Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Novosibirsk, June 22nd-29th
The first Week

Backing up a couple of steps. When we woke up in the Mission Home on Monday morning about 6 am we sat in our respective beds and talked a while about what we were getting into. We tried to encourage one another and talked about the importance of our being here, serving the Lord and the whole thing, but when the topic turned to our apartment, neither of us could hold back the tears. In spite of our best efforts to put a happy face on it, we both saw it as our worst nightmare; a stuffy, concrete-walled three rooms and a tiny kitchen, 935 square foot cell that smelled like the accumulated sweat and dirt of generations as our home for the next two years. It was awful to contemplate, but we were determined to somehow make it into our home. It was just not a pretty thought.

The picture above is our street and our building, #44, is the third by the trees. The picture below is the security door to the building. We have an electronic key to open it. When we arrived “home” with our few bags of produce and lump of cheese from the outdoor market (Renik), we found that our memories were pretty good about what we had seen on Sunday morning, but we had not seen it all. The kitchen was tiny and stunk, the living room was linoleum floored (rolled out, pattern askew, and loose) and lined with 2 broken-down brown couches and a credenza on opposite walls, the bedroom had a queen-sized bed and small dresser that left only about 30 inches of floor on three sides. The bath room contained a plastic washing machine, deep porcelain tub, and about a 2 x 2 foot floor space in front of the sink. The “toilet room” was a 5 x 3 foot closet with just enough floor space for your feet if sitting down; my knees almost touch the door & my head hit the door when I bent over to sit down. The second bedroom had two twin beds shoved together, masquerading as a king-size bed which left less than 3 feet of free floor space around it. A storage porch off this room was cluttered with years of discarded “stuff” and unknown vermin. This was our home.

After a thorough inspection, we looked at one another and silently agreed—it had to be cleaned before we could live here. This began 5 days of washing, chipping, scrubbing, repairing, replacing, testing, and discarding. By Friday we would be ready. The picture to the left is the living room.

The kitchen was Cindy’s first project while I cleaned and repaired the rest of the apartment; helping with stuff she couldn’t do. The refrigerator was about a third the size of ours at home (made almost entirely of plastic) with a small freezer whose broken, split door was iced up solid, requiring a major, but delicate, effort to open it. There were many appliances (toaster, blender, crock pot, mixer) and a variety of pots and Pyrex dishes in the cupboards, but all were of questionable cleanliness and unknown functionality. The kitchen counter next to the sink had a 10 inch split, with a missing piece the diameter of a golf ball, exposing the deteriorating pressboard beneath. We cleaned every thing in that kitchen with soap & hot water, boiling water, bleach water, and wore out many rags and scouring pads.

I replaced light bulbs in every room. I repaired drawers and re-hung closet and cabinet doors. I cleaned floors, walls, beds, counters, light fixtures, windows, shelves, closets, and every inch of linoleum and carpet. If it didn’t move, I cleaned it. If it did, I killed it.

We took a break on Wednesday, the missionaries’ preparation day, to make a trip to the IKEA store on the left (west) bank of the Obe River. On the way we saw the Obe River Beach located on the opposite shore of the river from us. If our street went across the river, it would hit the beach.
Elder Pister and four of his fellow missionaries met us at our Metro stop (in front of the mission office), took us on the Metro to the end of the line, then onto the IKEA free shuttle about 3 more miles further to the IKEA shopping mall, anchored by a huge, Home Depot-sized, IKEA store, complete with its own cafeteria. We bought a few needed household items and the Elders dinner before returning to our Metro stop in front of the mission office and on to our home by 6 pm; the end of P-day. This picture is of another shopping trip taken later in the company of Olga (Visa Clerk & general helper and the mission driver President Gushin)

Our little apartment is now our home. It is clean, neatly organized, functional, and very comfortable. It is hard to imagine that it is the same place we abhorred less than a week ago. The apartment itself has not changed all that much, but our attitude about and toward it has. We are no longer worried about the condition of the couches, just happy to have something to sit upon. We love our little washing machine and don't mind having to move the wash from washer to spinner with each cycle. Cindy's kitchen is the center of the home, with its good smells and functionally "close" quarters. The formerly moldy closets and wardrobes are now filled with good things from the 10 boxes we mailed to ourselves from Sacramento. We have learned to love the close quarters and be happy with the things we have. Quite a change.


Trisha said...

It all sounds so familiar. My mission and collage. I know it is sure a lot different but the feelings are the same. How you starting out you dont want to be there and then by the end not wanting to leave. It is a roller coaster of a ride but well worth it. I cant wait to see pictures.
Love you all.

Karen said...

We're happy to know you've arrived there safe & sound; another tender mercy! Your experiences thus far have been very interesting & a bit scary. When I read your first recollections of your new "home," I knew that you two would roll up your sleeves & turn your "sow's ear" into a "silk purse." Now your new digs will be stamped with Simmons on it--warm, friendly & welcoming. We love you & miss you, Robert & Karen Lee.

Belva said...

What a success story. I know that you are both prepared to light a candle in every dark place in Siberia... and make it smell like chocolate chip cookies. You are both quite a pair. We love hearing from you. Keep up the good work..something I know that I don't need to tell you. Love you, Belva

mec said...

Hi guys:
This blog is really great, it is nice to hear from you and to hear that you are well and settled in. We are so glad you are ready to get started in your new home. It sounds really nice, not what you are used to, take a deep breath and go forward. We just returned from Nashville where we stayed at a Marriott, not exactly what you have there but it was nice. We really miss you and love you both. Let us know if you need anything.
Love Mec and Don

Mec (Mescal) Taylor said...

Dear Friends: I just finished reading your fasinating journal. I hope that I do not offend you but I really laughed alot reading all about your luggage experiences etc. I know it wasn't funny to you but some day when you are old and grayer you probably will have a laugh or two. We have decided that we won't be coming to visit you while you are gone! I am too much of a ??????? (pick several words and they will all fit!) We are trying to do some family stuff for our reunion out side of Logan. Would be nice if my wonderful cousins did what they agreed to do - but that's family, I guess. We will miss seeing you at the Stake 4th breakfast and FHE on Monday. Think of you often and love you both. Mec

Marilyn said...

What wonderful, and scary experiences you've been having. We are excited for you and are enjoying every word you've written. Since reading about the flight experiences, stairs, crowds, etc. put us in the category of "really good, true friends" who won't be visiting...sorry. Your writing, Doug, is delightful. We feel as though we're on the mission with you. Thanks for the blog. Marilyn

Diane Keys said...

Thanks for adding the pictures!

Love, Diane