Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like .. 11/30/14

There is something about Christmas time that brings you home even when you're away from home. We found the little tree a couple of weeks ago, the lights had been left here by the Childers, the couple we followed in CES.  We found the small bulbs and the little stuffed figures last week on one of the shopping trips Mike enjoys so much. :)   Our favorite is the little snowman on the left, the only one in the display of snowmen that had the Russian fur hat instead of just a beanie.  There are also a lot of sheep items here - again, the cutest in the display we were looking at, on the right below - blue and a tucked back nose. -- add a dangling legged snowman in the middle - can't get much better than that.  except ...

except - a Nativity of course.  Interestingly enough, although we made sure our children had nativities for their Christmas's away from home, and even took Allison hers because she will go to college when we are gone, we forgot to bring one.  Most of the stores here don't put them out until the end of December or into January because their Christmas is January 7.  They also celebrate the birth of Christ at Easter time, so you can also find some then.  My prayer to find one with cute faces so we could have it up along with the tree had an quiet answer that I didn't even recognize as an answer at first, when I thought to try the internet for a printable nativity.  But, it was an answer and there it was.  We like it a lot, better probably than if we had brought one.  It is pre-colored, so we just printed, cut, folded and glued the little figures into cones. I had forgotten how long it takes to cut something out that has so many tips and corners.  Our amazingly talented grandchildren could have done the figures and especially the creche much faster, but it was fun.  Tried to give you the whole picture in the first, closer on faces in the next, although couldn't get the angel.

These are the stockings Debbra and Matthew sent with us to be sure we had Bunkerville in our Christmas.
And - with the season and the song .. the weather outside is frightful...(not really, but it is kind of chilly.)   We decided to walk one morning last week even though the temperature was 9 degrees at about 9:00 a.m. .. it did warm up to 10 before we got back.  It was lightly snowing, and was a pleasant and pretty walk, both of us with considerably more layers, especially me,  this time than the similar picture taken a few weeks ago.   They do have a good walking path in our area that runs between the lanes of traffic.  They are lined with trees and benches to sit on
when it is warmer, also have flowers and grass then.    The temperature daily low has been 9 or 10, daily high between 19-23.   People here assure us that it doesn't get really cold until January when there is more snow and the wind blows.  Guess we'll find out.
Thought you'd like to see this picture of our vegetables and fruit laid out to dry after being washed in cool soapy water, rinsed and then soaked in a very mild clorox solution and finally rinsed off in bottled water .. So many colors and flavors and uses -- makes you think of D&C 59:18-23 abbreviated - "Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart ... to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul .. and it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; "

Last entry for this week - below we are on the bus coming home from a baptism - it is for our Branch, but we don't have a font so have to go to Engels - across the Volga which we always like.  I'm really not asleep.  The Yorgasens, right behind me, are the MLS - Member Leadership Support - couple that have been here and helped us much in getting oriented.  They are fun and amazing in their service to the members and the missionaries - and us.  This is their second mission to Russia, another area the first time.  But, they are being moved into the mission office in a couple of weeks because the couple there has extended as long as they can (does this sound familiar, Cec & Carol) and another couple hasn't been assigned.  Although we were on the right bus number, for some reason it didn't take the turn it usually does so we had to get off and walk back to the right street and another bus.  Another adventure - and neither of us dressed quite as warm as we were on our walk.  (I need to take the pictures once in a while so Mike is in them, he always looks good.)
We remain impressed with the people, but particularly with the faithful members, many of whom face things in their lives we have never had to deal with.  As we mentioned before, the church has been here 22 or 23 years.  Some of our older leaders (but younger than we are) talk of when they first went to church and there were only 1 or 2 other families.   Some of the youth have joined against their parents wishes - here at 16 you are considered an adult and don't have to have permission, although most of them ask for it anyway - and many are very strong with growing knowledge and testimonies.  They hold together and strengthen each other.   It is quite a tender and humbling experience, and testimony building for us, to sit in some of these discussions (we mentioned before that we are close to the Institute office, so the missionaries often bring their investigators to our apartment for the lessons) and listen and watch as the investigator or new member shares their insights as they become aware of the truthfulness of what they are learning.  Not sure if we can even express the feelings.  Miss you all but grateful to be here, we certainly are able to stay busy.    love .. the Russia Waites

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day In the Life of 11/23/14

Again, just a note - not that anything we ever post is that interesting or exciting to anyone, but they continue to direct us each time, so we continue to pass it on to you that what we write or pictures we post are not to be posted to facebook or other social media or copied into other emails.
I  typed this once already, minimized it, and lost it.  I did that last week and found it without looking for it, but only after I posted the second try. .. so here goes the second and probably shorter post for this week.  The security here is pretty amazing - the doors are thick, the key you can see is the old style key that goes into the lock, you turn it four times, whether locking or unlocking.  We're not sure what the 1st (or maybe it is the 4th) turn is for, but each of the other three puts a deadbolt in - or takes it out of you are unlocking.  There are three at the top, three at the bottom (which we don't use) and one in the middle that takes a regular key.

Our apartment is on the fourth floor - would be the third green one up because the bottom is also apartments.  Most often we walk down and sometimes if it looks like the elevator isn't coming soon, we walk up, unless we have our Babushka bags of groceries.  We are fortunate to be on a corner because it gives us extra windows which we do like.  Also there is an air conditioner, they say it gets hot in the summer.  We'll see.  The gate opening in the second picture is going from the Institute building toward our apartment building, the next is the gate you have to buzz through to get to the parking lot and the last is the - again heavy - door you have to buzz through to get into the building.

Below is the Institute Building, we meet on the bottom floor in some rooms that used to be office.   The first picture is the building, the office is in the middle of the picture, bottom floor, with the light on.   The next picture is the door to the Institute with the Church's name.  This is where most of the Institute meetings we go to are, generally evenings .. and it is just through that gate I'm standing by in the picture above and then up a little and across the street - great location for us and centrally located for the Saratov district.  On Monday's we meet with a sister for an hour - 1/2 is on English for her, 1/2 on Russian for us.  Then there is a non-Home-Evening that the missionaries take care of.  We are usually there for part of that.  Tuesday evening is English Club, and they usually send each of us with a group.  Everything is in English and they do Hymns and lessons involving gospel related material.  Usually there is an assignment to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon which is discussed the next time. Wednesday is Institute and our Soup Cooking night - we take soup and bread because so many of them work or go to school and don't have time to go home.  If they do go home, they usually don't come back.  We have a full time Institute/Seminary teacher (also a counselor in the Mission Presidency) covering this area and several others, who teaches some of the time and a lady teaches the other times, both really good teachers, not that we can understand what they are saying, but the students are interested and participate.   Thursday night we've just started a single adult institute class and Friday night is game night, which we attend but are not over. 
 Our days are pretty full with cleaning, shopping, studying, practicing Russian, cooking and just trying to figure out what we are doing.  Also, the elders and sisters often bring their investigators up to our apartment for lessons.  They don't hang out extra time, they teach and maybe play a game, but then they move on.  

 As we mentioned before, the travel is most often walking or by bus and they do have a great bus system.  You rarely wait very long.  Last Friday we went to a store similar to a small Costco, kind of, has a lot of things, except it doesn't have what Costco has which is OK too.  It is about a 30-40 minute bus trip from where we live, depending on the traffic.  (Always the answer to the question, how long will it take?  "Depends on the traffic.")  This bus stops at the bottom of a small hill that you walk up to for the store. The bus at the bottom is typical of the buses we take, but there are lots of other colors.
 The picture of the store is next and the last picture is of the sleds inside .. you can see the sleds at the right end, then kind of a chair sled, and next a sled that can be pushed like a buggy.  Many of the buggies, by the way, can convert from wheels to runners in the winter, and often you'll see a section up a set of stairs that is made to push the sled up.  Pretty creative.

 For Carol - This is a picture of the Post Office - you can't see all of the letters because the letter that is the Russian P is behind the tree, but it says Pochta Russia.  It translates to Post Russia.

And here are just some pictures as we were on the bus - there is a street corner, a trolley and the last shows the trolley wires - again, pretty intricate transportation system.

 As to the weather - I was telling Mike that maybe the cold in Russia wasn't as cold as the cold at home, at least hasn't been what I expected, then realized that before we leave the apartment, depending on the temperature, I have on 2-4 layers plus a good winter coat, boots, a scarf and two pairs of gloves .. gloves inside of mittens.  Mike has only had to wear his heavy coat once, but I suspect that time might be coming.  It dropped from the twenties into the teens this week.  
Closing with a couple of lines from Mike's letter to David Stratton, speaking of the missionaries - "this missionary work, the proselyting is their domain.  I read the Book of Mormon the first time before their parents were born.  They don’t complicate things, don’t try to “wow” the investigators, but tie themselves to “Preach My Gospel” and teach short lessons with frequent testimonies and unapologetic discussions of baptism."
Certainly our testimonies have grown since we've been here.  And we have realized how blessed we have been to have had so much interaction and so many fun times and serious times with our children and grandchildren - so many good and cherished memories.  Many senior couples have never had that.   We are grateful to be here.  Miss seeing all of you and knowing how you are and what you are doing, but glad we have had those wonderful experiences that bring the closeness that makes it possible to miss someone.  :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Denis & Carol Ashton 11/13/14

Our post follows this - but wanted to add this post from the blog of  some good friends from St. Johns, Arizona days.  This is from the day they were leaving the MTC.  Thought you would all enjoy it, touches your heart:
         Day 1 - Friday
We got up about 6 a.m. and started packing the truck back up in the "cool" morning air.   We got most everything loaded up and then it was time to load the really "important" things. 
Elder Ashton loading the bikes 
There were several other couples loading up the "important" things, too and it was so funny it made me laugh out loud!   Elder Ashton was loading his bikes, the guy across the way who had only been there 5 days came down the stairs carrying his 36" flat screen TV and loaded it into the back seat of his car. Finally the couple that lived 4 doors down and had been there 5 days also loaded those things that were most important to them.   The Sister was a tiny little lady with white hair and she came out gently carrying two house plants which she very carefully placed in the back seat.   Her husband slowly followed her, very shaky in his walking, and also carefully loaded his "important" things on the other side of the back seat - high top basketball shoes.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Week of Activity 11/9/14

  The start of an interesting week - our refrigerator went out and later that day more of the plugs and lights did too - the breaker was down but wouldn't stay back up.  Our landlady was out of the country for the week and won't be back until tomorrow which is ok.  No complaints - the stove is gas and random plugs work, the light over the bathroom sink works as does that plug so the blow dryer and curling irons are usable.  The washer works and after a couple of days the elders had to use the computers, so they ran a cord,  There are no lights in the bedroom, but we have flashlights, and there are several windows so during the day it is light, so I guess we didn't rough it at all.  We had just been shopping so had meat, chicken and some good ice cream which the missionaries were more than happy to take off our hands since the fridge freezer didn't work.  The rest of the things in the fridge we just moved to the glassed in outside porch - opened a couple of windows there and closed the door into the kitchen.  It is actually as cold, maybe a little cooler than the refrigerator.
     We had to go back up to Samara - Mission Home - to meet with another CES couple.  We went up Wednesday morning, attended the institute there and met with them regarding the program there, stayed Wednesday night at the extra apartment at the mission home, then back Thursday.   It is about a 6-7 hour trip but interesting to see things along the way.

   There was another baptism for our branch yesterday,  a roommate to another recently baptized member, the girl in the blue blouse.  The young lady between those two, a member for a couple of years.  The lady on the left is an investigator.    - all good, fun people.  (couple of missionaries having fun in the background)
 This is Mike, a long time, take-care-of-everybody member of the Engels branch where they had the baptism, retired police I think.  He said that his tradition is to give the senior couples a knife, he'll make sure we get one the next time he sees us - reminds us of  Elder Gardner from Page who used to give the knives if you memorized the Proclamation to the Family.  When Elder Klebingat was here, he gave him a knife-knife - one of those sword kind that Michael & Riley would be excited to own - I think ours is much smaller.
We've sent pictures of the church building before, but wanted you to see more of the area.  The bus stops at the bottom of the hill and we have to walk up and over the bridge - this is the view from the bridge that goes over the train tracks - you'll recognize the building, we meet in the corner between the white and pink buildings about 2 1/2 stories up.  There are just two actual church buildings in the Samara Mission, others are rented space. 

We had a belated pumpkin carving activity at the Institute.  This is Mike with out little babushka cart and a couple of bags carrying the pumpkins back from one of the outdoor markets.  He's done more shopping in the last month than he has in the last 42 years - that isn't a complaint by the way, just a report.
Pumpkin carving is always fun, for some it was their first time and they did some quite creative things.   

 So, all is well - we are good.  It is still hard to believe we are actually in Russia but recognize it is a long ways away.  We do miss home and family, and have thought of the feelings those early missionaries must have had as they were away from family with no email or internet or phone and often for a very long time.  We've thought of Grandma Waite with even more love and respect and admiration for her missionary service on her own without the blessing of having each other as we do.  She loved family and Bunkerville, and she surely missed that terribly, but worked her heart out with no complaints.    We are grateful to be able to serve here and have been impressed with the people.
   Strange to think I'm saying this since I'm the one who can wear a sweater during the summer,  but the weather hasn't been bad the last few days -- with no rain or snow or wind, and bundled up (me, not Mike - he's still just wearing his suit coat and jacket) - low 40's doesn't seem so bad.  We even walked down to the small new corner market after dinner Friday and bought a couple of ice cream bars that we ate on the way home, me without my gloves on. :)   more next week ..  .

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Volga, Baptism, Conferences 11/2/14

 Kind of a cloudy day, but still a thrill to actually be on the Saratov Bridge which crosses the Volga to join Engels and Saratov which are both part of the Saratov district.   Engels has one of the three baptismal fonts in the mission so all baptisms for our area are there.  We had studied and read a lot about it before we came, still hard to believe we are here.  There is a picture earlier from the shore where you can see the bridge in the background.  We do like the Volga. 
This is the baptism - because they were there for the conferences, President Schwab (left) and Elder Klebingat (right)  and Brother Ridd attended.  Made it even more memorable for Ivon, who is in our Institute class.

 Below is another picture of the building we meet in, but a better shot of the whole building, we are three floors up.
 This is inside the building for the mission zone conference and the Saratov District Conference - like our Stake Conference - Sister Schwab - the mission president's wife you can barely see, Elder Klebingat of the Seventy is on the left and Brother Ridd  from the Young Men's General Presidency (his wife is in front of him)  
Sister Schwab asked the MLS Couple here - Jorgensens (on my left) and us if we could fix something so they could feed the visiting authorities before they had to go to the airport. Sister Jorgensen is a blessing and great to work with.  It was a bit intimidating, but things have a way of working out and it went well even with some adjustments for food things we couldn't find.  They are all very gracious and comfortable and fun to be with.  Including pics so you can see our frontroom.  Mike moved the kitchen table into the frontroom because the kitchen isn't big enough.

Because we are in a corner we have lots of windows, which we both like.  This is the corner of the front room, 
All for now .. more next week.