Let us start with the funny story of the week. In our branch presidency is Brat Andrei (brat means brother, but it's not brat like English it has an ah vowel). I could best describe Brat Andrei as Hagrid's Ukranian doppleganger. He has crazy, shoulder length dark hair, a giant beard, and is like 6'3''. He makes tomb stones for a living. But he's also one of the nicest guys in the branch and is such a boss. We love Brat Andrei. Anyway, last Sunday he spoke in church and was given the topic of revelation. But rather than delivering the nice thoughts on personal revelation that you'd find in a Utah sacrament meeting, he interpreted that as direction to discuss the Book of Revelation in the Bible, which as we all know, is impossible to understand. So basically it was, obviously, the best sacrament meeting talk ever. Now our memebers are all trying to read the Book of Revelations, bless their little Ukranian hearts.
So I'm pretty sure that in general, Ukraine was the best place in the world to be a missionary this week. There have been so many kindnesses shown to us. Every day I am amazed by the kindness I experience. It's not a bumpersticker kindness done because kindness as an idea is important (if that makes sense) or what have you. People are kind because that's just who they are. They don't even think about it, because it's just who they are. There's this awesome Vonnegut quote from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater that I think of all the time here (heads up, there are some naughty words in it): "Hello babies, welcome to earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. There's only one rule I know of, babies: god dammit, you've got to be kind." I think that is actually the Ukranian mentality. You've just got to be kind. This week, especially, I had a few experiences that highlighted that:
We made brownies to take to the babushka who lives next door to us. We introduced ourselves and gave her brownies and talked for just a minute because she had a friend over. And we didn't think much more about it, until the next night, when there was a knock at the door about 10 minutes after we got home. We opened it and there was Baba Vanda. She had our plate, which she was "returning" but had filled with Ukranian crepe/pancake things as well as another plate filled with this apple strudel-y thing she'd made with her friend. We were literally giddy because it was so cute of her to make it. Today we're buying flowers and returning her plate.
Another little story of kindness comes from Cvetlana. She's a member with a daughter our age who's not a member but who we're teaching. After our lesson this week, I worked with her daughter on English homework (She's an English major, too!) while Cec. Clark worked with Cveta on her talk for Sunday. In the course of it all, one of them borrowed a pen from us. We left without remembering to get it, but when Cveta discovered that, she was ran after us for 10 minutes, in her slippers, to get it to us. She finally caught up to us outsider our apartment and gave us the pen. She wasn't even concerened that it had been a pain for her to run after us because she wanted to make sure we hadn't been inconvienienced by the loss of a pen.
Our last amazing person of the week is Baba Anna. (Sidenote: You put Baba in front of the name of babushka and that's just what they're called). Baba Anna's a member, but she lives like 2 hours away from Zhytomyr in the celo, so we don't get to visit her very often, but this week we did. We got there and she had this enormous meal prepared: borscht (my first in Ukraine) and gretchka (which is buckwheat and actually is awesome) and she'd bought a whole chicken because the missionaries were coming. So that was amazing. After that we went outside to do some service stacking firewood. As we were walking I told Cec. Clark how much I loved Baba Anna's boots - they were these fur-lined super Ukranian work boots. Baba Anna heard and then proceeded to try to give me the shoes off her feet. This is a babushka who doesn't have money to get to church every week, but she was trying to give me her boots. She immediately took them off, showed me how she had other pairs, how nice these ones would look if they were shined, and kept trying to hand them to me. Eventually I convinced her to keep them, but I was simply amazed that she would have given me her shoes without a second thought.
I could write more about the kindnesses I've enountered in this place, but I feel like these 3 little stories are sufficent. Every day, I get to spend time with people who really do fundamentally live by the principle "you've got to be kind." And I am perpetually amazed by them. Sometimes, I feel like a terrible person in comparison. At least once a day I find myself thinking, "Hannah, you've got to be better," because I would never have been as generous or chartible or kind as people are to me every day. I am so grateful I have the opportunity to live here and work with the people here. They teach me so much. I hope that when I grow up, I can be a little more Ukranian.
All the love,