Saturday, July 26, 2008

Getting Settled

This picture is taken from the steps of the front door of our building. Our apartment building is two-sided, forming a corner. It is 9 stories and the playground/gathering area is in the center. Many of the apartments are privately owned by families, but some are privately owned and rented out (like ours). We were surprised at the number of cars in Yaro and especially when we found out they pay twice as much plus $16,000 as we do in the U.S.

That's Anne carrying groceries back from the market. Our front building door is on the right. Our apartment is the second level on the right. We love having it on the end so we don't have noise from other apartments.
Outside our building is a little fresh fruit and vegetable stand. They have very good produce and a large variety from apricots to watermelon. We love the apples and especially the tomatoes. There are two other little stands within a block, so it's really convenient to buy produce as we come home each day.

Getting into our apartment is quite a system. We have a numerical/magnetic pad for opening the solid steel outside door. On the second floor is the locked iron gate which services 4 apartments. The picture on the right shows the two apartment doors from the inside. There is one solid one and then the paneled door. We have joked that it is like being in prison to get into the apartment, but we feel very secure when we are in. There is a buzzer for visitors outside the main door which connects to a telephone inside our door. We have a button we push to unlock the building door. There is also a doorbell that can be pushed from outside the iron gate if someone gets in the building without calling us.
Look at the keys we have to use to get through all those doors. Magnetic key is the black button thing at the left, brass key on bottom is for the gate, silver key at top right is to first door to apartment and the normal looking key to the right is to the inside apartment door, which we never lock.
We really felt at home when we saw this restaurant just a block from our building. It's one of the better places to eat in Yaro. We're looking forward to a special occasion to try it out. They are supposed to have really good steaks.

This is our building from the Texas Restaurant parking lot. The building in front is a bank. We take this way home a lot of the times.

This is one of the main streets in Yaro. We take a bus like the one above to go to most of the places we need to go that are not within walking distance. If you look closely, you can see the golden arches of McDonalds on the right. They use the street banners for business advertising.
The branch building is about 1 1/2 miles from our apartment. We can walk to it in 20 minutes. It is in a multi-story business building. Ironically, the business next to it is a rather well-known night club. When we show people the map for getting there, they always say, "Oh, right next to the night club."
This is one of our favorite places to shop. It's the Real Mall. There is a nice home improvement store and a large grocery store. The food court has "American" pizza, Italian, Oriental and "Mexican" food. There is a cleaners we like, clothing and shoe stores, toy store, card shop, jewelry, flower shop, etc. It's about a 25 minute ride on the bus, but once we are there, we can do most of the shopping we need to and then catch the bus back. We had so much stuff one time, we had to call a taxi to take us home.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Arriving Yaroslavl

We flew from Provo to JFK airport in New York on Monday, July 7th, and had a short layover. Then, we flew to Moscow arriving at 10:30 am on Tuesday. We were met by President Cranney, the mission president, his wife and their Russian driver, Vasili. We drove to their home in Rosinka, a gated international community on the western side of Moscow. He oriented us to our mission, we spent the night and were driven by Vasili the next day to Yaroslavl. Shown below is a picture of the mission president's residence.

Russia has a policy for all non-citizens to leave the country every 3 months to renew their visas. While we were in the MTC, church leadership made the decision that because of the cost and disruption of the work due to the frequency of visa renewal, there will only be native Russians called to serve missions here. There were 33 missionaries who came to the MTC on the Wednesday we were there and all but 5 were given new mission call letters. They are working on obtaining temporary residence status for couples since they do not move around. These would be good for one year. Most of the missionaries are having to go to Madrid for renewal because Estonia closed it's renewal for missionaries. We are scheduled to go in September to Madrid.

The trip from Moscow to Yaroslavl took about 3 1/2 hours. As we left the city we saw that it was full of high rise apartment buildings. Rosinka was the only place where we saw two story town homes. Once we got outside of the city the countryside was quite beautiful.

(You can double click on these smaller pictures to see a larger version)

The picture above left shows the forests on both sides of the road. There were wild flowers in several places along the highway. Russia has a lot of military monuments. Here is a memorial with a tank. Russia lost more people in World War II than all the other allies combined. We drove by the spot in western Moscow where Russia stopped the German invasion in WWII and there was a monument there also. The Russian Orthodox churches are quite unique. Here is a picture of one in a small village on the way up to Yaroslavl.

One of the unique things about Russia is the "datches". These are small country homes that the city dwellers love to get away to on the weekends. One of our new friends, Sasha, said that his mother's is 15 square meters in the middle of nowhere and has a small structure on it. Many grow vegetables or flowers there and sell them in the city.

We arrived in Yaroslavl about 10:30 am and spent several hours with the Yorgesen's getting oriented to the apartment and to the city. They left about 5 pm with Vasili who is on the right in the picture below. Also included in the picture is Sasha on the left, who is a new convert, baptized last October in the river, and Tanya, who is a returned missionary. Both Sasha and Tanya speak English very well and have been very helpful to us since we arrived.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

MTC Experience

Kathy Terry, another of Anne's sisters, met us at the rental car agency on Monday morning, and drove us to the MTC, arriving a little after 10 am. We were oriented and split into districts of four couples. Rick was chosen as district leader for our district.
Here is a picture of our district. Notice where each couple was going on their mission: the Reeves, Seoul, Korea; the Mairs, Jacksonville, Mississippi; the Mejias, San Juan, Puerto Rico; and us to Moscow.
Here we are in front of a world map pointing to Yaroslavl. (This picture was at the head of our blog for the first months of our mission.)

There are from 1600 - 2600 missionaries in the MTC each week, yielding about 20,000 per year. While we were there, there were approximately 2100. Missionaries are in the MTC for anywhere from 1 to 12 weeks. The ones in the longest are learning a language.

The statue to the left is of Samuel Smith, the prophet Joseph Smith's brother, who was the first missionary for our church in 1830.

The statue to the right represents the common mode of transportation for many missionaries.

Here is a picture of all the 30 or so senior missionary couples plus 6 senior sisters that we spent the week with. We are in the top right corner of the group. This group will disperse to more than 12 countries throughout the world.

It was a wonderful experience sitting through all the training. The Spirit was very strong, moving many of us to tears more than once.

On the last day there, the President of the MTC was giving a talk and mentioned that he went to see the mission president he had when he was a young man, a President Greene. Rick went up to him afterward and asked if it was Alva Greene and he said it was. That was Rick's mission president also when he went on his first mission to the North British mission, now called England Manchester mission. We got the contact info for President Greene and spent a lovely hour with he and his wife visiting. He is 92 and in really great shape.

Oops, got caught with my eyes closed.

Monday morning at 5 am we began our trip to Moscow.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pre-MTC Experience

We arrived in Salt Lake City on Tuesday June 24th and stayed with Anne's sister Sue & Jerry Monson till Monday the 30th, when we entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. On Wednesday, the 25th, and Thursday we spent from 9 am to 5 pm getting extra Russian language training from our tutor Justin Bogh. It was great to meet him in person after spending three months on the phone with him.

One of Justin's passions in life is soccer. Katia Vertai substituted for him on Friday afternoon because Russia was playing Spain in the semi-finals of the World Cup that afternoon. Katia, on the left, is a native Russian speaker from the Ukraine who also is a returned missionary from the Cincinnati Ohio mission. Yes, she was called from the Ukraine to go on her mission. Katia also tutored us on Saturday morning.

On Friday we attended the wedding and reception of Anne's nephew in Manti Ut. All her brothers and sisters were there.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Family Reunion 08

The week before we left, 30 of our 34 family members gathered for a last reunion. We took the picture above and spent three days camping on our property, swimming, riding horses, eating, hiking, riding ATV's, eating, fishing, visiting, playing games, and eating. We will all have fond memories of our time together.

The evening before we started the reunion, 4 of our children and their spouses joined us for a session in the Dallas Temple. We officiated and It was an emotional experience for us.

The week before the reunion, we took those who were in town to the Fort Worth Zoo. We had a great time!

This is a picture of 9 of our grandchildren plus a good family friend taming the giant iguana.

One other milestone event that took place just before we all got together was Rick's retirement dinner. Five of our children and most of their spouses were there for this special occasion. We were joined by Rick's manager, Avalyn Pace, and department director, Tanya Bubash.