Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jehovah Witnesses and Latter-day Saints

Today on the bus to Zelonograd to attend our Church meetings a couple of ladies sat across from us (facing us). They were pleasant and smiling. One of them leaned over and spoke to me. I smiled and said "English." Oh, she replied and then proceeded to talk in Russian. She reached into her purse and brought out a religious tract. She handed it to Dave and we said "spaseebah" meaning thank you. It appeared to be The WatchTower,  the Jehovah Witnesseses booklets that they pass out. Dave reached into his pocket and drew out a "preeg", which is a handout with a picture of the Savior on it that is used as an invitation to become better acquainted with the Church. She was a bit surprised when we handed her something in return and they graciously accepted it and read it (which was written in Russian).

We have heard that there is a presence of Jehovah Witnesses here and we had a chance to meet two of these lovely ladies today.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

KInd of creepy

Every Friday at the office I prepare the FedEx envelope and put all the letters that are going to the STates from the missionaries.  This past week the envelope came back. As I rifled through it trying to figure out why, I noticed that 5 of the envelopes had been opened and then taped, to include one for our grandson Kyler. I'm not quite sure why. The opened envelopes were all Christmas cards.. So, I remailed all of them again this past Friday and will hope they reach their destinations in the States.

Season of Sacrifice

In November our Russia Moscow Mission President, President Sorenson sent out a personal letter to each of the missionaries in the mission, the seniors and the younger missionaries. He encouraged us to consider what  we could individually do that would help us draw closer to the Lord. He referred to this as a "Season of Sacrifice." At this sacred time of year, what could we sacrifice? What could we bring to the table for the Lord that would be a blessing to us and would help strengthen us as individuals and missionaries?  He stressed that there is great power in sacrifice and he encouraged us to consider what it is that we personally might want to sacrifice in terms of either refraining from something that is negative and hindering our progress, perhaps, or doing something new that would benefit us, but maybe is hard. Maybe giving up a bad habit or working on developing a new resolve to improve upon our life in some way. The purpose is to help us draw closer to the Lord and become more like our Savior, to bring more light into our lives by righteous choices.

Because each one of us is an invidivual and our strengths and weaknesses vary greatly, the sacrifice each of us chooses to make will also vary greatly.

What I have chosen is something most difficult for me, but upon prayer and pondering, I feel that this is what is right for me.

I have chosen to sacrifice or give up chocolate and ice cream and candy in all forms for the remainder of my mission. I love sugar and it is not good for me. I have been consuming too many sweets. I'm struggling with my weight since we got here due to lack of exercise (except for all the walking) and being in an office environment all day isn't conducive to burning a lot of extra calories.) I know how much better I feel when I am making healthier choices. Sugar makes me sluggish.

The members of the Church have a sacred book of scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants. This book contains revelations received by latter-day prophets. One such revelation is found in the 89th section of the  Doctrine and Covenants, known by members of the Church as The Word of Wisdom. You may have heard that members of the Church do not drink or smoke. This counsel was given to us in the Doctrine and Covenants. It contains many treasures for everyone concerning our health and well-being. (exercise, sleeping, eating, etc.). It is meant to be a gift to us to help us live healthy lives.

I have come to know that there is a connection between spiritual and physical well beng.
I want to draw closer to my Heavenly Father as I serve my mission. become more healthier through being more obedient to what I know to be true.

Only in Russia have I ever seen.....

The Mitino Mall is a lovely modern mall. But one thing is different from malls in America. There is a security guard at the entrance to the bathrooms complete with the stile that you have to go through. He unlocks it so you can go in and use the restroom. A little different.........

An unwelcome adventure

Here it is ten days before Christmas and we decided to do our Christmas shopping for each other at the Mitina Mall. It was too cold to walk so we took a bus. We enjoyed shopping, listening to Christmas carols in English, had a nice lunch there and then headed home. A beautiful sunny day here but bitterly cold. On our way back, we missed our stop. The bus driver had stopped in a different place and we expected to get off at our usual place except that he didn't stop. We rounded the corner GOING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF OUR HOME!! We got off at the first stop and walked home. Problem - well, there was only a sidewalk for a short ways and then we entered the construction site of the new Mitina metro stop.I can only imagine what drivers whizzing past us were thinking. Oh, those must be crazy Americans who missed their bus stop.  Here we are, icy winds blowing in our faces as we tread carefully over frozen mud and uneven snow-covered ground trying to reach the street which will take us home. It was a freeze-your-face- in -two- seconds cold and the wind was unrelenting. It is actually a balmy 5 degrees without the chill factor which was well be low zero. We were happy to reach the warmth of our apartment. It is going to be a LOOOOONG winter, especially if we keep missing our bus stops.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Wrong Choice

When we went out to catch a bus to the metro this morning it was below zero. (Three couples) We had to decide whether to take the blue line or the purple line. The purple line is risky because you never know if you'll get a seat or not, and at rush hour, the metro can be VERY busy and crowded. The blue line at Mitino starts there so we are assured of a seat. BUT to get there you have to walk about 5 to 7 minutes to the bus stop to take you to Mitino. That is what I wanted to do.
The purple line in Tushkenskaya means we take the bus right across the street from our apartment. I was outvoted. We took the bus to Tushkenskaya.. The metro was hopping at 7:40 am.  It was VERY crowded. Dave and I got in and I manged to stay in front near the door. Dave was pushed back a ways. I was astonished when, at the first stop, several more people got on. There wasn't any room! They made room! They were pushy and forced themselves on instead of waiting for the next subway which would have come along in 3 minutes or less. I was flattened and couldn't move much. Not fun.
I have heard and been told that you sometimes have to be push to get on. One woman actually got caught in the door as it closed on her. Not a fun ride.
The couples conference was wonderful (which had been our destination and I will talk about that later). On the way back, once again it was rush hour or just prior to rush hour. Everyone was on but me when it started to close. The door started to close before I got on! Dave stuck his arm in between the two doors to force it open again. I rushed inside. I have to admit that Dave's arm squeezed between the doors would have made quite a picture. I'm glad he wasn't hurt.
We have a plan. If anyone is left behind on the metro, the person left behind takes the next subway and gets off at the next stop. The person who has gone on ahead gets off at the next stop and waits for the one following behind. The wait is only a couple of minutes as a rule.
I HATE the metro when it is crowded like that.
I mentioned to my better half that I would rather walk through icy winds to get to the bus stop to Mitino and take the blue line instead of taking the purple line! Until next time, dosvidonya.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This is not the end of the story

It appears that our computer problems are not over. Even though Dave and I both have computers that are up and running (most of the time) our office elder's computers are not..... and they have many things to do to keep the office running smoothly too.
The best news of all? Sergei, one of the computer techs, informed Dave, that oh yeah, I'm getting married in a couple of days and I won't be around.  Not sure when we'll be back. (Evgeny is the other computer tech). OH GREAT.
We have new missionaries arriving on 12/18. It is also transfer week and we will be getting a new office elder who will need to learn Elder Stegeby's responsibilities. How is he going to do that without a functional computer???!!!
Stay tuned for the rest of the story. (however, don't hold your breath It could be a while.)

Who IS that??

Upon coming to Russia I have given up cute shoes and settled for flats because I am walking so much. I don't wear the jewelry that I love either with the exception of earrings and a bracelet now and then.  I have been wearing warm tights since October.  My legs haven't seen the light of day in weeks I have new boots that are very cozy. They are very sensible and warm and fur-lined. I see a lot of these young Russian women, dressed smartly in their fur coat and high heeled boots. How do they walk in those on snow let alone on flat dry surfaces?
Today before I left for the office we checked the weather. I donned earmuffs with a hat pulled over it. My head looked huge and distorted. Scarf, glove liners, gloves, winter coat from LL Bean that goes almost to the ground. Yep, a REAL fashion statement.
I saw a reflection of myself in the mirror. Who IS that?  Well, at least I'm warm. :). With the icy winds blowing I have given up fashion for warmth. Chances are good, that if I do fall, I won't feel it, I'm so bundled up. Dos vidonya

another day at the office

The Service Center called yesterday and told us that our old computers were being replaced with new ones. Now, we have called many times to the Service Center to come and fix a printer, a copier, or this or that, and there wasn't a timely response. Well they were here within an hour and basically turned our day and office upside down. Neither Dave or I had access to our computers for most of the day which is NOT good, especially with no warning.
Then today, I am trying to figure out how th enew computer works and the most important feature on ther efor me, the M drive isn't working. I had to find other things to do. I think it's working now. We will see when we return to the office on Friday (after our 2 day conference for the senior couples. tomorrow and Thursday.) It will be SO fun seeing everyone!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The metro

I'm guessing that one of the most boring jobs in the whole world would be to work as a metro escalator guard. The woman sits in this tiny cubicle with a television screen at the base of the escalators and observes the people going up or down the escalator.
I LOVE watching people on the escalator. When I am going in one direction, I spend a lot of time watching the people going in the other direction. Some days I'm sure I see thousands of people. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors. They are either talking to each other, are on the phone, texting, reading the paper, smooching or just staring into space.
However doing it hour by hour would probably drive me insane. Today the woman in the cubicle must have been bored too, as she was sleeping. It would certainly help the time go by faster. :0)

The metro system really is amazing. Consider the tens of thousands of people (if not more) that use the metro every day, the metro stations are CLEAN. The staff of people that pick up after messy customers do a good job. There is no litter. There are no wastebaskets. There are no public restrooms. Just lots and lots of people scurrying here and there.

Once in a while a stray dog comes into the metro station. They are probably trying to get warm! They have even been known to ride the metro (even though I haven't seen that). On the subway itself, it's not uncommon for people looking for money to walk along asking for money. Today a blind man was making his way along going from car to car.

 It truly is a wonderful way to get around. Getting to the station by bus might be a problem in bad weather, but once you are underground on the metro, you speed along to your destination.

There are different "lines" that go to different locations. For instance, today we took the purple line to the gray line. They are numbered and if you can read Russian, it is pretty easy to get around. Well, not ALL the time. Yesterday Dave and I were on our own trying to get to a music hall off the gray line. We walked quite a distance and realized we were on our way outside. We backtracked quite a distance to find where we had missed the gray line and were able to get to our destination without too much problem. That may be because we had a couple of missionaries that we bumped into who had a gps on their phone and we followed them. Today we needed to go to Tushkenskya and Pushkenskya. Yesterday we needed to go to Comsomolskaya. 
I still can't speak very much Russian and understanding is even harder, but I can generally read it which helps a lot. If you can read the signs, you can figure out where you need to go, how many stops, etc.

Knowing how to get around on the metro doesn't mean I have changed my mind about traveling alone. Even by bus, I have no interest in going on public transportation alone, even though I am willing to walk places in areas I am familiar with.

Some things never change. Dos vidonya

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A pleasant surprise

Today is Saturday and Saturday is the day I usually go grocery shopping while Dave vacuums and does the budget. I start at the productee which is practically right outside our apartment. Margo and Zarina were there. There are three rooms.
As you walk in Margo and Zarina sit on the left next to the little counter and cash register. Liquor lines the left wall just past them. On the right, is a room I don't use very often, but today I went in to get some juice for our Christmas breakfast with the missionaries. (have I mentioned how many wonderful and yummy juices you can get here?) We thought the missionaries  would enjoy some juice Christmas morning. There is also soda, junk food and frozen meats and pastas that we don't use. However, in a little alcove just past the juice  was an inside fruit and veggie stand! It wasn't there before! I was SO excited. Ever since Evon left very unexpectedly (along with the other little outside fruit stands, literally overnight), I have had to go to the renock across the street to get any fresh fruits and veggies. It is VERY inconvenient. NOW I don't have to!
This little alcove was filled with peppers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, bananas, apples, grapes, potatoes. YAY. A man was sitting there just waiting for me to come and buy some of his food. There were a couple of things he didn't have today - zuchinni and mushrooms, but I was able to get everything else. SO glad that this is available once again! :0). Life has just gotten a little easier! LIFE IS GOOD.

Winter in Russia

I remember as a little girl growing up in the snowbelt in Bath NY. There was plenty of snow to make snow houses and sled. It didn't matter how much it snowed because I didn't have to shovel it. Then, moving to MA and dealing with the snow there. Shoveling it and helping little ones into snowsuits to go out and play or dropping off older kids to sled for a couple of hours. I remember a couple of times driving through very snowy and slippery conditions (not by choice). Not fun.
I know that in MA schools are canceled due to snowy weather conditions. I'm guessing that never happens here in Moscow. The Russians know snow. This is what they are used to 5 months out of the year. They have adjusted to it.
The strollers and carriages are protected from wind and snow. Babies are often out with their moms regardless of the weather. Last night, when it was in the 20's, I saw parents out with toddlers at the little playground playing in the snow. I see them with little shovels or little sleds  going down tiny hills or even playing on the playground equipment. From the first snowfall, they are bundled up from head to foot in snowsuits and look very toasty.
Snow doesn't seem to phase them at all. I haven't seen any plows at work, but I think some of the main roads are plowed. There are no snowblowers to be seen, but many men shoveling 24 hours a day to keep sidewalks shoveled. I heard them upon waking this morning at 6 am.
Cars don't seem to slow down much, but it does affect bus schedules. There is some slipping and sliding around. A much longer wait at the bus stop is an unpleasant side effect of the bad weather.
I remember when I refused to go out when it was bad conditions. I guess I had better get over that (even though I don't think I will). Waiting an hour for a bus isn't my idea of fun and then sliding around the roads even less fun.
We will see what the winter brings. The Russian people are a tough and hearty bunch. Walking to the office every morning and back is invigorating and I almost always enjoy it unless it is icy. Falling down and getting hurt is not an option because you need to walk virtually everywhere!
I wonder if I'll look at winter weather differently when I get back to MA in time for next winter. I'm thinking no.
And my better half? He's from sunny California. I haven't heard a peep of complaint from him. (I  guess I do enough for the both of us.). Until next time, dosvidonya.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Someone is watching!

I am looking forward to Dave and I doing some Christmas shopping later this month. I know pretty much what to expect now whichever mall we go to. I go to Okey with Sister Sorenson or Peggy on occasion. Okey is kind of like WalMart. It is a fairly new store in a new mall.
A security guard greets you when you first walk in.
When you come into the store (which is part of a lovely new mall), there is another security guard. There are security people are all over the store actually. When you first walk in, if you have anything with you (not to include your purse, they will stuff it in a big plastic bag and tie it shut. Maybe they're afraid I am going to try to steal??
Then, after I have finished shopping, I unwrap the bags at the check out so I can use them to put my purchased items into. They do not bag for you. You do it yourself.
In some stores there are lockers for you to put things you have already purchased in others stores so that you are not carrying around bags filled with items you have already purchased.
I'm guessing that the theft rate is low because there is someone watching carefully from every floor!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visa Trip

Today we went out on our third visa trip since arriving in Russian 9 months ago. Alexander picked us up at 6 am and it took 25 minutes to get to the airport. (in a snowstorm last week, it took over 3 hours.) All in all, things went very well. The SVO Airport was on the quiet side when we arrived. We didn't have to stand in line to get our tickets, the flight was on time, it came back on time and it only took an hour to get back home in rush hour traffic. Thanks in part to Alexander knowing all the shortcuts! Sometimes it takes MUCH longer to go from the airport back to the office where passports are scanned. Because there was plenty of time, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Lido's. It's fun to see the different foods available in different countries. Think pancakes w/ fresh strawberry sauce, panckaes filed with cottage cheese or cheese and ham and rolled like a tortilla. Delicious fruits - starfruit, pineapple,kiwi, fresh squeezed orange juice which was SO good and Dave's juice was called santhorn. It was very smooth like a nectar and delicious but not a taste we were familiar with. There were different desserts. Orange pie, oatmeal dessert with fruit and many others. (we didn't eat dessert this time - maybe in March).
There are a lot of English speakers in Riga and the atmosphere is different from Russia. Friendly and more easy going and slower paced.
I enjoyed reading my kindle and snoozing on the plane and Dave (Elder Sutton) read and snoozed as well.
The whole purpose of these visa trips is to be in compliance with Russian law. We personally don't see the purpose. We are required to exit Russia every three months on a second passport. It is a three month visa on our first or  second passport. If we fail to do this we would be illeagle and kicked out of the country,.Russia has made it difficult for us to be here.
It is a waste of time (missionaries lose a whole day and sometimes more if you include their travel to get to the airport, sometimes from outlying cities which requires an overnight stay). It is a tremendous expense for the Church who pays for all of the missionaries throughout Russia to go out of the country and back in. Not to mention the paperwork and time involved and the $150 for each passport.
Visa trips are NOT vacations and all of the missionarie, with the exception of our Russian missionaries have to do this.
There have been two places where our particular mission has gone for our visa trips. Kiev, Ukraine (until fairly recently) and Riga, Latvia. When the missionaries arrive in Riga, they don't leave the airport. They stay until it is time to board the plane to come back to Moscow.
We have had a chance to see Riga Latvia, because of a glitch made our first visa trip out last June. It is mentioned in a prior blog post. We ended up going back to Latvia the next day and had to stay overnight. Riga is a BEAUTIFUL ancient city and we enjoyed ourselves very much. It was an unexpected treat that we enjoyed the hard way.
Very recently, our new missionaries who just arrived and those who come after no longer have a second passport which means that they will have to leave the country only every  6 months to get a new migration card which will allow them to stay in the country for another 6 months. Dave and I will still have to go out two more times, March and June, before we come back to the States. We are making progress!
It is something we all have to do. At the end of the month we are having 25 missionaries going out on a visa trip at the same time. Wow. It keeps our office elders busy when they come back and need their documents scanned. Transportation needs to be planned with 3 vans or a bus for such a large group. Our visa clerk Diana is kept VERY busy making reservations for all these flights. It is a demanding job.
Well, until March 3 or so we can keep our feet on the ground here in Russia. Dosvidonya.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just another day at the office

Today we welcomed a new missionary couple who will be working humanitarian and living in Moscow. It's always wonderful greeting our new missionaries. Later in the month, we will be greeting 6 new elders to our mission family. Throughout the course of the day, I answered the phone and before I could slow them down, Russian speakers were talking a mile a minute. I transferred them to our Russian-speaking office elders. (one from the States and one from Sweden). Sometimes I go next door to get Onya to help out or Diana, our Russian visa clerk will take the call. I'm used to it now, hearing Russian around me and I'm used to not understanding it.

Today was mail run and the office elders came back around noon bearing packages from back home for missionaries for Christmas. There were 4 extra missionaries in the office and of course, they were very excited and started going through them to see if there was anything for them. Later I sorted through the packages and put them in our mail center in different places to go to the different outlying cities or the schoff at the Central Building, to be picked up by missionaries working in the Moscow Oblast (equivalant to a county). I also sorted letters. I love seeing our missionaries get mail and packages. It makes them so happy to get mail from home
We were pleasantly surprised to see that one of the packages was for us, from our good friends the Ladieus back in MA. We served with them in the Boston Temple and they are very special to us. AND we received 3 Christmas cards. Thank you Sue and Rachel! Thank you Linda! Thank you condo family!

Sometimes, I look at my list of things to do and I don't know where to begin. There were many things I could have done today, but I have learned the importance of being flexible. Things come up. One sweet missionary called for her companion yesterday who has been really sick. I talked to Sister T (the sick one) and I gave her some suggestions and told her I would check in on her today. She beat me to the punch and called today to tell me she is feeling much better!

Clothes keep trickling in that need to be sorted and passed on to those who can use them, or given to those in need in Moscow.

I received notice of another 4 missionaries who will be joining our ranks in April and May and there is quite a list of things to do for each one in preparing their folders and planning for them. Then there are another 4 missionaries who are going home before Christmas. Let's just say I don't have a lot of time to get into trouble.

One thing I did today was place an order with the Distribution Center. Missionaries let me know what they need and I try to get it for them. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don't. For instance, Sister I and her companiion need French materials for their French speaking investigators. I scoured the supply closet, took what few supplies in French that were there. I was told by Distribution that it would be a couple of months before the French and Armenian supplies would be in.

Dave, on the other hand, spent a lot of time on the computer funding rent and other expenditures, was involved in a couple of projects he was asked to help with. He met with President Sorenson on mission business concerning calendaring and release dates for our missionaries. He is also involved in helping find apartments, working with our realtor and coordinates everything to make it possible.

I am trying to become more organized. Let's just say that it is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. My sweetheart is so organized. Always has been. I am only organized in certain things. I'm working on it.

Tomorrow we will not be in the office at all as tomorrow we have to leave the country on a visa trip. I'll report more on that tomorrow.  Until then, dosvidonya.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Love from our condo community

What a wonderful surprise last week when we received a care package from our condo family in Thorndike, MA. It made us feel so good. Being remembered when we are so far away is a big deal even more  this time of year. I LOVE Christmas and  are looking forward to celebrating with our missionaries, but thoughts of friends and family back home are in our hearts.

How we appreciate the little things from home. Thank you, condo family, for your thoughtfulness. Everything you sent is being enjoyed and some of it shared with our young missionaries. We love the emails and the skype dates which help keep us connected with our little condo family. It is a great blessing.   Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Russian weather

Winter arrived on time here in Moscow - late October when the temps dropped. We had our first major snowstorm a couple of days ago. In fact, it is the  biggest snowfall in November in 50 years. Hmmm. That doesn't bode well for the rest of the winter. Wait. Anyway, the snow was followed by freezing rain which made walking treacherous, even in my new snow boots, which have a good tread . I must have looked like a duck as I inched my way home on ice-covered sidewalks.
The stairs were the worst. Coming out of the office, they were covered in ice and there was no treatment on them. Approaching the apartment, there are a few stairs to climb. They were covered in ice as well. Luckily, there were some men milling around outside on a work break and one of them came over and took my elbow and matter-of-factly walked me up the stairs. The same thing happened on Wednesday when we went to Zelonograd. There are stairs going down underground to walk under the streets. They get very icy.  A young man behind me, took my elbow and led me down the stairs and then went on his way.
I am considering buying a bag of cat litter at the pet store and putting some in baggies and sprinkling it liberally when needed. What do you think?
This morning (day after ice storm) I woke up to the sound of shoveling. In fact, I heard shoveling on and off all night. They rely on workers to shovel by hand as opposed to using a snow blower.. Until next time, dos vidonya.