How are you all doing?! I'm doing great! I spent the weekend in Vlad and I fly back to Sakhalin later today. I started counting and I realized I've already been on a lot of flights in the 6 months or so that I've been in the country. Kinda crazy. So Korea was great and so much less stressful because I knew where we were going and what to do. The temple was by far the best part. I just loved being in the temple and to feel the Lord's love and His Spirit there. It's a feeling that is so hard to describe because it is greater than anything else in the world. Shopping in Korea and bargaining with the shop owners was fun and eventful. I got a medium size coat (warm enough for right now), scarves, kepka (which is a kind of hat), and a couple of ties. I also ate yummy food! On the Border (the Mexican restaurant all the missionaries like), McDonalds (a Big Mac and McFlurry; never thought I'd miss those so much :)), Pizza Hut, Duncan Donuts, and we found a grocery store and bought Captain Crunch and Korean milk which tastes much more like American than Russian milk. We also met this couple that are members of the church, (she was from Canada and he was from Australia) they live in Seoul and they took Elders Winkler and Connely to Costco. I was super jealous! But I got some Costco cookies so I was happy. :) And there is an American couple who send things home for the missionaries that met us on Thursday night, and I gave him Matt's rabbit shopka! So it should get home soonish. It only costs him around $10 to send things home for us because he works for the army and it costs the same for him as if he were sending it within the US.
On the flight from Sakhalin to Korea, there were a few Americans on the flight, and I talked to one of them before going through customs. He immediately told me he wasn't interested before I really said anything but we had a good little conversation afterwards and I came to find out that he's from Greenville, SC! His name was John and he was visiting some friends, I guess. What a small world. He was on his way home from Seoul to Atlanta and then Greenville. Then this other American, on the plane sitting next to me, was originally from Alabama but lives in Vietnam right now with his wife and daughter and works for months at a time on Sakhalin. There's actually a lot of Americans it seems on Sakhalin. Well more than the rest of Russia. A lot in the oil business. The Exxon Mobil headquarters for Russia is right down the street from our apartment and the ward mission leader is the head geologist for Exxon Mobile in all of Russia. He seems to be pretty successful.
Anyway, all of our travels worked out just fine. I have certainly felt the Lord's hand guiding me and helping me do all that is asked of me. A mission is the coolest experience of a lifetime! I got an awesome letter from Uncle Butchie and Grandma and Grandpa Gee while I was in Korea! (it got passed along to Elder Connely who brought it with him) and then while in Vlad, I got four letters from Fallon! You can let her know I got them and I'm super happy to hear from her!
Grandma and Grandpa Bush asked about food and some other stuff but all I can remember was about food... So I'll write a little about food. We prepare most of our food. Occasionally we just buy a simple dinner or lunch at a little store here and there if we're out and about, and there are actually some yummy restaurants where we eat every once in a while. I've learned how to prepare some dishes (still haven't really tried borscht myself but sometime in the future I will). People often have something they feed us if we come to visit them. They're very hospitable in that regard. They love to fill you up. They almost always drink чай (tea, usually herbal) which I don't really care for, but you drink it because it's insulting if you don't. It's also hard to refuse food or get away without having seconds. If you hesitate in answering, you pretty much have to say yes because if you say no, you might offend your hosts. As far as food we prepare, we often make pasta or rice and chicken, simple meals that you could make in America. Occasionally, Elders learn how to make things that are more Russian.
Well, family, I love you all so much and I'm super grateful for all your support. I'm at a point right now where I just feel so happy to be on a mission. It's hard and challenging and frustrating and stretching me, but I now can say, I feel content and happy and enjoy being a missionary. The Lord is blessing me so much with the language. I certainly don't understand everything but I am able to say and understand so much more. In the taxi from the airport, I was able to have a full on conversation most of the way back to Vlad with the taxi driver, and I was so amazed at all the Lord has helped me learn and retain. I must always be mindful of His help.
As far as companions, if you want me to be honest, they can drive me crazy. Absolutely crazy. But it does me no good to focus on that. It hinders my progress and my ability to work in unity and fulfill the Lord's will, which is so much more important. It's hard, but it's worth it. There are some companions, such as Elder Zamora and Elder Waltman, who will be life-long friends. They are such great examples and are strong in the Gospel of Christ. I've grown some in dealing with people and things that bug me or are offensive or just not pleasant. It's a blessing and I'm super grateful.
Well, I love you all once again. I hope you all have a super awesome week!