Monday, June 10, 2013

Blini, Chalk Art, MTC advice

-The weather here is actually really nice. I'd say it's pretty much just like Libertyville. It's humid enough so that I can actually breathe and my skin doesn't dry out but it's not so humid that you go outside and are instantly wet like cincinnatti. It hasn't rained once yet but there have been a few scary looking clouds and we even saw lightning once. I'm hoping for a huge summer storm sometime soon. I'd guess it's usually in the 70's each day, i just wear a short sleeved shirt and it works all day. It doesn't get that cold at night.

-The food here is....well let's just say that the candy is awesome. We have a bowl of candy that we make sure is stocked at all times on our kitchen table. The one food I love is blini which is basically russian crepes and we usually put nutella and raspberry jam in them but last night for dinner we did chicken and mashed potatoes and cheese which was really good too. There's a lot of fresh fruit that's delicious too.

-Oh when I told you that I get $12 a month that was wrong, it's $12 a week so we're rolling in the money over here haha

-We have a new investigator Anusha who is awesome. She's a young girl living here from India going to medical school (that's really common here, there's also a lot of students from Africa). She is Christian which is pretty rare in India and she has studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses for awhile (I didn't know that they were here but apparently that's a big thing in ukraine. a lot of people see us on the streets and think we're Jehovah's Witnesses). She is also the sweetest person ever. She always asks us how we're doing and if she can help us in any way! We're supposed to say that to her! She is a media referral which never happens, that means she went to and entered her contact info. the elders didn't have her phone number but happened to run into her on the street twice and got her info and then handed her off to us! we had a first lesson with her in the park and it went really well. (she speaks english so i can actually testify that it went well because i knew what was going on) the only problem is we didn't have an english book of mormon! we told her how to read the book of mormon online and promised to get her an actually copy sometime that week. a few days later we ran into her on the street and we still didn't have an english book of mormon but i was holding a Liahona that i had picked up from the church for myself. i felt impressed to give it to her so I did and explained that it had talks in it from our church leaders (it was the conference edition). she seemed pretty interested so hopefully she read it. then the next day we ran into her again (she is the girl who is always in the right place) and we had the english book of mormon with us finally! we gave it to her and she was so excited! we are meeting with her again this week so i'll let you know how that goes!

-There's an insane amount of dogs here. The dogs that are pets are usually cute and friendly but the wild dogs are crazy and kinda scary. they congregate in the parks and just hang out it's super weird.

-The singing in church here is so funny. It's a complete joke. I swear 90% of ukraine, or at least lugansk is tonedeaf. It's so entertaining to listen to. Also a lot of people here have bad eyesight so I swear the old ladies just make up their own words. Again, just imagine a branch full of Barbara's haha

-The kids here are so adorable because their parents dress them so fashionably! It's so funny. We saw this little kid, probably 3 years old, in a park with these rock star sunglasses, a purple paisley button up shirt, fancy jeans and socks and sandals (the cool european kind, not the awkward american old person kind) anyways he was just riding around on his tricycle looking so fly it was awesome.

-oh tell ben that i met the southams, they're a senior couple who served in novasabiersk when he was there. also i met sister arimaki who is one of liz's best friends! so the bevans just know everyone here haha

-on tuesdays we have youth night where basically anyone in the branch who wants to can come to the church and play games and eat a treat and have a spiritual thought. we played phase 10, your favorite! they love american games there! they really love uno too. it's crazy because almost everyone here speaks english so they want to practice their english with me, but i'm like no i need to practice my russian more! trust me!

-we were going through a bunch of former investigator sheets and we found two crazy ones. one lady was progressing really well and really interested but then she went to church and had no desire to talk to the missionaries anymore. months later they found out that the lady thought there were drugs in the sacrament! what?! haha and another record says in big letters on the bottom, This lady is in prison and probably killed not contact. hahahahaha oh ukraine. i love you.

-our mission president has decided that we should do more cultural activities, so next week we're having Pday on wednesday because we're taking an hour bus ride into another town where there's a big WWII museum and a lady from our branch is going to show us around the town and take us to the museum. the area isn't open to proselyting yet so we can't wear our nametags or anything. i'm so excited! usually missionaries only get to go to like 1 or 2 cultural things in their mission and they can't go until they're about to go home! now with the new rule i get to go right away! so next week you won't get an email from me until wednesday.

-oh we have a very sweet crazy old man who waters our sidewalk for us outside our apartment. he literally just sprinkles the sidewalk every morning. it's so weird. we should probably talk to him sometime but seriously the only people we talk to are crazy old guys every day. they usually stop us and ask us why we're here. one of the challenges i didn't forsee about missionary work is figuring out if people want to talk to us because they're interested in the church or in cute young american girls. it's awkward.

-one of our favorite things to do it go 'chalking' which is when we go to a park and draw on the sidewalk with chalk. sister erekson is an incredible artist so she draws these awesome pictures of jesus and i usually just write next to it haha. next time i'm going to bring my hymnbook so i can sing while she draws because i feel dumb just sitting  there. i'll try to attach a picture if i can.

-the friendship tan is back in action, i know you were wondering about that. (Explanation from Katie's mom: years ago on a vacation, Katie was wearing a friendship bracelet, and ended up with quite a white line, which she called a "friendship tan." These days it is usually from a hair tie, but she still calls it a friendship tan. It's kind of her personal indication of the status of her suntan - something very important to Katie. If the friendship tan is back, it means she's getting plenty of outdoor time. I'm pretty sure her tan is from the neck up, elbows and knees down.)

-happy late birthday to heidi!!!! you're 21 now that means you're an offical grown up! i hope you had an awesome day!

-on saturday we went to go work on lance's dacha (it's supposedly a summer home but basically just a shack with a garden, pretty much everyone has them here. there's out in the middle of nowhere and people usually go live there for a few weeks in the summer). sister erekson and i picked berries while the elders did all the hard work of weeding and planting it was awesome.

-on sunday the camperos came to our branch and they are the sweetest. sister campero sat by me in sunday school and relief society which was awesome because neither one of us had any idea what was going on! she speaks a little bit of english and even less russian. at one point she leans over to me and says "too much reading, this is boring! they need to talk more" hahaha i couldn't agree more! here in sunday school and relief society they literally read the manual. i dont know what to do about that. anyways, in relief society we were so confused ( i literally could not tell you what the topic was) we just showed each other family picture the whole time! haha it was great. we were sitting in the way back so at least we weren't distracting anyone else.

okay i came up with some advice for missionaries in the MTC:
-if you are learning russian: memorize the case chart! you don't know what that means yet, but as soon as you do just start learning it. even when it doesn't make sense, just do it! decided now to be a missionary who speaks with good grammar. buy a katzner dictionary!
-laugh every day. preferrably multiple times a day.
-play sand volleyball during sport. it's the best.
-the greatest secret of the cafeteria: get a wrap with just chicken and cheese take it over to the microwave and make yourself a dang quesadilla.
-go to choir. just do it. even if you don't sing, can't sing, whatever  just go.
-don't bring hangers, there's tons in the free corners. ask someone where the free corners are on your first day and check them every monday and tuesday. you'll find tons of hidden treasures
-if you have time, study your language a little bit before you come. if nothing else it will make you feel a little bit better about yourself for the first day or two.
-if you can, learn words to hymns before you come. i would get hymns stuck in my head all the time but only knew the first verses so i'd get sick of those real fast.
-actually SYL. it's hard and annoying but just do it.
-ask your teacher for interviews. they basically just say nice things to you and you can vent to them if you need to. also a great opportunity for a good cry if you need one.
-study outside when you can! it's the greatest.
-play a game in the bathroom where you walk through humming come thou fount and see how many people you can get to join in. extra points of you get someone to harmonize
-make up songs during service. preferrably change the words to hymns and make them about cleaning
-love your district they are your new best friends and family
-bring a mini PMG it's so useful for bringing to church and stuff when you don't want to carry the big one
-eat at the magical food carts outside! they are all you can eat!
-do language study with your companion. it's way easier to learn with someone.
-make goals early on of what you want to accomplish before you go. your teachers won't make goals for you. decide a few scriptures to memorize, have a set number of words to learn a day. 
-make your personal study meaningful. if you don't know how, ask your teacher. 
-use TALL time effectively!! ask your teacher to show you how to use tall. i learned stuff about tall in my last week that i could have been using all along!
-last but not silly, be yourself!

i love you all and miss you! please eat a cheeseburger for me! also popcorn and go see a stinkin movie!

p.s.  i forgot to tell you something pretty cool. in my interview with brother okoren before I left he told me to make sure I was enjoying all the 'light' at the mtc because on my mission i might get sent to areas where the only source of light is the missionaries. he said the if he were my mission president he'd send me to those areas. i think lugansk might have been what he was talking about. the work is moving pretty slowly here but we're definitely doing all we can to help it along! he also said that i am a natural born leader and i can have just as much of an impact on other missionaries as i can on investigators. basically he told me that i should set the tone for our pressure! i'm trying to figure out how i can be a good example as a greenie, but it's hard because i feel like i don't know anything yet! okay that's all i've got for you this week! love you and miss you!!!

Breakfast of Champions

Sister Erekson's beautiful chalk art

Berry Picking and Eating

Cool Statue

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