Sunday, January 27, 2013

How Did She Know?

You know you’ve been around too long when strangers know what floor to push for you in the elevator of your apt building.  The other day a young lady stepped in the elevator with us, she greeted us kindly, pushed her floor (number 4) and without asking and before we could say anything she punched our floor (number 9) for us.  Now how did she know that,one might ask?  I know we thought it quite amusing that she would know what floor we live on without even the slightest hesitation.  We have seen her around a couple of times over the past year but I guess when you are the only Americans and the only native English speakers in the entire apartment complex – everyone knows what floor you live on!!  We got a real kick out of it for sure.     

Another fun thing this past week was receiving our Russian Liahona.  The Liahona is a Church Magazine very similar to the Ensign which is published in North America except in foreign countries it is called the Liahona.  When we received this month’s magazine and glanced through it we found an article written by our own Elder Yuri Gushin (Area Seventy) on the “Wonderful Blessings of the Atonement”.  It is hard for us to read the Russian of course but we are getting through it.  Also there was a picture of all of us who attended the Young Single Adult Conference last August in Krasnoyarsk as well as a picture of President Gibbons baptizing the young girl from Kazakhstan in the lake at that conference.  It was fun to recall and relive that special week last summer.

This week we also attended English Conversation Group where I had the story time and Sister Webb gave the spiritual thought.  Our topic this week was Books and Authors so naturally the spiritual thought was about the Book of Mormon and the guiding principles it contains and the special testimony of Christ found within its pages.  Sister Webb was perfect.  We are now onto showing the Gundersens some of the office duties and routines and trying to cover the myriad of “impromptu” situations that continually arise.  They will be filling in for the interim few days between when we leave and the new office couple arrives.

Once again we finished up the week in Berdsk.  This week was not quite as wild as last week at our meetings there but we did have 3 investigators who came and participated with us, two women and the husband of one of our members.  They were great and asked a lot of really great questions.  Also, Sister Tatyana taught our Sunday School lesson, it was her first time to teach and she was pretty scared but she did a wonderful job.  I think she was glad when it was over though – I know when I have to teach I am always happy when it is over.

Yes, we go home on February 22nd, getting excited to see our kids and our grandchildren, including one new granddaughter who we will meet for the first time!  Our kids are spread throughout Washington, Idaho, Utah and California so we will be making the loop to see then as soon as we get settled. I think we are ready to go home, but it also is hard to imagine being home. So it will be a little adjustment for us maybe. We have certainly loved being here in Siberia, what a great experience, it will be so hard to leave President and Sister Gibbons and the wonderful missionaries and members. They are like our second family.

We looked all over and discovered we had taken zero pictures this week – sorry about that.  I guess we have other things on our mind!!  Thanks to everyone for the emails, the prayers, and the support.  We love and appreciate everyone, our family and wonderful friends so much.  We look forward to seeing you all in just over 4 weeks.  Have a great week – we love you all.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January Snow Sculptures

Christmas just keeps coming in Siberia!!  Just this week, we got a Christmas package from our youngest son and his wife (Tyler and Janae). They sent us 12 individual presents 1 for each of the 12 days of Christmas so we had a lot of fun lining them all up, reading the little verse that was on each one and then opening them up one at a time.  It was really fun. 

It is always nice to have some time to regroup, re-focus, organize and clean-up and this has been a week for just that.  Sister Gibbons is back in the U.S. for a few days, President Gibbons is on the road teaching and training throughout the mission and with no visa travel or transfers we have had the week to reflect and reorganize.  It is amazing how much there is to do in a mission office but we love and have loved every minute.  As time winds down though we are busy updating everything to leave it all in tip top shape for Elder and Sister Palmer who will replace us.  They will be coming to the mission on the 6th of March so there will be a couple of weeks gap.  Elder and Sister Gundersen will pick up the slack in the office duties for those 2 weeks until the Palmers arrive.

We took a couple of hours Friday evening and with the Gundersens went to Ploshed Lenina (Lenin Square) downtown to see the winter snow sculptures.  They are really something.  Big blocks or snow are hauled in and representatives from the various cities and regions around Siberia come in and carve (sculpt) the blocks into amazing works.  It was about -31F so needless to say we didn’t linger long at any one piece, made our way around to all of them and then headed back to our apartment to warm up and have a little dinner.  We visited for awhile and then after Elder and Sister Gundersen were warmed they bundled up and headed out for home, about 5 minutes walking, 10 minutes on the Metro, and another 20 minutes walking.  We know they got home safe because we saw them again on Saturday at Olga’s baptism.

Saturday after attending the baptism we returned home and our Landlord (hazika) stopped by to collect the rent.  We are just getting to the point that between us both we can communicate fairly well with him and he has attempted to learn a little English as well.  When he found that we had been to a baptism he shared with us that just that day he too had been baptized – into the Russian Orthodox faith.  He was very proud and we congratulated him of course.  He will make one more visit to us before we leave.  He and his wife are the nicest people and very accommodating - they are two people whom we will miss.

Sunday we were in Berdsk again.  We so look forward to visiting each week with the members there.  They are such special people and try so hard to live good lives in the midst of all they have to deal with each day.  They look forward to our time together to worship on Sunday as much as we do.  There is just something about sharing in the spirit of Christ that binds people together no matter whom or where they are; and those ties are reallyy strengthened when common beliefs are shared each week.  Meeting with these wonderful people has only reaffirmed our testimony that our Father in Heaven knows and loves each one of us – wherever or whoever we might be.

Sunday night – back home and getting ready for another week – hope all is well with each of you.  We are getting excited to see everyone and to feel the love of family and dear friends.  33 days.  Have a wonderful week.
12 Days of Christmas
Thank you Tyler, Janae, Harrison and Emily
The Red card right of middle is from Harrison

Snow Sculpture by Kazakstan

Sculpture by the City of Sochi (see sign)
Host to the Winter Olympics 2014

Sister Webb and Sister Gundersen at the Snow Sculptures

Cleaning up the Parking lot
Wherever you find Snow you find Snow mounds
the world over

Our Friend Yanna who cuts our Hair
Sister Webbs last visit - maybe

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another Christmas ??

How about that, boys and girls – TWO Christmases!!  Yes, Monday, January 7th was Orthodox Christmas in Russia or the Russian Christian Christmas – and it is just as big a deal as December 25th Christmas.  Everyone was still off work until Wednesday so we had a fairly quite couple of days.  Our meeting Tuesday was just President and Sister Gibbons, the Office Elders, AP’s and us.  We reviewed and mapped out the next few weeks and it seemed kind of weird that we will be home and have left all this behind during this next cycle.   We have one more transfer (Feb.6th) and then before the next one rolls around we will be gone - very strange.

Wednesday everyone (our 3 Russian employees) came back to work.  We did a “welcome back to work lunch” for them and they got a real kick out of it.  The big comment was “we will have to take some more days off so we can do this again when we return!”  It was fun for us to see them enjoy the gesture so much.  All three of them are the absolute best and try so hard to help us with our Russian and to learn some English themselves so we can all communicate better.  We are so thankful for Olga who speaks English so very well and can help out so much.  Actually, she runs the whole place so we are always glad to see her return whenever she has been away.  We are trying to get her to come to visit when we get home.

Thursday turned out to be just another day except for the Ballet we attended with Elder and Sister Gundersen in the evening.  It was a beautiful snowy evening as we walked to the Opera House.  It is always a treat to be able to attend the super performances there.  Then Friday came and brought with it our weekly District Mtg with all the missionaries in our District.  After our meeting Sister Webb went with our Sister Missionaries to visit an American girl who is in the hospital here (the hospital is a story for another day) and I went with our District Leaders to visit a young man from Kenya, working for the circus here in Russia, who was in the TB hospital in another part of town.  We both had very interesting, yet wonderful, experiences and it was a little different to “split” and not be together.  It is always an uplifting experience to go visiting with the missionaries.

Saturday we had an all-day training meeting with all the Branch Presidents, District and Mission Presidency and the District Council.  For those reading this that don’t get the “church speak” these are the people who are the leaders in the mission and the various cities throughout Siberia.  The Church is firmly established in the 7 major cities across our mission; Omsk, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo, and Krasnoyarsk.  All of these cities are big cities of over 500,000 which is still mind boggling for us to realize that are so many big cities in Siberia.  But then again Siberia is a pretty big place.  After the meetings were over we ordered up a taxi and headed once again to Berdsk for the weekend.  It is a very special little group trying to get established in Berdsk.  We are still meeting in the apt we have rented there but are working hard to secure a permanent place to meet.  After Church was over and everyone went home we, that is to say Sister Webb, fixed a little something for the missionaries before they left and then we packed up and headed back to Novosibirsk and our little apt which has become home to us in Russia.  
We hope this coming week is the best ever for everyone.  We love you all and hope you are enjoying good health in the New Year.

Leaving the Opera House
Gundersens in the foreground

Church Leaders in Siberia

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 - It's Here!!!

And so it begins – 2013.  It hardly seems possible.  Each year brings its own special set of blessings and challenges and then passes on more quickly than the one before.  2013 will certainly follow suit.  As everywhere in the world 2012 went out with a bang and 2013 entered in like fashion.  There were fireworks going off all around us – in an overabundance – from 6pm on the 31st until after 5am the next day and then it started up again in the evening on New Year’s Day.  It is a holiday from the 31st to the 13th here so we imagine there will be plenty more fireworks throughout the next few days.
Monday, New Year’s Eve Day, we made our weekly run to the grocery store and since everyone was preparing for the next day it was more crowded than usual and the traffic was pretty insane.  So we took a short cut to the store and drove down the tramvai tracks (pic included).  It worked out pretty well but we were all a little nervous that the tram would come barreling over the hill at any minute.

New Year’s Day was a little slow – the financial and business world is closed and all the government offices so there was not much going on in the Mission office either.  We took some time and went to the Ice Sculpture Park with Elder and Sister Gundersen then out for dinner before returning home.  Most businesses try to stay open through the Holiday, however they operate with just a skeleton crew but it is nice to be able to navigate the icy sidewalks without all the people so we had a very enjoyable afternoon and we were the only 4 people in the restaurant.  We chose Fennimore Cooper’s, like in James Fennimore Cooper the author and although it was a little expensive it was quite unique.  Some of the d├ęcor included a Colonial US flag, Indian teepee, Cowhide and Bear skin rugs, and numerous early American Indian artifacts and pictures.    Sister Gundersen went for the Moose Sashleek while Elder Gundersen, Sister Webb and I settled for the Wild Australian Turkey steak.  It was really quite fun.
The rest of the week has been slow but pretty much business as usual for us.  The mission office seems to always present a few issues each day which need some sort of resolution.  Then there was English on Wednesday evening, District meeting on Friday and we were back out in Berdsk for Saturday afternoon and for Church on Sunday.

2013 seems to be off to a great start and we are excited to see what the year has in store.  It is quite exciting to think that we will be home in less than two months, 47 days to be exact but who is counting?  And we are very much looking forward to our daughter Sarah’s visit the week before we return.  It will be great to have her here for a few days as we make preparations to return. 

Where is the Tram!!?

Snegerochka - Snowmaiden (times 2)

Novosibirsk - 120 years

Who needs a Corn Field?

Our Christmas Tree
Our apt bldg is in the background

Each weekend when we go to Berdsk
this is where our apt is located
We are standing with our backs to the Lake

See you SOON