Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gotta Love Finals

My schedule today:

  • Woke up around 10--two hours late.
  • Ate toast
  • Plopped myself down on the couch and didn't move until about 3:00. So I sat in one spot and worked on this paper for about 4 hours.
  • Ate pizza
  • Went up to campus
  • Studied for my Russian final
  • Went to FHE (ugh for driving on icy/snowy roads) and ate food
  • Plopped down in almost the exact same spot on the couch
  • Had a great talk with some roommates about wonderful things
  • I have been sitting here for 5 hours working on this paper/studying for Russian.
  • I probably won't sleep tonight, now that I really think about it, and if I do it will be very, very briefly.
My schedule tomorrow:
  • Finish this paper
  • Finish studying for Russian
  • Take Russian final
  • Make crepes
  • Go to 368 final and eat food and talk about this paper I am working on right now
  • Come home and write 2 quick synthesis writes for my real final for 368
  • Practice conducting
  • Study for Russian lit final
  • Maybe not sleep again because I have a lot to do before I take my Russian lit final at 7 a.m.
Basically there is way too much to do in the next 28 hours.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Real-World Contacting

You would think that after 18 months of walking around streets trying to force myself to talk in a foreign language to everyone about something as personal to me as what I believe, that talking to other people wouldn't really be a problem.


I was always really bad at contacting on my mission, and now that I'm home . . . well, not much has changed.  I've realized that I have a hard time being social and making new friends. I have also realized that if I ever want to get married or even just be a good, productive member of society, I need to start talking to people. And, especially after inspiration from my lovely roommate Tracy, I have been making a special effort the past few days to talk to people--especially guys, no matter if I'm interested in them or not. Just noticing the little things to start a conversation, like we would on the metro or trains. Patron is checking out a ton of books on King Lear--"Oh, are you doing a paper on King Lear? I LOVE King Lear!" Or starting to talk with the guy who held the door open for me. Or the kid wearing a Russia jacket. That last one actually took a really, really long time. But guess what. Contacting is hard. No matter where you are, why you're trying to do it, or what language you are speaking in, it's just not natural. So wish me luck in my endeavors.

At least here in Provo people don't swear at me. :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I probably shouldn't be quite so emotional about this. But it just warms my heart and makes me miss my nametag and my mission in general.

Tonight I got home from a fun night a Guru's with Tracy and Danny. I open my facebook to be welcomed by the announcement that not one, but two, younger sisters of some dear, dear friends of mine were called to serve missions in Russia! One of them in MY MOSCOW! I screamed for joy and the longer I think about it I almost tear up. I remember when I got my call and the wonderful feelings I had and how I had no idea what I was getting myself into--what miraculous, wonderful beautiful time I would have. And how much I would fall in love with Russia and the Russians and their language and culture and just discover a part of my soul I never knew was missing.

So now I can't tear myself away from facebook. I'm telling Hannah all about Russia. I want to tell Beth all about MOSCOW! And I'm just reminiscing on all the greatness that is...well, this:

I was actually just thinking earlier today about how I've found a happy place and aren't missing it too much anymore. But now I have mission-call-envy. I want to go back. MOTHER RUSSIA!

Monday, December 3, 2012


I have decided that I need to get back to blogging more. I feel like this is a good sign--like I actually care about recording my life again, maybe a sign that I moving on from my mission a little bit in a good way and not a depressing way. And since I have not been productive for the past 3 hours, I decided I should blog.

Anyway. I'm not quite sure what to blog about. But I need to do this more. I love Christmas. I love how we have a tree and lights and stockings and snowflakes. I love Doctor Who. I love Tracy and the rest of my roommates. I love hot chocolate. I love not being stressed out when I should be. I love Taylor Swift and Christmas music. I am just super happy right now. It's kind of weird. I haven't felt this light and happy in a really long time. Not that I've been unhappy. Just not like this.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm actually 23

Tonight was one of those nights.

Looked super cute, for no particular reason, other than I wanted to
Ate good food
Saw great family people
Watched a silly movie, that involved a lot of laughing, and a lot of swooning, even if David Tennant looked like this half the time. I think it was mostly great because he tries to play the bagpipes.
Isn't he just adorable? Hideous outfit, and yet he's still so attractive.
Made an 11:00 p.m. Walmart run with Tracy that ended up a lot more of an adventure than we were originally planning on. Bought the new T Swift CD and great tights and a lot of Christmas decorations and a photogenic rake (the original purpose of the outing) and some intriguing deodorant. Hehehehehe.
Blasted T Swift on the way home with the windows down. While dancing.
I feel good about my future plans for life and I also love my roommates and today was just great. And I think I'm going to start writing on here more.

Tonight was this song.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


It's been a long time since I posted. I just don't really have much of a desire to blog anymore. Maybe I need to be writing more in general, and a blog is usually a good way to do that. But I just...don't feel like it. I guess I'm still trying to sort out who/what/where I am after the mission.

Yeah, I'm just one of those awkward recent RMs. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012


(Remember how I said I wrote the other day? This is it.)

My first week in Russia, I saw a plastered drunkar(d—my Russian companion seemed to think that last “d” didn’t exist) on the metro. A friend helped him into the wagon, but as soon as the train started moving, the drunk man fell and slid across the almost-empty floor. He couldn’t get up, he had no balance. And honestly, I knew how he felt. Although I hadn’t lost my full balance-capacities to debilitating alcohol, the metro was something hard for me at first. The balancing part, I mean. Standing sideways, feet about shoulder-width apart, slowly rocking with the train . . . it was easier when you knew the strip of metro line really well, so you could expect generally how the wagon would rock. And there were always the hand-railings. But then very often there were the moments where the metro was too crowded to hold on and too crowded to get the optimum center of balance, and you just had to hope that you weren’t going to embarrassingly fall over into the 5 people right next to you and cause a domino effect. It became a game to see how long I could stand in the middle of the wagon, not holding on, just riding the metro in perfect balance. It’s an interesting feeling—to be almost one with the machine, feeling from the incontrollable movements of your body how you need to resist next, where to put your weight to counter the turn and the stop. As one who was never super balanced before, I became proud of my physical control and grew to love the puzzle of forces and the feeling of resisting gravity.

My last week in Russia, I went to the circus. My companion and I took the train to Chkalovskaya and hopped on the salad green line. Sister M was new in Russia; I was her trainer and she had only been there a 2 months. As someone who was even less coordinated than I am (which is saying something), it was half funny and half pitiful to watch her on the metro. She still was having a hard time finding her balance in Moscow, and not just on the metro. After meeting up with our district, we wandered the streets in between Chistie Prudie and Sretenskii Bul’var and eventually wound up at our intended destination. I was amazed with all the physical stamina and control the performers had. Balance. It was all contained in their perfect balance. One brother stood on a board on balls and placed a board on his head, balls on that board, and another board on top of that—which his brother than stood on top of. A dancer did point ballet on a tightrope, quickly jumping between the splits and to a full toe-stand and back again. The line wobbled, but she never moved from the center. Having once worn a pair of my dorm-mate’s toe shoes, I knew how hard it was to stand balanced in them on a full floor. Her balance was perfect, and blew my practically-perfect metro-riding out of the water.

Balance is an interesting thing. Life is full of moments where we don’t have control and our body just needs to take over: running along an icy sidewalk to catch the bus, playing chicken on the bars in elementary school, hiking down a mountain slope of wet rocks. It’s hard to put trust in the internal balance regulator that we’ve supposedly been blessed with. It requires just the right amount of caution, but not too much, or the rigidity of your body makes things worse. It’s usually better if you have a friend to hold onto—unless, of course, you fall while trying to steady their skid. I never could get past my fear of falling and lack of confidence enough to purposely slide along the snowy sidewalks like some of my companions. But the moments where I just started walking, and running, and flying, forgetting about the ice beneath my feet . . . once I realized what was happening, that the ground beneath me really was slippery . . . those were some of the most liberating moments.

Proverbs 16:11 reads, “A just weight and balance are the Lord’s: all the weights of the bag are his work.” And perhaps this spiritual balance is harder to achieve than the pointe on the tightrope—a daunting task for those of us who struggle with our feet planted firmly upon the ground (even if it is icy or moving at high speeds miles underground). Sometimes when I start missing Moscow, I miss that thrill that comes while walking on the icy streets and riding the metro, the thrill of defying the natural man and becoming something more. It’s so much harder to find a perfect balance of self when there isn’t a physical manifestation of your success, when it’s all internal. It’s a lifelong pursuit, as well, not just something you can learn in a few months. I think about Sister M falling over into people almost every time we got on the metro, and realize that that is me in a spiritual sense. I hope that by the end of my “mission” I will at least have some control, have mastered some of the handholds and weight-placement of life. Right now I’m perhaps in the too-cautious mode, which, I’ll admit, is my main problem, both physically and spiritually. But I hope to get to the point where I’m playing the metro game every moment, where I have the courage and determination to just go with the flow and not worry about school and the future and plans that have fallen through. Where I can truly realize what is important to me and who I am in the Lord’s eyes. I’m trying to find that balance, to slowly let go of the railing, and then, with perfect faith in the Lord, just take off running down a slippery, icy tightrope.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Since my mission, writing has been difficult. My first thought paper for John Bennion wasn't anything special, and my first big paper was like pulling teeth. But today has been a day full of little tender mercies having to do with writing.
  • Taking 45 minutes out of my day to just do a rush-write, just for me (well, for an England thing, but it was mostly for me). Putting off homework just to write? Good life decision.
  • A professor I really respect telling me that he think I'd make an awesome Writing Fellow and convincing me to actually apply.
  • Another professor I really love giving me great comments on a thought paper--made me feel so good about my writing, especially since I wrote it at 2 a.m.
  • Just thinking a lot about writing, kind of randomly today. About previous things I've written, about ideas I've had for new personal essays, etc. 
I think it's time to start writing more, both academically and for me personally. Only problem: TIME.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Journal for the Day

It's been a crazy day full of many, many emotions. Some days (or weeks or months) you just aren't sure what's going on, or things can take a turn for the worse, even though they start out great. But after some wonderful talks with a few dear, dear friends, I'm going to go talk to my best friend of all. Because He knows me perfectly. And I need Him, and He loves me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Main Difference Between Moscow and Provo

So right now it's about 15 degrees Celsius in Provo, and 10 in Moscow. Not super huge difference. A bit chilly both places, and Moscow's a bit colder, but 5 degrees really isn't all that much.

The main difference is that when I'm walking around in just a short-sleeved shirt no one is asking me if I'm cold or telling me to put a jacket on. I even see people wearing a lot less than I am (shorts, flip-flops, etc.) It's kind of weird. Especially since people would have started asking me that weeks ago. And now when I actually am a bit on the chilly side, no one asks.

So, remember. PUT ON YOUR SCARF!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Confession and a List

       I feel bad that I haven't been blogging more. Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I should. Especially since I haven't journaled at all since like my 3rd day home. Oops. It's just hard when you don't have that rigid, rigid schedule and that set, set time. But it's almost like I don't want to. On the days when I have things in myself (good or bad) that I need to confront, I find myself just drowning out that nudge with . . . well, honestly, things that aren't super time worthy. On my mission, all I had was the important things. It was easy. I had to go straight to the source: to my friends, to myself (through writing and study and introspection), and to God. And that was it. And now, even though I know that that is what is important and helpful, it's hard to confront yourself and talk it all out through whatever medium when you have all these other distractions. It's ironic that we just finished reading Gogol's Dead Souls in my Russian Lit class because we talked about how souls die when they get sucked up into all the banality in the world, and frankly, even though I know what's happening to me and what is truly important, I find myself doing the things that I know that in the long run I don't want to do, and that I told myself at the end of my mission when I knew I would be coming home to face this EXACT SAME THING that I wouldn't do. I knew that this would be my struggle. And I knew that I didn't want to do it, that I wanted to be strong and resist. And yet, here I am.

Okay, sorry. Every time I've come to write on my blog in the past month, what I have meant to post ends up coming out completely different. Like the confession was originally only going to be that I felt bad about not blogging. But maybe it's a good thing. It's part of the self-exploring things. But sorry, that means it's been more introspective and personal. But maybe you like that stuff and I shouldn't be apologizing. I'm not really sure who all reads my blog anymore anywho. A lot of people are super busy. I don't read blogs or blog as much as I used to. Interesting all these interesting technology fads, how they get big and then just slowly kind of die away. Or maybe I'm just making things up. Anyway. Here are some things that I'm really excited about right now. This is the list part.


  • Poetry! I'm reading a book of poetry by Lance Larsen for my LDS Lit class, and it is awesome. I want to be able to write good poetry.
  • Avengers with Katelyn tonight
  • My goals that I hope will finally become a reality this next week
  • $48 aerobics wristband working-outings with Krisitin
  • Sleep
  • Going back to Moscow on an internship next summer? Maybe?
  • Figuring out what to do with my life
  • Rediscovering what I love
  • Bones
  • People people people people people. SO many people whom I love.
  • FINALLY getting moved into my room. Not just unpacked, but organized.
  • Living in a house.
  • Closing the desk in 5 minutes to go home and for it to be the real weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I want to write.

But I have nothing to say.

I feel so boring.

Maybe I just want to write to avoid doing homework? Maybe this makes me a bad person, but I really don't care about school right now. I need some drive in my life besides people because people just make me want to not do homework and just skype and talk and play ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Short but Sweet

The longer I live (aka, the past few weeks), I have realized that almost everything and everyone important that has ever happened to me or been a part of my life (not quite EVERY, but a good majority, really, like almost every, especially considering that my life has been only 23 years long and these events are all found in only about the last 4th of that) have began or been centered on 3 main events in my life:
  • Freshman year at BYU, in Helaman Halls
  • England and Lit 2009
  • My Mission in Moscow
And that's it. Just some размышление from the past few days.

Friday, August 31, 2012


This is one of my favorites in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
Before my mission, I knew what I was going to do after I graduated: grad school in a lit-something or other, maybe somewhere like Chicago, or (if I was feeling really ambitious) Oxford. Get married sometime and have a family. Become a professor of Brit Lit somewhere. I just hadn't really decided an emphasis yet. But I had my general life fairly well planned. I was flexible, of course, but I knew what direction I generally wanted to go. Then I served a mission. And everyone always said that things sometimes changed after your mission--different plans, different ideas, different life. But I guess I always thought that, yes, I would come back a different person, but having had already spent 3 1/2 years at the university and being in a program that I simply adored and having fairly set plans, that specifically wouldn't change.

Well, today's been kind of one of those rougher adjustment days. I go up and down a lot--I guess you could say I'm mission-adjustment bipolar or something. And I'm pretty sure this is fairly normal. One day I will be so happy to be here, like yesterday: great friends, great football game, great classes and work, great life. And the next, although I am so happy and have great experiences, I'm just not...fully content. Something just isn't right, and it's that I'm not in Moscow and I can't wear my tag and I'm going through that whole "I feel like a horrible person and sinner" stage that a couple of people always told me about. And that's how I feel today, but more not necessarily the horrible person thing, just that...I'm not content. It's more than just that, what I've already mentioned. I don't know where I'm going in life now. I have absolutely no direction. Because as much as I love English...I feel like I'm not quite as good at it as I used to be, and that there's something more. And I feel very strongly that I need to do something with Russian. But I'm too close to graduation to double major, I think (need to go find out for sure, maybe they'll let me, but it'll probably be a big headache). And everything that I look at, option-wise, just doesn't feel right. My previous plans don't feel right. My new exploration of plans doesn't feel right. Nothing feels right. And I feel lost, which after having basically the past 6 years of my life with a pretty definite direction (BYU, English, mission, etc.) , especially in the past year and half, it's a very daunting feeling. Not only do I not know where I'm going, I don't know how to even start finding out where to go, because I, in a sense, don't even know where I am yet at this current place in time. After years of very rapid and deep progression, I have kind of just stopped, simply because I am utterly confused as to where to go next. I don't know who I am and need to become or what to do or where to go or when to do everything (okay, that one I actually do know: SOON. Because if I'm graduating in April or August, which I probably will be, unless I can convince the department to let me double major, I need to apply for graduation in the next few weeks/months and if I'm going to grad school I need to start prepping now) or how, because the how kind of follows all those other big decisions. And I feel like I just need a lot of prayer and temple and tears and inward wrestling with myself and especially time--because that is a long process when you're making a big decision. And, I just don't have the time, because like I said, these decisions need to be made soon. And the faster I try to think, the more lost I become, the more questions I have.

Короче, I feel like I'm in this process of completely redefining myself right now, and it just seems like there are so many questions that can only be answered between me and the Lord, and the more that I think about them and try to come up with solutions, nothing just feels right and I just have more and more questions. 

Friday, August 24, 2012


Well, I know, I have stayed up way too late getting this whole new layout thing. I needed to do it. I can't really describe why. I guess I just needed to make my blog connect in some way with the new me, and it was super important because the past few days I've just felt this weird disconnect from old me and new me and not really knowing where/who I am. And I wanted something Russian-y. I miss...that. Russia and all it entails.

Anyway. Those of you who don't speak Russian are probably wondering what the heck (haha, I just remembered the time I had to explain this phrase to a Russian...) "baltushka" means. Well, it's a Russian word, transliterated of course for your pronouncing enjoyment/possibility. My Russian "daughter" always lovingly calls me a baltushka. It means chatterbox, or something like that. Basically, someone who talks a lot, rambles, won't shut up. I figured it's a good name for my blog, since:

  • It's a good name for me because I really am a baltushka and am long-winded, especially on my blog
  • It reminds me a lot of my mission and some of the best transfers on my mission and some of my favorite people from my mission
  • Makes me feel like the pre-mission Rachel and the mission Sister Ashby and the post-mission Rachel are synthesizing together to become best-possible-still-me-but-better Rachel
So, vot. There you go. New and improved blog, with more of an explanation than was probably necessary. Point and case. (Case and point? I'm never sure which order they are in. The first makes more sense, but the second sounds better...nu ladna)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Please forgive the mismatchedness going on. In the process of doing blog remont and I'm not quite sure what I want yet, or how to do certain things on this new-fangled contraption called a computer. I hope all will be put back together soon, and I will post something actual and thoughtful and therapeutic for me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Well, this is it.

It's me. In real time.

I'm back. But right now this is just weird.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2, 2012

So the "great" thing about Moscow in the summer is that EVERYONE and their dog (literally) goes on vacation. So...no one is home or answers their phones. It's very frustrating. And I'm sick of calling people just for them to not answer or not be available. So that has been my life the past week. Basically trying to call people and no one really answering. Which doesn't make for a lot of meetings. I had to kind of snort in disgust when I heard about what Matt's district leader told him, because numbers are not all that is important, and I bet if that Elder came here, he couldn't get a meeting to save his life. And the Russians would be able to tell that he was just doing it to get stats. Or whatever. Gotta love dacha season though. Nothing so far has happened with Nastia. She is one of those who hasn't been reachable besides once when she called back super late at night. Also, our other main investigator who was progressing also went on vacation until probably after I'm gone.

Dacha season means a lot of contacting, which, as long as it's with our district, I'm more than fine with. District contacting, at least singing wise in a place where it's legal, is just so effective. And fun. I've realized that I actually don't really even care if I don't meet with all that many people because my favorite part of the work I think is just talking to the random people who come up when we're singing or who ask something when they take a prig...it's the small little seed-planting conversation and the weird people who make good stories that I've really been enjoying lately. One time this week was really entertaining because we had a lot of adventures. We made 60 rubles (this lady just came up and gave us money. When we told her to take something if she wanted to pay us and not give us money, she took a Family Proclamation but still left the money anyway). A guy listened to one of the missionaries for a bit, and then took our pictures for like an hour while we were singing. This lady had us pray for her on the street. And there was a drunk guy who wouldn't leave Elder Finke alone, finally left, and came back and hour later, so we ended up going to a different metro. He was so drunk. You could smell the vodka on him from like 10 feet away. Anyway. Yesterday on that same metro, I was able to give a KM to a JW and this other guy who just came up, asked if I was Mormon and what it meant to "receive a book free." I was like, "Just take the book and read it. It means what it says." He said that he'd only see Mormons on a cartoon (probably South Park) but that he liked the whole idea of loving each other so he would read, and left me his business card without me even asking, which I gave to the Elders. I was super surprised that the J-Dub lady took the BOM though. She was really worried that we were polygamists though, so we'll see.

I got lost on the way to a member's house the other day and we walked over a mile out of our way. Sister Maxwell was really tired after that. I don't think she was expecting to walk that far, and it was a long walk anyway. Kak raz, this member is getting married in September to someone from Boise and they'll probably be getting married in Twin Falls! We thought that was cool.

Probably the highlight of my week was this cute girl named Sveta. I met her after English club and she was having a bad day and didn't want to leave, so I talked to her for along time and we got to be friends, and the next day we went to lunch with her. I got to share the BoM with her and she was super excited about it, but mostly she's just this cute 16-year-old who's way smart and likes Theater and music and English and needs some love and some friends. I love her, and she is just so excited that we are her friends, and I can't wait to see her at English CLub on Wednesday and stuff. She's just super super super cute. And her family is religious but nondenominational and interested in other faiths so we'll see what happens. She doesn't live in our area though, but whatever. She's still a big sweetheart.

Well, the church is true! You all are great. Don't die (especially Michael). Tell everyone hi from me. Sorry this is so short, but I need to pick pictures to print for some missionaries and this keyboard is horrible!

Sister Ashby

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25, 2012

So. Things that I've learned this week.
  • The trains on weekdays have this super obnoxious lunch break that's like 2 hours long, right when I need to use it half the time. i.e. come email, go to district meeting, etc.
  • I can feel my body starting to give out. I've just been so tired and emotionally unstable half the time. I think it's just a training thing, though, because I was like this with Sister X2 too.
  • There was a lot of really cool stuff that I did at the beginning of my mission that made more of an impact than I thought it did--with investigators, or projects like my musical fireside with Sister Mordwinow, or things like that.
  • Half the elders in my zone are scared of spiders.
  • I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm a real mom, because just being a trainer I feel like I do everything (mostly just because I'm the one who speaks Russian and knows how everything is supposed to work) and I don't have enough time. However, as a real mom I won't be a missionary, so maybe it will balance out a little bit.
So there was quite a bit of cool stuff that happened this week, even though I've been exhausted. I have yet to have gotten lost or have gotten on the wrong train (well, we did once, but I realized it before it was too late, and we got off at the next station and waited for the real train). That's a big deal. Visited a less-active woman. She said that she was lucky, because we called like the day before she was going to leave for the summer, so if we had called just a few days later, she wouldn't have answered and we wouldn't have been able to see/meet her. It's really funny though, a lot of the members and investigators are leaving for the summer, and since I just got here, they don't realize that I'll probably be gone by the time that they get back. haha. But we did service as a zone this week, which was pretty cool and a lot of fun. Got to spend some time with some missionaries that I haven't really been around in a really, really long time.
We've gone singing contacting twice this week. That is probably my favorite way to contact. It attracts attention, brings the Spirit, and you get to build district unity, all at the same time! Plus, I love to watch "my" Elders contact--like, the ones I've been with since the MTC, or that I served with when they were brand new, because I can see how much they've grown. I mean, I was with them when they didn't know any Russian at all, or when they didn't feel like they could talk to people, and now here they are, doing it, talking to people in Russian on the street and getting contacts and stuff. We had backpacks dropped on us as we were walking in the metro, I'm not sure whether it was on purpose on an accident, but it was funny. Talked to some super super crazy people. One guy told us that we have to read in libraries more, that Columbus opened America with help from the Russians, and that we're practically related, because all my ancestors were Pravoslanie Russians. Oh boy... There was this guy from Vietnam who started videoing us singing "I Need Thee Every Hour/Ti nuzhen mne Gospod" and then he told us that he knows the Church in Vietnam. He barely spoke RUssian or English, but he was super nice. My favorite part though was how one day there was this obnoxious Subway ad guy who we see quite a bit, and he came up to me and thrust a prig into my hand for subway, and I thought, okay, now you take mine. And he wouldn't, because he was like, "I already know your religion, something something blah blah blah." I was kind of mad. I was like, "No, you come take this prig and you like it! At least beacuse I took yours!" Well, about 45 minutes later, he comes back up to us and asks what it is, because as we were singing he realized it wasn't what he thought it was, and he took a prig. I was like, "Ha! Victory. I win." People have also started just talking to me themselves a lot this week, like the ticket checker on the train who asked if we were sectanti, the lady who told me that I forgot to take my nametag off when I left work, and a lady who asked for directions on a train platform.
Sad news: Olga is going out of town for at least a month. She might not even be back before I head out. :( But that's okay, I guess, because I met Nactia this week!
Who is Nactia? Well, we had gone to see this other Olga (a dropped investigator who I don't think understands that the Sisters dropped her and invited us over, and we decided to go to meet her...or to meet Nactia and we just didn't know it), who lives super far away. And we were waiting on the train platform for the train. And this girl comes and sits next to us. I'm thinking, No one sits next to missionaries. I want to talk to her. And then she pulls out a Bible and starts reading! I asked her where she was reading--James 4. So we start talking, and we end up talking for 15 minutes waiting for our train. We get on the train together and keep talking for another hour until it's her stop. She was awesome! At first I thought she was about my age, but it turns out she's married with a kid in 2nd grade, so she's probably a little older. But she was super nice and open, I felt like I could just talk to her for forever. She believes that different churches are true for different people, and that as long as you believe in Christ and do good, you're good to go. Her husband is studying to be a pastor, and she invited us to their churches services. But she was also really excited just to talk about what we believe. She was sooooooo interested in the BoM and kept coming back to it, asking why she had never heard that Christ appeared in the Americas before (she said it like it was true already), and things. She already lives the Word of Wisdom, doesn't even drink tea or coffee! I mentioned that our calls are assigned by revelation and she said, "Well, yeah, that's probably why you learn the language so fast. God knows it's already a part of you somewhere." AHHHHH. She is just so prepared and open and awesome! I'm hoping that we can definitely meet this week. When I called on Saturday she was so excited that it was me. I can't even describe. I know that I shouldn't get my hopes up, because I have so many times and nothing has come of it, and even if that is the only time things work out to see her or if nothing serious happens with her and her family, I won't be disappointed, but oh man. I finished that conversation, and I just kind of sat there in this super happy shock. That was by far one of the best things of my mission. And I just feel so different about her. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch or anything, but maybe she and her family are who I've been looking for, yearning for, wanting to teach my entire mission. She was just super great. I don't even know what else to say about her. Pray for her and for us that we can meet up soon and that they'll be interested and that things will work out. She is just so happy and open and good already, and I just know that the gospel can add so much more to that.
That's about it for this week. You all are great. Enjoy your theme days. Those sound...either fun or...I'm not sure. Also, I watched the Christmas Pageant last night. I love the part where Elizabeth/Mary (who is a virgin and hasn't even been appeared to by the angel yet) walks in with her big balloon belly. And Rebecca saying, "DAD! I didn't have my part!" Cracks me up every time. Love you all.
Sister Ashby

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

Hey hey hey everyone. Looks like it's about time for the update from Moscow! This is the best place in the world, no matter what Matt says about Argentina. ;) So it's been a pretty crazy week, full of good stuff and not so good stuff. Monday we had an adventure when the International Ward Elders accidentally stole our phone! Luckily they were able to find the phone number of a member that they knew we were with to call her right before we left her, so we knew that they had it, but it did make things interesting for the next day until we could get it back. Luckily, we're one of the only apartments in the mission that still has a house phone.

I also had to get my "new" shoes remonted last P-Day. They were getting a hole in the heel, but the guy did a really good job and it only cost 100 publes (like 3 dollars)! My other shoes would be way too much of a hassle though...they're thrashed, and even though I tried to fix them, they are still kind of difficult to wear...oh well. It was actually super cool though because at our combined mission conference on Thursday, Sister Stevenson (wife of the new Presiding Bishop) told a story of missionary shoes when she and her husband were serving in Japan as the mission president. There was a pair of brand new shoes and a pair of old, thrashed shoes sitting in the doorway of the mission home--belonging to an Elder who had just come in the day before, and an Elder who was leaving the next day. It was super cool, because Sister Frolova and I were crying, because that's us right now. Our shoes are so thrashed, and Sister Maxwell's are brand new.

Mission Conference as a whole was just awesome! We had Elder Rasband and his wife, Bishop Stevenson and his wife, two mission presidents, our entire Area Presidency and Elder and Sister Christofferson. Plus so many missionaries. It was great, especially to meet some of the missionaries who will be joining our mission in just about 2 weeks. Of course, I probably won't get to know many of them, but it was a really great feeling. I got to sing in a special musical number where about 7 sisters from both missions and maybe 12 Elders or something sang "Army of Helaman" in Russian. After the meeting, when we got to go up through the line and shake everyone's hand, Sister Rasband said, "And THIS is the Sister with the beautiful voice!" We were sitting on the 2nd row right in front of the Rasbands and she could tell that it had been me singing. :) She was really nice. And Elder Christofferson said that he recognized a few of us from our application pictures, which is way cool, because I know through some events (Lisa meeting Elder Christofferson the weekend after my call was assigned) that he assigned my call, and we were also sitting right in front of the Christoffersons. :) Basically, it was just a really cool day. I can't even describe the Spirit that I felt at that meeting. I just wanted to beam and sing and be a missionary my entire life.

The rest of the week was basically Sister Frolova packing (she left Thursday right after Conference), and Sister Maxwell and I going through the Area Book and trying to learn the area a bit. Luckily, Sister Frolova was able to teach us a little bit, but hardly anything considering that there are 2 train lines and a couple outer cities and a lot of forbidden-to-American area in our area. But no big deal. We also met our landlord who is HILARIOUS, broke our couch (NOT my fault), went to see Olga without getting lost (she is so great, she couldn't come to conference, but I really just want her to keep progressing, she is amazing)...it was a pretty good week.

Then we had Stake Conference. What a great opportunity. This one was just with Elder Christofferson, but still, hey, it was AWESOME! I really loved just seeing people though. I got to see a lot of people from my first area who I hadn't seen in soooo long and love so much. They were all surprised that I go home so soon...they said it felt like I just go here. Yeah, you're telling me! And I got to see a lot of people from ZGrad too. It was just so wonderful to be around people that I love, at stake conference of the best stake in the world. The rest of Sunday went kind of crazy though. And when I mean crazy, I mean maybe the creepiest, craziest thing that has ever happened to me. NOT JOKING.

So, on Saturday we got this contact from the office from a lady who ordered a BoM from the church website and had emailed the office a few times. Elder Ayers warned me that she might be kind of crazy because she said something like, "I speak really slowly and keep all the commandments." in her email, but long-story short (I won't go into a lot of detail because I'm serious when I say this next part, and I really don't like talking about it), I swear this lady was possessed. She talked at about 1 syllable per second in this creepy voice, said there was a poltergeist in her appartment, looked kind of like Professor Trewlany from HP (not the movies/Emma Thompson...creepier) and accused us of not living the Bible for multiple reasons. After the first 3 minutes I wanted to leave, but unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to for much longer. And so I'm just siting there talking to this woman, and Sister Maxwell has no idea what is going on, and the weird feeling that was there in the apartment when we first got there just kept getting weirder and eviler. Finally, I was able to just be like, "Oh! Nam pora! (It's time for us to go)" and we told her she could keep in contact with the office through email if she wanted to meet again and ran out. Sister Maxwell still had no idea what was going on, and I was like, "I am NEVER going back there again." I couldn't shake the bad feeling, so I even called the Elders and they gave me a blessing and offered to be angels and sometime through the office go back over to rescue Sister Maxwell's English scriptures because later we realized that SHE LEFT THEM THERE. She was like, "I thought you were going to kill me." And I said, "No, I won't kill you. You just won't have scriptures unless your family sends you new ones." Now it's starting to be funnier, but it was horrible. But thank goodness for the power of the Lord and the priesthood. The Elders met us right away and we went to the branch building and I got a blessing. And felt a lot better. He is always nearby to help us, and we have power over anything evil through Him.

Well, on that...insert adjective of your choice here...note, I think that's about it for this week. Despite meetings with possessed women, I really do love being a missionary. I love Russia. I love these people. And most of all I love this Gospel. It is so true, and it has changed me inside and out. I've heard multiple people say that their mission wasn't the best 2 years of their life, but rather the best 2 years FOR their life. Well, I think it's both. Despite the hard times, the crazy times, and everything, the really awesome days (like Thursday or Sunday morning), the really awesome people (like missionaries, President Sorenson, church members and investigators and friends), and the Spirit and everything makes it the best 2 years in every sense of the word. To be honest, I'm scared out of my wits to come home, but luckily, I still have plenty of time to hopefully be the Lord's hands in His work here in the Russia Moscow Mission. The Church is true, and Jesus is the Christ.

Sister Ashby

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11, 2012

Another crazy week. It's always crazy, but this past week and next week are especially crazy and then things will kind of get back to as normal as you can get on a mission...besides the fact that it will just be the 2 of us and I still don't really know our area. Oh well. Shto delat? Snimat shtani e beget. hahahaha... (translation: What to do?--like in the meaning, We can't do anything, that's the way it is...I can't remember exactly how we would say that in english... and then the answer: take off pants and run. It's super funny).

So this week, Sister Maxwell got better, Sister Frolova and I both took days kind of feeling sick/tired, I went on a visa trip to Riga, and we got to know some more people in the branch/area. Due to sickness and visa trip though, there were a few days where I felt like I hadn't done work in a long time, so I'm super excited for when everything settles down and we can have normal study and I can train normally and we can just work. Here's the run down:
  • So, yeah. Riga. That's in Latvia, if you don't know.Things changed and we can't go to Kiev anymore (bummer, no temple). So we basically just fly to Riga and then eat in the airport and then fly back. I was super bummed we didn't have time to leave the airport, but I already have plans to go actually see Riga someday soon because that's where Sister Frolova is from and even before we were comps we had plans that I was going to go see her. It was a pretty crazy day, involving one of our Elders not being able to come with us due to a passport problem (LONG STORY), everyone being super happy and smiley and serviceable in Latvia, and a lot of running back and forth through various airport security and passport control. It didn't seem like so much when we were in Kiev, because we had longer in between and go to do something else, but it was still fun to be together as missionaries.
  • The other main event was church. There were hardly any people there yesterday, and it was actually a really interesting Sunday. President came to do interviews, so we had those instead of going to Sunday School. Just for the record, I have the best mission president in the world. And then we helped in Primary instead of going to RS. There were only 2 kids there, but I was playing piano and the Elders were teaching a lesson or something...I'm actually not sure why we were all there, but the lone Primary leader really appreciated it. And on Sundays, our branch feeds us. They are so awesome. They tell us that it's their service and every Sunday after church, some ward members either take us to their house for lunch, or make us some food at the branch. Our branch is really small and spread out, so it's hard for them to feed us on other days, and so they do this for us. Man, this branch is so great. There are so many powerful, funny, wonderful members of the church here, and because it's so small, it's a lot like a family.
  • Music lessons. I guess right before I got here, President gave Sister Horspool permission to teach piano and things, and so I kind of continued that and we've had some interesting things this week. There is an older lady in our ward who, bless her heart, really really really wants to learn how to sing. But she is pretty much tone deaf. Not completely, but almost. So I got to spend about 40 minutes playing notes and trying to help her hit them. It was kind of funny. But she is a sweetheart and we had a great spiritual thought with her afterwards. She's less-active and I guess in the past year has started to become more active, so it's really great that we can help her. I also got to help an inactive girl about my age with piano. She used to go to a different branch and then stopped going all together, but hopefully she will start to come, especially if she realizes that the best time for me to help her with piano is right after church. ;) And there's another awesome girl in our ward who wants to start learning piano and it's just going to be awesome to help this small branch actually have more people who can play, and also try to reactivate some people through it as well.
  • Anyway, our branch is awesome. Have I said that already? Our branch president and his wife are super funny, and I just really love all our members. It's just such a fun, happy, strong branch, even if it's small. I'm happy that I've been able to get to know some people and already start to build relationships quickly, since I only have so little time to be here in this branch. okay, moving on...
  • Lastly, there is Olga. Olga is our main investigator right now, who is slowly progressing, and she is a sweetheart! One of our super-missionary ward members (she served a mission in New York and is now married with 2 kids, who are 8 and 5?) lives in the building next to hers and they met each other on the train. Olga was interested in learning English, so the member gave her number to the sisters for English Club, and more. They started meeting with her twice a week, once for English, and once in Russian for the Gospel. She is already so full of light and so bright and happy and loving. I loved her the minute that I met her. Wednesday before English club we were supposed to have a meeting with her, but she hit traffic, so we were just able to get to know her. And then we went out to her place (about a 30-45 minute train ride) on Saturday to actually have a lesson. Her prayer was so wonderful. She has so much potential, and she is just so wonderful. Hopefully we can start to see her progress even more than she already is.
  • This week will be full of awesomeness. On Thursday we have a mission conference (actually, 2 mission conference, our mission and the West mission, which will be our mission in...3ish weeks) with Presiding Bishop Stevensen, Elder Rasband, and Elder Christofferson, who are all coming for Area Review and Stake Conference, which will be this weekend. Right after that we say goodbye to Sister Frolova, who goes home on Friday. :( I will miss her a lot. We have been together since the MTC, and we can just talk about anything. I am just very grateful that I got to serve with her for at least 2 weeks. And then Sister Maxwell and I are on our own. Time to whip her into shape! Just kidding, she's already doing great. I just hope that I don't hop on the wrong train with her or something and take her to nilsya-area that is off-limits to Americans without permission or something (a lot of our area is closed to Americans). It will be awesome. I have no worries. And I have big plans.
Well, the church is true! Read the KM every day. Say your prayers. Be good. Don't die.
Love you lots,

Sister Ashby

Monday, June 4, 2012

June 4, 2012

Hey all! Greetings from Moscow! It's been quite the adventure with transfers and things, but things are going great, and I love Perovo so far. It's great!

So we spent the last few days in ZGrad (Mon-Wed) meeting with people--it's so funny, people are so much more willing to take time to meet with you if they know that you are leaving. On Wednesday, it poured rain, and the Suttons (our senior couple in Z) took me and Sister Thrall out to dinner before English Club, since it was the last time we would be together. :) It was also kind of sad saying bye to my English Clubbers. My two favorites have actually started staying for the spiritual thought and asking questions about the church! I will miss them, but I got their email so that I can write them when I go home. They even invited me to come stay at their house if I'm ever in ZGrad again. :)

The day of transfers was crazy. The office called and said on Wednesday that we'd have a car Thursday morning to take us all down to Moscow, and that it would be there at 7:30. Well...the driver called us at 6:55 and said that he was already almost at our apartment! Luckily he understood that he was 30 minutes early. We then were all over the place picking up missionaries and luggage and we had transfer meeting and I met Sister Maxwell. It should be really fun. Interesting--she is a lot different than any of my other companions, and this training experience will be so much different than my last one--1) it will be in English, and 2) I will need to help her with Russian. That is not even considering that they are two different people, who came here for completely different reasons and have completely different personalities and goals and the like. I guess it's kind of really what having kids is like...since everyone is different, you kind of have to do everything just a little bit different every time. Anyway, The two of us have a lot of work to do, and it will be an interesting few transfers. But it should be fun. I hope it will be awesome. Sister Maxwell actually knows a lot of the same people I do, and went on study abroad to Berlin with my roommate Michele! Poor Sister Maxwell though got sick right away and was wiped out all Saturday and Sunday. :( We're hoping she gets better and adjusts well soon. And I just love love love being with Sister Frolova. Just speaking in Russian with her the past few days and laughing...we're already great friends and it's just so fun to build our comp relationship (however short) on that friendship and on our mutual "mothership" of Sister Maxwell. :) It's been a lot of fun so far. And actually, on Thursday night we had Sister Martyanova with us too, because Friday she was going home and since Sister Sorenson will be out of town when Sister Frolova goes home in 2 weeks, they combined the last dinner at the mission home with the both of them, and so we got to go too. It was really fun to be with Sister Marty--I love her a lot, and she is so funny. We had a lot of fun talking and things And so Friday we spent most of our day after study at the mission home with President and Sister Sorenson eating good food and sharing testimonies. It was just really weird, realizing that soon it will be my turn. But it was a great night.

Oh, by the way, I got my package! Thanks so much! Just for the record, the powder foundation is the one that I wanted right from the start, but thanks for your care for sending me like 3 other kinds too. And I love the flowers and the outfit. I really loved it. ANd the album is great, even if you put some really horrible pictures of me in there. ;) Everything was great. Thanks! I love you too!

Well, due to crazy things like spending days at the mission home across Moscow and Sister Maxwell getting sick and needing to rest, we really haven't done all that much work-wise, but we've had a few meetings, and of course, we got to go to the branch yesterday! I LOVED it. I was kind of nervous going into it a bit, since ZGrad was sooo great and I had been there for so long. But we had a great meeting with our ward mission leader before the meetings, which was AWESOME. He is great. And then just the Spirit in Sacrament meeting was so strong. It was like I was already home. There are a lot of really cute recently returned Sister missionaries in our ward--one trained Sister Clark (my MTC comp) in Ukraine, another I think is the sister you met on temple square...and there are so many great people. Another YSA girl played tennis for BYU and joined the church after she graduated there. It is a super small branch, but our area is huge and...the members here are just great, and I love it so much already. I am really really excited to be here.

Well. I am not quite sure what else to say. I love my new area, I love my new companions (I kind of wish we could stay in a 3some for forever, but Sister Frolova unfortunately needs to go home...it's just a lot of fun). I love being a missionary, I love the Gospel, and I love you all!

С любовью,
Sister Ashby

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 2012

Dear Fam Dam,

Well, it's kind of cooled off a little bit since the last zhar that was going on when I wrote you, and it's actually been cold in our apartment in the mornings. I think it's probably because I packed up my warm blanket and my long pajama pants a week ago when it was hot. But this weather is the worst--it's fine temperature wise, but it's been rainy and pretty moist, and since it's warm but not hot that means...mosquitoes. Ugh. I am still trying to understand the purpose behind them. I have at least 8 bites from just the past few days. At least it's not as bad as it was last year. But this week I did also have allergies for the first time in my life.

So, quick run down of the week:
  • Tuesday we went down to Moscow for Culture Night! Sister Thrall was super excited, because it was also her birthday. And what makes a better birthday than seeing the Nutcracker...in the Kremlin. How much more Russian can you get? It was really good too. I loved it. We didn't get home until late, of course, but I love love love Moscow, especially the center. And the balet was awesome, and there were a couple other districts there too and it was just a fun night.
  • On Thursday-Friday I had a split with Sister Horspool! This was super exciting because Sister Horspool is awesome. I mean, I am so grateful that I've served with all the sisters I have and will, etc. but I have just always wanted to be comps with Sis. Horspool. She was in the transfer after me at the MTC, so we got to know each other there, and she is just great. Right now she's one of the training sisters in Perovo, and we're switching places at transfers, and she and Sister Thrall will be training sisters up here. But we have basically been waiting to have a split or be comps or something since the MTC, so it was super fun to be her companion, if only for a day. And we all already knew about transfers, so it was fun showing her around ZGrad, since she'll be coming up.
  • Just been getting ready to go. I had my smaller suitcase ready to go by our split, and we just took it down then. I pretty much finished packing today. I don't know where I got all this stuff--I didn't have this much stuff when I moved here. Or maybe I was just better at packing it? No, I definitely have more. It's amazing how it all accumulates over time.
  • And I've just spent the past week visiting my favorite people here and things. Yesterday at church, Bishop invited me and Elder Ayers to bear our testimonies, since we're leaving and we've been here so long. (8 1/2 months for me and 10 for him). So many people came up to me and wished me luck and said they'd be sad to see me go. And SO MANY PEOPLE said that they hope that I find my "second half" and get married and live happily. Which kind of is making me freak out, because I realize that after I get home, that's the next big thing...getting married...scary. Sister Thrall and I have been freaking out about it randomly the past few days, because we realize how close we are to going home and what that actually means and we are both scared out of our wits to go back to all that stuff...anyway...I will miss Zelenograd so much. It's like my home ward. I mean, it's not like 18th ward...at all. But it feels like a home ward should feel like, to me. There are so many weird, quirky, crazy people that you just can't help but love. The next few days will be crazy, because we have so many meetings--2 tonight, 4 tomorrow, 3 on Wednesday. And there is just so much else to do and then my life gets turned all around. I am so excited to meet Sister Maxwell (my new daughter) and get into Perovo and just work work work and end strong. I love ZGrad, but I've been here too long. I'm too comfortable.
Well, the Church is true! Life is good. I love you all!
Sister Ashby

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012

I really don't have all that much to say. On Monday we had some great meetings--a wonderful babushka in our ward who plays the guitar and sings, but it actually half deaf so her guitar is out of tune, but it is the best thing ever; a cute family in our ward who's twin daughters are getting baptized on Saturday (I think it's this Saturday). Tuesday we had a great zone conference. President also told me about transfers. As far as I know, only me and Elder Ayers know what is going on. I'll be going down to Perovo, it's like the border of Moscow/small outer cities, suburbs, so like half metro, half train. I'll be in a 3some for 2 weeks--Sister Frolova, she was in the MTC with me and is from Latvia, goes home super early due to some schooling problems, and she'll be leaving 2 weeks into the transfer. My other companion will be the new sister who's coming in. So I'm bascially going to be shotgun training this crazy area. Should be fun. I'm really excited, especially to train at the end of my mission, and to be with Sister Frolova for at least a little bit, and just for a change. I love Zelenograd; yesterday in church, I realized just how much I love this ward and area and how much I will miss it--it really is home, but I am so ready for a change. I've learned on my mission that I actually really need change and enjoy it, to an extent, of course. I think it's a little different as a missionary than as a real person, just because you are learning and changing so much in a short period of time that if you're in one place too long it can be not the best sometimes...don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful that I've been here in ZGrad so long, that God decided I needed to serve half my mission here. But He has also definitely helped me get ready to leave. I hope that all makes sense. So anyway, I'm super excited. It's bittersweet, of course, but it will be awesome! So this is, for real this time, my last full week in Zelenograd.
On Wednesday we took our P-day and went to this super cool cemetary down in Moscow where a lot of famous people are buried--authors, poets, artists, war heros, political leaders. It doesn't even feel like you're in a graveyard half the time because the gravestones are so huge and like sculptures, it's more like an outdoor art museum. It was super cool. We also wanted to go to Lev Tolstoy's house while we were down there, but we didn't make it in time. There is just so much that I want to do in Moscow on P-Days before I go home, and i'm running out of time. Sister Peterson and I have been talking the past few days about it, with Sister Thrall, since she goes home only 2 weeks after us, about how it's coming too soon and it's scaring us to death. At least I have plans, and kind of know what I'm doing. But we definitely are all going to go to Sister Thrall's homecoming. That's going to be fun.
So yeah, we've had some other meetings with ward members, some babushki and stuff. They're great. Life is good. It's sooo hot here. It is amazing how fast the seasons change. I'm just barely getting used to spring. Sometimes we go to an area I haven't been to in a while and I don't feel like I'm in the same area because the last time I was there the lake was still frozen over and there was all this snow. And now everything is just all green and green and hot. We were playing soccer/gatorball as a district this morning, and just dying. Luckily the branch building just got some new, great air conditioners. (I don't know why I still call it a branch building, I haven't served in a branch for almost a year...oh, by the way, Perovo is one of the branches in our stake, so that will be a change...I haven't served in that small of a ward/branch yet--even before Kahovski was a ward, it was big, since it became a ward when the stake was formed).
Well, that's it. Love you all, the Church is true!
Sister Ashby

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012

So I know that I just talked to you yesterday, but I realized that I didn't really tell you a lot about my week. It was really awesome to see you all though!
So last P-Day we had "Monument Day." Basically Sister Thrall and I wanted to see all the memorials, monuments, things here in Zelenograd, especially since they were almost all decked out for Victory Day. We walked a lot and it was a lot of fun, especially to see some areas of ZGrad that I have only seen in the wintertime. We also ended up walking around the old cemetary here.
We had some interesting things happen this week. I ended up talking to this sweet babushka while we were English prigging. She was the cutest thing. This inactive that I have been working with since I have been here and hasn't come to church in a year quit her job to spend more time with her family and coming to church, but she didn't come to church on Sunday (I saw it coming, becuase she always does stuff like that, but I still had hope since there was no excuse this time). I FINALLY got a hold of that Marina who called two weeks ago...after trying to call every day. She's not interested anymore. Bummer. But I did all I could, it's not my fault she didn't answer.
We fixed our district leader's shoes. Elder Ayers and I have served together for 6 transfers now, and he's awesome. And his favorite and more dressy pair of shoes is falling apart and so Sister Thrall and the idea to sew them up. So we took them and sewed them up and fixed them up the best we could. It was super fun. We also realized that his feet are huge--they're bigger than our heads. Maybe everyone's foot is bigger than they're head, but it was super funny.
Friday and Saturday were actually really hard for me. I was just feeling like it's been so long since I've had visible success and I was tired and a bunch of other things. But Elder Ayers and Elder Clawson (one of my MTC elders who is AP right now and was up here on a split) gave me a blessing that really, really helped. The priesthood is sooo wonderful.
Sunday after we talked was great! There was actually a lot of really cool stuff that happened! So we have started singing hymns before sacrament--the missionaries and a few members, to help with reverance. And this week we're singing and this guy comes up to sing with us--we've never seen him before and I'm wondering who the heck he is because 1) He doesn't look Russian 2) He looks like a member of the church. Turns out he's an old/new investigator of the Elders! He's actually Finnish, but has lived in ZGrad since he was 9, and met with the Elders like 2 years ago. One of the companionships of Elders found him in their area book and called, he asked if we still have sports day and said he would come. The next day they call to remind him and he had been drinking and said he wanted nothing to do with them. The next day (Saturday) they ran into him on the street. I guess he's been thinking a lot about life and what he wants and how to turn his life around and everything, and he found answers to some questions in an old Liahona he found in his apartment and so he decided to come to church on Sunday! He is awesome! We're so happy that the Elders found him. He is just a gem. AND we had a hopefully new-investigator come to church too! She got an english prig like a year ago and never came and was thinking that she should come and saw the Elders on the street and asked them if we still have English club. So she came on Wednesday (Wednesday was super cool--we had the ward party where we sang war songs, and then had a super fun English Club even though we didn't know who all would come) and we invited her to church and she came! It's really interesting--the Lord's timing. Because she didn't come a year ago, but she turns 18 on Friday, which makes meeting with her a lot easier. She is just super cute, and Ksusha even got her to stay for Sunday school. Also, we have this lady who's been coming to church for a long time, but we were asked by her member friend not to try to set up a meeting with her (dumb, I was so mad when this member got mad at us), but she's started staying for all 3 hours and has made some other friends in the ward and cried in RS and I feel like maybe soon she'll be ready to meet with us.
So yeah. Today we're actually having a working day, and just emailing home and President, because we have zone conference tomorrow and so we'll be in Moscow already and Wednesday is free museum day, so we're going to hit up as many museums as we can tomorrow. Should be fun!
Anyway. See you later!
Sister Ashby

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7, 2012

Last Monday we went and saw this cute cute family. They live out, not in Zelenograd, but in another little town, and they have 4 girls--12, 8, 8, and 6. Well, the twins aren't quite 8 yet. Their birthday is on Thursday. We're helping them get ready for baptism a little bit and so we just went to do a FHE with their family. And they're so adorable. All 3 of the little girls. We had a lot of fun playing with them (mostly them just running into the room and saying "Zdravstvuitye!", laughing and then running out again) and giving them a spiritual thought and talking and things. On Sunday, they asked us if we were going to come over again. :) So tonight we're going to see them again and give them another pre-baptism lesson. It's so weird how missionaries get kids ready for baptism here, but it's something the bishop asks us to help with...and I don't complain because they're cute.
We had interviews with President on Wednesday. He is so great. He also commanded me and Sister Thrall to take a sleep day. She especially has just been feeling so exhausted and I had also been feeling more tired than usual, and he just said that at this point in our missions, we just need to catch up on sleep, and that we needed to be obedient and pick a day (not P-Day) to just take off, sleep in, and spend then entire day just sleeping. So that's what we did on Friday. Sleeping in was soooo nice, and we just slept and slept and slept. And I have felt so great ever since. :)
Not really anything super eventful this week. Just more things from Russia: one time this week, there was all this noise...turns out that some of our neighbors were trying to break into this other apartment that no one lives in (it's been all sealed up and stuff). I was so paranoid that they were going to break into our apartment next. Later on in the day, we saw one of the guys who had been working on the door working on his own doorknob, and the doorknob was missing on the other door. So we came to the conclusion that they were just too lazy/cheap to go buy a doorknob, so they spent 3 hours stealing the doorknob from the other door. And we had a lot of coackroaches in our kitchen last night. I thought I was going to escape Russia without them, but nope. It's not that our kitchen is messy--please don't think that. We keep clean. It's that they're working on like a remont or something above us or in another apartment (we can hear it all the time) and so it drives them all out and into other apartments. It's a problem all over. I don't know...there have been a lot of little things this week that are like..."Yeah, I'm in Russia." But I can't remember a lot of them. It's just been a very Russia week.
That's about it. Not a lot of miracles in the work this week. Not a lot of anything exciting. Just normal. But we'll talk to you on Sunday!
Sister Rachel

Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

So tomorrow is May 1st, or Day of Labor (Work, Peace, May!) here in Ruskiland. And then next week we have Dyen Pobedi, or Victory Day, so ZGrad is once again all decked out in lights and banners and the like. Except this time it's a lot less white than it was around New Years.
This week has been full of miracles.
  • Primary song book in Russian (We didn't have this until...well, the branch got it on Sunday and we found it in the library on Tuesday). It's so great!
  • 12 people in my group at English Club, 9 of whom were new! Biggest English group I've ever had!
  • Thunderstorms and a double rainbow and perfect weather.
  • 4 contacts, all of whom starting talking to us first (!! what?!) and who each have an interesting story. More later.
  • Cleaning up around our branch building with the youth. Yard work is so much more fun when it's 1) not too hot and 2) it's not your yard
  • Going to visit an old investigator at work, who is so ready for the gospel, but just works all day every day.
  • And table contacting. What is this you ask? Well, I will tell you.
So on Monday, we had the super cool opportunity to listen to Sister Lawrence. She is the wife of a member of our area presidency (soon to be our area president) and she is brilliant. Every month she'll teach a scripture class that we can go to. Usually, since we're up in ZGrad, we just skype into it. But they were at our ward last Sunday, and they told us that we wanted to be there in person. President gave us permission to go down to Moscow, so we went! It was sooo cool. She talked about the House of Israel, and it answered so many questions I had and also just explained a lot about missionary work. Turns out that more than 2/3 of the people on the Earth are Gentiles (not preelected to be in the House of Israel based on choices made in the preexistance, and which makes sense when you consider that Noah only had 3 sons, and only 1 of them was the ancestor of Abraham and then Abraham had sons and grandsons who aren't part of the covenant--Ishmael, Esau, etc. but still) and hardly anyone (like less than 1%) of the people who join the church are Gentiles, so that's why missionary work is so hard. So now we've all started calling those who reject us Gentiles. haha. "That person was such a Gentile. It's okay."
Thursday we tried out this new contacting thing. Basically, you take a table somewhere where there are a lot of people (a park, the train station), set it up with paper and Books of Mormons, and then ask people if they could ask God a question, what would it be. They write it on the paper and you then take the Book of Mormon, show them the answer, give them the book, and get their contact. Well, it didn't really work out that way. Basically, no one wrote their question down, but we had a lot of people come up to us to know what we were doing, so it attracted attention and worked really well. We were test running it--we had heard that people had done similar things in other missions, but we weren't sure if it was mozhno (allowed) here. So we asked President (we meaning Elder Ayers, district leader) and he said that we could try it up here in Zelenograd, and that if it went well, that they could start to do it in the city-city and also that chalk drawing could be started again (you probably don't remember, but at the end of last summer, they banned chalk drawing because there were getting to be too many problems with the police). So this was a big deal. As a district we went to Krukovo, the train station, with a table, and we just put a ton of Book of Mormons on it. We started with 56. We had plans to be there for 2 hours, but we had said that we weren't going to leave until we gave away 20 BoMs. So we start, and people, before we're even all set up, are already coming up to us. It was super cool. Of course, the majority of people didn't take a book, but it was still cool. Then, after only 15 minutes, this police officer comes up to us and tells us that we have to leave, because it's against the law to do stuff like that there. So we were super bummed, but of course agreed. We start packing up, and Elder Ayers (who is a genius, I never would have thought to do this) goes and talks to the police officer about what we would need to do to get this legal. He was super nice and told us everything that we would need to do, the place to go, etc. and I guess he said, "Sorry, I know that you guys are trying to do good and all, but I can't let you be here." So that was cool, so now we can hopefully go make this legal so that we can do it more often because it was super fun. And not just fun, but successful. Because as we were packing up, we counted how many BoMs we still had left. We had 26. Do you remember how many we started with? Go look. Yes. We gave out 30 Book of Mormons in only 15 minutes! If that is not a miracle, I don't know what is. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me on my mission.
Then, on Friday we had a lot of cool stuff happen. We met this super cute, really prepared for the Gospel Babushka sitting outside her dom. She asked us what we were doing (we were passing out prigs on our way to the branch, we've started walking everywhere we can), and so we just talked to her for a long time and gave her a BoM. She gave us her contact and invited us over anytime. We haven't been able to meet with her yet, but we're hoping to soon. Then, later that day, we had been walking through the forest and came out to go to this park and there is this guy. I wasn't going to talk to him, because there's a orthodox church right there and we try not to contact right next to the churches out of respect, but he started talking to us. He asked us what we were doing and when we explained he said "Well, there aren't any people to talk to in the forest!" (Good point, but it was the fastest and prettiest way to the park). And then he asked if we were Christian and gave us his number, which we passed to the Elders. :) THEN we talked to this super nice lady on a bench in the park about English Club and a bit about the Book of Mormon. She was super interested in English, not so much religion, well, she was, but more just to find out about what we believed and why we were here, and not so much to act on it. But still. She was super nice. And THEN we were riding on a marshrutka (little bus-van) and we get a phone call from an unknown number! This lady is just like, "hi, I'm calling because I read the book." I just thought..."Uh...I don't know what to say...AHHHHH!" and said, "Are you interested? Do you want to meet sometime?" Unfortunately, the phone connection wasn't super great and everyone picked that moment to start talking at the same time and I couldn't here anything. I asked if I could call back in 30 minutes, and he said yes and I had got her name. Even more unfortunately, the phone is possessed, and everytime I try to call, something super weird happens (it's the same thing every time, there's just a problem with the phone) and we haven't been able to get through yet. :( But still. It was cool.
The next day, we were trying to go see this babushka we had met, and this guy starts talking to us. He was soooo drunk. At first I couldn't tell, because he was talking pretty normally and was the most polite drunk person I've ever met or seen (and I've seen A LOT here...) but then he was like stumbling into the side of the doorway and he kept repeating himself and wasn't making any sense. He told us that he was god. While he was smoking a cigarette. Ha. But he kept apologizing and was really nice and things. And finally Oleg (his real name) told us that he'd love to talk more, so to call him on Tuesday after he's back from his dacha (oh man, gotta love dacha season...it's starting and everyone is going to be gone). So, I got "God's" contact....and passed it to the Elders. haha.
Not that this is news or anything, but I love my ward so much. Yesterday there were 3 different members who called me "sunshine." It sounds weird in English, but it's not weird in Russian...anyway, that meant a lot. There's also this brother in our ward who is soooo awesome, and he calls all the missionaries his heroes. And he's this BIG guy who looks like he's part of the mafia. :) They are all just super great, and I love our youth and our kids and our babushki and I will be so sad when I leave this ward. Not that I didn't love my last one, because I did so much, but...I'm convinced that our ward is one of (if not THE) best in Russia, maybe the world. Yes, it has it's problems. But it's still pretty great.
Anyway, that's about it! The Church is true! Read the Book of Mormon every day!
Sister Ashby

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

It's been kind of an up and down week. But we have a brand-new greenie in our district. I'm kind of wondering why I'm still here in ZGrad. I mean, I'm not complaining, I love it here and I love Sister Thrall and everything...it's just weird, and I'm kind of ready for a change. I guess that I just haven't done what I'm supposed to do here yet. I'm really tired today. I'm want the last few months of my mission to be like the first few months of my mission, and I'm worried that they won't be. But the work goes on, however slowly or quickly.
Last Monday night was really cool--we went to go drop-by some less-actives. And the first one, we get there and 1) we can get into the building and 2) they're home. Her mom (who I guess was an old investigator) opens the door and invites us in. The less-active woman got baptized like 10ish years ago, maybe a little more. Most of her friends got married and moved away, and then she also got married to someone who's a little protiv (oh whoops, I forget that not everyone speaks kasha...protiv=anit. and kasha=porridge, and Sister Martyanova and I would use it to mean English-Russian together). But she let us in and talked to us and we gave her a spiritual thought. She was super nice, and she still knows a lot of the members--she remembers all the youth when they were babies and a few of the kids go to the school that she teaches at. And she's expecting a baby girl in a month or two. She invited us to come back anytime, so we're hoping we can start working with her regularly, but she also said that the weekends are the only time she gets to see her husband, and since he's not super religious or interested, that will be an obstacle, but whatever. We try anyway.
That same night we were riding back on the bus from stopping by another inactive (she wasn't home though), and we ran into the less-active deaf son of one of the members of our bishopbric! He came up to us and started talking. It was an interesting conversation, since he was kind of hard to hear and then he also can only barely hear and we were on the bus, but he and his friends were super cool.
This weekend, I went down to Moscow on a split with Sister Frolova. She's from Latvia and came to Russia with me. She goes home a couple months earlier than me due to school, but she is soooo cool. I am glad that I've gotten to go on splits with her, to at least kind of make up for the fact that we never got to serve together. It was kind of a crazy two days, but it was a ton of fun. ON Friday we went street singing with some Elders. I love that. It was super funny...at the end, we had already decided that it was the last hymn because most of the Elders had a visa trip and had to take off to the central building to meet up with the other missionaries. And then this lady comes up to us and just starts talking. She says that she's a choir director at a university and she was so impressed with us and our singing and that she thought we were professionals and wanted us to come to Florence (yes, Italy) with her choir this summer to sing with them on the street. hahaha. Unfortunately, it's about a month before I get home, so probably not possible. ;) We talked to her a little bit about why we're here and tried to give her a BoM, but she mostly just wanted us to sing another hymn. So we gathered up all the Elders and sang one more. Afterwards she was said something to the effect of "You are just such beautiful young people! And when you sing, there is something in your faces like you have power come down from heaven." Well...it's true, isn't it? :)
Also on the split, I got to play piano at a baptism for the International branch. Three Elders were singing and I was playing for them. We hadn't practiced ever before, and we didn't get to. Because black people here in Moscow are always late. It's just a fact. They love the gospel, but they are late. It's kind of one of the mission jokes that if you serve in International, you learn how to be even more flexible than you do with just Russians because you're running on Mormon-Russian-African time. So the international missionaries and one of the guys who were being baptized were an hour late to the baptism. But they all eventually got there and it was a great baptism. The musical number went well, despite the fact that we had never all practiced together. It was soooo weird that everything was in English. Basic gospel subjects in English just are weird to me know. I cannot talk about baptism in English. It has to be in Russian or it sounds weird. I translated all the talks in my head. It was also fun, because one of the baptisms had to be done like 7 times. And that's not really an exaggeration. The poor guys--first, it was super cool. The guy baptizing his friend was only baptized a few months ago. I actually went to his baptism. But he was kind of nervous I think, and in addition, the guy was super tall and there wasn't all that much water in the font. And he kept popping his elbows up. It was kind of funny, but also super cool, because the look on his face when he realized that he had done it right and that he really was officially baptized was so special.
Well, the only other news this week is more sad. So last Monday, we call Yulia to ask when we can meet, and she is in the hospital with bronchitis. :( We called her one other time in the week to ask how she was. But then when I was in Moscow, I guess Sister Thrall got a call from some random person (a doctor, or someone, we're not sure who it was), who asked for me (I have no idea how they know my name) and then told us that Yulia's mom doesn't want her talking with us or meeting with us and that we shouldn't call her or anything. Weird, because we have a signed note from Yulia's mom saying that it's okay to meet with her. But...yeah. :( That was really disappointing. She was doing so well, and I've worked with her for...well, for my whole time here in ZGrad, and I love her a lot. And now we're not even sure what all happened. But that is what happens when people have baptismal dates. Satan works super hard. But so does God, so maybe we'll see a miracle.
And that's about it for this week. The Church is true!
Sister Ashby