Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Sometimes I feel like there isn't a lot interesting to blog about, because really, life is just super normal but in the most awesome way possible. But I guess it's not normal for you, so here's a typical day for me.

If it's a Tuesday/Thursday, Cheysi and I usually wake up and scramble to get ready for class. Our classroom changes every day, and we don't know where it will be until Sunday or Monday. Remember, Russians hate planning in advance (not having phone plans, but instead adding money to your SIM card, not planning interviews until the interns are in the country, not having a set classroom schedule). Our teacher is Russian and very funny. She usually just makes fun of us when we speak Russian poorly. It usually goes about every other day for me--sometimes I feel really great at Russian and other days not so much. That is usually how it goes independent of class, but being in class for 3 hours at a time, and in the morning (you know me and mornings), just seems to escalate the extremeness of my abilities.

After class, I finish getting ready for the day and head off to work. It's about 45 minutes from the moment I walk out my door. It's about 3 minutes waiting for elevators, another 3 to the metro. Then I ride on the red line to one of three stations where I can transfer. I usually go all the way up to Chistie Prudi and then get on the green line to go one station down to Chkalovskaya. This way the transfer is shorter, I get a brief glimpse of one of my favorite stations (Srentenski Bulvar) and I end up right where I need to be. Today I discovered a short-cut to work. I actually really enjoy my walk. I will take pictures later (speaking of pictures, I didn't bring my camera since my battery is kind of permanently dead and only brought my iPod, but my iPod is now mostly dead. Luckily it will still take pictures). Turns out that I passed by Winzavod on the train very often when I was in my last area. Who'da thunk? At work, I sit at a desk and just translate for a couple hours. It's not my favorite thing to do--I'd rather do something with people, but I still enjoy it. It's like a puzzle.

At night, or on the days when we don't have class, I spend my time with John and Cheysi or my Moscow peeps and we walk around Moscow and it's great.

More later. Poka!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Indescribably Happy

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to see one of my dear friends who I taught in my first area get baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. That also meant the wonderful opportunity for me to go back to my first area for the first time in almost 2 years (I left in September 2011).

So I had this paragraph here about all the growth and little miracles that were so visible to me being back after such a long absence, but it got deleted. Just know that it was such a wonderful tender mercy and miracle for me to be able to see all these large, but gradual, changes that I bet the members or the missionaries that either just arrived or have been going from week to week don't even notice. But I saw them. And it was such a great blessing to know that I was an instrument in the hand of the Lord that brought about that. And I was just so proud of those members and all the work and change that they have done. It was especially fitting since a member of the Area Presidency was visiting and spoke about how real, true Gospel growth is not about quantity or speed, neither of which apply to a ward that has been considered "dead" in missionary work for about 2 years. But it's about quality, which is what I saw so much of today. Which is what allowed me to love these people so much 2 years ago, and so much today when I felt so proud that they were actually running a functioning ward full of loving people who know and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (As a side note, it was also interesting, since the last time I was in this ward I did not speak Russian anywhere near as well as I do know, and was also a lot shyer because I was still trying to figure out the language and who I was as a missionary, but that's all gone now and I could just talk freely with whomever I wanted and they responded and it was just great)
God is good, my friends. He is so so so good. I am so amazed at how being back in Moscow, He shows me almost every day some little reminder of all the good that I helped do on my mission. Because, honestly, so many people don't get that. But for me it is such a tender mercy because there have been so many days when, even though I know that I did my best and God accepts that sacrifice and that it was more for me than for other people and etc etc etc, that I still feel bummed or sad that I didn't see more visible success. But now I am seeing it. Through Sabina. Through my 3 wards/branches (aka the BEST приходы in the world). Through other missionaries. And it is such a miracle to me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Say Something Anyway

The title of this post was on the shirt of someone I saw in the metro today.

Today was one of those "I feel so legit and just want to sing and dance up and down the street days." Walking around Moscow in nice jeans, strutting your stuff, rocking out to your iPod...it's pretty great. I feel so legit most of the time. In addition, I started my internship today and there are now 2 event summaries translated by me into English up on the Winzavod website. Basically, life is good.

Like a boss.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More Updates

Hey look! I'm posting on my blog without you having to had wait a week!

The main thing that has happened since I last posted was that I officially got my internship. It's actually going to be super super chill. I will be working at Winzavod, a contemporary art center here in Moscow, translating their website into English (the current English version has some problems), running their Facebook, and taking some pictures at some big events. The "interview" took about 10 minutes tops and the woman told me that I could basically come in whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted, as long as it was at least 2 times a week for 2 hours a piece. I will probably try to put in more hours, but having the flexibility will be really nice. Most of the other interns will be working full work days, but this will give me plenty of time to see everyone and everything that I want to here, while taking other side trips basically whenever I want. But also kind of work-related . . . I had a job offer today! Kind of. A family from one of my areas called me, asked me how long I was going to be here, and were bummed that I was only here until August because they wanted to invite me to come teach English a few times a week at a school they were opening up in September. They even offered me free board. So that was flattering and very cool. Unfortunately, BYU still has claim on me until December.

Most of the last little bit has been spent getting to know my group. I've gotten to be especially good friends with Cheysi, my roommate and the only other girl on the program, and John. Cheysi is really funny and cute. John is hereby added to my group of redheads (I think I have an unusual amount of really good friends who are redheads. It just kind of happens)

Yesterday I got to see my trainer! She lives here in Moscow now with her husband, and I saw her for a little bit when she was in Utah for General Conference, but it was so nice to just get to walk around with her and then we went and ate dinner at a chain restaurant that we always joked about going to when we were comps. We both got sirniki, which was one of our favorite Russian foods to eat together. It was so great to be with her. I love seeing people around randomly--on the street, in institute.

Class is going fairly well. Yesterday I felt a lot better about my Russian than I did last week. I was a lot more comfortable just making mistakes and not comparing myself to the other interns. We have quite a bit of homework though (it doesn't help that I can never seem to focus on it for longer than 10 minutes at a time). It actually isn't that bad, and if I just did it, I could get it done faster. But tomorrow I was picked to give a presentation, so I need to go read 6 pages of statistics about migration in Russian and figure out how to present them. Out for now.

Monday, May 20, 2013

First Week

Well, it's been a while. Sorry, I know I said I would be posting more on my blog and I haven't. I have just been too busy gulat-ing around Moscow. In the past week I have been everywhere. Here is a quick run-down.

Saturday: I wasn’t planning on fully crashing the Zone Conference that was going on, but that kind of happened. Sister Habibullina (X2 from my missionary emails aka my Russian daughter) had told me she was going to be at Central Building for this conference, and I really wanted to see her, and that was it. But then I ended up agreeing to meet Ksusha there at 2 and then I ended up getting there at 1 and it just kind of happened. But this way, I got to see some missionaries and President and Sister Sorenson! I walked in and President and Elders Brown and Roberts were right by the door talking and President smiled really big and the Elders just looked shocked and were like “Hi . . . Sister Ashby . . . Rachel . . . what . . . this is weird . . .” I met my granddaughter and my great-granddaughter (that was weird. I’m not old enough to have one of those) and saw my other granddaughter who I already knew and both my daughters! Too bad it wasn’t all at the same time, or I should have gotten a family picture. I even got to hear Sister X2 bear her final missionary testimony. I bawled my eyes out. But not as much as I did when I bore mine. But it really was such a great blessing to get to hear it. I went up to Red Square with Ksusha and then we eventually made it up to Zelenograd.

Sunday: Church in ZGrad! It felt just like coming home. Everyone there said it was just like I had never left. I was asked to bear my testimony, which was surprising, but nice, and I translated for the Suttons in Sacrament Meeting. It really was just like being a missionary again, but different in a good way. Went back down to Moscow and went to choir practice. Finally made it back to my dorm room, where I met the rest of my group. Mostly. 

Monday: Orientation. The first time our entire group was all together. I like the mix of people we have. There are only 6 of us: two girls and four guys. We talked more about what to expect and what is going on and figured things out.

Honestly, I don't really remember what all has happened on what days. But we've had class twice--our teacher is great. She pushes us and doesn't baby us, but it still nice and not intimidating. I haven't had an interview for my internship yet, but hopefully that will happen sometime this week. We have been to quite a few museums already--the Tretyakov gallery, WWII museum, etc. and have just walked around the center and other places a lot. It's nice since I already know where I'm going for the most part. 

I went to transfer meeting and that was fun to just see a lot of missionaries. I got to see Sister Nielsen, my roommate's sister who just arrived here in Moscow! And I saw all of my ZGrad missionaries who are/were still here. Lots of great people. It was nice because there were even some sisters who looked familiar, but I couldn't tell you there names because they were brand new when I left, who came up to me and remembered me, which was super awesome--kind of like I know that I made a difference in their mission, at least a little bit. Walked around the center and up to the office-area with all the departing missionaries and it was just fun. Ksusha and I walked all around the center and then halfway down the red line--not on purpose, but it just turned out to be like 7 miles. It was so nice.

We had dinner as a group with our BYU director and our RANE (the academy here) director and some other professors. We had a night in where my roommate Cheysi (the other girl) and John (he is a red-head and served in the Baltics with Zach Thomas) stayed in and just talked. Mostly it's just gulat-ing (Gulat is the Russian word for walking around as a social activity, like to stroll or something). But I love it and it's great. It's nice just to relax and be here and ride the Metro and do all these little things that I have missed and see people and take my time doing it. Old friends, new friends, old sights, new sights. 

Yesterday I went to University branch (just because of the metro/area of town, it's actually a normal not just YSA branch), which is where we're "supposed" to go (but it doesn't really matter since we're only here for 3 months). I think I will end up going there probably about every other week and spend the off-weeks in my old wards/branches (all 3 of them, haha). But it was nice. It is a great little branch, and I played piano in RS and then translated for an American woman (young, just a little older than me) who doesn't speak Russian but is here teaching English with her husband.  I have also given my number to a couple different missionary companionships--one of them asked me to help on a lesson the other day but I was already busy so I couldn't, but I gave them my number so that I could generally. It's nice to be able to serve in very similar ways but in an entirely different capacity. 

Last thoughts, that have no other place. It's crazy to actually wander and see what's above ground on different metro stops that I have been at so many times but never actually seen above. I love church in Russian. I have missed so many crazy things about Russia, and it has been crazy how much I realized that I had forgotten about. It was in my head all along, I just wasn't accessing it, so it wasn't weird coming back, but I had just forgotten. Life is exciting. I love it here. Sorry this is super long, but it's been a long week and I just didn't post it in smaller increments.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bullet Points

I love being back in Moscow. It is the best. I really cannot describe it. Besides the buildings in Missionary Alley being torn down (I miss the music!) and me not being a missionary, nothing has really changed. And I love it that way. And even not being a missionary isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s kind of fun. I mean, I miss my mission, but this way I can help out with the work and still have the freedom of a normal person. And also not deal with a lot of the crazy things. But honestly, it really is like coming home. I feel like I was just here yesterday and almost all the pain that I felt about leaving and all the worries that I had about it being different in a bad way are gone. I’m home.
Ways Moscow is different so far not being a missionary:
  • ·         People are nicer. For example, I had misremembered from what I read online and couldn’t see the price sign when I was buying my metro pass, plus some of the ticket options have changed, and the lady was so NICE AND PATIENT with me. I know from personal experience that if I had been wearing my tablichka that it would have been different.
  • ·         People also don’t stare at you. Even today when I was in a dress all day, people don’t stare at you funny. Now, obviously, it’s good when people notice your nametag, but even so, it’s nice to be able to be on the metro and not have a million eyes just starting you down.
  • ·         I am by myself—actually, I’ve been with people for a lot of the time, but still there have been long periods of time when I’ve been on the metro alone. Oddly, it’s not that weird.
  • ·         Some people call me Rachel . . . and I introduce myself as Rachel. That one is still weird. Especially when I’m meeting new(er) missionaries. Because they have tags and so I think I have one and I just introduce myself as Sister Ashby.

Ways Moscow is the EXACT SAME:
  • ·         I can walk around in the Central Building or ZGrad with my eyes closed (well, you know, figuratively).
  • ·         I still know the metro as well as I did when I left—I even remember where you need to be to exit or transfer or most of the stations I used often. It’s kind of like muscle memory.
  • ·         People still call me Sister Ashby. Honestly, I am not complaining. Missionaries I knew and served with who are wierded out calling me anything else, new missionaries whose comps know me or who I accidentally introduced myself to as Sister Ashby, members . . . it’s so great. The one time Ksusha called me Rachel it was super odd, and one of my favorite moments here so far is when an Elder who I knew called across the Central Building “Hey Sister Ashby, wanna help us on a lesson?” (Unfortunately I already had plans with Ksusha, but I told him that I’d be happy to help another day once I got a phone.)

I wrote this on Sunday and there are others now, but I don’t have time and figured I’d give all of you who were bugging me before I left to post on my blog something to read. More later!

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Well. This is it. I'm in Russia.

My flights were pretty crazy. I slept most of the way to D.C, but once there my flight to Frankfurt was delayed by 2 hours. And the internet at the airport was really horrible. Oh well, because I got to play with 2 adorable Indian kids who were running around and were sooooo cute. The flight wasn't too bad. It's amazing how when a flight is only 8 hours and you sleep for 2, are sitting to a nice BYU Law student, and can actually watch movies (The Hobbit knocks out 3 hours), how fast the flight goes. Nevertheless, I was so ready to get off that plane and to run to my connecting flight, which I had 20 minutes to make. Unfortunately, Frankfurt airport is huge length-wise and it took me about 40 minutes to get to my gate. Luckily, a nice airport lady who was helping people find connecting flights told me this and told me where to go to rebook my flight. That was fairly painless and I just ended up chilling in Frankfurt airport for an extra 4 hours.

Finally, I was able to hop on the plane to Moscow. It was way funny--I was sitting next to this German guy going to Moscow to "make a party for 3 days." He immediately gave me a piece of gum and gave me half of his earbuds to play me some music. He was really funny and nice, if not a bit crazy. I was just laughing the entire time...until I went to sleep. I woke up right as we were descending low enough for my beloved Russia to come into view through the clouds.

Imagine the moment in your life where in that moment you would have done anything to change what you were doing right then, and it was so painful. For me, that was the moment I stepped onto a plane that would take me from Moscow to America, and when the plane started down the runway I just burst into tears and was bawling and wanted more than anything to get off that plane. Now imagine be able to do something that would eliminate at least a bit of that pain. THat was yesterday. I was almost crying from happiness and excitement. :)

Stepped off the plane. Went through the familiar passport control process, although it was different without my MTC group, haha. Found my baggage quickly and after trying to convince multiple taxi drivers that I did NOT need a ride or a phone to make a call, I ran into the guy who was picking me up. He had a taxi ready to take us to the academy. After that everything gets kind of blurry. I was super tired. It was hot and I crashed as soon as I got up to my room. About 3 hours later I woke up, and was going to run down to MacDonald's to use the internet (I don't have the password to the Academy internet yet), but it was dark and since I don't know the area I'm in very well yet and I'm also alone, I thought that it was best to not do that and to go exploring later. So I unpacked a little bit and went back to bed. I woke up naturally and feeling great around 6, finished unpacking and then came down here. I stopped to talk to the lady at the front desk and asked her a few questions I was confused about--she had mentioned some things the day before that I only vaguely remembered due to jet lag. But now everything is taken care of, and

Well, there's a run down of my adventures. They were actually quite exciting. Also, Lufthansa has pretty good food as far as planes are concerned. They also bring around hot wet wipes a few times in the trip, which is soooo nice. Anyway, now that the stores are open, I need to run and go buy some things (mainly shampoo) so that I can take a nice, real shower and then go see some of the people I love most at the Central Building! GAH I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT I'M IN MOSCOW!