Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011

It's Here.

Hey Mike! Happy Birthday a few days ago! I can't believe you're 11. Do you know that I remember when you were born? Yeah, I'm just that old, I guess. Thanks for the package and the letter. I'm glad that I could be a part of Spring Break, especially even cracking a joke. :) GRAAAAAAAPES. After I emailed you, I thought of some more stuff that I could use, but it's probably a good thing, since I don't want my bags to be overweight. Don't worry about sending them until later. I will let you know what they are when you decide on sending me a package in Russia.

So. Guess what. Exactly one week from today, I will be on a plane, on my way to New York, where I will then board another plane which will take me to Moscow! AHHHHHH!!!!! I leave for Russia in a week! I am so excited! On Thursday when we got our travel plans we were all so excited and freaking out. The travel office has all our visas, all our tickets. It's really happening. :) What's really exciting is that our entire district gets to fly together from SLC to JFK. We were almost positive that since we're going to different missions, we wouldn't all get to be on the same flight, but we all get to be together for the first leg of the trip! We leave the MTC at 5 a.m. though, so that will be really awesome. I just can't believe it. I am really going to Russia in 7 days. I'm excited to see everything, and find out what it's like, and to meet President and Sister Sorensen, and my trainer, and to teach people and be a missionary in Russia! Sister Cranney (the wife of one of our branch presidency members--they were the mission president and wife in Moscow until July) was talking to us earlier this week about visa trips, and how she's pretty sure we'll get to go to the temple in Kiev on those trips every 3 months--which would be awesome! And also about how our first day will be with getting there and meeting people and having a nice dinner and getting to go to bed early and spending the night in the mission home. She also told us about how the missionaries get to go to cultural events every so often. I am so stoked. MOTHER RUSSIA!

This week has been really crazy though. The main events all centered around Cectpa Stiles. I love her a lot, and we're good friends. We were in the same BYU ward for a long time, got our calls on the same day, and now (even though she's a Ukrainian speaker) we're in the same zone here at the good old MTC. Anyway. Last P-Day while doing laundry she hit her head really hard on an open overhead dryer door. She thought nothing of it until the next day when she started feeling sick. Her companions (they're a 3some since C. Stiles is the only Ukrainian sister) took her to the health center and they told her that she might have a mild concussion. Things got progressively worse though, so they took her back the next day and told her that she definitely had a serious concussion and had also jammed her neck and pinched nerves, all from a dryer door. So poor C. Stiles spent most of the week in a lot of pain, feeling very sick, and being very out of it. Her and her poor companions hardly got any sleep at all this week. Us other sisters in the zone would trade off being C. Stiles's companions when we had MDT so that her companions could go to class. There was a late night trip to the ER, lots of paramedics/security on our floor at odd hours of the night, and lots of worry. Luckily, after a pretty scary Saturday night, she is up and running again. She's still taking it easy, but we're glad to have her mostly back. And we're glad that it's P-Day so that she and her companions can rest and catch up on sleep. Even on the nights when nothing eventful happened, they still had to wake up every 4 hours to give her medication. But they're all troopers and this whole experience brought them all closer together, and all of us closer together as a branch/zone, too.

Sunday, they always play church films after the firesides, and this week they finally had a translation in Russian! So I got to watch Legacy in Russian. That was cool. It made me realize how much Russian I don't know, but at the same time I could understand quite a bit. But on the plus side, Sister Clark and I taught a native sister who is here going to serve on Temple Square yesterday, and she said that we both have good Russian. I am hesistant to believe her, but she seemed very sincere and not just saying it to be nice, so...here's hoping. We also had a native teacher sub our class for a bit last night. She was such a sweetheart. She's been here in the USA for 7 months and didn't speak any English when she got here. She said that if she could learn English in 7 months (and she still has a few more months left in the ELC on BYU campus), despite not understanding English tenses, then if we read the Book of Mormon in Russian for at least 10 minutes every day, we'd be able to be perfect Russian-speaking missionaries. So that was cool.

Yesterday we had a ton of meetings. This whole week is going to be ridiculous, with preparations for leaving. Yesterday most of our district, plus a few other companionships from our zone had to go to this training meeting, because we've been picked to demonstrate how to begin teaching for the new missionaries that come in on Wednesday. So basically the first night we were here we were all divvied up into different rooms with different investigators and some missionaries came in and started getting to know the investigator and then we all taught together as like a 100-person missionary companionship. And now we get to be those missionaries. Last night we also had this big health and safety meeting, which was a lot of common sense stuff and the senior health Elder telling the Elders to have common sense and good hygeine. But yes. Tonight's our last Tuesday devo here, and then tomorrow we're teaching, have a language meeting of some sort, our hosting meeting, hosting new missionaries again, then after dinner we go straight to this other new missionary demonstration thing that we had the meeting for yesterday. And then after that we'll go to our last TRC appointment. It's going to be insane. And today we have to get all packed, because we're supposed to have our bags all weighed by Thursday. It's just insane. I can't believe it's coming up so soon.

But yes. It's so weird to be leaving. We've gotten to be really good friends with Hermana Larsen. She's the best friend/most likely future sister-in-law of one of the sisters in our zone, and we lived on the same floor before we moved, so she called us all "her Russians." She's serving in Argentina, but not in Matt's mission. However, she left yesterday, so Sunday night we took pictures. I have one of her wearing her Argentina shirt and me in my Russian shirt, so that's cool. But yeah. She's gone and on Monday the first of our group leave, and then we leave. I will miss the MTC, but at the same time I am so excited to get out into the field. :)

Anyway, I've got to go but I love you all!

Sister Rachel

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011

Hey hey!
To answer the questions from your email before I forget. Yes, Lisa is engaged! It's super exciting! :) And yes, I know someone in Vocal Point. His name's Jake Hunsaker. If you get a chance to talk to him, tell him I say hello. He's really an awesome guy. As for the questions from your letter, I don't think I need anything else. At least not that I can think of. I'm not sending that much stuff home. I'm actually hoping to get the package off today, but we'll see how that works out. As for mailing to Russia, I have no idea. It's going to take a long time, which is why they have pouch mail, so for letters for now I recommend DearElder still, and I'll let you know more as I learn more. I really have no idea how often I'll be able to get mail or what will be going on with that. I do however get my travel plans sometime this week, so in the email next week I should be able to tell you when I'm flying out to MOTHER RUSSIA!
Because we're leaving in just 2 weeks, we have now started our "English Fast." Pretty much everything is to be done in Russian, as if we were in the field. There are exceptions, of course, since not everyone in the MTC or who we interact with speaks Russian, but for the most part we do SYL (Speak Your Language) all day, every day from here on out. It just started last night, but it's helped so much just since then. And on Saturday, I think, we were studying outside (It's been SO lovely outside, so we've been taking advantage of it before we go have to experience the end of winter again) and one of the Russian teachers we don't know (I think he's teaching older couples, because we know pretty much all the other Russian teachers) came up and started talking to us. The conversation was entirely in Russian and he said that we understood Russian really well, which was great, because I've been more worried about the understanding and knowing what the conversation's about so that I can reply than the actual speaking itself.
Thanks for the stamps. And to answer Dad's question about why I need stamps...I send a lot of letters. Contrary to popular belief, I do have friends. ;) Haha, but really, they're much appreciated. I'm hoping to not have to buy stamps for the rest of the time I'm here, so thanks! They start to add up. And thanks everyone for all the mail and packages. This week I got a package 3 days in a row! And lots of mail. It really does make a missionary's day to get mail.
So, one of my teacher's roommates teaches Spanish (Espanski) here and so sometime earlier this week we taught their district in English and then they taught us. One of the sisters is from American Fork, so I asked her if she knew the Ashbys. Turns out she does, and she even said that I look like an Ashby. Apparently any Ashby just has this "look" about them, since I look more like Mom, but people have still told me that I look like Laura and Katherine and now the AF Ashbys.
It's really fun being able to see Elder Bezas around. We've gotten to talk quite a bit in meal lines or at the temple on Sundays. I didn't really know the Keazles; I just heard Matt and the fam talk about them, so I haven't been looking for him. I have no idea how to spell their name either. Anyway, the point is that I haven't seen him, but if he's Russian speaking I can try to look for him. He's probably in the other zone, but I see them all the time too.
The closer we get to leaving, the more excited I get and the more scared I get and the more I realize how much I will miss the MTC. I absolutely love it here, despite all the downsides. Mostly I will miss my district and zone. I will get to see lots of my district quite a bit in Moscow, I think. But still. I love them so much, and we are just family. It will be weird to not be around them all 24/7 anymore. I will really miss Cectpa Clark, especially. But at the same time, how many sisters can there be in my mission with only 48ish missionaries total, and we have 3 of them in our district right now, plus another one in our zone, so I am pretty sure I will get to see them quite a bit, at least. Ya ne znayou. It's really weird to try to transliterate Russian words.

This past Wednesday we hosted new missionaries! That was super fun. There were only 20-something sisters that came in, so we each only got to host one sister, but it was still great. I hosted Hermana Sevrinsen, from Salt Lake going to Houston East, Spanish-speaking. She was super cute and will be a great missionary. What is really exciting is that tomorrow we will most likely get to host again and this time there are over 100 sisters coming in. It is going to be awesome. I love Elders, and I'm really not just saying this because I am a sister, but Sister missionaries add so much to the MTC and their districts. We have a district in our zone with no Sisters and I just feel sad for them, especially since my group had so many sisters that came in.

Um. I am not sure what else to say, although there's like 7 minutes left on my email...hmmm....I'll send this one off and then mybe think of more to say before I log off.

Sister Rach

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8, 2011

Departure in T-minus 3 weeks!

Hello Family!

First some things I forgot to write about last week. For DearElder delivery, they deliver DearElders at night Monday-Friday, and will send anything that was written between noon the day before and noon that day. So if you want something to get to me before I email, you need to write it before noon on Monday. Also, I realized I said thanks for the cookies, but I was really more grateful for the music and the shirts. Lastly, this is a friendly reminder for Elizabeth to post emails on my blog. Last I heard she was a bit behind. But ladna (whatever). :) oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY MATT! Today, even.

This week has gone by so fast! I cannot believe it's P-Day again already. Not much has happened I feel, but time is starting to go by so fast. I never have enough time in the day to get all the studying--both language and spiritual--in that I want. I feel like I'm starting to fall behind in the Russian vocab, but oh well. I'll do what I can and when I get to Russia, I'll feel like I know even less and then I will pick it up a bit faster being all immersed in it.

Sister Jenson, one of our teachers, was sick this past week with mono. She's back as of yesterday, but we had subs for 3 days. It was crazy and really weird. You get used to your teachers and although all our subs were awesome, it was weird to have someone different. We were also kind of worried because she's getting married in a month, but she got better very quickly, so it's great.

In other news, Paul Bezas is here at the MTC. I see him almost every day, because all the eastern Europeans share the same gym-meal-meeting schedule, so it's pretty fun. Sister Clark really has come alive this week, opening up, showing her funny side to everyone and not just the sisters, and being really awesome and cute and funny when she freaks out about the organ in devotionals. She's an organist and so she loves it and always gets excited about what stops they're using or the chord progressions or the pedal runs. She's super funny, and I love her to death. Our Progressing Investigators are going really well. This week was so much better than last week, and I feel like we're starting to get to know the newer districts better, especially the sisters and the companionship that we teach for PIs.
The exciting random part of the week was when we went on a walk with Bpat Savage Thursday afternoon. We call them "Pronounciation Parades" where he'll call things out to us in Russian and we repeat them to give us an excuse to get out of the class but still be productive. But on this "pronunciation parade," we found a huge chunk of dry ice outside in the dirt. Some of the Elders picked it up and we took it inside to the class and played with it during one of our breaks. It was a super funny 5 minutes. One of the things I love most about being a missionary is the funny things that our district does like there. We're still focused and work hard and aren't distracted, but are able to laugh and have fun and be awesome in between all the scripture reading and Russian studying.

On Sunday we had such a great fireside. The Provo Temple President and his wife spoke to us. It was one of my favorite devotionals/firesides that we've had. So probably #1 or 2 out of 14ish? It was so good. Just being able to learn more about the temple and the missionary work that goes on there/the other side of the veil. Each time we go to the temple, we help 1 person gain eternal life in just 2 hours. It is such a special place. President Daines gave us 3 things (I think for Elder Maxwell) that help you decide if what you're doing is worthwhile. 1) Is it True? 2) Is it Important? 3) Is it Urgent? The only thing that fills all three of these is missionary work (and therefore temple work). Make it a priority. I know that going to the temple is always one of the highlights of my week. I am so grateful that I will probably have the opportunity to visit the temple in Kyev everything 3 months when I get my visa renewed. Not many people have that opportunity on their mission, especially in eastern Europe. It is so amazing how fast the church is growing over there. 20 years ago there weren't missionaries, and now there is a temple. The only other time that has happened has been in Kirtland. But there are 150+ temples announced or dedicated, and we are so blessed to be living so close to them, whether in Twin or Provo or Moscow. So go more often than you think you can. :)

So I'm in the process of putting together a package to send home with some stuff and picture CDs and a tape of me talking in Russian and some stuff, but I'm starting to think that I probably won't send it until right before I leave, so...be patient.
The last main thing that happened this week was that yesterday we moved! They kicked out all of the sisters who were living in 4M (aka me and the rest of our zone and the other Russian zone), because they're remodeling it into classrooms, I think, and moved us into 3M. It's super disorienting, especially for those of us who have been here practically 8 weeks. We're on the 3rd floor instead of the 4th, at the opposite end of the hallway, so everything is backwards. It's just super weird. But oh well. You win some, you lose some. Losses from the move: our great view of the temple and mountains (replaced by a building), my nice mattress (this new one sags in the middle), and the shelf by our bed to put alarm clocks and journals on and stuff. However, we've won a much nicer bathroom with showers that actually work and stay one temperature and don't burn or freeze your skin off, a lot more space, and 3 more vending machines than we've had before (unfortunately last night all 4 of them were broken). Yep. So it's had it's ups and downs so far, but we've only been there for one night and the move itself went well. And if it's horrible, oh well. I'll be in Russia in 3 weeks anyway! We're all starting to speculate about when we'll get our travel plans. The older district got them 2 weeks before they left, which means we'd get them next week, but we also know some people who didn't get them until the week before, so we'll see. But still! 20ish days and I am out of here! AHHHHHHH! It's so crazy!
Anyway, I think that's about it. I don't think I've forgotten anything. I love you! Thanks for your prayers and support and letters and love.

Sister Rachel Ashby

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1, 2011

I SAW MATT AT THE TEMPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know you probably already know, since he said he would call and tell you, but yay! It was perfect timing. I was not expecting it at all. So my district decided to do sealings this week, so we went to the temple early like we always do. We waited around at the recommend desk for a bit because one of the Elders had gone back for his recommend, but after a while we just decided to go in and get dressed without the Elders. So us 4 sisters are walking through the hall to the sealing office, which is right by the stairs men come up from the locker room. And I see someone who I could have sworn was Rees Atkins coming up the stairs with someone else. And then I realize that it is Rees and that the other person is Matt. I just kind of stand there are say "That's my brother!" Of course, I went up and gave him a huge hug and started crying and it was great. He went off to do a session, and then we went and did sealings, but oh my goodness. It completely made my life. Sealings were also really cool; I had only done them once before, and that was the first time I ever went to the Provo temple for anything but baptisms. Our sealer actually speaks Russian (And Czech and German and French) and does the ordinances in Russian with the natives who come here to the MTC. He gave us some really great advice afterwards. And then we ate breakfast in the cafeteria there like always and that was delicious. So. Pretty much. Everything rocks so far today. One of the best days ever and it's only 9:30, and I have the rest of the day to write letters and do laundry and study and prepare 2 Plan of Salvation lessons in Russian for tomorrow, and go to choir and devotional and laugh with my district and it's going to be awesome. I SAW MATT!!!!!!
Um. That story about Leah was maybe one of the funniest things ever. Besides this past week when the Elders were playing hockey with Cectpa Bullough's desk (with her in it) and she ended up flying and tipping over with her desk. We were all laughing so hard. And then seriously only 2 minutes later, while we were still laughing about C. Bullough, Ct. Woodruff was scooting his chair backwards out into the hall to keep an eye on his companion while he got a drink and he just completely fell over backwards. I haven't laughed so hard maybe ever in my life. But anyway. Tell Leah that waking up early is good, even if it's hard. I have been waking up at or before 6:30 for 7 weeks now and it has not gotten any easier, even though I get to bed at 10:30. I'm not tired during the day for the most part, but getting up is still the hardest thing. C. Clark says she loves to watch me get up in the morning. Apparently she finds it very entertaining.

Let's see. What else. We got new missionaries last Wednesday! There's a solid group of them. 4 Elders and 1 sister who are going to Moscow too, which means that we have pretty much a 1/4 of our entire mission here in our branch. There's only 2 other sisters besides the one going to Moscow though. 1 of them is even Ukranian speaking, but she's great--I knew her at BYU. We were in the same ward, and she got her call on the same day as me. It's still weird to have Russians who's faces I don't know, but I'm sure I'll get to know them all over the next 4 weeks.
Yes! You read that right! 4 weeks! It's now March, which means I can say that I leave here at the end of the month! Our estimated departure date is 4 weeks from today, exactly. I can't believe it. Every time I think about it I get super excited and super nervous all at the same time. It is starting to seem a lot more real, since we hardly ever teach in English anymore and we're officially the older district AND WE GOT OUR RUSSIAN NAME TAGS this past week! It's super cool. Let's see if I can figure this out: СЕСТРА АШБИ. That's what my tag says. It's soooo cool. Also, it took me like 3 minutes to type that out because I don't know the Russian keyboard well enough so after switching the computer over to Russian I just had to go through the entire keyboard to find the cyrilic letters. But hey. It worked. We also are getting to a good point with teaching in Russian. At least with the first lesson. When we taught in the TRC last week, it was so great. C. Clark and I walk into our assigned room and our investigator is one of the same volunteers we had taught the week before. It was a pleasant surprise, especially since we loved teaching her the first week. But we gave a great lesson completely in Russian, that actually sounded pretty good language wise, and even better and more importantly, the Spirit was there and we taught to her needs. That's hard enough in English, let alone in Russian. She commented on it afterwards and C. Clark and I just felt so good. Tomorrow it's the Plan of Salvation though, one that we haven't officially taught po-Ruski, so hopefully it continues to go well. Granted, I'll get to Russia and my abilities will be cut back to nothing again, but still. It's nice to be feeling like we're making progress here.

Um. What else cool happened this week? (I usually keep a sticky note of things to write, but I wasn't very good at filling it out this week) Our district has given 3 of the 4 Russian talks in church this past week, so that's exciting. We really rock. Sister Dibb (Pres. Monson's daughter/2nd YW Presidency counselor) spoke in Relief Society on Sunday, which actually made me think a lot of Elizabeth and Rebecca. We're moving sometime in the next week or two to a different building, most likely on Monday. So that will be interesting. i don't know how we're going to get the time to move--apparently they're not very considerate of the missionaries they kick out. Oh well.
Oh! Thanks for the cookies. They are sooo good. Always. Next snail mail thing you send me you should maybe send me some stamps. I go through them really fast, and I still have 4 weeks left. But not a whole lot, since I only have 4 weeks left. Thank you everyone who has sent me mail. It is so great to get mail; it is such a blessing and a fun, nice reminder that we have family and friends who love and support us back home.
Most importantly, we were all talking about banking stuff earlier this week, because Ct. Johnson had to go to BYU campus to close a bank account and all the sisters were talking one night about how we'll all have to call our respective banks right before we leave to tell them that we're going to Russia for a long time. And I realized that my debit card expires in November. I hadn't even thought about that. So...yes. Something needs to be done about that. When I lost my debit card a while ago, I just called to cancel that one and get a new one. I'm not sure what all information you'd need, but if you could maybe pretend to be me and do that...I really don't want to have to leave to do anything. Going to the Wells Fargo on campus would be the most distracting and worst thing. Anyway. We'll figure something out. I'll talk to you about it more in a snail mail letter or something that's not so easily online findable.
Anyway, that's about it. Hope you enjoyed "the novel," as Lindsey called it in her letter to me. I don't mean to write so much. I'm just a writer and that combined with my fast typing...yeah. Cectpa Clark always makes fun of how much I write. Man, every single time I have gone to type write in this entire email I've typed right first. Yeah. In 16 months I'm not going to be able to speak any English and my emails won't make any sense. It's going to be awesome and then I'm going to have to learn English again so that I can actually pass my classes and graduate. Oh well. Totally worth it.
Love you,
Ceстра Ашби