Okay, well. Hi. Thanks for all your letters. :) It was really exciting to get the notes from Danny, Mike, and Leah. Tell them to look for something in the mailbox sometime soon. I don't think you should go to Disneyland for spring break. I think Dad is anti-Disneyland because I'm not there. ;) Also, they've (our branch presidency) asked us not to listen to music while here at the MTC, so that's the music situation. And for pictures, I don't have a computer to download them to. When I want to, I go to the bookstore here at the MTC and print some, and I've decided that when I get prints to send out to people/to keep, I'm just going to get an archival CD that I'll probably send home. I'm not sure what I'll do for pictures when I'm actually in Russia. I haven't thought that far ahead yet.
This week has been really exciting, but we're all really excited that it's "the weekend." Sunday-Wednesday go by really fast because they're our days that are different/have exciting things happening, but Thursday-Saturday go by so slowly since we just sit in class pretty much, so it's so nice when Sunday and then Tuesday come around.
This week started out with a great lesson in the TRC (Mom, this stands for Teaching Resource Center, I think, but it's basically just where we go to practice teaching volunteers. That's all you need to know. We just call it the TRC). The Russian part wasn't even that bad, mostly because we had a very nice native speaker. Her name was Idina, she's from Belarus, served a mission, and is studying graphic design at the Y. She was very very nice and gave us lots of encouragement with the Russian and said that it would come. Even better was after the actual lesson she said that we helped her with some things that she needed, which was so wonderful. It was really cool. The Spirit is real, and we have the opportunity to share it with everyone--even those who have had it for a while.
Every Thursday we do service, which for the Sisters in our zone usually is cleaning the bathrooms on our floor in the residence halls. This week, after we were done with the bathrooms, some sisters and I got to take some linen down to the bins on the first floor where all the dirty stuff goes. We're on the 4th floor, and didn't want to carry 20 beds-worth of bedding down 4 flights of stairs, so we dropped it down the crack between the railing and had a contest to see who could make it all the way down all 4 flights of stairs. It was lots of fun. Being a missionary is awesome, in more than just the spiritual way. That same night though, us 4 sisters in District 9A were doing some MDT, and this teacher knocks on the door and asks if we have a minute. he comes in with an older couple, who were going to serve in the Rostov mission, where some sisters in our zone are going to serve. They were leaving for Russia on Monday, and he wanted them to practice bearing their testimony to us. It was so cool. They had been here a week, and then had been being taught via Skype for about 5 hours a week for the past 2 months. That's about the equivalent of 4 days of our class time here! Granted, not all of our training is language, but still. That, plus the fact that we would be leaving this week if we were English speaking and we are not prepared at all, make us very grateful that we get to be here for so long, even if there are times we are jealous of those who are leaving so soon. Anyway, it was so great to talk to this older couple and then to listen to their testimonies and understand them, and then to bear our own testimonies pa-Ruski. (P.S. I hate transliteration-ing. I wish I could just type in Russian, but I don't know the Russian keyboard and then you would really have no idea what I'm saying).
Other random things from this week: Our teacher Brat Savage wants to name his first son Tiberius. We are now doing 3 meals a week where we only speak in Russian for SYL (Speak your language). It is so hard, but it's really good and the older district helps a lot. They leave in 2 weeks and it will be so weird when we are the older districts. Our Elders trade ties all the time, and on Friday they had "retro tie day" to show off all the really hideously cool ties they've gotten from the tie market. Brat Savage also complains about the chalk a lot because we had horrible chalk in our classroom, so Cectra Bullough and I swapped all the horrible chalk in our classroom for all the great chalk in the hardly ever used classrooms in the main building. They NEVER use the chalkboards, and so it was justified and really funny. I'm getting used to eating dinner so early at 4:30, but we still really often accidentally call it lunch. And I have been craving Cafe Rio all stinking week. People aren't supposed to send us things like that though. Basically if the people in the mail room can smell it, they'll open the package and give you a note that says, "You received an item you're not allowed to receive. Sorry." And so Cafe Rio is a no-go. But if anyone has any great ideas on how to get me some--please let me know and follow through because I really, really really have been craving it this past week. ;) Oh, we also have a district goal to teach 15 lessons a week. (Lesson=prayer, at least one principle taught, and a commitment).
Sunday was so great that it deserves its own paragraph. It always starts with great personal study, where I'm usually writing the talk that we all have to write. They just randomly call on us from the pulpit. Luckily, they only have to be 3-5 minutes long and are on basic gospel principles. That's because once you're here for 5-6 weeks you're expected to give talks po-Ruski. Then we sisters get to go to Music and the Spoken Word, which is so fantastic, especially since we have the whole no-music thing. It's so rejuvenating for the soul. Relief Society rocks, as I believe I've mentioned before. And then we didn't have to go to a New Sisters' Meeting this week, which was great! An extra half hour, and we're definitely not new anymore. It's kinda weird. Sacrament meeting was the best. Top 3 sacrament meetings I've ever been to. The talks were just great. I got to sing, which was really great. I have not sung that well in such a long time, and the Spirit was definitely helping me. Plus the song I was singing was beautiful. It's called "Look on Him and Live" and is a Sally Deford song. I borrowed it from Cectra Bullough, who played for me. I don't know. The Spirit was just so strong the entire meeting and it was truly beautiful. The temple walk was gorgeous. I love getting to go outside and it was actually really warm on Sunday. Unlike today; it feels like Russia. We were freezing walking to and from the temple this morning. However. The day did not stop there. Our Sunday fireside was great too. Our speaker is from the MIssionary department and is one of the people in charge of gettting everyone's visas. Let me just tell you, I am so glad I'm not going to Brazil. Anyway, he talked about how the MTC is sacred ground, which was awesome and just what I needed to hear, since I had kind of been getting tired of it. The Spirit was so strong, and the closing hymn was the Spirit of God. I can't describe that to you. 2,100+ missionaries singing the Spirit of God after a talk where the Spirit was so strong and you are one of those helping bring to pass the messages in those words . . . it was one of those things you just had to experience. That was probably my favorite moment this week. Singing the Spirit of God. Then we watched the Joseph Smith movie, which is always great. It was such a different experience from the last time I watched it. It takes on a new meaning as a missionary, especially when I've now taught the Restoration about 5 times.
Anway, my time is almost out. I have a few extra hours today, so I'll hopefully get more things sent out, so everyone should expect letters. This church is true, and this is the Lord's work. He lives and loves us.
Cectra Rachel Ashby
P.S. MATT GETS HIS CALL THIS WEEK! (I'm probably more excited than he is). HE BETTER SEND ME A DEARELDER THE SECOND HE KNOWS, BEFORE HE EVEN CALLS ANY OTHER FAMILY OR ANYTHING! Just sayin'. Russian speaking all the way!