the Lower 48 probably missed its passing, was the Winter Solstice!  The days are now getting longer as we speak!  Hurray!  More daylight!  We've talked about this a little bit before, but here's an extra picture to give you the flavor of the season in the north.

This photo was taken on Dec 21st, the Winter Solstice, at about 12:30 PM.  The camera darkened the picture a little because of the direct exposure to the sun, but it really wasn't much lighter than this.  That is as high in the sky as the sun gets in Anchorage on the 21st.

Just to get a little more of the light today, we went out for a drive this afternoon.  It was pretty grey, windy and cold.  These photos were taken on the Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage.

But a little cold, snow, wind and ice doesn't slow down the Alaskans.  A little closer to town is Potter Marsh, where we do a lot of our bird watching in warmer seasons.  Everything was frozen over and you could see tracks everywhere of bicycles, skies, etc.  At the south end of the marsh, we saw these families out enjoying the winter.

We hope all is well with you and yours.  Thanks again for your thoughts during this Christmas season and Happy New Year to you all.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hi everybody! 

Over the last couple of weeks we've had a little bit of fun in our off-hours.  Last week, to honor the Dunns, who went home day before yesterday, we took them to a hockey game, something none of us had ever done before - the Alaska Aces vs. the Colorado Eagles.  The Eagles won in sudden death overtime, 3 to 2.  We went on a Wednesday so the crowd wasn't the biggest, but the noise was incredible.  I'd hate to go to a playoff game or something like that.  You'd have to turn your hearing aids off or your head would explode.  Anyway, we learned a lot about hockey and had a great time.

From the left - Sis. Dunn (Elder Dunn was taking the photo) Sis. Taylor, Elder Taylor, Sis. Weston, Elder Weston

Not many pictures, this game is too fast and all we had were our phones.

Getting ready for a face-off
These Alaskans are serious about their hockey!  All of the adults in this family are wearing Aces jerseys and they brought their two little children along.  Planned ahead, though.  Both of them had earmuffs to wear to protect their ears.  And they seemed to really enjoy the game!
Here's the job I want.  No, not the guy standing there with the goal net, the Zamboni driver!

On our last post we put up some pics about the snow and ice.  During the last couple of weeks we've had more of both.  It really makes things pretty around here, along with a little dangerous on the highway.  We went to Palmer yesterday for lunch, a Festival of Nativities at the local chapel and a couple of bazaars/craft shows and saw an 18-car pileup on the freeway.  Anyway, here are a couple of photos of the weather.

It is really amazing how the moisture in the air just freezes to the branches of the trees and when you breathe out your breath turns to glitter in the air.

Snow on the mountains, frost on the trees.

One of the elements of life around here is the number of hours of daylight.  In a post after our Halloween-time trip to Barrow, we mentioned that the sunrise in Barrow was at about 11:00 AM and the sunset was about 5:00 PM.  Today, in Anchorage, the sun came up at 10:07 and went down at 3:41 - 5 hours and 34 minutes of daylight.  In Fairbanks it rose at 10:48 and set at 2:41 - 4 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.  In Barrow... none.  They have entered what they refer to up there as "the dark time."  The sun set a couple of weeks ago and won't rise again until spring.

On the way to the office in the morning.  No, we don't go in that early - this was a couple of weeks ago at 8:30 AM.
That extra light in the center is the moon.
This is looking out the window of our apartment at 5:20 PM this afternoon.
We saw this the other morning on the way in to the office. (this was taken a little later)  None of us in the office had ever seen anything like it.  Pretty amazing when you realize that there is a total of about 390 years of experience in the office.

For Thanksgiving this year we had planned on going to the Institute building with the other senior missionary couples.  Instead we ended up being invited to dinner at the Mission Home with President and Sister Robinson.  It was a very nice day.

We are just about ready for Christmas.  On Black Friday we put up our tree, a small artificial tree given to us by the Poulsons when they went home.  It is all decorated and lit and we have added a couple of extra things to it.  Candice sent us some ornaments made from real painted eggs. We also received a package from our Bishop's family that contained a gift for each of the 12 days of Christmas.  We just opened our first one today.  Sister Taylor also bought a small Alaskan Nativity scene when we were in North Pole last summer.  It is quite cute with an igloo for the stable, a dog sled for the manger, eskimos for the wise men with a moose, polar bear, Dall sheep and wolf for the animals.

A Spirit Mask ornament.  The face is carved wood.  The "hood" around it is made of Caribou/Reindeer hair.

One of the painted eggs.  Real eggshells!
This is our present for the first day of Christmas - Santa's Hat!  Our thanks to the Ponds!

Tonight we had a special surprise.  The local district decided to do some caroling and stopped by our apartment to sing.  We had them all in for some caramel popcorn and visited with them for a few minutes until it was time for them to head home.  Being able to fellowship with these great young people made a great finish to a great Sabbath Day!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It may only be the middle of November where you are, with balmy temperatures, leaves still on the trees and the occasional Indian Summer day, but in Alaska - IT'S WINTER!  Over the last couple of weeks we have gone through a little cold spell here in Anchorage.  The average high temperature has been about 12 degrees - average low temperature about 0 degrees or a little less.  I don't think Anchorage had negative temperatures at all the last couple of winters and we've already had three or four nights that got down to -1, -2, -6!  We've had snow and ice and have been driving around in 4-wheel drive with studs for about a couple of weeks.  It has warmed up (to freezing!) over the last couple of days and we've gotten another 6-8 inches of snow.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  It reminds Sister Taylor and I of our childhood in Colorado and Idaho.  We're really enjoying things, so far at least.

First snowfall.  Looking out of our back bedroom window in the evening.

A little bit of snow on the hills, on the road, no real issues.

Then the cold spell hit.  It was so cold that the moisture condensed on the bare tree limbs.  From a distance it looked like it had snowed overnight.  And then when the wind blew, the frost falling off the trees made it look like it was snowing.

Ice crystals formed from moisture in the air.

Our apartment has dual-pane windows, but they are aluminum.  All the window sills are ruined due to the constant moisture.
It got so cold outside this last week that the moisture froze on the window frame.  It was plenty warm in the apartment, but the window frames were cold enough to form ice on the insides.

On Saturday it warmed up a bit and got really serious about snowing.  These next pictures are from our grocery shopping trip to Fred Meyer.  Hey, it was P-day.  We had to get groceries!

We've been pretty busy lately and haven't had a chance to get out much so Saturday, before we went grocery shopping, we decided to see what Potter Marsh looked like.  Guess what.  No birds, no critters of any kind but Sister Taylor & I.

No problems finding a parking place!
Apparently there had been at least one critter out there.  This is looking down from the boardwalk into the ice.  It must have been just soft enough at some point that the animal's feet sunk in a little, but not all the way.
Living most of our lives in a temperate climate, we had never seen these before we came to Anchorage.  They are small sweeper/plow/snow blowers that the city uses to clean/plow and clear their sidewalks and bike trails.  On our way back from Fred Meyer, we passed seven of the full-size plows and graders working the same street.  These Alaskans are serious about snow removal.

One day on our way into the mission office, we saw a mother moose and her yearling trotting along the sidewalk on Strawberry Rd., the street where the office is located.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw another adult female trimming the bushes along the front of the building.  Then when Sister Taylor was out and about later in the day, she saw this bull trimming things along a street just a quarter mile or so from the office.  Four in one day!  We haven't seen any moose since last spring/early summer, but they are coming back out now.

Today we had an interesting experience that a few of you will find interesting.  One of the sisters in Palmer called last night.  It turns out that she has been sick for a couple of weeks.  Sister Taylor was concerned that she might have pneumonia so we met her (& her companion, of course) at the Urgent Care Clinic in Wasilla this morning.  Wasilla is about an hour from here.  That made us miss our church meetings with the Bush Branch so we went to Sacrament Meeting in the Campbell Park Ward.  We were able to say hi to several folks that we got to know in that ward when we first got here.

After the meeting, as we were walking down the hallway, a man reached out and stopped us, saying something about having met us before.  We both thought that he was talking about here in Alaska until he touched my nametag and started talking about his first bishop being named Taylor in Corvallis, OR.  He was talking about Daddy, of course, and he said that I was the spitting image of him.  It was George Jarvi!  As soon as he told us who he was, we both recognized him.  We had a great, if short, visit with him.  He and his wife have recently returned from a mission in South Africa and he is currently serving in the bishopric of the Inlet View Ward.  He has lived in Alaska for eight years and is a chemical engineer.  

As we were talking with him, the the sister missionaries walked up to say hi and he started telling them about having danced with Sister Taylor at the stake dances when we were all young.  I think they got quite a kick out of that.  It may be a small world, but it is really a small world in the church.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

We have had a great adventure!  Last weekend we traveled with two other senior missionary couples to the northern-most town in the United States - Barrow, Alaska!  For those of you who knew this, and have been patiently waiting for this post, I apologize.  It has been a particularly busy week.

On our way home from the airport, Sister Taylor received a call from one of the other senior missionaries.  While we were gone, his wife had gotten quite sick.  We rushed over to their apartment and the sister ended up going to the Emergency Department and spending a couple of days in the hospital.  Due to this illness and other health issues they are going to have to go home so we have been scrambling the last few days trying to learn enough of their responsibilities that the mission won't fold.  It looks like I will be taking over the Financial Secretary's position and others in the office will be assuming various other duties.

Also, this week we had another earthquake.  They are happening all the time in Alaska, but you don't feel them all.  This one woke me up at about 5:30 on Thursday morning.  It was one good, hard shake and then we didn't feel anything else.  4.5 on the Richter Scale, centered about 40-50 miles north of here.

And now I'm sick.  I caught the head/chest cold that has been going through the missionaries like wildfire.  I started with a cough on Friday and I'm full into it now.  So far, Sister Taylor has been able to avoid it.  We'll cross our fingers.  Transfer week starting tomorrow.

So... on to The Adventure --
Last Friday, Oct. 30th, Sister Taylor and I and two other couples, the Westons and the Dunns, boarded a plane here in Anchorage and flew to Barrow.  Sister Taylor and Sister Weston started the whole thing, having decided that it would be a shame to spend 18 months in Alaska and not go to Barrow, the northern-most city in the U.S.  It was primarily a tourist trip, but while we were there we met with the elders and delivered them some supplies and goodies, as well.  We flew from Anchorage, stopped briefly in Prudhoe Bay, and arrived in Barrow at about 11:45 AM.  We were a little late because of de-icing procedures in both airports.

The runway in Prudhoe Bay.  The wind was blowing and drifting the snow so that the they had to continually work to keep the runways open,  That light at the far end of the runway is a sweeper coming toward us as we turned off the runway.

The sweeper as it drove past.

The terminal at Deadhorse Airport (Prudhoe Bay, Alaska)
We didn't disembark here, but those who did used a stairway and walked into that lighted doorway below the sign.

Sorry for the focus, but this is the building next to the terminal at Barrow.  Wiley Post and Will Rogers were killed in a plane crash near here.  The airport is named for them and there is a memorial in town.
The memorial to Wiley Post and Will Rogers.

Just like the old days.  This is the stairway we used to disembark and embark at the airport in Barrow.

                                                                 De-icing the plane

Once in Barrow, we got checked into our hotel, a small place a block from the airport, run by a sweet family named Grant.  He ran the hotel, she worked at the college and they had an 8-year old girl named Ellinor (her spelling) who was a surrogate grandchild for all us senior missionaries.  During our stay, we played games in the lobby (our rooms were pretty small) and she would join in with us.  She and our granddaughter Katie are going to be penpals.  They were a great family and were really accommodating and helpful.

Shortly after we arrived, we were greeted by the elders who are assigned to Barrow.  They live in the church building and walked a mile to come see us at the hotel.  They don't have a vehicle in Barrow and have to walk or be transported by members everywhere they want to go.  When it's cold, which it is all the time, walking is a challenge.  The wind always blows (there is nothing to stop it) and the wind chill is always significant.  One morning we got up and it was 2 degrees with a windchill which brought it down to -25 degrees!  The warmest it got while we were there was 18 degrees.  The windchill still brought it down below zero.

So the elders showed up to welcome us -- in beards!  Someone in the branch crocheted them for the elders to protect their faces from the wind.  I don't think they wear them often, but they did for us, of course.
Elders Fatani and Perkins
The Elders told us that the branch was so excited about having visitors that they were putting on a potluck dinner for us that evening.  Then they had another one for us after church on Sunday.  The branch, which includes, roughly, all of Alaska north of the Arctic Circle (as large as the state of Michigan) meets in a small building in Barrow and there are a handful of members calling in from outlying villages.  It consists primarily of Tongans who live there full-time, and whites from the Lower 48 who are there as teachers, medical personnel and borough (county) personnel.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, Barrow, Alaska

At the front door.

Elder Perkins, the Dunns, the Westons, us, Elder Fatani

President and Sister Nethercott.  He is the Branch President and his brother and family are members of the
Bush Branch that we are assigned to in Anchorage.

The Relief Society President, Pauline (something we couldn't pronounce) and her mother.  Pauline speaks perfect English.
Her mother speaks a little with a large accent.  

A feather apron.

This was during the dinner on Sunday afternoon.  Interesting mix of food types, everything from corned beef cooked in taro leaves to potato salad.  This room is their chapel and multi-purpose room.  Everyone just moves the tables and chairs in and out, depending on the need.  There were about 40-50 in attendance at Sacrament Meeting.
On Friday afternoon, after we got settled in the hotel, I walked over to the police department and met the chief, Travis Welch, who also happens to be the Elder's Quorum President in the branch.  He showed me around the station and we visited a little bit and then he drove me around Barrow for a short tour.  He confirmed that the potluck was on for that night and offered to come and pick us all up.  (As I said earlier, the church is about a mile from our hotel)  Then he drove us back to our hotel and offered to pick us all up on Saturday and give us the grand tour of the city.  So Saturday afternoon he was kind enough to drive us all around the city, telling us it's history and interesting points, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  And he drove us to church and back on Sunday.  He was a very nice guy and very generous with his time.  He really was the catalyst that made our trip so enjoyable.  And saved six old people from frostbite or cab fares.

Elder Taylor and Chief (President) Welch.  Yes, we did talk about beards on police officers!
Mine would have been nice up there.

The shoulder patch and coin of the North Slope Borough Police Department.  A present from the Chief.

One of the eye-opening experiences we had while in Barrow was a visit to the local grocery store.  Of course, everything for sale there has to be shipped in (when conditions allow) and consequently very expensive.  A few of the prices we saw in the store --

Wild, huh?  And the elders tell us that the milk is only good for a couple of days after you buy it.  We have enough trouble getting fresh stuff that lasts here in Anchorage.  I can't imagine what is must be like up there.

Barrow is a town of approx. 5000 people, about 60 percent of whom are Alaskan Native.  The other two main groups are whites and polynesians.  Although the town is only 2-3 miles across, there is not much walking done, at least in winter.  There are a lot of snow machines (known in the Lower 48 as snowmobiles), quads, personal vehicles and taxis.

Well, our trip lasted from Friday morning to Monday afternoon and, between our two phones and the camera, we took about 260 pictures/videos.  So here is just a sampling to give you an idea of what Barrow is like.

This was taken from the hotel lobby window about mid-morning.  Sunrise while we were there was at 11:08 AM and sunset was about 5:20 PM.  Toward the end of November the sun goes down and doesn't come up again until spring.

This is headed west out of town.  The road ends at a freshwater lake that is now frozen over.  You can see that there are no trees, bushes, etc.  Barrow is in the Arctic Desert.  There isn't even any grass in the summer, just tundra with a little moss growing here and there.  This is also a good example of the roads/streets.  There is no paving because of the tundra/permafrost.  They are just gravel and are all pretty rough.

A wide variety of architecture, from a very modern hospital and city hall... 

to geodesic domes...
to boxes with more boxes added on.  Note the upstairs addition.  Would you like to climb those stairs with no railing, or stand on that landing with no railing?  And that little window is the only one.

The wind was really blowing the snow around.  On Monday, Mrs. Grant couldn't go to work at the college because the drifted snow had obliterated the road.  She couldn't tell where to drive.

And a few of the other things we saw and did --

Note that most places on that signpost are a lot further away than the north pole.
This was a short block from our hotel.  We just about froze walking over there and back.

A whale bone arch overlooking the Arctic Ocean.

The skull and jaw bones of a bowhead whale, still hunted by the natives in the spring and fall for its blubber, meat and baleen.

Elder & Sister Taylor

Sisters Taylor (L) and Weston (R).  They were going to stick their feet into the ocean but chickened out at the last moment.  Instead they collected some gravel from the shore as a momento.  There is no sand, just little tiny pebbles under the snow.  The line of white across the water is the ice pack moving ever closer to Barrow.  Soon the ocean will be completely frozen over.  The darker patches in the blue are ice.
All in all, it was a great trip but we were happy to get back to our own beds and the comparatively tropical climate of Anchorage, where it is currently 30 degrees and snowing.    Ahhh, winter in the great Far North.