Monday, September 7, 2015

The biggest theme this week was probably baking

I promise we do real work, but other things happen too. The other week at the end of district meeting we asked the elders if there was anything we could do for them. They both hesitate for a second, and then shake their heads no and pretend to busy themselves with packing up their bags. We pry a bit more and it turns out they were hiding a secret desire for pumpkin bread and poppyseed muffins. Okay, we can work with that. So this week we were walking home through the outdoor market we live by and saw an old lady selling pumpkin! Perfect. We spent a dinner one day and some of our time before bed making a mess in the kitchen. It was everything we dreamed except that the only oil we had on hand was sunflower oil, so what we made were more like sunflower chocolate chip muffins. They still smell like pumpkin though so it's weirdly deceptive.

Also old ladies are always trying to give us bags of apples, and Sister Wilson started in talking about caramel apples. What? No. Who has time to make caramel apples? Not us, that's for sure. But she wouldn't let it drop and a couple of meal-times later we ended up with caramel/white chocolate/cinnamon apples. Which are among the most delicious things I've eaten in months. I'm glad she was persistent about it.

But have I told you about the most wonderful thing I've eaten? Friends and colleagues, I reveal to you the...
nutella and sour cream sandwich!
I'm serious. I would never have guessed how well those go together. You can hate, you also have to try it.
I guess I believe in a lot of weird-sounding things that are true.

The other day I was talking to a girl on the street car and when she told me where she lived I actually knew what street it was. I guess that means I'm for real settling in here. Also recently I've been having lot of good conversations on public transportation, which is encouraging. Actually it is possibly because it is so obvious that I can't speak Russian. One question I really enjoy asking is if people have favorite tourist attractions. Not because I'll actually find out any cool ones, because if they tell me the name of a museum I'm not going to be able to repeat it (much less find it), but because the word for "tourist attractions" is eight syllables long and kind of a mouthful. I can say it on a good day, but I usually trip over it and break off in frustration. It makes people about 80% friendlier towards me, for whatever reason. So then I try to give them a Book of Mormon, invite them to church, and send them on their merry way.

A week ago we were outside and I walked up to an older lady. "Hi! Can I give you...(I fumble and nearly drop my Book of Mormon) ...something..." Well, turns out she loves this sort of thing, so we sent her off with all sorts of reading material and we set up a meeting for the same place the next day. And she actually came! When we walked up she started in. First, she wanted to take us into the neighboring elementary school to give a speech to the kids about American culture. That's pretty not-allowed here. Second, she wanted to give us massages, because she knows how stressful our life must be. Third, she wanted to take us to a mosque... and on and on. She's an interesting woman. But she also wants to meet with us and hear all about our church, and she came on Sunday and liked it. We'll see where that goes.

Everyone in all the eastern Europe missions has this schedule where we wake up and run out the door right away to go talk to people on the streets for an hour or two before coming back and eating breakfast and getting ready. At first I was skeptical, but now I have no idea how I would wake up properly without having to pretend to be cheerful in the morning as we distract people on their way to work. It's way great.

We're not supposed to have meal appointments with members, and I can see why. We would never get anything done. Also it takes at least half an hour on the bus to get to most peoples' houses. However, they love to feed us, so when we teach new convert lessons or have investigators at an activity we have to be really careful. The other night we were given a feast before a lesson, and it was explained to me that the food we were eating is normally eaten on birthdays or New Year's. "Oh. Is today a holiday?" I ask. "Well, not really... but, uh, Elder Northrup is going home soon." Okay. They love their food. And I love food too, so it works out. Wow, food comes up a lot in this letter. And our district leader is in fact going home in a week, at transfers. I'll probably stay in Kazan, so it shouldn't be too exciting otherwise.

Actually one holiday that did happen this week was September first, the first day of school. Zillions of kids running around in suits and backpacks holding flowers. I still don't know if the flowers were for the students or for the teachers. Maybe both. We're across the street from a school so we were hearing music booming from there all morning.

There's a lot of good stuff going on. I love you all!

Sister Nielsen

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