January 5, 2015
New Year’s. For the missionaries in the Kiev Ukraine Mission this holiday comes with little significance, except for the rule that we are not allowed to be outside our apartments after six P.M. on both New Year’s Day and Eve. As it turned out though, Elder W and I would become exempt from this rule as the events of New Year’s Eve required us to be in a taxi at 11 P.M. The following is a description of our evening.
The stroke of midnight brings to many great excitement, as a new calendar dawns and the decisions of the previous year fall from our minds. What is the best way to celebrate this moment? A sip from a glass of champagne, shooting fireworks, or a passionate kiss are only a few examples. There are many different options to choose from and Ukraine has no shortage of these. One such option comes from a factory located somewhere in China– the hlopooshka. It is a very simple device. A long tube that has confetti packed at the head of a compressed canister of air. You twist the bottom, releasing the air and propelling the celebratory payload into the air. As Elder W and I were walking around the store, a group of these caught our attention so we grabbed two small and one large.
Upon arriving home, we decided to test one of the smaller tubes. Standing at one end of our hallway I twisted the bottom, opening up the seal and shooting out over one-hundred small paper snowflakes. The advertisement on the tube claimed to shoot beyond five meters. In practice though, we found that they reached just barely under two. I figured that this trend would scale appropriately for the other two. The large one which claimed to go beyond twenty meters would then in fact only hit up to eight.
At 9:00, after studying Russian for three hours, my attention span grew short. It seemed reasonable to try to make things a little more interesting, so I started thinking about different ways to annoy Elder W. My mind undoubtedly came to the conclusion that a video of covering him with the confetti from the largest hlopooshka would be a fun story to tell. I positioned the camera on the window sill without him realizing and then walked out of the room. Having grabbed the device I took several steps back in, positioning myself a good distance away with the emphasis of giving the confetti time to spread out. I had it in my mind that he would get covered and look back at me with an annoyed face, saying that I would have to clean everything up.
As he turned his head up to see what I was doing, he immediately identified what I was holding and panicked. Three things went wrong in the execution of my plan: 1) I aimed for his chest but instead hit his face. 2) The larger hlopooshka did not keep the same pattern set by its younger counterpart and had more than enough power to make it beyond twenty meters. 3) The spacing I gave was not enough for the small wads of confetti to unravel. This resulted in a simple celebratory toy turning into more of a buckshot. Elder W has a very swollen eye.
We called the mission doctor to see what we should do. He advised that we go see a doctor that night and we promptly ordered a taxi. With such injuries, the best course of action is to put ice over the wound. The problem is that a lot of people in Ukraine have this idea that anything drunk with ice in it will make you sick, so ice trays in freezers are non-existent. The only thing that we had was a large frozen red bag of Ukrainian dumplings, so he held that over his eye. I can only imagine what the receptionist thought when he heard the doorbell ring and walked over to see two Americans in white shirts and ties standing and one holding frozen food on his eye behind the glass door.
The nurse laughed as we explained how it happened and then gave him a mostly clean bill of health and prescribed some eye drops. We made it back home in a taxi just before midnight and were then able to watch our neighbors set off fireworks from our bedroom window. (It is worth it to note that his eye is almost completely healed today and does not even look black.)
Overall, I was able to learn a lot from this experience. First, to not be so confident in my judgment of how something is going to turn out. Second, some years ago I saw a T.V. show in which two police officers say that if you beat up a suspect with phonebook, it does not leave any marks. The fact that Elder W does not have any bruises from this is a bit of a testimony of this, in that a bunch of small wads of paper hit his face at a very high speed, but there is not a mark now. And it has also shown me the power of forgiveness in growing people together. He has no hard feelings against me at all, and our companionship is now much stronger than it was before.
Just one small story to close. On Friday, I received a phone call from one of the senior couples who handles finances for the Ukraine branches and wards, saying that he would be coming to Voskresensky on Sunday. He said that he would be performing and audit and needed a translator. I was not sure in that moment whether or not I would be able to convey all of his ideas in Russian, but figured it would be fun to take the gamble and decided to go for it anyway. Except for some more jargon-y words like “expenditures” or “reconcile”, I was actually able to do a thorough job in translating ideas. It was surprising and encouraging. We were able to figure out why the ward here is sixty percent over budget and resolve the issues.
Not a bad week.