mondays are my pdays now, so you all know.
Ukraine is awesome. I'm loving it. what have i done so far... wednesday we got to the donetsk airport, which was weird. it was just like a single landing place. and the plane was pretty small. the "airport" was this teeny little building, i only saw two people working there, to check our visa/ passports. we then met the president fry, his wife, and the AP. there was only one, because the older elders had already gone home. we went to the office, dropped off all our stuff, got some orientation stuff, signed some papers, sent you an email. we were all very tired and out of it, we had been up for like 30 hours or something, i can't remember. i'm pretty much over the jet lag, but it was bad for a while. then we went to the mission president's house, it is so nice! definitely the nicest apartment i've seen here, it was nice by american standards. i guess they have to live there for 3 years.
they fed us some, talked to us a little bit, i can't remember too well. we then went contacting with the ap's. (one was just a replacement ap, not the real deal). that was humbling, i realized it is pretty degrading and a lot less dignified than you'd think, people look at you like you are crazy. i felt like a jesus freak, i guess i am a jesus freak. most people just say no (ne nada, spaciba, net, ya ne veryoo, there's lots of ways to say no) but some people, almost surprisingly do talk to us. young people are very interested in english club, i think that's pretty cool. lots of people are just surprised we are here. not exactly a vacation spot. they think americans are cool. people come up to us to shake our hands sometimes because we are american. usually not too interested in our message, but what ever.
it's weird what is normal to say here. like one approach is "vi verooshie chelovek?" which means "are you a believing person?" but it's normal here, they say it. lots of drunk people, we talked to some yesterday, these two guys motioned for us to come over, so we did. one was interested in us, the other was too cool. we talked about america, and why we were here, they smelled really bad and slurred all their words together, making it quite impossible for me to understand. it is scary enough talking to random people on the street, but it is even scarier here, where it is against their culture to even smile or look at each other. i said hello to one guy, not even to try and talk to him really, and he came up to me and asked me how i knew him. i said i didn't, just saying hello. he was very happy, and said hello again, and shook my hand. when we said we were mormons he started laughing and walked away. ladna.
thursday we hung out with the presidents, got interviewed, talked some more, had a testimony meeting with the aps, presidents, and us four that came. during our interviews we found out where we were going and who our trainers were. it was all meaningless to us. it was to be kept very secret from everyone. my first lesson was on thursday night, with an english student. it was cool and interesting, we taught the first lesson. i taught with elder neal (i don't know how to spell his name in english). the kid was like 16, and mostly interested in english. but we talked about basically the whole first lesson, and then watched the restoration video. we taught in very simple english, so he would understand, which was cool for me, i could help. i asked him after the video if he thought the gospel was restored, and he said yes. they met him last tuesday! he had been reading the book of mormon a bit, and now he has a baptismal date! neither i or the elder i taught with are in his area anymore, but still it is cool. apparantly that doesn't happen very often.
friday was transfer meeting, a lot of the elders came to the branch building and we had a meeting where we all found out where and who with everyone is serving. my companion is elder mueller (i think that's how you spell it) and i'm serving in petrovski. it is like a suburb of donetsk. my district has four elders, but our branch is one of the biggest in the mission. like a hundred people come every sunday. it is very strong. apparantly a few weeks ago, a guy walked into church dressed like a normal member, and said he had read the book of mormon and wanted to be baptised. cool. my area is huge, so there are some of the poorest parts of the city here, and some of the richer. i can't say "rich" because i went to that part, and it was pretty humbling. we tracted through it, it was all chastni domes, like personal houses, but they were all very small, dirty, falling apart. knocking doors wasn't very successful, though we gave a couple books out, and got a couple numbers. one babooshka said "chitat ya lublyoo", or "to read i love" but said she didn't understand too well, so we offered to come back and help. one lady we told about the restoration, and she said she was interested. we then gave her a free book of mormon and pamphlet, and invited her to free english lessons. i think she was a bit overwhelmed. but we got her number so hopefully something will happen. i guess it probably won't, but i have faith.
my companion is a cool guy. i kinda had this idea my trainer would be this awesome, talkative, helpful missionary who talked with everyone he saw and gave me a bunch of tips. but i guess this is reality. he is nice, but doesn't talk much. like we go contacting, and we pass so many people without talking to them. it's weird for me to think that i'm going to have to be more of a leader in our companionship. i can't speak russian. even when people seem interested, he... gives up very easily. like this guy came up to us and shook our hands for being americans. i told him about english club, and he said he couldn't. he talked a little bit, and i didn't understand, then my companion said oh well, good bye. i found out the guy had said he couldn't do it on tuesdays, but could on mondays. if i had known, i would have been like, sweet, lets meet on monday. its not like we have anything else going on. he also always sounds really bored, and mumbles so i can't understand stuff. i'm trying to look all happy so people are interested, because just smiling sometimes gets people to talk to us. but he just isn't very excited. just his personality. we had our planning session, and like all of our meetings are with ward members. i don't want to strengthen members, i want to find people and bring them to christ!
oh! i think i lost my scriptures on the way here. i'm so sad. i might have just left them somewhere, but it is sad. i put three of my nametags in my case, so i really hope it is like in the mission office or something, i just cant remember where i left them. darn it!
church on sunday was interesting. as much as i tried to understand, it just is frustrating, then my head hurts, so i stop paying attention, then i get bored, then i get tired. all the members are so friendly. like it is such a stark contrast between the members and the random people on the street. you can't see the difference as well in utah, i don't think, between non members and members. but the gospel makes such a difference! so it frustrates me when i try to talk to people, and they just say 'ne nada', 'i don't need', when i can very well see that yes, you need. everyone needs. but especially you. walking here, to this internet cafe, i saw a man laying in the dirt, not moving. we weren't sure if he was dead or not. i don't think so, but he was very well drunk, it is noon here, i don't know how he could be asleep in the middle of a loud busy street, sun shining on his face.
it is an interesting smell here. it changes every few feet it seems, and it is never very good. i woke up on saturday morning, and it smelled a lot like strong urine in our apartment. either it went away or i am used to it. everyone smells like smoke and alcohol. everyones teeth are terrible. if they are lucky they have silver teeth, but most of the time no. the elevators are like a fourth of the size of the average in america, and much less reliable. all the buildings are just old, like soviet union old, so they are dirty, wrecked, falling apart. there are so many domes! they are all the exact same. every one of them. it is kind of cool, so different from america, but also it is kind of scary, like out of some dystopian novel, or horror movie. just these giant buildings, as far as you can see. ha ha, we were going to get on the elevator to get to president's apartment after our lesson on thursday night. we were waiting for the elevator door to open, and we hear this weird noise, i thought it was a dog. the doors open and this giant pig standing there, and this lady. elder neal hurriedly took a picture, i didn't have my camera unfortunately. it had horns and everything! the best part was it was just the lady's pet, not even on a leash. she was just taking it for a walk. she told it to go forward, and it did. it was just like a dog. we died laughing. welcome to ukraine, that's what everyone keeps saying when i ask why something is the way it is.
i tried the milk on saturday. it tastes like cheese. like moldy cheese. oh well. there is always water. well not always. the bread is awesome here, and super cheap. and they have these awesome cookies, delicious. this ward member made us some food the other day, it was like crepes kind of, but filled with this stuff. i don't really know what i ate actually, but it was good, that i know. and she gave us this drink, like sort of fruity, and a weird onion looking thing floating around in it. it was ok, like kool aid kind of, but not as sweet. i haven't eaten too much ukrainian food, the fry's fed us for the first few days.
the language is rough, man. its so annoying not knowing what is going on. when people try and ask me a question and i have no idea what they said. especially when my companion doesn't help. i get frustrated and sometimes have to force him to translate. i guess it will come, slowly. i think i probably know a lot more of the words they are saying than i think i do. just the way they say it is so different. that accent is nuts. plus much faster than i am used to. and the words all in different order. and older ukrainians don\'t pronounce their 'g's. they just say 'h'. strana. its fun though, when i do understand. sometimes i understand, just much too late to reply to it.
anyways, i proabably should go. thanks for the email, expect my next at this time next monday. I love you all! stay faithful! be grateful for what you have. this place is humbling. we are all extremely blessed to live where we do. don't take it for granted. The church is true, and the gospel makes people happy. so apply it into your life. keep the commandments! Ukraine is not yet dead!
Love, Elder Brimley