Sunday, January 25, 2015

1/25/15 Skating Rink Sidewalks and Haircut

We are to the season of snow-melt-ice...more snow-more melt-thicker ice...still more melt on top of the melt-even thicker ice and on and on and finally it really is cold, into the below zeros - the teens and twenties sound like summer weather.  Our Russian friends just smile and say .. Russian winter.  When they talk about the "hot" summer coming that will be in the 80's, it sounds pretty good to us.  Elder Waite attempts to keep the walk in front of the "office" which is what everyone call the Institute, cleaned off.  That doesn't just mean shoveling, it means chipping away the ice.   You can see that the walk behind him for a very long way is still icy.  Walking is like being in an ice skating rink though not nearly as flat, lots of holes and ruts - but maybe that is better.   One of the sister missionaries in Toliatti fell when they were out on the street contacting and broke her ankle.  Their tender mercy for the day, they said, was that the first one to stop to see if they needed help was a nurse just getting off duty from a fairly close hospital.  The sisters said "she called an ambulance just like she was calling a cab."  They got the sister missionary to the hospital where they set her ankle.  When she was able to go back to the apartment, the elders came and helped, but it looks like she is going to have to go back home to the US for surgery.  We've been blessed.   I've fallen once, Mike a couple of times, but no injuries.  We just hold on to each other and slide along.

Below is Elder Harrison, one of our Zone Leaders.  You can see the thickness of the ice better in this picture.   A couple of the Elders often come on Saturday mornings to help Elder Waite with the cleaning of the "office."  If they have time to come up after, we feed them pancakes with homemade maple syrup - they're grateful for the food and we're always grateful for the help.
This is a grocery cart from the larger store we shop at, Ashan.  They have a great system for the carts always being returned, in fact, most don't take the carts out of the store.  Just above where you see the chain coming out from the grey box, you can barely see the tip of a 10 ruble coin, which you have to put in to allow the flat hook at the other end of the chain - in my hand at the bottom of the picture - to come apart from the cart in front of the one you are getting.  When we finish shopping we push the cart back into the line, return the hook into the slot of the cart in front and the 10 ruble coin pops back out.  Seems to work very well.   We've never seen any carts in the parking lot.
When the Yorgesens were moved to be the office couple in Samara, we were assigned to help with the Humanitarian projects in this area, which they had been doing.  So, Friday morning we went with Pavil, the area Public Relations for the church here and a couple of Elders to take care of the closing of one of those projects - a TB hospital in a town right across the river.   We had to be in masks, plastic shoes and gowns.  Elder Waite's was just a bit tight when he buttoned it over his suit, but anything looks good with his Russian hat, or shopka.  After whatever items their project covers has been delivered and put into use, there are papers that have to be filled out and signed and stamped, pictures taken and a certificate of completion that goes to the Church's humanitarian center in Moscow.  It is very interesting and touching.  We really don't realize what we have at home until we see what they don't have here.  The doctors and nurses who work in these hospitals are very dedicated to their work, just really nice people.  We belong to an amazing church.
We went again on Friday to the District Meetings of the missionaries in the Dachney/Solnechney areas.  It is good to be able to get to know them better.  We are impressed that the missionaries here contact on the streets even in this weather and don't complain about it.  Below are a couple of better pictures of the building, last week the picture was from the bus stop that is up a little hill and across the highway.  
The complete area inside the fence where in the spring will be grassy, is now a solid sheet of ice, just the sidewalk coming in is chipped out.  You can see by the second picture that it is a good sized building, for here anyway.

 This building and the building in Engels are owned by the church and both have baptism fonts. Other buildings that are rented only have movable tanks like the one below, the cover is similar to a pool cover at home, but heavier.  We wanted you to see it, so blocked the faces that we can't publish on a blog.  The missionaries joke that the investigator has to jump from the steps and make it into the font to be able to be baptized.  They use a ladder that goes up the side and then down into the water.
  Our S&I Director for all of Samara is standing behind Elder Waite.  He is great - he does well with any age and also serves as first counselor in the mission presidency.  He and his wife also speak pretty good English.  They have a young family, little girl, almost 4 and a little boy who just turned one.
Mike took the picture below when he was taking a picture of the outside of the building above.  If you look close you can see a young woman pulling her baby on a sled stroller.  She is on a road that goes up away from the building.  The sled/strollers are quite inventive, some are strollers that have sled runners that will fold down below the wheel so they can go on the snow.  Others also have small wheels on the back they can tilt back on if they need to push on wheels for a while.
 Below is from our bus trip home - the bus was packed and it took about an hour and a half to get home, about the same as last week.  When we first got on we couldn't even move, but it was below zero outside and we were glad to be on the bus.  Mike got me into a side seat and had to stand next to me by the window. More people got on after us and we weren't able to get a picture when there was a whole line of hands.  We were about half way home when the bus pulled up next to another bus - same number and same direction.  Over the speaker the driver said something, ending with Pazhalta (please) but his voice was more a command than a request.  Nobody paid, but everyone got off, so we followed and barely made it into the other bus, even more packed.  There was a babushka behind us who was a bit miffed and expressed her frustration to us.  We could only shake our heads, smile and say "pongleeski"  meaning we only spoke English.  We wished we could have heard what she was saying and hopefully explain the reason for the change right in the middle of traffic.  We skated/walked home from our bus stop and made it home without freezing and with no falls .. can't be much better than that .. another adventure.

And finally - the haircut, which we will not post pictures of.   Somehow in the explaining to cut off malinki (little), it ended up as manoga (a lot).  Oh well, Grandpa Waite always said the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut was just a couple of weeks.  Actually, it isn't a bad haircut, although she isn't as good as Randy, she is very good, but it is short.  I should spike it up.  My mother could always remember any rhyme - this is one of those and the haircut made me think of it:
  For beauty I am not a star
There are others more fair by far
But my face - I don't mind it, 
Because I'm behind it
It's the people in front that I jar.  :-)

Kind of  a long blog this week, so will close.  At a lesson with the sisters and an investigator a couple of days ago, the young woman asked about the Word of Wisdom, wondering why coffee and tea are not good for you.  We found a couple of statements from to answer that question so thought we would pass them on, makes us think of the scripture in Samuel "Obedience is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of lambs."  Elder Nelson's quote also remembered me of the promise in D&C 89:19 about  the blessing of wisdom.  (I do know "remembered me" isn't correct English, but it seems to say it best.)

·        This is a question that people ask us as missionaries quite a bit. A lot of people are looking for a specific answer such as "because they contain caffeine" or "because they are addictive", but the real answer is, we do not drink coffee, tea, or alcohol, because our Heavenly Father has commanded it. We have been given our bodies as a gift from God, and while we control them, we are his children. He wants us to stay as healthy and happy as we can and gives us these commandments so that we can do just that. Sometimes we do not understand the commandments of God, but we must follow them, so that one day, we can be worthy to return to live with him and have eternal happiness for forever.·         
·        “One keeps the Word of Wisdom knowing that obedience will not only bring freedom from addiction, but it will also add blessings of wisdom and treasures of knowledge.”—Russell M. Nelson  “Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign, May 2011, 35                                                                                                   

We are grateful for those in the Stake Presidency who have served with "unwearyingness" and we are excited about and sustain the new Stake Presidency!!!   We do miss all at home, but would not change the opportunity of being here and doing what we can to help because we have been so very blessed in our lives.  As the song .. "because we have been given much, we too must give."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

1/18/2015 Another Taxi, Another Bus

    We tried the taxi again, going from where we live in Saratov to Dachney where we now meet with two other districts, supposedly 45 minutes by bus .. but as they always say here when you ask how long it will take to get somewhere -  "depends on the traffic."  Our very competent driver (who we suspect would be able to do well in a competition of off-road racing in snow and ice, if they had such a thing) did get us to the side of the church, took about 55 minutes.  The traffic was bad and the only reason we made it as fast as we did is because he took all back roads except for about 10 minutes on major streets.  He was a good driver, very aggressive and we experienced lots of interesting snowy, icy and slushy roads, bumps and curves and saw places not on the normal route.  He had to go around a larger van type vehicles, another ground transportation, that was stuck going the wrong way on a one way road -- whoops, did I say road -- more like a short-cut.  The car in front of us went around the the van and was so close that if one mirror hadn't been under the other, they would have touched.  We did make it just a few minutes late for the first meeting.  We are always impressed with these young elders and sisters and their dedication and hard work.  It is good to hear the stories of their good and not-so-good experiences, of the funny things and the heart-touching things.  Always testimony strengthening.
          This is the church building at Dachney - you can see it from the road  - has a blue roof and a blue steeple.  Makes you wonder why our taxi driver last week couldn't find it.   Mike took the picture from across the street while we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the bus.  The bottom picture is also as you look across the street, you can see the end of the church at the left of the picture.  Lots and lots and lots and lots of theses kinds of apartment buildings everywhere.
      One bus came just as we got to the bus stop a little before six,  but in truth was so full that although they opened the doors, only one person could get on and he was almost caught when the doors closed.  We waited another 30 minutes in the cold (not complaining, just reporting) and got on the next one, also full, only because we've learned from watching the babushkas, to stand by the front bus door they get off through, and after everyone getting off is off, just step up and the driver will let you on.  It was so crowded even then we could barely move.  The ride home was not quite as exciting, emptied enough that we could sit down, and took an hour and twenty minutes, just lots of slow moving traffic because of the weather.

We've had two major grocery trips this week because of some mission and district meetings coming up:  Ashans - similar to a large Smith's and about 20 minutes away by bus (after you walk 10-15 minutes, depending on the ice, to the bus stop) / Metro - similar to a large Walmart . (Same walk to the bus stop but 30-40 minutes away.)  / There is another store we didn't go to, and Mike was so sad to miss it, we'll have to try another time  :(  - Lenta - and that would compare more to a Costco, but adds another 20-30 minutes on the bus.  We posted a picture earlier, it is the one, because of its location and the roads coming - or not coming - in the bus has to let you off at the bottom of a little hill and you have to scale the hill to get to the store.  Metro is the only place you can get cheddar chesse,  bottles of taco sauce, cream of chicken or tomato soup, so we load up when we go.  They usually have the baking cocoa but didn't this time, but we did find a new candy bar we like.  We fit right in walking along with our bulging bags of groceries and crowding onto the bus to get everything home.  Here is a picture of the carrots at the store and then after we got them home.  We were used to the scrubbed vegetables at home, but once these are cleaned up, the are yum cooked or raw.

I took my first fall this week, the ice has been worse than usual.  We count it as one of our tender mercies that I didn't break anything - including the precious bottles of taco sauce.  We also got boots for Mike this week, even walking and finding our own way to the Sportsmaster store down by the Volga - and realized it isn't as far as we thought.
Here are a couple of pictures of the Kiev Ukraine temple - there were two groups from our district that went on temple trips last week.  They stay and do as many sessions each day as they can.  One couple from our older single adult group came back engaged, both have been divorced and looking for someone to whom the church is also important to.  It is fun to watch them.

We have a big district meeting coming up on the 1st of February.  President Bruce D. Porter, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy and who is also the Eastern European Area President will be here to determine if Saratov is ready to be made a stake.  Right now in Russia there are only two Stakes, Moscow and St. Petersburg.   He has meetings the day before with the District Presidency, the Branchs' leadership and the Mission Presidency, then the meeting for everyone is  Sunday.  The prayers of the faithful saints here are humble and fervent, they were close once before and didn't get there, so you can imagine that the excitement is running high.   It would open the doors for a lot of growth in the church here.   We are grateful to be able to be a small part of it all.   We are reminded of a FHE lesson Aaron Michael gave many years ago to fill a requirment for something - and we concur with all of our hearts .. "The church is true, there's work to do!!!"  

Monday, January 12, 2015

1/11/15 Baby It's Cold Outside

Did we really post the picture of the weather last week thinking it was cold -- those above zero temperatures look pretty good this week.  The big pipes you see below, and have seen here before, are the ones that run all over the city and bring hot water into the buildings and then it goes through radiators for heat, and they work well, pretty amazing system for the size of city this is.  Just in front of the bottom of the pipes you can see a manhole cover - what you can't see is the steam coming from it, the picture didn't catch it.  The heat from the water underground causes the steam and also that is why the area around the manholes is usually clear.
 It is probably two or three hundred yards from the church to the bus stop.  Below is the where we walk up from the church, the picture above with the pipes is when we are walking away from the church.  Then we have to cross the street - a big one but it has a pedestrian walk close - to get to the bus stop going home.  The snow has been nice because it is easier to walk on than the ice.  You would all like their green traffic light signal.  Below the green light there is a little green-light stick man who starts strolling as your time to  walk starts, but as the seconds tick down, the little man walks faster and faster .. very clever and fun to watch.
Our first visa trip was another experience - the visas here are good for three months, then you have to leave the country and come back in.  We left Samara at 6:30 a.m. - then to Moscow - then to Kiev - back to Moscow - and then to Saratov and were back at the apartment by 11:00 p.m. which is good, because some of the trips have been more than 24 hours and lots of waiting in the airports.  In Kiev we were only at the airport.  Would like to be able to go to the temple, but that involves more expense and overnight, but at least if they send us there again, we can somehow arrange to see the Mikkelsons.  We took a picture out the window when we were in the airport and as we were taking off - but we'll leave those for the Mikkelsons to send.  At a couple of the airports, they bus you from the airport terminal to the plane and back -- just to give you an idea of the speed and smoothness of that travel - here is a sign that is in the buses..
     We did have time in Samara before we left and walked up to where they had ice sculptures in one of their squares.  Mike is standing with their Father Christmas.

They even had a young man who had a reindeer and  giving rides to the children. 
All of the cities here have beautiful churches, this is one of the Catholic churches.  It even had bells playing as we were walking down the sidewalk by it - pretty cool. 
We were in Samara for Sunday, so also attended one of the branches there - they had headphones for all the English speakers and one of the elders has a microphone that will translate to all at once so we got all the talks.  It was testimony meeting, and again, pretty tender to hear some of their stories. This is one of the stand alone buildings that the church owns and it is tucked in behind a tire store.  They don't need a large parking lot because most people don't have cars.  The chapel area you see is upstairs, the stained glass windows are as you walk upstairs.   

.  Sometimes the blog seems like all we do is travel around and see things, but you can't take pictures of the feelings and experiences that touch our hearts and strengthen our testimonies.  We are busy with meetings with the missionaries who teach investigators at our apartment, and most late-afternoons and evenings have things going on at the Institute building we need to be to - FHE for those who don't have families, English Club, Institute, District Meeting - for Mike only, Activity Night for investigators and those members who want to come.  We attend the district meeting of the missionaries in our district, and starting last Friday will also attend a couple that are about 45 mintues away by bus.  One of our miracles last week - the Elders from our district sent us in a taxi because of everything we had to be to - the driver of said taxi was not exactly sure of where he was taking us and let us out when he hit ice he couldn't get past, pointed at what he thought was the church building and let us out.  We were about a football field and several fences away from said church building, but two Russian women came up when they saw us trying to figure where we were going.  We called one of the missionaries who could talk to them - after a conversation the older one (older than I am and Russian dressed in fur coat and cap) indicated us to follow her.  She took us back along the trail we had come from, about one hundred fifty yards to another building, along that building and around the corner .. and there was the church with the blue roof and steeple.  She took us right to the door and then started back on her way.  We are certain the kind little lady was our guiding angel for the day.  And we're grateful for that kind of personal help.  We're grateful to be here and grateful for all the support from back home.       Love    The Russia Waites

Saturday, January 3, 2015

1/4/15 Gone for Visa Trip

Hi all - we were late posting this last week, but will be gone for our "Visa Trip" this week.  We leave the country, get our new Visa and come back.  It is a 24 hour trip once we get to Samara.  Thought we'd include some pictures of our weather.    Post more next week.  :)