Saturday, March 31, 2012

Almost 2 weeks in Russia and....

It is officially Spring, although Moscow hasn't gotten the message yet. Temperatures range from 20's to low 30's. We are still walking to the office on snow covered sidewalks.

We had a bad leak in the apartment when we arrived that got progressively worse. Dave enlisted the help of the young office elders, missionaries from USA who speak Russian, to set up a time for the plumber to arrive. When the plumber arrived, he spoke to Dave in Russian which, of course, Dave didn't understand.  Dave went through the landlady, Jana, who speaks a little English, when we needed the electrician in for some repairs. The electrician didn't say one word the whole time. Dave pointed to what needed to be fixed, he fixed it and out he went.

We have been practicing our Russian at the Renok where we buy our fresh fruit and veggies. Today after making a request in Russian, the lady smiled as she waited on us and then in clear English said, "Thank you." We have noticed that the Russian people do seem to appreciate the efforts you make to speak Russian to them.

We decided to check out the television. We have two of them in our apartment. Maybe there were some English stations? Nope. But we did see the Smurfs and the Simpsons both speaking away in Russian.

Many of the Russian people are very somber. As we have met people on the street they avert their gaze away from us. Even the children do this. The same on the bus or metro. They won't meet your gaze.

One exception was at the bus stop when I was trying to read a sign. There was an old Russian lady waiting for the bus and she was observing and listening to my attempts to make out this long word She started chattering away in Russian and laughing. When she got on her bus, I waved and she waved back.

We attended English Club which meets every Wednesday night at different wards (congregations) in the Moscow area. We were in a conversational class with two Russian men who wanted to improve their English. (I can't remember their names) One was a young 30ish man, a graphic computer designer who spoke pretty good English. The other understood more than he could speak. He is a professor at an elite college in Zelonograd. He was kind of shy.

A sister missionary was leading the group and we were encouraging them to tell us about their work and so on. It was very pleasant. I asked the college professor if he was going to come back (because he had seemed uncomfortable there) and he said yes. I reached out my hand to shake his hand, he took it and made a little bow. I found it quite charming.  I learned that a man will not offer his hand to a woman, but will shake her hand if she offers it first.

On Thursday we attended Senior Missionary Council. It was held at the Central Building in Moscow. It was my first experience on the famous metro. It took us a bus ride and 2 metro rides and a short walk to arrive there. (about an hour). We met 11 other wonderful senior missionary couples who are serving in different capacities in Russia (not just Moscow)   Humanitarian, leadership, CES (Church Education System, office (us), welfare, each with their own responsibilities. They are a lovely group of people dedicated to serving the Lord in the great land of Russia. We look forward to getting to know them better as we meet each week with them.

Dave attended Church last week without me because of the leak in our apartment. (the water to be emptied every three hours). Because I am directionally challenged, it made sense that Dave go with the Naegle's, who have been showing us around, so we could go together this next week. The meetings were all in Russian, but the missionaries translated for him. the people were friendly and received him well. It was interesting to sing the Church hymns in the Russian language. He also gave our first fast offering contribution to the bishop. It took about an hour and a half away by bus.

And last but not least for this week.......I would have never guessed that I would have a chance to use my shorthand after all these years. President Sorensen seemed delighted when I mentioned that I had been a stenographer (40 years ago). Instead of emailing me his comments for a couple of letters, he asked me to take them in shorthand. Wow. It has been a LONG time, but I was thrilled when I was able to do this. I think this is going to be a regular occurence - me taking his letters in shorthand and then typing them. (hmmmm - I can't remember some of the things recently learned on the computer, but my shorthand has come back to me after all these years. Go figure. :0)

Dos Vidonya and Boods Darove. Until next week........

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Here we are in Moscow!

We have been here in Moscow for 4 days now. Here are just a few things that are different:

1.  It is still winter here. Weather has been in 20's and 30's and snowing. It doesn't seem to affect the Russian people who are well bundled. Babies are in covered prams and little ones in snowsuits. It is still light at 7:30 pm.

2.  Mayonaise, ketchup, yogurt are sold in tubes.

3.  The washing machine is 1/3 of the size of the ones back home. I can wash about 3 towels at a time.

4.  Dryers are not commonly used. We have a drying rack in the second bedroom to dry the clothes.

5.  In the second bedroom there is a HUGE watering can (like to water flowers only bigger). We learned that in the summer the hot water is turned off for two weeks and the watering can is used in the bathtub to shower with (using water heated on the stove). Now THAT should be interesting.

6.  Russians are a sober people. If you meet them on the street they are likely to drop their heads and not look at you. Children are the same way.

7.  In order to talk to our landlady Jana about a plumbing problem in our apartment, our Russian-speaking young missionaries (who are English) called her and translated our needs for us. If there is something that comes up in the mission office requiring Russian, the young Elders (missionaries) woill most likely handle it.

8. Our apartment is nice. We have lovely wooden floors, There is a combined living room/dining room nicely furnished with a large window overlooking the courtyard and an elementary school. There is an eat-in kitchen w/ lots of storage space and a nice wooden floor. The bedrooms are good sized.  One is our room w/ a separate sitting area and the other bedroom has the ironing board and drying racks for our clothes. The apartment is furnished with two tvs. I may have the one on in the second bedroom while I am ironing and see if I can pick up some Russian.

9.  The selection of food is good. There are productees everywhere. They are similar to a 7-11. About 1/3 is for sale of alcohol. Sadly, alcoholism is a big problem. We've all heard of Russian vodka, right? I can go right downstairs and out the door and be able to buy milk, cheese, bread, produce or chocolate. Liquor is also sold in the large grocery stores.

10. There are also little produce trucks in abundance and all they sell are fresh fruits and veggies. There is one right next to the productee outside our apartment. (All around the apartment complex, which is large there are more than one little productee).

11. Across the street is Neptune, a building shaped like a ship. In it is a large store upstairs selling all manner of clothes, toiletries, etc, like an Ocean State Job Lot. There is an opteka (pharmacy) on the bottom level. Many things we have that we need a perscription for you can get over the counter.
There are several open stores called a Renock on the bottom floor. There are women selling fresh fruits and veggies, fresh baked breads, fish (catfish still alive in a big tank), and even a good quality boot shop, pet supply store and a couple of others.

We had fun going there today to buy our fruits and veggies and used our Russian. One young girl was eager to talk to us in English and there was a general feeling that they appreciated our efforts to speak their language.

12.  The mission office where we will be working is about a 20 minute walk (in snowy weather). We are still on a learning curve there, as there is much for us to do and learn. The people we work with are wonderful and the atmosphere the best!

Next week we will share our first week at the office and also what happened at church. We will have our first experince in our Russian speaking ward tomorrow.

Barb is suffering big time from jet lag and has been a bit cranky (poor Dave). Dave on the other hand seemed to have no problems at all and has adjusted to the time change remarkably fast.

Dos vidonya.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


1.  Hear different languages all around you as missionaries practice their new language of the country where they will be serving? (young missionaries are in the MTC for 12 weeks to learn the language. Senior couples have the chance to Skype with a tutor before coming to the MTC and continuing for 12 more hours of intense language training.)

Dave, Barb and Carson Monson (our Russian tutor)

2. See missionaries from all over the world? Different shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities. young and older (19 to 80 ish) There are missionaries in wheelchairs and others who are physically handicapped who will be involved in computer training, family history and other responsibilities. There is something for everyone!

3. Walk in the cafeteria on Sunday morning and see mounds of bananas stacked up about a foot high for hungry missionaries?

4. Meet missionaries who are  going all over the world (from Denver CO to Croatia, from CA to the Marshall Islands, from Minnesota to Russia?) who are being called to all different assignments? We've met missionaries who are going to be responsible for gardens, maintenance, lawn mowing, singing and dancing in Church productions, secretarial work in the mission office, leadership where the missionary couples help strengthen the Church in congregations throughout the world, driving a horse team where visitors sit in wagons and get a tour of different church historical sites (such as Nauvoo), work in Visitors Centers, or serve in the 134 temples which are in operation throughout the world?) And don't forget the humanitarian missions. There are doctors and dentists called to serve in their area of expertise in poor countries, others who make sure there are wheelchairs or clean water, where hygiene kits are passed out and mothers are taught about child care. The list is endless and the kind of missions so varied.

5.  Find a cafeteria that can feed over 2000 missionaries Papa John's pizza every Friday night? Any guesses on how many boxes needed to take care of such a large group? 900 maybe?

6.  Make lifelong friends in two weeks time?

7. See missionaries in their Sunday best every day (except for the P-day. Every missionary has a p-day to rest, exercise, grocery shop, laundry, etc) who are happy and well groomed and anxious to spread the gospel throughout the world? And guess what? They have paid for this experience out of their own pockets.
Dave and Barb (Elder and Sister Sutton) in front
of the Provo Temple on our P-day.

                                                      OFF TO RUSSIA WE GO

Here we are in front of the world map pointing to Moscow
                                                      where we will be serving for 18 months

Tomorrow morning at 5 am a shuttle will pick us and another couple headed for Russia (different mission) and take us to the airport. After arriving in JFK, we will travel 9 1/2 hours to Russia. We will be met there by the mission president and his wife and our Russian journey will truly begin!

                                                        Here is a close-up of our missionary
                                              name tags. Dave's is on the top. (Starayshena Sutton)
                                                   Barb's is Seehstra Sutton. Starayshena means Elder.

                                                               DOS VIDONYA!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Our First Week In The MTC (Missionary Training Center)

On February 26th we were set apart as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On March 1, good friends Larry and Heather Long brought us to the airport in a snowstorm bright and early!  After some luggage issues, our flight was uneventful . Thank you Larry and Heather!

After spending a few days with Shauna, Jeff and grandson Kyler (at the home of Val and Marcia Swenson), Jeff's dad and step-mom, Shauna and Jeff drove us to Provo UT. We walked around and took some pictures (to be posted soon) and then they dropped us off at the MTC.

shauna kyler dave and barb
                                                       grandpa dave giving kyler a hug                    
                                                       daughter shauna with us near MTC
Our dream of serving a mission together has begun! We pulled up and many young missionaries (Elders) came out and whisked our luggage away and up to our room. We gave one last hug to our daughter and her family and entered into the MTC.
                                         missionaries were waiting to take our luggage to our room
                                                     grandma barb saying goodbye to kyler
                                                             mother and daughter hug

What a privilege it was for us to have Shauna Jeff and Kyler bring us to the MTC. We are hoping that our serving a mission will be a blessing for our children, grandchildren, mothers and siblings and friends.
                                              grandpa dave giving kyler a new belly button

ready to enter the MTC!
                                                 Dos Vidonya! See you in September 2013!

This past week has been a spiritual feast for us.  How proud we were when we received our missionary badges with our names on it. Tomorrow we receive badges in the Russian language.
We have worked hard this past week. We have had classes every day Monday through Friday preparing us to be missionaries. We have drawn close to our little district of 3 other couples. We have attended a fireside in which a General Authority, Elder David L. Evans of the Quorum of the Seventy, came and spoke to us (2200 strong) and encouraged us and shared insights with us that will help us in the mission field.

A highlight was when all of the missionaries sang Called To Serve and Onward Christian Soldiers! I can't describe the feelings of knowing that WE are missionaries and are called to serve in the great land of Russia. It is humbling.

We were involved in some role playing which was hard but worth it in helping us in our role as missionaries. We have met some amazing people. One couple in their 80's is about to serve their fourth mission.  Two other couples are returning to the lands (Japan and Korea) where the Elder served his mission as a young man. How wonderful!

There are different kinds of missions to which the Seniors have been called. Humanitarian, temple, mission office (such as us), historical sites (such as Nauvoo, Ill,) and Visitors Centers to name a few.

This morning in Church service (Sacrament meeting) there was a group of 12 young missionaries who sang a hymn in English which was quite a feat because they were from 9 different countries w/ different languages.

We are learning that the MTC is a place of miracles as young and older are preparing to go and share the gospel and serve (building wells, placing wheelchairs, etc, strengthen the membership or teach hygeine) in whatever capacity is needed.

We feel blessed to be a small part of this.

Friday night there were ten couples who are going to different parts of the world who had a chance to bear their testimony (feelings about Jesus Christ) in the language they will be speaking. Wow. To hear seniors in their 60's and 70's speak in Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog, Mandarin, French (in the Congo) and German, is very inspirational.

What a miracle for us to be able to study (with wonderful tutors) and learn and retain the languages we will need in our area of the world. Our tutor Carson Monson IS THE BEST. We feel  so blessed to have him as our tutor (6 hours each of the two weeks we are in the MTC. Lessons began last December on Skype.

Every missionary has a P-day or preparation day in which to do laundry, grocery shop, exercise, and rest one day a week. Our P-day was Saturday and we enjoyed being out in the sunshine and walking around the temple grounds and relaxing a bit! David went with another Elder to the temple. Barb enjoyed sitting in the sun and studying Russian and together they walked around the temple grounds later in the day.

This coming week brings training in our office responsibilities and we will be able to attend a second devotional as well continue on in our language training. Until we meet again, dos vidonya and boods da rove!