RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Posted by Sydney

Rio was the most naturally beautiful city I have ever seen.  It is amazing to see God’s hand in all things of the world.  The city is literally built around the mountains, hills, trees, & lagoons.  There are signs all around the city of last year’s World Cup and looking forward to next year’s Olympic Games.  There is no doubt the people who attend will love being in such a beautiful place!

Like India, there are literally millions of people who live in dire poverty.  They have homes like I mentioned in India – stacked one on top of the other and so small they can’t even stand up.  I have been so impressed thinking of how Heavenly Father knows all His children – even the millions in what are called the “slums” of Mumbai and Rio.  It is so wonderful to think that we have such a loving & merciful Father in Heaven.

There was so much to love about Rio:   the famous steakhouses, the soft sandy beaches, the famous havaiana flip flops, the Sa'ara market, and the mountainsides of thick green trees.  There are soccer goals, volleyball nets, and countless vendors all over the beaches.    It was especially fun to watch a game called Footvolley.  It is played just like beach volleyball, but they are not able to use their hands - thus, they use their heads, shoulders, feet, etc.  It was incredible the talent these men had and so, so fun to watch!

The most famous site is the Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado mountain.  It was amazing how they could build a 12 story statue on top of the mountain.   But even more amazing is the thousands of people who flock to see this statue each day.  It has a view of the entire city and it seems so perfect to think of the Savior of the world looking down and watching over us all.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Posted by Joseph

Rio has been a different experience than any other place that we have been so far.  The natural beauty of this place is amazing.  The city is built in between the hills and its green everywhere.  We fortunately were able to spend a lot of time at the beach while we were here.  I had a great time relaxing after all the walking around we have done on this trip.

The two coolest things we did were going to Sugarloaf Mountain and the Jesus Christ statue.  Both had amazing views, and they literally took your breath away.  Rio is such a beautiful city with the hills and water.  I have really had a great time here and enjoyed it a lot.

 

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Posted by Rebecca

Rio has been amazing.  It is completely different from everywhere we have been, and it is incredible.  There is so much natural beauty here.  The city is built around mountains and lagoons and is right along the Atlantic Ocean.  It is beautiful.

Our hotel is a block away from the Copacabana Beach, and it is beautiful.  It has a long stretch of sand and the waves are huge.  The ocean is a little bit cold, but I loved being out in it.  There were lots of shells along the beach too.

Our hotel was really close to the Sugarloaf Mountain.  We took a tram to the top, and it was probably the most amazing view I have ever seen.  You could see the Christ the Redeemer Statue, the beaches, and the city; it was gorgeous.

We also got to go to the Christ the Redeemer Statue.  It was such a nice, pretty statue, and it was awesome to be able to go up to it.  There were so many people around it, though; you could barely get through the crowd.  But it was amazing.

I have loved spending time in Brazil.  It has been fun spending time at a place that is built around so much natural beauty.  I have loved it here in Rio!

BERLIN, GERMANY

Posted by Sydney

Berlin has been really interesting!  It has been neat seeing all of the ways that this city has come back from the devastation of war.  The most interesting things we have seen has been the Holocaust memorials and museums.  We have seen the cars, pulleys, cable boxes, air balloons, etc that people would use to try to escape East Germany. 

The Holocaust museum and memorial is very well done.  It emphasizes the people – survivors and those who did not survive Nazi rule.  They showed families and you could see that many times only one or two would survive of a family.  It was sobering and heartbreaking that any of Heavenly Father’s children had to endure such cruel circumstances.  You could have heard a pin drop – people were so reverent in honor of the people we read about on the plaques found throughout the museum.  Many times our eyes filled with tears knowing that the victim we were reading about was someone's parent, spouse, or child.

The memorial was so unique, but very moving.  There are hundreds of large cement blocks of different heights on a large plaza.  The ground rolls like little hills so the blocks all look different.  It was interesting to think that they are all the same, but different.  Just like the people and families so deeply affected by the war – they were the same in their circumstance in many ways, but each is a unique individual.  A child of God.

Church was wonderful.  As we walked to church about 45 minutes away, we saw two darling Sister missionaries ahead of us.  One was from Texas and the other from Guatemala.  They speak Spanish, German, English, and are learning French because they “have a guy to teach and he only speaks French”.  :). We’ve been in Berlin during a heat wave (easily 100 degrees – most places don’t have air conditioning) so church was cut to only Sacrament Meeting.  It was so touching to hear the testimonies of the members here.  The Spirit was strong and the members valiant.   They testified of miracles and tender mercies.  We loved singing the hymns with them and feeling of their spirit. 

We also visited Checkpoint Charlie.  It was wonderful to watch the speech from President Ronald Reagan when he told Mr. Gorbachov to “Tear down this wall”.  This quote was found on the subway walls and in museums.  It is clear that this speech was a true defining moment for the Germans.  We watched amazing footage of people pouring over the wall and through the barriers when they were told they were free to leave East Germany.  It was neat to think about the time that President Monson spent in East Germany with the saints there.  What a blessing that must have been to those Saints!

The thing I have come away with from Berlin is how wonderfully resilient the German people have been.  They have come through hard times and prevailed.  It is so neat to see that freedom is something that the human spirit truly wants.  Most of all, however, I am grateful for my freedom - especially Freedom of Religion.  What a gift!

BERLIN, GERMANY

Posted by Rebecca

Wow, Berlin is amazing.  It’s been so fun to be back in Europe!  It’s fun to see some funny symbols of the city – they have these life-size bear statues all around the city that are fun, and a walking man named Ampelman who is really cute.                                                                                                                                             

We have seen lots of stuff based around the Berlin Wall and the Cold War.  We went to Checkpoint Charlie and the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall left, and a few museums.  It’s so interesting to see how different West Germany and East Germany were.  It was also so amazing to hear about all the escape attempts.  People were so creative in their escapes – they smuggled in parts to make balloons, kayaks, submarines, and they made their own secret compartments in cars and suitcases.  People jumped out of 4th story buildings, and an East German guard jumped right over the barbed wire.  People were so brave.       I have loved everything about Germany – it has been such a fun trip!!       

BERLIN, GERMANY

Posted by Camilla

Berlin has been an amazing experience.  The Berlin Wall was amazing.  There was so much protection to keep the East Germans stay in East Germany.  There were like 10 different obstacles to go through before they could reach the Berlin Wall.   Lots of people risked their lives and many people died trying to make it into West Germany.  The Holocaust Museum was very interesting.  There were many sad stories of how thousands of Jews died.  I have really enjoyed everything about Germany!

BERLIN, GERMANY

Posted by Joseph

I have really liked Berlin so far.  I didn’t expect to see so many tourists.  There are kind of a lot, but a lot of them are European tourists. Pretty much all of the things that we went to were surrounding the Berlin Wall and the division in Germany. We went to quite a few museums, so we all know all about it now.  It is really interesting history and I think it shows what people will do to have democracy.

We also visited the Holocaust museum.  It was really eye opening and put faces and stories to the events. They went through some astonishing things and it is surprising that anyone could be so cruel. Millions of people were murdered and the survivors endured things that were unbelievable. 

Berlin has shown me what living in a communist or fascist lifestyle would be like and it’s terrible.  There is a huge contrast to how these people were living and how they are now. I’m thankful I live where I do.


ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Posted by Sydney

Istanbul has lived up to all I’ve been told.  It is such a beautiful and unique place with such beautiful buildings.  Like Israel, we have been here in Ramadan (the 30 day fast for Muslims), so we have heard the calls to prayer all day long, and people eating late at night every night. 

My favorite building was the Haghia Sophia.  It was originally a Christian Church, then became a mosque, and now is a museum.  It really just isn’t used for worship and has both the Christian mosaics along with some Arabic calligraphy.  It is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen.  It is unbelievably gigantic, with no pillars in the middle to hold it up.  I loved how it is so humble on the exterior – but the inside is covered in gold and colorful mosaics of Christ.

The Grand Bazaar truly lived up to its name.  It is fun, exciting, and large!  It is like its own neighborhood.  There are people everywhere hoping you will buy stuff in their store.  They are excited about their products, and hope you will reward them.  It is covered and has beautifully painted ceilings.  There are thousands of vendors, so needless to say we couldn’t see the entire bazaar.  They sell everything from Turkish delight to cashmere scarves to jewelry to Turkish rugs to hand painted pottery.  The spices in the Spice bazaar are definitely impressive too – they sell all kinds of herbal teas, perfumes, and cooking spices.  It smelled amazing in there!  Our favorite things we were called to get our attention were “Hello blondish family.  Buy something from me.” and “Hello large family. Do you want a tour?”  Those sure got us smiling!

Another favorite was the Topkapi Palace.  Truthfully, we spent most of our time looking out over the view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Straits.  You could see both the Europe and Asia sides of Turkey from there.  The sea glistens in the sun and huge boats go up and down because they are traveling in international waters.  You could see why the Palace was built in that location!

The best thing about Turkey for me was the real old world charm.  Walking up the steep cobblestone streets and seeing the New Mosque (built in 1600’s is about the newest thing here), makes you feel you’ve gone back in time.   You can almost imagine the Roman horseraces in the hippodrome or the people worshipping in the Haghia Sophia.  It is neat to imagine the history that has happened here like Paul being in Turkey, declaring the gospel as a disciple of Christ.  What an amazing country!

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Posted by Joseph

Istanbul has been a really fun country to visit.  I didn’t really know much about Istanbul before I came here, but I was really impressed by what I saw.  I really liked all of the activity going on everywhere, and all of the markets that we went to were really neat and I liked seeing all of the spices, rugs, and pottery.  We got to see a demonstration of how Turkish rugs are made, and that was really cool.

Muslim culture is very interesting here.  Mosques are everywhere.  They are the main tourist attraction, and all of them are massive.  They are really cool with the giant domes and the different colors.  Many people observe Islam differently here.  The more “traditional” fast on Ramadan and the women wear the black robes.  Others just believe but don’t really do the traditions.  Most of the people here are friendly and I’m glad to have visited here.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Posted by Rebecca

Wow, Istanbul is really neat!!  It’s different from the other places we’ve visited, but I really love it here.  It’s interesting to see how much religion affects everyone’s lives, especially in clothes and food.

We saw a few different mosques, and they are all really, really beautiful.  They’re different from the churches and temples we see a lot of, though.

My favorite has been the markets.  They’re big, with a lot of stores selling all sorts of things.  I love seeing all the rugs and pottery and spices and clothes, it’s all so unique and beautiful.

It’s been such a fun experience here in Istanbul; I have really enjoyed myself here!