Monday, April 28, 2014

Spring Time Guitars

So remember how I am the most impulsive thing on the planet? I bought a guitar last week. I went to buy a new ukulele and I was in the store and looked at the guitars and was like "I think I want one of those." And three minutes later bought a guitar. I saw sister Clark yesterday and told her and she was like "but you don't play the guitar." Don't play the guitar, yet. In short, being on a mission does weird things to you and now I'm learning to play the guitar. (That makes me Bri's favorite niece, right?)

I went shopping this afternoon and found all kinds of American treasures. There's a giant grocery store by us and we found curry paste and hummus there! WHAT?! Also, I found baklava, which I promptly ate, but it was awesome. Baklava always makes me think of my 16th birthday in Vienna when I sat in the park and ate baklava and pretended to speak German. I also found new pink nail polish! It's American brand so it's good (Ukranian nail polish just sort of fails at life). So, maybe I'm a little bit overexcited by a few little treasures, but whatevs.

I have a new favorite human in Ukraine. Her name is Valentina and I want to be just like here when I grow up. She's the most with-it, loving person I think I've ever met. We were at her house this week and her son's friend, Vika, was there, so Valentina invited her to come meet us. We got talking about religion and God (as tends to happen when you're a missionary) and it kinda amazing to watch. As we taught, Valentina was just stunning. I've never seen someone teach and explain with such love and genuine care. "If you want, I'll bring your 6-year-old to church with me when you have to work on Sundays." "Come over here to read the Book of Mormon on our couch because it's quiet here." "Vika is special because she really understands things spiritually and really wants to know truth." I can't explain this the way I want to, but it was like the small barrier of formality that seems to exist in teaching settings, be they school or Sunday School or Home Teaching, was completely gone and it was the safest, most loving lesson I've ever been on. I learned (and will probably continue to learn) way more from Valentina than I could possibly teach her, but isn't that just the blessing of missions?

We had Stake Conference yesterday. It was kinda awesome. They don't really have a big enough place to hold it, so they rented out a theater and held it there. It was the most beautiful stake conference setting ever. It's right in center Kyiv so it's all beautiful and classic European decorations - velvet seats, big crystal chandelier, crown molding, a beautiful staircase - in short, Kyiv stake classed it up. It was a great conference, the highlight of which was that the ENTIRE ЖИТОМИР BRANCH CAME. So I got to see ALL of them. I literally almost died I was so happy. It was amazing. I have no words for it. My 7-year-old best friend Masha sat next to me for the conference and even though she was bored and kinda a terror, it just made me so happy to spend a few hours with her. Basically, yesterday was the best.

We went on exchanges this week in Chernigov, which is a darling little city about an hour away from Cherynobyl. It was so wonderful. I don't think I'd realized just how ugly/loud Kyiv is. Like, I love living here (for a while), but I also really really loved a day and a half away. Walking the streets quietly and talking to people who were sitting on park benches made me feel like I was back in Житомир and I liked that. Ukraine is beautiful right now. The trees are all beautiful and there's lilac blooming everywhere and it's sunny but not too warm to wear a sweater. Basically, it's spring and I love spring.

News wise, transfers are this week and I've a new companion coming to me. Which is too bad because I love Sister Welling and we have so much fun and I'll miss her terribly, but things are going to be good. My new companion is way darling and I think we'll do well together. Her name is Sister Kopta and she's from Texas and it will be good. 

All the love,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Baskets

Yesterday, I woke up at 5:45 AM to bright lights and loud bangs outside my window. My first thought was "oh crud, Putin's come and the war's begun." So, naturally, I ran to the window. Because when Putin has a tank firing outside your window, you run to it to make yourself an easier target. ANYWAY, turns out it was just some over-zealous individual celebrating Easter with fireworks at 5:45 AM. Naturally. How else ought one to celebrate Easter?

Actually, Easter here was pretty interesting. You know that whole "we go to church on Easter and Christmas" thing? It 100% applies to Ukraine and their Orthodox traditions. EVERYONE went to church yesterday. But here's the best part: they literally carried Easter baskets to church. Almost every person or family on the street yesterday was carrying an Easter basket filled with wine and cheese and calbasa (not sure what the word for that is in English) and dyed eggs. It was like something out of a fairy tale or something. I'll be honest, I never really grasped why exactly they carry picnic baskets to church on Easter, but I still love them for it. 

We also had a super awesome treat on Saturday. We were supposed to be doing service painting an orphanage, but it started raining, so that killed painting. As were were getting ready to leave, the bishop's wife was like "hey girls, do you want to come to the temple with us tonight? We've got room in our car and we're going to the English session with the brand new film." And we were like "uh, yeah. Obviously." So I made some calls and got some permission and we found ourselves in the temple Saturday night. It was wonderful. 

My mission has officially doubled in size until at least July. Basically everyone's lives are crazy right now (how could they not be when you suddenly have 200 missionaries in a mission that would have been well-suited with 70?), but I think it will be to the blessing of a lot of people's lives. I think we're going to make it. Things are looking good from where I stand.

Anyway. I'm going to go buy myself a fancy new ukulele, so I've got to peace out. 

All the love,

Monday, April 14, 2014

The craziness continues

WELL. These have been the second most eventful 5 days of my mission (the most eventful being that time the revolution broke out outside my apartment). RECAP: Last Sunday my mission president got called as a 70. Then, on Thursday, while he was still in SLC doing 70-related things, they evacuated the ENTIRE Donesk mission into our mission. So our mission DOUBLED in size and did so without a mission president (don't worry, he's home now). So, to say the least, it's been a crazy week in the Kyiv Ukraine mission. Adding 85 missionaries in one day is no easy task, but with some crammed apartments, we managed. We're not sure how long they'll be here (might be a few weeks, maybe a few months), but I think we're all glad to have them. It's certainly going to be interesting to see what happens. My mission is anything but normal, but I love this crazy little country.

I picked up a hedgehog this week! I would have taken a picture, but it was too dark. Next time. It was kinda prickly but also soft underneath with fur and stuff. Also, I learned how to make pumpkin bread this week. The domesticity continues to increase. At this rate I'll come home vacuuming in dresses and heels. 

I know I probably say this in every email, but I do just love this gig. I don't know if I've ever had a happier time in my life than these past several months. Bumps and bruises come, of course, but it is overall just such a wonderful time. I can't even name exactly why it's so great, it just is. I have never once regretted the decision to come. Okay, false, I had a moment when I found out that TONI MORRISON was AT SWAT this spring while I was not, but it was a short moment of regret and mostly just being bummed. Anyway, my mission is worth even missing meeting Toni Morrison. And that's saying something. Being a missionary is just the best. 

In Russian, you don't say "Happy Easter" you say "Христос воскрес" or, "Christ resurrected." I love the Russian language; it always gets right to the point. Nevertheless, Happy Easter on Sunday everyone. 

All the love,

Monday, April 7, 2014

A little Ukrainian pride for your Monday

Here are some pictures of me and Ukrainian pride things, because everyone could use some Ukrainian pride these days. The graffiti says "glory to the heroes of Maidan" and has the Ukrainian flag as well as the revolution's flag. The piano is just a really fun Ukraine-colored piano I found on the street. rock on ukraine. 

Well, if you watched general conference and listened to the the slightly-boring sustaining and releasing part and were tuned in while two new first quorum of the seventies were called and happen to know that my mission president is one Jorg Klebingat, then you know by now that my mission president slipped away from Kyiv last week, went to Salt Lake, and casually got called to the seventy. If you didn't happen to notice that, then I have news: my mission president is now a general authority. So there are no actual concrete impacts of this (so far, rumors abound that he might be leaving us early, but no one really knows for sure), but hey it's a cool piece of information for everyone. I guess it means that some day I'll be showing off my mission pictures with him. Basically all the missionaries are giddy because nothing this exciting ever happen. Besides revolutions, of course. Okay so actually Kyiv Ukraine is a pretty exciting mission. 
Anyway, it was sort of an average week here in the mission. Sister Welling and I got sushi on Friday. That shouldn't be an extraordinary development in my life, but all I've had for 6 months is borscht and tacos, so it was definitely a highlight. Plus, ordering sushi in Ukrainian; there's something you don't do every day. We did a fun service painting project in this park thing near our house. Basically we painted benches and flower pots made out of old tires fun colors to brighten up this concrete jungle of ours. I happen to adore painting (not the artistic kind, but the industrial kind), so that was good fun. Besides that, I haven't many fun things to report. I'm sorry. I'm emailing later than usual and all I want to do is watch conference talks because I don't officially get to watch it until this weekend with our ward, but it's killing me to not just get to watch it now. I guess the word impetuous still applies to me. Heck, they'll probably write it on my gravestone.
This week I learned something about being happy. As a missionary, I hear a whole lot of "just do it." Just be obedient, meet these requirements, set and achieve higher goals, do this do that. My whole mission, the message I've received as I've been given instructions is "cowboy up, grit your teeth, and get through this." And this week, I realized that I've been misinterpreting and that isn't the message at all. In D&C 123, there's a verse that says, "let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, then we may stand still." I read it this week and it opened up everything to me. All I've heard for the past several months is "do all things" but I missed the cheerfully. Cheerfully is part of the program. We're supposed to be happy. The things we do in this church are designed to make us happy. Simply using all our might to get through it isn't the point. Even if we do so with a plastered on "look, I'm happy about this" smile. Actually living the gospel means deriving joy from it. So I've been happier this week, and it's been wonderful. Everything is better when I'm happier. Everything. 
All the love,