Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas Morning
New Years here is the Christmas of America! It is going to be interesting in a few days when we go out to work in the mornings and see no stores open and there’s nobody on the streets. Should be fun times in Russia!

It was so cool to get to talk to you on Christmas/Christmas Eve. I was a little worried it wouldn't work out the first couple of tries, but all is well.  It feels like we aren't even that far away, we can always get a hold of each other if we have to.  It is kind of weird talking over Skype because it feels like a big party just like when I was at home. It is so weird to think I have about 19 months left. That seems like a big number but we are already about the half year mark! 6 months gone, I feel like I just left home.  I will be here in Nakhodka until the end of January, I will have one more transfer after that for sure and then at the end of February it is most likely that I will go to a different city. I don't know exactly where yet but the end of February will be 6 months in Nakhodka.  Weird, spending 1/4 of my mission in one city. It is a great city, though! No complaints!  
Skyping for Christmas!  He looked so good!
I am jealous of the Christmas lunch at Brian and Jane’s house!  We had soup, and raw onions, and weird salad stuff for our Christmas lunch:) It’s cool that you got to Skype with Ashley from her mission while you were up there.  I didn’t know if the connection would have been good enough up in Holbrook.   

I am glad to hear that Chandler is finally out and on a mission! He is going to do great.  He is a born leader!  I think that is so cool that his Uncle Trent was there at church when Chandler talked!  I totally forgot that he served in Russia, Vladivostok!   

Mom note:  Ryan told us via Skype that when he went to South Korea last week, he changed some Rubles (Russian currency) into Won (Korean currency).  He didn’t know the exchange rate, and ended up exchanging ALL of his money for the month into a currency that he can’t even use in Russia.  So, he had to pull some cash out of his home bank account to make up for it.  

I am going to use a little bit of personal money until I get another dose of Missionary Money.  I was silly in pulling out all that Won! It’s okay, I am set for the next couple of Korea trips that I take.  Yeah, it wasn't the smartest thing I have done, but definitely memorable.

Seoul Korea Temple
Burger King Ad in Korea - She is actually crying!
Ryan was impressed with how polite people are in Korea. 
He said in Russia this sign would have said "Stay Out of our way!  We're Doing Stuff!" 
There was a drunk couple that came into church yesterday and they were being loud so we had to kick them out! I was getting ready to throw down and deck a drunk dude but I don't know if that would be appropriate as a missionary:) As we were walking the drunk lady out she tried to hug me... yeah.. I got scared so I like grabbed her arms and pushed her away... haha I felt kind of bad grabbing and man handling this lady, but I really did not want that hug!  

I am so thankful for the chance to be in Russia! It is way cool! So different and such a great opportunity to grow. I love you all! See you in a year and a half,

Elder Gardner

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Language is good - food is interesting

I am so happy to be here in Russia:) I must be getting better at speaking the language because I am starting to be able to make jokes with Russian people and I have even made a couple of them laugh! We tried talking to this guy, he was really not interested in talking to us and he started walking away. Elder Sayers asked if he knew anybody who would be interested in talking with us and he said “No”; but as he was walking away I said to him "Maybe you have an enemy, we can go bug them for you!" He chuckled. We didn't talk any more after that but at least he knows we aren't scary or weird people. I count it as a victory!
It looks like they have a picture of the Mesa temple here in our church! Cool

The sun rises about 8:30 or so and sets around 5:30! It’s really weird. I remember being back at home and running around till 8 or so with sunlight left.  I definitely am starting to miss the sun! I am glad to hear Megan has been working hard! If there is something I know, it’s that Hard Work is Good Work. 
You may have heard that the Ruble is going down pretty dramatically and we check that as often as occasion permits. So far nothing really has changed. We are expecting the new year to be when all the prices change and such. The Church does give us more money to be able to buy what we need, but thus far nothing has really happened. We are still buying all that we need, all is well on the food side of things.
We have had some interesting food lately.  We ate with some locals the other day and they gave us this meat kinda thing... it wasn’t not too bad.  So, I asked what it was and they told me it was pure animal fat that was frozen.   hahaha   Then he said "I would like to make you an onion" so we said alright.  He then cut up an onion and set it in front of us. Just a raw onion... oh OK ... thank you.  Yummmm :)   They also gave us this bread paste stuff.  Imagine you took a cheese grater and a chunk of bread. You then grind up the bread into powder as small as it goes and then you make that bread powder was just bread paste.  Crazy.   
This week was a pretty good weather week.  I think yesterday was about 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Good times! The cold isn’t too bad as long as there is no wind or humidity... but here in Nakhodka we are right up on the sea... so we have both wind and humidity! Yay!

People here in Russia pull their kids around on sleds! Haha yeah its a real thing
Earlier in the week we went out to a small town about an hour outside of the main Nakhodka city. We had a great lesson about the armor of God and after the lesson we went out to wait for the bus. Because we were so far away, the busses were few and far between. We got out to the bus stop at 5 oclock and of course... it was cold! All was okay though, I had a scarf and gloves and a beanie and a hood on my jacket. We threw on everything but then the wind came. The wind was really bad... like.. really bad! It was a lot of wind and it didn't ease up at all the whole time we were standing there. Then the best part! It had snowed the day before so there was a lot of loose snow just lying around. The wind picked up the snow and in every gust of wind there was a ton of snow bits! They would hit you in the face, get stuck, melt, and then you have a wet face with more wind making it colder.  Not the best experience:) But all is well! We survived! Oh yeah... I forgot to say, too, I stepped in a giant pile of snow and some snow got in my shoe. It then melted, and my socks were wet. I had frozen piggies! haha Russia is a great place! 

I got some brown shoes:) They are way nice! But they don't help with the cold so I am going to have to wait until summer to wear them

President Brinton came into town the other day and we were riding with him in his car to a lesson of ours. He got a call on the phone and his car does speaker phone so he answered... I looked over to see who had called him... Jorg Klebingat. That is a member of the 70 who spoke at General Conference. His talk was entitled “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence.”  Ever since the first moment I heard that talk, I fell in love with it. That was probably one of my favorite talks of all Conference. It is so straight-forward and to the point and simple. There is no way to misunderstand what you’ve got to do. It is just super good! And we got to be on a call with him! So basically I was on a phone call with one of the Quorum of the 70. No big deal though. :)

I miss you all so much! I love you!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another Great Week!

Family and Friends, 
I had a good week this week.   Some funny things happened. We were talking with one of our members of the church in his apartment hallway when a drunk guy came up to talk to us. He was a nice guy... well he was nice to me... He started talking about his life back 40 years ago and how he served in the navy and how he did this, that, and the other. He was talking with me and it is a Russian thing to talk with someone but be really close to them. He was probably a foot away from me and squared his shoulders and was not breaking eye contact, this is how we stood while he told me his story. I had this big 'ol smile on my face smiling and listening as best I could to his story. He then turned to my companion and said, "Hey you have a good friend here. He is a good kid. I like him." He then put his arm around me and gave me a big Russian hug. He reeked of alcohol, haha, such a good guy:) I hugged him back of course. Then after he let me go he turned to my companion and said "You.. I don't like you. You need to be more like this good boy here."  And after that Elder Sayers tried to have a nice conversation with the guy but he wanted none of it.  Poor Elder Sayers. 
 There was another drunk guy on the street the other day. He started talking to us about his life story, of which I understood almost none. In both of these instances the guy wasn't angry at all. Wasn't upset, just drunk, telling me about his life. But again he did the Russian thing and squared his shoulders and got real close. I mean... It was a little uncomfortable but I wasn't going to step back from this guy. I stood there keeping the eye contact the whole time, maybe I shouldn't have held my ground. Maybe I should’ve stepped back and kept an appropriate distance but I was curious how close he would get... Turns out it’s really close...  The whole time Elder Sayers was just watching me not saying anything. He just let me and this drunk guy stand there for 5 minutes or so.  Moral of the story: Drunk Russians will get real close when they want to talk to you and they won’t back up:)  
The missionary work is getting kind of rough at nights now. It is cold and after the sun sets at 6 the amount of people on the streets drops off dramatically. We had all of our lessons cancel on us the other night and we were stuck on the street for 2 hours. We talked to every person we saw... but that amounted to probably 15 people total. It is definitely cold, and there is snow everywhere, but it is all okay when we get home and our apartment is warm:) They keep the houses here really well heated:) The wind is really a killer when we are out on the streets, the cold isn't bad at all but when you get that cold wind on your face it stinks.  My ears and toes and fingers are chilly but you get walking around a bit and all is well:)

Dad, could you find a way to send me that chapter from “How to Win Friends and Influence People?” We are struggling to inspire and excite some of these people about the gospel message. I think it could help me better work if I read that chapter again:)
I got our family Christmas card in the mail this week:) Super cute! The Nesting dolls that I have are way cool! It is a 10 piece set with little kings and Christmas trees on it:) It is also pretty big I don't know how I am going to get it home! I might have to mail it home.  

I miss you all so much! I will see you in 10 days! So soon! I haven’t gotten any information about Skype yet but I will let you know:) I love you!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Starting to get a little cold

Have you been watching our weather?  We can definitely feel this temperature drop! It is rough but I am a real man;) so I can handle it.
I am so sorry I won't have time to write Conner and Kreston this week! I know their birthdays are this week! Happy birthday guys!

Dad's Washington trip sounds fun.  It's always good to talk to big wigs.  Although, you were cold at 50 degrees? That is nothing! In one town not too far away, the temperature dropped to way below zero just a few days ago:)

I have gotten a little skinnier over here in Russia:) I haven't really been working out as much as I did when I was back in Tukee. All we really do here are pullups and pushups. We have a few dumbells but nothing big going on in the fitness department:) Don't worry I am not going hungry. We eat great over here. Pasta and Burritos almost every other day. We cook for ourselves.  We eat a lot, but nothing really new or shaking it up. 

I am super sad I missed the Church Christmas party! It sounds like it was a blast:) It seems like the Worthens always do well, whatever they do:) Like that quote from one of the prophets a while back. "What e'er thou art, act well thy part."  That is definitely something I admire about them!

It is so weird to think, Christmas will be about the 5 month mark. That is almost 1/4 of the way done! I just barely got out here! I gotta get to work!

I miss you all. Nothing too crazy is happening here in Russia! At 53 rubles to a dollar, the economy is hurting pretty bad over here. I heard soon it will be up to 60 rubles in a dollar! That doesn't really affect us, we are given a certain amount of money and it is always enough:)

Oh by the way, I got the 2 packages you sent safely.  So thus far I have recieved the 2 regular packages and the 1 Christmas package. The food in the package was great!! That is so tasty! We already broke out the hot sauce can and taco sauce you sent:) Super tasty!!
I was on the bus the other day when I looked out the window to see some Russians getting into a fist fight. haha  The bus drove away though:( dang I didn't get to see who won! Mom asked if people like Russia's President. People here LOVE Putin.  They think he is their national hero or something. 
Some of these Russians don't really understand why we are here. We said to one guy, "Hey we are missionaries from the church of Jesus Christ" He told us "Sorry we aren't interested, we are Christians".... haha there's nothing you can do about that..  

I bought a giant Russian Nesting doll today. It was sweet! I also got a book full of quotes. It is a bunch of deep quotes. There are some quotes from Ghandi and Ralph Waldo Emerson and the likes. I will have to share some next week:) I miss you all so much!

New Nesting Doll

The Church is True and I Love You!

Ryan Gardner

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's December!

We had the first snow today! Crazy:) I am sad I missed the Thanksgiving party! It sounds like a big success. We had some Thanksgiving dinner with our district and the senior missionaries.  Most people here don't celebrate Thanksgiving. 

I go to Seoul on December 23 and 24th:) I will most likely pass through Vladivostok. Hopefully I can get some more mail! My companion will not come with me to Korea. I don't really know what he will be doing yet. I am going with my MTC group that I came in with.  

We will get to Skype from the church on Christmas. I might send home my full memory cards from my camera if you would like. Then you could watch all of the videos I have made. 

I love you all! All is good here, meeting lots of drunk people on the streets and always messing with them. Can't wait to see you soon:)
Love,  Ryan

Monday, November 24, 2014

Russian Approved Jacket

New Dolls
New Jacket
This week was a pretty good week, I guess.  I spent about 3,500 rubles on a big fluffy jacket. There are about 50 rubles in a dollar now, so it seemed pretty cheap to me. All the Russians say it is a really, really good jacket. Way fuzzy and fluffy. I got the Russian stamp of approval:)

We had a ton of lessons fall through, like usual. We planned to meet with a guy named Roman.  He said okay I will see you at 7. It was 6:40 and we called him just to make sure he was on his way and he said he was leaving the house. We thought “oh great! This should be a great lesson.”  7 o’clock rolls around and nothing. We call him and he says he is only 5 minutes away. We wait 5 minutes. Nothing. 10 minutes. Nothing. 20 minutes and still nothing. At 7:30 we just left. We can't be waiting all day for him, and we have souls we’ve gotta save! Elder Sayers felt bad that we just left but if Roman wanted to meet with us, he would have been there. We can't be at his mercy the rest of the night just waiting for him. It was hard to just go, but it was necessary.  

Elder Sayers getting in on the Kitty Love
The guy with whom we had a baptismal date, a 70 year old man, met with us this week. We started with a prayer and he cut us off before we could start the lesson. He turned to us and said,  "Look here little boys. You are great, all the stuff you are doing is great, I know you want to preach to me but I don’t need that. I don't need anything from you guys right now. I just need a passport."  He needed a stamp or something in his passport so he could find better work in a different country. So everything we have taught him, the baptismal date he agreed to, the time we spent together, all of it was useless. I was speechless. I was thinking... you have the key to happiness in this life and the life to come; it is right in front of your face. I just wanted to yell at him and say "Open your eyes! You have such a great opportunity in front of you! What do you mean you only need a passport?!" But everybody has freedom to choose and that is hard for us. We can't make them accept it even though we know it is only going to help them.

 A man walking by asked us in English "Hey are you guys CIA?" We laughed and said "No." But then he asked if we were FBI... Of course if we were CIA or FBI then we would say no, so either way he wasn't going to believe us. 
CIA?  FBI?  I don't think so. 
We met a lady this week named Raiciya. I don't know how to spell it in English.   Раися. Imagine you are saying the word "Rice" but put a "Ya" at the end of it.  Anyway, she asked us where the bus stop was so we told her.  But she was a little old lady and we wanted to be nice so we walked with her to the bus stop. She was walking slow and was carefully placing each step she took. We thought she might be a little drunk but we didn't know for sure so we just kept walking. We got to a part in the sidewalk where the sidewalk steeply angled down for a foot or two and then leveled off again. She didn't see it and we didn't realize it would be a problem until she took a normal step and her foot landed a foot lower than she expected. She tumbled and totally ate it. It turns out She was very drunk!  Inside we were laughing but trying to be sensitive. Aww:( We kept walking and we were keeping a super close eye on her. She didn't fall again.   But we walked her within 10 feet of the bus stop. We told her "Alright, there it is. Just go straight on up, sit down and wait for your bus." She said "Thank you my sweets!" As she started walking away towards the bus stop we were watching. It was literally a straight line to the bus stop and then she could sit down.  But, she got about 5 or so feet away, started looking at a tree on the right, started leaning and walking to the right... then she tripped over the curb and belly-flopped flat in the grass again. We picked her up and picked up some of the stuff that fell out of her jacket... like a mason jar full of big orange wet chunks... it was the weirdest thing to see.  We sent her off on a bus, still not too sure she could make it home safely... poor lady. 
Russian Bible

We had an intense lesson with a man of another faith last night. He was trying as hard as he could to prove to us that we were wrong. We were talking and then he just threw scripture after scripture in our face about this that and the other. Pretty intense.. It was like he was trying to convince us using only the Bible and his knowledge/interpretation of it. We had the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and our testimonies. He was cool and all but he only knew the bible in their heads. He didn't have a personal testimony. We were preaching to him and it was the best feeling:) We asked him "So if the world ended tomorrow, would you be able to confidently say "' Yes I know that my church is true 100%'"? and he couldn't even give a simple 'yeah I know its true'. He beat around the bush, started quoting more scriptures from the Bible and even changed the subject to politics. Like dude... youre trying to tell us that we are crazy when we know 100% In our minds and in our hearts that this is true? Haha its so hard to explain but it was a way great experience:) Don't get me wrong, I love these people that believe in God! They are way dedicated to their faith, they read the Bible and study better than most people I have met, they are not afraid to talk to people about religion, but it is rough seeing how close they are to the truth... but yet so far! 
Cool Pot!
All in all, I am having a great time:) This whole mission thing isn't really hard. I mean yeah, we talk to people on the street 24/7 and most of the time they think we are silly little American boys (which truthfully, we are). But this is a great experience!  I am so grateful for this church and the blessing it is in our lives. 

 The Church is True and I Love You

Стареишина Гарднер
Elder Gardner

Monday, November 17, 2014

Having a Blast

Oh man! 3 months in! I am having a blast!  Russia is great! Just one quick side note about those pictures that Ksenya sent, I was probably on my tippy-toes for 90 percent of them.... I haven't grown yet!  We see SO MANY KITTIES here in Russia:) That is probably the reason I got sent here.   I forgot to tell you, I got your Halloween card exactly on Halloween!  Yeah, it was way cool.  We had a big zone training meeting on Halloween in a city about an hour from here. We rode over, had our meeting and on the ride back they gave us our mail. That was a little bit ago.  But, when President Brinton came down from Vladivostok this week he brought mail with him. I got your Christmas package! I am excited to open it.

I had no clue that Uncle Kyle and Mr. DeValk were good friends! That is way cool.   I don't have Mr. DeValk's email, but if you have a chance could you send it to me? Or maybe you could just ask him. I would like to get a copy of the music we used in Junior Year. We sang a song that was in Russian and I want to show it to Ksenya to see if she can translate it or maybe I can even read it now.  I don't know how well I speak Russian yet.

I pulled out 8000 Rubles today of personal money. (That’s about $160 U.S.)  I bought a big coat, a hat, and some leather gloves.  It really isn’t bad here. I love the weather! We don't need anything more than a big coat and maybe a scarf, it is pretty windy.  We had some super small snow the other day! Crazy! It started snowing as we were out talking to people. That makes talking to people harder on the streets because the streets become empty around 6 pm or so every day.

I think the coldest it has gotten so far is negative 5 degrees Celsius. That should be a little below 32... so maybe... 22?  I have no clue.  They don't use Fahrenheit here, pretty frustrating. But don't worry, I know how to calculate the temperature. You just use your two points and create a linear function that intersects both points. We know that 0 Celsius is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and -40 is -40 in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. Not too hard.

It is dark, like midnight kinda dark, at 7 pm every day. Pretty rough, we have to work so much harder during the day to make everything work. 

Our branch was struggling a little bit these past few weeks. But we had a big day yesterday. We had a giant 42 people at church!! That is CRAZY, but way cool!

One of our investigators, well not really an investigator, is named Max. He was a member, he went to New Zealand and met a woman. They got married and it didn't work out so he divorced her and came back to Russia. He married another woman in Russia but the only problem was he didn't fully divorce the woman from New Zealand. So he became technically a polygamist. He divorced the woman in Russia and now he is stuck. Technically he is still married to the woman in New Zealand even though they haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so. It is a dumb, dumb law and we can't get any help from the New Zealand government to do anything about it. All he has to do is contact the lady in NZ and have her sign the divorce paperwork and it can all be over. So if you know anybody who could have any pull with the New Zealand government or anything that might be able to help, please give them a call.   This guy is the strongest member I have ever met! He understands everything and has the strongest testimony but he is stuck in this stupid mess. He actually opened up Nakhodka for missionary work 15 years ago. The first Sacrament Meeting was in his living room. President Brinton's son taught Max 15 years ago, and now we get to teach him. It is a very cool experience. 

Anyways, this week was pretty rough. Not bad or sad or anything but just rough. We worked as hard as we could, talking to as many people as we could see, working on the street all day when all of our plans fell through. It was frustrating standing on the street at 6 o’clock. We were looking through all the names we had, seeing we had tried stopping by or calling every single one of them and every single one of them was busy or did not want to meet.  So we hit the streets, and there was nobody interested. Walking around for 3 hours, talking to everybody and every single person blows you off calling us a sect and stuff.   We were just lost this whole week.   It was all worth it though.  At the end of the week we looked back at our week and we got 3 times the number of new investigators we had wanted and almost reaching our other goals. It was rough being in the thick of it and writing down each night how we only got 1 lesson that day. After Church we looked back and saw that it was a pretty good week, considering everything.

Oh and one last story; we were out talking to people and when we said “Hi” to one man he looked real close at our name tags. He then stood up, backed up and shouted at us in English;  "Mormons?! You are Mormons?! Dude! That’s heresy! That’s heresy man!!"  Hahaha I was so speechless, this guy sounded just like a hippy who wanted to fight against "the man"! Pretty funny.  It put a smile on my face for the rest of the day:)

I miss you a lot! Hope everything is going good.  I love you!!  Don't forget, we get to Skype for Christmas!! Should be good. I don't have any information about that yet though. I will let you know when I find out that stuff. Oh, and also my first Korea trip is a week or two before Christmas! Weird... that will be 3 months in the country, which will be 5 months total.... which is almost 1/4 of my mission gone already. Whoa! I shouldn't be thinking like that. That makes it seem like I will be gone so soon.  Weird thoughts. Anyway, I love you!

Elder Gardner

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy November

Another great week here!
Found a Kitty Friend
We had FOG!

Dear Family,

Thanks for your note.  I am super pumped to get a Christmas Package!! WOOHOO:)) The package tracker says it's in the Russian Federation.  My companion tells me that the Russian Federation is just Russia in general. So I hope it is in Vladivostok, but I am not 100 percent sure:)  Perhaps it is on the other side. And wow! You sent 2 more??   I am pumped.   Hopefully I can get all three at once and make everybody jealous here. 

It is not cold enough to require much extra clothes so far!  The stuff you sent me with is great:) I am probably going to get some gloves and maybe a jacket next week.  Sometimes I wear my Shopka that Mike Rime gave me. During the day it is hot, but nights can get pretty windy.
Sunday Selfie
We use our Kanga pouches every day. It is just part of the attire we wear. It holds our passport and wallets, so if anything happened the important stuff isn't going anywhere.
Thanks for sharing the "Spirit is like Spidey Sense" analogy from the Stake Baptism. I made an analogy the other week how The Sons of Mosiah were like the Grinch. How they were kinda stinky people but after their change of heart, (after their hearts grew 3 sizes) they were the best of the best.  People totally started giggling in the middle of my spiritual Grinch thought. It threw me off.
Way fun to hear that Megan will be hanging out with you guys these upcoming weeks for Thanksgiving and Christmas! It might be weird to not have me there, but hopefully you don't miss me too much;)

I Love You so much! Everything is fun:))
Elder Gardner

Friday, November 7, 2014

3 months gone!

3 months down! Wow.... feels like we were just on the cruise last summer! Just a few days ago buying some suits for me, going through the temple for the first time! Weird how time flies.

The lady that takes care of the Nakhodka Facebook page, Ksenya, is the best! She is just like a mother to me! She saw us heading out to go talk to people and she asked where my coat was. I told her I loved the weather and I wasn't wearing one. She told me she was going to beat me next time she saw me without a jacket! hahah She’s fun:)

We had 2 baptisms this week.  That was really fun to see them baptized. They are way cool people.  I got a chance to teach them a little bit and they were totally prepared long before we got there! It is hard for any of us to take credit for their baptism. We are just so lucky to have played a small part in their conversion.   Our baptismal font is portable, we set it up in our church kitchen and that is how they do baptisms here in Nakhodka.   So I was just sitting peacefully in the Baptismal service listening to the talks going on, then all the missionaries stood up and I looked around clueless... They told me to stand up with them because we were singing! Haha Turns out every other missionary knew that we were going to be singing... except me... It was okay.  I could read the music good enough.  Hopefully next time I get at least a 5 minute heads-up. 
The Halloween party was great! I didn't know we were having it until the day before. Turned out to be super fun and Ksenya pretty much led the whole thing.  She decorated the church and made all the games to play and it turned out way good.  Here in Nakhodka they celebrate Halloween but the missionaries here say they don’t do anything in the western parts of the Vladivostok Mission. We saw a ton of people drunk and stumbling around, a bunch of men wearing masks;  totally up to no good, people dressed up like always. There was a giant concert in this shopping center. It is just like the outlet malls near our house.  We stayed out till 9 o’clock just like a normal night.  Nothing too crazy for us.  We were playing a game and I lost so I had to shout that I loved everybody.  It was a fun day overall!

We made cookies for the party!
This week is the last week of the 1st transfer.  I am 99.9 % sure that I am staying here for another transfer. When a new missionary gets trained, his training lasts 12 weeks;  2 transfers.  This transfer was 6 weeks but the next transfer is bumping right up against Christmas. The way it works out is we have a 3 week transfer and the following transfer is 9 weeks. They are trying to minimize people flying to new areas during the holiday season. So I should be here for the next 2 transfers also.  After that, it is anyone's guess!  This area is really nice.   There are a lot of great people here but I definitely want to go everywhere at least once!
We don't have any tests or evaluations here.  We just go out and work! Each month we have a zone meeting and we check our progress on our goals and evaluate as a group how we can improve and do better.

They don't believe in drains in Russia
That is crazy to hear how well our sports teams are doing. They normally are so bad. Who is the Cardinal’s quarterback?

Wow, Aubrey spoke at stake conference?? That is scary! I wouldn’t want to do that.   She used to have a nickname of "Mom" because she was always the most mature out of our friend group. She is the best.  She didn't like the nickname, but I was watching one of the young women’s conferences the other day (because we have them on DVD in our apartment) and one of the ladies was speaking of how the title "Mom" is probably the best title somebody can receive in this life! I thought a lot about the great ladies in my life (Like you, Mom<3) and I also thought about Aubrey! She should be happy people call her “Mom.” I could never be a mom! I mean... obviously... but I think you get what I am trying to say.
Miss you all much! I wish I had more time to write.

I Love you all so much!
Старейшина Гарднер

Elder Gardner 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saturday Fun-Day

Ryan and the other missionaries in his branch sang at a baptism this past weekend!
At the Halloween party Ryan lost a game and in turn he had to yell "People I Love You All!" on the street.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sticks and Stones

Hey family,
It is weird to think, I'm used to telling people "yeah I have been here for X weeks" But now I am going to be saying "X number of MONTHS" in Russia.... Dang... We were at the Рынок (Reenuk) today. It is just like in Mexico where they have those open shop kinda things where we can bargain with people.  They had some sweet stuff there! I saw a couple Golden Zippos and with Russian pictures carved into them. I saw some sweet knives! They have great stuff there.  We also went to the Spetsnaz store! I got a tie clip with a Russian symbol on it, pretty sweet:)  
Bought some new ties
They sell Kinder eggs with toys in them. 



I haven’t felt homesick yet! Maybe it’s a good thing, or maybe I should miss you more. haha I don't know.  I am having too much fun!

Packages take a while to get here. 6-8 weeks sounds right. When it gets to Russia, it will get sent to the mission office in Vladivostok. That is 4 hours away or so by bus. I won’t get any mail until the end of my transfer most likely. That will be two weeks from now. Each transfer is 6 weeks long.

I got to hang out with Elder Jaeckel this past week. If you remember him, he is the one who's mom sent me a camera battery and I took it to him.  He is way cool! He is our zone leader and because my companion is district leader, he had to go on a split with the zone leaders. I got Elder Jaeckel and Elder Sayers (my companion) went with Elder Mateer. Elder Mateer is from Great Britain so it is fun to listen to him speak Russian! He is awesome!

Russian Rubles up close
That is cool that Dad went out with the missionaries! We just had "missionary Saturday" in our ward. 2 people showed up so the other 2 companionships got to go out with members.   

I think 3 times this week we have had every single one of our appointments for the day cancel on us.  No worries - it  just means that there is somebody else who needs to talk with us at that time. We don't get discouraged, we lift up our eyes and look for the golden person we need to go find! It is always a little rough though asI think it is easier to talk to somebody with whom you have already set up an appointment, than to go talking to people on the street.  All in all its never boring.  Yeah, we have had some ups, and quite a few downs.  But, all is well :)

We have people always yelling at us "Go home Yankee!" But it was all worth it when we heard a Russian mess up and yell at us "Come home Yankee!" hahaha I think we know what he meant, but that just made me laugh so hard :) 

The lady you got an email from is named: Ксения. In English you say it like : K-sen-ya 
She is a member here in our ward. She has 3 kids; ages 2, 6, 12 - I think.  She reminds me a ton of Teresa Garr. So just imagine Teresa Garr but Russian :) She is so loud and sassy and fun to talk with, she even speaks English.
A full coat rack at church is a beautiful thing!

We went to go visit a less active member this week and let me preface it by explaining how the doors work. When you visit someone’s apartment you stand outside the building and press their apartment number on the pad and it will call them. They answer and if they want to meet with us they will press a button to unlock the door and let us in.

After a day of walking around (left). 
While we were waiting for the person to answer their phone three old grandpas passed by us so we asked them how they were doing. One got MAD! He went off like "Who do you think you are? How does it look like I am doing? Who gave you permission? What do you think you are doing here?" He was literally shouting! hahaha Poor guy.  Then a guy opened the door and just stared at us. He asked what we were doing and we told him we had a meeting with our friend. He pushed us out of the way and slammed the door shut. He then said "No, you don’t.".... ahhaha, alrighty.  I guess we don’t have a meeting here. 

Some people here get so upset but they are harmless.  It’s okay.  Whatever makes them feel better. Overall I am having lots of fun! Sticks and stones may break my bones but Russians can never hurt me. 

The Church is True and I Love You!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

3 Weeks in Nakhodka

It is pretty weird not having the sun rise until 8 or 9 every morning! We wake up at 6:30 and go running, then we get ready for our studies. Studies start at 8 and it is still dark outside when we start studying. We study until 11 and about halfway through the study session the sun peeks over the mountains and is shining perfectly in my face! It is a good way to wake up:)

We had an awesome Sunday yesterday! 30 people showed up to church! This is including missionaries, investigators and members and children. It is completely different, but the members here are so dedicated! I think back at home we kind of take for granted what a big blessing this is in our lives. This branch totally gets it because most of them are converts and they see how much it helps their lives.

I had to give a talk in Church. The Branch President called me on Thursday and asked if I would talk and because my companion answered the phone, he told the President that I totally wanted to! I think it went pretty good. I talked about how we can find out for ourselves whether or not this Church is true and a couple of my investigators were there to listen. I hope it helped them.

And wow...thanks for pointing out that I am 10,000 km away! I will have to use that when I talk to people on the street.  Some people don’t understand why we are here and then we have to try to explain that we left our lives, our families, and college and friends for this one purpose. I think it helps.

I had the weirdest thought the other day, it dawned on me how I will never be able to go back to DeValks choir class and sing with him. All those people are gone and it is nothing but a memory now! It’s kinda sad, but it totally puts it into perspective how quick time flies! Weird.

I hope you liked the pictures. 
1- That hallway is in an apartment building we go to every other day. We have a referral  for a man who lives there.  He is always home, we can hear him kicking stuff over. He might be drunk, but he never answers the door. We continue though... :)

2-This is just the street heading down past some apartments.   All of the homes in Russia are these apartment things. Most are like 7 stories tall and all brick. The big shipping containers on the left... are their garages. This is where they keep their cars.

3-The third picture is the middle courtyard between two rows of tall apartment buildings. They have a place for kids to play, and they have big metal T's which is where they hang clothes. There are like 6 clothes lines on them. Not many people here have clothes dryers. You can see in the background, some people have clothes lines right out their windows. We have a little rack in our apartment that we use.

I’m glad Austin made it back from his mission safely.  It is so weird!  I won’t get to see him for 4 years.   I am sure he will be married by the time I get back haha:)
We saw a ton of drunk people this week! A lot of them were on the bus with us. They would just be standing there holding onto the pole and the driver would hit the brakes. They would fall forward into me and I had to hold them up so they wouldn't hit the floor. One guy hit the floor pretty hard and I couldn't help but start giggling.

Another thing, I don’t know if I told you already, but there are a TON of people here with gold and silver teeth. We have met a couple of Babushkas with full golden grillz!  The smoking thing is really big here, too!   They are amazing people though; lots of potential  J   
We had a great week this week and I am loving it all! Even though I understand almost nothing, it is so much fun :)

The Church is true and I Love You!

Старейшина Гарднер
Elder Gardner

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's not cold, yet

The weather is still pretty hot here! I am sweating a lot.  I will probably be buying a winter jacket and boots in a month or so. I didn't know Nakhodka meant “Lucky Find”! That is pretty sweet.  

We never have dinner appointments so we are always cooking for ourselves! I am so grateful you taught us how to cook every Sunday.  They were talking to us about how we should have been preparing for our Missions for a long time before our missions and I thought well, I can't really think of anything I did to prepare. They then talked about the value of hard work and I thought of course!  I learned that.  We shouldn't be lazy? They then talked about being able to cook for ourselves and clean our apartments. I thought, I have always been cleaning! They talked about how we should have not been spending excess amounts of time on the computer or video games, and these are all the things you have been telling us from day one! I am so glad you gave us such high standards.  It makes this all so much easier.

The New Orleans experience sounds great! I hope to be able to go there some day.  

Thanks for thinking about sending me a care package.  If possible, could I have some Ramen?  I can't really think of anything else :)  I trust your judgment (Dang, I can't remember how to spell judgment, I hope that is correct!).

So in three weeks, our Branch President is leaving. He is like the Bishop but the ward is only like 15 people. They are all really good people but I am afraid that when lose this big source of power in the branch then we will lose some really good people. We need to inspire them and rally the troops so that when our leader is gone we can still stay strong!

Yeah those were eggs in a plastic bag! They don’t use cartons for their eggs :) And no that was not powdered milk in a bag - it was regular milk! Totally normal milk in a bag.  Crazy, huh?  

We only have 2 elders in our apartment. (I cannot for the life of me remember how to spell apartment....)  In our Nakhodka area there are 4 elders and 2 sisters.

I am currently sitting in a little office building thingy, 4 floors up, I have weird Russians sitting around me and when they talk I have no clue what they are saying.... It’s okay maybe they are talking about me... I will just type about them and they won’t know what I am saying either!  We sit here and email for an hour or so then we go back out and talk to people! Maybe I will play Ping-Pong later.  I will send some pictures in an hour or so from our church computer. I can also see the ocean from where I am sitting and I see a bunch of boats.  It makes me miss going SCUBA diving.

In regards to e-mail messages home we are allowed to tell you first names but no pictures of Russian people and no last names.   

I bought a leather satchel, it’s pretty manly! I also took some money out to buy pizzas for Priesthood session of Conference but ended up not using it.  I can’t wait to go see "Meet the Mormons" It looks so fun! 

I have tripped like 20 times this week. In Russia, they have a lot of cobblestone sidewalks that are hard to walk on.  A couple times I was walking past someone who was sitting on a bench or something, I would start to say hello in Russian and then I would step off the edge of the sidewalk and my hello would get mixed in with an "Aaaggghh" So I would end up saying something like "Straaagjlsszxn"... which actually isn't Russian... It sounds kinda like it but it’s just stupid :)

We were led a couple times during the week by the spirit. We made a plan on Monday or to find a man we didn’t know. His name was Владимир. So we headed on out, talking to everyone we met.  Then we met a big muscled guy just as he was walking into a store.  He is probably 30 years old. He stopped in the doorway and started talking to us. He seemed very interested in our English Gospel discussions. He said he will be there and guess what his name was.... Владимир! We also got his number, but didn't have time to teach a lesson yet. I think it is so cool how it always works out that way.

Another time, just 2 days ago, we were heading back from the Priesthood Session of Conference. We were looking for a number 9 bus to take us home. We didn't see that one but bus number 5 came up. We got on the 5 but before paying we saw a number 9 in the distance. We hopped off quickly and get on the number 9 bus. When we get on the bus we handed our money to the conductor lady.  Then, she handed Elder Sayers a notebook.  It was his notebook, he had left it on the bus earlier that day. It was great how that worked out and didn't stay on the number 5:)

I am loving Russia! Slowly but surely understanding more and more :) Wish me luck! The Church is true and I Love You!

Старейшина Гарднер
Elder Gardner