November 25, 2013
This week Elder K and I had a moment that caused us to say to ourselves, “Well, this is Ukraine…” One morning we decided to go stop by the house of an inactive member who President A asked us to visit. He lived about an hour walk away from our house, and it also happened to be raining, which was fun.
Along the way we saw a man wearing a tank top, underwear, and slippers outside the front door of a butcher shop smoking a cigarette. That didn’t faze us too much. He was yelling at another man who drove up in an old Soviet looking sedan. The man in the car stepped out and they started yelling back and forth. It was not an argument or angry at all, rather them just trying to get business done. As we walked past the car, the driver opened up his trunk to reveal six skinned cow legs lying of the floor. There was no plastic to separate the meat from this old and dirty floor. Rather, they were free to move around, rubbing up against the walls and having all sorts of dirt cover them. He picked one of them up, threw it over his back, and walked into the front door of the butcher. Elder K and I just looked at one another and said, “I cannot believe that just happened.” For the next twenty minutes of our walk, I kept laughing about what we had seen.
To help with my Russian, I bought a small children’s book from the store to read. While walking out we set off the anti-theft alarm so someone came over to check our bag. He determined it was the book, checked our receipt, and let us on our way. Later, I looked in the last page of the book, saw the little RFID chip that set off the alarm, and pulled it off. While looking it over, a thought came to my mind that I am sure is nothing short of revelation. “What if I hide this in the jacket of another elder so whenever he walks into a store the alarm will go off?” Obviously, I was going to follow this direction.
At first, having the chip on me caused a bit of problem. At one point I wanted a Twix, but forgot about what was on my person. Elder K and I walked into a store and immediately set off the alarm. We told the security guard what had caused it. He told us to throw it away, which I refused.
In the checkout line, I went to pick up my Twix. As soon as I touched it, the stack became unstable and five of them fell onto the ground. The same security guard that talked to us on the way in was standing only five feet away and saw the whole thing. I tried to put them back but they kept sliding off. After a minute of doing this and the guard shaking his head, one of the cashiers just told us to bring them to her. I paid for the one I wanted and as we walked out, set off the alarm again. We did not return to that store for a couple of days.
This inconvenience was worth it though. The next day we had the opportunity to plant the chip inside the jacket of one of the other elders in our district. It has been with him for the past three days and he is becoming very irritated. We have no plans on telling him the truth any time soon.
Elder K and I were able to find a potential investigator this week. His name is Y and we met him through the English practice we hold on Thursdays and Saturdays. Over the past couple of weeks he has been attending and has stayed to play ping pong with us after the practices. Right now he is in Odessa to go to the maritime academy here and plans to be a sailor. Which is why he wants to learn English. He asked about our church services and even attended Sacrament Meeting this last week. We plan to meet some time in the coming days, and hopefully something will come out of this.
Our Thanksgiving plans have completely blown up this week. At first we planned to do something with our district and invited two elders from a different district to join, because they are currently living in Center while their apartment situation in their area is worked out. The other elders in their district found out and wanted to join us, which then led to their entire district coming. And then of course, the other two districts caught wind of what is going on and asked to join. So we now have everyone in our zone except four people coming this Thursday for dinner. It has been trying to organize this many people.
Fortunately, turkeys do exist in Ukraine, but it is more of an uncommon ingredient. Therefore, finding them becomes an adventure. I was able to go to a grocery store that sells foreign ingredients like peanut butter, and found raw, cut up turkey breast. But not a whole one. One of the elders in my zone was actually able to buy a whole turkey. He did not find one in a grocery store though, instead having to go to a reenok (similar to a bazaar). There was a butcher there with turkeys. He picked out the one he wanted and the butcher went to work. In front of the elders, he cut off the head and then took a torch to burn off all of the feathers. Today I am going to a mall which has a line of German of grocery stores to see if they will have whole, frozen turkeys. With luck they will. Otherwise I am going to have to take my chances buying meat from the reenok.
Pumpkins are also common here, but not pumpkin pie. One of the sisters made it for some members and the members went crazy over it.
Christmas season here is different than what they have in the U.S. During the Soviet times, the government wanted to move holidays away from those with religious meaning. Therefore, they curbed any celebration of Christmas and instead promoted New Years. Christmas has been getting more momentum in recent years, but it still pales in comparison to New Years. New Years is so out of hand here that they do not allow missionaries on the streets during the celebration. People are way to reckless and drunk making it unsafe. I am not sure if Santa is a thing here.
Everyone is the mission is saying that Thanksgiving this year is on the fourth week of November, not the third. It is true, and if so, will you explain why?
This coming week should be fun and full of adventure. I hope things work out well.