Holy cow! I'm in Russia! I can't believe it! So as far as my first impressions of Vlad... Wow! It's so different. I feel quite like a fish out of water. My companion, Elder Waltman, is from Idaho and has been out about a year. I'm going to be staying in Vlad for my first area. The city feels huge, and there are so many people! It's definitely a big, dirty city and Russian people don't care to talk to missionaries just like American people don’t, so that's not really any different.
Let me back up just a little... So at the airport in Seoul, we ran into the McGills (the couple from the mission office whose blog I was able to read before I came on the mission) and it was extremely comforting to see them. We landed in Vlad, went through customs and then met President Pratt, his wife, and the assistants. They were all so nice and welcoming. Once the taxis finally got there, we loaded up and drove about 45 min into Vlad. The taxi I rode in was an old Mitsubishi van, really dirty and beat up, but it had a pretty nice sound system in it. The first bit of music I heard in Russia was ABBA. I don't know the title of the song but it's the one that talks about money. Haha! It's definitely really different here in Russia. Driving was interesting, extremely crazy. Amazingly, wrecks don't happen all the time. It reminded me a bit of India. So we dropped our baggage off at the church building and got a night's worth of stuff to take back to the mission home/apartment. And wow! The president's apartment is so nice! I was really surprised. We had 'tacos' for dinner and brownies with Russian ice cream for dessert. Yum! Then we each found out where we were assigned and then were allowed to go to bed whenever we wanted and could sleep in in the morning. That was by far the best night's sleep I have had in 3 months. The next morning, we each had interviews with the Mission President and then went to church. The members are so nice and loving, and I enjoyed it even though I hardly understood anything. I bore my testimony in Sacrament meeting which was super simple, but I tried just speaking from my heart. My Russian is so pathetic. I feel extremely overwhelmed. It's a feeling I haven't ever experienced before. Everything is so foreign and so different and I can't understand hardly anything anyone is saying. But I know prayer is real because I feel peace when I turn to the Lord.
Yesterday after church, we went to an appointment with an old babushka (her name is baba Gali). She's a member of the church but can't come because I think she's near 90. She can hardly move around, see, or hear. We blessed the sacrament for her, and I shared my favorite scripture to help strengthen her. She was so tremendously loving and nice and understanding that my Russian is so bad. She corrected me when I prayed. Haha! It was really sweet of her since I said something wrong. So that went well and then after, we had borscht for dinner (**borscht is DELICIOUS!) I absolutely loved it! I had it for lunch today as well. And then after dinner, we went out contacting and tracting. And like I said, Russians don't like missionaries just as much as Americans don’t. We knocked on lots of doors and I think only one opened. The apartments are unreal here! Before I forget to tell you, my apartment is infested with cockroaches. Yep, cockroaches. Thankfully, I don't mind all that much. Hopefully, we can get rid of them soon or we may be getting a new apartment since we just got this one and we may be able to leave it. Anyway, so the apartments are so bare and dirty and run down and nothing like what is in America. Well I'm sure there are many places in America with similar situations but honestly, it is so starkly different. The city has its own beauty though. The buses are exciting. In Vlad, you get on and then pay 11 rubles as you get off. Doesn't matter how far you ride. It just costs 11 rubles when you get off.
Talking to people is hard. It's not even so much my fear of saying things wrong that affects me. It's mostly my lack of vocabulary and my fear of not understanding a single word. But I'm working to overcome my fears and lack of ability to speak, so I certainly appreciate your prayers. I need them. I'm sure I'll be working on overcoming my fears for a long, long while. Thank you so much for your support.
**Cooks.com says, "Russian Borscht is a rich beet and vegetable soup that is served hot, at lunchtime."