Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lelia & David 7/13/09

Lelia & David 

Weather Clear at times with thunderstorms most afternoons
Temp 70F
Wind calm

After months of planning, Lelia came to visit us in Novosibirsk. Who is Lelia?

In 1964, Cindy spent a year in the dormitories of Sacramento State College while attending during her last year there. Lelia was a Resident Assistant, an assistant to Molly Galbraith who was the dorm Mom.

We have stayed in touch with Lelia over the last 44 years through marriage, kids, various businesses, divorce, and a B&B in South Dakota. She shows great taste by being an avid reader of this blog and generally is a person worth knowing for so long. Of all of our friends who said, "We'll come and visit you", Lelia predictably did just that. If you were ever limited to just one friend, Lelia would be the right choice.

Who's David? This is a story that could be attached to very few people, but is typically Lelia. She wanted a traveling companion for this trip (good choice Lelia) and she tried many people with no takers. Her sister almost came (same gene pool) but just couldn't manage it. Finally, she mentioned it to a man she had "met" on the internet in some way and he said, "That would be a trip of a lifetime" to which she said impulsively (that's Lelia) "You wanna go?" I don't know the details from there except that her kids in Colorado knew of him and he was raised in South Dakota in the same town as she was. Go figure. That started several months of getting acquainted, comparing various values, making tentative plans, and finally deciding to make the trip together; no romance, just traveling companions.

When she told us of her plans we of course had some predictable, immediate reactions like, "What are you thinking?" and "Do you know this guy?", and "What are you thinking?", and "you wouldn't make the trip without a traveling companion and now you are coming with a guy you met over the internet? What are you thinking?" etc., etc.

Well, the final arrangements were contingent on David living in the front room and she in the guest room to which she said, "We have already got that straight. There's no romance here, just traveling companions." Sooooo, with that settled, we all shook hands electronically and the trip was ON.

The morning they arrived, we got the "big taxi-bid driver" and headed to the airport. (You remember the blog about going to the train station with the 300 lb taxi driver in the taxi with no shocks, right? Well he hasn't invested in any repairs yet.) We met David for the first time and immediately felt comfortable with him; nice guy. With that resolved, we launched a week of seeing the "sights" of Novosibirsk and catching up with Lelia's life over the last years.

First thing was to introduce her to the landmarks around our building. Here Cindy is showing her the street and commenting on the drivers who have to do the slalom around the potholes and open storm drains and how we know if a "newby" is approaching by the screech and a thump.

Next, there was the presentation of gifts and some things we had asked her to bring from the U.S. of A that we cannot get here. Foremost of these were the strings of christmas tree lights to re-light Sister Cindy's "New Year" trees whose lights had become defunct.

With that done, we planned to give her the total immersion experience of missionaries in Novosibirsk; nothing extraordinary, just a typical week. We had our usual missionary companionships to dinner each night (normalna), took them to the Mickelsen's fairwell gathering for the Novosibirsk District (she's socializing and he's wondering), took a ride south through Akademgorodok, the science city built from scratch in 1959 intended to gather all of the great minds in Russia to do pure research, the Obe Sea (a lake made by the hydro-electric dam on the river), a Russian Orthodox monastery, a Zone Meeting in our apartment, and lots of contacts with locals.

On one afternoon we did the two little museums in the downtown area, the park across from "Ploshed Lenina" (Lenin Plaza) in front of the opera/ballet house, investigated the chapel that marks the center of Russia (east and west), saw a bride and groom release the traditional doves on the chapel steps just before the matron of the chapel came out to shoo them away, and generally acted like unabashed tourists. We took them with the Zone (as our personal guests) to a cultural day activity and saw Swan Lake (my 4th time) at the Bolshoi (big) theater on Lenin Plaza.

During her stay, she offered to hem the pants of my old; winter suit that had cuts along the bottom of each cuff made by walking on them on the ice during the winter. With the weight I've lost my pants became too long and the cuffs took the abuse. She also gave Sister Cindy a haircut in the entry hall late one night. Cindy got a little nervous when she said, "I haven't cut hair since we were in the dorms together", but it turned out well and provided a sweet memory of days long past.
We introduced them to the office staff and got Olga to go with us on our downtown tour. She's a great guide and a wonderful friend. Our drive to Akedemgorodok and the Obe Sea involved President Gushchin (we bought the gas) and he is always kind and friendly. She came to church with us and survived all three hours, went to the office several times with us, and toured around on their own several times to get the feeling of real Russia.

Over the years, we have mentioned our faith and danced around the subject of our beliefs, but never really explained the church and it's teachings to Lelia. With her coming to visit us on our mission, it became natural to introduce her to the Articles of Faith and have several in depth discussions, late at night of course, about the gospel as we know it and bear our witness of what we know to be true.

When you know something that is so important and answers the questions of the soul as to who we are, why we are here, and where we are going, you have to share that with the people you love. We cannot leave this world without doing so because we will be judged by God for our neglect. So we gave her a Book of Mormon with our testimonies and hope that she will at least read it. She was respectful and cordial during our discussions, but I got no concrete response. I know that she felt something during those talks, but I'm not sure she can act on it. That ball's in her court. In any case, we love her and we took every opportunity to share our lives in Novosibirsk with her. We hope that her expectations about this trip were met. She is a dear friend and a true Christian.

What a friend. What a country.


Mom/Cindy said...

It was sooooo great having our guests for the week. Everything went just fine. It was nice to renew our relationship and remember those good old times. Thanks for the additional
wonderful memories. Love ya, Me

P.S. How about the rest of you friends?

Shannon Simmons said...

this is wonderful! So good to hear these stories. Love you both!