Monday, September 24, 2012


A babushka is grandmother in Russian. I have read a book to Abby numerous times about a babushka. An older somewhat chunky woman with a wrinkled face, baggy stockings and a kerchief around her head. That is my description. We have a few babushkas in the Zelonograd Ward that fit this description.
I have a Russian friend, Onya, who works in the CES Office in our building. She was born in Siberia, served a mission for the Church in Japan, is a single gal who works hard. Onya is what I would describe as a typical Russian. A little quiet and perhaps a bit standoffish with people she doesn't know. However, as we have gotten to know each other and become friends, her warmth and humor and loveliness shines through.
Today I was getting ready to leave the office and she commented. "Oh, happy belated birthday.. I LOVE your hat you look so cute" she said." Do I look like a 62 year old babushka? " I asked. She said her grandmas were 65 and 79 when they died and they looked like babushkas. She said, you do not look 62 and you do not look like a babushka. You are a cute lady." Well, you can imagine that that just made my day.
While I LOVE being a babushka, I don't ever want to look like the Russian version of one. If I do, just shoot me and put me out of my misery.  Dos vidonya.
PS - there are many young beautiful attractive babushkas in Russia

Arrested! (and a pack of wild dogs)

You have probably figured out that it is not us that were arrested. Today, Elder Everett and his companion came into the office. Elder E, was one of our office elders for the first several months and we both grew very close to him. Anyway, it has been an exciting week for him and Elder L.

They were singing songs when the police cars came rushing up and arrested them, right in the middle of I Am A Child Of God....for singing. It appears that someone didn't like their singing and called the police. Four missionaries, 2 elders and 2 sisters were crammed in the back of the police car and taken in for questioning. There was no one to translate. Luckily, the elders could understand. They called Luba, our contact if we should get into trouble of any kind. Fortunately, the missionaries happened to be in the town Luba lives in so it didn't take long for her to arrive and get everything straightened out. Thank heavens for Luba!

A PACK OF WILD DOGS -  The area that Elder L. and Elder E were walking in one night last week wasn't the best. There were many drunk and aggressive people around. However, Elder E related the experince they had when coming into this area. A pack of 7 wild dogs started following them. They growled at people who came too close to the two young elders. Eventually, about half of the dogs went in front so that the elders were surrounded by dogs. It appeared that Elder L and Elder E had their own security guards.  A couple of drunks (not using any sense) approached the elders aggressively and met with angry barking. Sometimes guardian angels have four legs and a tail, what do you think?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fresh bread and whortleberry juice

I continue to look for Russian foods to try. Surprisingly, a lot of the foods we thought were Russian really are Ukranian. Today when I was in our productee, I was looking around and found some whortleberry juice - a Russian food. So, I decided we would have a little glass of it with our dinner. It appears that whortleberries grow on trees. I need to do a little research to be sure. The juice tasted similar to cranberry juice, but a bit milder.

Also, when I walked into the productee, the 2 women who work there are almost always sitting there behind the counter. This morning neither of them were there. Hmmmm. The productee is made up of three small rooms. The room we walk into where the cashier is also has booze lined up on the walls to the left. There are two rooms on the right - one with juices and frozen food and junk food (just like back home!) and the other room to the right has the beans, rice, flour, eggs, dairy, etc and on the right as you walk into the room is two large baskets, usually full of fresh bread. Today that's where my two friends were. Fresh bread had just been delivered and they were busy wrapping half loaves of a dark bread in baggies. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, the fresh bread here and today I saw just how fresh!

Bread is so inexpensive here. One loaf is 16 rubles, just over $.50. ( and more depending on the size. A HUGE loaf of fresh baked bread costs a little over $1 that would easily be $4 in the Big Y back home. (and not as good.)

Anyway, we enjoyed fresh bread (I never get packaged bread here with all the fresh bread available), whortleberry juice and a delicious homemade veggie pot pie for dinner. Dave topped his meal off with a piece of delicious dark Russian chocolate.

Until tomorrow, dos vidonya!!

Just Tripping along!

Today I was using the two largest burners on the stove top and the oven was on, along with the fan.  It is most annoying that the circuit breaker kept tripping! I can only imagine what preparing Thanksgiving dinner for us and 6 missionaries is going to be like! Luckily the circuit breaker board is right outside the front door.


I have trimmed Dave's hair a couple of times over the past 6 weeks but there was not doubt he was getting a bit shaggy so one of the office elders made an appointment for him to go to the barber at 5:00 on our way to Central Building. This meant leaving earlier to catch an earlier bus to take us to the metro. Well, we got there 25 minutes early. I was wandering around on Music Alley waiting for him. He came out within 5 minutes and said there was a line of 4 men in front of him and that it didn't matter that he had called ahead. He would still have to wait his turn and it would be close to 6 before he could be seen. So much for making an appointment!!


I have been curious exactly how much we are spending at the grocery store since I am shopping so differently and in rubles instead of dollars.I kept tract this month and was very surprised to see tha including toothpaste, dish soap, etc. I came in $200 under my bill back home. Maybe it's because we are eating so much more simply? I'm not sure, but it's good. As I said, we are eating a lot of fresh produce, lately from gardens that Russian people are selling to us. Since we are eating out so much out of necessity, I'm guessing we're not paying any more than we would back home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sounds a little fishy to me.

There are some things here in this great land of Russia that I will never get used to.. I have been going to the "little white store" (favorite and closest grocery store) for months and I just noticed something I hadn't seen before. In one of the aisles on the end near the ketchup there are different kinds of dried fish in saranwrap-type wrapping. It's amazing that anyone would buy it.I had noticed them before; however, I didn't notice that there is also goldfish to buy. Goldfish? Those yummy crackers in different flavors? NO! REAL GOLDFISH. REAL DEAD GOLDFISH, dried and ready to snack on. YUCK.

But  even more gross in my opinion is popcorn. They do have microwave popcorn available which isn't very good I hear. I would love to buy just plain old popcorn that I can pop myself, with nothing added. Our friends the Luekenga's found a packet of microwave popcorn in the back of their kitchen cupboard one day and their kids, who were visiting from the States, decided to fix it for a snack. As they are nibbling away, they make faces and said, "this tastes kind of fishy." Upon closer investigation, it was determined that yes, it was not their imagination. The popcorn was indeed fishy.  Are you ready for this? They were eating cavier-flavored popcorn. HOW GROSS IS THAT???

Is it any wonder we have added plain popcorn to our wish list to be sent to us? In return, I will try to find caviar-flavored to bring back to you if you want.

Until later, dos vidonya!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

American Russian Dental Center (ARDC)

Today was our trip to the dentist for teeth cleaning. After a bus ride and 2 metro stops, plus a 10 minute walk, we arrived at 11:10, 50 minutes early. We were told that the hygenist would not be in until 2. Luckily, it is a beautiful warm sunny day here in Moscow, so we walked around and ended up having lunch at the Starlight Diner, a fifties American diner with wonderful food. We are going to be going there to celebrate our birthdays in a few days.

The ARDC is a beautiful modern facility. BUT there is a major difference. When you walk in, there are two little machines on the floor to your right. Remember when I mentioned that Russians take off their shoes when they come into your home? Well, you put your feet one at a time in the first machine and WHOOSH! your foot is magically wrapped in a blue plastic bootie (similar to what you find in hospitals). This protects their floors and you don't have to take off your shoes.

Our teeth cleaning experience was a bit different, but Helen, our hygenist did a wonderful job. They use all the techniques as back home for the most part. We were each given a pair of goggles to wear, which is a good thing because, as Dave described it, he felt like he had been through a car wash. Helen used a LOT of high-powered water irrigation type therapy along with the other usual teeth cleaning techniques. The dentist who runs the ARDC lives in Sacramento and works a month in each location, going back and forth. We didn't get to meet him as this is his month in Sacramento.

Well, on the way out of the dentist office, we were able to use the other machine by the front door. This one, you put your slippered foot in and it takes off your disposable slipper and whisks it away. Kind of cool.

We got back to our apartment after 4 with another new experience under our belt. Until next time, dos vidonya.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Russia National Dancers

Our experience began when we had to find our way to the Cosmos Hotel where it was. We are learning our way around the metro. It took 3 different metro lines (they go by color) to arrive. Being able to read the stops helps a lot. We left from Tushkenskya and ended up Voodenhah.  It is spelled with a Russian B, a Russian D, a Russian H and a Russian X.  BDHX spells Voodenhah.  The B and D don't look like that, but they H and X are the same. Anyway, we were pleased to get there safely and meet up with our friends the Naegle's, the Cook's and their families who are visiting from the States.

The Hotel is HUGE, luxurious and very high-end and the show took place in their concert hall.

It doesn't make any sense to be living in this beautiful land of Russia and not take advantage of the culture here. So, we were really happy to have this chance to see the

This incredible dance show has entertained audiences all over the world, from Russia to Australia. We were delighted  The show presented its most refined form of Russian traditional performance art. There were over 50 dancers and many unique costumes decorated with pearls, silver and gold, all created and hand-embroidered especially for the show. WOW. There are over 300 unique costumes and we were privileged to see perhaps 30 of them.

The show was presented against a backdrop of panoramic sets that reflected the pre-revolutionary Russia, patriotism, and modern Russia, from orthodox to heroic. It gave us a glimpse of the traditions and culture and history of this country.

There were many kinds of dancing, to include Russian and the countries surrounding Russia that included the Old Soviet Union to include Ukraine and Latvia. It was so impressive to see the dancers gliding. You didn't see them walking; they were gliding. They were on their tiptoes. It was such a beautiful sight.

It was fun. It was mesmerizing. There was humor and a bit of light acting in one of the performances. The dancers had amazing stamina and fitness. They are in outstanding shape to be able to dance the way they did.

There were dances performed to include countries around the world, to include 1950's America!

.Anyway, we experienced Russian culture at it's best and it is not something we will soon forget. In fact, we bought a DVD to bring home with us so we can enjoy the experience again and share it with our friends and family.

Dave and I both agreed that it has been one of the best performances we have ever witnessed.  Since both of us have birthdays in September, we decided that this was a wonderful birthday gift to each other!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Trip to the grocery store

Today was another first for me. I went to the grocery store alone. Not a big deal you say? Well, it is to me. With the security guards posted at the front entrance and the language barrier, it was always more comfortable to go with Dave.  BUT it was time to go alone. AND I have learned what to do and not to do to get into trouble with the guards.

I walked out the front door of the apartment at 10:40, walked over to the "little white store" which is what we call the grocery store we most frequent. I know pretty much where everything is so shopping didn't take long. I was hoping there were lasagne noodles and there were, BUT they were on the highest shelf where I couldn't reach. I waited for a tall person to walk by and ask for help. (by pointing of course). It's amazing what you can accomplish if you smile and point.

Because of the lack of a checking account, we haven't really kept tract of how much we are spending in catagories like we would do at home. I decided it was time to find out how much I am spending at the grocery store and how close it is to my budget back home. The receipt was for 999.73, or approximatley $32.25. Another 500 rubles at the renock where I got fresh veggies, or $16.12. I am curious to know at the end of the month how much I spend here. We will see. We are always within the money allotted for the month and have never gone over so that is good.

My watch died and I wanted another one. In the malls they are VERY pricey, but I finally found one at one of the outdoor renocks, a Calvin Klein for 1000 rubles, or approximately $32 so I bought it. We both need fur-lined winter boots which we will buy a little later.

However, if the temperatures keep dropping it will be sooner than later. We really didn't have a summer, with it in the 80's only about 10 - 14 days and now it is in the 50's and 60's. As my daughter would say, it is NOT amusing.

Anyway, another experience under my belt. One experince I will never have (intentionally anyway) is traveling the metro by myself. As I have said before, the metro is HUGE and even though I may know to take the purple line for 12 stops and switch to the green line for one, getting from the purple to the green is a problem for me. Nobody ever accused me of having a sense of direction.

I have to admit traveling by myself is not something I want to do. I do know how to get to Z-grad on the bus which consists of 2 bus rides and a 10-minute walk, but do not want to go by myself. So, I probably never will. At least that is my plan.

Until later, dos vidonya.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eating Out in Russia

 Today a group of us were in the center of Moscow and decided to go to the food court in the mall that we had been to many times before. Sister L said she wanted to try the buffet at the Chinese restaurant. None of us have had Chinese here in Russia so it sounded like a great idea.

We went to the restaurant and saw some yummy choices, but learned after being seated that it was not cafeteria or buffet style. The menu was totally in Russian and there was no English speaking waiter. Oh boy. Then we learned we were not even in a Chinese restaurant at all, but a Turkish restaurant.

The four couples were able to recognize a couple of words on the menu.  Dave and I ordered rice and vegetables. The O's ordered chicken and vegetables, which turned out to be a little like a chicken soup with juicy chunks of chicken, a few veggies, to include french fries as the potato. That is right. French fries. They said it was good. Our rice dish was tasty too, with lots of spinach, carrots and a vegetable we didn't recognize. A couple of them ordered borscht, which they recognized on the menu.  Anyway, we survived just fine. The restaurant was lovely, but we probably (definitely) will not go back.

The B's shared that when their children were visiting them here a few months ago they were hungry and looked for a snack in the cupboards. They came across some microwave popcorn. As they started munching, they made faces and said it tasted fishy.....Fishy popcorn? Well, it just so happens that it was caviar flavored popcorn. Wow. Sounds like something I want to go out and buy! (just kidding).

As I've mentioned before their bread is wonderful and fresh baked and so inexpensive. You can get a huge loaf of fresh bread for under 30 rubles (one American dollar). Fruits and veggies are still in abundance in the little fruit and vegetable stands and I still get my eggs, 10 in a baggie from my friends at the productee next to the vegetable stand and pay 30 rubles for those as well. These are fresh eggs. Grapes in all varieties and watermelons are everywhere right now. The nectarines are WONDERFUL.

We have found it necessary to eat out a lot. Wednesday and Thursday we are away at the dinner hour. We enjoy the Hoky Poky (our pronounciation) and the waiters know us there as we go almost every week for good traditional Russian food at very reasonable prices. They have the most wonderful dessert. It's called honey cake and it is many layers of grahm cracker tasting cake  (they don't have grahm crackers in Russia that I have found, but this sure does taste a lot like grahm crackers) with a light fluffy filling. They have a buffet that doesn't interest me because there isn't that much of a selection. However, they do have 3 different kinds of holadeyets, which is a meat jello, Beef, chicken, and pork (I think). I can't begin to tell you how gross it looks. This light brown jello w/ chicken or beef as the bottom layer. YUMMY!  Other tasty choices on the regular menu include beef tongue with greens. The Russians do love their meat and also have many different kinds of salmon and chicken dishes.

Fortunately, they also love potatoes. One of our favorite meals is the "Grandma's dumplings, which is homemade pierogies filled with potatoes and onions served with a light creamy white sauce,and of course, just good old fried potatoes.

A week or so ago the three couples went to a Japanese restaurant in our area within walking distance and it was WONDERFUL. There just wasn't enough of the food . Servings were small and our Japanese waiter, so friendly and knowing a little English, didn't bring everything we had ordered. BUT we liked it enough to want to go back. We will just know to order more food.

So, so far we have had traditional Russian food, Japanese food, Turkish food, good old American food at the Starlight Diner, which looks like a Fifties diner in America, we have hit the potato bar wher eyou can get a baked potatoe with anything on it you want (and a few things you wouldn't), Sharma, which I think my son Michael would LOVE. It's a big piece of beef or pork, roasted all day and sandwiches are made fresh. The missionaries have been warned to stay away from Sharma stands though and to make sure to get it only from reputable places where you can see that there is electricity and running water.

If nothing appeals to you, you can always find a Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonalds or Burger King. No thank you! We will continue to experience Russian food. (except for the holadeeyets).

Bon appetit!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Money Matters

As you can well imagine,, money is different here in Russia. There are no checking accounts. Here we use a debit card to draw off cash in rubles from our checking account back home. Credit cards are limited and fairly new here. We don't use them here. (they are accepted in some restaurants and large malls, but we wouldn't use them anyway for security purposes). Everything is cash on the barrel. Fortunately, the bank is right next door which makes it easy. Especially in light of the fact that Dave, as one of the financial secretaries, is always drawing off money for this or that and he funds the missionaries their monthly allowances, rents, area adjustments. With over 100 missionaries to take care of financially, that is a LOT of money! The missionaries take the money off their cards and use it as needed. Even rent is paid in cash. Our rent is 45,000 rubles a month. WOW. That sounds a lot. We also pay 3100 rubles for for a building fee and 800 rubles a month for utilities.

It can be very disconcerting when you go to the grocery store for your weekly shopping and your receipt shows that you owe 2764 rubles. WOW. However, broken down it is only $92 (give or take). The value of the ruble changes slightly day to day. When I went to Metro (like Costco) the receipt was over 5000 rubles. (around $170). My haircut today will cost 1000 rubles. Not to worry. That is only around $30, what I would pay in the States and includes a generous tip for my wonderful hairdresser Goar who comes to me in my apartment. I LOVE that.

The Russians have more coins than I have ever heard of. We have the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and so on. They have a ruble, a 10 ruble coin, a 2 and a 5. Not so strange BUT they also have kopecks. A kopeck is a tiny coin with a 1 on it and is worth here in Russia on 1/10th of 1 ruble. WOW. They are very hard to fine. They also have tiny coins with a 2 or a 50 on it.  (Haven't figured out their value)

THEN, when we go to Latvia which we will be doing next week for our visa trip out of the country which is required by law here in Russia, we will change our rubles to lats, the Latvian coinage. One lat is worth approximately $2 American dollars, so you can have a meal that was "only" 6 lats, but you are paying about $12.

As I have mentioned before, we love hearing from YOU, so please keep in touch. We send love and hugs from Russia. Until next time, dos vidonya.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Russian TidBits and Miracles

ISMAILOVO is a famous place in Moscow for souvenier shopping. It is HUGE. It is outdoors and the different vendors have a little 8 by 10 area to show off their wares. Where to begin? Well, we certainly want to bring back Russia to our family and friends and we don't want to go back with a martruska doll that says Made In China. We want the real thing!

How fortunate for us that Elder and Sister Naegle have a contact here in a young man named Ivan (pronounced EEE Von in Russian). He really took good care of us. He carves the wood himself and his sister does the painting. We got some lovely gifts for family and friends and they are tra ditional Russian which is what we wanted. We have ordered a few things from him that will be ready for pick up in 2 or 3 months. Ivan has made lots of LDS friends as the missionaries often go to him to get gifts for their families before they return to their homes. He refers to us as a Community. :0)

There is everything from the nesting dolls to the Father Frost (Russian Santa Claus), homemade slippers and aprons, ornaments, artwork and so much more. PICTURES TO FOLLOW.
                                             Sister Naegle, Barb, Ivan, and Elder Naegle
THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL in Russia is a BIG deal. It always falls on September 1, even on weekends. The tradition is that the children get all dressed up in their Sunday best and take flowers to their teacher. It is quite a production. In fact, it appears that the children are giving time frames to come so that they don't all show up at the same time.

Since we can see the school from our window, we enjoyed watching the children marching up to the school with their flowers. The little girls had these FANCY bows in their hair and the boys had on suits and ties. The day before school, there was a line a mile long at the braiding booth at the mall. There are three employees there who braid hair and many of the little girls were having their hair done for the first day of school.  PICTURES TO FOLLOW.

T'VER - is a city of about 400,000 north of Moscow. It takes about 3 1/2 hours by train to get there and is within the mission boundaries. Our friends Elder and Sister Luekenga from ID are the senior couple for Tver. However, they also work in the office and every weekend they leave on Saturday morning, taking a bus to Z-grad and catching the train there and travel to Tver. There they serve their little district, which consists of 4 missionaries.  They feed them, nurture them, encourage them and help them in many ways as they serve amongst the people there.

The little branch of the Church there boasts a weekly count of 12 - 20 people. They have a little building to meet in. (rented) The church is still so new in Russia that the young missionaries as well as senior couples play a large part in helping these little branches to grow and learn. At the present time, Elder C, one of our young missionaries (early 20's) is serving as the branch presiden. His two counselors are both fine men in their fifties or so and are strong in the gospel, but because of persecution within their family are not able to serve in this capacity. Leaders need the support of their wives and these two women are very much opposed to the Church.

Anyway, we were privileged to attend Church there on Sunday and feel the sweet spirit of these humble people there. What a blessing our missionaries are to them. Elder B plays the little organi there and they are always willing to help the members out in whatever it is they need.

Elder and Sister Luekenga bring with them years or experience and are loved by the people there.

After Sunday meetings, Elder and Sister L get back on a train (with plastic seats and poor heating) for the 3 hour trip back to Mitina where they live. They are one of the sets of weekend warriors as our mission president refers to them as. Serving hours away on weekends and fulfilling other responsibilities during the week.

We enjoyed going with the Luekengas to experience another side of Russia. My, the environment was very different. It is much smaller and it is a poor city. They have a trolley system there that dates back to the 1920's. We went on a trolley ride. It was rickety and slow but got us (partway) to where we wanted to go. All of a sudden the trolley stopped. We learned that a car had foolishly tried to beat the trolley in front of us, didn't make it and got hit. So,off the trolley we went and caught a bus to our destination, the Luekenga's lovely apartment, home actually, in T'ver. (the woman who rented it to them had had the home built for their daughter who moved away) She liked the Luekenga's so much she rents her beautiful high-end home to the missionaries. It is a wonderful meeting place for the missionaries to gather for their district meeting, for the great meals Sister L cooks and for a meeting place for Family Home Evenings which are on most Saturday nights.

Weenjoyed taking a walk, close to the famous Volga River and down a street where cars are not allowed. It was very charming. We passed a man playing a beautiful instrument, the likes of which I have never seen before. He was sitting down and this rounded metal instrument was in front of him on the ground and he was using his hands to beat it (kind of like a drum) but the music was very beautiful). He spoke to us in English and there was a tiny girl standing there watching him, mesmerized by the music and swaying back and forth, dancing her little baby dance It was cute. (pictures to follow).
                                                                   Volga River      

On the train ride back to Z-grad we took a different train. We took the Express train TO Tver and the slower one (because there was no choice) on the way home. The Express has someone checking your tickets as you board the train. This train does not. SO quite a few people get on and don't pay. When the conductor comes around to check your ticket, the runners stay a step (or I should say a train) ahead of them. When the train stops as it often does, they get off the train, and RUN around the back of the train (where the conductor has already checked tickets), get back on the train and sit down again. It was quite amusing to see all these people, mostly younger but a couple who were in their 50's or 60's, running like crazy to get around so they could get back on the train before it started up again..


I have had the privilege of seeing little miracles happen amongst 3 of our missionaries. The one I mentioned before, Elder R, burned his hand on a stove top and it was blistered. We took care of it quickly with cool water but it still blistered. It was totally healed in less than two days. Our friend Sister Naegle, took a bad fall off the bus (having missed the step) and landed head first on the pavement. She hurt her head and also her wrist and arm when she tried to break her fall. I planned on taking the day off from my office responsibilities to take care of her and help in whatever way I could, but when I checked on her the morning after, she was feeling MUCH better. No headache, the swelling was down and she was well on the way to a fast recovery. I am the third missionary, having been pretty sick with intestinal issues. Healing was quick. I know I was blessed. I know that as we strive to serve the Lord here, He will bless us too.