Thursday, 19 March 2009

Training in Samara

On March 11, we flew to Samara, Russia, to train the humanitarian couple who had arrived a week earlier from New Zealand. They didn't go to the MTC for training, so we were anxious to meet with them and provide training for doing humanitarian projects. It was helpful for the Grays to have the Gabels there a couple of days before the Gabels completed their mission and returned to the U.S., as the Gabels provided an orientation to the city and culture and to their humanitarian projects.

Samara is in the southeastern part of "European Russia" and has a million and a half people with more than three million in the metropolitan area. The Samara River separates the city into two parts and flows into the Volga River. Samara is located on the left bank of the Volga River, which is the longest river in Europe. It is a leading industrial center and is known for its aerospace launch vehicles, satellites, and space services, for chocolates made by the Russia Chocolate Factory, and for various other products including Rodnik vodka and Zhiguli beer.

During World War II, Samara provided the front with aircraft, firearms, and ammunition. After the war, the defense industry developed new factories and became the missile shield center for the country, with the result that it became a closed city. It was at the Samara Progress Plant where the launch vehicle, Vostok, that delivered the first manned spaceship to orbit was built.

Roger & Sue Gray from New Zealand,
Humanitarian Missionaries in Samara

After spending the day training, we took a bus to the center square and then walked around looking for a place to eat.

A monument in city square
(The slender lady at the right is a typical young Russian
with her narrow stiletto high heels,
slim-legged pants, and fur jacket and hood.
Her little girl is at the left.)

We had a little trouble figuring out
the Russian menu, but we enjoyed the
blinis at this small restaurant.

I like watching them make blinis. They pour
the thin batter onto a hot griddle (to the lady's
left) and then level the batter by swinging
a wooden paddle around in circles.

We ordered chicken and cheese blinis, and I also wanted mushrooms in mine; but instead mine only had mushrooms. I liked it, though. For dessert, we had jam-filled blinis. We liked the strawberry ones better than the cherry, although both were good. Blinis are similar to crepes or pancakes; but the batter is very thin, and they are folded in half and then in quarters with a filling inside.

We had planned to take the Grays out to dinner the next day; but since their apartment was across the Samara River a distance from the center of the city, it was more convenient to eat at their apartment - and the food was delicious. They had brought quite a lot of food with them from New Zealand, and I wondered how they had any room for clothes. We did have some good ice cream cones the next day.

It was hard to decide what flavor to get.
We finally decided on chocolate chip.

Before taking the bus back to their apartment after eating our blinis, we walked around a little to see some of the city. It was difficult to see much out of the bus windows later, because they were quite dirty.

Walking tour of Samara
(Sue Gray and Narene)

Many of the buildings needed repairing
at least on the exteriors.

The snow was piled along the roadside, and
the walks were slushy and full of puddles in the
uneven surfaces.

The weather was quite nice while we were in Samara. On the second day there, we took the bus and went to Ashan's grocery shopping with the Grays. As we walked through the Metro Mall, I noticed an Ecco shoe store. That is the brand of the brown boots I had gotten last year that have been so comfortable, but now the zipper is not dependable. I did get a pair on sale in black.

It was nice getting to know the Grays, and the training seemed to go well. They will be a great humanitarian couple, as will the Lowrys, whom we trained in Voronezh. One of the neat things about our mission is meeting these special couples who have come to serve. We are looking forward to being with all who will be at the Area Humanitarian Conference in Armenia April 23 and 24.

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