Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot Shower Anyone?

 Notice posted on the door to our apartment building – “Hot water will be off 21 May to 25 May for work on water line” – or something very close.  At least we got the part about no hot water for 5 days essentially correct.  Remember we told you that our hot water is supplied just like cold water?  The advantage is that you have a never ending supply of hot water.  It is metered so you pay for standing in the shower all morning but hey some things are worth every ruble.  Disadvantage – when they turn it off at the source you can wait for days to get a hot shower.  And so it has been.  This morning being the 26th we were all excited to get our hot water back.  It never happened!  Apparently, if they find that some repairs are needed on your line it could be many more days.  I guess the notice is more like a minimum time the water will be off.  We do have cold water and a teapot (chineek) so the morning routine has been interesting to say the least.  Still no hot water tonite and who knows when we will get it back??!! 

Also this week our elevator gave up the ghost a few times (both of the elevators at once) so we have done 9 flights of stairs more than once.  No heart attacks yet but by the time we get to the top you begin to wonder.  One day I pushed the alarm and a voice came over the speaker in the elevator, rattling off a bunch of Russian of course which there was no way I was going to understand, too fast, too loud, and coming over a scratchy intercom.  I assumed they wanted to know why I pushed the button so I shouted back “Leeft net ra bo tat” or the lift won’t work.  The voice hollered back something else (a question of some kind)  a couple of times, then the lights went out ( for a few seconds which seemed like minutes) then the elevator whirred and buzzed and started working again.  That only worked one time though.  The other times we have not been so fortunate so have had to use the stairs.  Sorry to “whine” but it was HARD.

We sent 25 missionaries (over 1/3 of our missionaries) out on visa trip this past week and this was nearly a catastrophe.  As it was it turned out to just be a disaster, 2 of our elders and three sisters having to spend nearly ten days in Finland before we can get them home.  Visa renewal problems again, they have a new guy in the Moscow Embassy in Helsinki who is now processing our visa renewals and he is causing us untold amounts of grief.  We did manage to get everyone else home but for a moment it looked as tho’ they would all be spending the 10 days.   Anyway, crisis resolved, as best that we could for now.

 We leave for our visa trip on Friday and will NOT be going to Finland for this reason.  We are excited tho’ because we will be flying to Prague for the two day trip.  Pres. and Sister Gibbons will be going as well so we are looking forward to our time with them as much as we are to the two days in Prague.  We will also be traveling to Kazakhstan in July sometime with them to meet the senior couples and missionaries from there who will be part of our mission starting the 1st of July and we look forward with anticipation to spending more time with them.  We feel blessed to have these opportunities to travel and visit and learn from them.  They are both just wonderful people and love and care for the missionaries so much.  They are dearly loved by all the missionaries and the members as well.  We know they are the absolute best and are heaven sent to lead this mission at such an exciting time.

A short recap of the rest of our week – we have participated in three missionary discussions (2 at our apt and 1 at the church), helped with a missionary fireside, attended the symphony and choir concert, hosted our weekly district meeting and spent Saturday attending and feeding 120 people at seminary & institute graduation.  Now that was event we should tell you a little about.  It began with grocery shopping for potatoes on Friday, enough for 140 (we needed some for our district meeting as well.)  Trying to communicate my request to a local farmer was interesting.  He couldn’t believe that anyone would want 140 potatoes to EAT, plant maybe, but eat never.  I finally convinced him and he sorted out some nice ones for us.  When we got them home we of course need to wash them all.  They looked like russets to begin with but once washed turned out to be red potatoes so they were really dirty.  Next we wrapped them all and put them in the oven (two layers on each of our racks).  We left the oven door open and the kitchen window open, it is right by the oven so the potatoes would stay sort of cool overnight.  Then we got up at 4:30am and turned on the oven and took our shower? (refer to paragraph 1) got ready for the day, did some other housekeeping, boxed up the potatoes when they got done (2 hours in our oven!!) and headed out for the church on the other side of town.  Pres. and Sister Gibbons met us at the corner and we rode over with them arriving at 8am.  I attended a District Council Training meeting for our new District Councilmen while Sister Webb helped in the Kitchen.  Then it was 11:30 and the graduation began.  A little after 2 it was over and the rush for dinner began.  Ham, salad, bread and baked potatoes were served.  Then clean up and an activity.  Each of the cities put on a skit and they were all tremendous.  Even tho’ we could only understand a little of what was being said we were still laughing so hard.  We got a couple of great ideas that may come in handy some time down the road.  Then we packed up and got home about 6pm.  A very long and tiring 14 hour day but today is Sunday, we had a great night’s sleep, the sky is blue, the weather is warm, the gospel is true, we are all the children of God, He loves each one of us and life is good.   Have a great week.  We love you all.
Have to run - the hot water just came back on. Think I'll hit the shower!! Hooray!!
Our Entire Mission
2 Zone Conference

Sun on the Mission Homes Two Towers
"Eye of Sarron"?

Across the street again
Can you notice the blossoms and gardens
alot has grown in just the few days since taking the last pic of
The Neighborhood

Symphony & Choir
We were on the 4th row so I could only capture 1/2 the choir
and part of the Orchestra
Mezzo Sophrano facing front on left
She was amazing
Conductor just behind her also amazing

Monday, May 21, 2012

Missionaries, Meals & More!

A wide variety of events kept us busy this week.  Monday is our shopping day and this week we had plenty to shop for since the other Senior Couple serving here left Friday for a week (a long story).  Anyway, they are the CES couple (Church Educational System) working mostly with the 18 to 30 year olds with an occasional seminary (14-18) activity thrown in there.  This couple is the best and the kids absolutely love them so we have had some big shoes to fill.  They have told us many times that CES really stands for “cook every second” and we now believe it.  Seems like we have had something every day for which we needed to furnish food.  They are a pretty active group and when you throw in the various missionary activities and meetings as well it takes a lot of food.

After stocking up on Monday the cooking began.  But first we had Leadership meeting for the mission on Tuesday.  This involved about 30 missionaries and all the Senior couples in the mission (there are two other couples besides the two couples here in the city).   The Mission President decided to turn the evening into a mini Senior Couple conference so he took us all to dinner at the new TGI Friday’s which just opened in Novosibirsk.  It was great to have a chance to visit with the two remote couples in our mission and I know they really enjoyed the time together. 

Wednesday we had a two zone conference.  There are only two zones in our mission so it turned out to be a Mission wide conference with all the missionaries and couples serving in Siberia.  There were about 68 of us and we of course did some food for that lunch.  We had some great training and enjoyed a great meeting and time together.  That evening all the couples went to the ballet – Don Quixote.  It was magnificent.  We feel really blessed to have so many opportunities to enjoy such great entertainment.

Thursday evening was our last English group for a while so we made banana bread for that (more cooking) but had a great time reviewing with all our students some of things we have discussed and learned over the past 8 weeks.  We handed out words and asked them to describe the word so the others could guess without using the word.  One of the words was spoon.  Think how you would describe this to someone and then catch this description which was given by one of the students – “something you use to help you eat more accurately”.  They got it right off!!??

Friday brought with it our Missionary District meeting and since the other couple was gone the missionaries in their district decided to join our district meeting so we had 15 for lunch – more cooking.  After our district meeting we had a missionary meeting in our apt with a young couple, Daniel and Anya they were really nice and although they spoke no English we had a great time getting to know them and helping with the lesson. 

The missionaries had planned an “after English BBQ” for Saturday and we (of course) got the assignment to furnish and cook the meat and bring a salad or something.  This was to take place at 6pm so we had plenty of time to attend the baptism being held at noon and take treats to that – still more cooking.  The baptism was great, the BBQ was fun and well attended and Saturday ended on a good note.

Sunday, a day of rest, brought with it the CES fireside in the evening for which we needed to bring refreshments – more cooking.   Monday evening we hosted Family Home Evening for the Young Single Adults (filling in for the CES couple again) – more cooking.

We are glad to have this all behind us.  Actually, the cooking isn’t the worst, it is doing the clean-up and all the dishes so many times that wears you out.  We had a great week though and it has been a lot of fun for us to see how much a little service is so appreciated.  We should add that they turned off our hot water this morning for the coming week - we'll let you know how that goes next time.  It was not good this morning so not sure how it could get better until Saturday when it comes back on.
Everyone out there have a great week and take a nice hot shower every morning for us!!
Getting ready for Zone Conference

The neighbors across the street
Gardens are growing
The little tool sheds - are not!
No sewer hook ups here!

Playing with the Pigeons
(sorry for the shadows of you know who)
This is only one of several libraries in town
We did find time for a walk one evening
It was around 7pm but still lots of
people with their kids hanging out in the park

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

We would like to wish our moms a very special and happy Mother’s Day and to all the moms out there here’s hoping it was a special day for you too and that all the kids called home.  The missionaries in our district (2 sisters and 6 elders) all called home, we know, because they came to apartment in shifts and used our computers to skype with their moms (and family).  This is only one of two times they get to call home each year, the other is at Christmas.  It is a pretty big deal and I am sure more for the moms than the missionaries.  It was fun though to have them all come by at their appointed time and call home.  We were honored to be given a moment with some of them to meet their parents over skype.
We didn’t notice any special Mother’s Day tribute here but we remembered that just a short time ago, March 8th, we celebrated “Woman’s Day” which is pretty similar just more inclusive.  You didn’t have to be a mom (just a female) to get flowers and chocolates and the day off.  Apparently, there is something pretty universal about chocolates, flowers and females??!!  Go figure.  Oh, we should mention that even though it was a day off from work – everyone worked the Saturday before to allow for the “time off”.  We thought it interesting in light of the fact that there are so many other holidays and days off work.  Like the 2 week hiatus over News Year and multiple other days throughout the year,  including this past week which was a 3 day holiday ending with a big “Victory Day” celebration on May 9th.
We were impressed with the solemnity with which the people remembered those who served and gave their lives in defense of their country during World War II.  The day was filled with memorials and celebration and of course as the day wore on the celebration became a little more “lively” ending in a big fireworks display – which we watched from the safety of our balcony.  28 million Russian soldiers and civilians lost their lives in World War II and it is memorialized like it was just yesterday in every city across Russia.  Each city has their own “Eternal Flame” which burns in that city’s memorial park in remembrance of those who lost their lives.  In Novosibirsk there are six monolithic walls containing all the names of the people of this city who died during the conflict.  It is much like our own memorial wall in Washington D.C. except that every city has one and with 28 million names it is easy to see why there isn’t just one such memorial.  Anyway, it was very impressive for us to attend the ceremony and see how close it remains to the hearts of these people.  We saw a procession of surviving veterans, wives, children and grandchildren walking to the Eternal Flame of Novosibirsk many of whom were carrying pictures of their lost soldiers.  World War II is called the “Great Patrionic War” in Russia.  Someone in the crowd gave us a memorial ribbon to wear which we were honored to do.
On our way home from the Memorial Park we met an older lady on the metro who was very friendly.  When she discovered that we were not Russian, which I am still not sure what gave us away, (maybe it was our accent), she wanted to know why we were wearing the Russian Memorial Ribbon.  We shared, as best we could with our limited language skills, our feelings and impressions with her and told her that our fathers had also been in that conflict.  She seemed to understand and I know at least felt of our sincerity.  We hope to be able to see her again sometime.
Everyone have a wonderful week.
The Eternal Flame of

Two of the six walls
The names are just those from

Statue of Mother Russia
(sorry for the angle)

Russian Orthodox Priest
Head Man in Novosibirsk
He led the procession

Memorial Wreaths to be placed
at the Eternal Flame

White banner says
In honor of those who served 1941-1945

More of the procession
These are a few of the things we saw.  It was all quite impressive for small town folks like us.  This is still a very big deal for the Russian people.

Monday, May 7, 2012


It doesn’t seem possible but here we are nearing the ½ way mark of our mission and our time in Russia.  Looking back over these past months we can hardly believe all that we have learned and experienced.  We still have to pinch ourselves periodically to make sure it isn’t all a dream.  We are recognizing and understanding more of the language every day and are pretty much able to get around, ask where we are or how to get somewhere, make a purchase or even order a meal.  We don’t always end up where we had hoped, or get what we thought we were ordering, but that is half the fun of trying – isn’t it?!  Saturday for example we rode the metro to the end of the line, did a little exploring and then decided to hop on a bus for the ride back.  Well, we got a little mixed up and took the bus the wrong direction, rode it till the end of its route (which was outside the city somewhere) got off walked across the street and got another bus back.  All in all about a 3 hour experience and we might add not the first of such experiences we have had.  We saw a lot of the city that we hadn’t seen yet and enjoyed the afternoon together.  Our mistake we decided was going “up top” to see where we headed.  We should have stayed with the metro system where we KNEW where we were going.  Trying to “see” the surroundings we discovered isn’t always the best but we did find some places we would like to explore a little more – if we can just find our way back there.

The rest of our week has been pretty great as well.  Sergei came over for another lesson one afternoon and Sophia came to church Yesterday (we have mentioned her before) and she has made the decision to be baptized.  She is really excited about it and her Mom is okay with everything so Sophia is very happy.  We are hopeful to meet her mother soon.  Also, two young men whom we rode up the elevator with asked us several questions about who we were and what we were teaching.  When we got to our floor they kept asking more questions so when the elevator started to close they hopped out and talked with us in the hall for quite a while.  They were very nice young men, one of them spoke a little English (which is always good for us) so we were able to have a nice conversation with them about our church, our mission, why we are here and what we do each day.  We gave him a Book of Mormon and as they left he said we would visit again.  It was a great experience for us and it always is revitalizing to actually vocalize the answer to some of those questions of the soul like where did we come from why are we here on earth, where do we go when we die and what are WE doing in Siberia!!

This afternoon we rode a different bus to the end of its line which happens to be a huge park at the end of the city in the middle of quite a large forest area.  The smell of the forest made us homesick for the Cascades.  The area we were in reminded us of the Lake Wenatchee area minus the mountains of course.  There were about 20-30 young adults (18-30 yr olds) who gathered there for an afternoon of Frisbee, throwing footballs, baseballs or whatever, ring toss and a good ol’ hot dog BBQ.  It was just too much like home.  We had a blast met a few more of the young people and had a great walk through the forest.

We continue to have a great time here.  It is a real learning experience and we appreciate even more how much people are just people the world over with the same hopes, dreams and problems we all face every day.  We love everyone we meet and have had several experiences that have endeared the Russian people to us.  They seem very reserved and in their own space at first but are quick to come to the aid of a stranger in distress and we have been the recipient of the kindness of strangers on several occasions.    

Have a great week – we love you all.  Das Vadonya.
Sunset from our apt

An interesting plant discovered in our many wanderings
notice the big tuber things!

Arriving at the Forest Park

Food is READY!!

A stroll down the walking/bike/rollerblading Path
at the Park