Hey everyone! I just got off the plane a couple hours ago from Moscow from Helsinki– what an adventure.
My brain is pretty fried from the events of last week– I think I may have mentioned them in my last email– various stressful meetings, conferences a baptism, and this visa trip, etc. That all went well– I made it through. The conferences were great, the meetings worked out, and the baptism was excellent. The girl named Marina was very happy, had a great experience, and was confirmed a member of the church the next day and was given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Her and her mom have such a light in their eyes– it’s incredible. Grandma and Grandpa Froelich– thanks for your letters to Lena (Marina’s mom). She really enjoyed them and between the two of them they could make out the English 🙂
Visa trip started with the “death” of Sister Calderwood (you are “born” in the mission, you have a “father”– your trainer/first companion, and you “die” when you go home). It was pretty big for me because 1) she was in my district in the MTC– I knew her from day one on the mission and because she’s gone means that I have not very much time left (sister missionaries serve for 18 months, not 24) and 2) she has become such an amazing friend to me here on the mission. and 3) she’s an astounding missionary. So she was probably released not too many hours ago. Our visa trip group (including all of the district in the MTC that is serving together in Novosibirsk) somehow lucked out and got on the same flight as her from Novo to Moscow, so we got to help her until she got that far and said our goodbyes.
I had an amazing experience in Helsinki. We had just gotten into the city and were taking a bus into the down town. I saw a snazzy art store and mentioned it to Elder Wheeler: “Oh man! An Art store! I haven’t seen one of those in forever!!” (Russia has very scanty art supplies). Elder Wheeler said “you wanna check it out? We’d have to get off right now!” He pushed the “stop” button and Elder Wheeler, Nelson, and I hopped off the bus. After the art store (which made me feel that everything will be ok) we randomly decided to stop in this cheeseburger joint for some milkshakes. After asking the manager for some explanation in English as to what kind of ice cream they offered, we some how started talking about random stuff. We got eventually to the fact that he’s planning a trip for next year to North Korea. As we ordered more food and he kept bringing it to us, we kept up conversation– he was a really cool guy. We decided to ask him for some recommendations of things to see. He gave us a few and said “you know what… I get off in 30 minutes. If you wanna meet up at the metro station right there, I can take you and show you this stuff myself.”
To make this a little shorter, we ended up spending the next four hours with this guy who decided to show us the city on a whim. We talked about everything from Finnish politics to Mormonism to our families. He showed us a store that specialized in American products, where we found out that the cashier was from Salt Lake City and was a Mormon (married a Finnish girl and moved to Finland, which is, according to him, the “classic story”) several Finnish design stores that have pretty books and ingenious little gadgets that maybe someday I’ll be able to afford, and then to his favorite restaurant in the city for hot chocolate. We shared parts of life stories and pretty much– this guy is super cool. He finally took us to a bus station where we could easily make it to our reservations and we exchanged contact info. Next time we’re in the city he’s going to plan a Finnish night for us, have us at his place and cook us authentic Finnish meals. Not bad for not having any idea what we were going to do whatsoever in Finland.
The next day I spent largely at the temple, except for sending out a package to you guys, fam– be ready for it. I’ll explain next week what it’s all about and when you can open it, etc. Don’t open it yet, in other words.
Well, I think I’m probably out of time for this one. I’m going to go sleep! 😀
I love you all,
(Taegan– I just got your letter– thanks!)