I can't remember where I left off on my letter to you, but I think I was telling you about the food that Sister Carter prepared for us to give us a taste of Armenian food. We had a cucumber, cheese, tomato, parsley, cilantro, and cabbage salad in vinegar and oil dressing. The main dish was cooked hamburger and onions stuffed inside tomatoes and rolled up inside cabbage leaves and cooked in a big pot. You always have bread served at every meal usually with butter and jam. They are famous for their juices so juice was served also. It was all delicious. After lunch, we went to the mission office to meet everyone. About half were Armenian people employed by the church and the other half were 3 couples that are one missions to help with the office, humanitarian, and employment. We are the first to be called here as member and leadership support mission. They were all super friendly. They copied our passports for us to carry with us and put then put our passports in the safe.
President and Sister took us and the other couple to see the city. Our first stop was at a memorial to the Armenians that were killed by the Turks like Hitler killed the Jews. He did this to help give us a little bit of the history of the Armenian people so we could understand them and their culture. Next we went to a church which was the size of the Salt Lake temple but very Eastern in its looks. In Armenian, most of the people belong to this church. It is part of their identity. It is like being very proud to be an American and most everyone is the same faith. He then walked us 4 blocks to the shoe con which is like a big farmers market covering about a mile. Try to imagine 100 garage sales. They sell everything. We bought fruit, vegetables, silverware set, a heater, and light bulbs. They sell meat so there were pigs feet laying out for example and if you wanted so beef they would cut it off with a hatchet. It definitely let us know that we were in a third world country. With all of us new comers wondering what we had gotten ourselves into as we braved the cold weather, they took us to a Armenian restaurant. It was decorated with Armenian decorations and they had people that were dressed in their native costumes play music that is traditional to their culture with older instruments like a harpsichord. When they took a break, modern Armenian music would play on a 40 inch tv. Sister Ayer was afraid to order anything on the menu after our visit to the shoe con and settled for a bowl of soup. When her soup came out it had a big one in it with beef on it and cilantro (which she hates). I order the beef stroganoff which was wonderful but here instead of noodles they serve it on French fries. Then for a trip back to America, we got donuts and I had a soft serve ice cream cone which tasted like dairy queen only a little better. We then went back to our car and paid the parking man. There are men on the street that save you a place to park and you pay them when you get home. At this point, we were suffering from jet lag and went home and slept until 8:30 the next morning.
The next day was Thanksgiving and we ate in areas of which there are about 6. The missionaries were in charge of preparing it except that in our area Sister Carter cooked the turkey. I think it was to make sure that there was turkey for the new senior missionaries from America. I was very impressed when I got to the church. There were only about 20 in our area but they had made 10 pounds of potatoes which they had hand mashed. They had mixed vegetables, cucumber salad, and homemade rolls. For dessert they had made several. There was a berry, pumpkin, banana, and peach pie, brownies, and cake. All were excellent and some of the best pie crust I have ever tasted. Afterwards, we watched the movie, 17 Miracles. It is really good and most of us needed a tissue somewhere through it. That night, we had turkey sandwiches and dessert again with the senior couples at the mission home of which there were six. It was fun to hear the stories of the mission as us new comers learned from the seasoned missionaries.
After a couple of hours of training with the President, we dropped off the Ayers at the mission office to be trained and start their new life. We drove with the Carters to Vandezor which is about 2 hours away from the city we were at. The roads were bumpy and the driving is interesting. There is a right side and a left side of the road and you are allowed to drive on either side as needed. Here they use the horn not to yell at someone but as a warning to tell someone you are going to pass and to be careful. Several times, I didn't think I would live to enjoy the mission as I saw several close calls whereof a head on could have happened. I smiled as I watched my sweetheart's reaction to it all. We were both glad that we didn't have to drive and President Carter loves to drive. We were just glad that he had a suv. The missionaries were great there and we all enjoyed pizza that had a really thick crust and lots of cheese. Some of the best pizza I have ever eaten. It was huge and only cost about $6 with all the toppings on it. Things that they can make here that they produce are cheap here but things they have to import are really expensive. We bought a blanket for our bed that cost about $80.
That afternoon, we drove about an hour to the city where we live Gumri. It looks like a little Cache valley in size but is very Russian with the cement buildings and 3rd world look about it. We went to our apartment which is in a 4 story cement apartment. It is a lot nicer than I thought it would be. We have an entry area with a book shelf and large sofa chair to welcome people and a bathroom all on the right side of the apartment. This area is not heated which is why we bought the heater for the bathroom. On the right side is a bedroom with twin beds. dresser and a balcony you can hang your wash on of about 6 feet. A living room with a computer stand , a couch, love seat, coffee table, cherry wood dining table with 6 chairs and a 40 inch TV and dvd player. Next room is the kitchen which has cupboards, sink, and build in clothes washer on one end, stove and refrigerator in the middle and table and chairs with wrap around bench to sit on next to window. At the end is our bedroom which is like the bottom of a U with the little bedroom, living room and kitchen on one side and entry area and bathroom on the other. To stay warm, you close all the doors to each room when you leave it and hurry quickly in the bathroom and entry area. We have water twice a day from 8 to 10 am and 7 to 9 pm. President Carter had them put in a holding tank that gives us about 10 gallons of water to use during the off time that comes out very slowly but we love it. We are much more understanding about Ken's letters home telling us about no water, brown water and no electric fans although ours is no heat. We have heard that the summers here are very hot so Ken, Jason and James will get more empathy from us at that time. James and Dan are getting cold weather empathy now as we are very cold a lot of time. Elizabeth, your empathy will come probably in spring and fall.
I will write you more about the elders in Gumri and life as a missionary here in my next email. I have to go get ready to go with the missionaries to visit two sister investigators. They will catch a cab where they live, pick us up and we will go there together. It costs about two dollars for a cab and you agree on the price with him before you get in. With our suits and dresses, we look like very rich Americans. After they drop you off, you usually walk 2 or 3 blocks to their homes in the cold and ice roads. There are very few lights outside at night so a lot of the time it is dark. But, we are loving our mission and the people here. They are so warm and friendly. We haven't been here a week yet and it seems like we have been here for weeks.