Well, glad to hear you all made it to Torrey and back...still have no idea where that is. But that was fun to see the pics and video, I now know. Thanks for sending that.
We've been pretty busy around here with everything that is going on. I'm sure you are wondering about the Schwabs. Man they are just awesome. We are so excited and President Schwab especially is just perfect. It is a little bit nerve racking to be sending our old one out and picking up a "new guy" from the airport and things, but holy cow he is just awesome. Most of our time has been spent takin’ care of them and already have some great memories and things.
Earlier in the week we had a few days to get a little bit of work done which was sweet. It's kind of funny because we'll get slammed with administrative stuff and then all the sudden we get that done and haven't been able to find any new people to meet with and things, and so we just have an open day with no appointments or anything set up- basically we had one of those on Wednesday which was actually way fun. We just owned the streets all day and got let into a guy knocking and got him a Book of Mormon and things. I love those kind of days- Heavenly Father always makes something happen for us and it's just fun.
Anyways, that was the first half of the week and then Thursday was the big day we have been waiting for- we went to the airport in the afternoon and picked up the Schwabs! That was super fun and we brought them back here. I have so much respect for these mission presidents coming out- we had a couple of questions with him for some of his scheduling and we sat down and looked at a calendar, and he just looks up with this helpless face and just says, "what day is it today?" It was so funny, the poor guy is just sent out here and just thrown into everything cold turkey after a huge long flight and time change and everything. Anyways, so we have basically spent the last few days of pretty much every minute with him just catching him up to speed and things. They came to church with us and bore their testimonies yesterday and the spirit was just so strong and perfect, they are great to have out here.
So, there wasn't too much to write, so I figured I'd give you a countdown of some good things about Russia:
6) They have just pride in who they are and what they have that's for sure. They love their language, culture, everything and they will let you know about it. They love that their language is difficult and I can't tell you how many thousands of conversations I have had of just saying, "yes your language is hard, yes I like it here, yes the Volga [river] is beautiful, yes I like people here..." etc.
5) They love to help people out- a lot of times they may seem a little bit crusty but if you will ask a person on the street for directions, they will throw themselves in front of a bus to show you where to go. Often, I'll just ask somebody for directions to get a conversation started and never ever get around to anything besides them just taking us or showing us where to go and explaining every possible way to get somewhere.
4) Everything is a memorial here to somebody. For example, they just put a plaque up of a guy that played soccer for the Samara soccer team up on our apartment. He played 40 years ago. But there are some sweet big statues or squares with some cool stuff on it. A lot of big things that we don't really have back in our neck of the woods.
3) They love to be dressed up and feel fancy. - the girls love the hi-heels and even men are always in collars and things. They feel all fancy going to their little plays or shows or symphonies and honestly you can tell they love to feel cool. It cracks me up.
2) A lot of times they think that they just HAVE to give you something. For example, I have a lighter that a guy gave me in Saratov on the bus just because, or I've gotten multiple chocolates from old ladies on the little Marshrytka vans, or easter eggs, or other lighters (they all pack lighters- don’t know why they give me them), or even an ice cream from a guy on the tram. That's my favorite one. Anyways, they always feel the need to give you something. I always laugh about it and there is no refusing or you'll offend somebody.
1) They love to see us with just big smiles- it stops a lot of people. They may not hear anything or listen (or maybe understand us) but they just have a desire to be happy. That has been my biggest tool on the mission.
Anyways, don't know if that gives you anything. And I don’t know why I had 6 things but it gives you an idea. But, things are good and we are just keepin’ on. Got some good weeks ahead travelling around with president and so we're looking forward to that! Love you all!
[a couple of more funny little things Elder Nielson commented on from questions we asked him]
Ya it has been good to have exchanges and things going on. It is interesting because it makes me more physically tired and things, but I am more energized and excited as we get to just get out and do normal work. I'm sure you saw it sometimes that missionaries sometimes look for any excuse to not do that work, but it is fun to get out there and encourage them to do some work and be excited about it. I have definitely seen what President Bangerter talked about in my setting apart about being hard working and obedient, because that is what we do on exchanges. Kinda cool. Sleep is fine, the sun is setting earlier and raising now later which is good. I still wake up at about 5:30, but for most of the summer I would wake up at about 4:00 ish because that is when the sun comes up. But sleep is fine- good exercise is key to get that blood pumpin!
Ya we have heard plenty about that guy that got stuck in Moscow or whatever it is. I swear everyone here knows more about America and what is going on than I do- they just assume that we care as much about all that gossip kind of stuff as they do. Haha but we don't really see too much as far as tension goes- if people are mad at us it is something to do with World War II or something dumb like that and we are just like- "man that was like 40 years before I was born". They think that we are taught that America won the war- I don't even know what to believe anymore!
Thanks for the prayers and everything- we are totally safe and things. And especially right now we're just doin’ everything to make sure that President Schwab is feeling comfortable and keeping his head on. I cannot believe how much that man has to do- and on top of that he has no idea what it is, he just hears that he has to do it so we just kind of follow him around like a couple of puppies. But we are good puppies that will catch a frisbee from him!