We've safely arrived to St. Petersburg! Sorry it's taken so long to update our blog, but we've been quite busy settling into our new apartment and learning our responsibilities. We still need to order internet as well for the apartment otherwise we could've updated this sooner.
The people here at church and the office are so warm and welcoming. Walking on the streets is different. People don't look at you or smile. We walk everywhere and/or take a bus or the metro. To take the metro you walk down a short flight of stairs from the street and it seems like your walking through a lighted corrider at Fort Casey, then you walk down another short flight of stairs, buy your tickets for the underground metro and take an escalator down about 300 feet! A bit daunting! (The good thing is we've already lost several pounds!) Because we have to walk to get groceries as well, we don't buy much and cook everything - no more eating fast food! That's a good thing.
The young elders and sister missionaries are awesome! We admire their strengths and postive attitutes! They walk everywhere as well and can usually only try to teach people on the streets because you cannot go into any of the apartment buildings. All homes are in the form of apartments. You need a special magnet key to open the heavy metal door to enter the building, then another magnet key to open your personal metal door, and then a regular key to open a wooden door to your apartment. The building we live in and the surrounding ones were built during the communists era. The apartments downtown St. Petersburg are quite elaborate. We live about a 45 minute walk from downtown.
We have to make sure we carry our passports and other important documents in a special purse which we carry against our body under our clothes. We have a photocopy of all these documents that we carry more accessible in case we are stopped by police on the streets to see our documents. You see police and/or military personnel on the streets frequently.
It has been a culture shock for both of us, but there are other senior missionaries that have taken us around a little bit to help orientate us to the surroundings. One couple took us on a boat tour through one of the canals through downtown St. Petersburg. I will post pictures later.
We've been surprised that most people we've come in contact with speak some broken English. But for the most part we really feel out of our element because we have no idea what people are speaking.
We have been learning our responsiblities in the mission office. Joe oversees the finances and I need to keep track of all the missionaries coming/going and travel arrangements, etc. We presently have close to 50 missionaries. Their are more missionaries arriving soon. The visa process is getting a bit easier allowing more missionaries to come.
We really miss everyone! Our anticipated release date is 3 July 2011. Until then, we'll keep posting. Keep those prayers coming!
Love to all
Joe & Jeanie