It's so weird to be here in Ukraine! Just gonna throw that our for you all. We left Monday morning and then arrived Tuesday afternoon. The flights went well. All of my luggage was either a pound or two under the weight limits, which was a blessing because if I would have had to pay that would have been horrible. Yes the rumors are true. I got all of the exit row seats all the way across. Did the seats recline? No, but that doesn't really matter. The first flight was really really empty, hardly anyone was on the plane.
I called home right when I saw a payphone; I used some spare change that I acquired throughout my wonderful delightful stay at the MTC to call home. I think if I can remember right it lasted like 7 minutes. It was nice to call home and hear how everyone was doing. Sounds like all is well. Then we found our gate and sat down. I was sitting there and some guy handed me his phone and said that I should call home. So that was way super awesome of him. Find out he and his wife have a son on a mission and they were headed for a cruise in Italy. They are living the life. So the plane ride from SLC to NYC was quite nice and quiet. I wrote some letters and had the exit row seat. I was never able to send the letters home so....sorry. We arrived in NYC early because there was a tailwind of roughly 130 mph if I can remember, so we got there pretty early.
We tried to find out where we were supposed to go and navigate our way there. We walked outside which what I thought was a big no no but it ended up being the right thing to do. We checked into our next flight, went through security again and found our gate. All the others wanted to make more phone calls and get some food. So they dumped their stuff on us and went and got some food and then came back and made some phone calls. There were 4 payphones and 4 missionaries all standing around making phone calls home. I was kind of fussy during that phone call because I had NO FOOD in my system which makes the Young family members agitated. But I called home, and it was good to talk home again. Before we boarded the plane I made a seat change to the exit row. That was the best seat ever. It didn't recline but I had leg room. I sat next to an elderly woman who was going back home to Slovakia. I talked to her for a while in English and then zonked out for sleep. Elder Smith came by and said that I should come sit by him and talk awhile. I did, I have no clue how the people sat like that with NO leg room. It was the most uncomfortable thing in the world. I didn't sit there that long and went back to my seat. I think that I went to sleep again and woke up when they gave us some food. Good Austrian Airline food. Chicken with some rice, and some other food sorry I can't really remember. They also gave us some breakfast food, which was your typical European breakfast. Lunch meat and cheese. We landed after a while. The view out the window was really pretty. We then went through security again to our other gate and sat there for a while. I tried to by a drink with the money you gave me mom but that didn't work because I needed coins. Oh well.
So we got our little plane to Donetsk and flew. They gave us some food again, just a small little meal, and then I zonked out again. We arrived and it looked like the most sketchiest airport I've ever seen. I wish I would have taken a photo of it. It was like an old warehouse building transformed into an airport. We grabbed our carry ons and went inside. There were two military men sitting in a booth waiting to take our passports and stamping them. After that we went to the "baggage claim" which was two flat bed trucks with the luggage on the back. We had to go and grab our bags and exit the airport. They made us put our luggage through a small security scanner and then we were fine. I walked through and saw two other missionaries and the President and the driver. How nice it was to be finally there. They loaded us up and took us to the office. We unloaded everything and were told to grab some clothes that would last us 3 days.
After some time of chilling around and some small meetings and orientation we walked to the president’s house. They handed us some Books of Mormon and some семья's and told us to try and give them out. Holy cow!! Seriously!!??! But we managed to give some out. I was walking with the AP and he told us some interesting things about the mission. I stopped a guy and then he took over. The guy knew a little bit about the Book of Mormon and he heard about Joseph Smith. That was pretty cool. He took a BOM and went on his way. We then went inside the mission home. Probably the nicest home I'll ever be in my entire mission. We had some food and then went to bed. We were told that we could go to bed fairly early and sleep in as long as we could. We did.
The next day has some more meetings and orientations. We went to Tequilla Boom for dinner, a wanna be Mexican restaurant. We went on splits that night with some elders, which was fun. I was with the AP again. We went to a less active member family and then a member family. It was pretty cool. I didn’t' understand much or anything but it was cool to see the gospel with other people in other countries. The next day was pretty much the same, orientation and then splits again at night. The next day, Thursday if I remember was transfer day. All of these missionaries started flowing in from everywhere and started talking. Transfers took place and it was all fun. Those that had cell phones were talking to everyone who wasn't there about who was going where. It seemed like a sports draft with everyone talking about everyone else. I hoped on a bus headed for Kharkiv with some other elders and went. The ride was kind of scary, the roads weren't good at all and, eh, it was just Europe baby. I sat next to Elder Bangeter, my buddy from the MTC and chatted. We took a stop somewhere along the way and got some food. The whole bus ride was like 5 hours. LONG. All of the missionaries in Kharkiv were there. I met some, and met my Trainer--Elder Duke. We hoped in a taxi and headed for our place in Cold Mountain. We got there and then I unpacked. We talked about the plans for the week and then went to sleep. We had a lesson with Эля which I think is translated to Ellie, maybe because that it was it sounds like. So we made our way over to her place. She's 16. We are not allowed to go into her house so we talked in front of her house. It was cold. We talked for a while and then went back to our place to have some food. We then made our way to the church building to have a ward mission leader meeting. I met our zone leaders, they are really cool: Elder Young and Jensen. We then went to the senior missionaries’ house to get something for Elder Duke. They ended up feeding us a meal which was so, so, so good. The Zone Leaders forgot their house keys and it would have taken an hour and a half to go from where they were to the church and back. That would have been too long, so they made a few phone calls and were allowed to sleep at our place. We made our way and went home. We got there and we talked and talked. It was about 11 and I was too tired so I went to bed and the others stayed up for quite a while. Eventually we all went to sleep. Right when my head hit the pillow I was asleep. The next day was Sunday.
We got dressed and went. The ZL's didn't have their suits so they went as they were. It was funny. Church was awesome. Even though I didn't know what was happening or what was going on the spirit was the same. They had me go up and share my testimony with the branch. That was kind of scary, but it all went well. I had a silent prayer in my heart for comfort just so I could feel relaxed. During the Sacrament hymn I started crying because I could feel the love of the Savior for me in a new different place. I was so overwhelmed. But it felt good. During the talks I was sitting next to Elia and she wrote a note saying that she wanted to help me. I wrote back that I'm fine and that I'm not scared. True. Even though I didn't know what was going on I was fine because I knew that the Lord loves me as is looking out for me.
We went to all of the church meetings and then went to the ZL's for some things. We went back to our house and we were there for the rest of the night. The weather was like: Hey just curl up into a ball and sleep because it was cold and dreary. Elder Duke made some phone calls to try and do some stuff but no one picked up their phones. So we stayed home. We made dinner which composed of pineapple, egg sandwich, and banana bread. Yeah, lame but it filled me up. It was good. I did some studies and then went to bed.
Now it's Monday and all is well. There's like 18 elders all sending emails home. It's pretty cool. Soon we have sports time! This week should be good. We have some lessons set up and that's about it. We have like 2 investigators and that's it. So we are hurting for some investigators. We have a lot of work in front of us with a lot of contacting and finding to do.
For your questions:
1. Elder Duke, from Hurricane and has been out for a little bit under a year. He's pretty cool. He likes to snowboard.
2. My apartment is pretty nice. Spacious and great. Remember the "double beds" from Romania? With two single beds pushed together. That's what my bed is and so is Duke's. To flush the toilet we have to switch a knob and let the tank fill up and then flush and then fill up the tank again. Not too bad. We have all of the necessities to live.
3. The people........Elia has like always been a member. Her older sister in a member but she moved to Kiev so it's still a bit hard for her but she comes to church. The branch has no youth in it her age which also makes it difficult. But she's cool.
4. President Fry is pretty cool. He has a lot do to. We, the Donetsk mission get the least amount of money for all of the Russian speaking missions, 1200 greveain. It's the bare minimum from what I've heard, but it will work.
5. Elder Allred has been home for a while so I wasn't able to see him :(.
6. Church is cool. We have to travel for like 45 minutes to get there. Hop on a metro, figure out some stops and then walk there. It's a great wonderful building. Super awesome. Kind of like the one in Romania. The color is pink so it stands out. They made me read from the Liahona in Priesthood which was a bad move because I butchered it. The teacher looked like me with a look of like WHOA. But eh, whatever.
The Dear Elders still works so feel free to send those as well. I want to figure out how to send physical letters home. Maybe sometime I will. All is well and I'm still alive. I also haven't received my Christmas package yet. Hopefully it will. Christmas is on the 15 and 16 for all of us up here in Kharkiv. Hopefully the Fry's will bring it with them when they come.
Thanks for everything!