Wednesday, July 29, 2015

You can make the sun shine!

Time got faster and I've lost the ability to discern between things people might actually want to hear and those you probably don't want to hear.

We got travel plans! Our flight out of here is at 12:00 Monday morning and we'll arrive in our mission Tuesday night. It's going to be fun, though, I've decided. I was so excited to re-pack (because then I have everything neat and in one place, yay!) but it's tricky when you have to leave out things for four days and honestly I don't have that many things. I just packed, weighed my bags, and unpacked, pretty much.

I really don't have much to say. We got someone who works at the MTC who we do service with around campus to let us into some more restricted utility areas here, which was really fun in theory and also honestly pretty boring, unless you're a missionary who's been at the MTC for a couple months. Next week, or probably the Monday after next, I should have much more entertaining things to share. We're just running around trying to learn Russian and trying to eat through all the food that the families of the sisters in my district have sent them. There's so much. 

Things are really just pretty great. Everything has fallen into a rhythm, and we've all mostly lost any self-consciousness we ever had, and our teachers are as great as ever. Since one of our teachers went to Ukraine we've had a series of substitutes for her. My favorite was probably this hilarious woman from Ukraine who actually reminds me so much of Becca (only Ukrainian, and possibly a bit weirder), and she served in Samara! When she taught us we wandered all around campus learning verbs of motion, which are a little complicated in Russian, so we just ran around and she would call commands in Russian. "Approach the dumpster! Go around the car! Cross through the other missionaries!" And I actually feel pretty confident about verbs of motion now. One of our other teachers closed her last teaching block with us yesterday by showing us photos of her mission and giving us a whole lot of seriously useful practical advice. That was one of the "just put me in Russia right now!" moments.

Sometimes I'm a little nervous because at the end of this week I'm flying to a big scary place where I don't really speak everyone else's language and multitudinous other scary things and sometimes I'm just so ready to get out there. Time to go dispel gloom and sad and discouragement with happy! You can do that, too, wherever you are.

Do I take pictures? Not really...

All my love,
Sister Nielsen

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

many sons!

And a nice husband! And good child-bearing years!

Our teacher Sister Chartrand has been in kind of a funny mood lately, which leads to her more frequently remembering little tidbits about Russian culture. So the above wishes, and many more, are things that nice Russian grannies will probably tell me a lot. I look forward to it. Speaking of babushki, I skyped with a real genuine Russian granny this week! It was pretty fun, and hard to figure out what she was saying. She actually lives in a city that is in my mission, so I might meet her again!

Other than random culture things (Sister Chartrand also taught us to sing Katyusha, so look it up if you have an internet because Russian songs are pretty awesome) our teachers are drilling more grammar into us, which is fun. No, really though. Especially with the "No one taught me this and I didn't use it right until the eighth month of my mission, be grateful" corollaries. Also since sister Chartrand is an editing minor and gets pretty excited about grammar ( example: the day we learned the words for "whither", "hither", and "thither", which you have to use in Russian to be correct) it's just all-around really enjoyable. Another example: "So, words that end with o-s-t-ь are always feminine, and words that end with a-r-ь are always masculine. Like... знахарь, 'witch doctor'" (silence because we have no idea how to respond to that).

Early Monday morning the district of three elders going to Peterburg left, which was sad, and also made me realize that I get landed in Russia pretty soon! A week and a half! And we're the most senior Russian missionaries here. We get our travel plans on Friday. Weird. It's so funny how close it's possible to get to people in six and a half weeks. Sometimes I think I've known the sisters in my district all my life. 

Sometime in the past week I was talking to one of the new elders in the other zone. He was telling me about how he only knew about four words in Russian:
"but I want to know another word. Do you know the word for 'gun'?"
"uh, no, but I know how to say 'weapons of war'"
"well, then tell me"
so I did. Missionary life is weird.

Be happy with the stuff you do and if the stuff you do doesn't do that, find other things that do make you happy. Make other people happy. Focus less on yourself. If you don't know what's going to make you happy, talk to some missionaries, they might know.

There's a picture from last Wednesday night, of our district with Sister Allred, who left the following day to go visit Ukraine and the Baltics. I'm not sure that us holding her was entirely mozhno, but it's cute.

I love you all. Have an excellent week! Go do things that uplift!

Sister Nielsen

Editor's note: A couple weeks ago I stated that I was fairly sure real Russians do not say "spoky noky" to mean "night-night", but it has come to my attention that some young children in Russian actually do. Go figure.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Don't swing from the chandeliers

We get a whole bunch of new Russians today! Also, since we've been here six weeks, we get some who are also going to Samara! It's kind of a big deal. So yeah, I just heard a sister moving into her dorm say something about Samara and I kind of sprinted down the hallway to see her and may have been a little loud and overwhelming. Whoops.

So last week after I wrote my email we polished crystal in the temple (which was closed). We polished little rods and hanging beads, hundreds of them, and dismantled and reassembled chandeliers. It was extremely relaxing. And really, really satisfying. Everything was glittery and in its proper place, and I was pretty happy about it.

Speaking of the temple, I heard from multiple sources that my sister was on the grounds on Sunday at the exact same time I was there. Molodets Anna for managing to avoid me. Truthfully, most people were avoiding us, thirty missionaries standing in a circle singing Christmas hymns in Russian in July. We don't always sing Christmas hymns, but we like to and anyway rumor has it Russians sing Christmas hymns all year round, so why not?

I've gotten to the point where I can read cyrillic fast enough to also read the alto line of songs, and it's made things 380% better. Still there are words that throw me, of course. There's a couple places in certain hymns where I just can't say the words and it's kind of entertaining. Like the word vzglyad. That means "look", "glance", or "opinion". I can say it normally but when it's coming at me at quarter note = 116 and is in cyrillic it looks more like B3rARD and my brain panics.

Other things: I'm enjoying hearing my little phrases creep into other people's vocabulary. I don't know if the sisters in my district have gotten funnier or if I've just lost my mind but I pretty well laugh non-stop between 9:30 and 10:00 and I just love everyone okay

I've been thinking about Ezekiel 36:26 and Mosiah 27:26. Don't hesitate to let God make you into who you need to be. It can be kind of like ripping out your heart sometimes, but your new heart will be warm and vulnerable and actually able to care for others and help them.

All my love,
Sister Nielsen

Just ignore grammar. It's not important

Dear family and others,

I want to leave the MTC. And I don't. I don't know. Apparently I still have things to gain here. But I've already gained so much. In fact, last time we did service that involved non-missionary clothes, my jeans were a leeetle bit tight. Hmmm. Those dang MTC dryers, am I right? Also I'm losing things, like the ability to write or spell in any language. And I'm losing some of my shyness talking to people I don't know. So it balances.

I've gotten really good at guessing where other missionaries are going to serve. It's weird.

The weeks are flying now and I don't know how to talk about what happens. July 4th we had a special devotional, after which they herded us all out into the parking lot. From there we could see fireworks all around, especially from Rock Canyon park and the BYU stadium. So it was pretty American. They also gave us permission to stay out later than usual (they said "until the show is over"...) so everyone got to bed about an hour late. That was dreadful. I never want to do that again. I value sleep more than freedom, I guess?

We've also had some pretty good devotionals. Sunday's was with Jenny Oaks Baker, which was awesome because music! It's always good if we have musical devotionals on Sundays because my attention span for people talking is usually shot by the end of the day.

Russian continues. I think as of a week ago the missionaries in my district who had no previous Russian caught up past the point where I was when I came in, which is awesome. Apparently four weeks of MTC time equals eight months of real time. It sometimes feels like that, for sure. 

Ridiculous language things of the week: In Russian there's not really a word for "short", at least as far as height goes. So I just say that I'm "nottall". There are a lot of words like that, actually. Like the word for safety is basically "without-danger-ness". I also learned that there are a lot of verbs that have the prefix "na-" and have reflexive endings. They basically mean "to do [whatever the root is] to your heart's content". So there are some very excellent verbs, like "to have a good cry" and "to sit for way too long". English really does have its drawbacks. I also keep picking up random colloquial words. A stareishina who's been here two weeks longer than me told me the word for "womanizer", which I really did not need, but I'm not going to forget it either. Also, I learned the word for "nerd". It's "botanik". Yes, that also means "botanist". Go figure. 

You are all lovely. Last thing, I managed to attach some pictures:

The sisters in our district with one of our teachers, sister Allred. She is unbelievably sunny and inspired and I love her. She's leaving in a week to go to Ukraine (where she served her mission) with her family. I'm trying not to feel too betrayed...

Cheesy photo of me being a botanist with a kniga mormona :)

Make good choices, find the spirit's help in everything! Help people.

Sister Nielsen

bacon is not salad

I miss vegetables! And cooking. Now I really shouldn't complain about having three meals cooked for me every day, but I think I'm going to get scurvy. At the cafeteria here if there are vegetables involved with a meal, it's usually some mixture of, say, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower. Astonishingly, all of them have the same taste and texture. And "taste" here may be best understood as "lack of taste". I'm afraid my salt intake is way up. So I eat a lot of salads, but even those I don't think the MTC really understands. The other day my salad had more bacon in it than lettuce. I live a rough life. But seriously, I'm craving broccoli and asparagus.

We moved again last Thursday, so I've now been able to live in three different residence halls here! I'm going to be a champ at transfers. The new building they moved a lot of sisters into two weeks ago turned out to have a bat infestation (read: someone saw one bat), so we had to go. It was kind of hilarious, actually. They rounded up almost all the sisters in the MTC without telling us what was happening, herded us in to the auditorium, and had us sing hymns until they were ready. Mind you, this is while the new mission presidents' seminar was going on, so the rumors were flying-- "we're going to hear from the prophet? maybe the mission time has been extended to 24 months for sisters!"  But no, they just wanted the 700 or so of us moved out in the next hour. Heh. 

It's getting hotter and busier here at the MTC. Conflicts over the thermostats and long lines in the cafeteria. It's a good life, though. It's weird that it's been a month. I just want to go to Russia and do real things and love people. Also the MTC has done terrible things to my sense of humor, I think it's being in a room all day with the same eight people. I think I'm always on the verge of dissolving into gales of laughter about nothing really

Okay, time to learn some Russian. Missionaries say some weird things that aren't real Russian phrases, so I'll start with the most ridiculous. Prepare yourself for bad transliterations.

spokey nokey: Real Russians do not say this. Spakoinii noch means good night (lit. "calm night"), but this is a cutsey american way of saying it that makes me cringe every time I hear it. I kind of love it.

ya shuchu: This means "I'm joking", and it also sounds like "shoot you". Many finger pistols.

pochemu nye oba?: Our teacher had to teach us this because we kept saying "por que no los dos?". It means the same thing, though.

shto takoye??!: "what is this?" or "what such?" I'm certain we over-use this, but it's basically "what the what" and I can't get it out of my vocabulary.

Oh right, speaking of bad transliterations, we got our tags with our names in Russian yesterday! It's pretty exciting! I'm actually not thrilled with the spelling of my name, for reasons that probably aren't interesting to anyone but Anna, but it's okay because in Russia at the moment missionaries don't actually wear tags.

We also had the opportunity to be taught by new mission presidents! President and sister Laboriel will be presiding over the Costa Rica San Jose West mission, and they know very little English. We were combined with a little district of Spanish-speaking missionaries and their teacher translated for those in our district who didn't understand. It was excellent and they were very high-energy. One of the elders in the Spanish district we were with was from Brazil and had SAO PAULO INTERLAGOS and a temple picture plastered all over his binder. So Anna, if you know an Elder Rovere, I met him.

I thoroughly enjoyed rereading Gerald Causse's talk from last conference, and particularly liked the bit about "The real voyage is not seeking new landscapes but  having new eyes". I also read John chapter 9 in the past week, and I think that relates pretty well. Those are my deep thoughts.

Photos are nonexistant because computers and I never have my camera at the appropriate times. Otherwise I'd have a cute picture of my zone where we're holding a Russian flag! Upside down. Whoops...

All the love in the world,

Sister Nielsen

Don't hesitate to tell me if you don't appreciate being on this list, by the way.


Hi awesome people,

When I can't sleep at night, which is often, I lie in bed and think about Russian grammar. I don't know why, but it swirls around in my head as soon as I get rid of other thoughts. This week we we went over instrumental case, which was good because we didn't cover it very well in my Russ 102 class. We don't really identify instrumental in English like we do in Russian, we just say "with", but they have a special ending for nouns and adjectives that are with or that enable the subject. Like, I eat by the means of a fork. So there're three ways you use instrumental: with certain prepositions (usually if you do something with someone), when the verb happens by the means of something, and with certain verbs. I don't know why, but some verbs just invoke certain cases. So for instrumental there aren't very many, but they're things like "to be" (in the future) "to share" "to become" "to sacrifice", etc. Think "I will share by the means of this video" instead of "I will share this video". Have I suitably bored you by now? Good. Anyway, I was thinking about this while I was trying to sleep, and I think I want to become by the means of a good missionary. It's cool, I think, that those verbs use instrumental, at least for me now. I'm not out here on a mission to do my own thing, I'm out here to enable other people to get closer to Christ. So I guess you could say I'm trying to be an instrument in God's hands. Yay for grammatika!

Other fun Russian things: 
the word "to pray" is the reflexive version of the word "to plead". Cool, da?
language mistake of the week: I was trying to say you can pray in your mind as well as out loud, but I can't actually say that, so I just said you can pray on your head. I'm sure you can, but that sounds excessively uncomfortable. I'll just say you can pray in your heart from now on.

I acquired some hymnbooks that are near to death, they said they'd throw them away but I could rescue some. So I'm now the proud owner of hymnbooks in English, Spanish, and Portuguese that have "Provo MTC" stamped into them. There were some other cool languages, but I have limited space.

Speaking of hymns, there's a couple hymns in the Russian hymnbook that we don't have in English. Which is neat. The best one is "Slava slava" (Glory, glory to God in the highest). Not only is it really really absurdly catchy (either I have that in my head or I have the Russian alphabet song) but it also has the best dynamics of any hymn in our hymnbook. Well, actually, it's the only hymn in there with dynamics marked, but it's still awesome. If you want a slice of my life you should go look it up.

We practice teaching a lot throughout the day and try real hard to not be distracted. The other day my companion and I ended up teaching a lesson in Spanish. That was pretty intense. No, I don't speak any Spanish except for the Young Women theme, but my comprehension's good enough, and my companion studied it for seven years. We were pretty giddy afterwards, probably because we had 10 minutes left of lunch so we ran down and up four flights of stairs to gulp bowls of cereal.

On Friday mornings we help hang up sixteen international flags in front of the MTC. It might be the best thing in the world.

I haven't taken a picture since last week, but nothing much has changed. Life is good.

I love you all!

Sister Nielsen