Monday, January 30, 2012

From Russia with Love!

Hello Everyone! Okay there is a lot to tell and say and not a lot of time to say it. So my travels here were good, but very long, I was literally traveling for like 3 or 4 days until I finally got to my area, which I'll tell you about later on. First I flew from SLC to New York, and then from New York to Moscow, where I stayed for almost the whole day, and yeah there was a little culture shock there, it's more capitalist than you would probably think it to be, but there is some really cool stuff and it was very interesting, I didn't get a good chance to take a lot of photos but I will on the return trip of course. We drove all over the place down there, we had to go to the embassy and then to another airport to fly down to Rostov, and then when we got to Rostov we had to get to the Mission President's house, and he is very interesting haha, he is nice but very serious when he needs to be but he warms up to you if you get to know him a bit, haha but I like him, he's good and he speaks English very well, almost without an accent. 
After I spent the night at his house I took a train to Krasnodar with another Elder and then we spent the night there and in the morning my companion and I took a train to my area, which is Novorossiysk, it's a shipping town on the Black Sea, it's pretty epic. We have a branch here of around 10 to 12 members, it's very small but we have a couple investigators that I'll tell you about. My companion/trainer is Elder Reigngard, he's from Ukraine, he speaks fluent Russian of course, he is trying to learn English but he does a pretty good job with speaking it. As a consequence, we speak Russian a lot and English a lot. He plays guitar and was in a band before the mission and he likes a lot of stuff that I like, he is cool and all is well! Novorossiysk is pretty cool, it is way different from anywhere in America that I've ever seen, there is a lot of abandoned/blown up building from World War 2 and from poverty around here, not too many in the city but on the outskirts there's a lot of stuff like that. The city's not too big, but it's not very small either. There are a lot big ships here, there's a battleship too so I'll have to send you some pictures, I'm attaching some pictures that I took from our apartment and other pictures and stuff, put em on facebook would you?

So on the train to my area we met a guy who served in the Russian military in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was pretty cool to talk to him. So here we have a couple of Investigators, one is Igor who served in the army, we set a baptismal date for him in mid-February, so we'll see how that goes, he has a lot of desire to be baptised, another set of Investigators is Andrei and Artyom, a father and son, they are awesome, they really care about us and love the Gospel, Artyom is like 13 or 14 years old and he reminds me a lot of Jake and Andrei, his dad, is a sailor, he helped me a get an awesome Seal Ushanka hat, I'll have to send you a picture next week, it's awesome! We have a girl, I haven't met her yet who wants to be baptised but her husband won't let her so we'll see how that goes and we have some referrals from members too. The branch here is cool, the branch president has painted a lot of pictures for the church, he looks a lot like Sammy Johns or the singer from ABBA, I'll have to send you a photo sometime, the branch thinks I'm funny because of all the Star Wars stuff haha. We eat Russian food a lot, it's pretty good usually believe it or not haha, our apartment is very very humble compared to what we have in the US, it makes you appreciate things a lot more but it accommodates our needs just fine. We walk a ton and take buses sometimes, but we street contact a lot, I have some stories I'll need to tell you about that sometime. My Russian is improving a lot, I'm way immersed in it with my companion and everything else here, it's pretty cool. It's very cold here lately, I hope it warms up, but we'll see. Anyway, I have to go but I'll be emailing you all personally real fast if I can, don't put those on the blog of course. It was awesome to get to see you guys when you surprised me at the airport, I love and miss you all so much! I'm safe! Make sure you all stay safe and tell everyone at home I said hello! Until next week!

-Elder Skene

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Made it to Russia!

Okay so I made it to Russia safe and sound! I'm in Rostov in the mission home right now. I wasn't able to call you all in Moscow or in Rostov. I don't have really any time to say much but I have lots of cool stuff to tell you about my trip that I'll do in the next weeks email! (speaking of which, I don't know when my P-Day is by the way) I love you all! Till next time!
-Elder Skene

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MTC Week 11!The Final Stretch!

Hey! So I sent that letter with all of your questions on Monday, so you should be getting it today. And the dictionary name I referenced in it is called Katzner by the way, I think I misspelled it in the letter. Please let me know if and when you receive the letter and my responses in it and what you all think so I know what's up. Okay so my travel plans!!! Assuming I get my Visa (The Ukrainians and one Russian in the other zone got their Visas denied apparently) I will be flying from SLC to New York JFK on flight 1606 on Delta, it departs at 8:30AM and arrives at 3:05PM, I'm assuming this is all local time, they don't tell you on the travel plans, and then from JFK I depart at 4:25PM and arrive at Moscow SV airport at 11:10AM on flight 30 on Delta. We weren't told what happens after that so I'm guessing we probably fly to Rostov after that but we'll see what happens, I think if you email the mission president he will send you a picture of us when we arrive from what I've heard. We don't know for sure on our Visas until this Friday I guess, I talked to the travel office and they said we should be fine but if not I will email you of course asap, but if not, assume that I received it.

So I don't intend for these emails to be a request type of letter or anything, it's just lately in the last two weeks I want to be sure I have everything haha. I want to thank you all for helping me so much, especially Mom for sending me all this cool stuff and I love all of your letters of support, it really makes a difference, I read them all. I love all of you so much and miss you, and I can't wait to talk to you all very soon!

Okay so awesome story, when I took my guitar to Vicki, there were two other people working in that office area with her, she works in the senior missionary scheduling office. As she was talking to me about going to Russia, one of the other people in her office looked up from his desk attentively and called over to me and Elder Wimber. He asked us if we were going to Russia, and we said yes, and then he told us that he had been looking for 2 Russian missionaries, he then told us a story about two senior missionaries that were converts to the church, and they got their call to Russia in July or August of last year, and about a month after they got their call their home burnt down along with 1600 other homes in Texas. They were warned of the approaching flames and were told they had just a few minutes to get out of their homes or they would probably lose their lives so they packed everything they needed for their mission and left all of their other valuables behind, and around 10 minutes after they left, their home and all of their possessions were destroyed, they had nothing. So when they came to the MTC they only had what was in their suitcases. A few days before their scheduled departure, they were told about their daughter who had contracted a very serious illness and was in the hospital, so they had to go see her and they got their departure delayed for who knows how long, so when the scheduling office told them this news, their response was so inspiring. They gave the travel office 2 Russian Book of Mormons that they wrote their testimonies in and explained that those were all they had to give and they wanted 2 Russian missionaries to take them to Russia with them. So they gave those books to me and Elder Wimber, and I could feel the spirit as I read the testimony in the one I received, these people's testimony is remarkable, when they lost everything, they still had an eye single to the glory of God and missionary work, I'll be sure to keep that book with me, and it will be interesting to see how this story will end. I hope I can maybe find a way to contact these two senior missionaries and the mission and let them know what happened, hopefully I can write them a letter or something. It was an awesome day.

So to answer your Dear Elder questions, first of all, don't worry about the Katzner dictionary, maybe you could send it sometime after I get to Russia. I am traveling with Elder Sandoval and a Sister from our district. Also, the travel office said to make sure you take a lot of money with you when you travel in case you have baggage fee issues, because they don't know for sure whats going to happen in Russia and sometimes the airlines are difficult to deal with, I have 200 with me but I guess they said to make sure you have more than that, I'm not sure exactly how much I need but they don't want you to use the 200 dollars you need in emergency funds and they said you'll need to make sure you bring 200-300 dollars with you just to be safe, otherwise they might just take your baggage. I hope this isn't an issue, what do you think? So I'll be out of shampoo and soap by the time I'm gone, but it shouldn't be an issue because I think I can get the shampoo in Russia I think but can you send bar of soap to take with me? What are your thoughts? Well my time is about up, but I love you all and wish you well! I hope I get to Russia safely and I'm way excited! I'll be sending you all hand written letters today, but you won't be able to respond to them through dear Elder unless you submit it by Friday morning. Will you let everyone know that they can email me and I can read their emails and I'll write them a letter back, especially when I'm in Russia, because Dear Elder isn't going to be practical. Tell Lori Pathakis that I'm so grateful for her letters and that her encouragement is so helpful and I wish Elder Pathakis well and I'm glad he is doing good! All is well here and the Church is true! Well, the next email will be interesting haha. Peace!

Elder Skene

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

MTC Week 10!

Okay so not tons of news this week, I'm just trying to push through this to finally get to Russia. So that topical stuff you sent me, I don't think that's a very good idea to use it anymore, it has destroyed my skin, literally I have a rash on my face and my skin in peeling everywhere and its as painful as a really bad sunburn, it always hurts, I only got 3 hours of sleep last night because it was so painful. So unless that is the tactic it uses, I probably shouldn't use it anymore, I hope it hasn't created scar tissue or permanent marks or something. Could you ask the doctor about it? Anyways, you might as well send more contacts so I have the 2 year supply, I'm not too comfortable buying them in Russia after the horror stories I've heard about buying sketchy low key brands of contacts. Could you also send some aloe vera for my face? Which reminds me, do I have any sunscreen? I thought we packed some but I don't see it anywhere. So another fun fact, I've been pretty sick for the past week or so, so sick I couldn't go to class, the teacher told me to go see the doctor, so I've been sick with an annihilated face for the past week, not the best week on record I should say.
Also, can you send another laundry bag carrier thing with the shoulder strap, mine is almost broken because it's been hanging here for so long. Another random thought, so you know those Daniel Elissa shirts? Yeah haha the buttons on them are ridiculous, like they are sewen on so ridiculously, I just put the shirt on and one of them just ripped off, I'll have to see if I can get it sewen back on. The Kirkland Signature shirts are amazing though, super durable, just a heads up for any other missionaries getting ready to go.
How do I send stuff to you? Can I give it to Vicki or do I have to go through the mail here? The mail room here is pretty rude and difficult to work with and very expensive and they don't ship your stuff until like a week later. Because I need to start sending a lot of my stuff home. Can you put it all in my room, can you send a few more memory cards in the package today or tomorrow? Please whatever you do though don't send any more sweets, I can't afford to eat them, gaining weight here is about as easy as stepping on the scale to check it.

Anyways, no luck on the tunnels, we are pretty sure that we have found the entrances but they are locked. So as far as school goes when I get back, I've been talking a lot with people who went or go to BYU that are here and they have filled me in on a bunch of stuff, and I was planning on applying right when I got home, because that will be application season, then I can start school in the summer semester, I going to try to find a decent job before then, there's no way I'm going to come home early to go to school, the Lord called me for a full time mission, so that's what I'm planning to do, you can actually go home 30 days before or after your departure date so maybe I'll come home in the beginning of October but that will only be if that's how the mission is going to work out. All will be well, no worries, plus if I went right as I got home I wouldn't get to really choose any classes that I would want. Everything is good here besides all that though, I love you all and the Church is true! Until next week!
-Elder Skene

Friday, January 6, 2012

MTC Week 9!

Okay so I don't have a ton of news other than things are getting harder here to keep pushing through it, and seeing every other language leave and us just staying really gets to ya sometimes. I have seen like 4 or 5 people I've known outside the MTC come and go during my stay, and most of them have all come at different times, but I just have to remember that there is a reason that I am going to Russia so it's all for a good cause. So to cope with all of this me and Elder Wimber troll a lot to pass the time sometimes, but all in all, all is well here. Oh so it sounds like stuff is pretty freaky to hear news from the outside world here haha, like all the violent protests in Russia and Iran's military maneuvers with that US drone are pretty freaky, not to mention Kim Jong Il dying, a lot has happened since I left.
Okay so to answer some of your questions, I don't need more contact solution or contacts yet and I shouldn't need any more for a few months or so at least. We don't get flight plans for a week or two yet. I play my guitar at night usually.  If you wanna just kinda let me know what's up in Clark's, Luke's, and Curletti's missions that would be awesome, but you don't need to forward me their exact stuff because I don't have a lot of time to read and respond to it. 
Tell Parker Wallace I said best of luck if you get a chance too! Also, can you update me on any news that's happening in the US, Utah, and World Wide though in your Dear Elders if you have the time? I wanna know a little bit about what's up in the world haha. I sent letters on Monday to all of you before I got any Dear Elders this week, they didn't print anything until Tuesday because the mail room was closed for the Holidays and New Years, and speaking of New Years, if you wanna know what we did to celebrate it here, the answer is absolutely nothing, it was just two normal days haha. It was kinda sad I guess, and I loved the air horn, but you can get in a lot of trouble for stuff like that here so you have to be careful.
Anyways, I hope you are all doing well at home! I'm glad you guys had a chance to celebrate New Years, I truly do hope that Dad gets a chance to pick up that Chevelle, I saw the pictures, it looks awesome, and if the guy is giving it away, you might as well take it and just leave it home in the driveway with one of those car tarps over it so the weather doesn't damage it over time. I would love more marzipan, beef jerky, and apples if you ask, those are the things that I like the most. Well thanks for everything, I love all you all so much and all the support you give me, things are pretty good here for the most part so don't let me scare you about anything haha. Well until next week!
-Elder Skene