Sunday, 17 May 2009

Until We Meet Again - Yugo Zapadnaya Branch and the Service Center

26 April 09 - The morning after returning to Moscow from our Area Humanitarian Conference in Armenia, we took the metro for our last time to attend church in Moscow. Our mission had only three days left before our flight left on Wednesday morning.

The previous Sunday, I had taught my last Relief Society lesson in our Moscow branch, which is now being referred to as the Universitet branch since the Yugo Zapadnaya branch moved to the Universitet metro stop. At the end of the lesson, I had taken the opportunity to tell the sisters how much I loved them and enjoyed our relationship in the branch.

Now, on this last Sunday, we had brought bookmarks with Greg Olsen's "Children of the World" picture and our personal printed "goodbye" message for the branch members. There were hugs and tears as we said our individual goodbyes to these good people who had become an important part of our lives. I will post a few pictures here taken that Sunday.

Posing after Relief Society on our last Sunday
in Moscow at the Universitet branch
(formerly called Yugo Zapadnaya branch).
The sweet lady in her 90's with white hair in the
middle row, left, is among the first
members to be baptized in Russia.

Sam (left) is approaching the entrance whereYugo Zapadnaya members now attend church
in this
recently remodeled building.
Two more members are by the entrance

ready to enter the building.

Sister Lydia, a faithful member of about a year,
always gave me such a warm welcoming hug and
kiss on the cheek each Sunday. Our weekly
conversations were understood by the heart if
not by the ear; she spoke only in Russian while
most of my words were in English with
an occasional translation by one of the
young missionaries.

Lena (third from the left) helped with the
Primary this Sunday and was not in Relief Society,
so we took another group photo. Lena had given
tickets to us for several musical events.
Sister Natalya (second from the left) continued
to be the Relief Society president when the two
branches were again united. Her warmth always
made everyone feel comfortable and loved.

On our walk to the metro after church, we
passed one of the numerous flower stands. Russians
love flowers, and you never had to go very far
before you would come to a place where flowers
were sold in a kiosk or by a lady on the street
or in the entrance to a metro.

We are on our way home from the metro.
Sam is carrying his scriptures and is
nearing the crosswalk that leads to the
entrance to the park we walk through
on our way
to our apartment.

This day there is a child riding a horse in the park.
The trees will soon be leafed out,
and there will be lots of flowers planted,
but that has not happened yet.

When we entered our apartment this Sunday,
we were pleased to be greeted by Valentina,
our favorite of the ladies who watch
the front entrance. We love this lady and
regret the language barrier that prevented us
from having any real conversations beyond
the greetings and repetitive phrases we
always exchanged with smiles and hugs.
She is a real sweetheart.

27 April 09 - We put in a long day at the office after having been in Armenia for the conference and wanting to have things up to date for the Burtons when they would arrive May 8. I had been putting together an instruction book with details on my various responsibilities addressing what, where, how, and when. In addition, I went through my electronic files and Outlook Inbox files wanting to have them meaningful and helpful for someone new.

On our way to the office each
day we passed this sign with the
Sokal insignia. Yes, it says
"Sokal" in Russian, which is the
district where we lived and worked.

This statue of a sokal bird is at the
corner of the block before we
reach the Service Center.

Sam has reached the gate to enter the Service Center.

The man sitting at the gate recognizes us and unlocks the gate for us as we approach. His name is Semyon Milner. We always wave at him as we pass by his window. It is usually Semyon in the booth each week-day morning. There is someone guarding here 24/7, so on days when we stay late or on a Saturday if we come to work, there is someone else on duty.

Of course, people stopped by to visit us in the office one last time; and we appreciated these visits. We had our printed goodbyes and the Greg Olsen bookmarks to give along with our favorite Russian candy that tastes similar to a Snicker's bar. Here are a few photos taken on our last full day at the office.

Tatiana was the person who
communicated with us regarding
our rent, as our landlady lived in
Siberia and we only saw her once.

Because Tatiana spoke very fast using both Russian and English in the same sentence, we sometimes were unsure what she had told us; but she was always helpful and kind. While we were in the Moscow West Mission, Tatiana was the one who made sure we were properly registered each time we re-entered the country after a visa renewal or training meeting outside of Russia if we were gone more than three business days. Luba took care of us when we became part of the Moscow Mission, and she always gave us a cheerful greeting as she went by our door.

Zhanna in Finance was so nice to work with, and
she was the person I took Payment Requests to or
my questions regarding invoices.

Dmitry was also in Finance, and
he was the one I took the
Russian expense logs to and provided him
with information regarding the
JPMC account balances.

Oleg heads the Visa and Travel department.
We enjoyed his cheery greetings as he passed our
office as well as his humor and good stories.

Victor also works in Visa and Travel. He is the
one who usually took care of the Letter of
Invitation we needed when we visited another
country and checked on our travel plans.

Karina was the administrative secretary for Vlad
and David Stapley before moving to the office
of Human Relations next door to our office.

We often were the last ones to leave the Service Center, but after Karina's promotion, she frequently was still working when we walked passed her door. At those times, we stopped briefly and told her "da cvedonya" before leaving for the evening.

Sofia and Elena are
young friends who also hold a
special place in our hearts.

Sofia was in Spain visiting her parents the final days we were in the Service Center; so I am including the picture taken last year of Sofia and Elena. Sofia is the receptionist at the front desk. Elena used to be the receptionist; but when Karina moved to the Human Relations office, Elena was promoted to Karina's former position as the executive secretary for David Stapley and Vlad. We have enjoyed our association with these two young ladies. Sofia is planning to go on a mission, and Elena is engaged to be married.

Milena is head of the Human Relations department.

When Manuel from Columbia came to visit Milena, he stayed with us for five days. It was interesting to learn that our son Doug had been Manuel's zone leader in Peru when Doug served his mission there. Milena is from Yerevan, Armenia; and that is where they went to get married.

We were touched by the emotion Peter showed
when he came in with Victor as a translator to
tell us goodbye.

Peter was the maintenance person and always had a smile and greeting for us. Each morning when we came, he would be sweeping leaves, or shoveling snow, or whatever needed to be done around the Service Center. On Women's Day, he had brought me candy.

28 April 09 - One last morning, we went to the office to respond to e-mails from the humanitarian couples. At 10:00, we had an appointment for an interview with President Cranney, our mission president.

Walking to the metro, we passed the usual
street vendors with their veggies, fruits, and
homemade crafts.

We met with President Cranney, and
we appreciated his kind words and counsel.

Sharon Yorgesen and her husband are the office
couple for President Cranney, so we had an
opportunity to visit one more time with them.
Sharon gave me the updated recipe book from
the Moscow Mission.

David Yorgesen and Sharon were part of our
senior missionary group that we enjoyed so much.
When schedules permitted, four to six of us
met on Thursday evenings to learn some of the
Russian language, and David was a regular
member of this study group.

Coming from the Mission Office, we met Vladimer
who is in charge of the drivers;
and he assured us we would have a driver
take us to the airport the next morning
in time for our mid-afternoon flight.
Since we had several pieces of luggage,
we appreciated not having to take
the metro and bus to the airport.

29 April 09 - The day had arrived and with some sadness about leaving Moscow and yet some eagerness to see our family and friends at home in the U.S., we were packed and ready to leave our apartment.

The apartment is ready for its new occupants,
the Burtons, arriving May 8.
The three water filters by the sink have been
changed and ready to provide good drinking water,
the freezer between the sink and the oven is not
empty, there are spices and canned goods
in the cupboard, and the handy drying rack
is left up ready to use.

Our luggage, carry-ons, laptop, and big purse
are ready with all that we are taking. Of course,
we had already sent home some winter boots,
souvenirs, and more stuff with our children
when they had come to visit.

We are ready to open the double doors with the
safe-like locks and say goodbye to our apartment
where we have been happy for 18 months.

True, the couch was uncomfortable, the oven got too hot, and you had to lift the tank lid on the toilet to flush it; but this had been home and we got along fine. We left a spare set of keys and a metro pass, but the wallet and name tag on the counter are Sam's to take.

Driving in traffic on the way to the airport.

We pass by Ashan's. This is where we went to do our
main shopping every 4 to 6 weeks when
we could schedule a driver to take us and bring
back the bags of groceries.

In between times, we shopped at the kiosks for fruits and vegetables and at Two Captain's for other grocery items which we had to carry while walking about 20 minutes to our apartment. It will be nice to have a car again to drive to the grocery store.

We have arrived at Sheremeteva 2 airport.

We arrived early enough to weigh our luggage to see if it made weight. As we thought, one suitcase to be checked made the 40 kilo limit, but the other three were overweight. However, the lady at the desk said it was okay with her; so when it was time to actually check in, we went to her desk and she put the luggage on through without our having to do any repacking or paying a penalty. We felt very lucky.

When we got to New York, we were waved on through at Customs and didn't have to have our luggage opened to be checked. Of course, we didn't anticipate having any problem had we been picked to be checked; but it was nice not to have them rifle through things I had neatly packed.

We made our connecting flight to Salt Lake City, and we were on our way to see our Utah families who were waiting at the airport for us with a welcome home banner. Those pictures will be in my next blog. We had a very pleasant homecoming in Utah Wednesday evening and again in South Dakota on Saturday. It was great to be with family!

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