Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Visa Trip Gone Bad?

One thing that we have to do as missionaries in Russia is leave the country every 90 days to renew our visas. It is very expensive for the Church, but must be done for the time being. It is not something I have been looking forward to. Anyone who knows me well knows I do not especially look forward to new experiences like this. It is totally out of my comfort zone. (then what the heck am I doing in Russia you might ask?) Good question. :o)

Arrangements were made for us by our wonderful office elders who explained everything in detail and said it is a breeze. Well, it turned out to be more like a mini-tornado instead.

We left this morning with our driver Vasily for the Moscow Airport, got through passport check and security check just fine. It was a nice flight to Riga, Latvia and we entered their country without incident. We left a couple of hours later, a little sad because we really wanted to look around this beautiful ancient city. The flight back to Moscow was also pleasant until...........

We didn't make it through the passport security!  The date on the passport was wrong. We were asked to sit down and wait.....and wait.....and wait some more. Our poor driver and the office elders who had come to get us at the airport were playing a waiting game of their own.

Through cell phone communication we were given a suggestion which worked and we were able to FINALLY get through and meet up w/ Alexander, the elders, and go home. (after more than an hour)
Wait, did I say home? No, we could not go home. We had to go to the mission office and get a few things taken care of that were most timely. It appeared that we had to turn around and go BACK to Latvia TOMORROW.

Our office elder (in charge of visas and trips) had to make new reservations for us to return BUT there was a catch this time. We could not come back into the country until Friday. Which means reservations for a hotel as well.

OH NO! That means that we have a day to sight see in beautiful Riga, Latvia. It's going about it the hard way, but nonetheless, we will take advantage of this opportunity. The alternative would be to not have a valid passport for at least 3 months. Not good. So, off to Riga we go tomorrow for an unplanned mini-vacation.

We will be sure to post lots of pictures and interesting facts this weekend.

On a more somber note however, as we were sitting in the airport waiting I had the most helpless feeling. We were in a foreign land and no one around us could speak English. I knew that we would ultimately be fine and I felt safe with Dave and we do have connections to help and protect us, but it just wasn't fun at all. So, now what do we do? We repeat our trip tomorrow, but hopefully it will end on a much happier note.


I have mentioned how much we love work in the office and getting to know our young missionaries. We have learned some of their stories. The sacrifice they make to serve is great.

One Russian native Elder L., is very dear to my heart. What a fine young man he is. He is always so happy to help me understand something in Russian, to translate for me or help me with train reservations (his specialty and only for our Russian missionaries). I recently learned that he hasn't seen his mother in 4 years. She wasn't happy about him joining the Church and less than happy when he chose to leave medical school for almost 3 years to serve a mission. He will be reunited with her mom in a couple of weeks' time and then back to medical school to become a fine psychiatrist. I hope she realizes what a gem she has in this wonderful son of hers.

Another missionary shared that he remembered being very small and his mother bundling him and his little sister up well and taking them out in frigid weather to a store where they were promised bread. Another missionary remembers standing in long lines to receive whatever it was being handed out. Sometimes a piece of cheese, or something else.

One young woman who has served for almost 18 months left her alcoholic mother and sister whom she was supporting. I wonder what she has to look forward to when she returns home in a few month's time?

Today I was thrilled to see Elder M, He was Elder L's companion and I didn't think I'd ever see him again because he was being transferred to Kakisthan. It was great to see his smiling face one more time before he leaves for this little country to serve out the rest of his mission in a country where the missionaries are not welcomed with open arms.

Well, another adventure awaits us tomorrow. We will post in a few days and share our experiences in the beautiful country of Latvia. Until then, dos vidonya.

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