Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas in Siberia

Hey there! I am glad that I got to talk to you all.  That was great. I honestly didn't even realize that we Skyped for so long! It was just good to talk to all of you I lost track of the time. The other elders took about 45 minutes to an hour. Yeah, I was a bit tired during Elder Tracy's Skype time. I was the first to go and he was the last - haha. It was good to have everyone there again and to be able to see you all.  I hope the Woods family is okay. How is Susie? I didn't have a chance to talk with her a lot.
Fabulous Lamanite Headbands
It was weird waking up on Christmas morning in the middle of Siberia with some guy I’ve only known for a few months. :)  We didn't have a Christmas tree, we only had the stocking you sent me, and our Christmas dinner consisted of eating subway with the other elders at the church and having a ping-pong tournament. Oh and by the way, I won the tournament :) Not too sure how, but I have gotten almost good at ping pong! I will send you a video some time.
Snow on my frozen eyelashes
Yeah about the eating thing, we haven't been eating too well. We made a plan at the beginning of the month that if we ate simple meals at home then we could go out to eat a bunch. Well our plan worked except it wasn't as nice as we thought it would be. We made the decision already that eating at home is more important than eating out - so don't worry, our diets will be improving. 
I miss you all this holiday season but it is reassuring to know that in three days it will be 2016 and that is the year I will get to see you all for real :) It is weird to think that the Gardner Clan keeps growing and I will get to meet all these new little baby people soon. That’s cool :)
We have been doing lots of service projects here in Irkutsk and I love serving people. It is such a nice feeling every time you help someone who can't help you back. I hope you too will all find a way to serve someone this holiday season. Even though Christmas already passed we still are in the Christmas spirit and we will be able to serve just for Christmas's sake.
Yes I did receive the Vladivostok T-shirt! That is so cool. Where did you get it? And the music on the card was very cool! Thanks for that :) I love it a lot.
I love you all so much! Please stay warm in the fierce Arizona winter J

Elder Gardner 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

This week was good:) I am glad that we are Skyping this week! It seems like just yesterday we were Skyping and now we get to do it again:) I am going to have to get a haircut though because I am getting very fluffy-headed.

It has been a long time since I have taken a photo with a cat. I think that one makes up for the lost time though.

I am glad that I get to serve here because I am learning so many things. Elder Tracy told me that he never really cooked anything at home and he didn't really know how to cook some things because his Mom always made things for them. That’s great,  but I am glad that you gave us the chance to learn and work it out because it’s really a good skill to have. 
Baking our own bread for the Sacrament

I can't wait to open the packages on Christmas morning. I might open them up Christmas eve night because Christmas morning we will be running over to the Church to get set up for Skyping:)  Sister Tracy sent Elder Tracy some home-made jerky, some penuche, and some muffin mix, and some candy. The jerky got a tiny bit moldy but he cut the moldy parts off with some scissors and ate the rest. That was the only thing that went bad:) 

This year we don't really have a mission baptism goal. Last year we made a goal of baptizing 100 people and we got it on the last day. We don't have a set goal that the entire mission is pushing towards. We have personal goals and each person is pushing towards their own goals. Its very different.

President Perkinson has also changed some of the ways we define lessons and other things. In the past we have defined a lesson as having a prayer at the beginning, then talking about a gospel principle, then having an invitation to act, and at the end there is a second prayer. That’s a very basic way to define it. President Perkinson made another category that is called "Ammon" and that is:  any time you have a good conversation with someone and you have a chance to testify of the Restoration and of Jesus Christ and you invite them to act. It makes it 100 times easier to talk to people on the street because now we don't feel that pressure that we should pray with people on the street, which is a little weird, and we can just focus on testifying and inviting people to act on what we share with them. It makes us a lot more willing and energetic about what we are doing because we can get these little wins each day and we don't have to feel horrible about the fact that we didn't pray with a guy who really didn't want to pray. But we did tell him what we believe and invited him to learn more. In the past if we didn't pray with them 2 times then all of our conversation was for nothing. It didn't count as anything. Even if you got a prayer at the beginning of the conversation, normally the person would feel weird and walk away before you could say a 2nd prayer and then you got no lesson out of it. I really like this new small win system. It helps me stay motivated. 

My high for the week is probably that we have been having lots of lessons with Less-active members who are really great people. Hopefully we can now turn this friendship into them wanting to return to church. My low is probably that we haven't been having lots of lessons with new investigators. Getting people to come to the second lessons is very hard. Oh and another thing about less active members. We visited an old lady this week and she said that her daughter moved to America and hasn't called since last Christmas. We are trying to find the daughter this week through the internet.  We called the number she has in the U.S.A. and got an answering machine.   I then told them something along the lines of "Hi there, my name is Ryan Gardner and I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am here in Irkutsk Russia right now visiting your mother and she was a bit worried that she hasn't heard from you in a long time. We hope to hear from you soon" haha it felt so odd speaking in English to Americans even though they didn't answer. I hope I didn't sound too awkward on the answering machine. This lady really is feeling lonely this Christmas season and a call from her daughter would make everything so much lighter:)

Christmas tree in our branch building
This year we are probably going to have a big district dinner. Our zone isn't doing anything for Christmas; it is too far spread out. Ulan-Ude is 8 hours away on train and Angarsk is an hour by bus.   I don't think they would have time to come out just for a dinner with us. It’s really a shame but we will be okay:) 

About the AP thing, yeah we don't have APs anymore. I am not sure whether or not it will be permanent. President says that the culture in our mission is too much focused on climbing the ladder and getting a higher position and he wants to squash that thought. We are all equal and shouldn't get promoted or demoted because there really isn't such thing as promotions or demotions. I think it will be a permanent thing but I know President Perkinson has some ideas that differ from other past Presidents and other leaders. They might make him keep the position of AP because it is such a basic unit of the missionary chain of command, but they might let him make a bunch of big changes. We will see!

The missionaries that I serve with are really all good missionaries. I haven't seen or heard anything that makes me worry. We don't have any who willingly break the rules or have no desire to work hard. Each missionary understands the task at hand and although we all struggle with setbacks and things that slow us down I am confident that each missionary keeps pressing forward. It seems as if they all came pre-programmed with good work ethic and lots of love in their hearts.  

I love you so much and I can't wait to see you all so soon! 

Elder Gardner

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tasty Lessons

Hey there! I am glad you liked the squatting. J  I have been practicing a lot. There is a lot of graffiti in our photos because we search it out. There is a guy named "Moral" at least that’s what he goes by. He does these cool graffiti things all across Russia. I have seen these Moral pictures in Angarsk and Irkutsk and I heard he even has some in a couple other countries. People don't erase the his graffiti because it really is like art, but there is plenty of other dumb graffiti that is everywhere too. It’s really not that noticeable unless you are searching it out. We are trying to find all the Morals but there are a ton.

I have been staying very warm lately, it has been so warm outside!  It reached negative 5 and I started burning up. The weather isn't such a bad thing. There is ever a plentiful supply of snowballs to be thrown:)  I can't complain.

Oh yeah also my zipper has been giving me some trouble on my big fluffy jacket so I might try to get that replaced. If the zipper replacement doesn't work, then I might end up getting a new jacket but for now we are going to try to fix the zipper:) I will keep you updated on that.
By the way when I was in Vlad I got the package you sent me and a small one from Amazon. I had Elder Tracy look into the package and he told me everything was wrapped so I opened up the box and took out the stocking and hung it up:) Our house is super festive!

My high was our lesson last night with one of the young families in our ward. They are great and they seem to like us. haha   We made corn bread for them and they made pie for us.  It was a very tasty lesson.
My low was probably going contacting all week. That was all we did really. Not a whole lot of progress though. There aren't a ton of people on the streets and they normally don't even stop to see what we need when we say hello. That’s okay though they think we are weird and I can't really get upset. I would do the same thing if I grew up in this Russian culture.

We broke our old phone somehow and lost our contacts, now we are contacting a lot to find new people to meet with while our phone is getting fixed. Hopefully we can get those contacts back.
The Star Wars movie is coming out this week on the 17th in Russia:) Not everyone is as stoked as America seems to be but that’s okay. 

We have learned a few Russian Songs but definitely not enough. We got some Russian EFY music on some CDs and have been listening to that recently :) It’s actually pretty good! I understand it all and Elder Tracy is learning a lot of fun words from listening. He is really smart and catches on quick. 
I hope you’re all safe and happy and healthy and I don't want you worrying about me, I am pretty much already Russian. The cold never bothered me anyway. People say I look Russian and I think the transformation is close to complete. I am almost a real Siberian :)

Love you all

Stay Frosty

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Winter Fun

This week was way crazy but nevertheless a good week. We flew out last Sunday at midnight, landed in Vlad at 9:30, got to our Hostel around 1:00, relaxed for an hour or so and then went to try to find a place to email. We didn't find anything except for the Sony store. Sent an email then we went to Burger King for dinner and after that we ran over to the church to have a meeting with President Perkinson. We talked about respecting the Sister Missionaries. It’s not that we are doing a bad  job at it, we are simply not doing a great job. And the sisters deserve to be treated greatly so we need to do better. There is a difference between being ready to help the sisters with something they need, and asking each day "Hey what do you need? How can we help you?". They should feel like we are caring for them instead of them feeling like we are just here to help when they ask for it. Nobody likes to ask for help but if help is offered then it is a lot easier to accept it. 


The next day we had a meeting with President Klebingat. He is such a stud. (Hmm... Is that okay to say about a General Authority?)   But anyway, he is so dedicated to the Gospel and he has a very deep and practical understanding of the teachings of Christ. It is a great example to me that if you’re going to be a religious person it doesn't mean that you are going to be a weirdo and only talk about God all the time. He is a very successful individual and that is a sign of the fact that he puts God as priority number one. Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will fall into place.


We talked about that at Church this week too, and its pretty cool how it works. I honestly couldn't explain to you how, but I see it in our church members everywhere we go. The ones who come to church only on Sundays and don't really make any big strides or don't really try to do the Lord's will first, those are the ones who are less happy and feel like the church isn't really working for them. They can't see why they even come each week and it feels like the church is just another burden placed on them. Whereas on the other hand there are plenty of people who put the church and service to others and God as their top priority and they are happy, they find enough time to complete everything they needed and they are the strong members that everyone loves. 


Hmm.. Do I have any fun stories from our adventures? Well Vladivostok is very hilly. It is pretty bad, and I realized how out of shape I was because I was struggling,  pulling my suitcase all around through the snow and up and down hills. As we were searching for the Hostel, we walked up and down this one area of town like 10 times. We knew we were close because we were on the right street and people said it was near but we couldn't find it. It was pretty exhausting, but that’s not a very fun story haha:p As we were leaving the hostel to go back home after the trip, we had to walk up a super steep hill with all our suitcases and backpacks. It wasn't the worst thing the first day in Vlad because there was just snow packed down all over the roads and it was relatively grippy. Nobody fell the first day. The whole day before we left though, it rained and then we slept the night and when we woke up it was snowing. It was super icy and slippery on this hill and it took Elder Van Quill and me probably 10 minutes or so to figure out how to get to the top. We were going slow trying to not start slipping because once you start slipping on ice it’s really hard to stop and regain your footing. Pulling a suitcase up a hill didn't help either haha  We both climbed about 10 feet up this big hill and then slipped and slid back down to the bottom.  It was pretty comical to watch but also frustrating. Elders Tracy and Williams were at the top of the hill just watching us the whole time. They found a dry patch off to the side and didn't bother to tell us about it. We eventually found it and made it up the hill but boy was it a struggle. 

Russians, not the very sophisticated ones but the average Russians, are good at squatting. They don’t like to sit on the ground because the ground is dirty, and if you sit on a cold seat then you will become infertile. I don't know the science behind it but most Russians believe it. So I have been practicing my squats. The key is to get super low so you don't have to work very hard to hold the squat, and you don't want your legs to be super wide like a sumo wrestler stance (like in the 3rd picture where I am squatting in front of a big nesting doll, that is bad form). Sumo wrestler stance is easy, but the Russian way is hard to do. Your feet should be straight forward and no wider than shoulder width apart. Then you squat and your rear-end should touch your ankles and your knees are right up near your chest and it should hurt the fronts of your shins because you have to use that muscle to keep yourself from falling backwards haha. It's easy if you're skinny and kinda lanky. There is a member here who is 6' 6" but he’s skinny and he can squat lower than I can haha its crazy to watch:)
Squatting on Lenin St.

I hope you have a good week this week and don't freeze too bad in Arizona;) I will be sure to stay warm. I love you 


Elder Gardner


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving - don't eat Indians

Hey there! Sorry I didn't email yesterday, we flew all night from Irkutsk to Vlad and got in at 9:30 in the morning. We had to go find our hostel where we are staying and we didn't know where any Internet cafes where located so we couldn't write home. We found a cafe today but the power went out at that location so we had to go explore Vlad some more to find another one.  Since I have never serve in Vladi I didn’t know where anything was.  We couldn't find one but we did find a Sony store.  We are there right now and I am on a Xperia c4 dual. There's a free advertisement for Sony.  You're welcome Sony J  

Anyways we had a good week.  The Thanksgiving party was good and we had like 30 people show up. The branch really took control of the party and made it great. It was our job to give a quick background about the holiday of Thanksgiving and it turned out pretty good except for at the end I tried to share a fun fact. The fact that I wanted to share was that each year 90% of Americans eat turkey for Thanksgiving... Well let's just say the word for turkey and the word for Indian are really similar. Haha I didn't even realize that I screwed up until I was stopped and corrected by Elder Tracy J

The weather us cold but here in Vlad it's super duper warm :) -10 ish. I go to Korea this week after our conference and I won't get back to Irkutsk until next Sunday.

I am getting a glare from the worker here in the Sony store so I will try to find a different computer later today and write a bit more but I love you all and hope you're staying warm.  PS. I love that Russian soda though. We drink it a bunch in the summer and it is basically weak weak alcohol. It's a barley drink and I could drink it all day :) anyways I love you lots! 

 Elder Gardner