Our week began with a trip to the hair stylists. There we sat, side by side, while two young girls worked on our hair. It was my first attempt at getting my hair trimmed since I left WA. The receptionist speaks English well, so that was reassuring and each stylist spoke some English. I do not have a Russian vocabulary that includes hair salon terms. While I was there I added a manicure as well. The cut was done very differently than I have ever seen, but seems to have come out OK. Not quite like Marti would have done, but acceptable. A day or two later I had a hairspray crisis. I could not find a pump style and bought aerosol that did not do much to hold. Finally I found a couple that together seem to do the trick. Crisis adverted!
In the evening, off we went to meet with the Young Adult group that was going Christmas caroling for their first time. It is definitely not a tradition here! They were a little nervous about it so additional support was recruited – us! Unlike going door to door in a US neighborhood, here caroling required a bus ride and a lot of walking. We had a pair of young missionaries, Elders Mills & Holdaway, as guides. Even with them we overshot the bus stop and had to walk a long way back (in the dark and rain.) When we finally arrived at the first apartment we sang “Silent Night” in Latvian. Latvian seemed to be the only language of which we had a copy. An adorable little, old couple came out and were just delighted. We gave them a plate of treats and after hugs all around we were off to try to find our next stop. Soon we realized that we had picked up an additional caroler. However, he did not seem to be singing the same carol. Apparently a drunk was following us. He probably thought he had found kindred spirits. After all, who goes around singing in the streets in the dark and the rain when they are sober? We tried to shake him, but he would have none of that. Luckily we were not able to find anyone else home, or maybe they were just frightened to open their doors to singing drunks. He stuck like Velcro. When we decided it was too late to visit anyone else we were able to lose him when we hopped on a bus. We were hoping he did not have bus fare.
On Wednesday the senior missionaries were recruited to provide a Christmas dinner for all the missionaries attending the Riga zone conference. Usually the zone leaders are in charge and they order pizza. The mission president’s wife did not think that sounded very festive. So we concocted a way to make sour cream potatoes (AKA funeral potatoes) without either frozen hash browns or canned cream of chicken soup. Quite the accomplishment! Apparently there was life before modern conveniences. We served ham, potatoes, green beans and bread with cake for dessert. All the young folks were thrilled with such an American meal. After several inspirational talks and a slide show of the year in review we ended with a white elephant exchange. It was fun for old and young! During the final carol, Silent Night (in English this time) at the end of the day I was hit simultaneously with sadness to be so far from my family at this special time of year and joy to share this experience with so many incredible young people, and old ones too. When it comes to the young missionaries here, certainly only first string are sent to Eastern Europe.
The weekend proved to be a very busy time. On Saturday we had two parties to attend. The first was with our Russian church group. I quickly baked a double batch of brownies to take. There was a speaker and then a rousing game of what they called, “Jeopardy” but I think it was closer to Trivial Pursuit. The questions were based on the New Testament and church history. Who knew you could find so many obscure facts? But they had a good time. This was followed by the Christmas story for the children as well as a bag of treats for each one. A very nice luncheon was served by the ladies. One dear elderly lady loved Elder Segeberg’s Christmas tie and nearly wrestled him for it.
Then we hurried home to bake rolls for the party we were to attend in the evening. We were invited to the Bailey’s for dinner, a program and gift exchange. Brother Bailey works for the embassy. By the time we left the rain had started again. We were off on the bus with rolls, veggie trays, fruit salad, yams, not to mention our gifts for the exchange. After getting off the bus we still had to walk about a mile. But it was well worth it. The dinner was amazing! He has access to real turkeys and spiral ham. There were around 20 at the sit-down dinner. After dinner his family led a program of Christmas carols and scriptures to bring our focus to why we are celebrating. The evening ended with white elephant exchange that was very lively. It was fun to be in a family setting when we were thinking of home and our family traditions. It was so kind of them to share their home with us for the evening.
Christmas day was very quiet. Although we had received two invitations to dinner we decided to stay home and have time together and to Skype with our family. We had a schedule worked out to squeeze everyone in since the time difference means we are awake most of the time they are asleep and vice versa. Early in the morning when we woke to begin the day with two calls we discovered that our internet was down. So we quickly dressed and headed to the office to use the wireless there. We were concerned that we would have to spend our entire day there. Luckily, (blessed we were) that when we returned from church it was working again. It was great to be able to see almost all of our family! We miss them tons, but seeing their smiling faces was great! Monday morning our internet was down again! We were truly blessed!
During this season I love the opportunity to reflect on my blessings. First of all there is the gift of our Savior that brings us so much hope in this life as well as the next. There is our family that is dearer to me than I can express. Then there are countless tender mercies that He sends our way. One that I have been grateful for is the fact that my knee is not bothering me. Ever since my surgery several years ago I have seldom taken a step without thinking of it. It is tight and stiff at best. Last spring I discovered (in Hawaii) that it likes the warm much better than the cold. I was concerned how I would do here. But I have had no problem with it. In fact, I seldom think of it except when using the stairs. Truly a tender mercy! The mild weather we have had thus far here has been a tender mercy to me. The Bailey’s sharing their home and family with several senior couple who are far from their own families, the internet working when we were depending on it. The list goes on. I don’t think there are coincidences, only things we take for granted at times. Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! Ours was very different, but very nice!
Elder & Sister Segeberg