Happy New Year!
We were told we would be freezing here and from what we have seen so far the weather has been much like Seattle. In fact, we have the temperature of Riga and Auburn side by side on our computer desk top and they have mirrored each other almost every day so far.
On Monday, P Day (P = preparation) after shopping for food we went to lunch with the Davis’. It was decided to go to Lido which is a buffet style restaurant. The one we went to is the biggest in the area and includes a family fun center sort of place. Since it seemed to be a holiday (the second day of Christmas, or something like that) it was mobbed! This restaurant has over 500 different things to choose from and all are being cooked while you watch! Fresh and hot! We did our best to choose but will have to go back to try more items. Their food was amazing!! The best we have had.
During the week we had a successful time in the office. Elder Segeberg accomplished some projects for President Boswell that made the president think he is amazing. Which, of course, he is! One was to put together three training videos, in three different languages, then make 10 copies of each.The copies took about 15 minutes apiece and have them ready for the next day. Just do the math! That was a time consuming project! I seem to be getting a handle on the missionary’s residency permits (visas). When I started I was putting out one fire after another – everything was in crisis mode. I finally have gotten it down to just a few brush fires. Before I leave I hope to have more organized instructions than I have found. There was no over-lap with the previous visa secretary to learn what she was doing.
On Saturday we took a walk to explore more of the area. Off we headed and before we knew it we were all the way to the Center. So since we were there we headed to the open air market to wander around and found some great bread in the bread and cheese area. It looked a lot like a bread Frisbee – but was warm and tasty! Then we stopped at Stockman’s – a pricy store which includes a supermarket. Most of their products are imported. You can get things that aren’t available anywhere else. We stocked up on a few things then hopped on a bus to go home. That is the great part of walking here. You don’t have to worry about being too tired to get home. Just take the bus!! Since it was a holiday the buses were free so we really scored!
New Year’s Eve was very fun! All of the senior couples and the Bailey’s were invited to the mission president’s home for dinner. We had planned to go out but Lido was closing early. The Boswell’s had some soup left from the zone conference the previous day. Never did left overs get such a fancy presentation. The table looked like something out of “Better Homes and Gardens.” We each contributed something and the dinner was great. The company was even better. Since the president and his wife had to travel to Lithuania in the morning we did not plan to stay late. However, the conversation continued until after 10:00.
Soon after we arrived home the fireworks started! It sounded much like a night in Bagdad at the beginning of Desert Storm! It went on for a very long time. Some of it we could see but most were blocked by the buildings. It was a noisy night. I understand that there are several more holidays coming soon that include fireworks. Oh, Yeah!
New Year’s Day dawned sunny and bright. A Sunday is a great day to start of the New Year. Our meeting time this year is 9:30 which I think we will enjoy. The congregation was a little sparse today but some may not be used to the earlier meeting time. The spirit was strong! There is no place I would rather be on the Sabbath. As I sat there with Russian in one ear and an English translation going on in the other – it either takes an awful lot of Russian to say a little in English or we were missing a lot – I was pondering the warm, loving people in our branch. We are total strangers as well as a little strange to them I am sure and many have warmly embraced us – literally. There is an older couple and their daughter who speak no English who are so sweet. Every week the mom hugs and kisses me. Since it was a holiday I received an even bigger hug. The dad speaks slowly to me (of course, he is old he may do everything slowly) and speaks in simply sentences so I have a chance to understand him. Another dear lady (who also does not speak English) greets me warmly. The first week we were here I complimented her on the talk she gave and that seems to have touched her heart. One week she very carefully said to me, “до-брый де-нь” (Good day), which I repeated back to her, much to her delight! Of course, that was something I had learned from our tutor but she felt as though she had taught it to me. This week, since we were meeting earlier in the day, I greeted her with, “доброе утро” (Good morning). She smiled from ear to ear. Then I could see the wheels turning in her head and she finally said, “Goud morning.” I am sure that the English sounds are just as difficult to form for them as Russian ones are for us. Later she asked if I had a phone to make calls. First I thought she wanted my number and I wondered how that would work since we had all we could do to communicate in two languages with a little charades to help out. But then I realized when I heard her say, “дети” (children) that she was asking if we are able to talk to our children. I told her we ‘Skype’ which she understood and was very pleased. Somewhere in the interchange there was a hug. I also brought bread for a friend whose favorite thing to do is feed the ducks by the river. She was so thrilled that there was another big hug. I feel fortunate that I escaped the building without cracked ribs! But seriously, although the people on the street look anything but warm and friendly, I am amazed what a difference the Light of Christ makes in the lives of people.
Unfortunately, religion has pretty much been purged from the people in this area. This was very evident during Christmas when there was NO mention or evidence of Christ at all, anywhere! Stores have huge displays of Christmas decorations but not one of a Baby in a manger, or a shepherd or a wise man – not even a sheep. We thought the true meaning of Christmas has been over shadowed by commercialism in America but this makes them look like religious fanatics. It is sad but demonstrates the need for those spreading the news of a Savior who loves them, a meaning for life and hope for the future. We are thrilled to do our little part to help.
After church the weather was so beautiful that we decided to walk home. The streets and sidewalks were mostly deserted. I guess most were recovering from there celebrating they did the night before. It was a very pleasant stroll.
Streets deserted at 11:00 AM New Years day.
We hope you all had as pleasant a New Year as we have enjoyed. We dearly miss our family and friends and you are in our hearts and thoughts always! С Новым годом!