May I be the first cliche missionary to say, conference was the coolest thing i've ever seen. man, oh man. i have never enjoyed it so much. i guess i sound like ever other elder, but it was incredible. we watched the saturday morning and sunday morning sessions live, seven pm on saturday and sunday. and priesthood and saturday afternoon we watched sunday. we had some technical difficulties, so we ended up staying in the room for about 11 hours straight, but it was alright. the news from around the world was cool too, good to see the kiev temple. it seems that everyone speaks english there (Kiev), lucky. but man, conference! a couple of themes: big on agency and choices. there were several talks focused on that, which was interesting. then obviously following our living prophet, a couple talks on that. plus every single talk seemed to mention something about following the prophet. and another theme was gratitude, Holland and president Monson both talked about that. Holland's was very interesting, i liked it a lot. and uchtdorf's was awesome as well. actually they were all just amazing. i could go on for a while so i'll stop.
oh, about my scriptures. they had an extra quad, like brand new, just laying around, so they gave it to me. a miracle, obviously.
Not too much of note concerning missionary work, i don't see much progress, at least that i can see. like, we had one meeting with an investigator this week. and the rest of our meetings were with members. and our investigator has been investigating for a while, and she just doesn't get it. we go over the apostasy every time, over and over and over it. and every time, she asks the same question: why do i need to be baptized again? and we explain again. ludmilla doesn't help. i think i told you about her. we had a lesson just with her a few days ago, and basically told her not to talk anymore in our lessons, that she could bear her testimony once per lesson. i think she got it, and hopefully that helps us actually teach the gospel in the future.
it started to rain hard on Thursday. we didn't have umbrellas, so we decided to go home. just getting to the bus, we got completely soaked. drenched, and it was cold. after we go for a while on the bus, it stops, and kicks us off. they do that once in a while. so we had to walk a couple miles back home. the rain was hard, but the worst part was that, as there is no real drainage system obviously, it all just puddles. cars were driving through huge puddles, splashing everybody, it was funny. it was nuts, really. we still haven't bought umbrellas for some reason. i keep bringing it up, and we don't.
It got cold fast. and i only have this stupid, huge, but thin coat. i keep mentioning that we need to go get me some winter clothes, and he keeps... not doing it. it's cold and getting colder fast. though I'm really loving it, it feels like the real deal.
i can't believe a month has passed. it went so much faster than months in the mtc. this is my last full week with my companion. he goes to Bulgaria (for his visa) next Tuesday, to Thursday or Friday i think. then Friday is transfer meeting. at least we think he will be transferred, or he hopes. i am sure he will die if he doesn't. he is so sick of this place. 6 months is a long time for one area. i hope he doesn't stay, he will just get worse.
one question i have been asked a few times is what the biggest difference is between here and America. there are a lot. but the biggest one i see is the people. i guess people, deep down, are probably all the same, or at least closer. but these people on the surface are very different. one thing I've noticed is the different groups here are much more vivid. obviously there are lots of different types of people, but much less so, it seems. there are basically 5 different types of people:
The Babooshkie. all Ukrainian women seem to end up the same, physically and mentally. they are very short, wear old, plain clothes, a bandanna on their heads, a jacket. they have very wrinkly faces, and lots of facial hair. sometimes they are bald. they are generally very superstitious, as this one lady on a bus a few days ago. she shut all the windows, yelling about how the draft will get us all sick. she huddled in a corner to protect herself. they worry about the cold floor, or cold water, because that too causes disease. they always carry around big old bags, heaven knows what for.
The Dedooshkie: the old man. has a classic soviet hat on, along with a look of desperation. usually with a bottle in hand, and at least a little drunk. from what I've seen, old men are not nearly as distinct as old women. but they all are quite similar.
devooshkie: the 10-30 year old girl. they wear very tight clothing, often a short mini skirt and a see through shirt. very fond of smoking. often when people talk to us, they mention to us how great Ukrainian women are, and how easy they are, if you get them drunk. oh and all of them, no matter the occasion, wear high heels. i don't know how.
malchickie: the young, hip dude. again, less distinct than their female counterparts, but i have found some basic patterns. usually travels in groups. think they are really tough, love to drink and smoke and fight to prove it. to look cool in front of their friends they often say "hello" or "hello, Americans" in English, to make fun and subtly mock us. i have tried to turn that into inviting them to English practice, but my companion usually stops me. also popular are English swear words.
the drunk: this makes up a good enough portion of the population. i don't actually mind them too much. they are the only people (except for the occasional crazy babooshka who tells us we are beautiful) who come up to us and talk. i again see a strange pattern. one guy comes up and talks to us, friendly or not. then his slightly less drunk friend comes up to him and tells him to stop talking to us. the other tells him to go away, and the friend then comes to us and apologizes profusely for how drunk his friend is. they aren't the brightest bunch, but they are generally friendlier than the average Ukrainian. we have made friends with a couple of them, who still stop and chat occasionally.
these are generalities, but here it seems that social rules are a bit stricter. people stay in their place more. that said, there are lots of awesome exceptions i have met, many of them members of the church. some other general things I've noticed is they are very honest. like the way they pay the bus driver is by just passing money up to the front. it would be pretty easy i think to take some, or take some change on it's way back to each person. but it doesn't seem to happen much. another thing i heard that seems about right is that Americans are peaches. softies, emotional sometimes, touchy, but with a really solid core. and Ukrainians are like coconuts. really hard on the outside, cruel even. but on the inside they are softies too.
to answer questions... i don't know how much money i have in my account, so hopefully i will be able to buy some winter clothes soon. maybe you should check? me and mueller are working fine, getting along, just not very successful. i feel safe, for the most part. a few days ago we were walking down a lane, and some dogs came out to greet us. everyone has a dog to protect their house, but usually they are chained up. these ones weren't. they followed us for a while, once in a while would try to get us, but when we turned around they backed off. but ludmilla didn't turn fast enough one time, and it got her sock, ripped a big hole in it. dogs are cool.
language...not much progress, I'm still learning words every day, but yeah, pretty much the same as usual. so i guess, yes, the language is "coming".
one of your questions was funny, last week, about if the stake center was showing conference. its just, there is no stake here in the mission, so stake centers are hard to come by. also the question about ym/yw. there aren't enough youth in the branch to have something like that. there are probably three, one boy and two girls, who would be the right age for that. its hard to be a member here. and we have an awesome branch, and an awesome branch building. it is close to my dome.
we have an hour to write, which is good, though still the quickest hour of the week. though gen. conference was quick too. we have to be in by 9:00, or 9:30, but usually we go home earlier. it gets dark at like 6. i suggested doing language study at night, to utilize the day time, but my comp said no. so lots of times we go home by 8, 8:30. sigh. we shop about once a week, though when we need something the store is really close, so it works. we live basically inside of a reenik.
i can't think of anything else to write, and I'm running low on time, so just one last thing: taking a hint from president monson and elder Holland...
Anna: thanks for fredward, all the letters and emails, all the stories you tell, and for always being happy and hilarious.
Nate: thanks for being fun, crazy, and of course awesome. i met a Ukrainian kid the other day who looks and acts just like you and i missed you hard.
Alex: thanks for all of your funny one liners, like the tomato tornado thing, thanks for all the letters you have sent me, thanks for the great example you are to me and the rest of us.
Scott: thanks for diaper bus, donkey slave, and being pretty much an exact copy of me. when i show people photos, they always point you out and think it is me. thanks for being a great bro.
Nicole (and gman): thanks for all of the awesome conversations, the advice and the books, thanks for being an older sister i could look up to and follow.
mom: thanks for every meal, every load of laundry, every book you read to me to teach me to read (or teach me how to teach myself, ha ha), for staying firm in our standards and keeping me firm as well.
dad: thanks for winning the bread, even if it probably hasn't always been fun or easy, for coaching my teams, and for teaching me by example what i want to become.
oh and thanks everyone else, but I'm out of time. love you all.
Love, Elder Brimley