The first was September 17 when Sister Hazlewood and I went to the mission home and nearly 4 hours helping Sister Podvodova prepare for dinner that evening when the new CES (Church Educational System) senior couple arrived (Elder and Sister McArthur). They are from St. George, Utah. The dinner comprised of mayonnaise marinated chicken, Ukraine borsch (potato/vegetable soup), side dish of chopped chicken with shredded cheese mixed with mayonnaise and topped with a thin layer of mayonnaise and baked until browned. (Can you see a heart attack coming ?) Urkainans and Russians love their mayonnaise. Here's a picture of the mayonnaise isle at one of our local stores:
Sister Hazlewood and I came back to the mission home at 5 to complete the set up for dinner. The Podvodov's arrived with the McArthurs for dinner around 5:30 p.m. One long flight from America for them. But they are so excited to be here in St. Petersburg.
We all enjoyed dinner and conversation. The McArthur's left around 7 being driven to their apartment they'll be living in for the next 2 years. They still needed to meet their landlady and go over a few things with her.
McArthur's with Podvodov's at the airport
In the mission home. Hazlewood's, Joe and I, McArthur's, Podvodov's and Sasha Nepomashy (short spelling of his last name). He oversees the institute for the young adults and will be working with the McArthur's.
The McArthur's have settled right in to European-style living. Because they own a jewelry store at home they've traveled several European countries buying precious gems. So this place wasn't such a shock to them. They also were familiar on how to navigate around the under metro system.
Sasha and Varya in the wedding room after signing their contract prior to exchanging their wedding rings.
Leaving the wedding room
With Joe and I
The last Monday of the month of September we attended our first Russian Wedding.
Sasha is the Elder's Quorum president and Joe is one of his counselors. He is a return missionary having finished up his mission here in St. Petersburg just shortly before we arrived.
The ceremony is a bit different than in America. The bride and groom come through doors from an adjoining room where the guests are seated. They stand in the middle of the room while the officiator speaks to them about marriage and asks each one individually if they take the other as their spouse. (This takes about 5 minutes.) The couple says their yes' then walks to the corner of the room and signs the license on a podium followed by the witness couple. They then walk back in the center of the room and the officiator walks to them and hands them their wedding rings which they put on each other. She then pronounced them husband and wife, they kiss, than the guests walk up to them giving hugs and kisses and hands them their gift. The couple leaves the room with the guests. Ceremony over. Not to endearing - pretty formal feeling. The wedding palace was absolutely beautiful though. There are, of course, many wedding palaces in this city.
The couple had spent nearly 5 hours prior to the ceremony taking pictures of themselves in various locations throughout the city.
Family Home Evening Russian Style
Here we are after the wedding at our friend's (Gulnaz) home for her birthday. She is the red head second from the right. Her friend Julia is on the far right, her roommate next to her and another friend Alexsey next to Joe and his wife.
We arrived in this very tiny apartment after an hour subway ride, a 20-minute bus ride, and a 15 minute walk. We had planned on being home by 9 p.m. but didn't arrive until 8 p.m. and not all the dinner had been prepared. So we knew we wouldn't be getting home by 9. I went into the kitchen to help Gulnaz and her roommate finished up the dinner while Joe relaxed in their tiny bedroom/living room. Gulnaz had asked me to help prepare Russian potato salad. She wanted me to use a cheese grater and grate the boiled egg and cooked potatoes. She then layered the food items in a bowl. First the egg, potato, a bit of black olive-flavored mayonnaise, then spread chopped up fish from a can. She opened a can of chicken and spread it over the top of sliced potatoes in a broiler pan, grated some cheese on top and put the pan in the oven.
As she was taking other items to the table (watermelon, dates, and cake) I began to wash the dishes and noticed a dish with the fish tails Gulnaz had cut off before grinding the small fish and putting in the salad. I threw them away and washed the dish. Gulnaz sweetly told me afterwards that the fish tails were to go on top of the potato sald as a garnish and was part of the dish to eat. (Okay, sorry but I can't stand their stinky canned fish, let alone the tails so I wasn't too saddened!) To be nice though I did try a small amount of the potato dish and wished the fish hadn't been included (Joe said he liked it). I was feeling pretty safe about the chicken and potatos until my second bite and crunched down on some tiny chicken bones still in it. So, pushing aside the bones, the rest was good. (Not trying to be negative, but I'm not too much into Russian food. What I've tried is either tasteless, bland, or very strange and I can't talk my mind or stomach into eating it. Yes, Sister Luna is spoiled with her husband's cooking!
We finished up dinner, dishes and played a game where we were to tell 3 things about ourselves and one had to be a lie. The others had to guess which one was a lie. It was fun.
We left at 10:30 and didn't get home until midnight. We were very tired, but mostly exhausted just riding the public transportation for that long.
This month was absolutely beautiful. Very little rain and sunny days. Joe and I talked about realizing that we were beginning our "lasts" in the mission. As we walked the bridges and saw familiar sites around the city in the beautiful fall weather, we realized it would be our last fall before going home.
We have been so blessed to have this opportunity to be here and look forward to these last few months to take advantage of seeing more historical sites as we can before going home next summer.