Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Hey Everybody, I'm doing really well. It's Wednesday afternoon here right now and everything has been going pretty well.

I don't know where to start... First the keyboard is pretty nice because it has English letters and Russian letters, so its pretty easy, but every single word that I'm typing right now gets underlined with a red squiggly line because apparently these aren't spelled right in Russian.

So I'll try to take you through what's happened since I last emailed.  The next morning so last Thursday, all of the trainers came to the mission home and we had breakfast with them, then they announced to us who was going to be companions with each of the trainers and where we would be going.  I'm with Elder Drasso and if that name sounds familiar that's because he was companions with Elder Eborn twice (once in the MTC) so you've probably read about him quite a bit.  He's from southern California and he's only got two more transfers left after this one I think.

So I'm actually serving in Novosibirsk right now, from what I've heard we were supposed to go to Krasnoyarsk, because Elder Drasso served there for a couple months, (he's only served there and Omsk)  but the apartment that was supposed to be for us fell through, so they gave us the AP's old apartment in Novo.  So that's all good and I'm really glad that I get to serve in Novo, the other cool thing is that our apartment is only about a 10 minute walk away from the mission office and branch building and only about 20 from the mission home.

But here's the tough part of it all.  Technically we are opening up an area.  Novosibrisk has three districts: left bank of the river, right bank of the river and snigaree (which from what I can tell is kind of like a suburb of the city)  there are two elders and two sisters and a branch in left bank, there were two elders two sisters and a branch in right bank, and two elders in snigaree.  Also, the AP's are around sometimes and the office elders all live in right bank.  Also a senior couple in left and the office couple in right.  So we got put in right bank too.  So we had to split the right bank area with the two elders already there.  The bottom line is right now we have no investigators.  I really wanted a solid teaching pool when I came out here and not have to spend all of our time finding, but that is not the case.

The branch in Right Bank Novo is probably the biggest in the mission.  There are about 300 on the rolls and there were about 50 at sacrament meeting, I've heard that that will increase  after summer to about 80, so we'll see. There are  a few of the strongest members here, but only a few of those.  The branch president only got back from his mission about a year ago I think.

Another piece of good news about being in Novo and so close to the mission office is when you send me dear elders or anything else that comes in the pouch I will get them the day they get to Novo, while some other cities might have to wait a few weeks until someone comes out there.  So continue to email me, but encourage everyone else to use dear elder because I'll get them fairly quickly.

So in my first interview with President Gibbons, I thought it was going to be pretty generic, but he really shocked me. He had some very personal comments.  I thought it was very cool. He also encouraged me to challenge myself  to continue to be as Christlike as I can.

There are a lot of strange things in Russia.  Elder Walker coined a term that I very much like.  He calls them "glitches".  It's like whoever designed the virtual reality software that makes up Russia just messed up in some places and its like: why is this here, or what the heck is this, or why is this made this way, but it makes it all kind of fun.  There are so many but I'll just try to list off a few from memory.

1. Girls hold hands when they are walking down the street and at sacrament meeting and stuff, like teenage/young 20s,  its' really weird
2. You have to hold the shower head in your hand (but it is powerful and warm and you can clean from all kinds of angles I've never imagined so I actually really like that.)
3. The windows open like 3 different ways, it's to hard to describe in text.
4. At the grocery store you have to pay for plastic bags if you want them
5. Nobody has dishwashers or dryers or a/c
6. You have to play with the washing machine for like 5 minutes pushing and kicking it in different ways until it finally starts
7. Said washing machine takes 2 hours and 50 minutes to wash a load of clothes
I'll have plenty more glitches later.

So it's really easy to find American products like Crest toothpaste and Old Spice body wash and stuff so that's good.  There is a really nice shopping mall here, I went there to look for shoes, but it was super expensive. They had an Ecco store and a Rockport store so they had awesome stuff but there's gotta be a cheaper place to get good stuff, it looked like the Fashion Show mall almost, so I would never buy shoes there.  I'm going to keep looking, if not I'll go to a rinok and just get some for really cheap, not expecting them to last very long,  I may ask for some shoes in a couple weeks if I can't find anything, but don't send any unless I ask.

So Elder Drasso leaves on Visa trip tomorrow, so I will be with Elder Boloshov for like 3 days.  He is the Zone Leader and is from St. Petersburg, but he speaks pretty much perfect English and, obviously, perfect Russian.

Its been really hard to do productive work, we have no investigators. So on Sunday we basically set meetings up with as many members as we could, which got us a solid 3.  Our first one was yesterday, we take the metro and bus out there, turns out he's not really a member because he was excommunicated. But is trying to come back.  Anyway it was a really crazy experience.  Street contacting here is really hard -  people just don't want to listen to you.  It's not too hard to invite people to English club, but I don't know how effective that is yet.  Hopefully by next week we'll have a couple investigators to teach lessons to.

Oh, It's really hard for me to understand native Russians.  I can maybe get 40% of whats said in a meeting with a member. and almost nothing on the street when I have no idea what they are talking about... oh well it will get better, I'm working really hard on it.

Really didn't see anything in Moscow, just the embassy and the airport.

I'm super excited about that ring!!!! I was starting to think they forgot about us.

I'm out of time but I'll tell you so much more and answer more questions next time that I didn't get to, so keep sending them! Hopefully I'll send pictures too.  Love you!

-Elder Topham