Thursday, January 29, 2015


Big news! 6 month mark is in 4 days! Time really does fly, it is weird telling people that I’ve been here half of a year. I sent a package to you guys today. It is some books, 2 Russian nesting dolls, some CDs because all the CDs and DVDs here are about 2 dollars each. I hope it gets there soon. The lady said 3 months! haha Now we wait. 

(This picture was taken in an effort to scare us - nice building)
I love Russia, it is so.... dog eat dog… you gotta get what you want because nobody is going to give it to you. Even in line for the post office. They don't make a nice line, they all stand in a clump and jump in where there is a free spot to go. I didn't realize that at first and like 3 people cut me. Then I put my shoulders back, stood up tall, put on my grumpy face, stared down some guy, stepped in front of him and took my turn... haha whoops I was frustrated. I should’ve been nicer! It is okay:) The guy didn't even care, it’s just how they work here. I still love these Russians!
This week at our English practice there was a girl who showed up. I have seen her a couple times, she is probably 17 or so, and I tried to talk to her in English. She said she didn't like English. I giggled and asked her why she was at English practice. She paused a second and told me "To see you" aww she’s got a crush on me! That’s so cute :) I am out of her league anyways. Haha just kidding I just said thanks and walked away.  

We finally found somebody new! His name is S___.  We met him on the street, introduced ourselves and the first thing he said is "Hey do you want some sunflower seeds?" He gave us each a giant handful and then we talked about God. He was a way cool guy. He has a real desire to change his life, he has been in and out of prison his whole life and now he is 40. He has a grandson and he needs to get his act together. He is the first real investigator we have met in the past 8 weeks or so. The work is slow but it wouldn't be fun if we had baptisms every other day... right? Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself ;)
We met with another guy, he has a baptismal date coming up in the following weeks. His name is A___. He is a way cool guy, way nice.  The whole time we were meeting with him, his senile, bed-ridden mother was in the other room screaming the whole time. She was screaming "Get out!" And she wouldn't give it up. A couple times he went out and told her "If you don't keep it down I am going to carry you out of this house and you’re gonna live on the street" haha Russian Humor. She kept screaming and we ignored her, we closed the door and then we heard a shatter. She threw a glass onto the ground and smashed it. He cleaned it up and we kept going with the lesson. A little later she started screaming "Neighbors! Neighbors help me!" She took a shoe or something hard and started banging the floor trying to get somebody to help her. The guy just turned to us and said "Don’t worry guys none of the neighbors are coming to help." Haha oh that’s reassuring. As we were leaving, the mother said "Get these Americans out of here!" Al_____ said to her "These are my Russian friends. Don't you feel bad now?" She got dead silent... She thought she had made all that racket over some Russian guys.. haha as we were leaving I puffed out my chest, put on my deep Russian voice and said "Da Svadanya" "До Свидания". (English translation:  “Bye Now”)   Hahahaha super funny :)

Let it snow.
We taught him about the Law of Chastity and it wasn't as awkward as I thought it was going to be. He was way open to accepting it. He said that he agreed with the principle and he was ready to follow it :) Pretty fun being a missionary, never a dull moment!
I am so jealous of the weather! I miss just going outside with no shoes and shorts and whatever I want to wear. Here, you have to leave 5 minutes early from anywhere and everywhere to account for time to dress yourself.  

I am glad you liked the photos last week. I have been bad about sending as many as I should. Pictures are worth a thousand words. I still need to figure out how much I weigh in Kilograms and how tall I am in Meters. You guys have your handy dandy iPhones and laptops to tell you the conversion between the two. I have math and a brain. I hope I can do the math J 
I am so glad I can still keep in contact with the Schindele’s. They are a fabulous family!  

We just noticed today how expensive everything is getting. Yeah we have to buy less at dinner time, or be smarter about what we buy because some of the stuff here, the price is skyrocketing. Crazy. It definitely doesn't help us at all with missionary work. The people are getting more frustrated and less happy to talk with us. They are worried about their families and finances - which they should be. There are a tonnnnn of sailors here who are leaving for the sea. They normally leave for 6 months of work and come back. They all need the money. There are also a bunch of people leaving to go to Thailand. They are looking for better work. It is weird that they have to leave their country to find work to provide for their families. Either they stay and work 3 jobs to still be poor, or they leave. It is so hard here. 
I love you all so much! The Church is True and I Love You! Keep on smiling!



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Trip to Vladivostok

We all went on over to Vladivostok this past weekend. The trip was great.  It was a great bonding experience for all of us in the Nakhodka Branch.   A week and a half ago we took the train to Vladivostok.  It was pretty cold on the train. We were in the regular cheap seats and they weren’t heated very well. This week when we went to Vlad we rented a bus and drove down - the whole branch together. It was a very fun bus ride. Yes, I was wearing a candy necklace :) Mrs. Schindele sent it to me in a letter and I thought "What better to do on a bus ride than to make and eat some jewelry?" Very tasty:)  

In that picture I was with Ksenya's oldest daughter. She is pretty cool, she speaks English pretty well too!

Must have been a long bus ride.
We had Elder Jorg Klebingat (of the Quorom of the 70) come visit us with his wife. They spoke at church on Sunday to all of the church members we brought. Then they were also with us on Monday at our Zone Conference. He is the 2nd Counselor of the Eastern European Missions, including all of Russia. He spoke to us about how we could improve our missions and how we can grow and be better people in general. Better followers of Christ. It was way good:) I took lots of notes. He is the man!  He doesn't beat around the bush when he talks. He tells us what he is thinking, he does what he does and he knows what is up.  His confidence is great, it is hard to describe, but if you met him you would understand right away.  Oh and I talked with him for a few minutes after church. He asked me "What can I do to help you Elder Gardner?" Oh man, haha I had NO CLUE. What should I ask a member of the Quorom of the 70 to do for me? I told him “nothing” but afterwards I was thinking that I should’ve asked for some Burger King:) 

We stayed the night with the APs. (The assistants to the President.) They are so much fun. It is right now Elder Jaeckel and Elder Hinkson. I have spent a few days with each one of them in the past and they are doing a great job! Everybody loves them.  

I got a TON of mail there while I was in Vladivostok!  I got a package from the Priest Quorum, Brother Busby sent it to me.  And I finally got the Worthen’s Package!  I also got some letters from the Rick and Pam Woods family and I got some letters from people in the ward. Oh, I got a letter from the Calvin Woods family, too.  It was way good to hear from them all.  

That is neat that Mom and Cameron got to go out with the missionaries.  I would be SO interested to see how American missionaries work. They can use their native language, they can speak to people who are probably nice most of the time, and  they can use iPads!  I think it would be such a different experience. 

Thanks for that picture of Elder "Varney" doing that baptism in the ice... That is Elder Barney. In Russian a capital "B" makes a "V" sound so maybe that was how he translated his name tag back in the day, or maybe it was just a bad translation:) I never knew him but Elder Sayers says that he knows him:) Cool stuff! We haven't done any ice baptisms yet, boy am I glad!

The legislative bills Dad is working on sound a bit difficult. I can't imagine fixing the pension system. Where to even start? There are a ton of people here in Nakhoka, though, who are on pension and they get free bus passes. They don't have to pay to ride the bus around town:) Hopefully you can do something like that for the firefighters, even though we don't really use busses in Arizona. Those projects sound big! I know you will do good:) If there is anything I can do to help, just let me know.

We bought 15 kg of potatoes for a Babushka.  (about 33 lbs)
Hope everything is going well:) My 6 month mark is in 11 days! Wow... Time flies! I think it is interesting how some people get homesick while others don’t. I don't know if I have gotten homesick once yet:) I am too tired to be homesick. ha ha

I love you all so much! 

Elder Gardner


Thursday, January 15, 2015

I haven't slipped this week

It was a good week!  I have not slipped any more on the ice. Still sitting at a count of 7. Elder Sayers though... he slipped 2 more times yesterday -  aww poor guy. I will think about buying some boots but I haven't found anything worth buying yet. I need to keep my eyes out! And wow, that is kind of scary to hear about Grandpa Woods slipping and falling! I am glad that he is okay. 

Giant icicles waiting to fall on us when we open the door! AGH!

That is crazy to hear about the javelinas in Ahwatukee! I haven't ever seen one in real life. I heard in some countries they try to tackle those with their bare hands! Now THAT sounds like a fun Saturday night!  I am glad to hear that Dad is still riding the motorcycle. That is sweet.   I am super jealous, I haven't driven a car or bike or anything for 6 months! Walking... walking... and more walking.. 

Our feet got cold... feet gloves! Next big thing for Billy Mays to sell:)
What a wild story to hear about Chandler Dowell almost losing his luggage to a thief in the Mexico City airport. I am glad he got it back. I bet Chandler scared the guy who took his luggage pretty quickly. I wouldn't want an angry Chandler coming after me! ha ha

This week was a pretty good week. We had a couple of instances where people came up to us asking for cigarettes. We tell them we don’t smoke and walk away but they just follow us! They are annoying sometimes.  There are so many people here with whole mouths of gold or silver teeth. They lost every single one of their teeth due to smoking, chewing tobacco, or bad hygiene. Even some of these Babushkas have all gold teeth... kind of scary the first time I saw it. 

Our baptismal font:) We set it up for a baptism the other day but the day before the guy's baptism he went and told his Jehova Witness Pastor. The pastor told him that if he got baptized in our church he was buying himself an express ticket to "Heck"... aahaha dang. No baptism for us.

I always see this yellow jeep running around!
I ate some of the Alligator Jerky that you sent me this week. Way good! I love it! It had some citric acid in it too, super tasty.

I was really glad to have that lazer pointer "Cat Toy" that you sent me this week. We were on the street looking up into the apartment window where the other Elders were eating and we needed to get their attention. We called them but they didn't answer and we were wondering how in the world we could get their attention. Then I remembered... Cat Toy to the rescue! I shone the cat toy through the window and onto the wall by them. They looked out the window and we were able to talk after that.  They told me as soon as they saw it, they knew exactly who it was. "Elder Gardner! Him and his Cat Toy" they said. 

We find cats in the weirdest places sometimes!
One of the other elders' investigators came to the church this week. His name is Sergei. He said 'Hey do you guys have some hot water?" We said yeah. He then went to the kitchen to make some church!  We saw him and told him that we don't drink coffee. We said "Here have some herbal chai; you shouldn't drink that coffee." He took the packet of chai, said “Thank you,” put the chai into his pocket and made the coffee anyways... ha ha ...we just laughed... there wasn't anything we could do, he already decided he wanted coffee, so he was having coffee. 

Train toilet... I am glad I am not a girl... theres no place to sit.. just a squat  :)
I started a strict shaving program. I shave once every 3 weeks. (It isn't really that strict.)  I can't grow any facial hair. I don't really know why I shave. It wouldn't make a difference either way. Maybe by the time I get home I can grow a beard or something!

Some of these Russian Cars have sweet paint jobs!
I think that is way cool that Austin wants to be a magician! That is sweet:) I wish him the best of luck! I don't know if I could do that, I take my hat off to him.

I love you all so much!

Russian Nesting Dolls

Elder Gardner




Friday, January 9, 2015

Good Week - New Year

I had a good week! We are not relaxing at all for the New Year. The work continues and the walking does too. We walk everywhere :) We haven't gotten any snow for the past couple weeks. The snow just stuck to the ground and the past couple days have been hot so the snow is starting to melt. The only problem is the snow melts during the day, and at night those puddles freeze so there is ice EVERYWHERE. I have fallen a total of 7 times already.  I don’t like ice. I am on the hunt for some nice boots but haven’t bought any yet. I don't want to buy some boots if the winter is ending soon and then the boots will be useless.
That is way sad to hear that Aubrey broke her leg! That is not good:(  She was the Cross Country Captain I think. Send her my love.
It is so frustrating sometimes with these Russians. We will meet someone on the street and they will seem way interested and so we write down their phone number. We will try to call them a few days later and their number will say "Unreachable" It means that they are either out of cell range or their phone is off or they lost their number because they didn't pay the bill. We have a list of about 15 people who have been unreachable for the past 2 months... I don't understand.

Or we will ask people to come to church, they said heck yeah! Then they don't show up, and we ask what happened. They tell us they were busy... That just means they didn't want to go. It is so frustrating. Or we will talk to someone on the street and we ask "Hey, how are you?" They say “Good,” then we ask "So what is your name?" They then say to us "Thank you! Thank you so much" and they turn around and walk away... yeah they definitely did not listen to a single word we just said.  All you can do is laugh.
So they swore in the new Governor?  Dad, what do you do during the inauguration? Just stand around the whole time? That sounds kinda boring:( well... not kinda boring... SUPER boring! Who are you taking with you to the event?
I am super excited to hear about the ward family history goal of 50,000 names! That sounds cool:) This past year in the Vladivostok Mission we had a goal of 100 baptisms. I only got here for the last couple months of it but it was cool to see it unfold. We had about 80 or so when November started. We were all working super hard to reach the goal and when New Year’s Eve rolled around we were at 99. On New Year’s Eve all the missionaries had to be in at 6:00 pm for safety reasons (drunk people all on the streets and what not). We got in at 6 pm having had no success and thinking we were going to end the year at 99 baptisms. About an hour later we got a call from Sister Brinton saying a different city got the final baptism and we reached our goal of 100! Way cool:) It made us stretch but I think it wouldn't have been as rewarding if we all didn't work as hard as we did to reach it.

There is a big mission conference coming up in 2 weeks.  I’m hoping to get some more mail when I am in Vladivostok for that conference. The missionaries from Siberia don't get to come because it is too far! It is okay:) We are only missing about 20 of them... well.. now that I think about it that is 1/4 of our missionaries haha! It just wouldn't be worth it to get them all flown out here for a day and then having a 5 hour plane ride back or so.  Oh and the Conference will be on Monday the 19th so my P-day will be on the 20th. Don't be worried if I don't email you on that Monday the 19th.

Right now I am eating a Kinder Surprise Chocolate Egg.   I got a toy car :)

I did some surgery last night... ingrown toenail work!! Woohoo!  I pulled out a giant thing last night. I took a picture but I probably won’t send it to you.  I will save you the trouble of getting grossed out.
We went to Vladivostok this week. We had to be at the train station at 6 am for a 5 hour train ride and a 4 hour conference thingy and then 5 hours back. It was a long day, and then I think about the missionaries in our Tempe Arizona Mission. Their whole area is 4 square miles big. It’s such a different experience. I think I got the better deal though;)
I miss you all so much!

I love you!