Monday, November 2, 2015

strength in numbers

Good news, guys- I've finally mastered the art of small talk! Well, maybe "master" is too generous a word, but I've come a loooong way. I'm satisfied with my progress. So the event of events this week is that I had a visa trip. This meant we spent all Tuesday on a bus to Samara, allWednesday doing the fly-to-Latvia-fly-back thing, and then we had to come back to Kazan. So probably not our most productive week. 

I got to practice all the conversation-having on planes. On one flight I was sitting next to this cool Latvian businessman who lost attention any time I brought up the gospel. In order to not feel like I'd given up on him I had to keep talking the entire flight, which means now I know a lot about the Latvian economy. It's mostly boring but apparently there are a lot of beavers in Latvia, and they shipped some of  them down to the Netherlands because in the Netherlands they don't have enough and need them for some reason. He told me exactly why, but I forgot. Anyway, that conversation was in English, which is almost worse, because then I can't use a language barrier as my excuse for being awkward. Another plane conversation was in English, but that woman was actually Russian. She wanted to practice English with me and I also couldn't talk about the gospel with her because she would just ask me an unrelated question ("what sports do you play?") whenever the me-being-a-missionary thing came up. It was actually pretty funny.

Actually the funnest way to start conversations I got from Sister Wilson- you write a verb in your planner and then ask people on the bus what it means. They can get pretty into it. I had two women trying to explain the word "to limit" to me the other night.

So yeah. Conversations are exhausting and layovers are exhausting. My next visa trip will probably be a bus to Kazakhstan, which should be a lot more quick and painless, so that's something to look forward to. I wish I could say that everyone survived this trip, but we had to leave two elders in the airport in Moscow because one of them lost his document that proved that he came into the country legally. But the rest of the van-full of us made it back whole, so that's good.

Oh, so we're in a trio! Me and still Sister Wilson and now Sister Thomas! But I told you all that. So far it's been fantastic. It's made it way easier to talk to strangers, for some reason. Also, every activity we do is 150% more fun. Both of my companions have decided to go off sweets (and there are some other restricted substances but I forget) for the month of November. I've resisted, because I don't like to be controlled. Or because I like sweets. Anyway, it looks like I'll be reaping the rewards of being the only companion that can eat the food people give us.

Last night we went knocking and ran into the most interesting man. We talked to him for long enough in his door way and he ended up inviting us in (and we could go in, because we're in a trio). His apartment was full of maps and charts and scrolls and it took me a second but then I realized that all of it was chemistry and physics and history and philosophy. There was a table in his living room covered in papers that I couldn't read. It all kind of reminded me of Indiana Jones' dad's study. If I remember it properly. Anyway, we taught the Restoration to a mad scientist named Aleksei and he was pretty receptive and invited us back. I think he liked us because I told him I studied chemistry for two years at university. So that was really cool and also how I found out that I can understand people when they talk in Russian about the big bang and gravity. There was also a lot we didn't understand (something that happened in the seventies that involved a word I definitely don't know), but he was pretty patient with us. I'm guessing he's probably used to Russian-speakers not understanding him. But I have a feeling that our discussion would have been fascinating to me in English. He gave us copies of a book he wrote. I can't read it, for a couple of reasons, but I'm sure it's great.

That's definitely not everything, but I don't want to bore you. I hope you had an excellent Halloween and I love you all! My general advice for you all this week is to realize or rerealize that every person you ever meet is unique and super awesome. It can make you tired, but it's awesome to get to know them, because you can always find out what you need to say to help them. Have a great week.

Sister Nielsen 

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