Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 5: Winter has begun!

 Blessings: I think the biggest blessing this week was that I didn't get frostbite! The weather took a nasty turn, and now Gorlovka is covered in snow and blistering cold wind! On Saturday we shoveled snow for 3 1/2 hours outside of the church, but because it was so windy and snowy we had to do it again Sunday morning. On Sunday, it was -18 F (counting windchill). The wind would hit my contacts and make my eyes water, and as the tear (if you could call it that) fell down my face, it froze before it hit my jawbone. So yes, I was definitely underestimating the weather, but I made it through the first week alright :P

Happenings for the week: Snow! Lots of it. The streets are completely frozen over, and I've fallen...a lot. Well I take that back, I fell a lot in one day. 3 times. But! I'm not falling anymore! I'm a little more prepared and careful!  So last week we had to do a last minute move across the city because our old, awful apartment is getting renovated. However, the apartment we moved in to (with elders Porter/Lambert) Is 30 minutes away from Center, and Center is 30 minutes away from the area we were working (by bus). This last week we've spent at least 3 hours a day on buses commuting, it sucks! Good news though! Today we are moving up to Solnechy, which is the Eastern part of the city. It's apparently a really nice apartment (by Ukrainian standards at least), so I'll make sure to send pictures when we go up there. I haven't seen it yet. As for this coming week, the branch is holding a Christmas program during Sacrament. There will be narrations, songs, etc. etc. The coordinator was talking to Sister Southam about who she wanted to be the male narrarator, and out of everyone in the branch, she chose me. Just my luck, right? Haha. Needless to say, I've been practicing the script pretty intensely. We usually have 60-70 people show up to church each Sunday, but for this next week everyone will be bringing their friends, and we are trying to break an attendance record of over 100+ people. It will be hard because it's so cold, but hopefully we can pull it off. I just don't want to make another "Life can be spoons" mistake, especially with so many visitors :P Oh, and lastly, yesterday we were in the apartment, and heard a big BOOM, and smoke was everywhere. Turns out the electrical socket blew up, and took the cord that was in it with it. Yes, it literally blew the cord apart. Welcome to Ukraine! The room still has a lingering sulfur smell, but like I said we get to move out today so it doesn't affect me!

Random Fact: Soooo because there's so much snow here, and because it's cold , the parents here wrap their kids up like the little kid in " A Christmas story", and they seriously can't walk for more than a couple steps. I've seen some kids fall in the snow and just sit there because they can't get up, I'm laughing just thinking about it. Anyways, because they can't move, parents pull their kids on little sleds everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It's so cool!

Lessons we taught: Lessons have been tough because of our commuting, so there's nothing really new to report. We made Baklava (sp?) with a less active, that was pretty fun. This last week we focused a lot on less actives, and inviting them to the Christmas program this upcoming Sunday. We gave a really awesome lesson about blessings, and how if you want blessings, you need to be thankful for the blessings that you already have. Life itself is a blessing, we are all so lucky! Being here a month has shown me that I have SO much to be grateful for, and it has really changed my perspective.

Scripture of the week: 1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

I love this because it's so true. Pres. Monson said "Look not at how people are, but what they can become" Goethe has a good quote about that, but I can't remember it word for word. I love being able to look at anyone, and see the light in them. It's truly amazing what a positive outlook can help you see.

Sorry for the spelling errors, my hands are frozen!

Love you all!

"That is the inside of a door, frozen over. Yeah, it's cold."
"Some of the roads in Gorlovka"

"The plug that I was talking about that blew up, haha!"

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week 4: Contacting, Spells, & Spoons?!?

Okay! I thought of a clever little way to arrange this for maximum productivity! Let's give it a go.

Blessings: K, so this week I have had a couple cool experiences. There was one day where we were going out contacting at 7AM. We always go from 7-8:30 to try and get to meet people that need help or are interested in our message. This one particular day it was raining (of course..). We went an hour and 20 minutes of walking miles in the rain with no one wanting to talk to us. We ended up outside our apartment building with 10 minutes left, and decided to finish strong instead of going in early. At 8:35 we walked back to our apartment building with no success (Success being conversations, in this case). Then, the very last two people we talked to were people that were both interested in what we had to say. If we wouldn't have gone out the extra 10 minutes, we wouldn't have found them and been able to get their contact info. We're hoping to meet with them this next week. It was little, but it was definitely a testimony builder about enduring to the end. Don't ever sell yourself short!
Experience for the week: This last Thursday we had splits, and we went out with some of the ward members. This was an interesting experience, mainly because the man I was going out with speaks 0 English. We talked a little bit, and proceeded to contact through the night and visit some less active members. There was one guy who followed us for like, 20 minutes yelling. I didn't think anything of it at the time, because that's just Ukraine. He followed us around shaking his fists and screaming. Every time we'd go talk to someone he would yell something and they'd hurry away. After a while I turned around, went up to talk to him, handed him a brochure with a smile, and said "If you need help, our number is on the back!" Well, during one of our meetings this last Sunday they asked how splits went. The man who went with me said he was pretty shaken up, because  that guy was apparently a Satanist trying to cast spells on us. I don't know what's worse, the fact he was trying to cast spells on us or the fact that it didn't seem out of the ordinary to me? 
Interesting Fact: It's bad luck/taboo to whistle here, and it's really looked down upon to books on the ground. I really wish I knew that before I put my Book of Mormon on the ground to tie my shoes while whistling. 
Lessons: This week we taught a ton of less active/Recent convert lessons. We've also been bringing a lot of recent converts with us in on lessons to bear testimony of what a blessing the gospel has been to them. It's been a great experience for everyone. I've been practicing teaching the lessons about the restoration of our church, and the plan of Salvation this last week. During one lesson, an older woman was pouring her heart out about all of the trials she had in our life. I was trying to console her, by saying something along the lines of "Life can be incredibly difficult, but..." But instead, I some how got my words mixed up and said "Life can be incredible spoons". Yeah, it was pretty embarrassing but gave me a good laugh. I guess that's how you learn the hard way, haha. 
Scripture of the week: Proverbs 29:18. "Where there is no vision, the people perish". How true is that? I could go on forever talking about how many different interpretations this could offer, but I think I'll leave it to your imaginations. 
Thank you for all of your support and love, I really appreciate it. I hope you have a fantastic week!

Good news!
***It turns out that we have to move tonight last minute all the way across the city. It's like an hour away. We are living with the other 2 missionaries, Lambert and Porter because they are doing last minute renovations on our apartment, then after a week we are moving to the opposite end of the city for good. Apparently it's going to be a super duper nice apartment though so I'm happy about that :) I'll take pictures as soon as I see it. ***

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Week 3 in Gorlovka!

Hello World! 
This week has been yet another great week in Gorlovka. So first off, the weather here has actually been great. It's way warmer than what it usually is here, so I'm definitely grateful for that. It's been pretty rainy, so it's been very reminiscent of home.

I'm trying to think of where to begin. Hm. Well, I saw a dead dog frozen on the sidewalk one day. That was pretty weird I guess. There's tons of dogs here, and I've seen a lot of weird dogs already even though I haven't been here for very long. On a different note I found out that Gorlovka has a 5% chance of blowing up each year. 

(Click here to read more about it!)
Hurray for abandoned Soviet factories! haha. 

Fun fact: Instead of painting walls over, Ukrainians rub a weird chalk substance on it, so if you bump into it, your clothes get covered and it's super hard to get off. I'm a clumsy guy, so it kinda sucks. 

Okay! Enough jumping around! So this week has been hectic. Since we run double the normal size area, we have a lot of people to meet with and not a lot of time for contacting. (Which is a bummer, I really like contacting). When I say contacting, I mean to people on the street. Our investigators are all doing well. On Wednesday we got five new investigators. Talk about hectic, Lots of lessons! The Russian is coming along fine, but it's kind of hard because people here speak Russian with a Ukrainian twist on some pronunciations. It makes me think twice about what is being said.

Sorry this is short, I'm out of time. In short though ,this week I have been thinking a lot about my blessings. Even though the living conditions are less than ideal and I'm not 100% sure of what's going on all the time, I feel super blessed to be given the opportunity to be out here helping people, whether it be coming closer to Christ or just bettering their lives in general. We have been blessed with a lot of people that want to listen to our message, and it's really cool to see how often they agree with our doctrine. Sadly, even though they agree with it they are too addicted to alcohol or other substances that turns them off of it. It's kind of scary to see how much of a hold some of the addictions here have on peoples lives.

Anyways, I promise next week will be more substance filled. I love you all! Thank you for everything that you do for me. 



Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Week in Ukraine!

So here is what's happened this week, mixed in with some fun facts about Ukraine. 

Food: I've been eating a lot of healthy food. Can you believe that? My diet consists of lots of veggies and bread (I don't know if I said this or not, but you can get a loaf of homemade bread for just under 40 cents. Potatoes are dirt cheap too) The milk...well, the milk isn't that good. It tastes like you're sucking it right out of the utter. I try to stay away from milk. ;)

This week we've been teaching a lot of people, so we haven't had too much time for contacting on the street. I never thought I'd like talking to random people so much, but I do! I guess part of it is because I don't really understand when they're swearing at me or making fun of me. I went up to one guy to talk to him, and he started yelling and waving his hands, kicking his legs out and just throwing an all around fit. It was funny! I started to laugh and nod, then said "Very nice to meet you! Goodbye!" The guy was left with a blank stare on his face. Nothing really to say. Some people know English, but the extent of it is "Hello America!" or "(expletive America!), so that kinds of leaves out any chance of them picking up what I'm saying in English.

 I don't know if you noticed, but we don't have a dryer. We have to hang our clothes all of our apartment to dry them. Normally I wouldn't care, but for some reason when we wash them here the water makes them smell like they've been rotting in some smokers apartment for 3 1/2 years. When we went shopping today, I dropped some money on the best Tide clothes smelling stuff they had.

Fun fact: 81% of senior missionaries who get called to Europe East reject it. Hahaha

This Sunday I gave a talk in sacrament. Of course it was the week that the AP's showed up. It wasn't too long, and I was happy to get it over with. Afterwards people told me it was good, and someone thought I'd been here for 6 months because apparently I have a good accent? Needless to say, it felt good knowing people can see that I'm trying. I've been talking to people on public transportation lately. Everyone looks at us funny because we stand out as Americans so much, and on transports every looks at me because I"m too tall and I have to duck forward. That's why I always have my goofy looking smile plastered on my face. If people are always watching, I might as well look happy. You wouldn't believe how many people give me the strangest looks because I Look happy! Haha.

Another fun fact: A lot of the men around here work in a local coal mine. You can tell they're miners because it looks like they have eyeliner on 24/7. At first I thought it was some weird Gothic movement, until Smith told me what was going on. It reminds me of the movie October skies, where they all go down into the shaft. It's tough work, and a lot of people get sick from it. I doubt the mine would be open if it had to follow American health regulations. Actually, I know it wouldn't be open. 

This goes back to contacting, but I don't think I've ever smelled so much alcohol in the morning, let alone the whole day as I do when I'm contacting around here. People are drunk 24/7! It reeks. We go out at 7Am to talk to people, and we see them walking to work holding a bottle of vodka. Welcome to Ukraine.

Oh! Here's something that will make you be grateful for the roads back home. So next time you see a pothole and complain, be grateful! The potholes here at several feet deep! And man holes that lead into the sewer, they just leave open! I saw a poor old babooska almost fall into one. Some are so deep that they plant trees in them to try and prevent people from falling into them. I swear, if this city was in America there would be sooooooo much money to be made in lawsuits. It's ridiculous! Every where I go I think "Liability! Liability! Liability!" 

Thank you for all of the support back home. I love you all! I hope that your lives are all going well, I've been thinking about you all. Even though I make fun of Ukraine, I love it here. The people here are....special. They hold a special place in my heart! Sorry this is short, but once again we're short on time. I'll send some pictures now.


"The best buy since I've been in Ukraine: A new toilet seat. We couldn't find any that didn't have dolphins or dragons on them. I guess they like dolphins?"
"When the sun hits the air right here, it lets off the most gorgeous reflection ever, regardless if it's a dumpy apartment complex."
"Our church building! It's a lot nicer than I ever thought it'd be."
"Enchanted forest from Winnie the Pooh right next to the church"
"Statue of Stalin (tons of them around here)"