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.