Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ira gets baptized and a new apartment

Our landlord called last Monday night - "I need to come tomorrow morning with a photographer to photograph the apartment so that I can post it online." "Can't you come another day? It's pretty messy right now because we're packing." "No, it must be tomorrow." So we spent all of Tuesday morning cleaning. He shows up and his "photographer" is a woman with an iPhone. Ummmm. Okay. Anyway, he was really snarky about the whole moving thing. "You're going to be so cold in your apartment. I hope that you have bought new warm clothes and that when you're freezing you think of me fondly" Then he called like 15 minutes after he left and was like "you're new house is going to be so loud too, since it's a new dom, there are continually going to be remonts going on. If you want to change your mind, I'll wait for your call." We did not change our mind, but we did spend like 6 hours straight this week cleaning the stupid apartment. It is so darn clean. SO CLEAN. I did not like cleaning. But we have a way nice new apartment, so that's so good!

In the process of cleaning we realized we needed to clean the oven. And we were like "I have no idea how to clean an oven." So, of course, we called our bishop's wife and were like "Tanya! How do we clean an oven?" She explained it all to us and was like "hey, just come over and you can borrow my oven cleaner." It was just a way nice moment of being taken care of. Sometimes, missionaries need moms, too. I love that there are people I can rely on for help everywhere, even in my little Voskresensky ward in Kyiv.

At English class, we just had story time last week and it was so fun! One of our members who works at the international school Kindergarten brought in some English story books and we just read them for English practice. I felt like a teacher, but in an okay way. 

We have the world's best Relief Society president in this ward. I seriously love the woman so much. She's just a rockstar and gets it all done. Anyway, we called her this week to talk about something and I was like "how are you Katya?" She was like "I'm really tired." So we made cookies and ran over to her house. We ate borscht and cookies and just hung out for a few minutes. It was nice, because you're always slightly terrified when you drop by someone's house that they're going to be annoyed that you swung by unannounced. But she wasn't. Anyway, the short of it is that I love my Relief Society president so much.

So remember the awesome Ira who came to church the first time to a super intense discussion of the necessity of a temple sealing for an inheritance in the celestial kingdom? She got baptized this week! We went over to her house on Monday and talked and she was like "so when am I going to get baptized?" So we set it up for Friday. Remember how there's no hot water in Kyiv. It was a really really cold baptism, but she was a trooper about it. It was a way nice baptism and I am just so excited for her!

In Russian news, I finished reading the Book of Mormon in Russian this week! It was kinda a major accomplishment of sorts. I love reading Книга Мормона. I also had a way cool little experience this week where I had to write a talk for the baptism and was a little bit worried about it. Writing talks is just hard/frustrating for me in Russian because I never can say what I want to say in the way I want to say it. So I was way nervous about writing this talk, but I sat down and the talk just sort of wrote itself. It was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had with Russian. Things just flowed and it was such a gift. I was so grateful.

Grateful. I've been really, really grateful this week. It's funny how gratitude really does make one happier (maybe the apostles are onto something.) I don't know, I've just felt really grateful for everything this week. Things are so, so, so good here and it is so lovely.

All the love,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Maria and the Pitbull

You know how sometimes teenagers love to teach little kids things that just sound funny and odd coming out of a kid's mouth? Example: give me all your money, sucker. Members here love to do that with us and Ukrainian. Not like terrible things, just things that are super amusing coming out of the mouth of an American who doesn't really know the language. This week's phrase was "дякую боже що я не москаль" or, in other words, "thank goodness I am not a Moscvite (Russian)." I'm like a puppy they teach to do funny tricks.

Does anyone remember how my last 6 months of high school I went through a phrase where I had baby dreams all the time? Like there were just lots of babies in my dreams, of whom I often had to take care? I've started having trunky dreams! I had a dream this week that I was frantically buying all the food for my homecoming. And then another dream that I was at Nordstrom trying on jeans then I bought an iPad instead. So that's super weird. I'm not actually trunky. I'm just the kind of person who's always about 18 steps ahead of myself and so I have to keep myself from  planning 6 months ahead this time, which is hard. 

We visited the funniest little babushka named Maria. She's 80 something and always manages to come to church. She kinda looks homeless - her clothes are kinda raggy and her hair's kinda stringy and she's like four and a half feet tall. Anyway, we went over to her house and she had the funniest dog. It was a 15-year old pit bull. The poor thing was crawling with arthritis and could barely walk. And she just loved it so much. She spent the first 10 minutes of our visit just talking about/to him. They were just a funny and adorable broken down old pair. 

I got sick this week. And I got to sleep a lot because of it. I know sometimes people are like "why does God let missionaries get sick if they're doing his work?" Let me tell you, He lets missionaries get sick so we do not collapse from exhaustion. I literally feel better than I have in like a month or two because for the first time in a while I'm not completely worn out. Sometimes, even getting sick is a blessing. 

Our landlord came over this week and told us he wants more money. Like way more than the apartment is worth. So we have to move out by the 30th. I've never been kicked out of an apartment before and I don't think I like it very much at all. We're just moving into the elders' apartment and they're moving in together. So at least there's no apartment hunting involved. Still no hot water, if you were wondering. 

I'm addicted to pancakes? Also, we ate 3 bars of white chocolate on an exchange this week. White chocolate is inexplicably really really good in Ukraine.

We had FHE with Eva and co. again this week. We made a gratitude box. While cutting some paper for the gratitude box, I accidentally cut myself with scissors. It was surprisingly deep and it bled a lot. They still invited us over for FHE tonight though! We also had a way fun day with Eva on Thursday. We came over and colored a Plan of Salvation map with her. Then took her to a  babushka's house to teach her the plan of salvation. We'd planned parts, but when we got there, Eva got really into teaching and taught the whole thing herself! She did it so well and it was so awesome. The babushka loved it, most importantly.

We were on a lesson with  Ira this week and I said something about "this is one of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon." Apparently I say that a lot because she was like, "Pugh, half of the Book of Mormon is your favorite and the other half is too." It's true, I just love it. 

All the love,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being an awkward pedestrian and other adventures in a very fun week

Remember how we made Eva's mom a birthday cake last week? Well, for my birthday Judy put some candles in the package so I brought them along and stuck them in the cake. We sang Happy Birthday (in English, because inexplicably all Ukrainians know that song even if they don't know anything else in English). Then her mom blew out the candles. Which immediately re-lit. They were all so shocked and baffled and amused. They blew them out again and again and they re-lit again and again. Turns out Judy sent me trick candles! Hahaha it made for a great surprise for everyone. It was a good birthday.

Yesterday, a family in our ward invited us over to their house after church. They live a little outside of Kyiv in the nicest house I've seen in Ukraine. This house is seriously straight out of Pepperwood. It was awesome. We played with the kids and jumped on the tramp with them. We even did flips! (In a skirt, but I kept it classy, don't worry). Granted, today we're both so sore from doing flips, and feel like babushkas over it, but whatever it was worth it. The really cool part of the afternoon was that they invited their friend and her son over. We had a first lesson with her sitting on blankets outside in the shade eating apples off their tree and it made my life complete. She's coming to church next week. 

It was actually just a way fun week. Saturday we had a picnic in the forest! We played American football and volleyball and ate sausages. And dressed in our street clothes! I was in jeans all day on Saturday and basically didn't know how to handle it. Here's a picture of me being an awkward pedestrian:

Our favorite investigator Ira got a puppy! It's a six week old German Shepard and it's the cutest darn thing in the whole world. It walks all awkwardly and I love it. It's definitely not trained at all though; we were at her house for an hour and there were two accidents in that span of time. So I'm glad it's not my puppy but that I can just enjoy playing with it on a weekly basis. Perfect set-up. 

Angela's doing awesome. She told us this week how she stood up in her university religion class and talked about the church for 15 minutes when the professor asked some question about it. She definitely wouldn't have done that when we first met her. It's so cool to see how much she's growing and changing and becoming a Mormon. I think I came on my mission thinking that people should be Mormons and then they can get baptized. But it's really not like that at all. There's so much growth and figuring things out that happens after baptism. 

I found John Freida conditioner this week in a store somewhere! So now my hair always smells like America. (I know that America does not actually smell like John Freida conditioner, but my hair now smells like it smelled in America and that's kinda insane). 

All the love,

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Dentist Visit and Other Ongoings

So I notoriously hate the dentist and hate feeling pain at the dentist. More than a few times in high school, I would run to the dentist during math and come back looking like a stroke victim because I asked the dentist to use a little extra Novocaine. I'm just really not a fan of tooth pain. Well, remember how I had a massive cavity? I went to the dentist this week. Obviously, I was pretty nervous, because I'm not a fan of American dentists, much less Ukrainian ones. But I was a big girl and didn't cry or anything. We get to the dentist and it's this way nice woman who doesn't speak a word of English. So with some pointing and creative explanations, I explained to her that I had a cavity and needed help. She looked at it and said she'd fix it. Then she pulled out a little vile of clear liquid and was like "have you ever used this before?" "I don't know, what is it?" "the shots dentists give so you can't feel anything" "oh, of course I've used that. We always use that in America." "Yeah, well, we're going to try not to use is. I'm going to be really careful and it'll be a little painful, but just endure." "Can we please use it?" "No." And that is the story of how I got two cavities filled without any Novocaine. It was terrible. I wait without patience my first visit to an American dentist. 

The dentist was in a cute little mall place. So afterwards I did what I do best and rewarded myself by shopping. Which is the story of how I bought Brave, Tangled, and Cinderella in Russian. After the mission, folks are going to be like "where's Hannah?" and the answer is going to be, "she's addicted to Disney cartoons in Russian."

Our landlord came this week. He promised that if we go to mid-October and they don't turn the hot water back on he'll buy us a boiler. And I'm like "oh great, transfers are October 14 and I'm probably leaving." I guess I can't complain too much if my worst war story from Ukraine is 3 months without hot water, seeing as other people have actual war stories. 

Speaking of Ukraine, there's been this funny thing happening where groups of teenagers/young adults have been paining all the fenced blue and yellow like the Ukrainian flag. Literally all over Kyiv, all the park fences, guard rails on the street, etc. have turned blue and yellow. It's kinda funny and awesome. I love Ukrainian pride.

We went on a mini-exchange in Brovary this week because one of the sisters there has a slightly broken back and her companion had some things she needed to do outside the apartment. So we got hot showers there (the lucky fools have a boiler!). Plus we had a way fun lesson. We met at the church in the morning and ate pancakes and watched a church movie with their investigator. It was one of the chillest but most spiritual little lessons I've been on. Sometimes, it's good to let things be easy.

There's this home-bound paralytic in our ward named Ghinadi who got baptized last year. How do you baptize a home-bound paralytic? The elders built a font in his living room, but that's a different story. Anyway, we try to visit him every once in a while and bring cookies or something. So we called and set up, but then when we showed up, he didn't answer the phone or and the door was locked and everything. I've been dogged a lot on my mission, but that was my first time being dogged by someone who can't leave their bed. (Don't worry, we went back a few hours later and found him home and gave him cookies and everything was fine.)

Eva was obsessed with these little 2 cent toys at the grocery store this week. It's all the rage among Ukrainian school children. And that was the moment when I realized I will be an absurdly indulgent parent. Because Sister Grandy spoke first and was like "Eva, be happy with what you have, you don't need more." But inside I was like "oh, it's less that two dollars. I'll buy you everything." And it ligit kinda killed me not to buy the stupid things for her. So I guess I need to work on that. Good thing I've got plenty of years before I have to cross that bridge. Eva's like my favorite. I legitimately feel like she's family. On Tuesday we sat in the kitchen and shared yogurt for dinner while she told me about her first day of school and it was just like "yep, this definitely feels like hanging out with Shayna and Lizzy." We're making cake with her for her mom's birthday today in an hour. She's the best.

All the love,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Return to Житомир

So it was pretty much one of the best weeks of my mission. Why? Because this fool got to go back to Житомир! Does anyone remember my favorite 7-year old, Masha, from there? The one I love with my whole darn heart. Well, now she's my favorite 8-year old and her mom gave her permission to get baptized. Her grandma, Yulia, called me and was like "Is there any way you can come, Masha would really love it if you did." So I called President and made some pleas and next thing I knew I was on my way to that favorite little town of mine. And it was wonderful. Yulia didn't tell Masha I was coming so when she walked in and saw me she was so surprised and so excited! She pretty much gave me the biggest hug anyone has ever given me in my life. And then she pretty much didn't let go of me the whole time I was there (except to get baptized, obviously). It kinda felt like coming home, honestly, to just be with her for a few hours. I really do love that city and those people so much. There was just something so rewarding about getting to be there and see them. Missions are the best. 

On the way back, I realized that it was maybe the last time in my life I will get to see Masha and  Житомир and there may or may not have been a few tears. Not sure why, but it made me realize that my mission will actually end in a day not to far hence and it kinda killed me inside. We listened to The Best Two Years soundtrack this morning and I was just like "No, No, I can't handle it. Missions don't end. I will never have to take my tag off and go home." Basically I'm terrible at letting things end. So I'm trying to just not think about it at all and we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. 

In other news, we had a kinda awesome random act of kindness. On Monday we were late and our bus came and we ran after it and the bus driver clearly saw us but decided not to wait. Next thing I know, this car has stopped and the driver was like "girls, get in, I'll drive you to the next stop ahead of the bus." So we hopped in and that is what happened. It was kinda super awesome. I want to be more like that when I grow up. 

A man walking a chow chow told me this week that Utah legalized polygamy? Someone give me an update on that. Having strangers speaking Ukrainian to me on the bus as my news source kills me. 

In food news, it was a good week. Monday we made sushi with the youth, who are awesome. Tuesday we had Dominoes with some members. Have we talked about Dominoes Tuesday? Tuesday is buy one get one free at Dominoes so naturally we have to take advantage of that every once in a while. Wednesday we had lunch with some missionaries and some senior couples - it was American themed including some incredible BBQ sauce the elders made. Thursday we had district meeting and one set of elders made cookies and the others made lemon bars, so that was obviously awesome. And on Saturday I found pumpkin at the grocery store so I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies which were obviously a hit because I used Katy's recipe. Then this morning we met at the church early and had district lunch of pancakes! Which was just way fun and tasty. Basically, I love it when the elders cook for me. 

I think this is a thing in America, but our ward has been all about the "ice bucket challenge" this weekend. You fill a bucked with ice water and dump it over your head and then challenge other people to do the same within 24 hours. Saturday we filmed our MCL while he did it. And then he challenged the elders, who did it this morning before pancakes. I'm not really sure why it's such a big deal, because we basically dump a bucket of ice water over our heads every morning when we shower. (Yes there is still no hot water and I swear the water gets colder every single day). The elders said the bucket was actually warmer than there showers, but I'm not totally sure I believe that. 

Remember that scene in Harry Potter where Hermione's like "it's Levioca not levioca." If I could, I would insert the link here. Anyway, that's how Russian is. The placement of the stress literally differentiates all words. And if you get the word stress wrong, people don't understand you at all. Which is just something that has been driving me nuts lately. 

Anyway, summer is officially over and that's always a terrible feeling. We made brownies and had a lesson with Angela and co. and it made me so sad that our fun summer of going over there all the time and teaching her and baptizing her is over. It really has been a wonderful summer here in Kyiv. School started today, so all the kids put on their vyshyvankas and got all decked up. It was adorable. Here's a picture of me with mine. 

All the love,

OH. PS. We got transfo this week and I'm staying in Kyiv with Sister Grandy until at least October 15. #prayforhotwater