You know how sometimes you feel like there's almost too many holidays? You just get done with Thanksgiving and its already time to set up for Christmas...then New Years...Groundhog's day, Valentine's Day, it never stops. Well that is absolutely nothing compared to the holidays here. Americans aren't coming anywhere close to the holiday potential. Yesterday was 3 pretty big holidays. Yep, 3 on one day. First is Chinese New Year which nobody really celebrates but the Chinese people in town, but I hear they give killer deals in the market, so I'm going to go check that out later on. Next was Valentine's Day which is pretty much the same as in the States. People show up with little cards and random gifts, most of which have hearts on them, no big difference. But then, there's Maslanitsa. I think it's one of my new favorite holidays. People have tried to explain the point of it to me three or four times now, but I still don't get it. But who says you need to understand a holiday to celebrate it? Maslanitsa is a very easy holiday to celebrate. You eat pancakes for an entire week. Yep, a pancake holiday. It's the only week that you can buy them in grocery stores, but for the last week they have been everywhere! I found out about it at English Club. We were talking about how many things were happening on the 14th of February, and they told me about this week-long pancake feast. I was so excited, the other missionaries tried to calm me down but it just didn't work. An entire week dedicated to pancakes? I think it's brilliant. The next big holiday is on the 23rd of February. It's Military Day or something. Basically you give presents to anyone who is or ever was in the military (which is everyone because it's required here.) So in effect, all men get presents and flowers. There's a seperate Man's Day, but I'm not sure when it is...aren't holidays great?
That's one of the things that I really have come to love about English Club. You learn a lot of great things about Russia and the people who live here. You also learn which topics aren't very fun to talk about. I learned that lesson this week. I thought it would be a lot of fun to talk about Super Heroes at English Club. Bad idea. I asked the question about "what superpower would you want if you could have any one?" and I guess Russians are just less vain than me. When I wanted to be bulletproof they asked why and then told me that their super powers would be things like Love, helping people...stuff like that. I tried to salvage my topic by asking who everyone's favorite superheroes are. When the first three answers were Putin, my parents, and Jesus I realized that Superman just isn't as big here. In short...it was a very boring English Club, and everyone knew it...lesson learned, talk about literature or something like that.
Another lesson that I learned this week came from tracting. I absolutely love tracting, mainly because it is always really awkward and is accompanied with great stories. Saturday night Elder Hall and I went tracting but the apartment building was set up differently than anything that either of us had ever seen before. On each floor there were two steel doors, with a hallway behind them and five of six apartments in each hall. All of the doorbells were outside the big steel door, which was locked and bolted to keep people out. So we'd ring the doorbell and wait for someone to poke their head out the door and yell "who's there?" down the long hallway of apartments. You might ask how I knew they poked their heads out when there was a steel door between me and them...that's what makes this story exciting. Keyholes. You can see through them sometimes, it was great. On one of the floors the keyhole didn't go all the way though though, so I had to find a hole in one of the doorbells to peak through to see how people reacted to our visit. We had a little success, but it really was just one of those things you had to experience. Good times with tracting.
There was a baptism this week. An 18 year old girl named Katya came to the Church through her friend who was baptised right after I came to Russia. That is great member missionary work! Katya is incredible. She set such a great example as a golden investigator. She decided that she wanted to read the Book of Mormon before she was baptized, so she did, in a week! She read it cover-to-cover in a week! In that same week she quit smoking. She had smoked since she was nine years old, but when she learned the Word of Wisdom she knew she needed to stop. She had 2 cigarrettes during that week, both early in the week, and has been off them ever since. I'm really grateful to Katya for her example and hard work to recieve the blessings of the Gospel. Wouldn't it be great if we were all that diligent and motivated
Last night I met with a new Member, I had to help another set of missionaries so that they could have the lesson with her. Since she isn't in my area and I don't really know her I really didn't say much of anything on the lesson. At one point though, Elder Jones was talking about a talk Elder Bednar gave and I said something like "oh I think he gave that two or three years ago" and this member was just astounded. "You understand Russian?" she said. It was really funny to me. I had understood the entire conversation perfectly. Not every word of course, but I knew exactly what had taken place. There isn't really a point to that story, but it was a funny experience I guess.
Have a great week,