Monday, December 28, 2015

12/27/2015 Google Translate, Christmas, Mud, Zone Conference

Disclaimer .. Other blogs don't seem to have the variety of fonts, the white spaces around some of the lines and various and sundry other little quirks I seem to somehow introduce into ours.  When I try to fix it under the "edit" it only makes things worse .. so .. here it is as is and our children, or grandchildren can teach me some things when we get home. 

True to Christmas tradition, we made a list of those here we wanted to remember with a little treat.  Thinking to say something they could actually read, I went to Google Translate and typed in "Merry Christmas from Elder Waite and Sister Waite."  (Unless you put each name it translates funny.)  So - this is what we printed on our labels: 
счастливого Рождества

                       От старца Уэйт и сестра Уэйт   
Mike took the ones for District Meeting Thursday night; and Friday when we had Sergei and Anait (the one who does the Matroshka dolls) over for dinner, we gave them theirs.  He looked it and started to laugh.  Apparently there are several translations for Elder, the one for Elder-missionary  is старейшина (Sta-ray-sha-na). The one we used, старца (Startsa) means wise old man.  
    So "Merry Christmas from Wise Old Man Waite and Sister Waite."  
We had more comments today from others we had given them to but they understand google translate so also thought it was funny.  They did comment that they don't consider him "old" although they feel he certainly is wise.  I whole-heartedly agree!
    It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here, but they celebrate on the 7th of January.  There are Christmas tree lots all over and the only thing you need to check is how tall you want it.  It almost looks like they have just topped a lot of tall trees so the shape and fullness is always great.
the sisters at the branch building - quite a few helped decorate ..

 and we have our apartment decorated like last year, adding a couple of ornaments that have been given to us:

The church also has this poster up for Merry Christmas:
I mailed a package to a recent convert who has moved to Moscow thinking that I would learn and then could mail more packages.  However, this was the first time and last time at the same time as my Dad would say.  I went with the sisters because our Russian sister (on the right) had to get her passport.  Had she not been with us, we probably would still be there.   The only advice we were given is that we should take a Russian with us and it didn't take long to understand why.  You use their boxes, which isn't really expensive but the lines and figuring what you need and repacking is a very long process and takes someone "Russian fluent" in the language.  Hardly any of the missionaries ever try to mail anything home.  Sister Howe, left, is from Las Vegas.
Then they needed the address written in Russian, including zip codes and indez number which would have been pretty much impossible without Sister Mateykina's help.
 All in all, it has been a good Christmas.  Mike usually takes me shopping for an outfit, but my choice was to wait until we got home.  So, instead, since it had "warmed up" to 40 degrees F, wasn't sprinkling anymore and the sun was out, we decided to walk down by the Volga, but this time take a different route and walk on the other side of the bridge that is less developed.  The clouds looked like they were just resting on the bridge.
     The bus was crowded and the windows muddy, so we missed the last bus stop before the bridge where we should have gotten off.  But since they let us off in the middle of the bridge before when we walked down to the island, we asked - more in pointing than words - if they would let us out there.  We couldn't understand the words, but could tell by the hand actions of the driver and the money-taker lady that it wasn't allowed and as we neared the Engels side, they pointed out a man in one of those bright chartreuse colored highway-worker like suits, who apparently was there to stop people from going on the bridge. 
       But, back to the exciting, well not so exciting, story.  We got off at the first bus stop in Engels, made a quick dash across the muddy street and caught the bus going back .. then the nice surprise, just as we started up the bridge, you could see at least the bottom part of a big rainbow, which was wide and bright.  These were taken through slightly muddy bus windows so don't show as much color.   It was cool - there weren't a lot of people on the bus and people generally don't interact much,  but everybody was showing everybody else, even the money-taking lady.  We counted it a tender mercy to have missed the bus stop because we wouldn't have seen it from the Saratov side.   
And we remembered another rainbow on our trip to Provo to the MTC 14 months ago. 
We got off at the first bus stop and headed down toward the river, at least that is where we thought we were going.  We did find a sidewalk that went along the side of the Volga, but also there was an 8-10 foot wall, some parts tin and some cement, between us and the river.  The "sidewalk" was dirt, therefore slippery mud because of the snow that had melted; but hoping for a road either taking us down to the Volga or up a street so we could see over the wall, we hung on to each other - more me holding on to Mike - and laughed as we sloshed and slipped along for a couple of miles.  There were no openings to go down to the Volga and no streets on the other side where you could go up.  At the top of a little hill, we could see then it wasn't going to change and also that we probably weren't in a very good area.   
          So we sloshed and slipped and slogged back. It was fun, we enjoyed the rainbow and the sky - and getting back to damp but solid ground and a bus stop that had buses coming and going.  We usually can take the 284B or D bus, so when a 284 came, we thought it would work.  However, after we got further back into Saratov and it took a couple of turns we weren't used to and missed a turn we were used to, we decided to get off.  Mike now can find our way back home even if, as he said before "we're not lost .. I just don't know where we are."  It was a little longer walk from the bus than we had planned, but still was a good day and in truth, Mike probably enjoyed it more than shopping.  
We had our zone conference and Christmas dinner for all the missionaries in our zone.  Sister Schwab made honest to goodness chicken enchiladas with sauce and real chopped green chile that her children brought when they came over.  We also served beef (hamburger) soft tacos, Spanish rice,  Sister Schwab's signature cooked brown/sugar carrots  that the missionaries always ask for, and for dessert brownies with ice cream and crunched up candy canes.  
  the very large, and very tasty enchilada is hidden under the torilla. 
     One of the highlights at the end of the meeting - President Schwab had each missionary come with a favorite scripture about Christ .. there was only one used twice.  It was really tender to have each one give the scripture and tell why it was important to them.  We do enjoy these young missionaries and are impressed with the many things they do.  The one we want to share is the one that was used twice.  We also know that the safety from the mighty winds and shafts and hail the dark side sends, in truth comes from building our foundation upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God!   

Helaman 5:12 – And now, my sons (and daughters and everyone) remember, remember, that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

12/20/2015 Saturday sports, Baptism, Moses & Enoch, Merry Christmas

Saturday sports time - this is the room the wards rent for two-three hours on Saturday.  It isn't large,  and it is old with an old floor, but they are pleased with the accommodations and make it fun.  Anyone can come; they split in teams to play.  They play steady and hard and church basketball games at home.  It reminded us of the saying on a T-shirt Danny Brotherson gave our Stephen when they were in high school - The Meek May Inherit the Earth, but They Don't Get the Ball.  If someone doesn't get the ball here, it isn't because he didn't try.  A couple of referees would have had their hands full.  Within fifteen or twenty minutes there might have been more out on fouls than still playing.   Sorry for blurry, but you can see what the building is like. 
 The young man in the yellow below has been in the pictures of the football (soccer) games.  He is quite a ball handler and fun to watch.  He has been a member of the church about a year and a half.  Since he was baptized, his mother and younger brother have joined.  Families are so important.  Maxim is in the black at the back.  He does well at any sport he plays. 
This is the bleacher section, also part of the playing floor.  Walls are the out-of-bounds.
 One of our new Bishops, former member of the Stake Presidency, and a ball player when he was in school.  He is fun to watch, especially taking the ball down the floor and making a layup.  His wife is the one who teaches the deaf students.
Maxim again - shooting this time.
Winter has begun with the snow and ice - the Russians just shrug -- it will be gone in a few months.  A side note -- whoever wrote the Christmas song .. It's a Marshmallow World had most likely only fallen in the snow instead of falling on ice -- nothing marshmallow-y about ice.
Someone left these Yaxtrax in our apartment so I tried them on my boots yesterday.   It does help on the snow, but can be a little slick on the tile.  That would be ironic, to wear them not to slip and then break a leg slipping on the tile at bottom of our stairs.
We have mentioned that on Wednesday evening before the Young Adult Institute class we serve soup (or something).  On pancake night, Mike is the cook and we serve those with homemade maple syrup.  That and Taco soup are the favorites.  Except for the pancakes, which he does on an electric grill, we fix everything at home and just bring it down since there is no stove.  There is a small fridge and microwave and we can do the dishes with hot water from the bathroom sink.
Who said we didn't have a dryer at our apartment -- a drying rack and three fans
Remember when we picked up jelly rolls thinking they were hamburger buns.  When we were coming home on the bus the other day, a couple of young ladies got on, settled in and then pulled those very same buns out of their bag for a treat.   
The Zadvaskoy Elders had a baptism Saturday afternoon in Engels.  It had been snowing most of the day so there was a lot of snow on the ground, which turned out to be a blessing.  When they fill the font, they can't always regulate the temperature, and it was way too hot for a baptism. 
The Bishop and Elder's Quorum president came up with a quick solution.  From the small back yard of the church, they brought in 30+ big buckets of snow plus some shovels full which made it bearable.  The irony is that Mikael - the man being baptized - originally wanted to be baptized in the Volga; but since it is starting to freeze, the Elders convinced him this would be better.
 The snow also added some leaves to the usually clear water -- but still better than too hot.
          Just learned something kind of fun, which a lot of you probably already know.  Question first - is Noah the only one God made a covenant with to not flood the earth again?  I always thought so.  Genesis 9: After the flood, God established his covenant with Noah that the earth will not again be destroyed by flood: vs. 15 -17 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.  And the bow (rainbow) shall be in the cloud ...This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
   But there is more .. this is from the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 9:16-17  ...the earth.  And I will establish my covenant with you, which I made unto Enoch concerning the remnants of your posterity. (Moses 7:51-52)
                   Laie, Hawaii Temple.

Moses 7:49 - 51 And when Enoch (Noah's great-grandfather) heard the earth mourn, he wept and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth?  Wilt thou not bless the children of Noah?  And it came to pass that Enoch continued his cry unto the Lord, saying: I ask thee, O Lord, in the name of thine Only Begotten, even Jesus Christ, that thou wilt have mercy upon Noah and his seed, that the earth might nevermore be covered by the floods.  And the Lord...covenanted with Enoch..that he would stay the floods...  
so --- many years before the voyage of the ark and the token of the rainbow with Enoch's great-grandson, Noah, the Lord covenanted with Enoch.  How cool is that!!!
Noah with family and animals
Closing with a quote from Bruce R. McConkie in the April, 1972 conference (just a couple of months after we were married).  We liked it then, and like it even more now and to it add our testimonies:
"Now the glorious thing that has happened in this day is that the heavens have been opened; that God has spoken again; that he has called living oracles, men who are apostles and prophets, to be his mouthpiece, to declare his mind and his purpose and his will to the world; and his message is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; and it is administered in the Church which bears his name....And if there is one wondrous thing about this work, it is that it is true; that there is saving efficacy and virtue and force in the gospel of Jesus Christ; and that the power of God unto salvation is found here in the tops of these everlasting hills; and this glorious truth is spreading out to all the nations of the earth as rapidly as people in them accept the testimony and witness that is borne and believe the truths that our fellow representatives proclaim." 
      Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

12/13/2015 Kazakhstan Visa Trip, Tide, Nativity, Fire Drill

            Good treat for all of you this week - from Mike's journal about our visa trip to Kazakhstan. We may have mentioned this before, but any non-citizens have to go out of the country either every three or six months to renew their visa.  Fortunately we have the six month visa.  This is our transportation - the missionaries call it the Ramon-Von for Ramon, the mission driver who can find anything and drive any road.  Rare picture of it dirty, even in muddy weather he keeps it clean  

This is Ramon with President Blinkov, who works for the church/mission in Samara and also is counselor in the mission presidency.  Ramon, left, graduated from university and has a degree in engineering, but he makes more working for the church.  He is also a professional two-man team volley-ball player and has won several championships.  Now to Mike's Journal entry:

         We woke to a 5:00 alarm, which doesn’t happen often, and moved through the morning routine, then grabbed all those things we had put aside last night. Lynnette took chicken sandwiches and candy. I  took some reading material, but made sure, above all, that I was carrying our passports. We got to the office at 6:15 on the dot, and waited only a few minutes for Roman who had already picked up Sisters McKell and Reed. We stopped for Elder Fry and then escaped, with difficulty, the traffic of Saratov, bound for the border of Kazakhstan on our third and last Visa run. Our other trips were to Riga, Latvia and Kiev, Ukraine.  We were driving due west, I think, into a dusty looking gray. In fact, the terrain was nothing whatsoever like our trip several months ago with Pres Markelov to Izhevsk, which was an inspiring beauty. This would have been more breath taking in a different season, but today it was brown and gray. The tree strips along the brutal road were lifeless and dry looking.
         An occasional panoramic shot gave evidence of what would be in the spring and summer rolling hills of sunflowers, bordered by tree lines. But today was picturesque because it felt cold and uninspired. And we did see cows and sheep.
The villages were small crowds of unlighted sheds, or so they seemed. Sometimes several lines of unbeautified homes under the shadow, so to speak, of the silos or factories. 
Roman was on a tight schedule for he had to return to Samara Friday night.  So he took that patched, pot-holed road with good speed, hitting some bumps and dips that lifted us out of seats—or would have had we not been buckled in. Roman pointed out that it was a good thing, it was cheaper and kept drivers awake.  We made the trip there with only one relief stop in the three and a half hours, which Lynnette and I were grateful for.  
      (They do not allow pictures at the border and there were stories and plenty of border patrol around so it wasn't much of a temptation.  We got the two from the internet and it is almost exact but the white building on the left as you enter was blue, weather the same as in the picture.  
Image result for kazakhstan border crossings
Someone opens every gate you go through after they check to make sure you have the number you are supposed to - the vehicle is checked going in and out when all are out of it. They are nice - just very careful.)  Then came the cold process of getting our passports stamped. This week was the first time the mission had made use of this close neighbor, instead of flying to Kiev or Riga, but we were the third group this week, so Roman knew what to expect. On the Russian side we had to deliver our passports and stand out in the cold, and it was beginning to get quite chilly—Lynnette had debated which coat to take and was becoming more and more grateful she had taken the heavier of the two.  The immigration soldiers or those in what seemed military uniforms were inside a booth each time, but we stood outside a window before a camera in the temperature that was dropping. 
Image result for kazakhstan border crossings
          We stood in Russia, then passing two gates before and after, drove a dirt road perhaps two miles to the Kazakhstan border and went through the same process. Again we loaded up, went through another gate into Kazakhstan maybe a hundred yards and drove back first to second booth on the Kazakhstan border, along that same two mile dusty, cold road to the Russian booth, where for the last time stood again in line. It was then time to wish we had brought our double socks and under armour.  (The pictures below are ok for us to post, you can see the Welcome to Kazakstan in English on the bottom line, above is Russian, top is Kazak.  You can also see they don't want you to honk your horn, they come and get you when it is your turn.  The guards were all business but not unpleasant.
This is a building as you go into Kazakhstan (you can almost read it yourself if you know the C has an S sound and the H has an N sound.  Putin is in the middle.
         After all had received the necessary stamps (two leaving and two coming back in) we headed for the van, but one more delay. For some reason they decided to examine us, to see what we were doing here in Russia. A boy in a uniform selected me and Sister McKell, but it was a young gentleman, not in a uniform, who realized quickly I spoke no Russian.  He took the two of us into a room where he questioned Sister McKell about our purposes in Russian. She gave him an Articles of Faith card and they talked. He asked questions that seemed professional and of personal interest, and the full time he was respectful and kind. After perhaps twenty minutes we were dismissed, he shook our hands and we were on our way. The scenery didn’t improve for the return trip, but the sandwiches were welcome and most, excepting Roman, got a little sleep. 
          Grandma Waite would be pleased to know that we have been able to get Tide here - in fact, it is less expensive that it is at home by almost half.  
EXCITING!!!  We found a nativity, the first we have seen here.  Saturday we went over to an activity center  where a couple of the branches - whoops - wards, have rented a gym sized floor for two or three hours on Saturday afternoons.  There was a man selling a variety of food items as we went in, and tucked in among everything was this .. it is made out of some kind of wax, and we're glad to have it.  It won't melt here but we may have to be careful when we get back home. 
      Sunday we had a fire drill during the Volzhski Ward sacrament meeting.  We had been told and the city was there to make sure everything was done correctly.  It was freezing cold outside, but all stood around and laughed and chatted for the ten minutes or so we were out.  It was cool (in more ways than one)  there were a couple of the sisters who had gone out without a coat and immediately one sister opened her coat and wrapped both of them. Another, with one sister on each side who did the same.
           Sundays are busy because we attend two wards - Zadvaskoy is 10:00 to 1:00, Volshski  from 12:30 to 3:30.  Mike has to be in the clerk's office for part of that time so he can get the reports.  He goes to both sacrament meetings and is in and out of the other meetings.  Even though I don't understand what is going on unless someone is there to translate, I usually go to SS and Relief Society of the Volshski Ward.   A couple of weeks ago we moved the Single Adults middle group to 6:00 p.m.on Sundays because more can come at that time.  Also, a couple of times a month we have Institute Council at 5:00 p.m.  It is good to be busy.  Also, because of this we will try to have the blog posted by Saturday night or first thing Sunday morning instead of waiting until Sunday night and then not getting it done until later - like your Tuesday night this week.
        The picture below will give you some idea of our weather.  The sun doesn't come out a lot during this time of year.  We continue to be impressed with our young missionaries as they now face contacting in this cold weather. We are also impressed with missionaries everywhere who go out on the streets wherever they are and in whatever circumstances they face to bring this important message to all who will listen - and proud of those in our families who are serving - Elder Braxton,Leavitt,  Elder Clancy Leavitt, Sister Hanna Leavitt, Sister Devaney Rasmussen, and of course Elder & Sister Cecil and Carol Leavitt who have been willing to go out for the second time, even if it means being away from family and we all know how they love family.  They bless many lives.
Nice view of the Volga - 
 There are some things that are more than worth your money!!! (Translation - toilet)
Closing with Aaron's FHE lesson from many, many years ago
The Church is true!
There's work to do!
and the scripture:
D&C 128:22 - ...shall we not go on in so great a cause?  Go forward and not backward.  Courage, brethren and on, on to the victory!  Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad.
  Being here has been a great blessing for us and for our family.  Our testimonies and our lives are strengthened.