Monday, March 12, 2012

Greetings from Russia!

Hello Family from sun shiny Kazan!
Yes I am really here in Russia...kinda crazy to really think about. I will try the best I can to portray what the last week has been. I will definitely chalk it up as probably the craziest week I probably will ever have. That is until next week comes around. So, here we go! So we had a quick layover following our chat on Monday in New York. That is a crazy airport. Anyways just got on a plane from there to buzz straight to Moscow. I could have sworn Sister Moe and I were the only Americans on the plane. But it went pretty quick actually. We then landed in Moscow to begin a crazy day. We met a couple of nice American ladies that took us to the embassy down there in Moscow. Holy cow-we were in the part of Moscow you never see. I felt like I was in a dream the whole time and should have had Jason Bourne sitting in the seat next to me. The traffic there is absolute chaos. Russia in general is pretty unorganized in the traffic. I have no idea how we didn't die. Anyways, we then got registered for our other passports and then split from our other missionaries. They headed off to another airport and we were shipped back to Moscow airport. That was the craziest car ride I have ever had. They just sent us with some guy's friend they knew. He didn't talk the whole time and drove seriously like something from a movie. We were flying up and down the back roads and just in and out of the lanes that aren't painted on the ground. How we didn't die, I have no idea. That was miracle #1 from the week. We then were dropped off at the airport to wait there for 6 hours. It was pretty killer. Travelling is not on my top ten favorites I don't think. We pulled into Samara at about midnight and I swear the pilot just pulled into the parking lot. It was so funny to see the difference. Of course President and Sister Sartori were there to greet us and we got to bed about 2 or so. The next day was a bunch of orientation type stuff, which is when you got the picture. I met my trainer, Elder Christensen that afternoon and we had a quick meeting. Elder Christensen is from Murray (Utah) and has been out about a year. He is awesome. He is a little Taylor Walkenhorst-esque and is just patient and very good to me. He has been a great companion the last week and I am excited to work with him. We then were put in the car with the mission driver who I can't remember the name of and we were taken a couple hours to Tallyati where we would have zone conference the next two days. That was actually very nice to be in a meeting house and around other English speakers. They were all super nice and it was a very enjoyable couple of days. From there, we took off on a bus (Saturday morning) for a six or so hour ride up to beautiful Kazan! It was so nice to finally get to an area where I am supposed to be. It is a very unique city that is split by the river. We are in the north area and another companionship is in the south. And yes dad, I believe there are about 56 missionaries in the mission. Anyways the city is kinda it's own country. It is its own republic with like its own King. Pretty funny place. It's got a lot of Muslim mixed in the population and so there are just these super cool mosques and Russian cathedrals everywhere. Last night the mosque that is so cool across from us was doing the whole singing prayer. It is so cool here. I love the Muslim people here. They are so nice to us and will actually hear us out. It is such a wonderful place I am in.
I gotta explain real quick-holy cow it really is cold here. I am not gonna lie the last two days have been crazy cold. But I'm all bundled up and am taking it on like a champion. Scary thing is, everyone says it's all warm and just heating up here. It is a good time with that. I love the glittery snow here.
Yesterday was such an awesome day. It was my first day of being a normal missionary you could say. We travelled about 45 minutes to the branch building which is super nice. We had about 30 people at church, which supposedly we usually have about 50. It was some work day yesterday or something. But as I'm already playing the prelude music, Elder Christensen comes and tells me I will be giving a talk! He spoke before for about 20 minutes and I spoke for about ten. Wow welcome to Russia. I would like to say I gave a coherent talk, and all the members were so nice to me and said thank you thank you for piano and the talk. They are just as you picture them. Man, I love them so much. They were so funny yesterday. I can't wait for Sunday to come back around. I have begun to feel that love people talk about. They were so nice, and when we find the right people, they are so kind and accepting of us. I have a ton to learn, and really only understand nothing of what anyone says, but holy cow I love it. It truly is the Lord's work. I could feel the spirit so strong as a small group of us partook of the Sacrament. It was just the same as home. But something was just a little more radiant in the way it felt yesterday. It is a special place I am in. I wish you could be here to give a taste of what it really is like. I don't think I could do it justice. But overall, I love it. Yes it's hard, yes I don't understand anything, but I have such reason to be happy. They don't show it much, but when they do these people are so happy. I have loved to feel how the Spirit really can radiate from us. What a blessing it is to be a light to the people around us, even if it's just a quick hello. Hopefully this gave a good taste of how it is. It's tough, but I can't tell enough how much I love it and love Russia. I love you and am so thankful for you. I want to find a family like ours. Love you family!
Elder Nielson

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