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.