Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Holidays

     We can’t believe that the holidays have come and gone.  We are at the half-way point in our mission and the time continues to fly by.   The missionaries and the members are working very hard to get this area (Novosibirsk Mission)  into a position that a stake can be formed.  It would be the 3rd in Russia and the first in Siberia.   Our hope is that the new stake will be formed in 2013.
     The holiday season is very interesting.  December 25th comes and goes with hardly any mention of christmas. But the big holiday, in fact the big holiday of the whole year is New Years Day.  Families put up and decorate "New Years trees" with lights and ornaments almost exactly as we do our christmas trees.  Gifts are exchanged on New Years day and  there is even a kindly old man with a long white beard that brings gifts  on New Year’s Day to the good little boys and girls. He is tall and slender and he wears a cap and a flowing robe trimmed in white fur.  The robe almost reaches the ground and it is more often blue than red.  And he bears the name of  “Ded Moroz.”  Quite literally it means “Grandfather Frost.”  And he is helped by his granddaughter “Snegaruchka”  or “Snow Maiden.”   He rides in a sleigh that is drawn by 3 white horses.   And the little children look forward to his arrival on New Year’s eve with as much excitement and wonder as the little children in America look forward to Santa Claus.     The wearing of costumes by the children has also become part of the tradition.  Karen and I attended a performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet last week here in the Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater with the missionaries.  (They are allowed a "cultural night" about every six weeks.) Just before the ballet they did a little program out in the foyer for the children with Ded Morz and some other characters.  Also outside the theater on the plaza were some ice sculptures.  That night after the performance there were at least a thousand people milling around.  There were horses to ride, an actual reindeer pulling a sleigh, fireworks, food, and all kinds of street vendors.  All this in sub zero weather.  The weather doesn’t stop these hardy folks.
     Christmas is celebrated here now but it is a purely religious holiday, celebrating the birth of the savior and it is celebrated on Jan. 7th which I am told is the equivalent of Dec. 25th on the Gregorian calendar.  The Russian Orthodox church uses the Julian calendar which makes it Jan. 7th.  it is actually quite nice that the birth of the savior is celebrated on its own without some of the other distractions.
Anyway it is an exciting time around here.
      We are so blessed to be here doing the Lord’s work.  We love the people.  The members in our branch are becoming like family. But we truly miss you all and wish you the best of everything in this coming year.

Young Single Adults and Missionaries caroling in Downtown Krasnoyarsk

For a small fee your child can ride in a sleigh pulled by an actual reindeer.

A slide for the kids made entirely of ice. (It may not melt until May!)

Some of the holiday lighting in downtown Krasnoyarsk

Street vendors selling New Year's holiday items

More lighting. This lighting is place over a fountain for the winter.  In the summer months it is a beautiful water fountain.

Some of the ice sculptures at night.

There are not too many baby strollers out in the winter, but you see a lot of these.

This was a performance for the kids out in the foyer of the theater just prior to the start of the ballet.

Notice the little kids in their "New Year's" costumes.   

The performance builds up to the entrance of the final character, Ded Moroz  (Grandfather Frost).

Inside the Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater.

The tall guy (the one on the right) is Ded Moroz and they are going to lift him up and place him in a large ship that is made of ice.  You can see a little of it on the right.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Minus 40 degrees F !

     We thought maybe it would happen sometime in mid January.  But it was 12/12/12 and we were in Novosibirsk for a zone conference (yes, another adventure on the Trans-Siberian Railroad) and the mercury dropped to minus 40.  That is the point at which the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales converge and are the same.  Minus 40 Farenheit and minus 40 celsius are the same temperature.  But we had already experienced some minus 30 F  and to tell the truth I couldn't tell much of difference between minus 30 and minus 40.  They are both cold.  We have learned that the trick is to plan so that you don't have to spend much time outside.  We go to stores that are close by, catch the bus and the nearest stop and we even took a taxi the other night to get home from a dinner at the home of some investigators.  It was late and we weren't sure which bus and which bus stop.  The taxi's are very cheap over here and so we may be doing more of that this winter.  The ice is building up everywhere and we are told it will not melt until possibly May.  So we are using our ice tracks that fit on our boots.  It sure makes a difference and gives us a lot more confidence on the snow and ice.  At my age I can't afford to slip and fall. I am sure I would break or pull something.
     The conference was a wonderful, spiritual experience.  It is always good to be with the young elders and sisters and, of course, our mission president and his wife.  It helped to rejuvenate us and charge our spiritual batteries.  We received some great instruction from President Gibbons on some parallels between the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ, and our own struggles to become more Christ-like.
     The mission obtained tickets for all the sister missionaries and the senior couples to attend the opera "La Traviata" after the conference.  The sisters were supposed to have a sisters conference and attend the opera last month but that was cancelled due to a protest against the church that was to happen throughtout Russia on that day.  All the missionaries were instructed to stay indoors.  So the conference was cancelled.  It turns out however, that the protest, at least in Novosibirsk, kind of fizzled, but everyone seemed to agree that the president acted wisely to be extra cautious.  So this was a make-up for the sisters and the senior couples were invited along.  The singers were first class and we were all surprised at the quality of the production.  I am no judge of opera but I could tell that these were no amatuers.
     The president is going to allow the missionaries to come to our apartment for dinner on Christmas day.  So we are excited about that.  I am sure that Karen will do her usual thing and prepare a fantastic feast for the missionaries.  They always look forward to her meals.  Karen's meals are becoming legendary.
     The train ride was pretty much like all the others we have taken.  With the exception that on the ride over we were on the same "Wagon" as all the missionaries from our Krasnoyarsk district.  So they all met in our "Kype"  (berth)  for brownies and laughs before bedtime.  The ride back seemed to be a bit noisier and bumpier than usual.  We chalked that up to being on the very end berth where the cars connect and there was a lot of clanging and banging and jerking.
    We got into Krasnoyarsk at about 7:30 a.m. (it is now about 9:00 a.m.) and we will get ready and leave for a service project at homeless shelter (putting up wallpaper) and then attend Institute and Seminary tonight.

Some of the missionaries singing a christmas song at the conference.

The senior couples all bundled up and ready to walk to the theater after the conference.

The plaza in front of the theater.

Entering at the front of the theater.

The view from our hotel when the mercury hit minus 40.

We were surprised to see this ice forming on the inside of the window to our train "Kype."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Karen's Letter Nov. 28, 2012

Hello everyone, 
    Thank you for your continual support and interest.  We can't believe that December is just around the corner.  I have to say that the time has gone rather slow for me,( Mom), but November just flew by.  I guess I am getting used to living here now and have some sort of a routine.  I have had some homesickness, but, it goes away thank heavens for that.  We love hearing about what is going on in the good old USA.  We pray for you and want you to know that we love you very much. 

    I have learned that a pot of soup can be the best medicine.  Most weeks, I have made a pot of soup, or two.   But, for some unknown reason I have felt impressed to make it in the largest pot I have.  While I am making it I am thinking, what am I going to do with all of this soup.   The very next day I find out why.  A call  from the missionaries asking us if they can use our apartment for teaching.  Of course we say yes.   One morning a call to ask if it  would be alright if the YSA could make Halloween party decorations in our apartment.  Sure, no problem, and another pot of soup.  It doesn't take much time to eat a bowl of soup and it sure warms my heart to know that I am feeding them something nutritious.

     One day at a bus stop about ten, ten year olds got on the bus and sat right in front facing us, and to the side of us.  They were beautiful kids.  They all had knit hats on.  They began to laugh and tease each other by taking each others hats off.  They were busy talking and laughing when one of them spied our name tags.  One young man whispered to his friend and so they quieted right down.  Dad smiled at him and offered him a "mento".  He declined.  Soon, they began to laugh and tease each other again.  We were getting close to our stop so dad said to them in Russian, " How was your day?"  The boy looked surprised, smiled, and in very good English answered, "very good".
As we got up to wait for our stop, dad gave him the rest of his mentos.  He smiled and said in english. "thank you very much".
All of a sudden they were yelling  trying to get the candy, so dad gave the other group on the other side of the bus another package.  Then they began to yell, then all of a sudden an old man at the front of the bus turned around and yelled at the children.  They became instantly quiet.  I felt so bad for them, they were  having so much fun.  

     We were walking with Masha our YSA leader and she began to tell us that she thought we should have a service project to clean out the library.  I got so excited because the library is a room with about seven portable closets in it.  The closets are just helter skelter with stuff falling out of them. I have been wondering why it is such a mess and was happy that Dennis, one of our Institute teachers was going to get these young adults working on it.  So dad and I ask her when this was going to happen, and she said that she didn't know.  After we arrived home we were checking our  emails and ran crossed a notice on face book from Masha.  We found out that the service project was the next day.  That same night dad found out that the young men were going to go on a hike to Stolby. (Dad is the young mens president)  Dad looked at me and asked, "do you ever get the feeling that we don't have a clue what is going on over here?"  If it wasn't for facebook, we would be out of the loop.

      Last Sunday  our branch began getting a choir together for Christmas.  I thought that I could probably help sing in it if I practiced the words at home.  I walked in and saw them standing around the piano.  Someone told me where the altos were standing so I went over by Masha (another YSA).  The pianist turned around and said something to me and then began to play the alto part.  I began to sing, but I was the only one.  I looked up and saw everyone watching me.  I stopped, she stopped, She turned around and began to talk again then  played the alto part again.on the piano.  Olga, our visa lady told me to sing louder.  I again began to sing (all alone).  After I finished I leaned over to Masha and ask, "why am I the only one singing?"  She told me that I was the solo.  
     Dad decided that he needed to get serious about getting a haircut.  He got on google translate and found out how to say "haircut" and got ready to go.  I told him that he probably needed to learn a few more words like "same" same as I have now.  When the missionaries first come from  America they have a an actual hair style, but after a few cuts in Russia, they all end up the same, with a buzz.  I could just see him coming home with a buzz.  He didn't seem too worried when he left.  I  was prepared for the worst, but when he came back he actually had the best haircut he has ever had. He said that after they got through laughing at the way he said haircut, everything went very smoothly.  The cost, $30.00 American dollars, the most he has ever paid.  He said that they are meticulous. They spent one hour on his hair

     Each month at testimony meeting it is inspiring to hear of the different conversion stories.  We get one or two each time.  This time one of the branch presidency bore his testimony.  His name is President Kotob.  He said that he thought of himself as an atheist. He had just come back from the army, it was tough.  He walked in and saw his mother kneeling in prayer.  As she got up, he ask her what she had been doing.  She said, "son, God is real and you had better find out".  He said, not long after that, he met the missionaries. 

     Dad gave you the pictures of the train ride to Novosibirsk.  This time the going was rough.  The beds were as hard as rocks.  I tossed and turned all night, but must have finally fallen asleep because I had a dream that Dad was on his bike and I was running along side of him because I had a skirt on.  All of a sudden my hip was killing me.  I thought what in the world have I done to my hip.  Then I woke up and wow, my hip really was killing me.  I rolled over again but never could get confortable.  The ride back was much better.  We found out that we are going again on December 12 for a mission conference.
The Conference...
     The seniors mission conference was wonderful.  So nice to get together with other couples and share stories and ideas and recipes.  President Gibbons gave us  great ideas to ponder.  He said that some day we are all going to report to an eternal customs officer.  What are we going to be able to take with us?  D&C 137:1-2, D&C 130:2, D&C121:4, D&C 130:18.  Then in my journal on this very page "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life...Psalms 27:4
     He compared the Book of Mormon to a mansion.  We are all still in the basement looking around, there is still so many more rooms, gardens, and places to search. 

     There is a YSA man who has been in the church for about twelve years.   He always comes to FHE and eats his heart out.  He has a job, but must make very little.  One day his name came up and we wondered why he doesn't pass the sacrament.  Dad ask him about it, he thought about it and said, yes I would like to pass the sacrament, but I do not have the right clothes.   So we had him come early to FHE.  Dad had some white shirts ready for him and a couple of ties. Sure enough, on Sunday he was all dressed up ready to pass the sacrament.  I told him what a great job he did, he told me that his heart was beating fast and he was nervous, but he thought that he had done a good job. He said that he didn't want to make a mistake, he wanted to do it right.
      He said that he loves to walk in the snow, he walks for miles at a time, and always has a smile to greet you.    Last week he thanked me and said, "I am excited to find what you will fix next time."  He speaks english very well.  He is an example of the "humble and meek"  who will inherit the kingdom of God. 
     One day Masha (2) we have two Masha's in our YSA group told me that she would like to learn how to make an apple pie.  She said that when she thinks about America she thinks about apple pie.  I told her that we would get together and make pies.  Finally the day came.  I had tried cooking several different kinds of apples to see which ones would work.  We went through the whole process and she went home with a pie.  As we cooked she wrote down all of the directions and amounts.  At the end I ask her if Russia has measuring cups and spoons.  She said, "I don't know".  I said  then  how do you measure the ingredients.  "Oh, we use a glass, or a half of a glass, or a half of a half of a glass".  I began to laugh, I said how big is the glass, she put her fingers up and said about this big.  

     Thank you Patricia Ewing for the books.  Patricia is one of my COB friends, (church office babes).  When I left on my mission she gave me some money.  I have saved it, knowing that at some point it will come in handy.  One morning when I woke up the thought came to me, we need to buy some books for the nursery.  They have no books for the children.  We arranged to meet the nursery leader and took a Saturday to go shopping.  She took us to about three book stores.  She found some really good deals on children's books.  We bought about ten wonderful books, and still have money left over.  The past two weeks have been heavenly because when the children get tired and restless at the end of cla

     The weather has certainly changed for the worst.  We get snow about every other day, and then inbetween, temperatures of about 7 to 10 degrees F below zero. We have been walking like old people, careful of each step because, like we were told, the snow freezes and then thaws and then freezes so there are layers of ice.  We also have the added problem of the run off.  The roofs drain the water down long pipes which empty onto the sidewalks.  The water runs and then freezes.  It is like a skating rink.
We haven't fallen, but have seen people fall.  We don't know when we will strap on our spikes, but, again, as we were warned it will get to 30 or 40 below, so maybe that will be the time.  The amazing thing is that women are still wearing beautiful boots with spiked heals.  They fly on and off of the bus without a glitch.  There are also old people walking around with canes and bags.  They look like they can hardly get around on dry ground.  One cane dad noticed had a spike on the bottom of it.  Maybe that is what we will get next.

     Not yet, we had one right after we arrived, but not since.  There was a young lady who was ready for baptism.  She is a beautiful young adult, full of life and very good student. The day before her baptism one of our little missionary sisters got the dreaded phone call.  She (the missionary) began to cry, we were worried.  The young gal cancelled. She told the sister that her parents were against it.  She loves her parents and they had just bought her a car and are paying for her college.  They told her that if she joined the church that would all change. She still wants to be baptized, but will have to wait until she is on her own.  What a heart break, what a backward step for that young girl.  All of the blessings will be put on hold.  
     There are several others that are close, we are praying for them. The missionaries  are working hard to bring souls unto Christ.  These missionaries have plenty to do, and they don't stop, they are like the energizer bunny.  We love them and are so proud of them.  They are truly the Lord's servants. 
     We want to wish each of you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.  We know that some of you have had hard things come into your lives this year.  You have all been such great examples of hope, faith, and hard work.  We pray that the Lords spirit will fill your homes and lift your spirits and you go forward in faith.  We know more than ever the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We know that without it we would be in a dark place.  The light of Christ leads us to his eternal message, may we all have that light with us each and every day is our prayer.  All our Love Elder and Sister Noel 

Some of our family home evening group

One of our terrific Institute teachers, Dennis Baranov

Some of our Institute class

 Some of our young single adults learning to "Index"

Our other terrific Institute teacher Konstantin Tolomeev. (The two teachers team teach the same class.)

Karen teaching Mashsa Shishmareva how to bake an apple pie.

The final delicious result
One of the nursery leaders reading to a child from one of the books that Karen was able to get for the branch.

This is a children's theater near our apartment.  The guys with the horses wait outside for the performance to end and then give the children rides on the ponies, for a small fee, of course.

This is a video of the theater.  It is called "театр кукл"  pronounced Teeater Kookyl.