Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Some things I have learned to substitute for in the kitchen. But how do I find a good substitution for grahm crackers? Sorry, I just don't think it's going to happen. I don't care for boxed cookies which I guess could be a substitute if I were to find anything remotely grahm crackerish, such as vanilla wafers which could be crushed, but haven't seen anything like it.  I only have 1 complete box of grahm crackers left. OH NO!!! I guess you can tell that I use grahm crackers a lot, for pie crusts for my homemade puddings that I make (and the missionaries love) and they are pretty good for snacking as well. I'm really going to have to stretch these out.

Winter is here.

Winter arrived a couple of days ago. In fact, it's snowing out now. We can look forward to this for the next 5 months. I have heard that snow plows arn't used very much so I am wondering about the condition of the roads. I hear that snow gets packed down on sidewalks and doesn't get shoveled which could mean icy walking on the way to and from the office or anywhere else we need to go. SIGH.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Russian tradition

Deeona, our Russian visa clerk who works in our office had a birthday yesterday. Several us brought gifts and left them on her desk (she didn't come in as she took Slava, her 4 year old son for a doctor's appointment.) She came in today and said she had baked a cake and would bring it in tomorrow. Sister Naegle and I said WE should be bringing a cake for HER. But she said no. This is Russian tradition that on their birthday they supply the birthday cake. In fact she had baked 4 cakes. One for her family, one for the Service Center where she works parttime (connected with the mission office), one for us and I can't remember who the 4th one was for. It is fun learning about traditions in this great land that we are currently living in.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ivan (Eevon) is back

I am pleased to say that even though the vegetable stand is gone, Ivan is back with a truck from which he will sell his fruits and vegetables throughout the winter months. That is very good news in deed! It would be incredibly inconvenient for me to have to go across the highway (Piatnitksy Highway) to go to the renock to buy fruits and veggies there which would take about 25 minutes total as opposed to going right outside my apartment building door and getting what I need. Especially with winter weather already upon us.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sometimes it just takes a smile

When I was at the productee, there was a man there and I smiled at him. We carried on a very limited conversation, but he learned I was from Massachusetts and had 1 brother and 3 sons ( couldn't remember the word for daughter) and a husband. My grocery bag was very heavy by the end of my shopping excursion, that he offered to carry the bag all the way to the apartment for me. Very nice. On the way, I learned that he is from Kubikstan. People are pretty much the same wherever you go. If you are friendly and show an interest in them, they respond. A nice way to start my morning.
(I didn't have the heart to tell him that I wasn't through with my grocery shopping.) I had planned on stopping at the vegetable truck, which wonderfully showed up in place of the stand where Ivan had been two days ago.) So, anyway, I brought up my groceries and am now ready to go back down and get the fruits and veggies I still need.

Peanut butter

This morning I walked over to the productee to do some shopping. I am amazed that this little store allows me to get almost everything edible that I would get at the little white store across the street and about 7 minutes walk away. Today there was peanut butter!! Iwas So psyched! It cost the equivalent of $7 for a small jar, but it is peanut butter and I bought both jars. I want to give our 3 sets of missionaries a jar each  for Christmas. One of them loves peanut butter so much. He was lamenting yesterday when he was in the office how much he wanted some peanut butter. I took him into the kitchen with me where I had brought about the equivalent of 3 tablespoons of the yummy peanut butter and gave it to him with the instructions to return the container to me it was in. (( We'll see if that happens. ) had taken it to fix myself a sandwich for lunch). Since peanut butter is hard to find it is a real treat for our American mishies.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gone Without A Trace!!

I have loved having the productee and the vegetable/fruit stand practically right outside our apartment door. I stopped by to see Ivan (eevon) last night to buy some mushrooms and strawberries. Everything seemed just as it always is.

SO, imagine my great surprise when we met the Naegle's outside this morning at 7:15 at "the Lions", in front of our apartment building and the vegetable stand was gone!!! There was no sign that it had ever been there. It had been a metal 3-sided building w/ an open front. It was filled with all kinds of delectable fruits and veggies. Strawberries, watermelon, zuchinni, onions, apples, grapefruit, etc. NOTHING was out of the ordinary., nothing to suggest that they were "going out of business."

There is also a smaller veggie stand in front of the building that is totally gone as well.

It is a mystery! Where did it go? I counted heavily on that little stand and now it is gone. I will ask Margo and Zarina who work in the productee where it went. (the question is will I be able to understand them?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CHRISTMAS IS COMING! I have a favor to ask.

It is almost November and Christmas is right around the corner. I LOVE Christmas. I love decorating for Christmas, I love the music of Christmas, I love the smells of baking.  I love everything about it.
This year I will miss Christmas cookie baking with my granddaughter Abby. I look forward to resuming that next year! We can each wear our new Russian aprons that I will be bringing to the States from Russia! I will miss not decorating very much (even though we do have a few little things to decorate our apartment.)

I have a favor to ask our family and friends concerning Christmas this year as we spend it in Moscow. I would love if you would send us Christmas cards that we can use to decorate our apartment. We do have a few little things here, but Christmas cards would really add to the cheer and atmosphere of our living room. PLUS hearing from you would be so wonderful.

I am going to give you two addresses which can be used to send Christmas cards if you feel so inclined.
David and Barbara Sutton
Muravskaya St. Bldg #1, floor 3
Moscow Russia 125310
 (the above is our physical address at the mission office)
\or \

David and Barbara Sutton
Russia Moscow Mission
Glavpochtampt a/ia 257
Moscow 101000
(this is our post office box) the office elders pick this up at the post office on mail run day)
Both are good addresses.

We will post more about Christmas in Russia closer to the holiday. Things are different here in many ways! and we are looking forward to eaxperiencing Christmas in Russia.
However, family and friends continue to be most important, regardless of miles that separate us.

I know you are all busy, but please consider sending us a card or a note this Christmas season. We love you. We think of you and we pray for you. Because we are so busy, especially now  that our workload has increased due to our much larger mission, we probably don't take the time to tell you how important you are to us. Until next time, dos vidonya.

Mail call!

You may have asked your post office how long it takes for mail to arrive in Russia. They will say within 10 days or so.  That may be true, but once it arrives in Russia, it comes to a standstill. It can take 2 - 6 weeks to get mail here. Packages need to be very specific with the contents. The better taped up it is the more unlikely they are to bother to open it and check it. (My mom wraps packages very well.). I am pleased to report that we have not had any problem receiving our packages which have been most appreciated, from Shauna and Mom.

Sending packages and mail is a different story unless it goes in the pouch from inside the office. Lines in the post offices are long and the waits are long. Not fun.


Let's talk about mail here in Russia for a few minutes. In the office, I volunteered to take over the distribution of mail and leave our office elders to other responsibilities.

The mail for the whole mission comes through the mission office. We are talking about cities  = Nizhney, Zelonograd, Smolensk, Podolsk, International (Moscow) the only English speaking ward, Perova, Ryazan, Voronezh, Kaluga, Arbatski, Tver, Tula, Lotoshino, and a few others. It is my responsibility to take each letter or package, and put it in the compartment set aside for each city. Then, when missionaries come in to the office from one of those cities, they can take the mail for their district. Keep in mind that Voronezh is 9 hours away so we have to wait for a zone conference or visa trip to send the package on its way as it cannot be forwarded in any other way.

That is one of the advantages of being in the office. We don't have to wait to receive our mail. :0)
For the cities in Moscow, our office elders deliver these to a "schoff", located at the Central Building, which is, as the name would indicate, centrally located to the Moscow missionaries. Or, with the zone conferences that are held every three months, mail can be passed out to missionaries then. It is a time consuming process.

After 7 months here in Russia......

I am feeling more comfortable on the metro. Anyone who knows me know I am incredibly directionally challenged and very uncomfortable driving or going out of my comfort zone, meaning the area in which I know how to get around in.
The metro system is excellent and I can say that I now know how to go about finding my way around should the need arise when I had to. Being able to read Russian is fairly crucial though and I am able to read the signs so that helps. However, I have no intention of taking the metro by mysel..

The Russian money system continues to be a challenge. Since this is a cash only society, trips to the bank are necessary to make sure we have the money we need for the day. And of course, the differences between the USA and Russian is interesting. For instance, today, when I was going to go to Okey (like a Super WalMart),  I took with me a 5000 ruble bill. Wow. However, it is only euals around $170 American dollars.

We have pennies. They have kopecks. I don't know why because you need 10 kopeks to equal a ruble which is the equivalent of $.30. Almost worthless. We have dollars, they have rubles.  I'm pretty comfortable with the money now. (I should be after 7 months).

I understand the Russians have certain bank accounts. However, we cannot. We draw out $ from the ATM and carry the cash with us. For instance, opening a new apartment might require Dave to carry 150,000 rubles. You REALLY have to hold your money tight to the vest when you are carrying that kind of moneh (around $4800 American). Of course, carrying large sums of money makes no sense except for short periods of time. Luckily we are right next door to the bank, but how much easier it is to write a check or use the MasterCard! MasterCards are used; however, we are not comfortable using them here.

After 7 months in Russia, I am continuing to find new and different foods in the grocery store that one is unlikely to see in America. For instance, dried goldfish....for snacking perhaps?? Yum. Rows and rows of "soak", or juice. There are all different flavors of delicious fruit juices and it takes up a whole long row at the grocery store. In the next aisle over, rows (on both side) of liquor, vodka, etc.

One thing that caught my eye this past week on a top shelf was different kinds of canned meats. The animal head on the can showed what delicious treat was found within. Hmmmmm. Horse, goat, pig and sheep were all available. The Russians love their meat and are big eaters of sausage. They also love mayonaise and there are many different flavors. You will find it in the refridgerated section in pouches.

I'm getting more used to the traffic, crazy drivers who also use sidewalks if they feel so inclined, BUT I don't like it. It is a 20 - 25 minute drive to Zelonograd, but it takes us up to an hour and 20 minutes at times to go that short distance because of the heavy traffic.

and perhaps mail is the biggest issue I am working on. That is coming up next. Dos vidonya.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rude bus drivers

We had our first dinner invitation to the home of a Russian couple this past week. Kirill and Katya, a young married couple are members of the Church in Moscow, have been having different missionary companionships in their home for dinner and this past week was our turn. They are a lovely couple who work at the Service Center in Moscow. They live in a tiny apartment near the Service Center  which is owned by the Church and well utilized by our mission.
Kirill is the man Dave goes to with financial questions. He is Dave's first point of contact. He is a church accountant. He came to the office a few times to help orient Dave in his responsibilities.
They are expecting their first baby in a couple of weeks.
The neighborhood they live in is one of the loveliest I have seen.

Getting there was a bit tricky because we had to take a matrushka instead of a bus. We had to depend on the kindness of other passengers to let us know when we were supposted to get off, because we were totally unfamiliar with the area. We made it!

However, on the way home, Kirill and Katya walked us to the bus stop, a lovely walk in a nice neighborhood. It could have been any small town in America. We were familiar with the road we were on, but when we got up and pushed the button for the bus driver to let us off, he didn't stop. We were let off with the other passengers at the next stop which was  following an area of construction. It was REALLY fun walking back to our apartment on a busy road where there was no sidewalk (due to the construction)

I'm not sure what the bus driver's problem was, but it was NOT amusing.

Water filters and worm pills

Some of our responsibilities in the office are a bit out of the ordinary. I have learned as time has gone by that our mission is not just about helping the mission run smoothly; it is not just about giving President Sorenson peace of mind that all will be well in the office during his many absences as he travels around this vast mission seeing to the needs of his missionaries; it is also about NURTURING our young missionaries. Hmmmmm. I like that. Sometimes we play the role of Mom and Dad to these young men and women who are far away from their families.

Due to visa trips, interviews with President Sorenson and other reasons, many of our missionaries find themselves in the office. We have enjoyed getting acquainted with the ones we don't know (who have been in the outer cities for instance). Dave has had a couple of really close relationships with our office elders and it has benefitted both of them. After all, we, too, are away from our family and this is a chance to love and be loved by these precious missionaries.

I try to make sure there are healthy snacks available for hungry missionaries when they come back from their visa trip to Latvia half starved. (arn't young men usually half-starved?) Our young women too. Sometimes I'll have baked some muffins and bring them to the office when there is a special meeting between President S. and his AP's  (assistants to the President).

I am responsible for placing orders and making sure we have enough Book of Mormons, other missionary needs, toilet paper, copier paper and even a new laminator which was purchased last month. Everything we need in our office, kitchen and bathrooms.

What does all of this have to do with water filters and worm pills you might ask? WELL, Elder Sutton is responsible for ordering water filters for each companionship and making sure that each apartment has them. Making sure new apartments (which we open up as our mission grows and we have a greater need for more apartments) have new water filters installed.

What is the need for water filters? Well, the water here in Russia is not safe to drink due to antiquated pipes and the distribution system through which the water runs. Drinking the water from the tap can and will most likely make you VERY sick and cause all kinds of unwelcome problems. The water filters have to be changed every so often as well, and he has a system set up to make sure the new filters are passed out in a timely fashion and he lets them know when they need to be changed.

There are NO drinking fountains to be found anywhere. There is no such thing as a free glass of water at a restaurant. You order bottled water. Gas or still.With bubbles or not.

That's where the worm pills come in. Every missionary who leaves to go home from their mission gets a very special "gift" in their farewell packet. Two boxes of worm pills (different kinds) They are to be taken upon arriving back home (where that may be - Germany, Vladivstok, US, or Sweden, etc). These pills rid your system from any unwelcome critters that may have found their way into your intestinal tract during your stay in Russia.

SOOOOO, one of my responsibilities is to track down worm pills at the aptekas and make sure the missionaries have them. So far I have been unsuccessful in finding a pharmacy that will deliver which would of course make my life a lot easier. I am going to ask the office elders to help me see if something can be worked out.

So, there you have it. A little out of the norm, don't you think?

Until next time, dos vidonya.

Busy, busy, busy

I know it has been a while since I updated the blog. We have been SO BUSY. The other office couple have gone now and the workload has increased (as we knew it would). We are not complaining, mind you. We came on a mission to serve and expected to be busy. When I get home from the office, I am too tired to blog.

Life has been going along at an even keel with nothing extraordinary to share.

Dave (Elder Sutton) serves as the Financial Secretary. He is  responsible for making sure that our 130 missionaries have their cards funded so they can pay their rent, he conducts audits around the mission (which I remind you, is the size of US) He is also the Executive Secretary to the Mission President and these two with the myriad responsibilities thst come with it keeps him VERY busy. He is the OFFICE  MANAGER. His phone is ringing constantly with an elder here who has lost his card and it needs to be replaced, or a set of young sisters call  whose refridgerator has broken down and the landlady won't fix it. What to do? MY RENT DIDN"T SHOW UP ON MY CARD and my landlord is bugging me! HELP! These are things he deals with on a regular basis. Some are more urgent than others. Emergency visits to the doctor requires reimbursement, or, in some cases, missionaries who don't budget well and run out of rubles before the end of the month. Elder Sutton deals with all of this
Do you remember me mentioning that we are dealing in a cash only society here? Money is funded to the companionships (younger missionaries) and then they draw off the rubles to pay for rent, or go to the grocery store and so on. Sometimes they don't have enough money to get through the end of the month.

My husband as of late has also been going into the mission office on Saturday mornings to play catch up. We haven't made it to English Group of Senior Council for the last two weeks. Service in the office takes precedence over everything else.

And then there's me. Sister Sutton. Office secretary. I answer the phone. I have people hang up on me because I can't understand Russian very well. I speak it better than I understand it. And I don't speak it very well! I take care of the missionaries before I even meet them. When word comes in thtat they are coming there are folders to make up for each missionary which consist of several steps. There are our returning missionaries who need airfare arranged for them (and many other things). I have plenty to do to keep myself busy.

 I perform secretarial duties for my husband as well and make phone calls for him .When there is a letter that President Sorenson needs written, he brings me and dictates to me. He learned that I used to be a stenographer and so here I am 40 plus years later, taking letters in shorthand! WOW.

I am VERY grateful for our wonderful office elders who are very computer savvy. They teach me new things on the computer and answer my questions. And also Deeona, our visa clerk, who handles all the passport and visa issues (of which there are many here in Russia - along with our office elders)

Other more interesting responsibilities to follow. Dos Vidonya.