Monday, July 28, 2014

Vyshyvanka Sunday

Sister Welling and I had some awesome last few days together. 

We went to this street called Andriyivskyy spusk (Russian is so funny in English letters). It's a tourist kind of spot in Kyiv. It was crazy to come out of the metro and see that place, because it was not like being in Ukraine. It felt like Europe. It was probably the first time in my 10 months in Ukraine that I've felt like I was legitimately in Europe (albeit Eastern). Sister Welling and I, both fairly well traveled, were in amazement and got all kinds of travel trunky. We're going to be travel buddies in some sort of after-mission life. Anyway, we bought all kinds of souvenirs, since pretty much neither of us have ever bought souvenirs in Ukraine. I bought a vyshyvanka, which is a traditional Ukrainian blouse, and some nesting dolls, among other things. So now I have souvenirs to prove this Ukraine thing was ligit. 

We also went to the temple with Angela, our cute recent convert from two weeks ago, to do baptisms! It was just pretty awesome to be there with her together. I love the Kyiv temple. Also, the temple showers had hot water, which was wonderful, because we're currently on day 19 without hot water and I'm kinda over it. Then again, I live in an apartment with a shower, and not all missionaries can say that, so I probably shouldn't be complaining. 

Our last night we stayed up way too late writing notes in each other's journals and whining about having to break up (again!) and just not really wanting it to be over. She's really one of my best friends. I miss her. Transfers are the worst.

Okay, they're not really the worst because I have this awesome new companion named Sister Grandy. We've been working really well together. We're both pretty diligent and have a really good rhythm in getting stuff done together. It's great because one of us will be like "let's do this!" and the other one is like "yeah, okay! Let's do it!" It's just a lot of fun to try a lot of things and work hard. I taught her to make borsht yesterday because she didn't know how and that is pretty much a sin. Too hot to eat borscht in the summer? Not when you have air conditioning in your apartment!

Yesterday was one of the funnest days I've had at church in Ukraine. We decided to wear our vyshyvankas (that traditional Ukrainian blouse I bought Monday) and see what would happen. Turns out what happened is that we instantly became everyone's favorites! Literally just walking down the street people would give us thumbs up or say how cool it was that we were wearing vyshyvankas. The members LOVED it. I've literally never gotten so much positive feedback from members. EVERYONE said we were beautiful and awesome and gave us hugs. One took pictures of us. It was great. Every once in a while, it's just good fun to be showered with positive attention and be told by 100 people how beautiful you are. After all, isn't that why we even have wedding receptions?

All the love,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Transfers #abandonmentissues

It was a great week for the babushkas of this area. With each babushka we visited we read from D&C 121 and 122. They totally ate it up. I've discovered the secret of babuskas: they love suffering. They love talking about suffering and trials. It was awesome. Yesterday, we brought cute Tiam (Iranian recent convert) with us. When Tiam said she was from Iran, the babushka started crying - "I'm just so glad the church is all over the world." She LOVED Tiam and it was just brilliant. 

Found out this week that Lorin SOLD MY CAR (that wasn't really mine). So that happened. Am I still mourning it? Maybe. Next time you see Lorin, give him a gentle punch from me and my car.

I was on exchanges with the lovely Sister Hunt this week. Where is Sister Hunt from? Sandy, Utah of course. She went to Alta and we have a mutual friend or two, so that's cool. Also, we served together in Житомир during the revolution so that obviously bonded us. Anyway, I love Sister Hunt. She's probably the boldest missionary I know and it was so fun to serve with her for a day. She's just a wonderful missionary. It was a great day, a great exchange.

I saw a lot of President Packer this week. We did interviews on Thursday then had leadership council on Friday. I'm super impressed with him. He's very insightful into the needs of the mission and how to fix things. It's also funny because every time I see him and his wife it's amazing how completely opposite of the Klebingats they are. Both excellent leaders, but impossibly different from one another. Go figure. 

Sad news. Transfers are this week and Sister Welling is leaving me. Heart.broken. She's just one of my favorite friends and companions and I'm going to miss her dearly. The good news is that I'm staying here (despite my best attempts to get a transfer to Kharkiv (part of Donesk mission they shut down then made part of our mission but still won't let missionaries in)). I'mma be gettin a new companion named Sister Grandy this week. From what I've heard, she's just great and has amazing Russian, so I'm excited to learn from her. 

Angela is continuing to be a rock star. She got a calling and a temple recommend yesterday (we're going to the temple Wednesday before Sister Welling leaves). She told us a way cool little story. She said that Friday night she came home late to an entirely dark house. She went into her room to see her mom sitting there reading the Book of Mormon. Her mom was like, "well, you've changed pretty much your whole like in a month and a half, and I wanted to know why, so I'm going to read this book." Very neat. We'll see what happens with that. 

A new family from Luganask (Luhansk?) just moved into our ward. Lugansk is the Ukrainian city closest to Russia, and since there's a war there, they came up to Kyiv. Anyway, they are the most darling family and I'm so excited to have them here. They're just really, really good people. We were over at their house Saturday night and it made this whole "war in Ukraine" thing so much more real. I've been pretty casual (occasionally frivolous perhaps) about it, since I have no news and only hear bits and pieces. But talking with them and seeing how hard it was for them and how much they feared made it infinitely more real. I'm worried about this little country. I hope things will be alright here. 

All the love,

Monday, July 14, 2014

It was a great week, including the worst day ever.

It was just an awesome week. 

We went on a picnic last Monday night for Ivanna's birthday. We were close to the riverbank in this lovely little spot. It was out of the city and quiet. I don't think I'd realized just how loud Kyiv is until I was not in it. Anyway, it was a great picnic. We built a fire and cooked hot dogs (sort of, they're more like sausages). We played ultimate frisbee, which I surprisingly greatly enjoyed. It was great. 

Unrelated. Remember the drunk guy from last week? He came to church yesterday. Way awesome. The elders are working with him.

We did language study this week with a woman in our ward named Natasha who is incredible. She lived in Provo for 6 years and got a Master's at BYU and worked at the MTC. So she literally speaks English perfectly, but also knows how to teach Russian/Ukrainian to American missionaries. Anyway, we spent an hour with her and it was seriously so incredibly helpful. Probably the best language study I've had in months. It's funny how much better I learn when I'm taught. Like I can figure things out on my own, but when someone teaches me I just learn things better. I guess I just miss school a lot lately. 

We went on exchanges this week. The sister I was on exchanges with was sick, so I stayed inside all day with her. We had a good time talking for a few hours. Then while she slept I read about 50 pages of the Book of Mormon in Russian. It was awesome. I love reading in Russian. Sister Welling went out to work and had the worst day ever, but she was smiling at the end so it was funny. She had to get up early so we could get to the sisters on time (she hates getting up early). Took a shower but there was no hot water (still isn't by the way). It was raining, but she had a suitcase for exchanges so she didn't have a hand for an umbrella and got soaking wet. When the bus came, I got on, but it didn't wait for her so she got left (we met up  a few minutes later). Went out on the exchange and somehow got her foot cut by the bus's door. The exchange wasn't really planned at all, so they kinda just wandered around all day trying to talk to people in the rain. The one lady that did talk to them asked them to carry a giant bag of cherries for her across this muddy rain river that had formed in the middle of the street. And getting on the bus to come home, some guy put her hand in her purse to steal her money (but she caught him, so all is well). It was the worst day ever. I made her cookie dough, which we ate as we laughed about how it couldn't have been much worse. 

We made literally ridiculous amounts of brownies this week. We had to provide food for 3 parties, so 3 days in a row we brought our giant pan full of brownies. The recipe for one batch includes a KG of sugar, 9 eggs, and 2.5 cups of butter if that's any indicator of how absurd it was. 

We had a talent show on Friday! It was so awesome because tons of people came and participated. I wasn't necessarily expecting that, since I feel like in America people don't really like talent shows unless they're incredibly talented. This one was great though. A woman in our ward who's an actress did a scene and it definitely made me miss my best friend. One of the elders is weirdly flexible and he did a limbo contest with all the kids that he won and people ate it up. A darling woman in our ward sang hymns while one of the elders played the ukulele and it was SO COOL. All of our brownies disappeared quickly, and the brownies were our "talent" so I think that means we were a hit, too. 

We had a baptism this week! Her name in Angela and we've been working with her for about 2 months. She's 18 (has the same birthday as me) and loves literature (1984 is her favorite), so she's obviously one of my favorites. She started dating a boy in our ward (who's going to a mission in L'viv in 2.5 months) and he invited her to church. She kept coming and started meeting with us and reading the Book of Mormon. It was a beautiful, super smooth teaching process. She was just ready for all of it. And she got baptized on Saturday. Anyway, the baptismal service was small and just lovely. The best part for me was when she was in the bathroom getting ready after and I asked through the stall door, "well, how do you feel?" She answered, "peace. I feel peace. It's like peace of my soul." It was so honest and simple and sweet. I really do love that girl. 

One thing I love about this area is that we have  youth. The teenagers are seriously my favorite people. Maybe because it's summer and they have nothing better to do than hang out with and help the missionaries. Anyway, we spend lots of time with them. Probably the highlight of my week (maybe even more-so than the baptism?) was when the mom of one of the girls came up to me and said, "Vika already wants to serve a mission when she's older thanks to you." It was one of the most rewarding moments of my mission.

All the love,

Monday, July 7, 2014

Spicy Asian Borscht

In food news... We made carrot cake with some of my favorite members this week. The cake went beautifully, but then we started making frosting and I realized I'd forgotten to bring powdered sugar. The members were like "hey, no problem, we'll make it ourselves!" And before I could say, что? they had pulled out a cutting board and a rolling pin and were making their own powdered sugar. It totally worked and was just so... innovative. Last Monday we decided that cooking every day is way overrated. So we made a GIANT pot o'borscht to feed an army and ate it pretty much all week. Judy sent me sriarcha for my birthday, so we may have occasionally added sriracha to our borscht. It was funky, but kinda awesome. Spicy Asian borscht for the win.

We met our new mission president, President Packer, this week. He has a darling family and is going to be a wonderful mission president. It's so funny though, because they are literally the exact opposite of the Klebingats. I can't even explain how different they are. But I think it's going to be good, because it's like complimentary strengths. We had our mission conference on the fourth of July, so obviously we couldn't just ignore that. For lunch we had a giant mission-wide barbecue. Unfortunately, the hamburgers weren't really cooked all the way, so if the Ukraine Kyiv mission comes down with mad cow disease, you know why. The best part of the BBQ was American mustard and watermelon. Amazing. 

We helped Ivanna write an essay for her BYU-I online thing. And it was so fun to write again. I sat down with her laptop on my lap to edit, and it was like teleporting back to some other world I used to know where I wrote papers all the time and loved it. I genuinely miss writing papers for college. Go figure. We also had a "debate" this week as part of our English class. We assigned a topic, split the group into two teams, and made them each give a 1-2 minute talk. It was another moment of intense trunkiness for debate. Basically, my brain got used a little bit for reasoning this week and it liked it. 

I bought flowers again this week. We brought them to one of my favorite less active members, Zina. We had an appointment with her, but she was running late, so we waited, obviously. Anyway, she showed up and was like "girls, I'm just getting home from work and I'm tired and I'm hungry. Can't we meet tomorrow?" Of course we said yes, but gave her the flowers before we left. The look on her face was priceless. She said, "oh girls, do you know how long it's been since anyone gave me flowers?" and gave us each a kiss on the cheek (which is something everyone does all the time in Ukraine and a habit I'm getting used to?) and headed in. It was kinda darling to see how much the little things like flowers I randomly and impulsively bought on the street can mean to people. 

We had a drunk man totally shame us on Thursday. We were walking along and her heard our accents and wanted to talk to us. He wasn't totally inebriated, but he was getting there. He was riding a bike with a mostly-empty beer bottle in his hand and rode awkwardly along trying to talk to us as we walked. We kinda said hi and ignored him, because that's typically what we do when approached by an intoxicated individual. Anyway, he was really persistent about wanting to talk and got off his bike to walk with us and figure out who the heck we were. He walked us all the way to our appointment and turned out to be a really nice guy. He went to Bible school and is an active Christian, but he doesn't have a church right now. He has a wife and 5 kids and gave us her number as well as his own. As were were saying goodbye though, he was like "Girls, I didn't like the way you treated me earlier. Yeah, I'm drinking beer, but I'm still a person. You're from a church and you know that everyone is a child of God and you should be more respectful, because it was really impolite how you treated me earlier when I just wanted to talk." And that was probably the most shameful moment of my mission. It's pretty bad when a stranger says that how you acted is inconsistent with your tag. 

We met an awesome lady on a bench this week. She was just sitting there and we sat down next to her and started talking. She had a stroke a while ago and the right side of her body doesn't work super well, but she's incredibly good. We talked and gave her a BoM and agreed to meet Saturday at the same bench. Saturday she came and had read and understood the first part of the BoM and was way interesting in knowing more. She had a ton of potential and I'm super excited about it. We find people everywhere. 

We also visited a babushka in a nursing home this week. Nursing homes in the US aren't the sun-shiniest places, but they're luxurious compared to Ukraine. Never get old and end up in a nursing home in Ukraine. It's not pleasant. Anyway, my favorite part was that this babushka had a ton of flowers and plants in her planter boxes. She can't water them herself, but every time someone visits here she had them water them for her, so the plants keep on living. I liked that. It took me a while to figure out that she wanted me to water her plants, since she pretty much only spoke Ukrainian, but in the end we got it and the plants live a day or so more. 

Remember my favorite recent convert Tiam, the 13-year-old from Iran? We had a really funny incident this week. Thursday was YW camp and Wednesday night at 9:45, Tiam called me - "I don't have a backpack to take my stuff to camp. Do you have one? Can I use it?" It was so funny because it was so typical 13-year-old refusing to plan and then last minute needing someone to save the day. I also just loved that she felt comfortable enough with us that we were the SOS call she made. We did have a backpack and got it to her and she had an awesome camp experience, so all was well. 

So anyway, it was a way good week. Hurrah!

All the love,