Monday, June 30, 2014

С днём рождения себя

Hello from your favorite now-twenty-year-old missionary. Obviously, самый главний thing that happened this week was my birthday. It was actually a super awesome birthday. I ate banana bread for breakfast. It rained all day, but I was fine with that because I pick rain a thousand times over obscenely hot. Germany beat the US in soccer, which was less-than-awesome, but it's fine. I threw myself a tiny birthday party where we ate brownies and played mafia for an hour. Also, everyone bought me presents, which was unexpected and awesome. There was lots of chocolate, which I was obviously thrilled about. Have we talked about how Ukrainian chocolate is awesome? It is. Also, one of my favorite members (remember Ira) bought me roses! She got 21, because you literally can't buy flowers in even numbers here because it's bad luck/for funerals. My favorite little family from Житомир called and sang Happy Birthday in English to me, and that was adorable. Basically, it was an awesome day and I felt super loved. Birthdays are good for that.

I also got my awesome birthday package from Judy this week, with lots of super great things. I may or may not have requested some self-tanning supplies. I just haven't been to Hawaii in a REALLY REALLY long time. Anyway, the stuff works beautifully. Now Sister Welling always complains that she looks pallid compared to me, but can you really blame her? I keep offering to share!

The rest of the week was good, too. We went to one of my favorite babushka's on Tuesday night. I wanted to share a verse in D&C with her, but had forgotten mine at home. She had one, but only in Ukrainian. So, I read in Ukrainian. It was good fun. I actually love Ukrainian. Apparently, I have a much better accent in Ukrainian than Russian (have we already talked about this? Forgive me if we have.) The accent is literally the hardest part of Russian for me. Grammar's coming along and vocab is too, but accent still sounds like I just stepped off the plane. People keep telling me I have a way good Ukrainian accent, so I'm considering starting to study Ukrainian more seriously. But, then again, maybe not. We'll see. 

You know how there's the stereotype that people in Russia/Ukraine love to drink and are drunk all the time? Well, I have no comment on that, but we did have a drunk man show up to our English class this week! He's the elders investigator, sort of. Anyway, he showed up and was pretty much all over the place. He licked the black board and ping pong paddles. And tried to learn English. And tried to kiss Sister Welling. Rightfully so, the other people at English weren't too happy about it. So the Elders escorted him out. He came to church yesterday, though. Not sure if he was sober or not, but we're glad he hasn't stopped coming all together. #missionaryadventures

We met a cool new member of our ward this week. Her name is Galina and she's at least six feet tall. Also, she's a WAR PHOTOGRAPHER. She told us all about the wars she'd photographed for National Geographic. She's from L'viv and is a total patriot, but still speaks to us in Russian even though Ukrainian is her native language and speaking Russian is awkward/hard for her. Lots of patriots refuse to speak Russian to us, so I was really grateful she was willing to. She told us a lot about her adventures on Maidan. She basically went to Maidan for 3 months straight both as a photographer and a protester. She got beaten up a lot and even had to have surgery for it (she showed us the scar). Basically, the woman is incredible. This week she promised to show us her Maidan pictures.

My English major skills came in handy this week (sort of). A girl in my ward is applying for a study abroad thing in Australia and they needed help with documents. So, I applied for an Australian visa this week. It was cool. I also helped Ivanna with her BYU-I online English homework. It was SO HARD. I felt so dumb that figuring out multiple-choice English grammar questions was so hard for me. But, we got every question right, so I felt good about that. 

So all in all, it was a really good little week. And now I'm twenty, so basically I'm sort of a grown-up maybe a little bit? Haha I joke. 

All the love,

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fresh Veggies and Clean Windows

I sunburned my eyelids this week. Basically all the skin around my eyes. I'm not sure how it happened, but it's incredibly painful. And looks like I'm wearing terrible pink eye shadow up to my eyebrows all the time. Not cute. So I guess it's time to pull the sunscreen out. 

Have we talked about how Ukrainian vegetables are awesome? Having hated tomatoes my whole life, I now love tomatoes. And all other vegetables. They're even better here (in the summer) than Whole Foods. And we all know I'm a whole foods junkie, so that's saying something. There's this babushka who sells vegetables on the street by our house. She has no teeth and only speaks  Ukrainian, so we don't communicate all that much, but I always say hi to her. Yesterday, I said hi and she called me over and gave me vegetables from her garden! It was totally adorable. It felt like living on Sesame Street. 

We cleaned another babushka's windows this week. It was good fun. At one point, as I was leaning out of the eleventh story window, I turned to Sister Welling and was like "what would you do if I fell out of this? How would you tell President?" Without missing a beat, she said, "jump out after you, what am I going to watch my favorite companion fall out a window and just keep going?" I just love that girl. We have so much fun together. We've decided we're going to go to college together and only speak Russian at home and have weekly movie nights по-Русский! She's the best. 

Saturday, we had our last mission conference with the Klebingats and said goodbye to them. It was both awesome and traumatic. Since it was the "goodbye" conference, we talked about all the things they usually say when they send missionaries home - college, job interviews, dating, marriage, debt, etc. And I've decided I'm never growing up because I don't want to deal with any of that so I'm just going to stay here and be Peter Pan in Ukraine. No, but actually it was several hours of awesome advice (to be used far, far down the road). Saying goodbye to President was hard. It's funny how much you grow to love a 6'3" German marathon runner who spends most of his time calling you to repentance. You grow to love him a lot. 

So, yes. Being a missionary truly is the best. This is just the happiest, most fun time of my life. I get to become better, grow, and be part of wonderful people's lives. It's the best way to live,

All the love,
Sister Pugh

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fwd: Picture's Worth a Thousand Words?

So the short of it all is that I'm pretty much out of email time. So this week the email comes with few words but three pictues. Worth it?

WE FOUND ANOTHER HEDGEHOG AND I TOOK A PICTURE WITH IT. We had this miracle visit with a less-active named Zina. We've been trying to meet with her since we got here and hasn't worked. Finally, she answered her phone and was like "yeah, come over tonight." But then she decided it wouldn't work in her house, so we sat and talked on a bench outside. Right as we wrapped up the lesson, a hedgehog walked by. I jumped up, caught it, and took pictures with it. It curled up in a ball when I picked it up. Notice my bare hands handling a hedgehog. Epic.

We went on a young women's activity doing oil paining. We know I have no patience and got tired of the still life paining flowers they were doing. So I just painted some blue palm trees and a sunset of sorts. Good fun. 

Anyway, it was a good week. This Saturday is our last conference with President before he leaves. It's kinda tragic/I really don't want him to go/I'll be okay, I'm just bad at transitions. Good thing missionary life is all about transfers and new companions and changes all over the place. It's good for me.

All the love,

Monday, June 9, 2014

Movies and Kvass

Hello world,

Well, in a not-very-exciting way, a lot happened this week. There were full days and fun adventures.

A member yesterday gave us Kvass (квас). What is Kvass? It's this weird drink Ukrainians and Russians love. It's made from fermented wheat and yeast, but it's non-alcoholic. So basically it's non-alcoholic beer that everyone drinks all summer (not just Mormons, interestingly enough, but literally everyone). Anyway, I'd thus far avoided it, but yesterday I was told it was my turn to try it. And basically... it smells and tastes like a frat. So that'll make summer fun.

I have another great new friend. Her name is Ira, she's a member and she's awesome. We have this weekly sports night on Saturday afternoons, and last Saturday she and her husband were the only ones who came. As we were walking to the field she said, "Eddie (her husband) didn't want to come but I told him we have to because we need to support our missionaries." Which was actually one of the nicest things someone said to me this week. Member support is the best. So we played American football while the boys played soccer. Some other kids showed up and played with them, which was great until one of our elders accidentally broke some kid's nose when they both went to head the ball at the same time. So that was the end of sports night. But then yesterday Ira invited us over for dinner so we spent a good half hour cooking this potato thing with her and just talking. It was just perfect. We're going rollerblading today. 

We had a movie night this week! Somehow, the elders got permission for us to watch "the other side of heaven." It was so odd to watch a movie. We made popcorn and milkshakes and it was a hit. Definitely the best part, though, was that we watched it in Russian and I understood it perfectly. It was pretty much like watching it in English. I don't think I've ever been so pleased with my Russian (which still isn't great, but apparently sufficient for a Disney movie). 

Being on a mission is funny because doing things like watching "the other side of heaven" feels very secular.

My cute recent convert 13-year old friend Tiam sat next to me in Sacrament meeting yesterday. She really is one of my favorites. We sang "How Great Thou Art" as the closing hymn and she sat through it and cried the whole time. She was like "Goodness, I don't know what's wrong with me," and tried to rub it off as 13-year olds do, but she was definitely feeling something. It was adorable.

I went on exchanges again this week. The highlight was at night, when Sister Winsor taught me to play guitar (because she plays for reals) and we chatted as I painted my nails. Sometimes, it's nice to just be a real person. 

I had the worst taxi ride this week! We had to go to the mission office for leadership council. I should preface this by saying there are two "Yabluneva 1" in Kyiv, so we always clarify the area of the city where we want to go. So anyway, the taxi takes us to the wrong Yabluneva 1. Then he was just like "no, it's not possible that there is another yabluneva 1 in Kyiv. You gave me the wrong address." So we fought a little bit and I was somewhat worried he was going to kick us out. Finally, I showed him on the map where we wanted to go and convinced him to drive there even though it didn't look like much on the map. And so we made it there. And he charged us an absurd 240 griven. And we were 10 minutes late to leadership council. #momentofshame

Anyway, that's the short run-down of my week. Our email time's been cut a little bit, so you'll have to forgive me if emails are less fun/well-written/thorough/interesting. Things are good here and I'm happy and life's wonderful.

All the love,

Monday, June 2, 2014

Birthday Month

Reason number 315 I love Ukrainian Mormons: they never give up. The Kyiv stake has had a second fast Sunday each month and a never-ending fast (at least one person fasting in the stake at any given time) going since February, all fasting for peace and safety in Ukraine. At the start of each month they say, "we feel it's helping and we feel it's still needed so we ask you to join us until the end of the month." And I love them for that. The group of people from Russia coming to the temple last week was small, because people were nervous about politics and stuff, so the Kyiv stake stepped up and invited everyone to fill the temple. The temple being underused was not an option, because they're so grateful for it and they show their gratitude by using it. Sometimes these people just get it.

Ukraine has a new President! (As far as I know, because my knowledge of politics is severely limited these days). He's the owner of Roshen chocolate, which is the best chocolate in Ukraine. So I'm hoping that this means free chocolate for all. Politics are sounding crazy over in Eastern Ukraine. Apparently the wards haven't met in 3 weeks because they got shut down by troops who came in tearing things apart and asking "where are your Americans? Give us the Americans." So we'll say it was a good call that all missionaries were pulled out of there. Also, let's remember that my news sources are ward members here, and this is unverified information, so no one freak out. It's just interesting is all. 

It is raining as every here in Kyiv. We got caught MAJORLY Friday night. We were at a recent convert's house a it was raining so hard. She was horrified that we'd go home in it, but we were like "rules are rules gotta get home" and peaced out into the rain. It was crazy but so much fun. I don't think I've ever seen such heavy rain, not even when there was a Hurricane at Swat. This rain was so heavy but it was also warm, so it was just perfect. There were lots of thunder and lightning too, and it was all and all just a great storm to walk home in. I love the rain. And I'm so grateful it hasn't gotten terribly hot yet. Because I know it will, but a few weeks of rain before then is just fine with me. 

Speaking of recent converts, there's this darling Iranian family in our ward that got baptized a few weeks ago whom I adore. Their native language is Farsi, the dad also speaks English, the daughter speaks Russian, the mom not at all, and the little boy speaks a mix of all 3. They fled Iran for political reasons (it's obviously not good to be a Christian there) and have been in Ukraine for 3 years, struggling through it. The dad has a disabled back and can't work, and the mom doesn't speak a language to get a job. Before they met the missionaries, they were living in the train station, but the church has helped them out a lot. The little boy has long curls and runs around the chapel all sacrament meeting. He's adorable. His spend almost all of yesterday hanging out on the stand with the bishop, so we're working on making them a bag of things to keep your kid quiet and entertained at church, no small task for recent converts. Their daughter is 13 and I adore her. She's probably one of the most down to earth people I've met. She's chatty and loves hanging out with the missionaries. And she's just my favorite. You would never now she's had such a hard life. Her projects this summer are to learn Ukrainian and to play the guitar. Isn't that just perfect?

Have I told you about game night? We play a game that's basically taboo, but in Russian. So we explain Russian words in Russian and have to guess them. It is SO HARD but SO FUN. Some days I'm just like "yeah, I don't speak a lick of Russian" but other days I'm amazed that I can actually participate. I don't think I'll ever truly master Russian, but she and I limp along together and I think we're making better friends all the time. Maybe in a few more months...

I keep getting mosquito bites on my face and it is the worst because they look like freaky giant zits and I have pretty clear skin and do not appreciate mosquito zits. 

June is here which means it's my birthday month! Sister Welling says I can have a whole month of being a princess. And this means I'm almost 20 so basically I'm a babushka. Hahaha is it weird that 20 sounds too old to me? Is this how I'm going to feel every birthday from now on? I'm pretty sure that I'm actually still 18. Or, maybe, that I'm as mature and with it and have figured things out as much as I feel like an 18-year-old should, but I'm definitely not where a 20-year-old should be. Maybe I'll just keep telling everyone that I'm "almost 20," as I said for my first few months in Ukraine because I kept getting the numbers 12 and 19 mixed up in Russian (they're really close, okay?!). 

Keep praying for Ukraine.

All the love,