February 3, 2014
The course of this past week has kept me very busy. At zone conference, President L talked about the importance of working through members. He shared some stories from his service as mission president in the Russian Samara mission, where his missionaries had success in finding people to teach through working with the branch. Our mission reacted to this by telling everyone to emphasize meeting with members and serving them. As such, I have filled my week by spending time with the people in their homes. This has been a nice change of pace, because in the past week or two, the weather took a dive to more cold temperatures. And with this change, people generally don’t want to talk on the streets. Not to mention that being outside for several hours at a time is not enjoyable. No matter how many layers someone wears; with enough time the cold will work its way through.
The zone leaders came down to do exchanges with my companion and myself on Tuesday right after our district meeting. My exchange was a little different because Elder H, who I was with, was sick. And with this, we had to spend our time inside. It actually ended up being a nice experience because we were able to have some good conversations about missionary work and he worked with me on language study. In the evening, I scheduled two meetings with members so we did make it out of the apartment in order to go to those. The first was a quick stop by the Elders Quorum president to talk about an inactive member my companion and I are trying to work with. The second visit was very nice. We met with an older member whose husband has passed away. She was very happy to have us over and told us how she found the church and in what ways it has improved her life. Having a more senior companion who understands the language well was probably the nicest part of the whole experience. He was able to talk to the members in a much deeper way that I am not capable of right now.
A small thing that was funny about the exchange was how shocked Elder H was by the language he heard in Billa. This city has a notorious reputation around the mission for not knowing the difference between Russian and Ukrainian. And the twenty four hours we spent together had no shortage of living up to this. The part that really drove Elder H crazy was when one person on a bus used a Ukrainian verb, but the Russian grammar to conjugate the verb. He would not stop talking about it for an hour. His words are the following: “In Kiev I have heard people speak clean Russian or clean Ukrainian. Rarely do they mix them up. But what people speak in Billa is not even a language. It’s just some awful mix of the two languages.” He had some trouble adjusting to the way people talk here.
On Saturday I was walking around the grocery store in order to buy something for dinner. While walking past the grain section, I cam across a green loaf of bread. It wasn’t some olive color or maybe just a tint of green. This looked like some kind of radioactive sludge color of green. So of course I bought one. My companion said that I was dumb for doing it and that it would likely put me in the hospital. When the rest of our district saw, their comments reflected that of my companion’s. Sadly though, it just tasted like normal bread. I asked a native to read the ingredients on the wrapper for me because it was all in Ukrainian. Apparently the green color came from some lemon that was added to the recipe, but I am skeptical about this. The bread even took many of the Ukrainians who I showed it to by surprise. Even they were saying that it probably was not safe to eat.
The real tragedy of the week happened on Saturday night. We hold a game night for the members of the branch and anyone else who wants to come. One girl who has been coming for a while wanted to take a picture of everyone at the end. I pulled up a table and placed a stack of books on top so that we could put the ten second timer on her camera and have the photographer in the photo. But as soon as I placed it on the books, it fell off and hit the ground. So now the lens will not close and I promised her that I would buy a new one. The funny part of this whole story was when I tried asking her about the price. She did not want to say so I asked if it was more or less than four hundred dollars. She said more. As I gradually pushed the upper limit on my guess the price went over one thousand dollars and I was sweating at this point. She wrote down the model number for me and I went to the electronics store to look at the cost there. To my great relief she was giving me the price of the camera in Ukraine’s currency, the grivna. This ended up cutting the actual price to an eight of what it would have been. This was a huge sigh of relief for me.
This week will be the last of this transfer and starting Thursday, I will be with Elder D. He is a very hard working person and quite fun to be around. I am excited to serve with him and will be able to learn a lot. As a closing note, I have also now been a missionary for six months.