Monday, March 30, 2015

Week 2 in Angarsk

Hey there:) Angarsk is great! Not too cold actually, I would dare say it is warmer than Nakhodka. At least it has been warmer for the majority of the time I have been here. There is still wind, but I would say less than Nakhodka. My companion is Elder Cluff. He is from Nevada. A small town a few hours from Las Vegas. He is a real small town boy. He reminds me of Austin, Jared and Jason. He always tells me about how he went hunting and fishing and hiking and off-roading in his truck. haha  He is fun:) He just hit his year mark, so about 4 months older than I am on the mission.

This week was a bit harder. We were on the street about 90% of the time this week. We met about 15 new people who gave us their phone numbers and agreed to meet with us throughout the week, but they didn't answer or said they were busy. It kind of feels like I am starting over here in Angarsk, but it at the same time feels exactly the same. The people are all the same, in my opinion. I haven't noticed any big difference between Nakhodka residents and Angarsk residents. 

I am so jealous that you got a lemon tree! I wish we made more sweets here. We will have to make some lemon bars over here. Do you have a recipe that you could send to me? That would be such a blessing:)  Oh fun fact, they have a thing here in Russia called Blini It is their version of crepes! They have a blini shop not far from our house and they make them just like they did in St. Martin! Pretty sweet:) Very tasty.

I am also jealous that you get to go see Kenny Chesney in concert! All we can do here is sing Kenny Chesney, or hum it when we forget the words. Right now I have "Sit right here, and have another (root) beer in Mexico" stuck in my head. Turns out, the American music scene is very popular here in Russia. I was talking to some people and they mentioned how much they love Bon Jovi. I told them I had the privilege to see him in concert and they were very jealous!

Church is completely different here in Angarsk. We have a sacrament meeting attendance of around 20. That is counting the missionaries. We have enough priesthood here to have good leadership though, which is a big blessing. In Nakhodka we struggled having the men come. There are some people here who tell me about the times when they remember having 10 people at church and they were ecstatic. It is cool to see the progress:)  I don’t know if you have looked on the website recently, but there should be a new video that the church made. It is called "Because He lives" ( Pretty great! I have only watched it in Russian though, maybe in a year or so I can watch it in English.

Mom asked if I thought I was good at speaking Russian.  I don’t like talking about my Russian abilities because I really don’t find Russian very hard and I am judging myself. I hear a bunch of people saying it is a hard language but I don’t find myself struggling often. If I don’t understand a word, I ask the person to go back and I pull out my notebook to write it down. Maybe sometimes I am annoying because I stop people in the middle of their stories, but if I don’t ask right away I forget. I understand a lot, although I am hesitant to say I understand everything. There is always something to improve. I rarely get lost when people talk, it is easy to follow a train of thought when I listen to people speak, but this is all from my perspective.

Church stuff is really cool! It is really cool when you stop to think about scriptures. There were prophets of God who lived on the Earth. They received instruction and guidance from the Creator of Heaven and Earth and wrote it down on golden or brass plates that they melted and created by hand. One of these prophets received instruction to take his family and leave his home. He did it. He packed up and headed into the woods where he really had no clue where he was going. They built a boat and travelled out onto the ocean hoping to find land. They found it and started a civilization which is still existent today. This whole time they built cities and roads and travelled and had wars and raised families and kept records about everything they did. Their family history was buried in the ground and over a thousand years later was found. It was translated by the power of God working through a young boy. Now we have the chance to share that with literally the entire world. That is all true, and pretty darn cool:)

I love you all a lot.  I will see you all soon! The Church is true, the Book is blue, and Moroni is always on the ball.

Elder Gardner

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Made it to Angarsk - SIBERIA

This week was a good week:) Lots of travelling! On Wednesday we left early morning. We took a taxi to the bus station, a bus to a different city where we dropped off our bags, then the mission van came and picked us up to take us to Vladivostok. We worked all day in Vlad and then took a train back to that small city the following morning. We grabbed our bags and took a bus to the airport. We took a plane to Korea, a bus to the temple and had just enough time to do a little bit of work before grabbing McDonalds and going to sleep:) I got a BigMac and chocolate shake! It has been 3 months since I had one (last Korea trip). We took a bus back to the airport, flew to Russia again, and grabbed the rest of our big bags. We flew to Khabarovsk, then we flew to Irkutsk, then a taxi to Angarsk:) Siberia.  We got in Saturday morning around midnight. It isn't as cold as I had anticipated, it is starting to warm up. Around 0 degrees:)

We had a good few days here working. Lots of new people we talked to, lots of new faces I have the chance to meet! As a matter of fact, the Angarsk church here just recently became a branch this past week right before I got here.

I think it is so cool how you have the opportunity to email and talk with our upcoming Mission President:)  It’s kind of cool that he is from Mesa.   Make sure you tell him good things about me.   haha

We had a ton of fun in Korea! We didn't have any time to stop in the Korean airport for Burger King or Jamba Juice or anything, so we took a bus as quick as we could to downtown. That is where the Korean temple is. You are walking down the street, it looks like a small version of NYC, you take a turn up some dark alley kinda street, up a hill for about 100 yards and then you are there.  A bright white beautiful temple of God in downtown Seoul. Very cool. We did some work in the temple and then went really quick to buy Mcdonalds. 

When I was in the Korean temple, I was speaking with some of the Korean people in there. Some of them spoke English and I mentioned how I could read a little Korean. One man showed me his name tag and I read it and he thought I was the coolest missionary:)

We also met some people in the airports. There were a lot of Americans over in the Korean airport, travelling for business. We met a young looking guy, he was flying in from Japan. He looked American so we talked to him, and turns out he is serving in the Navy, stationed in Japan right now. He was flying to Korea to buy some fried chicken. ( not even kidding) We will have to go check it out next time. He gave us some Japanese money and we gave him some rubles. Cool guy!

We met some guys from Canada, I spoke some French to them and then they started going off in French and I was so confused. They spoke English too and were pretty nice. We also met a kid named Leo from Germany. He was on the same bus as us on the way to the temple. He spoke way good English and he told us how he just finished high school and he went on a big trip by himself. He flew to Fiji, Korea, China, New Zealand and all these crazy places all by himself. He just left, not knowing exactly where he would eat or sleep each night along his journey. Brave, some might say. Crazy would also be an accurate description. I don’t know if I would want to do it haha. We told him about the Church and the Book of Mormon and he said he really wanted to read it but the only copies we had on us were in Russian. Dang it. Hopefully he can find missionaries in Germany. We are praying for him!

Overall, a pretty good week:) Hopefully we can inspire these Angarsk-ians to come closer to Christ and accept his gospel. The Church is True and I Love You!

Love always,

Elder Gardner

Monday, March 16, 2015

Last Week in Nakhodka

My week was good! We had a big meeting for all the missionaries in a city about 300 miles away on Tuesday. We had planned to take a train Monday night after our preparation day. While we were writing home, we received a call saying the trains weren't working from Nakhodka and that we wouldn’t make it to the meeting the next day on time. We came up with a plan to take a bus to a smaller city about an hour away, and in that city there should be a train to take us the rest of the way. We cut our emailing time in half, and ran on over to the bus stop to make that bus. We rode for an hour and got to the smaller town. There we took another bus from the bus station to the train station. When we got to the train station we learned that our information was wrong and no trains were running at all that night. Oh great! Haha
 So we had two options. Take a train back to Nakhodka or take a taxi the rest of the way. We decided to take a taxi the rest of the way. We called every taxi company we knew, and about 5 of them said they would pick us up, but none of them showed up. As soon as the train headed to Nakhodka showed up, and we were going to get on it to go home, the taxi showed up!  We sat in a taxi for the next 3 hours and slept over in the other city:) Everything worked out eventually, but that is why I didn't have any time to write last week!  Sorry:)

It is so weird to think that the last quarter of school is starting soon! Time flies really. I am proud of Cameron on straight A's! I don’t think I have done that in a while! Very impressive :)
The wonderful sister missionaries here in Nakhodka made some pie for Pi day! Very tasty:) I have only quoted Pi 2 or 3 times on the mission thus far. Not many people seem to care... haha I need to learn it in Russian!

This is Holodets. Meat jello! I had it for the first time this week:) Very much what I expected. It has meat chunks in it. If you take a bite and there are meat chunks in your bite, then all is well. If you just get empty jello, then it tastes very odd and not good.  Meaty jello... gross.. hahaa

This week we didn't have a whole lot happen. We saw that group of preachers and church-goers from last week again. They were asking me a ton of questions about what I was doing here, who paid, how I like Russia, and what we believe. I told them, and gave every single one of them a pamphlet with our information on it. I even gave a couple of them some Articles of Faith. My plan was to baptize this whole church but it turns out I won’t have time to do that. I have to do more work in Angarsk.
I am excited to go to Angarsk;  it is as far away as I can get from Nakhodka.  Everybody says it is the best. I heard our mission is the most expensive mission because travel costs are extremely high. I should be able to send some Korean pictures next P-day.  I will be going to South Korea before my transfer and right after Korea is a 6 hour plane ride to Angarsk. I am excited.   Everybody says they love serving there. I have no clue what to expect. It is Siberia. Hopefully I stay warm! I still haven't used any of the thermals I brought :) Nakhodka is super warm. 


I don’t exactly know what else is new! We are trying to help one of our investigators quit smoking. He wants to go to MIT but we aren't too sure if he knows everything that entails. But that isn't our problem. We are telling him that MIT is expensive and if he wants to go to school there he will have to save up his money. He needs to quit smoking and use that money to pay for MIT instead of smoking... I think it is a good plan :) Check back in a month or so!

This week was a bit of a boring week, but this upcoming week will be a bunch of traveling. CRAZY. Wish me luck:)

I love you all! The next time you hear from me, I will be in SIBERIA.
Stay Frosty,

Elder Gardner




Saturday, March 14, 2015


We just heard from one of our Russian friends that Ryan Gardner is getting transferred to Angarsk, Russia. This is about 2600 miles away from his current assignment in Nakhodka, Russia.
Angarsk looks quite a bit colder. Good thing he loves it! Surprising for a kid from Phoenix. Russia is going to make a man out of him.

How is Spring Break?  Dad, don’t feel bad.  I don't get a spring break either, if that makes you feel any better:) The legislature sounds like a fun but very busy place to be. I have told a few people that my Dad is a lobbyist and people think it is pretty cool. If only they knew that you are part of the best lobbying firm in Arizona!  Do you know where you rank on the National scale of lobbyists?

I am very jealous that you got to go to Thatcher to see the PV/EAC game and go to Casa Manana! That sounds like such a blast. I miss Mexican food. We only have the beans and rice here that we make ourselves. It just isn't the same.

I will go to South Korea for my Visa renewal before the 25th of this month.  Not too sure but that is the last possible day I can go. I am hoping to try some kimchi when I go.

Over here we face opposition but I wouldn't want it any other way. It must needs be that there is opposition in all things, right? The people are sweet when they are happy, but definitely sour when they are upset. Hard on the outside and soft on the inside is a good way to describe it. Everyone bundles up, pulls their hats down low on their eyes, and they refuse to smile. It is just what you do when you are on the street. It is weird to talk to people and just greet them for the sake of saying hello. We definitely stand out as weirdos when we go talk to everyone we possibly can on the street.

We were on the street the other night when we tried talking to a man. We said hello and that we were here as missionaries. He stopped to look at us, but then a woman walked up. She was 15 feet away or so and loudly shouted to us "HELLOOO LITTLE BOYSSS" We said hello to her, just hoping she wouldn't be a mean lady. She came up to the man, with whom we wanted to talk, and put her arm around him saying "Come with me you don’t need to talk with these little boys."  We kept going, just ignoring that lady, it happens quite often. Then we realized that we had to head on home soon, so we went to the bus stop. We saw one of our friends there, he is a preacher for another church. He is a way cool guy. Then another one of our preacher friends came up and it was a big group of us, about 8 or so, all religious people talking about the church meeting they just had. Turns out they just got out of their church meeting.

After a few minutes, guess who came up! That lady! Her name is Yulia. She was a part of that church group and when she was around her friends she was nice to us. As we got on the bus together I was just chatting with the guys, and I made a comment about Yulia.  I said "Yeah we actually saw Yulia here a few minutes ago. We saw her on the street!" That made Yulia look over to me and I turned to her asking "Do you want to tell them what you did to us, or should I just do it?" She got really ashamed and seemed kinda sad. Haha I just dropped it and didn't tell the rest of the people how she was kinda mean.   I didn't want to hurt her feelings I just wanted to mess with her.  Now whenever we see her on the street we ask her how she is doing and how her church meetings were. She actually plays guitar for their church meetings and she is a good friend now:) Just gotta keep loving people even if they act silly sometimes. 

 Some of the keys to success in my opinion would be smiling. We met a guy on the street the other day, and he just right away started yelling at us. He hates Americans. He went off for a few minutes then I turned to him and asked him where he is from. He said Nakhodka. I asked him where I am from. He said America. I asked him how he knew, and he said he just assumed. He then started asking me where I was from but I refused to answer him. I just said "No, you lost your chance. I won’t tell you." He just laughed, shook my hand and we went away. We always say "Hi" to him and smile at him when we see him on the street. It is important to stay calm and not yell back at these people. They are fun, just gotta take a chance on them, show them love and don’t give up.

I am so grateful for the chance to be here in Russia! Great country, wonderful people and it is always an adventure! Stay frosty:)

Elder Gardner

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

February is Over

My week was good:) I am glad you got those nesting doll key chains. Those were supposed to be Christmas presents.  I am just a tad bit late! Time is flying. I can remember perfectly well my first day at the MTC:) Feels like just yesterday was New Years and Christmas.

Very exciting about Carson's call.  I am so proud of him - he is going to do big things:) I think it is interesting that everyone is going to Southern America! They must need some good missionaries:)  I like that picture you took in Sacrament Meeting of the Hansens. It is so weird to think that Carter can already bless.  (I see the Dowells are still sitting in their regular seats haha) 

Thanks for keeping the motorcycle running.  I have told some people about it and not many people here have bikes. Do you remember the guy who got baptized recently? M_______? He speaks a little bit of English and told me about how he had a bike. I asked him how fast he took it. He said "Well... like... all the way" and he made this motion with his finger drawing a half circle as to show the speedometer going all the way to the max haha:) He is a crazy guy! 

We had some snow the other day but it is already warm and everything is melting:) Puddles EVERYWHERE! Good thing my shoes don’t have holes in them yet:) I got a new jacket today, it is blue and lighter. My leather one is very heavy and warm so I needed a smaller one for spring and summer.

We had a fun Family History Conference last week. There were a lot of cool stories shared! They told us it is very important to write on the backs of our photos. If we have a picture of our uncle (for example) and we know who it is, we would probably not be tempted to write on the back of the photo "Uncle Jim" but our great great grandkids won’t know who it is. It is a great idea to go through and write who is in the picture and when it was taken, before we forget:) 

I got a new name tag. My original name tag says "Гарднер" just each individual letter changed into Russian so you say it the same way. But I got a new name tag a few weeks ago that says "Садовник".  It literally means a person who works in a garden. A gardener:) I told some people that although I am a Gardner but I don't have a green thumb. It wasn't very understandable to them:) I guess it doesn't translate! ha ha 

We have a Book of Mormon in Korean.  I am sure this is what Calvin uses every day:) We have copies of the Book of Mormon in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, and Portuguese.  I don't really know why, they are just sitting on our bookshelf.

I should have a visa trip coming up soon. Maybe this month! I have to leave the country every 90 days:) In not too long I will be going again to Korea! I am actually learning a little bit of Korean, its honestly not that hard:)  Weird to think it is already March... wow... time is flying by. Somebody asked me how many cities I have been in while serving in Russia. I told them Nakhodka. They asked where else and I just laughed:) Nowhere else! I have been on my mission for almost 7 months! Weird thought. 

So, Little Caesars is putting bacon around the pizza crust now?  As a matter of fact, they have a few different pizza places here. We have bought some pizzas with mashed potato clumps on it. It was a plain pizza with about 8 or 9 ice cream scoop size chunks of mashed potatoes on it. Very tasty! I haven't had any bacon sadly since I have been here.  I miss it :(  But, I am going to be eating some borsch soon! We have a member who wants to feed us so that should be in the near future.

This week we had a few fun experiences. One of the most interesting ones was when we were standing near a bus stop waiting for our investigator to come meet us. We were approached by a disheveled looking man. He asked us for a cigarette (which is actually very common) and we told him we don’t smoke. He walked away. He came back and asked for some rubles. We told him no and he walked away. Then he came back a 3rd time and asked us to call his friend for him. We asked why and he said his friend was a surgeon at the nearby hospital. We told him we wouldn't call him but we would let him call on our phone. He made the call and asked for his friend to come pick him up. Apparently the guy we were talking to was just recently out of surgery.

The doctor friend told him to find some place to stay and he would be fine for the time being. As the man was making the call on our phone, there was a nice Babushka who walked up and told us to walk away from this man. We explained that he was using our phone and thanked her for her concern. She told us he was drunk and we told her we knew, but he still needed help. After the call, the man explained to us that he just got out of surgery a few hours ago and we asked how we could help. He didn't listen to us he just unzipped his jacket, pulled up his shirt and showed us this giant 6 inch long slice in his chest. He was stapled and sewn shut but it was obvious that he shouldn't have been out on the street like this. We told him it was enough and to put his shirt down.

Right then another man came up and started staring at us. He seemed upset and asked why we were messing with this poor man. He asked us what we needed and why we were standing here. The drunk guy, who just recently got out of surgery, explained that we helped him and then this new guy became really friendly. We told him we were American and he immediately gave us the biggest group hug. He told us he loves Americans and he just went off about how we are all friends here, Russians and Americans. ha ha  We left right after that. Fun times at a Russian bus stop:) 

I hope all is well at home! Give my love to everyone:)  I hope you all have a wonderful week! The Church is True and I Love You!

Elder Gardner