Dear Friends and Family,
I think the monsoons have come. We have had a rainy and foggy week (still quite warm and very humid) and it is still raining today (Monday). On Thursday night we had a bit of a scare. I will have to preface it by telling you that we have been told to have our apartment rental agreement near the door in case authorities come. Before we show our passports we are to get a badge number and then call to verify that they are legitimate, etc. etc. We were told that we should never open the door to anyone after 10:00 PM. At 3:00 AM Friday morning someone was knocking loudly on our door and ringing the bell persistently for a full half hour. We called the Elder who is our District Leader. He didn’t answer. We called the other set of missionaries on the South end of town but they didn’t know what to do or how to call the police. We called our translator who tried to call the police but got no answer. Later she called back to tell us that she did reach the police and they were on the way. Soon a policeman came and the people banging on the door left. We were relieved but still too shook up to sleep. Later in the morning we discovered it was our landlady and her son knocking on the door. A pipe had broken upstairs and she was afraid water was coming into our apartment. We had some water leaks in the bathroom but nothing major. I guess the apartment on the first floor really flooded but it missed us. Seems silly now but we were very scared at the time.
We have tried in our own small ways to celebrate the Fourth. Last Tuesday I went all out and fed the missionaries hamburgers (I had to spice the meat with worchesthire sauce, etc, because it doesn’t taste great) and almost real hamburger buns, french fries, and baked beans. We also had a little celebration at English Club yesterday. My subject for discussion was, of course, American Independence Day but first I asked them what they loved most about their native land. The comments were not positive and the discussion turned political and I wasn’t able to get it back. As missionaries, we are supposed to avoid politcal discussions. A fairly new member named Andre told me that Russia has an independence day so I wanted to know about it. He said it isn’t a big holiday and it is in November and it is when the world gained its independence from the Soviet Union. In other words, it marks the break up of the Soviet Union. I always appreciate his sense of humor.
Some time I would like to use an update just to tell you about the wonderful Russian people we have met here and some of our experiences with them. They do not warm up easily but once they do they would do anything for you. I saw a man getting off the bus yesterday who had the Statue of Liberty tattooed on his forearm. I wish I had seen it earlier and talked to him.
We stopped at the main town square on our way home from church yesterday during a brief break in the rain to take this picture in front of Lenin’s statue. That seemed like an ideal thing to do on the Fouth of July (just kidding!). There are statues of Lenin all over. Our missionaries who have been on the island of Sakhalin, north of us, say that there is one that is about 30 feet hight there. If you look carefully in the foreground you can see the crumbling concrete and the weeds all around. This is so typical of everything here.
Best wishes to all of you! Love, Elder and Sister