Dear Friends and Family,

There is not enough space and time towrite all I want to today. But I will take a stab at it.

We left Istanbul on the afternoon of April 24th. We were stunned to have to pay $600 to check our baggage on Aeroflot and were told we would have to pay about that much again in Moscow. As it turned out, all of the passengers from Istanbul were bumped off the flight out of Moscow to Vladivostok. We stood in line for 5 hours (Jim mostly, I sat down) to get our flight rescheduled and to get booked into a hotel for the night. Our mission president (Pres. Pratt) was in Moscow for a meeting and was also bumped. A nice couple who flew from the conf. in Istanbul with us and who were headed to Novasibirsk helped us immensely and stayed by our side. Their flight was not scheduled until midnight. There was also a nice young Russian man who spoke a little English who helped us greatly and I noticed that he tried to take care of everyone who had missed that flight. We finally met up with Pres. Pratt just before we left for the hotel. It was very near the airport so we didn’t really see anything of Moscow.

We flew out the next day about 5:00 PM. Everyone who was bumped was put in first class. I could get spoiled. My feet didn’t swell because I was able to keep them up a bit. We were on the ground for an hour and then an 8 hour flight to Vladivostok. Arrived there on Monday, the 26th. Went to mission office where our immigration papers were processed and then we were put on a taxi – van and sent to Nakhodka.

I experienced real culture shock as we drove. It looked like the aftermath of a war or castatophe – empty shells of buildings. Don’t know if they fell into disrepair or if they were never finished. Small little shacks. Refuse everywhere. Every small patch of woods was filled with junk and debris. The mission president said there is no wildlife – it was all eaten long ago. Everywhere people were working up the soil in their small patches to get ready to plant for the spring. Also every 20 – 30 miles there were wayside police stations where they randomly flagged cars over to check for papers. Our driver was stopped and asked for his but we were not asked. We carry our passport in a pouch under our clothing to keep it from being stolen. We are told that an American passport is worth about 10,000 on the black market. You cannot travel to another town for more than three days without registering with immigration.

We were met in Nahkodka by 3 missionaries – one a native Russian and one from Utah and one from North Carolina. What would we do without them! They all speak fluent Russian. They had scouted around and found an apartment for us that was suitable and very nice by local standards. We have a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom. Elder R. can sleep on the couch in the living room to get away from my snoring.

Nakhodka seems nicer than Vladivostok, and I think when the trees leaf out and some flowers bloom it will be much prettier. Everywhere there are tall gray apartment buildings with laundry hanging out over balconies. Most people (even us) have a small washing machine but only the very rich have dryers.

We have spent the week going to local stores to try to stock our apartment. My first trip to the grocery store – like the old corner stores we used to have in America, but to them it is a supermarket- was very depressing. Nothing was familiar and all I could smell was the dried fish from the meat counter. I didn’t eat anything until Thursday night after we found some bottled spaghetti sauce and noodles. I still don’t eat much. We found an Asian market not too far from us that has lots of fresh produce. We also found some plates and a few forks and knives there. Jim found me a toaster so I can at least have toast in the morning with the not very good bread. I am so glad I bought pretty bowls in Turkey to give me something colorful. Also brought some cinnamon from the spice bazaar there to put on my toast.

We have to carry what we buy so we don’t buy too much at once. We walk anywhere from five to 10 miles each day going with the misssionaries. There has only been three and they have to go in 2’s so we have gone with the Russian Elder. We know we are in trouble when he says, “I vill translate for you”, because he doesn’t speak English much better than we speak Russian.

We took a bus to church on Sunday because it is a long distance. It is a very small branch but we meet in a very nice performing arts building. On one side is the Internation Mariner’s Club and we rent space from them. The branch uses the game room in the basement on Saturday afternoons and we were there before English Club on Saturday. The club was great fun. We had about 12 Russian people there who want to practice English. They all said that English is the accepted international language for business, computers, everything. Too bad we don’t recognize that in America.

Another note about walking. It is difficult because what few sidewalks there are are all broken up. We mostly walk paths that are littered with broken bottles, cans, etc. My feet sometimes long to walk on flat, smooth ground. This is a very hilly coastal city. It reminds me some of coastal Washington State. The weather has been good – just a couple of rainy days. The other day when we went to the Asian market a couple of older ladies asked me if I was cold. (Yes, I could understand them.) I said “Nyet, nyet!” Everyone was bundled up like the middle of winter, especially the little children. It must get very hot here in the summer because it felt like 70 degrees to me and I didn’t wear a coat.

So much more I could say, but this is it for this week. Our wonderful daughter has made a blog for us and you can go to it at [here!]. Check it out for pictures! She does a great job on it, and we will send her more pics as soon as we get internet in our apartment which should be the middle of May. Love and best to all, Elder and Sister R.