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.
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).
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.