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.
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. :)