Just as a note - not that anything we have to say or pictures are all that important to anyone, the church and mission has asked that nothing be posted on face book - so any pictures or report we have will be on the blog. :)We take the bus from our apartment to the office building where our branch meetings are held. It is about a 5 minute walk to the bus stop. Then it is another 30 minutes to an hour depending on the traffic, and then from that bus stop we still have about a 5-10 minute walk, depending on which stop we get off on. Because of construction it isn't always the closest one. The first picture is on the way to the building, the next of the building, front door with the sign Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and then as we're walking back to the bus stop. It is an older area, but still nature has a great way of making things beautiful. The big pipes you can see in the pictures are part of their hot water system which is used in all the buildings for the radiators, pretty amazing really considering the size of the city. The government regulates when the radiators are turned off and on. Ours are on now, but we don't have them all on yet. We are fortunate because we are on the fourth floor, the lower ones are colder but because the buildings are concrete, they hold the heat. The high temperature here yesterday was mid-30's and will be the same tomorrow. We warm up to low 40's the next few days. We figured that yesterday it was about three times warmer in Bunkerville than it was in Saratov. It is interesting, however, because it has been colder and breezier, mid 30's and no wind didn't seem all that bad. :)
The next pictures are our apartment building, we are kind of tucked back in the corner on the 4th floor. There is a small parking area and they must have it figured out who comes and goes when because the cars are parked both ways and in front and behind of each other. It is hard to get a picture because we need to take it from above, but at night you weave your way through to get to the door into the building, but by 7 or 8 the next morning they are all moved out. There is a small play area and the mothers or grandmothers will have the children bundled and out playing all hours of the day and night. One of the sister missionaries here said the Russian's are told their children need to be outside almost everyday during their first two years. For the ones we have seen, the parents and grandparents - usually the grandmother actually - are attentive to their children. We were trying to show how small the elevator was, but it doesn't show very well - four people make it crowded but again, the people are accommodating. From the elevator there is a little hall that has our apartment door and the one across from it. You can stand in the middle with your arms out and touch both sides. The locks are interesting - the keys are like the old keys that are long and you have to turn them three times to unlock all the locks, each turn slides in another small strong deadbolt, then once you are inside that is how you lock it back up. There is one more lock that you just turn with your hand that is below those locks.
Finally the inside of the apartment, which is nice .. and plenty of room for what we need. We're grateful for our closet and chest of drawers, some apartments have closets that are more like a coat closet and no chests of drawers. The stove is small, gas which I'm learning to use, and an oven that will barely take a 9 x 12 pan, the edges get done a bit faster than the middle. They don't have much selection on cold cereal - mostly the sugar cereals - Mike has decided oatmeal is good - with plenty of sugar on it of course. They have plenty of fresh vegetables, but you have to wash everything first with warm soapy water, then soak in a Clorox solution of 1 tsp per quart, then rinse with the bottled water. This is just the missionary rule, I'm sure those who are raised here don't do that. They don't have dryers, so that is our drying rack you see on the side in the bedroom.
We have about 20 active young adults, and one of our assignments is to reactivate. The youth we have are strong and fun and speak only Russian for the most part. We've had a couple of institute activities - I've already learned to make more than we think we will need and that you don't do make-your-own sandwiches or there quickly isn't enough for all. Even with desserts, apparent the best thing is to put the portions out on napkins, then if there is some left you let them share.
That is enough for now .. the sister missionaries are going with me to see if I can find some winter boots. Mike wanted to go because he enjoys shopping so much, but decided to stay home and study and organize. Love to you all