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



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First Week in Nakhodka

Hey family! How are you all doing?? Russia is fun.  I really like it!  I hardly understand a word of what is being said but it is such a blast! Down here in Nakhodka, it is pretty warm. I always leave the house with a jacket in the mornings but I take it off pretty quickly.   Russia is pretty normal, hate to say it. I expected it to be a lot more.... I dont know..... Russian. It is a ton of fun though:)
More Russian than this?
Looks like they need a can opener.
Or this?
We were told this last week that no more Ipods are allowed and no flash drives either. MoTab CDs are allowed so a couple of those would be fabulous if you could find them.   My companion is awesome! He speaks Russian super well! Some people say they can't even tell that he is from Oklahoma. We have had a hectic week, carrying my bags around for 3 days before we finally got to Nakhodka.  We almost missed our train, but it wasn't that close. We had like 30 seconds to spare before it pulled away.
Getting Elder Alward and Gardner settled in Nakhodka
Plenty of times I see guys shouting at us and I say to my companion "Hey that guy is super interested we've gotta turn around and talk to him!" My companion just says "No Elder Gardner, don't turn around, he is drunk!" Dang it! The drunk people are always the happiest to see us!  I need a couple of new "Pick-up Lines" so-to-speak. One of them is "Hey have you seen us before?" or maybe on a bus I will open up my Book of Mormon and ask the lady next to me how to pronounce a couple of words from the book:) I don't know! Help me out here:)
A Kitty Friend
I believe we were led a couple of times this week by the spirit. We had set up an appointment with an investigator named Костя. We went over to his home, but he was not home. We headed back out and I turned to Elder Sayers. I told him "Hey, there is a reason we are supposed to be here. There is a reason we planned to meet Костя and the plans fell through. Keep your eyes open Elder!" Earlier that morning we had this idea, "Let's plan on meeting a Владимир today."  So as we were walking back from our fallen through appointment, we stop to talk to this man. We introduce ourselves and he doesn't immediately tell us to go away.  We ask him his name.... Владимир. Way cool! We tell him we can help him quit smoking if he wants, we can teach him about our church and he seems kind of interested but he had to go. We will see if he shows up to church, I don't know.  I hope so!
Looks like Ryan is having a great time!

Another experience:  we had to fill out some quarterly report. Both Elder companionships were at the church so we could work on the report. Elder Alward and I both just got to Nakhodka this week so we didn't know any of the information they needed. We decided it would be a better use of our time to go out and talk to people instead of just sitting around. So Elder Alward and I head out to the street and we didn't really know where we were going, just walking. We tried talking to probably 20 people with no success. Right after that, we saw a guy walking towards us with the biggest smile on his face. We stopped to talk to him and he said he has met the missionaries before. He reads the Bible every day and would love to read our book and to know more. We invited him back to the Church building to show him around and he loved it. He was looking at the big painting of Jesus for 5 minutes. We then asked if he had some time, and he did, so we taught him the first lesson:) He said during the lesson that he quit smoking a while ago, he doesn't drink tea or coffee or anything like that because he knows it is bad. He was totally being prepared before we got there. We just had to tell him the information and he was already relating it back to the Bible and he accepted it all! We set a Baptismal date for 3 or 4 weeks from now. It was a really awesome experience. If we would have been a minute earlier, a minute later, on a different street, or not even out there at all, we would have missed the great opportunity to teach the gospel! I am so happy I got to be a part of that.
I am having an amazing time! I haven't gotten nervous yet... yet! Haha wish me luck!  Even in Russia the Church is true and I Love You.

Старейшина Гарднер
Elder Gardner

I Made it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014:  I made it safely:) I am good, super tired! We didn't have September 30. Tonight we are sleeping in the Mission Home with the president, they are super nice:) I am first serving in Nahodka. Should be a blast! I am happy, warm and loving it here. I LOVE YOU ALL!
Elder Gardner