Monday, August 8, 2011

The first few days in Ulan-Ude

Well howdy folks,

Trev, I want to wish you a very happy belated birthday! For some silly reason, I always remember things before or after I need to. I wanted to wish you a happy birthday last week, and I remembered before we went to write home and after when we were out and about, but I couldn't seem to remember while I was sitting at the internet cafe. Hope your birthday was a great one and I hope you enjoyed turning 19. Enjoy your time at home with the fam!

Well, craziness has struck the mission of Elder Bush and it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without a little craziness, right? But before I start about all the craziness, last Monday I bought some souvenirs that I will send home probably my next Korea trip. Let's see, what else exciting happened... Oh on Wednesday, we got the grand opportunity to attend a Russian wedding. A returned missionary named Ilya that got back from serving in Moscow about 3 months ago (who is actually from Ulan-Ude; his family lives here and his Dad is the branch president) got married to a girl named Tanya, who also just got back from her mission about 2 months ago from Samara. In Russia, before going to the temple to be sealed, you must be married civilly by law and so they had a ceremony at the usual place where weddings always take place in Russia. That place is called 'zaks' and the marriage ceremony really only consists of some woman talking over a microphone, loud music playing, the bride and groom signing their marriage certificates, and the equivalent of our best man and bride's maid signing the certificate as well as witnesses of the wedding. It was interesting to say the least. It was well done and I was really happy for the both of them because they're both so awesome! I must add though, it felt very empty and I guess that's because it doesn't really compare to the sanctity, beauty, and symbolism of a temple marriage. They along with their families are in Kiev right now most likely because their sealing is going to take place tomorrow if I'm not mistaken, which I'm sure will be an awesome moment for the both of them. I must say it was a pretty neat experience to be able to see how weddings take place in Russia though. The best part is probably that they film the entire wedding with several cameras. And then after the ceremony, we all go downstairs to watch the wedding again. That part was a little awkward because at the end of the wedding, everyone goes up to wish the bride and groom congratulations and for some stupid reason, the camera guy decided to leave the camera on me for like 10 straight seconds. Yeah, awkward. Everyone laughed at that part. And then, when we (the missionaries) congratulated the groom we of course did our half handshake/man hug thing (you know what I'm talking about) and then when I came up to Tanya, I put out my hand and she laughed and shook my hand. Everyone else had given her a hug so it was funny to all the rest of those in attendance to see 6 guys at the end just shake hands with her. All the members loved that.

Later Wednesday we had an awesome lesson with a man who is a little handicapped mentally but he is so awesome and has such a strong testimony of the gospel. He really knows so much! I'm sure going to miss him.

So, Thursday night, I got all packed up and ordered our monster taxi to pick me up the next morning at 8 and then we planned to swing by the other apartment to get the three new elders who had flown in at 2 in the morning from Vlad and would be traveling with me to Ulan-Ude. When I got to the apartment, I double checked the tickets and found that the train time said 7:55am. And at that point, I felt my heart hit the floor. Then I doubted myself because all train tickets have time written on them according to Moscow time so I thought, maybe I was reading it wrong. But as I talked with Elder Stewart, we confirmed that we had probably missed the train. He had checked the tickets the night before and noticed the difference in departure time and what we had been told (I thought we would leave at 9:15 since that's what I had been told). But, his alarm didn't go off since his phone was set to silent and when we arrived at 8ish, we woke them up when we rang the doorbell. So we went to the train station and sure enough, we missed the train. But we were able to exchange the tickets for tickets on a train the left at 10:11 which worked out wonderfully. It was a little hectic, but we got it all worked out and got on the train bound for Ulan-Ude. The new elders are my companion, Elder Patterson, who is such a stud!!! I love him so much already! Continue to pray for him because yeah, the beginning of the mission is kind of hard. There's also Elder Bean and Elder Bell and they're great elders. They all speak awesomely! (which I don't think is a word but don't care) I really am blown away by their faith and their dedication and it really is so refreshing to have some greenie (a green or new missionary) fire and faith alongside me. I wouldn't say I was a Doubting Thomas all the time, but I have had my moments on my mission where it was harder to have faith and I let myself doubt. I have a feeling this is going to be a great experience for the both of us! The last few days have been so much fun because I've been reliving the first few days of my mission realizing there is so much, especially about the language and culture that he just doesn't know yet. Talk about crazy! I never thought I would be training. Elder Patterson kind of looks like me which is pretty funny. He actually reminds me a lot of Uncle Derek with some of his facial expressions and how he says things. Uncle Derek, I hope you're doing well and I sure miss you all in California! It'll be great to see you all again! I will definitely have to succumb to the inner kid in me and hit up Boomers with Grandpa and Uncle Derek once I'm home someday. :) The branch is great and I'm super excited to be here. We should also be in our own new building that is almost done sometime in September! I've seen pictures and it is going to be AWESOME!!! Can't wait.

Well, I love you all so much. I'm so grateful to have such a family. You all are great support. I continue to pray for each and every one of you. Continue to pray for me that I can do the little things that will help me come closer to the Savior and become more like Him so I can serve Him even better.

Love you all!

Ст. Куст (that means bush in Russian... pronounced koost)

P.S. I'm now district leader. Didn't think that would happen either. I could use prayers for that too.