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

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