Monday, August 6, 2012

Greetings from Astana, Kazakhstan

Hey What's Up,

Greetings from Astana, Kazakhstan. So I guess that answers one of Mom's questions. We have missionaries in Almaty and Astana but that's it. Astana is the political capital and is in the Northern Part of the Country. Actually pretty close to Omsk, almost directly South. Elder Anderson and I flew here yesterday after church. We were originally going to fly on Friday with President Gibbons. But we delayed the trip a little because he was waiting for his Russian Visa. It's interesting actually because he had a Kazakh visa, but the visas that we have for Russia last 3 months and you can only enter the country twice. The first time is always to activate the Visa and President had already made a trip to Kazy maybe a month and a half ago, so he was out of re-entries until his next 3 monther comes in about 3 more weeks. But he planned this trip any way because he has been working for many months on getting a 3-year, unlimited entry Russian Visa. He has had to go to the immigration office multiple times, done background checks, blood tests, all kinds of absolutely crazy things, and when he submitted that all they said that he would receive the Visa on August 1. So he was planning on that (so was sister Gibbons). But on the first, when they went down there, they just told him that he had been rejected. No explanation or anything, they said they would send a letter. So he had to cancel his trip here with us, and sister G went to America anyway, but will have to stay a little longer than she wanted to, until the next 3 monther comes in. So it's been pretty crazy. And because of all that, it ended up that Elder A and I just flew here alone yesterday. We go to Almaty tomorrow and leave from there on Thursday.

There are 4 elders here in Astana and 1 humanitarian couple.
There are 4 elders 4 sisters and 1 humanitarian couple in Almaty

Natalia is right, people in Russia are always grumpy (except for church members), but in Kazakhstan everyone is happy and nice. It's crazy, it's like a mixture between China and Russia, with Islam splashed in there. Astana is a very unique place. The city has only existed for about 20 years and President Nazerbiev (who is president for life I believe) has been pumping a ton of money into Astana the last 10 or so years to make the new part of the city amazing. I hope I will have time to send you those pics, we spent the day touring the new city. It's crazy - it is basically a mixture of Washington DC, Las Vegas, and Disneyland with this amazing modern architecture, Oh, also something that's amazing here is they actually have grass and flowers and lines on their roads. I haven't seen that stuff for a year (besides Finland).

I'm doing well and feeling well. I guess at this point in the Mission the challenge is that now I'm more comfortable with everything to not relax, to still maintain the hunger to keep learning and keep improving and keep working hard. I'm really happy, Elder Anderson and I have been together a long time and are totally used to each other. By the way, he is going to be transferred to Almaty in 2 weeks. That is the only part of the transfer that has been made public knowledge yet. But my new companion is awesome and we are already great friends so I'm looking forward to it. We've still been hitting the stairs every other day and on the off days just doing push ups and the resistance bands so it's alright. Actually, this morning was awesome because Elder Mitchell took Elder A and I on a jog, probably about 1.5 miles or so through part of the city, a beautiful park and across a river to this exercise park that has these machines that use your own weight. The machines weren't amazing but they were still pretty cool and the jog was awesome.

Other things that happened this week.

Elder A gave a gospel sports analogies lesson at the Webbs for the FHE on Monday.

We reset baptismal dates for both Alekseis for August 19. Young one is looking really strong, older is on board but we can't see him as much with his new crazy work schedule. We had more meetings that didn't work out, or people who stood us up this week than usual. It felt like it was back to the me and Elder Hyde days.

Sunday was great because both Alekseis were there as well as Andrei, so we were pretty busy making sure they were doing well and answering their questions and stuff. Then two more awesome parts were that Misha passed the sacrament for the first time, (he was just last week ordained to the office of priest and it's awesome to see him back on track and participating in the ordinances of the priesthood.) Also Marina, who has been struggling a little and with her work schedule not made it to church sometimes, was not only there but bore a wonderful testimony during sacrament meeting and was very happy. I think that is pretty much it.

Elder Topham

Astana, Kazakhstan

This is the new city Astana with the 4 elders.
That big tent is a huge mall. It is the largest tent in the world. The highest floor is an indoor beach. It is sweet.

The one of my hand in the thing - that is in that golden ball tower thing. That is the imprint of the presidents hand and I don't know exactly the significance of it but like everyone in Kazakhstan has a pictures like that.

The one building is the "white house" where the president lives (original I know).