Sunday, February 26, 2012

Moving Week - Etc!!!

Big things happening in our Russian life this week; “let me explain” – no it is too complicated so I will just “sum up”.  It all began with a professional volleyball match on Tuesday evening.  The Novosibirsk “Locomotive” playing a Turkish team for a spot in the final four of this year’s league play.  I mentioned last week that I had met Ryan Millar – well this week I went to see him play with a member here who loves the sport and is an avid “Locomotive” fan.  It was really a great match which we won and since it is a best of 3 series they now go to Turkey to play on March 1st.  Check out the pic’s.

Next it was moving week.  Yes – I said moving.  Sister Webb and I moved uptown into a little larger apartment (Doma) building and a larger apartment.  17 floors – we are on the 9th.  The apartment has only one bedroom instead of two but every room is larger than our old apt and the sun porch runs the entire length of the apt which is going to be very nice come spring and summer; (we will put in a few pictures).  Most of our week was taken up with moving us out, getting a few cabinets from IKEA, putting those cabinets together, moving the young sisters into our old apartment because it is much closer with easier access to the metro system than their old place, etc., etc.  We are very thankful for the two office elders with whom we work every day for all their help moving, packing, hauling, going with us to get the things we needed (we weren’t sure we would end up with the right things on our own you know), putting together the stuff we bought, unpacking and then doing it all over again for the sisters moving into our old place.  They were great!!

Not much else going on for us this week, that kept us pretty busy, although Sister Webb taught one of our new Russian friends who is investigating the church how to bake Banana Bread, with chocolate chips OF COURSE.  Natalia wanted chocolate chips (they can’t seem to get good ones here and so the folks go crazy for them).  Anyway, they had a great time.  That was Friday evening.  Then on Saturday she made my grandma’s applesauce cake (which is to die for with Russian Ice Cream).  Saturday evening we went across the river to the other branch for a Talent Evening.  If there is one thing that the people are not afraid of it is getting up in front of a group on a moment’s notice and performing.  There were some great acts and everyone had a great time. Then today after church we had two elders, the sisters, a visitor from out of town, and Natalia from Friday night over for our first Sunday Dinner in our new apt.  It has been a pretty full week.  We look forward to what developments shape up for the week ahead.  Enjoy the pictures, have a great week and remember we think of you all, miss you all, and pray for each of you every day.   
The Big Game!

An Olympic Gold Medalist
Assembly in Progress

The View
from every room of the New Doma
Sister Webb performs at Talent Nite

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ice Chippers & Rose Petals

This past week seems to have just flown by – so much happening in our world – and we are sure it is the same for everyone else too.  This past week we had a very pleasant surprise when our dear friend’s -the Bennions – called.  I was working on the computer when a skype call came in from the island of Guadaloupe  in the West Indies – and there on the other end was Richard Bennion.  The Bennions are serving a mission in the West Indies.  We are still not sure how that all worked out for them to be there and us to be here, although knowing these people in Russia we wouldn’t want it any other way.  It was great to catch up and visit for awhile with him.
We have been fascinated all week with the “ice chippers”.  These are guys (city workers – we think) with straight hoes chopping away the ice off all the sidewalks, in some places over a foot thick.  They have been working in our neighborhood all week and now we have clean,dry, sidewalks all the way from our apt (kvartira) to the office where we work.  We are very thankful for the ice chippers.  We can stretch out our legs and lengthen our stride when we walk to the office each morning and home each evening.  The days are getting longer, daylight around 8:15am and sunset around 6:45 and warmer – hovering around -10 to +5 so we have even gone out for a walk after work a couple of times lately.
Valentines Day in Siberia is a BIG DEAL pretty much like home.  But we must first tell you about our elevator.  It is small, will hold 4 people if you squeeze in like sardines in a can, and it smells, like sardines in a can.  So you can imagine our surprise when we walked out of our apt, opened the elevator door and found the floor of the elevator covered with Rose Petals.  I tried momentarily to take credit for the thought but Sister Webb wasn’t buying it for a moment.  We rode the elevator down to the second floor (as far as our elevator goes) and when we walked out there were rose petals covering the two flights of stairs to the outside door.  Someone was VERY thoughtful!!! And clever!!!  Everyone at the office brought little valentine chocolates to share with everyone else except of course.  We will be better prepared next year.  That evening we went to dinner with the other senior couple in the city, our Mission President and his wife and the couple from Novokueznetsk who happened to be in town at the local Mexican Restaurant (Russian style).  Pretty good Mexican food but nothing even close to what we can get at home.
Other things this week – our grandson Harrison turned three this week and the little boy we have mentioned before Deema also turned three this week.  He was at church today so the Primary kids all celebrated his birthday with treats; but nothing cold – remember – they had chai tea and birthday cake.  One of our outstanding missionaries – Tyler Harris – from Alpine, UT injured his knee a couple of months ago (tore his ACL) and has been “playing through the pain” as they say trying to do his work but he has been getting worse so is going home in the morning for surgery on his knee this Thursday.  We are all hoping he will be back in a couple of months so he can finish his mission.  He has only been out about 9 months.  He was really sad and cried a little today as we said goodbye to him. 
This afternoon I went with the AP’s – these are two young missionaries who serve as assistants to the Mission President, AP’s for short – to visit Ryan Millar who is in town this weekend.  Ryan is a 6’ 8” Olympic gold medal volleyballer (2008) playing on a Russian team.  They have a volleyball game Tuesday night in Novosibirsk which we are going to try to get too.  He will be playing with the US Olympic team again this year in London and if the team makes it through the qualifying rounds to the Olympics he will become only the 2nd American to have played the sport in 4 successive Olympics.   He played collegiate ball for BYU.  It was fun to visit with him for a little bit this afternoon.  We all are hoping to see Ryan and the US team win another Gold at this year’s Olympic Games in London.
Well that is a sampling of our week.  It has been, fun and interesting as usual.  We love Russia, Siberia, the Russian people, their culture, history, and language.  We love and miss you all – May the Lord bless and keep you all. 

Stairway to the Mall

After the Chippers

A little better shot of the Chipping

Monday, February 13, 2012


Hello everyone!!  We just got back at 5:30am this morning from a weekend trip to Novokuznetsk, a small coal mining town of about 500,000 people.  This city is an eight (8) hour train ride southeast from Novosibirsk so we spent two nites on the train again this weekend.  There is a small branch of the church in Novokuznetsk with about 15 people attending regularly.  We each spoke in church and each time we have this opportunity we seem to get a little better at giving more of our talk in Russian.  We had a great time visiting and meeting the wonderful people of “Novokuz”.

The beginning of the week was busy getting ready for our Zone Conference.  This is a day of training for all the missionaries in our Zone which includes the Right Bank of Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tomck, and Kemerovo.  The Other Zone meets in their conference this Wednesday and includes the Left Bank of Novosibirsk, Omsk, Barnaul and Novokuznetsk.  We (the office couple) will be included again as well as there is usually something we are needed for in these meetings.
After our Zone Conference on Wednesday all the Senior Couples and Pres and Sister Gibbons went to the Ballet.  There were 8 of us all together and we all really enjoyed this performance.  It was three separate 1 act ballets.  Chopiniana was first and was a simply choreographed ballet set to music by Chopin, very relaxing and beautiful.  The second was called Polenetsky Dances and was very colorful with a choir accompaniment.  It seemed to be a short story revolving around Kublai Khan, maybe.  At least the costuming and dance left me with that interpretation.  A familiar song adapted from this work you would recognize as “A Stranger in Paradise” I think from the musical Kismet.  The third, “Scheherazade”, music by KorsaKov was also remarkable and was based loosely on a story from Arabian Nights.
The big news this week is that Kazakhstan will be added to our mission effective July 1st.  This will make the Russia Novosibirsk Mission the largest in the world geographically.  We are all very excited for this to occur, although it will certainly be a lot more work for everyone here.  There are currently only on two branches of the church in Kazakhstan, one in Al Mati of about 80 members and one in the capital city of Astanah of about 40 members.  Right now there is a senior couple in each city and 2 sets of elders and 1 set of sisters.  We have not heard yet how many of these will still be serving by July and whether we will get any more for awhile.  The announcement concerning this will be coming out in the Church News on the Feb 18th issue.  It looks like Sister Webb and I will be traveling to Kazakhstan with Pres and Sister Gibbons shortly after the official merger takes place so we are excited for that upcoming opportunity and will definitely write home about that experience.
Pres & Sister Gibbons (Front)
with missionaries of

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Friends & Food in the Frozen North

Well, here it is the beginning of a new week and time to check in with everyone.  The time just seems to fly by when you are busy every minute.  We reported last week on our trip to Krasnoyarsk and will include another picture for you this week.  We got home Monday morning and went grocery shopping for the week.  Tuesday we spent in the office, that is our day for meetings and planning with the Mission President, and Tuesday evening was our Russian lesson with our tutor from the Provo MTC (Missionary Training Center) by skype.  She says we are getting better but she is way nice and I think is trying her hardest to be encouraging.  Anyway, it is always fun to spend our 1 hour each with her every week.  It comes around fast and Tuesday night we must be ready again.  Whew!!  Wednesday evening we hosted about 5 or 6 Young Women and Leaders (mostly leaders) in our apt and they all made valentines, decorated valentine cookies and ate.  Sister Webb is pretty amazing and everyone loves her so much so I just try to stay out of the way.  I am not too good at that tho’ as those who know me might guess but in a small apt full of women I learned that the best thing IS to stay out of the way.  They all had a great evening.
Thursday evening 4 of the young sister missionaries came over for a late dinner and we had a wonderful time visiting with them before they left for home.  They were excited for the sister’s conference on Friday where all the sisters in the mission were getting together for a day of training and spending the day and evening at the Mission Home.
Friday Night we had dinner with the Huffakers (at Carl’s Jr – his favorite place) and met there with a women from Kazhakstan who wanted to see us again.  She loves to practice her English, is interested in learning more about the church and is simply a wonderful person.  She works 6 days a week 10 hours each day but is going to take a break on Monday eve and come to a family home evening meeting.
Saturday we took the day to recoup.  I know it doesn’t sound like we should have needed “recouping” but listen – it is hard to get around here.  We are still walking everywhere we go in 35 to 45 below weather and when you are out in that for very long it gets cold.  Not to mention that you have to shed about 10 layers soon as you hit the warm inside just to go to the bathroom.  And that in itself makes for some pretty close calls.  By recouping I mean we washed clothes (remember that process), cleaned the apt, cooked and this week had our district meeting on Saturday afternoon – so we had 9 missionaries for a 2 1/2 hour meeting followed by a late lunch around 3:30pm.
Today was church and we walked the 5 or 6 blocks in the super cold.  Sister Webb didn’t want to “mess” up her hair so didn’t wear her “shopka” (hat).  Her head ached for nearly an hour after we got there because she got so cold.  That is what stubborn does for you!!  This evening we had a younger woman over for a missionary discussion.  She is a very accomplished pianist and plays for the ballet and theater company at the opera house in Novosibirsk.  In fact, she is traveling to London on the 24th to audition there for the theater.  We had a great lesson with her and two of our missionaries.  She speaks very good English and is trying to learn it better so lucky for us most of the lesson was in English and when it switched in and out of Russian it was generally to better describe something a little better so we got some good Russian in too.  Although, now that she is gone I can’t remember any of the Russian we thought we were learning tonight.  Tomorrow begins another week and we start with a missionary discussion here at our apt on Monday and our young lady from tonight will be back on Tuesday.
It was a little warmer today (only 18 below) and they say (if you can believe any weather man) that it will start to warm up now.  Those who know (the natives who live here) though say that we have about 3-4 more weeks of REALLY cold weather THEN it gets warmer.  We shall see.
Everyone have a great week.  We pray for all of you everyday, our friends and our family.  God lives as does His son Jesus Christ who is the Savior of all mankind.  He loves each of us and wants us to be happy.  Follow Him and He will bless your lives.  
Hockey Stadium in the background

Decorating Valentine Cookies

Making Valentines