Monday, June 25, 2012

Off to Tomsk

Every week brings some new adventure for us and this one was no exception.  It began with the first of our Kazakhstan missionaries getting their official transfer to our mission.  These first 3, of a total of 12, we will be getting over the next couple of weeks, actually came to Novosibirsk the rest will be staying in Kazakhstan.  We are traveling to Almaty and Astana this coming week to meet the rest of the missionaries and transition all the record keeping and financing arrangements over to our mission as well as holding formal founder’s organization meetings in both cities.  We are going with our Mission President and his wife (President and Sister Gibbons) and our newly called Area seventy and his wife Elder Gushin and Sister Gushina.  Our trip will extend over a week and cover both cities where there is a congregation.  It should be a lot of fun experiencing another new culture and people along with the work we will need to accomplish.  We will report in a couple of weeks on our trip as we will probably not have a chance to post anything next weekend.  We’ll see how it goes.
Tuesday evening we attended a concert of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Conservatory’s top graduating students, vocal and instrumental.  We heard an Opera soprano, mezzo soprano, baritone and bass vocal soloists as well as a mandolin, guitar duet, bassoon soloist, trumpet, cello, violin, piano soloists, and the hit of the evening an accordion (Bahn) duet.  They were all absolutely amazing.  Each performer was introduced along with their teacher.  The teacher then sat in a huge arm chair on stage while they first showed a short video clip of the teacher commenting on their student’s achievements and then the student performed.  Very formal and very nice!  This was a “culture nite” for all of the missionaries in Novosibirsk.
The rest of the week seemed to fly by as we prepared for our weekend trip with President and Sister Gibbons to the city of Tomsk.  It is about a 5 hour drive through some of the most pristine and vast range land, Birch forests, Evergreen forests, and farm land we have ever seen.  No fences, no farm houses, just thousands and thousands of acres of open land and farms.  Much of the farm land, I am sure, left from the soviet collective farming days.  It was breath-taking.  Along the way we passed a cemetery and stopped for a quick visit.  In an earlier posting we commented about how interesting their cemeteries are.  They are located in the middle of the forest (usually White Birch) and each grave has a little iron fence around it.  Each headstone has a picture of the person as well as the normal things you expect to find on a headstone.  It was a very reverent and calming feeling as we walked through the forest and grave sites.  On our way out we met Fyodor and his wife Olga.  They were cleaning up around her mother’s grave and painting the iron fencing.   She talked our ear off even tho’ she could only understand a part of what we were saying and we understood less of her she was talking so fast.  Fortunately, Pres. Gibbons understands pretty well and speaks better than the rest of us did so we got a little of what she was saying.  Fyodor was a little embarrassed by his wife’s carrying on but I was able to tell him no worries – men everywhere the world over understand.  The drive there and back again today (Sunday) was fascinating to say the least.
We arrived in Tomsk on Saturday (late afternoon) and took the 4 Elders and 2 Sisters to dinner then drove around the city and checked into our hotel.  Tomsk is a city of about 600,000, home to numerous universities, and truly the most European looking of any of the Russian cities we have visited.  It is the oldest city in Siberia being founded in 1604.  It was interesting to read that in all the years that the Czars ruled over Russia not one of them ever visited Siberia.   Surprise??!!
We attended church in Tomsk today.  It is a small branch with about 60 or so attending, all very loving and welcoming people.  By the end of our visit there we had been so warmly received we felt as though we had been a part of their group for years.  We both had to speak in Sacrament meeting - you would have been so amazed at Sister Webb.  She gave about ½ of her talk in RUSSIAN and then had an interpreter for the rest.  She then closed her talk with her testimony of Christ, his love for us, and the truthfulness of his gospel – IN RUSSIAN.  Amazing.  She is getting the language down pretty good. 
We arrived home this evening in the middle of the Novosibirsk Birthday celebration – 119 years ago the city was founded and today is populated by over 2 million.  Fireworks everywhere tonight. 
Everyone have a great week.  We love and miss you all.
The Conservatory graduating performers
Cemetery in the trees
Deeper in the forest

Happy 119 years

Sun setting (11:15pm)

Open farmland on the way to Tomsk
no fences/no farm houses

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