Wow....so the beginning of my time here out in the field has been WAAAY different than I expected it to be. Being out in the field is much harder than you'd ever even imagine.
So here's an update on life: after 3 tough weeks in Nizhny Novgorod, I was transfered to Pololsk and a new trainer because Sister Polyshuck is ending her mission on August 11th. I love her dearly and I treasure the time I had with her even though it was really hard at times.
But I was grateful for a loving and caring mission president and things are already much better here in Podulsk! It's a smaller suburb about 20 minutes south of Moscow. Our district took a night train from Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow last Wednesday, had zone conference which was great and I got to see Sister Carver, and then I headed off with my new trainer Sister Johnson to Podulsk that evening.
So Sister Johnson actually just ended her own training in Moscow, so she's only been in Russia for about 4 months. She's great though and is very hardworking and focused and disciplined! So things are much more structured now and better now that I have a companion and trainer who wants to do all of our studying and is very obedient about the schedule. We've been getting up and running in the morming which has been great. I know the Lord will bless us for it! It's hard though, because she''s still learning the language herself, so we're a little more on a level playing field. It does have it's advantages though. Something that's a HUGE cultural difference here is that Russians LOVE to talk....seriously.....once they start going you can end up listening to them for 30 minutes. I'm not sure if its because they were oppressed for so long and didn't really have a voice of their own, but it can be really hard because a lot of people, especially the elderly, feel like they need to teach you and lecture you and it's hard to establish that relationship that we are here as representatives and missionaries. I've realized people in America, when it comes to home teaching or whatever else, are much more business-like and formal when you meet with them and it's much easier for people to listen to you and wait. Here, which I really think is just the cultural mentality, don't have the same manners and formalities and its not impolite to interrupt or to talk over people or go on forever. So we're going to have to work hard on that.
Our apartment in Podulsk is really nice, obviously not as nice as the one I had, but I'm still vey grateful for it. Podulsk isn't quite as picturesque as Nizhny and doesn't have all of the beautiful churches, because its more of a suburb and neighborhood setup, but the ward here is absolutely fantastic and super strong! The branch president seems really nice and the families are all really strong and a lot of the younger adults have served missions and speak English. Our first couple of days were a little rough because we're still adjusting to each other and neither of us know the language perfectly, so we spent a lot of time contacting, which is much harder since we're not native speakers. But we did have a potential investigator named Albena come to church on Sunday. She's a middle-aged woman who has some ideas that she needs to straighten out (like Russia being the holy land), but she has a Book of Mormon that she has wrapped in a book cover and took notes over everything during church-even the names of the hymns we sang! There's a young member named Katya who was really helpful and another convert, a middle-aged woman named Nadyezhda who talked to her and they got her to agree to meet with us after English club on Wednesday. It was so helpful, because she's interested in the church and the word of wisdom and is reading the Book of Mormon, but didn't know why she needed to meet with us for discussions. So please pray for us that that will go well! Right now the work is really slow because during the summer, most Russians go away to their dachas or summer homes or to the sea, so its hard for both the wards and the work, but things should hopefully pick up.
Yesterday was my 23rd birthday (How is that possible?!!!) but it was interesting how I didn't really seem to care of even mind. It's true that when you're set apart, you really are set apart to a higher plane of thought, because I've been amazed and so grateful that I haven't really missed any of the worldly distractions like music and movies or wanting a birthday party. It's a little hard sometimes out in public though, because they do play a lot of American music in malls and on the bus. By the way....the public transportation in Russia is pretty much the most hilarious thing to get adjusted to. I've spent the past three weeks holding on for dear life in crowded buses with crazy drivers and people staring at you like an alien. But I've learned to laugh at it and just enjoy the experience. Anyways, so my companion was super sweet and made a really nice chicken dinner and brownies for my birthday yesterday and sang happy birthday to me. Then Sister Carver called me from where she is in Moscow and sang me happy birthday. So I was happy with my birthday.
At zone conference on Wednesday, I got a TON of letters-from grandma Azbill, from Julie and Emily, and from family! Thank you sooo much and please keep writing! I'll write some letters today and since its pday see if I can find any postcards.
Anyways, I'm glad everything at home sounds good! You are all always in my prayers! Please pray for me and Sister Johnson that we will be able to understand people and talk to them. I've had a bit of a rough beginning to my mission....I want from being with a native speaker but in a very unstable situation due to health issues, and now I'm in a very structured hard-working situation, but neither of us know the language very well. I'm grateful that I was on the 3 month program at the MTC, because Sister Jonhson was on the pilot program, and we both realized that those last couple of weeks were really important, because I spent that time actually learning a lot about the cases and things we zipped through, because the language really doesn't come along that quick like people say because people talk SO fast, so it's really up to you to learn the grammar because it is SO important in Russian in order for people to understand you! And once people understand you better, they can focus more on our message. But I know that the Spirit is really what teaches people in the end and the Lord will bless us. I'm trying to maintain a positive outlook on everything.
Please pray for me! By the way, your letters all actually got to me very quickly! I think it took about 15 days or so!
Love you and please write more!