November 18, 2013
This last week was the end of my first transfer serving in Ukraine. I am still with Elder K in Center Odessa, which is great, because all the other missionaries say it is the most pretty part of the mission. I am inclined to agree with this so far. To close out last district meeting for the transfer, Elder K and I held an award ceremony. We handed out a small gift/award to each of the members of the district based on a talent or funny story involving them. To one missionary we gave a bag of raw, freshwater fish and some dried milk to help in his culinary efforts. Two incredibly useless ingredients. One of the sisters was given a Hello Kitty notebook to help with organization. It was a fun way to close out our last meeting together and afterward we took a photo together.
As another way of sending off those being transferred out, we splurged and ate at Buffalo 99. A restaurant only in Odessa that sells American food. It is the only place besides McDonalds where we can pick up a burger, and more importantly, BBQ sauce. Elder H put BBQ sauce on and in everything on his plate. Fries, burger, and even the coleslaw. As he explained it, there are very few opportunities to have BBQ sauce, so you might as well get your money’s worth when it’s available. He probably ate a quarter of the bottle to himself. Surprisingly, the sauce in coleslaw worked well.
President Klebingat has given a new rule where every companionship needs to contact at least fifty people on the street every day. It is not difficult to hit this mark, but does take planning time for contacting. On Thursday, Elder K and I set out to hit this goal and started walking around near the Black Sea, talking to people. We saw one person who is angry with us for not giving him money a couple weeks earlier. This ended up being a very awkward moment.
Not less than five minutes after bumping into an old acquaintance, we were attacked by a pack of four dogs. While walking past an alley I saw a dog sleeping, looked at him, and said “oh you just keep on sleeping there.” The dog immediately looked up at me, started barking, and his three other friends came running out after us. Elder K was bit just above the ankle. The miracle though, is that this morning he decided to wear his boots for the first time this year, and the leather stopped the dog’s teeth. Otherwise, we would have had to track it down, kill it, and take the dog to go get tested for rabies. There are so many feral dogs here in Ukraine.
Another way we try to talk to people is sitting on a bench in a park with a sign between us that reads, “We are learning Russian. Please talk with us.” One day we did not have much to do, so we filled some of our time with this. Not a single person stopped to talk. However, a lot of people stopped to take photos of us. The highlight though was with this one babushka. She was walking past, read the sign, and then said, “I am from Russia, and you will never be able to learn Russian.” Elder K and I did not know what to say to one another. She was so blunt about it. Afterward, we laughed because it was the complete opposite of how people normally react. It is usually, “That is way cool”, “Good idea”, or “Russian is a hard language, keep trying and it will come.” Very unexpected to say the least.
A missionary who was released this last transfer is currently doing a mission tour through Odessa with his parents. As such, they invited us and a couple other missionaries over on Sunday night to join them for dinner. Not more than five minutes after showing up at their apartment, the power went out. This is not uncommon for Ukraine. We still moved forward with our plans and ate dinner by candlelight. It was a fun experience and gave some cool lighting for storytelling. Just before we left, everyone sang two Christmas carols.
This week has been good overall. Not much has happened in way of finding investigators, but the work is still fun.