Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Big 2-5 ("I want to bring you a fish!")‏

It's hard to even start. SO MUCH has happened this week! It's insane! First of all, somebody decided that my birthday was the perfect day for transfers in this mission, so I spent my big 2-5 heading out to my new area, and trying to get adjusted to a new place, new companion, and new responsibilities. On the train, Sisar Heggie gave me a stack of "V-Book" (a lot of missionaries here keep a vieras kirja, aka guest book, and have members/investigators/missionaries write memories inside) pages from Oulu (put together by Sisar Nyman, who is still up there for at least another transfer!) I looked at them, smiled, and said, "Wow, it's almost like it's my bir....AH! Wow, it's ACTUALLY my birthday!" The mission has a way of making you forget things, especially if your birthday is change day.

The first thing I'd like to say about Lappeenranta is that it is GORGEOUS. How spoiled am I to be here during the springtime? Incredibly spoiled. There's an enormous lake with shoreline just a few minutes from our apartment, which my new companion, Sisar Heggie, and I were fortunate enough to ride past as the sun was setting the other night. Finland has a very modern feel to it, for the most part, but Lappeenranta feels very old-time European, which I love. It's a fairly small city, and we travel around easily on bikes. The weather has been nice and warm, and it somehow feels like home to me, even though it's only been a few days.

I made a few realizations over the past week:

1) There haven't been sisters here in DECADES. Our branch members are psyched out of their minds to see sisters here. A lot of them have given us food already, or at least offered. (Story: On our way to a lesson, we got a phone call from a member of our ward. It was one of those cases where I thought I didn't understand what he was saying, but it just turns out, I didn't expect to hear those words come out of his mouth at that time! I ended the call, and said to my companion, "A member of our bishopric called and asked us to speak on Sunday. Uh, and I also think he wants to bring us a fish!" Sure enough, he brought us two freshly-caught fish in a bag. I asked Sisar Heggie, "How much do you like fish?" the response, "I hate fish!" GAH! Me too! We gratefully cooked and ate part of it anyway, and used the rest of it as a gift to one of our investigators.)

2) "It would be nice if you could learn some Russian, you know, no big deal", which is what I understood from my change call, apparently translates into, "Sisar Hansen has been specifically assigned to learn basic Russian for contacting purposes, and everybody in the entire mission seems to know about it/think that's absolutely fascinating." An elder who served here a while back made a packet of basic information, and we have pamphlets and copies of the Book of Mormon for me to study as well. I've just about got the alphabet down by now (I probably try my poor companion's patience, reading out loud every single Russian sign we pass by), and I can say, "Hi, how are you?" "Excuse me" and "Thank you". I realize more and more every day how much I LOVE languages, and this is just an excuse for me to master Russian basics as best I can however long I'm here, and then to keep going with it after I get home. I've always wanted to learn Russian, and really wanted to get my mission call Russian-speaking, so this is pretty much a dream come true.

3) Elders are teenage boys. We inherited an elders' apartment, of course, which came with its own set of.....quirks. The cupboard is stocked with more pasta than we may be able to feasably consume all transfer, and we put into storage the fake floral arrangements that belong to the apartment, but are less funny and more distracting when you're a 20-something sister, than a 19-year old elder. To their credit, they did a commendable job of stocking up on fruits and vegetables for us before we arrived, and they created an elaborate eater egg hunt with clues left all over our apartment, leading us to find hidden chocolate in our bedroom closet! (I bet they loved eating all the Kinder eggs required for the amount of little treat capsules they left all over the apartment for us!) A list of odd things we found in our apartment: An innapropriate t-shirt, old stinky towels, a pair of boxers, fleece pants, a discman, bookmarks shaped like kabuki actors, lots of fake potted plants, beer logo coasters, a creepy penguin-shaped jar filled with rice, and empty envelopes adressed to elders who haven't served here since before I came on my mission, to name just a few items.

On another chocolate note, I joked once that I got so much chocolate for Christmas, I'd still be eating it on my birthday. Turns out, it wasn't much of a joke, as I STILL have qutie a bit of the stuff left, and I've been eating at an accelerated pace lately, just so I can get it out of the way and not feel embarrassed about it anymore.

Anyhoo, that's the tip of this week's iceburg. We'll see how things go this week, now that we know the area a bit better, and are getting to know the members more. I feel incredibly blessed to be here, and I'm amazed that I've been trusted to be one of the first two sisters in this area in so long, working with such a dedicated and gifted companion. As I've turned a quarter of a century old, I'm pretty glad at the way my life has turned out, and I'm grateful to have spent my milestone day starting work in Lappeenranta.


Sisar Hansen

PS- I read in PMG about God as our Heavenly Father this week. It's a doctrine that's very near and dear to my heart, and one of the most important things we as missionaries help others to understand. Seriously, what did you read this week?

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