Monday, June 27, 2016

go around the long way

There's not a ton to report. The weeks are flying.

We had the sisters from volzhskiy area here on splits this week and it was great. For reference, volzhskiy is basically the city center, and zavodskoy is anything south or west of that. Our apartments are actually really close together, so we actually kind of had real splits, as in we worked in both our areas. That's pretty unusual here.

It meant I got to work with Sister Hullinger! We came out together and have been on splits a lot, except not since Kazan. We did stuff. Ran around, talked to everyone, exceeded our goals for ice cream consumption (go us!). Living the dream.

We've knocked into a few cool interested people lately, still it's hard to convince them to meet with us. Knocking definitely brings out my most awkward, fidgety side, and sister Hines laughs at me.

Sister Hines laughs at me too much. Why can't I have a companion who takes me seriously? I am a very serious person. She laughs when members try to set me up with other missionaries, she dragged me to the gym to day and laughed at me when I tried to lift something... 

Oh yeah, we finally made it to the gym today. Sister Hines was in her element. I mostly just stood there as she repetitively picked up heavy things. I don't have any pictures, but I do have a picture from when we found a punching bag in the stairwell of a building we were knocking. 

I'm including a picture of my latest food adventure. I'll have you know that that was NOT a milk shake. It was basically bad apple soda.

Um, I bought new shoes? I think I'm reaching new lows in boringness.

I have to hand it to sister Hines, though, because we've been contacting a LOT. I mean, we haven't had a member-present lesson (that didn't fall through) in... a long time. I feel like normally that would start to get me down after this long, but everything's fine. I don't find contacting for the entire day for weeks on end daunting like I would have a few transfer cycles ago. It's good. Everything's good. 

Also for the last week or so people have been weirdly nicer? As a rule, of course, none are interested in the gospel, but at least some of them have been stopping to talk to us. It's probably all the prayer.

Okay I love you. Be good, work hard, don't waste time, do what makes you happy.
Sister Nielsen

my trusty proselyting shoes are dying. these were only like 1,200 #babushkastatus

Monday, June 20, 2016


This is probably going to be boring, just warning you now. There's not a ton happening around here. 

Speaking of boring, I'm reading the Old Testament. I'm in Numbers right now and it's thrilling. Trust me. On the plus side, I understand the law of Moses a LOT better now, which has made my reading of the Book of Mormon more clear.

We had zone conference this week and it was great but also the last time that I'll see President and Sister Schwab for...a while. Sad. But it's the circle of mission life. It goes on. 

Okay, I heard the coolest conversion story. Larisa is less-active, partly for health reasons and partly because she got offended, but we're dealing with that. I first met her at an activity a month and a half ago and we geeked out over chemistry together. But how she came in contact with the church: in 1975 her husband, a soldier/aerospace engineer, was working on this project that caused them to move to a different city, and there were actually some Americans there for a short amount of time who had been brought out to work on a joint project. Because of circumstances at the time, the Americans didn't talk to anyone other than their coworkers, and they were kept in a restricted area that no one was supposed to go in. But when you're like Larisa, a young mother and your young son loves to run around outside, you kind of go where you want and no one stops you. One day her son is exploring and runs up to show Larisa something he found- it's a cigarette pack. Larisa opens it up and inside there are tiny sheets of paper with writing on it, beautiful handwritten Russian cursive. She starts to read it to her son. It's a story. A story about a boy named Joseph Smith, his family, what he read and felt and saw and prayed. And it's a story about the contents of a book, the history of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent, about Nephites and Lamanites and Jaredites, their wars and eventual destruction. To Larisa this was surprising. She's extremely well-educated. She excelled in school, and remembered history, but all she had been taught was that Columbus came to America, and the Americas opened, and he called the people who had been living there Indians.
Larisa is a natural storyteller. You can tell just by the way she addresses you, by the look in her eyes when you ask her to tell you something. She told this story to coworkers, friends, family, over the course of 35 years before she found the church and was baptized. In 1988 she had a meeting with some Americans for work, and her coworkers were like "Hey Larisa! These are Americans, why don't you tell them your story about American history and see if they know it or if they'll laugh at you too" She did, and later one of the American women approached her and told her that the story was actually the history of a church about which she didn't know very much, except all the members of this church live in state Utah.
But anyway not too long ago she heard from her neighbor that that one church she'd known about forever is in Saratov, so she tracked down the address and showed up one sunday and told the elders there everything that she knew about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and they were kind of shocked and she accepted baptism a short time later.

Okay sorry that was long but it kind of blew my mind and I thought I'd share it.

But yeah, life is good, ice cream is delicious, weather is hot, accent is terrible. The gospel is awesome and we spend a lot of time trying to tell people about it, but we mostly just end up reminding them that they have somewhere they urgently need to be. But at least we're encouraging people to live more productive lives :)

I love you, be good!
Sister Nielsen

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

that's it

What did we even do this week? We tracted a lot. It got us pretty tired by the end, so we decided to take an evening off last night (jokes. It was a holiday and we were ordered inside to keep us away from highly-political drunks) and read our newly acquired conference liahonas. It was pleasant. 

I made pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies to buy peoples' affection and it really works well. Canned pumpkin and chocolate chips still haven't hit russia yet, so such cookies are really a commodity. 

Wow. I have nothing to talk about. I'll talk about how cool sister Hines is. Did you know she once killed a wild boar with a knife? That came up in passing last zone training and now the entire mission knows. She's also a firefighter and she worked on an ambulance. She's a really good cook. Is your companion that cool?

Yeah so like I said we finally got our conference liahonas in english and I've been thoroughly enjoying it, especially the emphasis on service in the ones I've read through so far. I really like the thought expressed in... one of them... sorry this is unspecific I don't have it on me right now about how we shouldn't delay to go to the rescue. We shouldn't waste time counseling together trying to determine the best, least inconvenient approach. If you see a need, just go out there and meet it. I've been pondering a lot lately motives for helping people, and I think the greatest motive is just wanting other people to be happy. In the long run, of course, real happiness. Like President Eyring affirms in his talk from the general women's session, not every person that you try to serve will be thrilled that you're there. That's okay. We don't force anyone. We just offer to do things that will make them happy.

Okay love you have the best week talk to you later
sister nielsen

One of our favorite members found a tarantula outside and adopted it. His name is George. If you (like sister Hines, who's first response was "sister Markelova, I used to think you were a good mother!") don't love spiders, be careful.
Mostly I don't pay attention to graffiti but sometimes it really makes me laugh. It says "society without woman". There's nothing back there, just a slab of cement covered in broken bottles and cigarette butts.
Sometimes your bodies grow weak and you have to take a bench break

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nilsey strikes back!

What a week.

The most obvious theme this week was men hitting on us, which I wish they would NOT do, but hey. There are going to be trials and we just have to be patient. I read 2 Corinthians 6 this week and it was good.

But anyway, to explain the Nilsey thing, about a month ago we ran into this extremely persistent guy who didn't catch my name exactly right, and after two days of ignoring his calls and texts I finally got a text along the lines of "you know what, Nilsey? I am a paramedic-fireman and if you don't want to go on a date with me, I'm going to delete your number!"
Go for it. Just. Go ahead. Please.

Anyway, now whenever someone flirts with us, or if I do something rebellious (e.g. cross the street not in the crosswalk) or accidentally say something flirtatious, Sister Hines has taken it upon herself to call me Nilsey. Which is fine, I guess. They weren't flirting with me, they were flirting with Nilsey.

So this week was just unusually full of touchy men on the bus who can't take a hint (turns out "don't touch me" is a hint, and not an order) and people wanting to meet one on one and talk, but not about religion.
In other words, Sister Hines got to call me Nilsey a lot, and I tried not to voice all my frustration.

So anyway after all that, yesterday afternoon there we are, talking to a young woman at a bus stop, when I hear "Nilsey!" and someone grabs my arm. Oh, great. It's that one. The original. He found me. And almost dragged me in to go pray at a Russian Orthodox temple, but I got away, and I'm pretty sure he actually did delete our number.

Anyway, moving on. Knocking story: We walk up to an apartment building and start ringing at the buzzer thing for someone to let us in, and this pure white probably stray cat with one eye blue and one green walks up to us and starts issuing strangled, stifled, creepy meows. It kind of looks diseased, and it cranes its head up to meet our eyes and swivels it around unnaturally. Sister Hines loves animals (almost as much as she loves meat) and decides to name the thing Hybrid. Sure. Someone opens the door for us and we climb up to the top floor to start knocking on doors, and Hybrid follows us. No one answers the first two doors so we turn to the third, and Hybrid is right there between us and the door. I start to nudge him (her?) away with my foot because I don't want people to think Mormon missionaries are weird girls that knock on your door and let loud diseased animals into your apartment, but Sister Hines is concerned about hurting Hybrid, so she stops me and rings the doorbell. A very tired-looking young mother answers the door and the second it's open wide enough, Hybrid gets in the door. All I can say is "uh, that's not our cat". The two-year-old immediately picks up the cat, sister Hines says something about church, the mom looks at the kid and back at us and swings the door shut, and I manage to say "sorry about the cat".
Actually it sounded like they kept the cat in there about 10 minutes before kicking it back out into the stairwell. So now even more people think we're weird, but I hope we brought them joy and not fleas.

Yesterday we had an excellent almost impromptu stake conference with President Hollstrum of the seventy, and it was pretty awesome, actually. It was spiritually enlightening, but also some stuff got said that needed to be and gave me all the warm fuzzies as a missionary. To paraphrase, "If you all want a temple in Russia so badly, then step up your part reaching out to inactives and finding new investigators. Sometimes it seems like the missionaries are the only ones doing it" I think the members should react pretty well, though. We all need periodic reminders.

Okay that's it. Love you! Have a great week!
Sister Nielsen


Hit a milestone

One of my favorite pastimes is watching the volga while I eat. If I had a better camera and a better view I'd put together a photobook about volga moods.

tan looks like dirt, but it's not

I'm the only one in the house that eats cake, sister hines decided to go paleo. 

Saratov foothills when we knocked this rich apartment building. future temple site? it's through a window so sorry about the quality