Monday, August 26, 2013

Week 21:

This week was funny.  Every week here is pretty strange, but this one was super interesting.  So me and the Armenian are super good buds now.  It's kind of funny because we can't really talk to eachother but we get along way better than me and Elder Beals ever have.  The sisters saw me and him talking to each other cracking up and they came over and asked, what language do you guys speak to each other? We don't really know. The man can dance, got some sweet arab moves, he promised to teach me.  Also something I learned about Armenians is they've got some crazy swag, he's got a kord suit that his mom made for him, pretty fresh.  Life in a tripanionship is pretty funny, we contact both sides of the street, two people on one side and one person on the other, which is tricky because we need to be able to see each other at all times, so when on side of the street starts having a long conversation the other side just has to walk back and forth until the other person is done.  I don't know if that made sense.  Working with elder Arshakyan has made me realize how fun training would be though, it kind feels like I am right now.  I am gonna ask the president if we can keep him.  He can say a couple things, like hey, can I ask you a question, or hey can I talk to you.  Sometimes I'll be trying to talk to people and I'll hear someone nervously cry "Elder!".  Then I turn around and see elder Arshakayan looking scared standing next to a confused Russian he just stopped.  Mans a champ though.  This week someone invited us to an AA meeting with him, because one of the things we do here as missionaries is help people out with addictions, and so he asked us to come check out his program.  We went thinking it would be a small group where people sit in a circle and share their experiences, but it turned out to be their annual all day shabang where people come from all over the Russia.  heh.  So we were sitting in there awkwardly wearing things that say hello, my name is Elder Holland, and I am an alcoholic, with a bunch of Russian recovering alcoholics from all over.  There were some interesting people in there to say the least.  We were just chilling in there trying to look natural and some lady came up to us and was like hey, you guys aren't alcoholics are you?  I said, nope you caught us, we be mormons.  She started laughing and was like hah, I knew it, nobody here wears ties.  So yeah that was funny, we had to leave early but it was interesting to see.  We had a couple of interesting meetings this week.  One Muslim guy I met on the street started getting pretty intense with me, he was a fiery one.  We were talking about God, but then he started asking me whether I use toilet paper or a bude (french toilet that shoots water) when I take my twosies.  I was asking him how that related to our conversation and he was like, look we are both men here, we can be honest, how do you do it.  That was awkward.  We had a meeting with one guy that was telling us about an out of body experience he had when he was 10 and there was an explosion.  He was dead for a little bit and they brought him back.  Pretty crazy story.  He's a cool guy, going to be moving to New York in a couple months to teach dance with his wife for 5 years.  Then we met with the guy who has been developing a new game of chess for the past 3-4 years.  He is a pretty interesting man, we asked him if he had a chance to read the Book of Mormon since we had met him and he was like, sorry I only read a tiny bit.  We asked him how much and he was like, eh only about 30-40 pages.  We said, well, that's not bad brother.  He wants to meet again and so we are happy about that.  Also guess who's back in town, Андрей, the sexy blind Russian chef and soon to be masseuse.  He was in church yesterday which we were super happy about.  Thanks for the letters Holly and Mom, they keep me going.  Holly about to go to college, weird.  Good luck to you young lady, don't get engaged.  That's all for this week everybody, hope all is well, thinking about you.  Stay golden.

Week 20:

Hold on to your pants people because there is news this week.  Middle of the week we get a call from one of the AP's and he says hey, do you guys like Armenians?  We said sure we love Armenians, then he said cool, we've got a new companion for you.  So now I am in a tripanionship, woo.  Our new comp served in Armenia for 6 months, decided he couldn't serve there anymore because it was pretty much his hometown, and then got reassigned to Moscow.  He had to leave because his family kept trying to visit him all the time and it was killing him.  Homesickness on the mission kills.  Friends and family, I love you, I want you to send me letters, but you stay the hecks out of my country.  Just kidding, kind of.  Just hard for missionaries because we are already missing home a lot and then if we get a little taste of our old life it just makes us want to go home.  Anyway they sent him to the MTC in England, over the course of 20 days taught him a spot of english, and then shipped him out to Russia.  So he speaks essentially no English or Russian. That's like me serving for 6 months in California, sending me somewhere to learn Spanish, and then making me serve in Korea.  Not gonna lie, the day we picked him up I was thinking wow, as if my life wasn't strange enough.  But I love this Armenian guy. He has an amazing attitude about all of this, he can't say much but everything we do he says, yeah no problem, I am happy.  He likes to cook and knit, so that's nice.  He already served in the army so now he is 25, and he just had some kind of surgery on his leg.  Still trying to figure out how this whole missionary thing works with 3 people, but we'll get it.  We had zone conference this last week, was good to see everybody.  They made a new program where we track our obedience for points and if we achieve a certain amount in a transfer we get a culture night, so basically if we do everything we are supposed to be doing we get twice the culture nights.  I like it, gives some extra motivation.  This week we had like 0 meetings with people, but we found a lot of new people.  This is  дача season in Russia, so pretty much everyone is out in the countryside.  They will come back eventually, but for now we are struggling.  Still trying to keep chugging a long, but at the same time changing stuff cuz clearly things are not working.  I met a guy yesterday who has been spending the last 3-4 years developing a new game of chess where the board is like twice the size and it's got a ton of other pieces. Also met a dude in medical school that also just happens to be on the Russian version of The Voice, he wants to meet up.  I'ma teach a celebrity.  Kind of random but I thought I'd mention it.   Thanks for the letters Mom Holly and GMa, you guys are the best.  Well that's about all I can think of from this week.  Miss ya everybody, hope life is still going good back in the states. Will be coming up on my 6 month mark in a couple weeks here, that's pretty weird.  Yup, I think that's everything.  Bye. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Week 19:

This week was straight crazy, a lot of weird stuff happened.  First on Tuesday, our district was passing out BoMs on some sidewalk, two drunk guys staggered over who the district chose to have deal with them, that's right, Elder Holland and Elder Kelly, the dream team of people who don't really speak Russian.  Luckily one of them was pretty good with english, even whilst shmammered.  Anyway they were just talking to us being ridiculous and we were trying to get them to leave.  Then one was like hey, let me help you guys out, so he grabbed a BoM and started trying to pass it out to  people, so I was like woah buddy, that books a special present, just for you.  He got all excited and was like, a present for me!  Then he walked away happy.  I don't know what happened to his buddy, but they made me sad.  Pretty depressing what alcohol does to people out here, it's still a pretty big problem.  Anyway the rest of the week was pretty much us waiting by the phone, transfer week is the worst.  Basically we can expect to know where we are going between Thursday and Saturday, and like I said we were pretty sure something was going to happen to us.  Nothing happened to us.  So I get a third transfer here, cool.  I was pretty excited for a change, but that's just the way things go sometimes.  Just get a little more time to get something going here is all.  Elder Beals was super bummed, and before transfers he said that he wanted to stay in this area, so that means there can only be one factor making him sad. я.  But hopefully we can turn that frown upside down and get some work done out here.  In church this Sunday some lady came in and sat down that we hadn't seen before and we were like sweet, new person at church.  Then while they were doing the sacrament, which is the most quiet and reverent part of our service, lady just starts yelling.  She was like, your church is crazy, it's totally made up, you are all ridiculous for coming here, I'm from the Russian Orthodox church and I'm here to set you all straight.  Then the branch president went and tried to ask her to go talk to him out in the hall so we could do our thing, and then two of the lady members went out and talked to her while we finished the sacrament.  While she was leaving she was like, I'll be outside casting out demons if any of you are interested.  Tempting.  So that was interesting.  Yesterday we had fast Sunday so after not eating 24 hours our district went crazy on some homemade burritos.  Then us and the sisters went over to our gypsy бабушка's place and she was like hey, why is there only 4 of you, I cooked for 6.  Elder Beals ate a little bit and then said he felt sick so he went and sat in the other room, leaving me with two sisters, an old lady, and food for 6.  So basically I ate food for 6 for second dinner.  I never thought my ability to over eat would ever come in handy. Anyway, weird week.  Sorry it's not more spiritual.  Love you guys.  Sorry, out of time.  
Week 18:

So it finally happened.  I finally found her.  I got me a бабушка  (babooshka- grandma/old lady).  The most popular old member came back from the доча (that's spelled wrong but it just means summer home in the country that Russians go on vacation to for extended periods of time).  She loves missionaries more than is probably healthy.  She called us up and invited us and the other companionship of elders over for a spiritual thought, she picked the theme.  We asked her if she wanted us to invite the sisters and she said no, I have another program for the them.  She is making them pull weeds today, heh.  Anyway we get over there and she opens the door and says "Старейшины, свет мой, приходите!" Which means, elders, my light, get on in here.  Apparently she says that every time.  Anyway we shared our spiritual thought and then she said, ok I'm going to feed you now and I'm gonna tell you how I found the church.  She made us like 100 pounds of плов which is a rice dish that's not really from Russia, but is crazy good.  She also has a cat that's shaved super funny.  So yeah, I love that lady, she's also like 4.5 feet tall.  Work has been super slow this week.  Seems that all of Russia is on vacation at the moment, so we can't meet with anyone.  Also we had our first english club in three weeks.  We have been spending a lot of time inviting for english these last couple of weeks, but only like 4 new people showed up, that was a slap to the face.  I'm so ready to be done talking to people about english, time to learn these people about church again.  Would love to find some people to teach, we keep trying but just something isn't clicking.  Transfers coming up, and our district is ripe for destruction.  I'm almost done with training so me and my comp will probably get split up.  Our Russian sister has been here since training for 3 transfers, so she might get moved, and I don't know what will happen to the other elders.  Had a funny week with Elder Beals.  One night he was talking to me about all the things he was worried about and just life in general, and I was like dude you gotta relax.  And he said, I don't know how, I've never known how.  Then he said, maybe that's why we are companions, you are supposed to teach me how to relax.  I said ok, but if you wanna go down this path you gotta commit.  He agreed and I said step one, you can't wear pants around the house.  I'm a strong believer that there is nothing that says "I'm mellow" more than walking around in one's undies.  He is super против (against it), I've have never caught glimpse of him in less than basketball shorts and a tshirt.  He refuses to cooperate, so we will try to work another angle.  Funny Elder Beals moment of the week, this was after this whole ordeal.  He looked me dead in the face, and without the slightest hint of sarcasm said "Elder Holland *dramatic pause*, I want to love you to the moon and back".  Usually when a man says this sincerely to another man, it means someone is about to get punched in the face.  But then punching elder Beals in the face would be like punching an entire litter of puppies in the face.  Plus I'm not really about punching people so I just laughed.  So yeah, that was my week, none too exciting.  It's hard to think of my whole week this early in the morning, whenever I leave the internet cafe I'm like dag, I forgot to tell them about that.  But I think thats basically what happened.  Well, love you guys, miss you all, send me mail.  всё
Week 17:

So sorry if I bummed you guys out last week with my pity party, I whine a lot. This week we had some awesome stuff happen and it was a lot of fun.  First bonus, I bought one of the sisters harmonica off her for the hefty price of 300 рубs, so worth it.  It is so nice to have something to practice at the end of every day to distract your mind a little bit.  I don't want to say I'm getting awesome at it, but yeah kind of.  So that was a huge help, little mini чудо.  Next awesome thing that happened this week was on wednesday.  So our district tried to start up an FHE kind of thing,which is a little get together where we play games and eat snacks, where people who we are meeting with can come hang out with church members just to get to know the people.  Gonna be honest, up until now it has been pretty lame, usually have 1 or 2 random people, no members, and 6 missionaries.  This week's was awesome, we had 12 people not including missionaries come, which is crazy good for our area.  The branch president walked in and just looked super confused. Heh.  So that was good.  I went on splits with Elder Kelly this week, the white rapstar of Provo, neither of us speak a ton of Russian and we didn't have any meetings the whole day so we just walked around talking to people, super funny.  It was tons of fun cuz I had to do alot of the talking.  This one super russian guy with thick glasses that looked like a nuclear engineer we stopped and asked where we could find some good борщ, he then unloaded words on us we didn't understand for about a half hour at a rate uncommon to most humans.  At the end he was like, how long you been in Russia, and so I was like I've only been here 2 months so sorry I don't understand a ton. And he was like "Sorry?! I've been here for 54 years and this language is still riddiculous to me".  We met with слова a couple times this week, guy I had my first lesson with that we passed to the other elders.  He said he wanted to help us with our Russian and also talk about religion because things weren't working out super well with the other elders.  I love that guy.  Had some really cool meetings with him.  People like him I don't worry about at all, I really believe that people who are honestly looking for answers to questions are going to find them if they go to the right places, and слова fits into that category.  I told him that and then he said, that's cool, but I worry about you guys a lot.  We asked him why and he said he's worried that Russia is going to spoil us.  Heh.  I was like dude, look at elder Beals, he's been here for a year and he still got sunshine and rainbows flying out of his face.  Yeah so that was good.  Then the cherry on top was yesterday, one guy we contacted came to church and brought his buddy.  They liked sacrament meeting and then we had a 2 hour lesson with them with a member named илена.  We just watched her drop духовные bombs of knowledge on them, it was legit.  Our ward is awesome, our members are the greatest.  Transfers coming up and there is a pretty decent chance I could get moved, if I do I'm really gonna miss these people here, even though I haven't really gotten to know them super well because of the language barrier.  The kids like me at least.  Oh, another important purchase of the week, sweet spiderman notebook that I write words I don't understand in.  25 рубs, that's a steal. Sister кукуруза always asks me "сколько тебе лет?" (how old are you?). пять.  Another funny thing, turned around in church and who do I see but Richard Portwood, one of Rachael's past gentleman callers.  That was surprising, but awesome.  Was super good to see him, he says he wants to hang out next pday, I'm down.    Thanks for the Dear Elders Mom and Paps, good to hear from you guys.  Keep em coming, all you people are my only connection to the outside world, except billboards but they are in Russian.  Saw there is going to be another Wolverine movie, at what point will Hugh Jackman stop looking good in wifebeaters? Dude doesn't age.  Anyway That's my week, don't be afraid to send some love people. покой

After weeks of cold showers, the pipes got a little rusty.

Week 16:

Another week in Russia, this one was pretty uneventful as far as weeks in Russia go.  Last pday was sweet, we took an hour and a half metro ride and a ghetto free bus to the outside of Moscow where lies the largest ринок (that is spelled incorrectly but it means sketchy Russian market) in all of the planet, maybe.  Anyway we get there and we are looking for a suit for Elder Kelly, the white rapper from Utah.  So we walk around in the market thing and then find stores with suits and then we walk in looking all nonchalant and like we don't really want to buy anything the bad.  Then an Armenian guy comes up and goes friend, what do you want.  Then elder Kelly says he wants a light beige suit, so the Armenian dude starts whipping out coats and slapping them with the back of his hand as if to say, are you not impressed?  And since the suits here are pretty suit, we are indeed impressed, but try not to act like it.  Then he starts putting them on Elder Kelly and Elder Kelly looks in the mirror, he likes what he sees, but if he expresses that then it's game over.  He asks how much it costs, the Armenian guy says 7500 рубs. We then laugh as if it is a joke, and it is.  Then the Armenian guy will respond with, how much do you want it to be.  Elder Kelly will respond with an equally riddiculous number such as 1000.  The Armenian guy acts all insulted and then goes down to around 4500.  Then Elder Kelly says, man I can do 1500 but that's really all I got, then the Armenian guy takes the coat and says get out of my store.  Then we leave the store go to another one and the process repeats itself. Pretty much we spent all of pday in the ринок and bought absolutely nothing,  but it was fun to haggle. Super exhausting though, gonna mostly relax today.  Me and Elder Beals had a little bit of a week.  It was a figapalooza, a fig is what we call it here when someone says they are gonna show up to meet and they don't.  We had 5 out of 6 lessons fall through, and one guy said he wasn't interested in seeing us ever again.  That one stung a little bit.  But hey that's what we do, invite people to what we got and if they aren't having it we can't make them.  I will admit though it is not easy to day in day out dump out your most personal thoughts and feelings on people and have them reject you.  I have told things to people I don't know all that well that I've never told to my family or closest friends, and then they say пока ни удачники (solong losers).  They don't actually say that though, well usually.  So yeah, not the easiest week I've ever had, but hey, thats how the mish goes sometimes, and thats how we get all manly.  While we didn't meet a whole lot of people that want to meet up or are interested in what we do, we did meet some cool people.  Sister Gale who is notorious for contacting dudes was talking to a bald guy in a flowing robe during a district contacting activity and I was like sorry lady, I'm jumping in on this one.  The guy was an orthodox budhist from st petersburg, guy was awesome.  Says he's got a mormon friend but not really interested, super cool guy though.  One guy we met with this week had gotten kicked out of his appartment and couldn't find a place for him and his family and the other 10 people that lived with him.  I felt super helpless because all we could do was ask around and refer him to a good shelter place where he could stay until he found a new appartment.  That one was a heartbreaker. Tough because we are here to help people, but when we finally find someone who actually needs it we can't always help.  But we do what we can.  Hoping this week will be better and I'll have more to tell you guys about.  Thanks for the letters Mom and Grandma, my most faithful writers, you guys are the best.  Hope everything is going good back home and you are all staying happy.  Say hi to America for me.  Catch you guys next week.