Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Important Things in Life

Since I'm leaving Moscow (again) in 4 days, I've obviously been thinking a lot about what all it taught me the first time I was here, and what it's taught me this time around. (I've also been having a lot of lovely Harry Potter thoughts, but that is unrelated). Perhaps one of the most important discoveries I had today while eating couple-times-a-week Teremok meal . . .

I could eat blini (and/or pelmeni and/or borsch) every day for the rest of eternity, and it would always be super great and never cease to make me happy.
Found on Google Images from here

Friday, July 26, 2013

1025 Years and Other Things to Love About Russia

As my time here in Russia coming to a close, I am getting more and more excited to get back to normal life, to see my family and roommates and friends, to live in my cute little house with carpet and a nice bed and a kitchen. But really, especially if I had a real kitchen, I could live here indefinitely. And every day or two there's something that reminds me how much I love Russia and that it will still be hard to leave this time around. I've been lucky to have 2 big ones the past few days. I'll try to be brief and not get too long-winded, but I can't promise anything.

First, yesterday (July 25) there was this huge, free concert on Red Square to celebrate the 1025 anniversary of the Baptism of the Rus people. It had it's wonderful, quirky, crazy moments. Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church (think pope or prophet, but Russian and Pravoslavni) spoke, and there was an opera reenacting the baptism and lots of folk music and dancing. Crazily dressed Russian pop-stars. A letter from Putin. It was fantastic. So Russian. And I loved it. Here are some random thoughts. The first is how connected church and state are here. It is kind of weird for an American, where we are so seperate (seperate? separate?) and still not as separate as some think it should be. And not just church and state, but church and EVERYTHING. To be Russian is to be Pravoslavni. A lot of times, especially when I was a missionary, this was very obnoxious, and even at times hurtful (on both a logistical and emotional level). However, my mission president always spoke of how we needed to be grateful to Pravoslaviya because it had managed to keep Christianity alive in Russia through horrible times--years of oppresion, beginning with the Mongol-Tatar invasion in 1240 and continuing clear through atheistic communism. And although I don't believe in the Russian Orthodox church and I'm very aware of a lot of corruption that goes on and frankly get really annoyed with it sometimes, I am, like President Sorenson, grateful for the good that is has done. Which leads me to my second point. That Russians are awesome. And by Russians I really mean all Eastern Europeans. They have lived through so much. One of the songs just repeated over and over again "We will survive through the pain and suffering and all this other hard stuff" and it was just so full of the Russian spirit that they can and will conquer anything. And they are amazing, and I love them for it.

And then tonight I went to see one of my favorite families in all of Russia and we ate Russian food and sang songs and laughed and talked and it was just so wonderful. And I was reminded of how much I love these people once again. And when we were walking out to their car at the end of the night to go back to the metro, Luba leaned over and gave me a hug and told me that she was so happy I was here. And my heart just smiled and broke at the same time, because I love it to, and I have to leave again in a week.

The past little while I have wondered if I was going to cry or not when I fly to Ukraine next week, or at least when I leave Eastern Europe in general. I have just been so ready to go home. But really, I could be here forever. And when I leave, it will still be hard, even though I thought it wouldn't. It will be easier than a year ago, as I'm only saying bye to Russia and not my mission, but it will still rip out part of my heart. I will probably cry. I always cry.

Russia, I love you.
And P.S. Sorry that this was super long even though I tried to make it short. Blin. I can't write anything short.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Missing the Kitchen

I have never really been super big into making food. If I'm doing it with friends, then yes. But otherwise, it's whatever. But I always love eating really delicious food, and everything always tastes better when it's homemade and you know it was made by your parent, or sibling, or roommate with lots of love. But here in Russia, I am deprived of a good kitchen, and it has helped me realize how dependent I am on having an oven and basic cooking supplies (both utensils and ingrediants) at hand. It's worth putting in the effort every once in a while, but it's really draining to make something in a horrible kitchen. At least for me. After a while, you really start to miss eating delicious food, and even making it. Which means that almost every time I get on Pinterest, I die. Everything is looking delicious. EVERYTHING.
Found this on my cousin's pinterest. It comes from here. Probably not super healthy, but oh my goodness it looks soooo good, along with every other homemade food picture on the freakin' internet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Slightly Mushy Post about my Mission

Rainy days always remind me of my mission. I'm not sure why, because I don't remember it raining all that often, but the mission memories I have associated with rain are lovely. Checking addresses and singing in freak thunderstorms with my Mama. The time there was a beautiful thunderstorm and rainbows with Sister Thrall. Having it start to pour on a hard day and just letting the rain wash everything away. Random times just getting caught in it and being soaked. So it's appropriate, I think that today was/is a day full of mission memories. It's raining and I walked around Moscow in a skirt with an umbrella.

I knew I would miss the mission today. It started last night. Ksusha (my dear девушка) got set apart today. First, anytime I am in the chapel of the Central Building, I just think of my mission. I can't believe that it's already been basically a year since the last time I stood there to bear a missionary testimony. Anyway, I saw some of the Elders I served with (one Russian who I haven't seen in probably a year and a half, one Russian I see fairly often, one of my Germans who is sitll serving). And most importantly, Ksenia was set apart. Pres. Boiko said some beautiful words about being a missionary and what it means and how as a missionary you are someone's angel and how those you teach, whether they get baptized or not, will always remember you, and here I am looking at this girl, one of my best friends, who I met and taught about humility and then 2 weeks later I spoke at her baptism and for the next 9 months we worked together and taught each other and then she served a mini-mission and I went home and we remained best friends. And now, she's leaving and I could not be more proud. We will always remember each other and love each other--angels for one another. And although the past two days I've been missing my mission more than I have in a long time (like being a missionary and not just the mission, since I'm in Moscow), today it was such a happy missing. I was definitely crying tears of joy. I can't wait to go cry more when I am her "first companion" (just like she was my "last companion") and take her to the airport on Tuesday.

I am so grateful I was able to be a missionary for my Lord and Savior. I am so grateful that I served in the Russia Moscow Mission. I am so grateful for Ksusha. I am so grateful for everything connected with my mission. It changed me, and I only hope that I changed it (meaning the people and situation in my mission) even a hundredth part of how it changed me. Maybe Russia is not really "home" anymore, but it always will be. Part of my heart will always be here, and my missionary name tag will always be engraved on my heart. I will miss it--for better or for worse (luckily now that the first few months back are long gone, it will mostly be for better)--every day of my life. And I am so glad that now Ksusha will be able to have those experiences, and feel what I feel. I hope that one day soon she will find her twin somewhere in St. Petersburg--a twin she'll be able to teach and love and grow with and send on a mission.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I'm Crazy

Yesterday I asked people if I was crazy. Cheysi just shook her head "No" very emphatically. But let's be honest--everyone's a little bit crazy. So I asked John. He said, in his very best Russian voice, "Fifty-fifty." Here are his reasons as to why I am crazy. I'm quite proud of them.

  1. Doctor Who
  2. Harry Potter
  3. reading/books
  4. Fountains
  5. "That Benedict Cucumberlakhgklehglka guy" (I don't really remember how he tried to say Cumberbatch, but it was hilarious)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Resolve

So, in an attempt to actually feel like I'm being productive about this whole job-search, post-graduation thing that is very quickly coming upon me I have spent the past few hours updating my very-much neglected (as in, I logged in maybe once or twice years ago and then never again) LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of procrastinating my Russian homework and test, but we'll get there eventually.

Anyway, I am updating this profile and I see that blogging can be listed as a skill. So I decide to list it. But then I figured that meant that I actually needed to be more consistent at blogging. So...we're going to try to make blogging a more regular thing. Like it was before my mission. And I mean that this time. I can be interesting and fun and insightful and classy again, right?

Monday, July 8, 2013

City of Spires, City of Music, City of Mine

Well, it's about time I finally posted again about all my adventures. There have been quite a lot.

Prague: City of Spires
Prague was a very interesting experience for me. I fell in love. It is such a beautiful, beautiful city. I don't think I walked down a not-breathtakingly-beautiful street the entire three days I was there. And yet, although I loved it and would love to go back, I don't think I would want to live in Prague. It was just very touristy, and I didn't feel disappointed leaving after a few days. And, especially after getting used to Moscow, I know I would get accustomed to the beauty after a while and it would cease to lose its charm. It wouldn't get old, but I would just stop noticing it, I think. But we had many adventures, buying bread and cheese and strawberries and eating lunch on Old Town Square, seeing a free Czech Symphony and Bobby McFerrin concert on same square, just wandering, hiking the hill to the castle 3 times, seeing a lot of beautiful churches and the Jewish Quarter and buying ice cream every day. Prague helped me remember why I love traveling--from the thrill of the first sight of a new place from the plane to learning the spirit of a new place through wandering. Not to mention, we rode a train to Vienna(which is obviously the best way to travel, as long as it's a fairly nice train), which had its own adventures including a ticket mix-up and desperate scramble and a wonderful, spiritual missionary experience with a woman named Katka. Oh, and Tracy and I had fun comparing Russian and Polish to Czech. I was actually really surprised with how much I could read, and how much Russian I heard and saw.
One of my favorite picture from Prague

Vienna: City of Music
Although I fell in love with Prague's beauty and how she taught me how to be a tourist again, Vienna captured my soul in a way Prague couldn't. I could seriously see myself living in Vienna--it's a lot like London, half really beautiful and half nitty-gritty, with a lot of old history, and new life, and culture and art and music and museums and everything that I love. It was rainy our whole time there, which provided its own adventures, but even with wet shoes we enjoyed wandering the streets that glistened in the rain, riding the wonderful public transport, trying to remember my German, and other wonderful things. We ate lunch our first day at a little cafe, where I finally settled my craving for Indian food and we shared hot chocolate. We bought lots of pastries and breads every day. We went to a concert in the Golden Hall where all the performers were dressed up in period dress and everything was Mozart or Strauss and got standing tickets to the opera, which had the best soprano I have maybe ever heard. We saw Rubens and Monet and Rodin and Klimt and Picasso and had discussions about art and life as we wandered around art galleries and the streets. I was disappointed to leave Vienna, and not just because I was leaving Megs and Tracy. I felt like there was a part of my soul there, just like I did in London and just like I do in Moscow.
Our first rainy day in Vienna

It is interesting, because I haven't really been a tourist for a LONG time. Both on my mission (obviously) and this time in Moscow, I am definitely not a tourist. Even now, even though I do touristy things, I never feel like one since I already know the city and the language and people and have LIVED in the city for a year and a half and am living there for the summer. So it was fun to really just be wandering a completely new place in a fully tourist way. No commitment, just wandering and loving it. It was such an interesting experience. Especially being with Megan and Tracy. Not that I don't love my internship friends--they have become such a huge part of my life and I enjoy being with them. And not that I don't love the people in Moscow. But there's something about having been roommates for so long that just binds us (and the rest of our 208/Lookout extended family) together. They bring out parts of me that I love--a good balance of intellectual and adventure and goofy, which honestly, is the perfect attitude for traveling.

Moscow: City of Mine
Right after I got back from traveling, I was off again to Nizhniy Novgorod with the YSAs for a mini conference. It was fun to be with the youth and ride more trains (a sleeper one this time) and see a different part of Russia. Since coming back to Moscow, it's been interesting--not that I don't love Moscow or that I want to leave, but I just feel an itch to go do something else, but also to not. It was nice to come home and know the language and where I'm going and I have been trying to experience more of the city; for example, I went to an art gallery with Ksusha the other day. But at the same time, I have really been throwing myself into my internship when I'm there, to be productive. And I have wanted to spend a lot of time by myself, reading and thinking and writing and even doing a puzzle. I have been noticing things that I miss about America-home and things that I dislike about Moscow-home: the smell, carpet (or lack thereof), just to name a couple. I have spent a lot of time skyping with friends from home (or who are at least not in Moscow right now). I think that I won't miss Russia as much this time around. Which is kind of sad, but is good. Not that I won't miss it, but one thing that traveling to Prague and Vienna helped me remember is that there are other places that I love and other people I love, and Moscow is allowed to share my heart.

Sorry for the long post. This weekend I'm off to Saint Petersburg with 3 of the other interns, which should be fabulous. And I am determined to start writing regularly again. (I know, I know, how many times have I said that?)