November 4, 2013
Sorry for not sending out a letter last week. I had a lot of personal emails to respond to last week and I forgot to send out a group email.
On my first, second, or third day in the country, an American man came to the church in Center wanting to know when we were going to broadcast General Conference. His name is G. We asked him what he was doing in Ukraine to which he replied, “dating”. It is very common here so none of us were surprised about that, but it did shock us that he was so up front on the subject. Most people give and answer along the lines of business, tourism, or whatever; but if it’s a single man in his thirties to sixties, they are dating. We gave him our contact info and said if at any point help was needed, just to give us a call.
After that he showed up at the church maybe once or twice a week until around the 23 of September. After seeing a dozen or so ladies, G only had a single week left to find the love of his life and had yet to see her. The last girl he planned on meeting with lived up north which meant he had to buy a train ticket to get to her.
He walked to the vagzal (metro line) but was not able to work through the language, resulting in us receiving a phone call for help. It was not inconvenient, because vagzal is about a twenty five minute walk from our apartment, and buying the ticket went smoothly. G was so grateful for the help that he offered to buy us dinner after he met this girl.
Fast forward a couple of days to G’s return from the cold north. I gave him a call asking if he still wanted to do dinner, to which he said of course. When we met that night he told us that the last girl he met was the perfect one and had accepted his wedding proposal. All of us missionaries were way happy for him.
As he talked about his fiancé, my jaw dropped. She is twenty years old, extremely pretty, currently speaks Russian, Ukrainian, English and French, has a bachelor’s degree, and comes from a very wealthy family with influence in the government. Her family is so wealthy that they are paying for the wedding to be held in Crimea Ukraine, which is one of the nicest places in the country. I have been trying to figure out a good reason why a pretty, well educated, and wealthy young woman would reason that she needed to go to mail order bride websites and the only one that I can think of is that her family are mob members who want to extend their influence to the United States. I don’t think that is the case though.
We had a good dinner and afterward G took us all out to get dessert at this way nice bakery where we have been wanting to go. G needed our help two other times with shipping a package and picking up his boarding pass to go home. He even bought dinner a second time. This last week has been incredibly busy.
Food in Ukraine is very different than in the U.S. One of the biggest changes I had to work with is the milk here. It is a little sweet which was okay to move past, but my favorite part is that they do not refrigerate it in the stores. Rather it sits in bags on the shelf and can stay there for months. Once the bag is opened, then it needs to stay cold, but up to that point, room temperature is just fine.
I had a pretty interesting meal at member’s house last Friday night. They served us whole boiled potatoes which you mash on a plate, coat with sunflower oil, and place a carrot salad on top. That was pretty good. The more troubling parts of the meal are as follows. They pulled out a bowl of uncooked fish about two inches long, removed the head and guts, and placed them on a plate. Like how we would eat shrimp in the U.S. These fish were definitely fresh water which as missionaries, we are given strict instruction to avoid, (radiation, food borne illnesses, and unsafe minerals). They tasted similar to sardines except more fishy and the bones added a heavy texture. Then they gave us each a whole tomato that had been pickled. That was without a doubt the toughest thing to eat. It was a good experience though.
Sadly, my companion and I have not seen any obvious results in our missionary work this week. We are getting better at contacting though, and I am taking on more of that load as my vocabulary increases. Ready to go jump at another week.