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."