Monday, June 24, 2013

The President Visits, Busy Schedule, Bus Fun!

First off: happy anniversary to you and dad this week!!! Let me guess, you won't be together, just like good old times when you were at girls camp every year haha.

Well, it's only been 5 days and yet I still have so much to say!
I figured I'd give you a run down of what a typical day is like for us. We get up at 6:30 hurry and get dressed and we're out the door by 7 for morning contacting. This means no time to do hair which is perfectly fine by mean but it also means to time for breakfast which is kinda rough but I'm over it. We contact for an hour and a half and then at 8:30 we exercise, and at 9 we actually get ready for the day and eat breakfast. At 10:00 we start personal study, 11 is companion study and 12 is language study. Then we have lunch at 1:00 and we usually eat lunch as fast as possible so we can have a quick nap before we start the rest of our day. After lunch if we don't have a lesson we usually try to stop by a less active's house or hunt down former investigators or have a member lesson. We actually spend a lot of time on the phone just trying to find lessons. Everyone right now is "super busy but would love to meet with us in a few weeks...." so that's fun. The members are actually pretty good at meeting with us, they love to have Family Night and we do it any night of the week, whenever they have time. We usually just get to know each other, share our family pictures, have a spiritual thought, sometimes play a game if there are kids and then we leave, we never want to take too much of their time. And as you know from Barbara, if you don't get out quick you could literally be there forever haha. Anyways, we usually have dinner at 5, and then go back out for a lesson at night. We come home at 9, plan, write in our journals and go to bed. I wonder with the announcement about missionaries using technology more if we're going to keep doing morning contacting or if we'll do morning blogging or something instead. that would be amazing! i feel like i'm already a 'blog missionary' haha.

So Wednesday we went to a town called Krasnadon and went through a museum dedicated to a group of teenagers called the "Youth Guard." These were 14-21 year olds who got together and secretly worked against the German invaders. One thing they did was blow up a building that had a lot of documents, i don't really understand what they were but basically they freed all of their friends and family who were in prison. Another thing they did was put up red flags of rebellion and attached bombs to them so if the Germans tried to take them down they'd be blown up! Basically these kids were awesome but like most of Ukranian history, it has a super depressing ending. They got caught eventually, most of them were tortured and they were killed in a few different ways, but 71 of them were thrown down an old mine shaft and killed. So yeah, it was a really depressing story, but the people of Krasnadon love these 'young heroes' as they call them and they know all their names and still remember them so I guess that's good. Anyways, lest you think my russian skills are amazing and I caught all that, our tour guide of the museum spoke English! That was on my list of miracles for the week.
Thursday we had a member lesson with Lubov (that means love) this awesome babushka. Every week after sacrament meeting is over she jumps up and gives out cards to anyone who had a birthday or big even that week. But she doesn't just give it to them, she makes them come up in front of everyone and reads the entire card aloud for everyone to hear. I don't think this is a Ukrainian tradition, but i could be wrong. Anyways, lubov is the only ukranian i have met who speaks slowly. She is great! If she says words that I know I can actually recognize them so that's awesome! She also loves to talk so for our lesson all we did was read one scripture and then she literally talked for an hour straight. We told her we had to go and she insisted that we come back again so that we can talk some more! Haha we love her. She's one of the few members who actually has been in the church for a few years.

We had a second lesson with Gulia this week, who is the Muslim girl I told you about. Yes, we're allowed to teach Muslims, but it's hard because we have to start way simple. We had a whole lesson about Jesus Christ and it went okay, but she wanted to do it in English so she didnt' really understand a lot of what we're saying. Luckily we had a member Alina on the lesson with us, she's this super awesome 18 year old girl who just joined the church in March. She loves to come on lessons and do missionary work with us! Anyways, Alina speaks awesome english too so she translated for us. We watched Finding Faith in Christ and challenged her to read Alma 7 and pray about it. We'll see if her dad lets us come back now, I think he just thought we were here to give her English practice and be friends with her.
At church yesterday we had a miracle...3 investigators showed up! We've never had more than one before. So Nadia, the girl whose sister was bapitzed but she hasn't been yet, she came but she comes every week so that wasn't a surprise. But Ira, whose husband is the in the branch presidency came with their one year old daughter. We haven't been able to meet with them yet ("super busy") but they seemed to love primary so hopefully they're more open to the church now. And then a random babushka named Galina came who has been to church a couple times and likes church but has no interest in meeting with that's weird but we'll take it! We were asked to help in the primary for the second hour because they had way more kids than usually (a whopping 4) and it was so much fun!! i love primary because i can actually understand what's going on as opposed to sunday school! the kids had fun trying to say my name and bogdan, the grandson of the members we met with last week, he put on my shoes and started walking around and everyone, even the leaders, thought it was so funny! oh a fun fact about the church here, members love to hear new missionaries try to speak english so in sunday school and relief society whenever they need someone to read or pray they ALWAYS call on me. also they love to correct people when reading, literally whenever someone says a word wrong every single person in the class says it correctly really loudly. haha so my reading is improving dramatically, but it's pretty embarrassing. also the church members go by their first names which is extremely confusing because there's like 5 russian guy names and 5 russian girl names so there's  a million brother dmitri's and a million sister natasha's haha. also we're supposed to sit with the members, so you dont' sit wtih your companion in any of the meetings which makes things interesting when you don't understand anybody. it's all good though, everyone is super patient with me and uses really small words haha.

Alright that's pretty much it events wise, but here's some random thoughts as always:

-This week as we were sitting in some random person's house I remembered that Barbara always had crazy amounts of weird rugs all mismatched and layered over one another...that is how every house is here! The longer I am here the more I realize that she's not crazy at all. Or everyone here is equally as crazy as she is. I'm not sure which.
-there's 75 missionaries in our mission, i found a list and counted. 21 sisters and 56 elders.
-for district meeting we always have a 'bonding activity' at the end and this week we played telephone pictionary and naturally i turned everything into harry potter. it was great.
-Something frustrating we are finding out is that for a while all of the 'bum' missionaries were sent to lugansk so the members here don't really trust us. Well that's not true, they love us, but they're worried because they know we'll all eventually leave and then what if they get lazy missionaries again? Lance told us that he's heard from multiple people "we're just waiting for good missionaries to come here to send our family and friends to." well....we're here! send them! this is why we're trying so hard to get to know the members and serve them.
-Oh on Thursday the president of Ukraine came to lugansk! we didn't see him or anything but everyone was freaking out haha.we saw big trucks spraying water down the streets and were like what the heck?? then we realized they were cleaning the streets for the president. everyone was outside cleaning up their gardens and stuff and the church got a note saying they had to clean the building so it looked good when he came!
-every friday when we come home after English Conversation we see a group of old grandpas playing dominoes around a picnic table and a little ways down the babushkas are sitting around a table just chatting. you and dad should probably retire here.
-at english this week we were talking about our reactions when we opened our mission calls. and elder withers said that the only reason he knew where ukraine was was because he played Risk. So then all of the Ukrainians wanted to know what risk was and for some reason (who knows why) lance had a risk board with him so he pulled it out. and the map is totally simplified and wrong just to make the game easier, but ukraine is huge on the map and no one could understand why. anyways this old guy, the one who randomly comes to youth night now just to play ping pong, he turns to me and quietly says, "maybe it is from the cold war times, i think it is propaganda" hahahaha it was awesome. i was just like uh huh maybe.
-if you are like me, you probably questioned the casting choice of Viktor Krum in the 4th harry potter movie. well let me tell you, they weren't going for attractiveness, they were going for accuracy. i see guys who look exactly like viktor krum all the time!! you know the scene where he's walking around outside exercising even though it's freezing and then he just jumps into the lake? 100% accurate. also people here are obsessed will pull ups. there's pull up bars everywhere and people who are walking to work or something will just stop, do 25 pull ups and keep walking like nbd. it's so awesome.
-when we came home from our lesson with Gulia the elders were sitting outside our door with an oven and iron for us! it was like christmas morning! we talked about how we didn't have either of those in district meeting, and they decided to buy themselves an oven and just picked one up for us too haha. it's not like a huge full blown oven, but it's bigger than a toaster oven. i don't know what they're called, it's a little bigger than our microwave and is going to come in handy when we go visit members now we can bring them treats! also we can make ourselves treats too. (as a totally unrelated note...if i were to hypothetically want to make brown sugar muffins but brown sugar does not exist in ukraine what would you suggest?)
-okay so i thought i was all cool having 2 cousins who speak russian, well get this. sister erekson's older sister went to Russia (ben's mission) and is marrying an elder who was in her mission. her younger brother and sister are both in the mtc right now learning russian (same district!) her brother is going to the baltics and her sister is going to samara (i think that's spencer's mission). isn' that insane?? 5 russian speakers in one family! but apparently when one family members gets called russian speaking the probablilty of siblings going russian speaking goes way watch out sarah!
-if anyone is looking for a quick weight loss solution, move to ukraine. all of my skirts are falling off of me so that makes for a fun experience.
-we are in the height of cherry season here in ukraine so every time we see a member they give us a huge plastic grocery bag full of cherries. i'm learning to love them.
-last night we made chicken fried rice and it tasted like home. i miss your cooking every day. are you sure you can't just move to lugansk and live in our apartment and cook for us? i'd pay you in hugs. 
-oh something from our mission conference i forgot to write about, President Suarez said that smiling at everyone you see is not an american culture thing, it is not a canadian culture thing, it is not a ukrainian culture thing, it is a gospel culture thing. so just do it.
-here's a funny thing about public transportation. sometimes you get on a bus and there's an open seat and you know that Heaven has smiled upon you. sometimes, you are not so blessed. So there's a nice bar for you to hang on to with your dear life so that you don't die. Well here's the thing, small people can not always reach these life saving bars. Let's just say that I provide a lot of entertainment for the dear people of Lugansk. If i don't get a seat on a bus i literally just fly around the bus the entire time. It would be sad if it wasn't so dang funny. People say it's hard to make ukranians laugh, but they are not me.
-the graffiti here is the funniest thing. it is a total joke. now there actually is some real graffiti done by actual artists, but the vast majority of it is either declarations of love in russian or random words and or letters in english that make no sense. There's one we see on the way to church that says "effect butterfly" and one we saw morning contacting that i really wanted a picture of but we're not supposed to take pictures during contacting, it said "i <3 batman" hahaha.
I'd like to institude a new tradition called T-shirt of the week. Much like the graffiti here, the t-shirts with english on them make little to no sense. Usually they are not even sentences, just random english words that i guess are supposed to look cool. There are also random american celebrities on shirts. In the past week I've seen two sparkly tank tops with hillary duff's face on them, an old lady wearing a hannah montana shirt (with a nice skirt and fancy shoes, i think that's actually what she wore to work) and shirt with House's face on it (you know from the tv show) and on the back it said in all caps YOU ALL IDIOTS! hahaha but the winner this week was a young guy had a shirt that said "Chicago Town Style" with a picture of wrigley field on it. So each week i'll tell you about my favorite shirt I have seen. I have a feeling it will be hard to narrow it down to just one but I'll do my best.
This week in personal study I've been reading about Ammon and Aaron. Ammon had crazy success with King Lamoni, while his brothers were thrown into prison. I love the verse that says  "and as it had happened, it was their lot to have fallen into the hands of a more stifffnecked peopl." (alma 20:30). Now I don't want to say that the people of ukraine are stiffnecked, but it's not exactly south america. Aaron didn't give up though, and eventually found success (alma 21:16-17) I'm grateful to be here in Ukraine where the work isn't easy, but is absolutely worth it. I think about growin pains, and how when i was little i was excited to get growing pains because even though it hurt, it mean i was going to be taller in the morning. anytime we go through something tough over here i get a little bit excited because i know i will be better because of it. i want you to know that i am happy and i love it here!!!
p.s. your hot fudge recipe calls for canned milk, but the only milk we get here is in bags. would that work? thanks for sending the package!!! i can't wait to get it! have so much fun on your trip i can't wait to hear all about it! send me tons of pictures!!!! if you send them from your phone they're usually sideways but it's okay i can turn my head. be safe and have fun! i miss you!
With Sister E. on p-day (Elders and friend photobomb)

Strange artwork in our apartment - my hair is growing!

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