Thursday, April 10, 2014

MTC Week 4

Heyyy everyone!
This week has melted together. I can't tell where one day ends and another begins. All the classes feel the same, the days feel the same, the weeks feel the same. This isn't a complaint. It's just hard to think of what's happened every day since every day feels the same as the one before.
Today was "Sister Sine" day in my district. Every week we have a day to make some feel extra special, and today was my day. Everyone went around and said what they liked about me and wrote me letters telling me how much they loved it. It was great. I'm on cloud nine right now. I've been deemed the "big sister/mother" of the district. I love it. ALSO today, I got to go off MTC campus to the health clinic! It sounds really stupid, but it felt so good. I got to see the cover of a TIME magazine today. There was something on it about buying the White House or something...I dunno...I kept looking for an Entertainment magazine, but they had nothing.

There were a lot of great lessons this week. My companion and I taught one of our "investigators" the Plan of Salvation and it went soooo well. Our teacher came back into the classroom afterwards and complimented us on it. I won't say what made it so great since that would require naming names, but let's just say I got to use my past to apply some principals of the gospel. It felt so good.
The hijinks continue in my district. They found out about my weakness-the super ticklish spot by my ribcage. It was a nightmare. I almost had a flat out panic attack. Now they threaten me all the time. I've been on edge for about 3 days now. It's mostly Elder Astle's fault...good ol' Elder Astle. He's become the other little brother I never had. And Elder Martineau and I have the best talks. About everything from the Krebs cycle to cooking to all the girls he's kissed in his lifetime. His "number" has become a big joke in our district.
This week marks the month-aversary! I've been on a mission for almost exactly a month. It's nuts. It feels like I got here forever ago, but at the same time it's gone by so fast. I can't believe how much has happened. I've met so many great people. I've taught 15+ lessons in Russian. I KNOW Russian. I've memorized 4 scriptures in Russian (they sound so cool). I've laughed to the point of tears like 10 times. I still haven't cried since I got here, except for one fireside when they sang "Come, Come Ye Saints" a million times." I've cut my mile time by a minute. I haven't slept passed 6:30 in 30 days. I've said about 150 prayers. I've eaten approximately 60 salads. I haven't sent a text or talked on the phone in a month. I haven't heard a single piece of pop culture news. I'm still waiting on the Bachelorette, by the way. Come on, guys.
Anyway, we had a devotional about how we should use our letters to help people back home, so I feel like I should start with this one. I LOVE it here. This is the best thing I've ever done with my life. I've learned so much about so much. And I couldn't have done it without the examples from back home. Mom and Dad, thanks for supporting my decision to come here and for teaching me about the church. Anybody I help in Russia has you to thank for it. Lark, Mary Alice, Ben, Taylor, Isaac, I love you all SO much. Being here's made me realize how important family is important, and I'm really proud of the way we've always looked out for each other. I've learned something from each of you. Caitie, I love you like my sister. You've taught me so much about love and patience, and I love, love, love you for it. And again with you, mom, you're a SAINT. Literally. I was listening to Characters of Christ by David A Bednar (which is boss, by the way) and you fit every one of his qualifications for being a saint. You're my example, mama bear. I know the gospel's true. And I'm SO excited to go to Russia. Our teachers keep telling us stories about their missions in the Ukraine, and it makes me want to get out of here real bad. There's nowhere I'd rather be right now.
I have a little favor to ask...
I'm teaching a lesson on faith on Sunday, and I was wondering if I could get some insights from Daddyo. I'd ask him myself, but I forgot what his email was. It doesn't have to be a lot, but Dad's insights are always the best :)
Anyway, I'm out of time. Hopefully I'll hear from you next week. PLEASE tell me how everything is going. I hate being out of the loop.
Love you all!
Also, we translated "that's what she said" into Russian this week. It's pronounced, "Eta  voht  on-ah  skah-ZAH-la." Just GUESS how many times we've said it this week...
Also, also, could you mail me my patriarchal blessing? I forgot it at home and it would be real nice to have. And anything else you feel like sending :)

MTC Week 3

*The family had moved out of our home in Virginia the week before

Goodbye, Jasper Ct! I'll miss you terribly.
Anyways, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR YOUR PACKAGE! It was perfect. My companion says "thank you" for the bread, as does the rest of my district. They all loved it. Thanks, Mama Bear. You're the best!
I have so many random stories, but no time to organize them, so this letter will be completely random. Try and keep up.
I did sealings for the first time today! Woohoo. Missionaries aren't allowed to do couple sealings, so my companion and I acted as daughters. It was so cool. It really made me see her, and our whole goal as missionaries, in a different light. The temple's becoming one of my favorite parts of the week. ALSO one of my favorite parts of the week is Saturday nights. The Russian missionaries all get together and sing hymns in Russian after classes on Saturdays. This past Saturday, we sang "Nearer, My God To Thee." It was soooo powerful. Singing it in Russian with all the people who've been called to serve there and bring people "nearer to God" was an awesome experience. I was pretty close to crying the entire time. There were actually a few Polynesian sisters next to us who were balling even though they couldn't understand it. Oh, and Elder Astle cried. Haha.
 On sunday night, we watched Legacy as a district in the gym with a bunch of other missioanries. It was the most pathetic thing. It's not even that great of a movie, but since we've been so starved for entertainment, it was like the greatest thing since sliced bread. I've never been more excited to see a kissing scene in my life. haha. It was bad...
Oh, and more on Elder Astle, he's taken to trying to make me laugh during the prayer. Every time we pray, he makes these faces the whole time that crack me up. Even when I don't open my eyes, I KNOW he's making faces, and I start laughing. The other night it took me like 2 minutes to compose myself before I had to pray in Russian. the whole district started laughing, then our teacher. It was great. I love my district. I know I say that all the time, but I do. I hate knowing that we all have to say goodbye in 2 months. Holy jeez, 2 months. It's gone by so fast. I'll be 23 in 1 month! What the what!
The biggest development, though, is that we now have a FRIDGE in our room. We've had it since our first day here, but we never plugged it in. We finally did this past week, and its' changed our lives. It's the most beautiful thing. We store soda and milk it. It's perfect.
We had a really great lesson this past week on teaching people how to pray. It was a really powerful lesson, partially because it came 2 minutes after we taught one of our investigators how to pray (or tried to). I'd never thought about having to teach someone how to talk to their Heavenly Father. It's crazy. He's trusted us to teach his children how to have a relationship with him. Anyways, it was a really great lesson. And it completely changed my outlook on prayer as a whole. So, my challenge to you this week (all of the Sines/readers who are reading this) is to think about how you would teach someone how to pray. How would you tell them to do it. I promise it'll make you think about prayer differently.
Enough missionary talk. WHERE ARE LARK AND MARY ALICE!? WHY HAVEN'T I HEARD FROM THEM?! Tell them to write me on Dearelder. Annalee Sine, box 238, Russia Samara Mission, Provo MTC. DO IT! AND WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT THE BACHERLORETTE?!
Anyways, I'm out of time. I love you all. I pray for you all the time, especially about the move. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help. I'm glad everything's working out, though. I'll keep praying and keep you guys in my thoughts. I love you all!
Also, Russian lesson for the week: the word for "focus" is "sos-red-uh-TAH-chee-vie-uh-tee-yec" Say it ten time fast :)
-Sister Sine.

MTC Week 2

Ma cemya!
(My family!)
I friggin love this place. I feel like such a nerd when I say that, like I'm not supposed to, but I love it here. It's like the place I always wanted to be, but didn't know it until I was here. It's pretty great.
Anywho, week two is done! It's been a crazy week. We've been doing a lot more Russian study. My companion and I now teach all of our lessons in Russian. There's a lot of guesswork and improper translation, but it's so much fun. I'm always suprised at what we're able to say by the end of it. We also talk to each other in Russian alllllllll the time. And whenever we see new missionaries, we yell at them in Russian, which gets a lot of great/scared looks.
We've had a lot of great lessons this week. Our teachers are serious the best. One of them, Brat Sorenson, is a spiritual giant. He can teach you how to teach through the spirit faster than anyone I know. He just exudes the spirit. The other one, Brat Kofoed (who played our former investigator), is an amzing language teacher. I don't know what we weould do without them. The other day, while Brat Sorenson was showing us something on his phone, a text message from his girlfriend popped up. It said, "I'm crazy about you too! :))" We called him on it the next day when he wasn't expecting it. You had to be there.
Elder Astle and I have started a war with a banana. We keep putting the same rotten banana in each other's stuff. It went on for about 2 days before I had one of the elders put it in his laundry bag for him to find today. We'll see what happens. Elder Astle and I have also started playing a game where you name all the musical artist you can beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. The rounds go on for-ever. We also have to ask each other about the music in Russian. Antoher elder, Elder Stoneking, and I also talk a LOT about music. Radiohead and Animal Collective, especially. It feels SO good to be connected to the outside world sometimes.
I LOVE my district. I know I said that last time, but they're the greatest kids I know. Leaving them is going to suck. We're already planning on going to everyone else's homecomings when they get home. haha. I can't wait to get letters from them and hear about their missions. They're all going to be incredible. Our teachers and presidents have told us over and over that there's a BIG work about to go down in Russia, and we're going to be a big part of it. It's so cool to think about. And looking around, I can totally see why these people were called there. The Russian elders/sisters are all so close, and they're so SHARP. I love them all.
Funny story. All the sisters in my district think I'm famous because I dated THE Elder Tyler Christenson's (from The District) brother (Russell). I saw him walking and flagged him down in the hallway to tell him to say hi to Russell for him, and a bunch of girls behing he started squealing and asking me how I knew THE Elder Christenson. Haha. So, thanks, Russell! And Elder Christenson.
Last night we had a really great devotional about our calls here. I'll have to mail you some notes. I'll mail them to Dad later. There were a lot of great stories. The jist, though, was that we're going to be able to find people that we knew in pre-Earth life. It was really powerful, actually.
Also, about sending stuff, if you could send some cookies, I would love it. It's sort of a district tradition that we share our baked goods.
I love you! I love it here! I'll write you a crazy long letter this week. Look for it in the mail!
-Cectra CauH

First Letter from the MTC

Anywho, the past week has been a rollercoaster. Monday and Tuesday were great. Rexburg was just what I needed. Thanks to everyone for all the advice. I miss you all already.
Wednesday was an interesting day. Caitie and I stayed up on Tuesday night to talk and eat cookie dough ice cream, which only lasted about 30 minutes until we both fell asleep. The next morning, Grandma Cannon took us out to the Original Pancake House, but I couldn't eat anything. It was so great to see them, though. THEN Caitie and I started driving down to Provo, me making last minute calls to everyone the whole time. I ended up leaving about 20 voicemails. Once we got to Provo, we did some alst minute shopping with Ryan Bartlett, and I got to spend my last 15 minutes in a Forever 21. I almost cried. Just kidding. But seriously.
After all the shopping, Caitie and I drove to the temple parking lot and repacked all my stuff. I started feeling really shakey and nervous, especially seeing all the other elders saying goodbye to their families. So, Caitie an dI sat down and said our last goodbyes, then she dropped me off at the curb. Once I was on the curb, I felt great. I don't want to sound cliche, but being on the MTC grounds just felt right. My host for the afternoon was Sister McNelly, who I knew from my freshman year at Idaho. Crazy, right?!
I got my badge, which is in full Russian, then headed to our classroom for our first class. And SURPRISE! Elder Astle and Sister Moffatt, the two people I met beforehand who are also going to Samara, are in my district. Sister Moffatt's actually my companion. So, I can say that my companion and I are already Facebook friends. And Elder Astle is sooo great. It's like having a little piece of Southern California here with me. He told me that Lars said "hi," AND that he read him the super personal message that I wrote him before I left. So, thanks, Lars. Stupid Lars. Stupid, great Lars.
Anywho, our district is perfect. I love them all so much. We're SO close already, and I can't imagine leaving them all in October. We have three missionaries going to Kiev, but the rest are going to Samara, which is awesome. Brother Lamoreaux, part of our stake presidency, said that we were the most united district he's ever seen. No one knows how much he's said that before, though. We do everything together. Actually, ALL the Russian-speaking misionaries do everything together. We eat together in our own section of the cafeteria called the "iron curtain," we do gym together, study together, we ALWAYS speak in Russian to each other on campus, we pray together, we sing together every Saturday night. Everyone knows everyone. It's crazy. Everyone knows who the Eatern European missionaries are.
Speaking of Russian. Holy crap. Remember that letter President Sartori wrote, asking me to help my district with speaking the language? Well, that's definitely the case. I got to teach my district to pray in Russian a couple days ago, and all Russian questions are directed to me and Sister Moffatt, who also took Russian at BYU-Idaho. Sister Moffatt also thinks I've become the mother of the district. Who would've guessed THAT would every happen? (Cough CAITIE Cough). I love it, though. It keeps me sane. If I weren't able to help anyone, I would feel so useless.
So, all the advice everyone gave was true. You really have to embrace this place. It's SO weird, but it's weird in all the right ways. Everyone here is SO happy. All the time. And they're so nice. To EVERYONE. ALL the time. And they love helping people, and learning about the gospel, and being obedient, and teaching others. It's great. Weird, but great. And the whole "make it to Sunday" thing? 100% true. The first few days were full of "holy crap, a year and a half?" type of thoughts. I thought a lot about what I really wanted to accomplish here, and whether or not I was up to the task. We actually had an Elder go home after the first day, which kind of knocked everyone into their place, I think. It was really, really sad. But, we have great teachers and great leaders who say the right things at all the right times. The other day, I was having a hard time feeling motivated to teach our (fake) investigator, or fiding the motivation to teach ANY Russian for that matter, and he told me to picture someone back home who I would want to tell all this too. I immediately thought of about 10 different people and ever since then, the teaching's come a lot easier. we're teaching whole lessons in Russian, by the way. Crazy.
Then on Sunday we had a fireside that focused on the hymn, "Come, Come, Ye Saints." I was a mess the whole time. He made us sing it 3 different times, and each time I just kept picturing Isaac at his farewell, singing it at the pulpit, and I would lose it. It completely changed how I viewed being here, though. The Russian missions have been told time and time again that we really are doing pioneer work. A couple of authorities have said that Russian missions will soon be like Brazil missiona are now-just baptism everywhere. And we all get to be a part of that. It's pretty cool.
Also, I hear that JEF WON THE BACHELORETTE! Sister Moffatt read it in one of her letters, and we started going NUTS. We were hugging each other and jumping up and down. It was perfect. Also, THANKS TO ALL YOU WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO TELL ME WHO WON!
And, I've heard that Dark Knight Rises is very good. We're not really allowed to talke about it all that much, but I hear good things. Feel free to give me details :)

Anyway, I'm running out of time, but I love you all. And I miss you all terribly.

My mission call

This is the story of how the mission call came. One of the coolest days ever.

After 3 months of waiting and delays, I FINALLY got my mission call.

I'll be serving in the Russia-Samara mission. I report to the MTC on July 17, 2012.

I'm so beyond excited; it would be impossible to explain how amazing I feel right now. This mission call is the answer to a LOT of prayers. I know you're not supposed to ask for specific missions, but I kept hoping that I would get a mission call that would mean something special to me, that I'd be able to make a connection with the people and the area itself. Russia was the perfect answer to those hopes. I've always loved learning about Russian history/culture, I studied the Russian language for a year during college, and I was also able to study Russian literature for a semester. I've always wanted to travel to Russia; now, I'll be living there for a year and a half. HOLY GEEZ!

Alright, here's the story of how this little mission call came to be.

It all started on Sunday, while Isaac was being set apart as a missionary. I got a really strong feeling that I would be serving in Eastern Europe, around Russia/The Ukraine area. When we went out to put Isaac's pin up on the Stake's missionary board, my Bishop noticed a long line of missionaries from my ward down the western coast of the Americas, all the way from Alaska to South America. There is also one elder from our ward serving in Singapore. My bishop said, "Annalee, we need someone in the middle. You're gonna have to fill that gap." I told him I'd work on it. That night, and in the days to follow, I kept getting the same strong feeling that I'd be going somewhere Slavic-speaking.

That brings us to Wednesday (yesterday).

I thought for sure the call would come yesterday. My younger brother entered the MTC yesterday afternoon, and I was really hoping to tell him where I was serving before he reported. I took off work so that I could watch for the mail, and then literally sat in front of a window for two hours, waiting for the mail to come. I skyped Caitie in a few minutes beforehand so that she could be there when I read the call to both her and Isaac. When the mail finally came around 1:00 pm, I ran out to the mailbox and was met with bills, a letter from my grandparents, and a newspaper that looked like it was printed by a five-year old. I was pretty distraught to say the least.

About 30 minutes later, I went to work and talked to one of my favorite 'coworkers,' Tony. We actually ended up talking about Russian; he took Russian in both high school and college, which is something NO ONE does. I told him about my own Russia-studies, and we traded a few choice Russian phrases before spending the rest of the afternoon emailing Hunger Games references to each other. It was exactly the afternoon I needed. None of this information is important…

THIS AFTERNOON is where it gets good.

I woke up later in the morning, hoping that I would be able to sleep until 1:00 pm and the mail would magically appear in the mailbox as I rolled out of bed. I walked upstairs, walked around aimlessly for a few minutes, learned "Be Still My Soul" on the piano, and then Lark and I camped by the front window. The mail came around 2:30 pm. Caitie called in on Skype, and only Lark, Mary Alice, and my mom were home. I ran to the mailbox, pulled out my mission call, and ran back inside in my pajama bottoms. The original plan for opening the call was to wait until later when my whole family could be there. Instead, my mom, Caitie, and my sisters all decided to yell at me until I opened it right then.

So, I did.

I read the letter silently to myself at first. When I read "Russia Samara," I could feel my eyes get really wide and my jaw drop. I was so, so, so happy. And shocked. As I read the letter out loud, all I heard was screaming and jumping up and down. Everything after that is kind of a blur. I called my brother's friend, James, so that he could tell Isaac in the MTC, then I called/emailed a bunch of different people. Each conversation made me more excited about going. Plus, it was nice to talk to people I hadn't talked to in a while about such great news.

After talking to people and wandering around my house in a daze, I went to the gym (screaming "I'm going to Russia!" in my car the entire way there), took my dog for a walk in the perfect Virginia sunset, took a shower, picked up my brother, and went back home for THE reading.

Around 9:00 pm, the rest of my family got together for the official announcement. I got a bunch of different predictions pinned down on a huge map on the dining room table (about 8 of which ended up being in Russia) and read the letter to my family and grandparents. I don't really remember anything about it but my dad yelling, "WAY TO GO, ANNALEE!" Then, I made the rest of my calls to various friends/family members to make sure my bases were covered. Afterwards, my family and I went to Chipotle (which is a mission call tradition in our family, apparently).

Now, a story that really has nothing to do with the mission call itself.

The universe has a way of blessing me with little experiences on days of importance. On my birthday, I met two elderly men in Los Angeles that made me feel like an ANGEL. They said I was wise beyond my years and that I was a very beautiful person, inside and out. It was the best. After I got my mission call, I headed to Shoppers to pick up a few things, and ran into a man at the self check out counter. He didn't speak any English, but motioned for me to help scan his groceries. I scanned, bagged, and loaded his groceries for him while he watched, and helped him pay when it was all done. As I left, he said, "You're very gentle. Thank you very much. Have a good night." It was really touching, actually.

And then I left Shoppers and shattered my phone's screen. But, since the universe is on my side, it's still functioning! Woohoo!

Now, for some fun facts about Samara, Russia.

-It's the largest mission in Russia, covering 3 different time zones.
-It includes Samara, the 6th largest city in Russia.
-There are no LDS Stakes in the Samara mission.
-Samara was once the home to Tolstoy and includes a Tolstoy museum.
-The record low temperature in Samara, Russia, is -40 degrees.
-The Samara mission borders Kazakhstan.
-My mission president, President Sartori, and his wife, have seven children, and both served in Russia themselves.
-The mission opened in 1990.
-If you look up "Russian food" on Wikipedia, the first section of the article details a cold soup made using sour milk, cucumbers, potatoes, and a boiled meat such as beef or fish. Neat!
-The full name of the area is Samara, Samarskaya oblast, Russia
-It's on the bank of Russia's largest river, the Volga River.
-It's got a circus AND a zoo.

I'm excited :)

Da svedania!

The First Post

So, I recently returned from my mission to Samara, Russia. I served for a total of about 18 months from July 18, 2012 to February 2, 2014. It was the best, BEST 18 months of my life. I learned so much about everything-about myself, about the world, about the gospel. Everything.

I loved it with all my heart. And I miss it every day.

Now I got a bunch of letters from the mission just sitting in my old email account, and I need a place to put them. The letters detail everything that happened on the mission - transfers, companion stuff, weird happenings on the street, spiritual experiences, all of it. 

Sooo here they are!