Monday, February 29, 2016

all roads lead to the mayak

маяк means lighthouse, and for the first couple times I saw it around Orenburg I thought there was an actual lighthouse on the banks of the sakmara river or something. There's not. It turns out the маяк is a "mountain" (hill) that's "the historical center of the city" (whatever that means) and it was painted red during some war to signal something to other cities in the oblast... People keep telling me and I never pay quite enough attention.

But the important part is that there is a neighborhood in our (rather large) area called маяк and a while back (the end of last cycle, maybe?) we realized we were ending up on the маяк a LOT. It was actually getting a little annoying. We'd try to go to different places and just end up there. We started referring to it as the bermuda triangle. 

If you keep ending up somewhere on accident, maybe it's because God wants you to end up there. Is it a coincidence that a significant percent of our new investigators this cycle (like 75%) are from the маяк? Probably not. 

I feel like I'm going to find myself in Orenburg in like 10 years, and I'll try to go somewhere and accidentally end up somewhere way to familiar. And there will be a маяк branch. I'm stoked. 

It's not even that big of a neighborhood. Nor particularly populous, as compared with other areas in our city. The other day sister Johnson (we were on splits) and I were tracting around there (not exactly on purpose... like I say, we just end up there) and started talking to two women on the street. They almost brushed past us ("yeah, we see your bible, what are you doing preaching up in here") but one of them asked what whatever we had did for us and we said "it makes our families stronger". I guess that was the right thing to say because they invited us in for tea. Who knew blueberry-flavored цикорий (I'm sorry, I have no idea how that's spelled in english) was a thing? They're sisters, and they start telling us that they wondered when the change they're waiting for would come in their lives, and they know it's not coincidental that we met. Then they break out the vodka ("uhhh...I don't know how to tell you this, but maybe this is related to all the problems in your life you've been telling us about" "oh, it's definitely the result of the problems. But not the cause").

At the second glass I'm like "we gotta get out of here" so we start getting our coats on and explaining why we have to go home and can't just stay there all night, and writing down their information and the other sister's address and stuff. I'm pretty sure they were both at glass number five by the time we got out the door.

If there's a single experience that I can point to and say "this is Russia", that might be it.

Katya is super sweet though, and she was excited to meet with us again. Even when she was sober.

The funniest thing is that that night I asked our district leader over the phone what we're supposed to do when we're at peoples' houses and they start drinking vodka. He says, "That happened to you today too?"

I feel like we have to go to Samara every other week. Probably because we DO. ah. Sister Palmer has a visa trip. I'm in Samara right now. And might be next monday too, depends on transfers. We'll find out.

Missions are awesome. So many unbelievable good things happen, and a lot of really unfortunate bad things happen too. Investigators break up with us and random neighbors of other investigators show up and are really belligerent and we have to leave. And we slip on the ice and fall on top of our groceries and rip our hands (ehh whatever) and our jackets (🙁). (thank you google)

And then you go to church on Sunday and there are 28 (twenty eight!!!) people there. Which is pretty remarkable when you consider that the branch president and relief society president are both in the hospital, and the ever reliable rock of a recent convert missionary help Ulijana went to her home town to celebrate her neice's and nephew's birthday. Twenty eight! I think one week this cycle there were nine people? And that's including four missionaries. 

I think it's spring time. I bought rain boots. They don't look awful and they were 650 rubles. I think they're probably the most attractive and functional of any of my shoes right now. And the least comfortable. But they keep me dry. I've broken out the jacket I used in the fall. It's good because the zipper on my big coat died a sad death and I don't like the coat enough to try to repair it.

Have some pictures. The frozen Ural river as viewed from the Asia side. The menu with weird english translation from our train this morning. Ah yes, a strip of sand with jam. And the still water in plastic bottle of industrial production.

I love you all! Keep the commandments. Just keep them. Please. Thanks. Alma 37. Isaiah 41:10
Sister Nielsen

Sunday, February 21, 2016

happy men day, men

Fortunately they aren't making us stay inside tonight or tomorrow, but we're supposed to avoid being outside and "cold contacting" (what is that? It's Russia! Everything is cold). It's actually "defender of the fatherland" day but military service is obligatory for men (with a few exceptions that mostly involve being wealthy) so it's men day! I thought I felt the average level of drunk-in-publicness going up.
I want you all to know that I've felt those angel body guards around me a lot, actually. It's good. I feel safe.
We had a zone conference and it was really good. All the zeal. I have a lot of goals about how to do my job better.
And because of some unfortunate events Sister Palmer and I ended up spending Wednesday night in the mission home (well, at the "second apartment", but that's what it means) instead of the Samara sister's apartment (although all our stuff was there), and it was super, super strange. President and Sister Schwab's daughter got all "this will be such a fun sleepover!" on us, but we just accepted their offering of oatmeal and contact lens solution and went to bed. I slept in a bed for the first time in two in a half months. Weird. I woke up and didn't know where I was.
Gave a talk in sacrament meeting for the first time here. I've arrived. It's funny, because our district leader speaks in sacrament meeting every week. So we thought he wouldn't have to for once, and then the branch president sprung it on him anyway. He was a little mad. I just tried to laugh quietly.
Train days are such a waste of TIME. ack. Learned how to say "pollen", "ink", and "waiting room".
Slowly trying to resolve our investigators' concerns. If we have time to meet with them.
All right. Love you all! That's all I got. I really like teaching about repentance.
Sister Nielsen

Sunday, February 14, 2016

это же элементарно, ватсон

The Valentine's day activity did happen, and Sherlock Holmes did rescue sister Palmer and me from the clutches of the evil Gingema. I wish I'd gotten a picture with Sherlock (especially because he was wearing my fur shapka, and looked great), but I didn't get around to it. My district leader actually didn't have to (get to?) wear a skirt, but that was only because the person who was supposed to be the narrator couldn't come, and with a very limited selection of branch members (the star of the show wasn't even a member) they figured he was the most understandable of us all. So the role of Mrs. Hudson fell to his companion. I was talking to the friend of a less-active before the activity started, who pointed at him and said "who is that poor boy?"

Anyway, we lived, except I think they're planning another activity for men's day, which is in about a week and a half. Oh dear.

We're moving to a different apartment this week because president wants one of the sets of missionaries to be within a 10 minute walk of the branch building, and also going to Samara (more train rides, yay) so yikes, hopefully we will actually get missionary work done this week.

We actually have progressing investigators, it is miraculous and we are thrilled, life is good here.

The branch needs a lot of support.

Remember that part-member family that we were picking up in a taxi? Lately Lena, the mom, has been coming to church regularly, and it's awesome. She found the courage to leave a really bad situation and move, and the branch helped her out a lot. I'm so so proud of her. She's building her foundation on Christ now.

I love you all! Be brave like Lena and go check your foundations. Make sure they're secure. Find something you can do to make them still stronger. Have an excellent week))

Sister Nielsen

(T/N: это же элементарно, ватсон means "It's elementary, Watson."

Monday, February 8, 2016

what's new

On Friday we got a new schedule, so I'm sad to say that we no longer proselyte before breakfast. It's weird, but I actually think I'm going to miss it. It's kind of like a habit of diving into a freezing swimming pool full of rude people every morning. But I actually genuinely liked it a lot of the time. Now we get ready and study language first thing in the morning, and our other studies are right before dinner. It means we spend a lot more daylight outside. Although the mornings and nights have had a little more light, which is giving me confidence that spring really will come.

It's a warm winter with way too much snow, and it went above freezing this week and turned the ground into a treacherous labyrinth of ice, slush, and puddles. Not only that, but a while back my companion pulled a muscle in her leg, which means we walked around preeetty slowly for a little bit there. But it's okay.

I left my planner at a member's house and haven't gotten it back yet, so don't remember what we did before friday. That's normal, it probably wasn't important.

We talked about idioms at our poorly-attended English club this week, which was fairly hilarious, and I realized that when I speak english I can't get two sentences without an idiom cropping up. I mean, without using an idiom. But we had to try to find a list of idioms without using the internet, so we put ourselves on patrol in our speech for idioms and now we can't kick the habit. So every time Sister Palmer or I use(s) a new idiom we're like "WAIT, 'break it to her', why didn't we use THAT".

We looked at an apartment we might move to and bought zippy night-gown things. Russian women all wear these things around their house or to clean or whatever, and we decided to embrace the culture. Actually managed to teach some new investigators this week, and ended up taking a partial hike up a mountain before a lesson, complete with commentary like  "these garages were all built up here after the war, except for that, which was built in 1943. And that building was built in 1957, and that one in 1959, and all of these apartments were built in '72 except for this one..."

I can't think what else to write. Life is busy and also not. Don't let the grumpy people surrounding you get you down. Set goals and do the things you said you'd do. Talk to people about repentance. That's what I'm trying to do, anyway. Love you all.

Sister Nielsen

Rosa's note to me (Anna): "I'll let you be the judge of whether this picture of us in our oriental robes (that is the FIRST dictionary definition of халат) is appropriate for the blog. you can see our knees." I assume these are the zippy nightgown things. I think you all can survive the horror of knees