Monday, March 28, 2016

ashtag alliluiya

Note: "ashtag alliluiya" is Russian for "hashtag hallelujah"

Gotta keep the alliteration going.

Nothing super notable happened this week, so watch me struggle to put it in some sort of logical order.

The weather has been springy. At the beginning of the week I had to get my heavy coat out again, and today I walked to the library without a hat and no one batted an eye. Everything is puddles. Raining makes for interesting contacting because there's even fewer people on the street than usual. (except no one seems to be in their house, either, so I'm not really sure where all the people are)

A lot of people cancelled on appointments, what else is new? Or we picked them up and took them to church and they ran away right before we got there. Still not sure what that was about. And it made us pretty late for church. A great lesson in not letting things bother me so much. Good thing we also tend to have unexpected lessons and investigators cropping up.

Talked about Easter at English on Friday, hid paper eggs and made our English club search for them. It was hilarious to watch and there's still one more egg that no one found hiding somewhere in the branch building.

Easter is great. I love it. I'm glad I'm living somewhere where I can celebrate it twice this year!

Reading in Helaman and wishing that the Spirit could carry Sister Thomas and me from multitude to multitude so we could invite people to repent. That would be so convenient. Also I just kind of want to be Nephi, so it would be sweet.

Here are some pictures:
We haven't ordered water in a while (they have the most inconvenient delivery times. 6-9? really?) but I discovered that our pump is the best place to keep my shapka. You have to keep it on something or you crush the fur.
I made a crustless pumpkin pie for Easter (I love pie crust, but it takes too long and Sister Thomas can't eat it). Please note the way that ice cream is packaged here. That was yesterday. There is no pie left.
Walking through absurd heavy snow. March.

Love you!
Sister Nielsen

Bonus photos! "I bought some beautiful shoes at the outdoor market during lunch. they were 600 rubles. (about $8.84) I also bought a beautiful scarf. but didn't take a picture. 
the statue man on the left is Pushkin"

Monday, March 21, 2016


Note: I asked for the reason behind last week's email title ("A hedgehog and ice cream") and here is the story: "There's a less active with a huge testimony who lives forever away with her giant clan of a family. and they have 16 cats (my allergies are a nightmare when we go there) and a hedgehog. it's adorable. also they gave us ice cream and russian ice cream is delicious. Russians know their ice. in america you'd think eating white cream-flavored ice cream with jam on top would be tacky but it is so good"

On to the letter!

Another week in Samara, zone training and weird 1 and 2/2 day splits with one of the sets of Samara sisters.

It's good though. I actually seriously enjoy street contacting in Samara. Maybe because there are actually people to talk to. Not to hate on my beloved Orenburg, I love it. But sometimes it can feel a little silly contacting outside when most of the people are standing in front of places where we're not legally supposed to be contacting. That's cool, though. Every city has it's own personality.

Working with Sister Graham was the greatest. She was in my MTC group and she is dang good. At everything. We met some super cool people. And entertained some. In order to keep people engaged when you're contacting them on the street you kind of have to put on a show. (...I kind of go to extreme lengths to be funny sometimes. I threw my pocket dictionary on the ground because it didn't have "chromosome". But it turns out if you say "chromosome" trying to do a russian accent they know what you mean. And Regina talked with us for about a half hour longer than she first intended to, and wants to meet with the sisters again. worth it)

This week was really short. What else is there to say? 

The other night we were out in the middle of nowhere and our bus stopped running, so we took the bus that we knew only went to the elders' area to try to avoid a drunk man who wouldn't stop hitting on us. I thought we could take a bus to our area from the elders' area, but those stopped running too (the weather was awful. I can't blame them) so we had to take a taxi. Good things about taxi drivers falling in love with you? Free taxi rides. Bad things? They know where you live.

I took pictures! I know that's all you really want.

Sister Schwab wanted someone to take this rubber mold for cakes, so it ended up with us (although I think we left it at the bezimyanskii sisters'...that's a relief. Yes, that's an illustration of how you can use the mold to make meat jello.)

That's what Orenburg looks like right now.

And a slightly awkward picture of me and Ulijana and a map mural! 

Don't wait to do things, don't wait to reach your goals! I know sometimes I make excuses, I procrastinate working as hard as I should or being as awesome as I could be because I tell myself I just haven't reached that point yet. I think "the me that I want to be in a month or three months would do that, but I can't do that right now". Lies. Just do the thing.

I love you all!
Have a great week. Turns out Easter is next week. Just found that out. Cool! Happy Easter!
Sister Nielsen

"These boots were 650 rubles! yeee"

 "Us pretending to be babushki. A lot of them have facial hair." 

"two transfers ago when almost all the sisters in the mission stayed at the avrora apartment in samara"

"train selfie"

Monday, March 14, 2016

a hedgehog and ice cream

 know I've probably ranted about this quite enough, but it is really hard to do missionary work when you're in the wrong area! We were in Samara this past week (transfers), last week (visa trip), and there's zone training this week. IN SAMARA. Well, since we're going to combine it with splits, this week we will be in our area today, Saturday, and Sunday. yipee. still loving that 8-hour train ride.

So Tuesday I packed Sister Palmer in a van headed to Saratov, and the rest of the day wasted away almost entirely on a train, except the time spent going to and from the train station. Wednesday we got permission to take a disastrous trip to Lenta (Russian walmart) because 1) we just moved and our apartment was kind of lacking in some unacceptable areas, 2) Sister Thomas can't eat gluten and you have to go to Lenta to find gluten-free flour and the like, and 3) We hadn't had P-day in our area for three weeks and had no food. Mostly it was disasterous because it took so long and I was grumpy. Also Lenta is an hour away. yeah.

Did you know that in Russia you can find gluten-free sugar-free chocolate flavored sponge-bob flavored pillow cereal? I did not.

But then we had the rest of the time to do actual work in our area, so that's been good. Slowly plugging along with our investigators, coaxing them to church. We did actually reach our goal for investigators in church. And I like to tell myself that we would have hit our other goals if we'd had the whole week.

Also it feels like this week has been really long. That's okay. How are sister Thomas and me? We're doing great. We need to reign in the unplanned unstoppable laughing fits, though. One happened during district meeting, so that was fine, sorry elders, but another one happened at an investigator's house and probably should have been avoided. Oh well. You'd laugh too, if you were being spoon-fed honey from the village (with a giant spoon!) while waiting for your hot pine needle juice to cool down. 

I love that I can live in Russia and speak Russian, and when I think of pre- or post-mission life sometimes I question why I never used to take random long walks to talk to strangers. Russian can be infuriating, though. Like when you find out that there are MORE useless synonyms you need to know, but that have absolutely no nuance in meaning from the normal word 98% of people use. Why, Russian?!! How does it make me feel? скверно.

This week there was a pagan holiday going on that had to do with pancakes, the end of winter, and burning hay dolls or something. Pancakes! Apparently they represent the sun and the hay doll represents winter. An investigator brought us super good blini on Sunday. How are people so nice? Also Sister Thomas made some that she could actually eat, so never fear. No one is left out.

We have a secular companionship goal to take a picture every day, but so far the only ones in my possession are terrible selfies taken at night because we realized we had no picture for the day. Next week I'll have something really great. Or a lot more 9:30 selfies. We'll see.

I was studying about service and charity and callings and things and daydreaming about how great the world would be with more charity. Help the people around you! Clothe yourself with a mantle of charity. Whatever you think that means.

I'll probably be even more exasperated by life next week. But until then I'll try to be patient and I hope you all behave yourselves.

Sister Nielsen

p.s we were trying to decide what month is the best over all and had it narrowed down to may, july, or december. any insights?

Note: скверно (pronounced skverno) means "bad". The more-commonly-used variant is probably something like Плохо (plokho).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A scattered note

So transfers, and Sister Palmer is headed down to Saratov, and I'm staying in Orenburg with Sister Thomas (the older one. Not the one I was with a few cycles ago). Which at first was surprising, because we are the oldest sister companionship in the mission, mission-age-wise. By a lot, actually. We have more cycles than even the trio companionship. But I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised, because she has two cycles left, and I know she's been hinting to president about coming to Orenburg for months now...

Anyway, I'm excited to work with her. I've been with her on splits a fair bit, and she's a lot of fun. Although (don't tell her this) one of my first thoughts was "nooo, I'm going to have to eat healthy!" Hahaha so it's not like Sister Palmer and I completely let ourselves go, but lately a lot of sisters have been drawing up "health contracts", which have requirements like "only one sweet a week" and strict punishments. So to get on that train Sister Palmer and I wrote one, but it ended up a lot different. As in, "only one dessert a day" and if we violate the rules we have to share a Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity pamphlet with someone. It really is a noble cause, but we have way lower standards than everyone else. Sorry

Oh yeah, and the new elder in Orenburg is Elder Hemrick. Yup, that's my cousin.  So it'll be fun to actually get to know him.

Sister Thomas the younger and I relived the trio glory days in Samara with Sister Johnson while our companions were all on visa trips, and it helped me realize that at some point since getting separated from her I lost a bit of former contacting fire. So. Trying bring it back. Especially buses were becoming a weak point (sorry mama wilson. you raised me better), but the last few days it was looking a lot better. So I'm glad we get all these experiences to see how we can do better and set goals and all that good stuff.

What else happened with us this week: I'm sick of drunk people. Pray for me to have patience and not punch them. I'm behind in my journal again. Our new apartment was infested with cockroaches but they are all dead now :) Trains.
It's been a little hard to communicate this week. Most of my sentences have ended in groans of frustration. Or laughter, that's better

There is so so much to learn. There's so much to know. Don't stop or you slide backward. How do we keep our motivation to improve as fast as possible while still feeling okay about ourselves and satisfied with where we are right now? Better planning, I guess. The glory of God is intelligence. I liked the article in the march liahona about light. Improve and help people around you improve and take the correction when you get it, I guess. That's so important. We are really important to the people around us! If we weren't then the advised way to self-perfection would probably be to go live alone in the woods without human interaction for the rest of life. But it's not. Don't shy away from influencing the people around you. And take good from the people around you. Whoa, I'm starting to sound like a very sentimental russian boy I know.

I love you all! I wish you excellent weeks!
Sister Nielsen

A companion leaving the area means pictures! These aren't from my camera (yeah, we all know I'm awful at taking pictures), but this is us and Ulijana and Vanya (yeah, also he kind of openly declared his love for Sister Palmer over the pulpit in fast and testimony meeting yesterday... so maybe it's good she's leaving)
And this is us with Dima, the branch president's son. The elders like to lift with him on P-day.