I'm in Russia!!!! I kind of can't believe it, but it's real. I'm really here, safe and sound, and just a little frozen. (Really it's just my ears, and I'm buying a hat today.) I want to tell you everything that's happened, but I don't have enough time, so here I go!
My last week in the MTC was awesome, and a little sad because I had to say goodbye to everyone. I got lots of packing done, tried to make everything fit, and ended up sending a big box of things home. They have lots of stuff I need here in Russia, which is nice, but (according to my companion), they don't have peanut butter or vanilla or pumpkin, which makes making cookies a little difficult, but I haven't had much time to cook anyway. We only just barely bought groceries for my first time 2 hours ago, so I hope to start cooking more later. Wow, the MTC already feels like so long ago, I'm already blending together everything that happened. We just said lots of good-byes, took pictures with everyone, met the new Russian missionaries who came in (on the day when I was supposed to come in, which is wieird), and then I flew to Russia. The flight was long, but it was nice because we got to sleep a lot on the plane. After we arrived to Korea, I remember sitting in the airport waiting for the final plane to Vlad, and that was the first time I heard some real Russians speaking real Russian. I could barely keep in my excitement, I just had to kind of look at the floor and smile goofily.
When we (Sister Brayton, Elder Bodily, and I) landed at the airport in Vlad, it was appropriately snowing outside, and, as expected, it was chilly. We met with the mission president and his wife, President and Sister Brinton, and they took us to the mission home. They fed us a wonderful dinner, and we stayed there overnight. Somehow we got our clocks mixed up, and we ended up waking up an hour earlier than we were supposed to. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but at least I'm on real time now. We had lots of training that day, and we met some of the missionaries and my new companion. Her name is Sister Watts, and I can already tell she is the best trainer ever. She is very patient with me, and she's teaching me everything I need to know about how to be a missionary in the field. I'm pretty sure she knows everything about everything, and there's no way I would be able to survive without her.
My first area is Nakhodka, and it's a four hour train ride from Vlad. It's basically the "Hawaii" of our mission because we're the furthest south, but it's definitely not Hawaii. There's always snow and ice on the ground, and we can always see our breath when we're outside, but we're walking so fast we stay pretty warm. I'm going to be sure to be a better coat for when it gets colder, but we stay pretty warm when we layer. The people here really do wear big, fuzzy hats, and maybe I'll get one for myself. The coldest part of me is usually my ears and the rest of my face.
Gaah, I'm running out of time and I feel like this email is so short! I'm sorry if they get shorter than they did at the MTC, it's a little bit harder to read and reply to emails here and leave enough time for this email, but I'll work on it.
Really, I don't know where to start, there's so much to write about. On our first day out walking around in Nakhodka, we got on a bus (which we ride quite often to get places, because our area is basically all of Nakhodka, but the 4 elders in our district split it up so one companionship gets the north and the other gets the south, and the sisters, Sister Watts and I, cover the whole thing). While we're on the bus we're always supposed to be talking to people, and we split up and talk to different people, so Sister Watts just kind of nudged me and said "go" and I was off trying to teach people in Russian on that bus and it was so stressful. After I got off (after trying to talk to one man whose nanme was Sergey and I'm pretty sure he thought I was a weirdo), I never wanted to get on another bus again because I knew I would have to go through the same thing. It's still very stressful and scary, but I'm sure I'll get used to it in time. We also try to talk to everyone we pass on the streets, and we get varying degrees of successs. Sometimes we manage to have a whole lesson (with two prayers and a follow-up time and everything), and usually they just keep walking and ignore us. It's sad that they don't want to hear our message, but I'm so glad we have the investigators we do have.
I love working with the members of the church. The branch is very small, but the members always have the biggest smiles and are so welcoming. They compliment me on how good my Russian is for just being here for a few days, but I'm pretty sure it's what they say to every missionary. I usually just stand there and nod and let Sister Watts do all the talking. Every now and then I heard a word and I perk up, and then I don't understand everything else. Gift of tongues is real, though, and I know I'll be able to speak lots more in time. I do try to speak as much as I can during lessons, and it's easier in those situations because that's what we practiced in the MTC. We've had two lessons with this mom and her son, Tatiana and Stas, and they're really friendly and fun to talk with. I had my first taste of tea at their house, and it was just.. interesting. (Don't worry, it was herbal tea, so it was okay.) Last night we had a lesson with a nice lady who was excommunicated, and her nephew was there. He was a little drunk, but she was the sweetest lady, and she sang to us and played her guitar. I would love to keep working with her and bring her back to the church. On Saturday, we have a baptism scheduled for Maxim, so I'm excited for that. Our mission has a goal of 100 baptism by the end of the year, and right now we're at 89, so only 11 more to go! We can do it!
Out of time, and I didn't get to write nearly as much as I wanted to, but I hope I got the message across that I love it here and can't wait to write about next week!!!