Monday, February 27, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
February 20, 2012
"Is that...sidewalk? Oh my gosh, I forgot what sidewalk looks like!"
Hey there family and friends!
I'm curretly writing you and looking out at a relatively sunny day in Saratov! Last week was probably the coldest most bitter week I've felt weather wise, but today it almost got to 0 C outside! That's pretty exciting, considering last week it was about -30 C! Woo hoo!
I had a cool experience this week. I didn't really mention it last week, but last week was a bit tough on all fronts. We were having lots of trouble findig (we didn't find any, actually), no one really wanted to meet and church attendence was low by about 10 people. Argh! It was a hard week, that was satiated really only by slabs of butter on bread, which isn't quite as good a comfort food as is a nice tub of Moose Tracks ice cream. In the midst of all the feelings of "dang, we couldn't do a thing this week!" my district leader decided to do exchanges this past week. He's a great guy, and so I was excited about it all.
The coolest thing happened actually, not while I was in my own area with the district leader, but rather when I was in the district leaders area with my MTC companion, Elder Swartz, of all people! We both had a pretty bad cold that day, and absolutely no meeting set up, but we decided that despite feeling sick and tired, we'd go out an just work our tails off. And guess what? That day alone, we found 4 people! Heck, that's more that me and my companion found in our area this week even! I was so bummed by the previous week in thinking that I couldn't find anymore, but we were blessed by the Lord that day as He showed us that as we worked our hardest, despite how we felt, He would bless us in still being effective instruments in doing the work. I heard from my district leader last night that 2 of those four people are already progressing. Heck yeah!
Dad, you reminded my today that I've been out for about 8 months now, which is pretty dang crazy to think about. Time is going a lot faster than I wish it did, and rumors have it that it only goes faster. Ack! But hey, the bright side is that in exactly 4 months from today will be my birthday! I've heard about Russian birthday traditions, but I don't actually know any of them, so I'll have to see if anything cool happens in 4 months!
I think it was Mom that asked me the question today of which Russian hymns I like to sing. I've found that my liking for the Russian hymns has gone up significantly lately because I'm actualyl starting to understand them! Yay! A favorite of mine is always "Families Can be Together Forever", and I found that "Called to Serve" has a way cool translation. I don't have my hymnbook on my right now, but if I remember it next week I can bring it along and do a quick translation to show you how cool it is. Russian is so dang fun to sing, in my opinion, and it's beautiful, I just wish that it didn't take so long so say stuff sometimes! I've found that some hymns that I really like in English I don't like as much in Russian because they have to condense it or shorten it in some way that loses some of the meaning. Though, I guess that's not always true, because some songs they seem to be able to fit even mroe in Russian than in English, so it's no general rule I guess. I just like singing!
Oh my golly gosh, I'm gonna be an Uncle again! I expect the little dudes to be bilingual in English and Russian by the time I come back! Or at least given Russian names, like Olga or Nikolai! Just kidding of course :) I'm excited to hear more information as it comes out!
Question for you Dad (and anyone else really), a member of the district presidency who I'm really good friends with asked me a question the other day. It's in Isiah too, but in 2 Nephi 18:1 he was wondering who the heck the kid with the weird name is and if it was any particular significant meaning. I didn't have too much of an answer, but maybe ya'll had some insights! Thanks :)
Well, I'm pretty sure that's all I've got for now! Thank you so much all that you do! By the way, I got your letter from after we all skyped! That was so dang cool and way great to read what everyone had to say! Thank you so much! :)
Ya'll be good now, ya hear? I love you lots :)
Monday, February 13, 2012
Even in Russia, they spell my name "Brain"
Hello there family and friends!
First off, congratulations to the future Sister Simons serving in California! You're going to knock them dead, my friend :)
Also, I've got some news for ya Mom. After all these years, I've finally grown a taste for....honey! I don't know why I never really liked it in the past, but Russia has made honey grow on me a bit, and it's super delicious in tea and on bread! Funny story though. We were at a members house recently and he was feeding us all sorts of delicious food. At one point he asked "Hey, would you guys like some bread and butter?" Well sure! Never had better bread than in Russia and the butter is alright. My companion and I both got giant pieces of deliciously soft bread and a giant slab of butter on a dish was place before us. Ever so daintily by companion took the knife and carefully spread a reasonable amount of butter on the bread. The member was surprised and kind of offended too, however, when he saw it. "What the heck are you doing?! That's not how you eat bread and butter! Here, let me show you!" *SHONK* *SHONK* *SHONK*! 3 giant slabs of butter, about 3/4 the thickness of the bread were hewn down by our member and thrown haphazardly onto the bread. "There you go! That's bread and butter!" He swiftly did the same thing to my bread, tossing chunk after chunk of butter on the bread and egging us on to eat more and more! Apparently it's a Russian tradition to eat bread and butter in the winter because the butter is so full of fats that will keep you warm and toasty in the winter. Regardless of how many bricks of butter I was helped to eat that day, still has been a bit cold outside, reaching a chilly -30 yesterday! Yikes! Apparently Winter is taking her last stand before letting Spring take stage.
The visa trip was a quick one this week, as the temple is closed for cleaning right now. We flew straight from Saratov to Moskow, to Kiev and then back to Moskow and back to Saratov, all in one day! Gosh, that was a lot of time in the air and airports, but I had fun times on the plane! I remember last visa trip I was so nervous to talk to people on the plane and often just kinda chickened out, but the couple of planes where I was next to Russians I had some fun times and one of them liked me so much that she gave me some candy! Yay! Complements especially go to Brielle and her beaming smile. That smile has gotten probably the most complements out of any photos in my album.
The Russians have been asking for my cookie recipe lately. Me and Elder Rekow made an especially delicious batch lately, and everyone we've given them has asked for the recipes, and I never quite know what to tell them. I pretty much just take the usual toll house recipe and then add whatever else I feel like to the batch that day, like jam, cinnamon, milk, maple extract, root beer extract, etc. (Mom, you know how I cook, just how I feel that day), but it's tickled me that people have been complementing my cooking. Now I'm just gonna have to make some Russians some tasty New Mexican food and see what they think of it!
Not a whole lot of news to tell work wise. The cold has made finding people quite difficult this past week, so I'm hoping it warms up soon so that people are more willing to talk. The branch is as awesome and friendly as ever, and we've even had some less actives coming to church despite the cold! They're quite the troopers and it's fun to see the blessings that have come into their lives thanks to their dilligance and love.
Well, that's all I've got for now! I haven't gotten the package yet, and I don't know if it's in the office yet or not, but if it is then I'll get the package this week because a senior couple is coming into Saratov later this week! So, we'll see :)
Gosh, I just love you all so much! Thank you so much for all that you do, especially my family (and especially, especially my Mom! :) )Ya'll be good now, and we'll talk next week!
With much love, as always
Monday, February 6, 2012
Uno with the Fam again!
Hey there family friends!
Well, I'm back here and settled just fine in Zavodskoi! It's been way fun getting to talk to the members again and getting acquainted with the area. I thought that maybe I had forgotten the entire area when I first came, but as it turns out my brain retained a good bit of information on the area (even the bus stops!) which has been super useful! My favorite thing by far this week has been seeing and visiting my favorite family here in Zavodskoi! [...] are all still doing way good, and I still dominate at Uno as in times before! As a good language tip, if you ever need to learn a few basic colors, Uno is the best game to play.
I don't have a whole lot to write this week, and since I'm at the Williams I meant to bring my camera and upload some pictures, but alas, I forgot my camera back at the apartment, so that'll have to wait until next week.
I'll be going on another visa trip to the Ukraine this week (Thursday, to be precise) and so that'll be pretty spiffy. I think the temple is closed right now for cleaning though, so we'll probably just sit at the airport and be bored and opposed to having good times at the temple this trip. Maybe next time :)
I've been complimented on my Russian a lot this past week by members, which has been way cool! It's interesting to look back a bit and see how my last cycle made me stretch in a lot of ways. White washing an area with Elder Rounds was crazy hard because we had the same skill in Russian and yet we still needed to find people to teach and teach them, so the situation made it so that we had to grow fast and work hard. The fruits of that cycle have shown up though and it's been nice to see how much easier it is to communicate with people and get my point across. Also helps me to show more of a happy personality since I can spend more of my energy in not only listening but in responding and expressing myself too!
That's something that really has been a blessing. As I've gained the language skills to really be able to express myself and get my point across I've been able to find out more of who I am and how I work with people. I'm not just this timid awkward American trying to understand a conversation, but I'm a real human being who can crack a joke or two in Russian and is here as a missionary and representative of Christ. I've learned (and am still learning) the importance of becoming friends with people and gaining their trust before (and as) we find and teach them the Gospel. It's why working through the members always has yielded good investigators because they're already friends with them! Once people realize that you are just a good, happy person who happens to also be a missionary and representative of Jesus Christ they are much more willing to talk, trust and believe in what you have to say. So often it's easy for me to say "Hey, I'm Elder Peterson and I've got a message about Christ!" rather than to approach someone and say "Hey there! Gosh it's cold today! Sure doesn't get this cold where I'm from. How're you doing today? Hey, I'm Elder Peterson, what's your name?" and then letting the conversation work it's way towards your purpose and who you fully are.
Friendship is a powerful thing, and it's interesting to see how people open up once they see that you're a real person. I've seen people turn from harshness and calling us cultists to laughing and smiling with us as they come to see that we are really just people who have something a little different about them. We're so often stereotyped as bad cultists who have 70 wives that people are wary, if not harsh when we approach them. Some people keep that stereotype and are unwilling to learn more or change it, but I've found that the really truly good and interested people will take the extra step once they see that we really are just 19-21 year old good people. Interesting to see.
Well, my time is up, and I don't think I really explained myself all too well, but it'll have to do. Thank you so much for you help, love and support! :)
With much love