Monday, May 30, 2016

fresh cats

Hi! Still alive. Things actually happened this week, so it went a lot slower than previous weeks.
On Monday and Tuesday but mostly Tuesday the sisters from the other side of Saratov came to our area and we did what we always do, knock and contact. It would have been nice to have some lessons set up, but no one in this area ever wants to meet with us... but it was tons of fun anyway.  Enjoy a picture of Sister Miller and me after we hiked to the top of a hill to knock some doors. We're bad at taking pictures. The view was much better than my camera gives it credit for. Can you see the Volga back there? The only person who opened their door up there was this baptist woman that I talked with for about 45 minutes at a bus stop about a month ago. It was kind of a surprise to see her come up to the gate.
Sister Hines had to go renew her visa, and there wasn't enough room on the trip going from Saratov, so they sent her and another sister on a train to Samara, a bus to Kazakhstan, and back again (be glad I didn't have to do that, or I'd probably complaining about the wasted time right now). So I spent two and a half days in the center of Saratov with Sister Grishina, and life was a little crazy for a bit. In their area they've actually convinced people to meet with them (well, basically, that area has been open a lot longer) and they are so busy! It was kind of a shock. Like, on Friday we had four lessons AND helped move all the stuff into the new senior couple's apartment. I haven't been that busy since... Kazan, probably.
Hey, did I ever tell about the time we were moving apartments in Orenburg and we were on the tenth floor and the elevator broke? Because it happened again on friday. We ran up and down the stairs a lot.
Good stuff is happening here. The elder's investigator (I think I mentioned him? the one that the members did such a good job friendshipping that I was shocked about when I first got here?) was baptized on Saturday. We didn't actually make it out (the building with a baptismal font is forever away and we didn't have any investigators that could come with us), but we heard it was good, and we went knocking that night and found a pretty solid new investigator. Who we're also going to have to pass off to the elders (not bitter at all. why does this keep happening), but due to transfers they're barely going to be in the area this week so for now he's all ours hahahaha. Maybe the elders can start returning the favor?
Oh yeah, transfers are happening, but sister Hines and I are staying here in zav. We're pretty happy about that.
Please appreciate this ad for fresh cats right outside our friendly neighborhood Makdak. I don't know what it means, but this week was surprisingly full of kittens, so it feels significant somehow.
On rereading what I've written so far I'm picking up a slight note of craziness. Everything is actually fine and I am doing great. My hand and foot tans are getting legendary. I love you all!
This should probably be more spiritual, but honestly what makes me feel the most like a missionary is that I sweat a lot. It's hot here.
All right, that's it. Have a great week!

Monday, May 23, 2016


This was one of the fastest weeks of my life, and the only picture I took is of a fence so we'd be sure to find the house of someone we knocked into when we went back. Sorry I'm so boring. Also sorry that there weren't street names there. 

We had a real storm here on thursday with great thunderings and lightnings, which doesn't happen much. We got drenched even with our umbrellas and all. Everyone was unusually nice to us that night, which I'm chalking up to all the mean people being scared inside by the rain.

I was trying to tell someone what my blood type is but it turns out that here they don't have letter groups. Just 1, 2, 3, and 4. Does someone want to tell me what those correspond to? Just for curiosity's sake. 

Russian superstition of the week: if you sit at the corner of a table, you will never get married.
Actually, for all I know that's an American superstition too, and I just never paid attention to it. Side note, people here don't think opening an umbrella indoors is unlucky, which is surprising. I thought they'd be all over that stuff. 

Also a super nice old lady invited us in when we knocked on her door, and I don't know how much she understood of what we taught her, but it's worthy of mention because her apartment was FILLED with cats. I couldn't even count how many there were because they kept going in and out, but the kittens were all sleeping in a heap and there were at least 6. And probably at least 15 more adults. Allergies, man.

We had an excellent zone training this week, the first one where I haven't had to travel for an entire day to get to it. Which is super convenient. I'm a fan. President Schwab is nearing the end of his mission. It's kind of strange and sad to think about, so it's not really real yet. Except when you realize you just had your last interview with him. Whoa.

We cornered our ward mission leader into meeting with us, during which meeting we bonded over a mutual hatred of p-chem, but I'm still not sure what's going to get the punk to church. Oh well. Friendship with missionaries never hurt anyone. Probably.

Anyway, that's about it for the week. We're still in search of real investigators, it's been going okay. Missionary work continues to be awesome. Life's good. I love you! Do good and smile at people and wish them happiness and health and tell them that their families are beautiful.

Sister Nielsen

Monday, May 16, 2016

deer in headlights

We have a home! And a kitchen! It is wonderful. The elders helped us move in and had some bitter things to say about how nice our apartment is, heh. This has meant a return to working out, and we're supposed to get our beds delivered today, so life is normal. Actually those beds are supposed to be delivered real soon. Gotta go.

Speaking of having to go, I don't know why people think it's so entertaining to teach us slang (using it is not smiled upon, and now I just want to) but I learned a few ways of saying "let's go" or "let's get out of here" including one that translates literally as "let's slap fins". I love Russian but sometimes it makes no sense.

We've been contacting a lot. A lot a lot. But it's good, I just don't know why no one wants to meet with us. We can't even seem to meet with our ward mission leader (whoa. we have one of those).

Yeah, I'm going through my planner and nothing else really happened. But it was a really quick week. I love it. I love the work. I love it when people on the street are like "you're telling me you came to Saratov from America so you could give me this book so that I could pray about it and decide for myself if it's true" (I don't know why that's so hard for people to grasp). I love it!

Pictures: view of volga and unfinished building project (they ran out of money) from our new apartment
from right by our new place, the monument to the women's military regiment that defended the skies over Saratov during WWII

Okay, time to roll out, we gotta hit the road. We're going to blow this popsicle stand. We need to peace out. Make like a library and book it.

Love you! Have the best week!
Sister Nielsen

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

sales tax

Hey, what's up?

Strolling down the street the other day and Sister Hines reminds me that in America there's sales tax. Well, most places in America. I can't believe I forgot about that! Here if your chocolate bar costs 64 rubles and 80 kopeeks, at the register it's 64 rubles and 80 kopeeks. Ah, the simplicity of Russia. What other vaguely unpleasant American things did I forget about?

We're still in a hotel. It's fine. Sometimes I wonder what the workers here think of us, though. I'll send a picture of the view of the volga through the window. I kind of wish it didn't face east so I 
wake up at 5:45 every morning, but we're working on getting out.

Today's victory day, that's a pretty big holiday here. There was a multi-ward activity for it on Saturday, it was two and a half hours of people singing songs. And a few poems. Mostly songs. Also apparently there was pie at the end, but Sister Hines and I bailed long before that. But yeah. I like Russia on holidays. People do weird things. Just now we were on the bus and a couple of teenage boys jumped on- one started holding out his hat and offering to sell cigarettes and candy, and the other one had a guitar and started singing a song about how we should all be friends. Everyone responded by getting off on the next stop. It was a little awkward when it was just them and us on the bus, but we only had one more stop left anyway.

It's a good life here. Contacting a lot. Happy Mother's day!

Sister Nielsen

Monday, May 2, 2016

tan or dirt?

Hey so weird things this week, we moved out of our apartment and into a hotel. Basically there's a new rule or something that makes it really hard for apartment owners to rent to foreigners, and our landlady couldn't get us registered, and we haven't found an apartment yet. At least, not one that can rent to us. So now we're actually not in our area, we're in the neighboring elder's area, except they had the same problem and last week and they just got moved to different cities. So I guess it's our area now? We'll call it oktyzavodskiy.

But if we, and by we I mean the stake president and his wife, can't find an apartment soon we may also get transferred to another city. Who knows. 

What I can say about the hotel room is that it's really convenient for sight and sound, but kind of inconvenient in that we currently have half the contents of a rather large sisters' apartment in it. Also we can now neither cook nor work out very well. We've been making up for it by running home at night.

Yesterday was a double holiday, easter happened to fall on may first. which is either may day or labor day. I heard four variations of the name? I think it depends on if you count old russian holidays or new russian holidays. Or you can just call it a triple holiday and get three times as drunk.

Had normal chuch and I finally met a lot of the members, promptly forgot a lot of their names, fortunately they're patient. I'd heard great things about members in Saratov and I wanted to say that they are all true things. They are SO COOL. Also we had someone in church for their first time and all we had to do was wave over president Markelov and say "hey this is Dmitriy, it's his first time here" and then we just sat back and watched as the members sprang into action, played with the kids, talked about whatever it is non-missionaries have in common with each other. I don't even know what we need missionaries for anymore, with members like that. Okay, joke. But I've never seen anything like it in Russia. I thought I might cry.

Okay, other than that and moving I think it was an ordinary week. Our appointments fell through and some people wanted Books of Mormon. And some people didn't. But that's okay and we're happy because it feels rewarding. 

I will become frustrated if I don't eat soon, so I'm going to sign off now I guess. Find someone you don't know in a place you frequently are and get to know them, okay? 

Have a wonderful week (hopefully not as terrifyingly short as this one).
I love you!
Sister Nielsen