Buckle up, this is a long one...
I made it alive! I've been in Russia for less than a week but there are a lot of things that happened! I'll start from leaving the MTC. We took the Trax up from Provo to the SLC Airport and got to our gate with a little bit of time to spare. I gave Dad a call from the pay phone, and then we were off! The flight landed in New York, where we switched to a bigger plane. Here's where the stories start. So New York to Moscow. Elder Stucki and I were right next to each other as we were boarding. The flight attendant comes up to us and asks us to step aside. He then said that he needs two strong-willed and strong-minded people...so we're like alright what've you got!? There was a Russian man on our flight who was being deported back to Russia. He was in the very back and making a lot of noise. He was being verbally abusive to a woman on the plane so we were being volunteered to switch seats with her. Turns out our assigned seats weren't that far away from him anyways, so we didn't switch. The man was yelling in Russian and saying a bunch of stuff so that he would be removed from the plane and kept in America. Once we took off and were in the air there was nothing he could do so he stayed quiet the rest of the flight.
Then we got to Moscow 10 hours later! (Abouty time and some time early afternoon Moscow time.) We had a 13-hour layover there. We got our baggage and found where to re-check it through to Novosibirsk. Let's just say that the Moscow airport is chaotic for American missionaries who don't speak Russian. We went to a few different baggage lines before they finally took us at one of them. They then didn't understand our receipts from paying for baggage in SLC, which were supposed to get our baggage to Novosibirsk for free. So they spent 30 minutes arguing with different people in Russian while we just kinda stood there. So we finally get rid of our baggage and go through security! The area in the Moscow airport for domestic flights is pretty small. We ran into another Sister missionary from Moscow going to St. Petersburg. She took us back out of security and we found some food. Her flight left and we still had about 10 hours to kill. It was rough.
Ended up finding and taking over this corner with two rows of benches. Talked to a couple for probably an hour!, gave them a Book of Mormon, and got a bunch of contact information...So that was cool. All in Russian!
The time came to board our plane!! Finally! We went down the stairs to the tarmac and waited for a bus out to the plane. This lady started talking to us like...what are you doing, etc. We started talking to her, found out she spoke German and Russian so I thought GREAT! I can actually talk to someone! So she was interested in what we were doing and we spoke mostly in German with some Russian words thrown in. I know the gospel words better in Russian. Then I swung getting to trade seats with her husband in order to talk to her. So I'm like great! I've been awake for 40+ hours, my brain is hurting from speaking so much mixed English, German, and Russian. We got on the plane, and about two minutes into our conversation, I realize she is a Jehovah's Witness. So it was interesting. If Sister O'Neal is reading this, everything you said was true! So there I was trying my hardest to not let the conversation get out of control, in mixed German and Russian. She was showing me a BUNCH of scriptures that "proved" her points from the Bible. I took Sister O'Neal's advice, which was to never try and argue with a Jehovah's Witness. So I really just tried to focus on the beliefs that we had in common, I really, really had to stress like this is what I (Me, not you) believe or else she would pull out a scripture and try to get me to contradict myself. So that was crazy. She was really nice, and fun to talk to, but it was an adventure.
LANDED IN NOVOSIBIRSK! 10:00 a.m. Novosibirsk time and we finally got there. President and Sister Gibbons were both waiting there for us with the Assistants. We all got our luggage and loaded it into a big truck. Elder Hodgson and I ended up in the taxi with one of the assistants. He was talking to the driver the whole way and I just couldn't stop thinking about how true those Russian driver youtube videos were. They are crazy drivers here! We went to the mission office and dropped off our luggage, handed over our passports so they could do paperwork and then went to the mission home to email and have some breakfast. After some words from President Gibbons, all the elders went to the AP's apartment. It has been dubbed "The Palace" because it's so big. Finally got a good nap! Woke up about 4 p.m. I was convinced it was the next morning so that just threw me off for the next couple days. We all got to shower finally. The hot water in their apartment broke so it was ice cold. Fastest shower of my life. I'm wondering if they just turned it off so that we would all take fast showers. We got back to the mission home and had some more instruction, and got a chance to go out and contact with the AP's. The next day, we got our companionship and city assignments.
I'm serving my first area in TOMSK, Russia, with Elder Batson. Elder Batson is from California and has been in the field since March. He was the last group in the MTC to be there for 12 weeks. We left the mission home with Elders Madson and Colton who were also going to Tomsk. It was a 5-hour bus ride so by the time we got there it was pretty late. We got a taxi to our apartment and went in and just went straight to bed. We have one of the nicest apartments in the mission. I didn't take pictures of it yet so I'll probably get those to you next week.
Woke up on Friday, and got to studying. We have 4 hours of study every morning. 1 for each personal, companionship, language and then one for training. Then we got a call from Igor, who is a recent convert and baptized not long ago. He had some questions so we met with him for a little bit that evening. Most of the missionaries in Tomsk are fresh out of the MTC. So there is a bit of a learning curve to get over. We've been tearing up the Area Book (a record of the missionary work done in an area, that stays in the area so incoming missionaries know who has been contacted and when) and making calls and all that fun stuff. One of them didn't have a phone number and we wanted to get out of the apartment so we decided to go find his apartment. Got there, he let us in, and we talked for about an hour. His name is Constantine. Speaks a little bit of English and was pretty patient with my Russian skills.
Apart from the Area Book, it's mostly street contacting. I've probably gotten almost every reaction you can get already. People stare, ignore, yell at you. Some of the younger ones will try to say something in English like (Hello! Where are you from?) in a thick Russian accent. I'm still kinda getting oriented in the city, and remembering Russian names is hard so I'll have to work on that.
Church on Sunday was good. They have a little meeting house but it's pretty nice. All 4 of the new missionaries got up and introduced ourselves in Sacrament meeting which was cool. Talked for probably 3 minutes...in Russian. So maybe I'm doing better at the language than I thought. One of the Sister Missionaries in our district said that the person sitting next to her leaned over and said I have a good accent...as in Not too American. Point for knowing German!
Now It's P-Day. I feel like I've been here longer than I really have. Tomsk is a really beautiful city. It is built on one side of the river and then on the other, you can look out and just see Siberian Tundra. I'll attach pictures too.
Our apartment is nice! we've got a pretty big living room, separated from the bathroom and bedroom by a little hall. We cook for ourselves most meals. So far I've made Spaghetti with hash browns, eggs and fried summer sausage, and chopped up chicken fried in hot sauce with diced fried potatoes. So if any of you have any awesome meal ideas, send them my way! The water in our apartment is good. We can't drink it right out of the tap, it has to go through a filter first. We have hot showers.
So, that was pretty long!
I miss you all and hope you're doing well!
Until next week!
The Big Map
My district with Brother Mansfield (MTC teacher)
With Brother Mansfield (MTC teacher)
Big map with the District...that's right, our mission is on both sides of the map.
In front of the Missions Map at the MTC
The District with Branch President
Me with Brother Adamson from the branch presidency
Me and my old BYU room mates Elder Gingrich and Elder Mckhann going to Brazil and Scotland (Mandarin Speaking)
Me and Sister Udall the night before I left
Landing in Moscow
Elders Allen and Hodgson finally getting some food in the Moscow Airport.
On the Tarmac in Moscow
Cooking our First meal (potatoes and chicken with hot sauce)
Monument in Tomsk
Graffiti in Tomsk.
Me with President and Sister Gibbons
Us with President and Sister Gibbons