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