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The Beauty of Google Translate

June 2, 2014

At this moment my companion and I have about five people with whom we are working. One of them, F, is from Sri-Lanka who is currently in Ukraine for work. I think that I talked about him a little bit in an email a couple of weeks ago. He does not speak any Russian and barely can communicate in English. We teach him by typing what we want to say into Google Translate which then does the job of turning it into Tamil. Well, the reason he is back for a second mention is because of the lesson which we had with him on Wednesday. As we walked into the office and sat down together, the first question asked to him was not uncommon for missionaries: “Have you been reading the Book of Mormon?” He sat for a minute while he struggled with his English vocabulary to form a sentence. But after some time his response came out. “I like this book and I think that it is true.” This took both my companion and I by complete surprise.

We were happy with the response and went on teaching the lesson about the Plan of Salvation. The member with us does not know English. Which meant that the entire lesson was one of us typing out what we want to say on the computer to F, while the other translates to Russian for the member. Then F reads the translation and does his best to respond to our questions. Then the member wanted to share his portion. We would translate from Russian to English on the computer, which would then take it to Tamil. There were some difficult and confusing moments, to say the least. I was wondering to myself how well what we are saying actually translated to Tamil, and just hoped that it was working out. By the time our lesson was at its end, we brought up the subject of baptism. F said that he is happy to be baptized and will do so, only that he need to receive an answer to his prayers. Overall, it went well.

Currently, our branch president is beginning the process of building his own home in some small village outside the city. In order to save cost on labor, a lot of the work is going to be carried forth by his own hands, and as we came to find out this week, the hand of the missionaries as well. He asked if we could come and help him on Friday to start by building the fencing around his property. Everyone met together at eight in the morning where we all crammed into the branch president’s sedan, missionaries and construction equipment alike.

Upon arriving at the site of his future house, one characteristic of villages in Ukraine became apparent– how quiet they are. The sound of cars and people becomes so natural that when you finally get away from it, a sensation overcomes you similar to taking off a heavy backpack after wearing it for hours. It’s almost as though time stops for a brief moment. Within this setting, every concern or worry drops from the crest of your mind, leaving a feeling of content. Then someone opens up the trunk of the car followed by the scraping of shovels together which shatters your bubble and reality resumes its place.

The work to be done took several hours to complete. We were to dig an eighty centimeter hole every one meter and in total there were about forty holes. The next step was to take three and a half meter concrete posts and place them into each hole and fill it in with gravel. The sun was hot and by the end of the day, every single person involved had developed some form of intense sun burn. It was a good experience because all of us were able to better develop our relationships with our branch president, and the time went by quickly.

The last unique thing worth mentioning from this week came one day in which all of our meetings dropped out entirely, leaving the only thing to do was to try to speak with people on the streets. These days are often a grind to get through, so my attitude leading into it was not a hopeful one. Fortunately, after about an hour and a half into it, we received a call from the branch president who said that a friend of his needed some advice from Americans and wanted to know if we were available. Elder A immediately called his friend and our meeting was set up for a half hour from that point. He waited for us in a park and then we walked together to a restaurant to talk while drinking some lemonade.

The reason he wanted to meet was because he is working on making some website and wanted to know our input as to whether or not it would find any application in the United States. In a short amount of time, we were able to give him the answers he needed and he was satisfied. At that point we had nothing to do, and he as well, so we just kept talking. Our conversation somehow led onto the subject of military weaponry and he started going off about which governments have the best helicopters, tanks, planes or whatever. This came as a big surprise to me, but apparently Ukraine’s current tank is highest ranked in the world. At first I thought it was just some misinformed national pride coming through, but he then showed me all of the statistics of the tank compared the United States’ current M1A2 Abrahams tank. Sure enough it beat out the U.S. in several points, but Ukraine’s current weapon was only developed a few years ago, whereas the Abrahams began service in the 1980’s. So I think we can give ourselves some due credit on that one.

It was a good week, even though not many big things happened. The political situation remains tense but does not seem to be taking any giant leaps in the near future. You just keep on moving.


Elder Hancock


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