Happy New Year!!!!! Once again, I am not going crazy, but today is Ukrainian New Year. We are living it up here, and we said goodbye to the first thirteen days of 2013 with a bang. We went to a city that is close by with permission from the president. It is a joke inside our mission that if you are bad you will get sent to there because it is the farthest city away from Kyiv in our mission. We went there with the intent to spend the whole day there, but to make a long story short they didn't even have an Internet cafe or anything. It was so small. We took two hours and we saw everything there was to see, then we had lunch, then we took a bus back to our area. Plus in the small city we visited, everyone speaks Russian, so the small amount that I normally understand was non-existent.
Last Monday, after I sent you my email, my companion, another companionship and I went to see the castle in our area. Tickets were on sale since it was "Christmas." It was a very pretty castle. Nothing as big as the ones that we went to in Germany, but none the less it was pretty fun. There were a lot of odd statues in the castle, so I posed by all of them and got a lot of really sweet pictures.
The highlight of my week was two 16 hour train rides! Let me explain... There was a leadership meeting at the mission headquarters and my district leader asked me to go on an exchange with him for three days. So we took a train to Kyiv, and while my District Leader was at his meeting I got to go out and talk to people downtown. It is a whole new world in Kyiv. The metro system is just like DC though, so I felt right at home. I even got to go to McDonald's (one of just a few in Ukraine). It tasted so good. The cherry on top was the opportunity to go through the temple. That was actually the first time I had a chance. I just had the most peaceful feeling in the world. I sent you a letter with my train ticket in it, I thought you would like it. It looks pretty cool. Oh, also when I was in Kyiv I got the Christmas package that you sent! It was great. Thank you so very much. Santa knew exactly what I needed in my stocking. I also got some letters from you and others. Oh, and a bunch of letters from the Activity Day Girls from our ward. Please tell them thank you for me. That was very nice of them to do for me.
In other news, we are trying to get some other activities started, to mix up the ways we contact people. One of the ways we thought of was basketball. We found a rec center, with a pretty decent court by Ukrainian standards. We met with the president of the rec center and asked him about using his facilities. He told us that it wouldn't work out, because you have to be a legit team to play there. But he told us we could join any team we wanted and travel all over Ukraine and play basketball with them. He told us "He was super excited for two tall Americans like us to play basketball for him." We didn't feel like breaking his spirits by telling him we were not allowed, so we just left. Oh well, we will find another place to play basketball.
My language is getting better every day. I am studding really hard and talking to the people here all the time. I am starting to understand a lot more, but speaking is still quite a challenge. That is OK, I knew it would not be easy. We had dinner with an investigator the other day and I talked for a little bit. It is not much, but it is progress.
I love you all so much. Until next week!