October 14, 2013
I saw my first unique sight yesterday. My companion and I were walking around Center Odessa and we saw a woman ironing a tree. She was standing next to the tree with an iron for clothes in her hand, moving it up and down the tree. I was curious and thought it could open up a conversation so I asked her why she was doing it. She looked back at me and said because of the wrinkles. Then asked where I am from. I told her America. She said okay, and then immediately went back to ironing as though we weren’t even there. As we were walking away, I really wanted to get a picture but decided not to. Really kicking myself for that right now. Wish one was on my camera.
I had an idea for a finding activity that worked out pretty well. My companion and I picked up a big white board and wrote on it, “We are learning Russian, come talk with us.” Then sat on a park bench with the board between us. At first, people were just walking by, but then I started waving to get peoples’ attention and pointing to the sign. A lot of people started stopping to talk to us. At one point, there were six people trying to talk to us two missionaries. It was a good opportunity for language practice, and we were able to get a referral from someone who lived in Kiyv, but wanted to know more about the church. So we passed that along up north. It was the most successful thing we did this week.
Serving in Odessa has been pretty nice. One of the most effective ways we have been contacting is asking people the history of the city, some building, or statue. Usually, people want to know about our tags, and are a lot more willing to listen to us talk about the church when we have an unrelated conversation for ten or so minutes. My companion has told me doing it this way is much more effective, because we can usually have three good conversations in an hour. Whereas, times where he has spent six straight hours saying he is missionary and waving a Book of Mormon in front of people has only given five good conversations for the whole six hours. We have also been able to learn more about the city. There is a huge hotel down on the main pier that has been closed for years, which was very surprising to us because it’s in the perfect spot for tourism.
We were able to watch Conference this last weekend also. All the missionaries from our zone came to my local branch building and we watched two sessions on Saturday night, with the other three sessions being on Sunday. Some of the missionaries were very nice and brought food for everyone. One of them made this delicious oven baked macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs on top. Very delicious. Another of the sisters made some pretty awesome zucchini bread, and two elders made some okay banana bread. It was cool to have so many of us together and nice to see everyone. I also was able to talk with one sister missionary who was in my district in the MTC.
Sadly, all Elder K and myself can do right now is contacting, which is not the most enjoyable activity. We are going to try to set up some meetings with members and look for service opportunities this week. While walking down a street, I was able to give help to one person who was trying to take down a sign, which was way cool. But most Ukrainians look at you like you are crazy when you ask them if they need any help. It takes a lot of pushing to get them to accept any.
Life is good and the work moves on. First full week of real work is not finished, and now onto the second one.
P.S. (This is from a letter full of questions I sent to Elder Hancock, and he replied back and answered them:
We have a church branch here. Our meeting house is in a great spot. Right in Center Odessa and probably 150 feet from the big Opera House in the city. It cost the church 2,000,000 USD, from what I have been able to understand.
Our apartment is new, so there are a lot of things we had to find our first week. Like an iron, cooking supplies, and all sorts of living things. We do not have beds, so I have been sleeping on a couch that is about a foot too short for my height. My feet just hang off the arm rest of it each night. We also do not have an oven, which kind of blows.
The food here ranges from absolutely delicious to way bad. Some of the crazier things are Kefir, which is basically soured milk. Not enjoyable to drink, way chunky. And then one is a mayonnaise cake. Just as it sounds. A layer of mayonnaise then one of bread crumbs, followed by an additional layer of mayonnaise. It is literally just mayonnaise. They like to put sour cream on their desserts here, which works surprising well. It’s different than the sour cream we buy in the U.S. and is a little more sweet. I tried this one dessert which is a dumpling filled with cherries and boiled. Then sugar and sour cream are spread over the top of it. That, oddly enough, was awesome.
The weather in Odessa is nice right now, about 60 – 70 degrees every day. Up north is getting a lot colder though. Down to freezing temperatures.
Sadly, I have only been able to talk with a handful of members so far. With time that will improve.