Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Few Pics from around the Neighborhood

Our River Walk

In the Park
Sister Huffaker/Sister Webb

A look across the River
from the River Park

Walking Across the Bridge
about 2 miles across

Watch your step
Notice the cover at the top
No OSHA Here!!

Our New Building
We are 2 floors below the
Shinny windows on the right

Looking back to our side of the River
from the Big Ferris Wheel

Small home - Hard to see the Hand Carved Siding

Sign - 1/2 Doma (House) For Sale

Expansion Project


Discovering Novosibirsk

Spring is HERE

Now that Spring has finally begun(?) well, at least the days are longer, we have started to take the “long” way home every day so we can explore a little more of our surroundings.  And what surroundings they have turned out to be!  Monday evening we went to yet another theater.  These theaters are everywhere in the city we are finding out.  Performing was the Siberian Choir, a large group of local professional artists, singing, dancing and instrumental, who we were told tour all over and perform only a couple of times a year in Novosibirsk.  We were so glad that we had an opportunity to see them as they were absolutely amazing.  I know we must sound like a broken record telling you that something is so amazing but it really was that good.  Maybe we are just easily impressed!!  The costumes were breathtaking, the singing and dancing outstanding and the musicians were out of this world!!  We just wish you could have all been here.  President and Sister Gibbons and the missionaries in the city went together for a special “Family Home Evening” activity and we were all fantastically rewarded.  We have included some pictures which simply do not capture the moment but might give you a little idea of what we experienced.  The dance, costume and music of the various peoples of Siberia were represented throughout the evening and we commented how it reminded us of the Polynesian portrayals of their tribal cultures.

This week we have explored our neighborhood quite a bit, walking in and around the various streets.  Some of the houses are quite interesting, the living conditions “rustic” and in some ways almost appalling, while at the same time we are surrounded by modern and progressive development.  Russia, at least in Siberia is a contrast of old and new, rural and urban, rich and poor, etc. and all on the same block.  You have to see it to believe it.  We are thankful for the experience; we have fallen in love with the country and the people, and are enjoying every minute of our time here.  Having the opportunity to share our experiences, our beliefs, and our lives with people who are literally from a different world is life changing for us and something we will cherish forever.  We have met some warm and wonderful people, been to some interesting places and seen some amazing things and we look forward to more of everything in the months to come.  It is comforting to think of family and friends back home, to feel of the Saviors love for us and to see how He blesses his children everywhere.  He knows us and loves us wherever and whoever we are.  Paka – Paka until next time.
Gathering for the Performance

The Choir

A Dance


Sunday, April 22, 2012


Transfer Week is always busy and this was no exception.  It began with a beautiful lesson on the Restoration at our apartment with Sophia.  It was really great.  She is 25 and living with her parents and although she is very interested her mom is very much against her joining a church other than the Russian Orthodox.  The next day we discovered that one of our missionaries who just got back from Finland had re-entered Russia on his old passport/visa.  I know that with two passports it can be confusing but really!!  Anyway, we had to send him back out, with a companion of course.  Fortunately he had the new passport/visa also so they flew out to Latvia and returned on the next flight 6 hours later.  So even though they were only gone for one day it caused no small stir trying to coordinate everything and make emergency travel arrangements.

English was next and we spent most of Tuesday in between all the office stuff preparing for our lesson Tuesday evening which was about authors, books etc.  We took some different kinds of poetry to share and had quite an interesting evening discussing how we can conclude different meanings from some of the same writings.  Quite insightful as you might well imagine.

Then they arrived, one new sister missionary and two elders.  This is the second group coming out of the new language program that is two weeks shorter than previous program.  As far as we can tell they seem to be even better with the language than the earlier missionaries; but then again we can barely understand anything so our observation isn’t probably worth much in this area.  We spent some time in training and orientation with them and then sent them out to their assigned cities.  This is one of the really fun things for us - to meet these new missionaries as they come in to the country and then to watch them grow and mature as missionaries and as young men and women who love and serve the Lord.  This transfer has left us one sister missionary short however, so we have what is called a mini-missionary serving here in the city with our one regular sister missionary. 

A mini-missionary is called and set apart to serve as a regular missionary for only a brief time – in this case one transfer (6 weeks).  She is from a neighboring city (Omck) and will serve here in the city until May 30th.  We are having a wonderful time getting to know her.  She is a native Russian sister who speaks a little English and is so patient with us as we ask for her help with our Russian.  This afternoon we went on a visit with her and her companion and then had them over for a little bite to eat before they headed home.

Wednesday evening we went to a Russian Folk Music Concert in a part of the city we had not yet visited.  Armed with a map and several verbal sets of directions we began our sortie for the evening.  We boarded the appropriate bus and rode it a considerable distance but disembarked one bus stop too soon.  So we managed to turn a 1 block walk into an adventure.  Since this is not the first such “adventure” we have had we were smart enough to give ourselves nearly an hour to walk the “one block” from the bus stop.  We arrived with time to spare and discovered that yes indeed it was only one block from the correct bus stop.  Anyway, going home was much easier and the concert was unbelievable.

This was a group of 4 men and 3 women in costume who sang, danced and played various instruments.  1 young man played the accordion like you wouldn’t believe.  For those of you out there who remember – this guy was way more impressive than the accordion player with Lawrence Welk.  Can’t believe we are old enough to remember!!!  The performance was amazing and what really was a shock was – it only cost us 50 rubles each to attend (about $1.60).  For the caliber of this performance I think we would have paid 30 to 50 dollars for a ticket back home.  

It was a culturally enriching experience.  Not only was the concert great but the venue was educational as well.  The group performed at a school auditorium theater.  Observing the surrounding classrooms and school facilities was very enlightening.  Again, everything seems to be a throw-back to the 50’s.  The maintenance and up keep seem to be behind schedule by about 10 to 15 years also.

The week ended with little party at our apartment for our friends the Huffakers.  We celebrated their birthdays.  They were both born on the same day, in the same town and the same hospital 64 years ago.  We had a house full for an evening of fun, food and friends.

We are enjoying a beautiful sunset on this Sunday evening at the end of week where we saw beautiful warm days in the 70’s and then the very next days in the 40’s with icy winds and snow.  It is Siberia after all.   Love to all – Have a great week.
Russian Folk Concert
He played 3 different kinds of accordions!

Birthday cake &
Friends in our small apt

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chickens & More

We live across the street from a 3 block by 4/5 block section of small homes tucked in between all the high rise apartments and have been watching with interest as springs comes to these little homes.  First you have to realize that we have only seen a couple of “American” style homes, (these would be homes that would fit right in in any neighborhood back home).  Most homes here look like mountain cabins that have been around for a very long time.  Anyway, their lots are dirt plots that look like they mostly garden, no grass or “beautification” programs here.  The landscaping around the homes is pretty much “practical” in nature and not for looks.  One fun thing though is that the people across the street have CHICKENS.  You can only imagine how Sister Webb has reacted to that!  We have to keep a close eye on her so she doesn’t go over and adopt them.
Also, on the street right in front of our apt there is an interesting road construction alternative.  Seems there is a massive boulder that was in the way so rather than move it they paved around it!  It sticks out into the road about a foot and the curb runs right up to it – stops – and then continues on the other side.  Amazing.  We thought stuff like that was only cropped into emails and circulated on the internet, didn’t know it actually existed.  We should mention that right in the middle of this little area of homes they have started another big building.  So it will be interesting to see that development.  We have met the daughter of the folks who have the chickens (she came over and was taught a lesson about the church) and in visiting with her we found that our apartment building (16 stories) is only 5 years old and it dealt a huge blow to the folks in her neighborhood because it blocks out the summer sun until about 2 in the afternoon.  So if they build another on the other side we may see a mass exodus from the area.  I guess that is what some call progress.
Another opportunity to attend the Opera House came up this week.  This time we went to an opera, Madam Butterfly.  It was quite a performance, all sung in Italian of course and then above the stage on a big narrow screen they showed subtitles – in RUSSIAN.  Thank heavens for that or we wouldn’t have had any idea of what was going on (ha)!  Also, we spent an evening with President and Sister Gibbons at the Mission Home.  It was a very enjoyable evening with them with dinner and visiting; much discussion about the upcoming addition of Kazakhstan to our mission.  This will become official on July 1st but of course there is much to do to prepare and it is all very interesting.
We watched conference again this weekend.  Because of the time difference the churches here watch a rebroadcast of conference on the following weekend but because of Easter being last Sunday they put it off until this weekend.  We had watched conference at home but the missionaries of course hadn’t seen any of it nor had the branch members.  We had English set up in one room and Russian in the Chapel.  So we spent Saturday and Sunday watching the various sessions.  We had lunch in between the morning and afternoon sessions which of course the Senior couples furnished.  We told the missionaries to bring their own sack lunches for Sunday but again we came prepared just in case they forgot, which they did so it was a good thing we were ready for that inevitability.  Perhaps if we had not expected them to forget they would come more prepared.
Hope everyone has a great week.  We think of you often and hope you and your families are well and enjoying life.  It is amazing here and we have become so much more thankful for the blessings of life we are privileged to experience.  We love you all.  Das Va donya – until next time.
The Boulder

The Chicken Farm
(notice the shadow cast by our apt bldg)

Novosibirsk City
(Elders & Sisters & Senior Couples)
with Pres & Sister Gibbons

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter !!

It was Easter the World Over

This week began with a trip to the Novosibirsk Zoo.  The missionaries in our district planned a trip to the Zoo for P-Day and invited us to join them.  We are always up for an adventure so we accepted and tagged along.  We arrived right at feeding time so it was quite interesting to watch them feed the Lions, Tigers and Liger – yes there is such a thing.  We finally saw our first YAK and so for my brother who thought our only mode of transportation in Siberia would be by YAK, I have included a picture.  It is a little hard to see the thing and Sister Webb wouldn’t let me hop in the pen to go sit on him so what you see is what you get.  We had a great afternoon with the young missionaries but they certainly wore us out.  I guess we are not as young as we thought.!!  Imagine.!!!

We hosted our two English groups this week again.  Tuesday evening there was a pretty big group and we played the alphabet game – you know the “I’m going on a trip and I am taking (something that starts with an A) then the next person repeats and adds something that starts with a B, etc.  Everyone who came had a great time.  One of the guys enjoyed it so much he was going to go home and play it with his girlfriend.  It was really fun and it is so interesting to see them interact and help each other with the language, the alphabet and everything.  We are having fun with this each week.  Although, we must admit it is a little stressful trying to get something organized each week.  Thursday’s group was very small compared to the large group on Tuesday.  We are anxious to see what this week will bring.

Also, we had 4 lessons in our apt this week which is always a lot of fun as we get to visit with new people, meet new friends and revisit with old ones.  This week Mikhail came back, Marina who was recently baptized came for a lesson, and we met two new people, Eugeni from up the street, and Anya from English.  It was a great week for teaching.  We have also, made friends with our security guard at the front gate (thanks to Sister Webb’s chocolate chip & walnut cookies).  He only knows one English word “Good Luck” – okay so maybe he knows two English words.  Anyway, whenever we walk in or out of the gate he stops whatever he is doing, comes out of the guard shack and says good luck with a big smile.  Now this is really something because anyone will tell you that Russian’s just don’t smile.  In fact that is probably the single biggest things that give us away as Americans because we smile and say hello to people as we pass by on the street and that is simply unheard of behavior.  We are having a lot of fun with him and have committed to get to know him better.

Our week ended almost as it began only instead of an animal zoo we went to the people zoo.  This is the BIG reenok (PblHOK - in Russian)  on the edge of town.  We both commented to each other that never at anytime have we ever seen so much stuff in one place at one time anywhere we have ever been.  This must be at least a 5 acre block of land with merchants packed closely together in 6 x 8 booths selling everything you can possibly imagine.  Furs to plastic wrap, soup to nuts, sewing needles to sink stoppers – you name it.  If they don’t sell it at this reenok then it doesn’t exist.  We were absolutely amazed.  We had no idea that they had this variety or availability of goods in Russia.  They had open air meat markets, farmer’s market wares, etc.  It had the atmosphere of a flea market, mixed with the food vendors from the Chelan County Fair or Apple Blossom. Quite impressive.

In the midst of all of this we have had the opportunity to watch the sessions of conference throughout the week.  Conference as usual was a spiritual feast.  Some great messages were given and even greater lessons taught.  For those of you who don’t know about our semi-annual church conference in Salt Lake take a moment and go to and watch one of the talks. All of our leaders speak to us twice a year in conference sessions which last over a weekend in five different sessions.  The messages are fantastic, inspiring, encouraging, helpful an uplifting.  We know you would enjoy them all.

Have a great week.  Be safe, be good and be happy.  Life is amazingly wonderful.  We love you all.

Randy n Sue

(In the background - OK)

Treat at the Zoo
Sugar Water (Soda Pop)
& Pop Corn

Open  Meat Market
at the PblHOK

The Famous Russian "Carry"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Teaching English

English Club began a new 8 week session this past week and Sister Webb and I have been assigned to teach 3rd group.  We meet every Tuesday and Thursday evening for 1 ½ hours.  Our group speaks and understands English really well so our task is to facilitate conversations on various topics and answer any questions that come up.  It was quite fun and very educational for us.  Tuesday evening Sister Webb was on her own for the very first meeting as Elder Webb had another meeting to attend.  Then on Thursday we were both together.  We had a great time discussing family relationships and traditions.  It was as much fun for us as for the 8 students; we explored the similarities and differences as people from opposite sides of the word celebrate families, customs, holidays and traditions.  We learned a lot about Russian New Year and Victory Day and we shared with them Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.  A great experience for us and judging from the reactions of our students they had as much fun as we did.  One of the young women at the English class, Sophia, who has been meeting with the missionaries made an immediate connection with Sister Webb at Tuesday’s class so the missionaries brought her over Wednesday evening for a lesson at our apt.  She is a terrific person about 25 and was so concerned that we were getting along okay, wondering about our coping with the language barrier and whether we were finding everything we needed to be comfortable.  She offered to help us anytime with anything, proving once again that no matter where you are in this world there are wonderful people who are willing to help and serve in any way they can.  We are looking forward to visiting with her and the other students as well for the next few weeks.

We also visited our dear friend Italya whom we have mentioned before.  We went to dinner Saturday night with Pres. and Sister Gibbons and the Huffakers at the restaurant where Italya plays the piano.  It was a very enjoyable evening and Italya plays beautifully.  We listened to selections ranging from “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from the Nutcracker to “Bella’s Theme” from the Twilight movies.  She joined us at our table on her breaks and since we hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks it was great to have a little time to visit with her again. 

We should mention that we talked to our granddaughter, Amber, this week.  She has been cleared by the doctors to return to her mission but since her visa has expired she has been reassigned to the Texas Houston South Mission and will be reporting on Tuesday.  We are so excited for her.  And speaking of visas.  This week provided a little flurry of excitement as we got word that 16 of our missionaries whose passports were out for visa renewals were stolen from the agency who handles all of that business for us.  They were in their safe and someone broke in and stole the whole safe.  They were after money of course so got a little more than they anticipated.  However, the police recovered about ½ of the passports the next day as they had been left on the doorstep of the church.  Still don’t know why they only returned ½ of them??  Anyway, the office has been busy this past week, filling out reports, cancelling passports, getting new ones reissued, etc, etc.  Quite a pain.  Inserted in there somewhere was a leadership training meeting which we attended and then helped to prepare food and feed about 30 missionaries who attended as well.

Breaking News – at our Church General Conference this weekend they announced a few new General Authorities.  One of them, Yuri Gushin, is from Novosibirsk.  We have talked about him before I am sure.  He is our driver and is in Salt Lake this month.  We are really missing him.  It was so exciting to hear his name announced as a new Area Seventy.  Conference can be viewed at for the next couple of weeks.  Saturday PM is the session they conduct all the business.  There were some great messages.  Hope everyone gets a chance to listen to at least some of it.

The weather is getting warmer every day and the days are getting longer by about 6 minutes on both ends as well.  It is light from about 6am to almost 8pm.  We are really enjoying the Sun and the Warm.  Everyone have a great week – we are going too!!  We love you all and hope life is as good for you as it is for us.  Big hugs to everyone.
A New Friend

Leadership Meeting

Friday Night Lights
From our Apt