Sunday, September 25, 2011

Washing Laundry In Russia

18 Sept 2011
We should be sending these entries to Brenna (our granddaughter @ BYU-I whose favorite person is her Granpa) to do a re-write.  Her blog is so entertaining so we feel sorry for you who read this one cuz we are so not creative.  This week has flown by although it has been a little slow at the office.  We have been busy doing things like getting settle in, organizing and cleaning our apt (still much to do), and learning our way around.  Everything is a new experience and while so similar, amazingly different.  For example;
We went shopping yesterday across the river (Left Bank) at a big mall, anchored by a huge IKEA on one end and a Store called Ashons (Awahc in Russian) which was like a super Wal-Mart on the other.  In between were stores like Levi, Ecco, Rockport, etc.  You could have put this mall down in the middle of Seattle and not be able to tell the difference.  It is quite amazing actually when you think that just 20 years ago these people had nothing, many were starving and upscale shopping was unheard of.  We have met several people who lived through that time and their stories are amazing.
Shopping is a real experience.  First of all if you think people are rude when you go shopping at home you really need to experience this to appreciate home.  The difference here tho’ is that people are not trying to be rude – it is just the Russian way.  I was standing in line waiting my turn when out of nowhere some lady bumped me out of the way and took her place at the front of the line.  Apparently, you have to actually be talking to the clerk or doing your thing or else you really aren’t in line.  Well, there really aren’t any lines anywhere – not even on the roads.  You can drive where ever you want to (if you dare) so where we would normally have two lanes these people have however many cars can squeeze into the space provided.  Sorry I am rambling – back to the shopping.
So you pick up your produce and then you must go to a scale where there is either a clerk or a number board.  You put your item on the scale and punch a number or hand it to the clerk if one is on duty and the tag with the amount is printed out for you to stick on your bag of produce.  Then it goes into your cart while you finish shopping THEN to the check out.  Bulk items are the same process.  So there are plenty of opportunities to “stand in line” or get booted out of the way.  It only took once for us (in some things we are not slow learners) so by the end of the day we were pretty good at getting in and getting out of where we needed to be.  Then we got a taxi (fortunately for us he spoke a little English) and headed for home.  Total time – 10:30am to 5:30 pm.  A very long day for a little shopping trip.
Everything in Russia is hard.  Shopping wasn’t easy (but I guess it really never is) and simple everyday tasks that we take for granted are tedious here.  An example would be washing the laundry.   You can’t just put the clothes in the machine, set the dial and walk away to go do something else. Here one must attend to every detail.  First we fill the washer with water.  This is done by taking the shower head of the hand held shower and using the hose to fill the washer (which sits right by the tub so is quite convienient!!).  The washer holds about the equivalent of 1 bedsheet and 2 pillow cases.  Once full you add detergent and bleach turn the dial to about 6 and it starts agitating.  Then you must take the clothes out of the wash water and put them in the spinner compartment and turn the dial to 2 to spin.  Then you turn on the pump to pump out the wash water (you can speed this process up by using a pan to scoop out the water while it is pumping – this we have learned to do to help out the poor machine).  Then you repeat the process for the rinse.  Now the best part.  NO DRYER.  So we string up clothesline all over the apt pull out the drying rack and turn on the fan to dry clothes.  Generally, this is an overnite process.
The people we have actually met have been very kind.  We are not doing too well with our Russian so still struggle with the communication.  The problem really is that everyone wants to speak English with us.  Well, not everyone, but those who know a little English like to practice it on us.  We would like to practice our Russian on them – but oh well.  This city is beautiful and the people are definitely growing on us.  We have made several friends and look forward to serving the people here for the next several months. 
We know that God knows and loves all of his children the world over.  May he bless all of you in everything in your life.  We love you all.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Week Two

18 September 2011
This is an amazing country!  The people are so nice and if you are willing to put yourself out there just a little they are very eager to help you try to understand and speak.  The city is very modern with a great Metro, Marshootka(like a shuttle), bus and trolley rapid transit system.  However the infrastructure seems to be about 40 years behind.  Example is the hot water delivery system which is all centrally controlled.  So our hot water comes to the building from a central city location.  You have to let the water run for about 20 minutes when you first get up in order to get hot water to the apt.  As we walk around the city we see big holes in the street where they have dug up the water pipes to repair them.  Some cold water and some hot.  Hopefully they get the pipes reinsulated and the holes filled in before the cold weather hits or I am afraid the pipes will freeze for sure.  But things seem to be moving forward and modernizing more and more every day.  Everyone lives in apartments here some have little Dacha’s (country cottages/farms) also but still live in the city apts.  We had dinner this past week with a young family 5 children the oldest 14 and the youngest 1 in their apt.  We had a wonderful evening learning about their family history and visiting with them.  Also, this past week 5 new missionaries came in from Provo.  What a frazzled day – getting them all oriented to Russian custom and culture and sending them out to their assigned cities.  Like we were old pro’s or something!!!  We, ourselves have only been here a week and barely know our way around.  Thank goodness that the couple we are replacing haven’t left yet so they handled most of the training but I guess we have the next round which will be in about 6 more weeks.  I think we are actually getting pretty good at getting around the city.  We are getting better at reading signs in Russian on the Metro and we have identified a few landmarks to keep us on the right track when we are out.  We attended a Russian wedding Friday nite which was a real treat and so very different yet quite similar also.  For example instead of the Bride and Groom stuffing cake into each other’s face they cut the cut the cake together and then each serves their parents the first pieces.  Best man and Maid of Honor then begin serving guests.  Just one of the differences.  This coming week we are off to the Opera for an evening.  Everyday is some new cultural experience. 

The real highlight though is working with these young missionaires (Elders and Sisters) some native Russian, Ukraine, and Latvia and some U.S.  They all have a special spirit and are so willing to help anyone and very eager of course to teach any who are interested in hearing about Christ, His mission, and His plan for us.  We are so thankful to be a small part of this great work here among the Russian people. 
We had a question about visa trips.  Well, our first one is coming up the first week in December when we will fly to Helsenski for 2 days so we’ll share how that goes from a first-hand experience.  In Russia they require non-Russian citizens in the country on tourist type visas to leave the country every 90 days.  You then re-enter on a new visa.  The young missionaries from Ukraine and Latvia that are here are driven across the border get their visa stamped and return almost immediately.  The North American missionaries fly to Moscow, exit the country, enter Finland, spend the nite and return the next day with a new visa which we arrange for them to pick up at the Temple in Helsenski.  The Senior couple go through the same process but we get two days out.  Probably because the travel is just too much for us old folks.  It takes a lot of scheduling and is quite a complicated procedure.  I have researched different types of visas but mostly they require you to be always in one city.  Everytime we travel to a neighboring city, check in to a hotel, or migrate in anyway,  we have to re-register with a local visa registrar so it makes it more trouble than it is worth to try to get a more permanent visa.  Anyway, hope that kind of clears up that little area for everyone.
We love you all and wish every happiness and success for each of you.  Thank you for your prayers, heaven only know we need them. 
Randy n Sue

Saturday, September 3, 2011

With our tutor Sister Cropper

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

First Sunday church in novo

We just returned from our first Sunday meetings. The branch here is much bigger than I thought, about 80 people. It was the primary program today, they have a very small primary, about 10 kids. They had several adults speak as well as several Of the primary kids and they did an amazing job. Did we understand every word? No, but we understood some, and the translator understood about as much as we did, but it was all good. They sang several songs, and we enjoyed it. Then I played the piano in our ss class, and I played the piano for relief society and Randy said he played for priesthood meeting. In Relief society the women all speak at once much of the time. I was fortunate to have sis. Trottier beside me and she translated for me. The lesson was about family history work and there was great discussion about that. The branch building is quite new, and very nice. A chapel, RS room, primary room, a small kitchen and several classrooms. The branch president is very young, just returned from his mission in June, and is getting married this weekend. So we will get to go to a wedding. Russia requires a state legalized wedding in Russia before they can go to the temple, so I think the wedding will be in the branch building.
Tonight we are giving a fireside to the young single adults, introducing ourselves and talking about our family. We are going to try to do some of it in Russian, so we will see how that goes.
Yesterday we went to the local reenik, which is huge public market part indoor, part outdoor, that literally has everything. A big butcher area in one part where they have whole animals being butchered, whole rabbits with just the fur left on the feet, amazing vegetables and fruits, many kinds of mushrooms, dried fruits and nuts, cheeses, breads, and then little shops selling clothes, household goods, anything you are looking for. We enjoyed the shops, then learned how to ride the metro subway. We are slowly learning our way around the city.
Our apartment is very modest but homey and comfortable. There are three doors you have to unlock before you actually get into the apartment. The first two doors are about four inches thick each, we are told that apartments were built that way to keep the police out. Whatever the reason, we feel very safe here. We have two bedrooms, one bath, a small kitchen, and a nice size living room.
The McCauleys have been so good to us, and have shown us so much in the short time we have been here. We have had two long days of office training and meetings, have been learning how to schedule travel for transfers, visa trips etc. This is probably what we will spend most of our time on. There are visa trips almost every week.
when we walk down the street most people totally avoid looking at us. I noticed on the subway that everyone reads our name tags, but if you try to smile and say hello they look the other way. Most people look very serious and not too happy. Maybe we can bring some light into some people's lives.
The missionaries here are very strong, spiritual young men and women. They are teaching many people, especially young adults. We want to help them in whatever way we can.
We love all of you and miss you, and hope that all is well with you.

Location:Sept 11, 2011 Sunday

Sasha preparing potato dumplings

Sasha preparing potato dumplings


Friday, September 2, 2011

Our MTC office district

Our MTC office district.  From left: Our instructor, couple going to Riverside, CA, another instructor, couple going to Poland, and us. We love them all!

Final Days at the MTC

Just wanted to get some thoughts down before our final hours in the MTC.  This has been such a wonderful experience for us--to be here with these young elders and sisters, and to feel of their spirit and youth and vitality has been something we will never forget.  This is an extraordinary place, just another testament to us of the truthfulness of the gospel.  This church is an organized well-run church, and the MTC is a mini-version of that.  Missionaries coming and going all the time, the older ones taking care of the new ones who come in, and fond farewells happening all the time as part of a district leaves for their missions.  Groups of elders singing "God Be With You til We Meet Again", as their former companions leave the grounds, testimony meetings in districts as we meet together for the last time with our office couples, and a final testimony in our mission language tonight after we have our last language lesson with our dear Sister Cropper who has been our tutor for four months now.  Oh, how we love her and will miss her.  She encourages us, is patient with us, and has confidence in us that we will be able to speak the language!!  Tuesday night's devotional was the highlight of our time here, when Elder Holland came as the speaker.  Rumors had been flying all day that an apostle might be the speaker, and we were so thrilled as he walked in.  Senior couples get to sit right up front, so we felt as we were literally sitting at the feet of an apostle.  He spoke powerfully of the position a missionary has as an example and a light to others, and that we should never let anyone down, and hold that light of a missionary with respect.  We felt the spirit strongly as he spoke and of his strong feelings about the subject.  We know he is an apostle of the Lord, and a great servant.  What a wonderful, spiritual evening that was for us.  As we exited the building, we saw rows and rows of elders lined up shoulder to shoulder on the walkways, waiting for Elder Holland to come by.  What an impressive sight they were!!.  We are just filled to the brim with the spirit of this MTC.  This week we had office classes and were taught how to use the church's computer system.  It, too, is a remarkable program, and such a great tool for the mission offices.  We have been taught by great young BYU students, they are very choice young people who are also patient and so knowledgeable in their assignments.  So today, we have no classes until tonight--we are catching up on packing, financial things, and preparing for our language class tonight.  We are going to the Provo Temple this afternoon--when we get to Novo we will be far from a temple, but every three months will have the opportunity of attending the temple in Helsinki.  We are getting so excited to be there, and will fly out Monday at 8:00 am.  We are about the last of our group to depart.  Most have left or are leaving today.  So we are getting a little impatient!!  We have loved being here with our kids too, if just for an hour or two at the end of each day--this has been a special time for us, and we feel so blessed to have this opportunity to serve a mission now, and to have experience this beautiful place.