Sunday, October 05, 2008

September Trip to Belgrade, Serbia
My most recent assignment for work sent me to Belgrade for a week mid-September. The highlight of the trip was probably meeting Prince Alexander II and his Wife, Princess Katherine. The royal family left Yugoslavia during World War II and were not allowed to return until 2001. Serbia is currently not a monarchy, so they are not acting royalty, but still an interesting experience. One of our contacts with the Serbian energy regulator set up a tour of the old royal court and while we were on the tour, the Prince and Princess heard we were there (we = energy regulators from the US) and they wanted to sit down with us to talk about our experience. I have some pics from the meeting, but not with me at the moment. If I remember I'll post them later this week.

Here are a few pictures from my trip. I just bought a new camera, and am still trying to figure out how to use it...

Russian Restaurant where we ate the first night.

This was a small chaple next to a small cave where the Serbian Orthodox church has a sanctuary where people pray to their family saint and seek blessings. They also sell for a very small price bottles of miracle water that comes from Spring that is believed to have healing powers. One of my colleagues bought me a bottle of this miracle water, so if anyone is in need a miracle just let me know.

This was a beautiful Orthodox church just down the road from our hotel. The white marble is unique to Serbian Orthodox church's and there is some speculation that the Orthodox and Catholic church may be seeking ways to become more unified in the future.

I thought these chess tables at the park were kind of cool. It rained most of the week and right about the time I took this picture I got stuck in a rain storm. Even with all the rain, I really enjoyed Belgrade and hope I get to go back one of these days.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

As promised...a few pictures from Bucharest

Parliament palace.....apparently 2nd largest building in world...although I need to confirm that.

Strange architecture on top of buildings....and strange advertisements.

Fun side streets with cafes.

Bush in the shape of a piano

Orthodox church from the 1700s

Sunday, May 18, 2008


After a 7 hour flight to Paris and almost 3 hours from Paris to Romania I arrived in Bucharest. Ever travel by plane with a head cold? Not fun. I'm feeling better today, but the change in pressure on my sinuses...or something...was a killer. So yesterday I wandered around Bucharest and found church, where I was able to go this morning. I can understand a little Romanian (it's a latin language) but not enough to really be too helpful. The travel agency that has helped with logistics for the conference tomorrow offered to take me site seeing this afternoon. That should be fun. I actually kind of like Bucharest which has some interesting architecture. I'm also probably enjoying it for its novelty. Un until now my experience in Europe was based on a 12 hour layover in London.

So the workshop starts tomorrow and I'll be in the hotel most of the time. I'm excited to meet some of the particants as they will be from all over South East Europe. Maybe some connections for my travel?

Anyway, I'm alive...and having a good time. I'll post of few pictures when I get back.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Slowly becoming home

Over the last month I've been painting my basement apartment and adding some new Ikea items. The newest additions are the large wardrobe in the picture and the bed frame. I still need to finish paiting some of the other areas in the apartment, but it is slowly coming together. I'll have a roommate in a few weeks, so I've been trying to organize things so the place doesn't seem too crowded.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Churches on 16th Street
I decided to go for a walk tonight down 16th Street. One of my favorite things about this street are all the beautiful churches that line it. The sky was gray, the sun just about down, and I was using my cell phone, so the pictures aren't incredible, but at least you'll get the idea. Some of them are a little blurry, due to my simultaneous brisk walk/picture snapping. Just as I was about to turn back toward my house I had the pleasant surprise of running into my friend Audrey. I'm beginning to like DC more and more as I get a little more settled.

Proof of me walking - shadows are proof right?

It was quite dark by this time...

The church above used to belong to the LDS church. I think it belongs to the Unification Church now. It even used to have Angel Moroni on top.

I didn't take this picture tonight, but wanted to add it. The National Cathedral is one of my favorite spots to go.

This church is right next door to where I live.

This church is a few blocks down from me. Don't know if you can really see in the picture, but it nearly burned down last month. The roof is completely burned out. An apartment complex on the left was severely damaged and actually where the fire started. My hometeacher lives in the apartments on the right.

Friday, April 04, 2008

It's ok to brag about...

family right? Today I'll brag about Erin. Check out her blog...

Check out her etsy site and the mural she painted...not too bad eh?

So instead of being jealous I will just brag and then ask her to give me discounts when I need her to paint my room or make me a baby blanket.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring is least it was today.

Some new friends of mine, Derek and Jackie, invited me to go for a bike ride with them tonight. This is my fourth time living in DC and the first time I've really taken the chance to go see all the cherry trees and their spring blossoms. Beautiful. Sadly, my photography depends on my cellphone, but you get the picture (literally). I'm headed to Pennsylvania this weekend and all next week for work and hope these blossoms stick around just long enough for Emily or Ned to make it down this way and see them. (and to trick them into painting my basement...:)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hey, Who Broke My Window?
Oh yeah, that was me. It's been a rough first month for my apartment...holes in the wall, broken windows...come on Matt, time to start treating this like my home.
Actually, it was either break the window, or sleep in my car that night. I went running and when I came back I realized that I didn't have a key for the lock on the door knob. It wasn't that I forgot it....the landlord never gave me one, and I hadn't used the lock all month. Poor timing. So from about 6:30-11:30pm I tried to find a way in without breaking a window. My cell phone was in the apartment so I couldn't call my hometeachers...I don't have anyone's phone number memorized. So after running over to the church and finding a member who let me use their computer/internet, I found my landlord's # and basically asked for permission to break the window. (He was out of town). I asked a neighbor (who I didn't know) if I could borrow a hammer to break a window, which naturally resulted in a skeptical look. He helped me break it and I then spent the next 30-45 minutes cleaning up all the pieces of glass from my carpet. No cuts in my feet yet, so I think I got most of it. I think the tape and cardboard is a nice touch.
The irony of the situation is that my hometeacher happens to be certified locksmith, which I found out after I gave a talk on Sunday and used the experience as part of my talk. Oh yeah, and while I was trying to think of a way to break into my apartment I thought "too bad I don't have a talk coming up. This could be some good talk material. " Naturally, when I finally got into my apartment there was a message on my phone from the Bishop's couselor asking me to speak on Sunday. Be careful what you ask for.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Granada, Nicaragua
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


This is my 5th day in Nicaragua so I assume it's time to give my top 5 moments here so far. (By the way, I'm here for my new job helping facilitate meetings between the Texas Public Utility Commission and Nicaragua's State Utility Regulatory Commission (INE).

1. After 2 days in Nicaragua I made the evening news....not bad if you ask me. I had a few of the hotel staff approach saying..."You were on the news last night! You were on the news!" Just one more step in me become a very famous person....probably one of my higher ambitions. I should clarify that I didn't say anything. I just stood next to the President of INE trying to look important and professional. I also translated as the Press asked my Deputy Director questions. Translating is tough in real time.

2. A female member of one of the Texas commissions (62 years old) literally lept over one of the tables at dinner last night to get on the dance floor. She had a near accident as her foot caught on a chair.....but miraculously avoided making my worst nightmare come true...calling MEDEX and evacuating a participant. I like telling the participants that even though I'm 30 and most of them are 40+, I think I know a little about how it must feel to be a parent.

3. I met the former President of the Central Bank of Nicaragua. Funny thing was I recognized him from somewhere else and asked him if we had met before. We had met....a year ago at IR/PS in San Diego when he had come to our campus and my Spanish class. I enjoyed having my colleagues see that I had met the President of Nicaragua's Central Bank previously.

4. One of our participants came up to me the other day and with a very concerned look on his face asked (note - single, mid 40's, male) if I could help him with some Spanish translation. Without cracking a smile, he was very serious, asked "How do you say 'Hello' in Spanish?" and then wanted to know how to say 'You are very pretty.' He walked away, turned around, and said "I'll have more later." Again, I feel a little like a parent.

5. Good food, nice people, impressive volcanoes.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Not the Most Brilliant Idea...

I have a hard time asking for help. I don't know why...stubborn? shy? too independent? My theory is I don't like to impose on other people, but I know if I knew someone who needed help, I'd be happy to offer some assistance. So I don't even really understand why I tick the way I do. One of those life mysteries. Anyway, the whole point of this is I think I made a poor choice the other day....although it was also one of the moments I got a good laugh about my predicament.

So I just moved to DC, and found a basement apartment (completely unfurnished), where I'll be living by myself until I find a semi-normal guy to split rent with. Since I moved out here with my Subaru jam packed and nothing else, I have been slowly using Craigslist as a way to fill space and create a comfortable living environment. The other day I found a listing on Craigslist for a cheap, but decent sleeper sofa that I thought could be a nice addition to the place. So I went over, met the nice, young, Russian couple and bought the sofa. The husband helped me stuff it in my car (with about 1/3 hanging out the back) and tied down the back so it wouldn't come out. I had no problem getting it to my place, but since it was about 10:30pm I was on my own for getting this 200+ lb. monster through my narrow front door, over a gas heater in the hall, etc. This is where I should have called a friend. Instead I spent the next 3 hours wedging the couch between the two walls, climbing over it dozens of time....pulling from one end, and pushing from the other. The bed portion of the couch eventually swung out pinning even tighter in the hall, and leaving at 3 sizable holes in the wall.....oops. Nice Matt...nice.
The bright side is that the holes were close enough to cover with a picture. This should give me a little time to repair the damage before the landlord notices. By the time I had climbed over the sofa so many times, dragged it across the semi-rough carpet, attempted to shove the bed back into the couch, left holes in the wall, and agonized over my situation for about 3 hours, I realized the bed was broken. Once I got it into the living space, I had to hammer portions of the bed to force it back in.

The first picture of the couch is from the bathroom where I was basically stuck for about 30-45 minutes. I couldn't get around the couch because it was stuck. So I started thinking my options were to either sleep in the bathroom or go outside and sleep in my car and get some help the next way. But I perserverd...put some holes in the wall....and now own a couch. Something I'm definitely proud of.

(note: the floral pattern is covered by a nice conversative tan couch cover. no flowers for me)

Moral of the story....don't be too proud to ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes....and some people need help all the time. I might be the latter.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

No Longer Unemployed....

Most of you who are reading this may already know, but I signed a contract today to work for NARUC (The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners). I'm really excited about the position and will start on January 28th. In the mean time I'm apartment hunting and will fly back to Utah on Saturday to pack up and then head back out via my Subaru. I think this is my 3rd time driving across the much fun.

In my job I'll travel a quite a bit. It looks like I'll be over programs in Nicaragua and Ghana, with the possibility of other opportunities in Central America as well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Review of 2007 - Part II (According to my Cell Phone)

Dad and I hiked to the top of Mt. Timpanogas in September. Beautiful view from the top and tough hike.

Here's another shot near the top. I was a bad son and took my dad further than we should have gone. As seeems to be a Gardner fate, Dad's knees were in extreme pain as we hobbled back down the mountain. I was proud of Dad for making it. I would have asked him to bury along side the trail and build a monument for me.

I took a vacation from my vacation and went to Disneyland with Peter and Camille's family, Lindsay, and Mom and Dad. The trip was a lot of fun and I can still hear Nathan (about to turn 2....I think) yelling at 6am each morning..."chuga chuga choo choo" as the surfliner went past our condo.

Hiking up Rock Canyon....taking a break from sending out job applications in October.

The Utah nieces and nephews all dressed for Halloween.

In November I went up to the Uintahs with Matt Knight, Jeff Harps, and some of their friends to stay at a cabin.

I was very proud of the snow woman Mark, Emily, and I built.

Not the most flattering picture of me...but I was cold. The siblings went on a nice hike up Rock Canyon over the Christmas holidays.

Babysitting for Peter and Camille. We made an awesome fort just like the old days...if I say so myself.
Review of 2007 - Part I (According to my Cell Phone)

My room in San Diego (collecting surf boards for the orphanage trips)

A cockroach snuck out from beneath the classroom table right at a moment of intense discussion about terrorism. My neighbor shrieked at the perfect time....and I laughed hard.

I tried an unattracive moustache....for about 5 minutes (cell phones are good for capturing these moments)

I watched the Mexican national team play at Qualcomm against...can't remember....but I did wear my beautiful white Mexico jacket. I was amazed at how many border patrol vans they had circling the stadium. Went to the game with a few of my classmates.

My graduate program talent show....everyone is waiving their cell phones in the air to the music. Honestly, I was a little disappointed I didn't sign up to do something. I'm afraid few people in my program ever saw my fun side....and I swear I have one somewhere deep within.

I had good roommates in San Diego. Eric's jamming on the guitar here.

Flying to Chile after graduation. (My flight was actually diverted to Mendoza, Argentina where I spent one day)

Mendoza...I promise. A little different than Chile...but similar in many ways.

La Moneda, Chile

Carolina taking a picture of me at the observatory.

Amazing observatory just outside La Serena, Chile.....too bad it wasn't night.

Ned and Emily at the hostel with me in Peru. Great trip.