Saturday, July 30, 2011

Last Photos from the MTC


District with their instructors






Elder Topham with Brother Barnes and Sister Doty



Elder Topham and Elder Fausett


Elder Topham and Elder Harris


Elder Topham and Elder Blake


Elder Topham and Elder Schmidt


Elder Topham and Elder Davis

Elder Topham and Elder Smith


Elder Topham and Elder Harrison



Elders Topham, Fausett, Rasmussen, and Wiser


Elder Topham and Elder Wiser


Elder Topham's chair in the classroom


Jimmer helps teach Russian


District 9F with the Russian flag.

Grandma sent these cute containers filled with treats.


Thank you all!!!


Elder Topham with Elder Walker

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Travel Plans

Hey Everyone!
 
So everything is still going well. I'm really excited to leave on Monday, it feels like I've been here for forever.
 
We got our travel plans on Thursday, so that was a really fun day.  We are leaving Monday morning at 5 from the MTC.  I'm really mad that I forgot to bring my plans with me, so I don't know the exact time our flight leaves off hand.  So, I am allowed to call from the airport, so I'll be doing that pretty early on Monday morning.  We fly to Atlanta, and only have 1 hour from the time the planes lands to when the next plane is scheduled to depart, so unfortunately I will not be able to call from Atlanta.  We fly from Atlanta straight to Moscow, so that will be a really long flight.  We arrive in the morning Moscow time and spend the whole day there doing various things apparently, like getting a new passport and I may be able to call from Moscow, but I'm not sure.  Then we leave that night and fly overnight to Novosibirsk and arrive there in the morning.  So that will be a pretty crazy trip.
 
We all can't really figure out what our baggage limit is on that last plane, because that's on a different airline and even the travel office here isn't much help.  Our best answer so far is that we have to pay fees for luggage over a total of 22 pounds, which obviously we have much more than that.. but the church will reimburse us for one 50 pound bag, one 37 pound bag, and a 22 pound carry on.  So I guess we shoot for that, but I've also read that the fee is only about a dollar a pound, so if I'm a few pounds over on that second bag, I think I'm not going to worry about it too much.  Everyone else has a third suitcase, but like a small carry on sized one. I only brought the two and the shoulder bag, but I figure as long as I can get 22 pounds into it, then it's all good I guess.
 
You don't need to send any money or anything, I have plenty of emergency cash for traveling and as long as my debit card is good, everything should be fine.
 
So the temple finally opened up this week and we got to go.  We went a little early so I could get some of their wonderful hash browns.
 
Last week at TRC we taught a real, legit, Russian.  It was really crazy.  So how it works is you sit in the "control room" and there are tv monitors and headphones so your teacher can watch in on your room and see how you are doing and critique you.  Then your teacher gives you the room you are going to teach in.  So we got room 4...So there are about 20 or so rooms around the building all set up to look like little living rooms.  We see room 4 and the door is open, which is awesome because we got to do 'the walkby'  which is when you walk by, like you aren't going to that room, so you can get a good look at who is sitting in there and mentally and emotionally prepare for a few seconds.  So we walk by and we could just tell she was a native Russian and not just an RM, she just had that look.  So once we actually went in there and she started speaking, that thought was confirmed.  She started talking so fast and crazy, but surprisingly we understood most of what was going on, and I think we both thought that the lesson went really well.  I felt like when she talked we couldn't understand the details of what she was saying, but we always understood what she was talking about. Anyway, it went really well.
 
Classes are still going well and are fun.  I dunk all the time in gym now, almost every day.  I think I've just gotten better at looking for opportunities to do it and taking more risks.  I've even had 2 right on big people, so I feel like I've accomplished all I needed to at the MTC :) 
 
Thanks for the address Sam and for the paperwork mom, I just sent that out.
 
I'm going to need to send a letter to you about when I think I will be able to call and more detailed travel plans.  I think I'll just send that to Sam too, because you'll be in Provo? Anyway you'll get it.  And please dear elder me (one that I receive by Friday) the number you want me to call, I don't know if you'll be at home or not.
 
Love you all, can't wait to talk for a little bit.
 
-Elder Topham

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Invite Them to Learn More

Hey Everyone,
 
It's been another good week,  and I'm definitely feeling more and more excited to leave the MTC and get to Russia each day.  Our travels plans come tomorrow I think, so that will be pretty crazy when we get those.  Another cool thing that happened is yesterday we got our new name tags with our names spelled in Russian characters. Just having those made it seem a lot more real too.
 
The gym finally reopened this week, so gym time has been much better.  Good news, I had an official weigh in and I think I'm up 3 pounds up to 201 so that's good.  And I've dunked several times now, so that's not as cool anymore.
 
Hey Sam: I don't know if you've been working on it or forgot but if you could get Bronston's address for me from Facebook, just like message him for it explaining what's up, I would really appreciate that.
 
I guess this week something significant that I've learned is the importance of members in teaching.  From watching the district movies it is obvious how much having a member at the lessons and making the referral helps.  During TRC this week there weren't enough Russian volunteers, so we split up in 3s and someone was a "member" and it was so much easier to teach.  And from what I've been hearing from our teachers, you have almost no success ever going door to door, but pretty much all of their baptisms are friends of members, who invited them to learn more.  So everybody who reads this, make sure that if you've had someone in mind who you want to share the gospel with do it now, even if they aren't interested, if you explain that you are inviting them because of the joy it brings to your life, there is no way they can be offended or anything, they will at least appreciate the thought, and I know it will really help the missionaries there out.
 
Dad: what do the ward missionaries in our ward do exactly?
 
Another cool thing that I've heard from our teachers is that ties in Russian are super cheap.  There are places where you can pick them up for only a couple dollars, so it seems like on average each missionary has come home with like 40 more ties than they went with or something like that.  I'm definitely going to do that too, because as my wise uncles told me, it really is the only variation in the wardrobe and if you are wearing a tie you really like it can make all the difference.
 
But I'm going to want to buy them there because I think I'm really going to be pushing the weight limit on my way to Novo.  Apparently the church will only pay for one 50 pound bag and one 37 pound bag + the carry on, and I've gotten so many Russian books here.  So I need to decide what to leave behind.  I'm not going to be able to bring all of the pictures that you sent me, so would you like me to send those back or toss them? Also, all the mail I've received  - do you think its worth sending back and saving, or just chucking?  Also, my Dansko shoes have kind of been bothering me.  I don't know if it's the style, or that they might be a little too small, I actually think its a combination of both, but it puts a lot of pressure on my big toe when I walk. I'm going to decide in the next week if I want to hang onto them, or send them home and get another pair in Russia, it would help solve my weight problem a little.
 
This week I finished the Book of Mormon, that I started on the first day of the MTC.  It was really awesome.  I've also read Our Heritage and Our Search for Happiness, too.  So now I'm working on reading the BOM in Russian and I want to get to the New Testament and Jesus the Christ soon.  I won't be able to finish those before I leave, but I will soon.
 
This week we have been speaking all Russian everyday, except for the last hour of each day.  It's really hard and there is a lot of charades and grunting involved. But it helps to practice.  I think next week will probably just be all Russian the whole week. 
 
So, Dad mentioned that Eric Leavell knew an Elder Carr from Malibu.  I've been able to talk to Elder Carr a lot because he is my friend Elder Johnson's companion so we sit together at meals often.  He's really funny.  He's going to have a harder time with the Russian weather than I am, I think.
 
I still get to see Elder McClellan a bunch, I don't see Elder Geist much.  I had the same meal time as Elder Witbeck, so I saw him every day, but he just left early this week.  We came in on the same day, so that means I'm getting close.
 
Matthew: Good luck in your golf tournament this week bud!  Just try your best and keep working hard and make sure to have fun.  I know you'll do awesome.  That's really cool that you shot a 92, that's way better than I've ever done, so I'll have to practice a lot when I get home so I can beat you.
 
President Gibbons said they got delayed a little longer, so they are probably flying in a few days after us, so we will probably be greated by the interim mission president.
 
Well not much exciting news until I actually get to Russia, but I'm just doing really well and really enjoying my time here.  Thanks for sending me those missionary profiles.  Cai's sounded just like him, I know he loves that extra crispy chicken.  Love you all. 
 
-Elder Topham

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Couple Cool Things Happened

Hey everyone! Its just been another pretty normal week in the MTC, but I guess a couple cool things happened.
 
First Elder Fausett and I got to go to Babylon! It was awesome. He had some teeth that were bothering him, so we got to go to a dentist in Provo.  It was so awesome, we got to ride in a van, and see all kinds of cool things about the world.  Everyone we saw at the dentist's office wanted to talk to us and be really nice to us because we are missionaries, so that was really cool.  So in reality it was a pretty boring trip, but compared to what we have in here it was awesome.
 
Also very importantly, especially for Danica, is that I scored a goal in soccer on Monday, it was definitely the nonspiritual highlight of my MTC experience.  It's really hard to score when there are like 40 people on each team so I was really excited and I did a huge knee slide to celebrate.  It was a pretty lucky goal, I was just hanging out in front of the goal and someone kicked in an awesome cross, it was kind of awkwardly bouncing and I just poked it in past the goalie, but I'll take it.
 
I got a package from Grandma McCoy, thank you so much Grandma, I love you!
 
I also got a letter from Wid (Elder Topham's 4 year old cousin) that had some of the best, most specific questions I have received thus far. I really like those, because then I know exactly what to write back about.  In my letter back to him I described all of the intricacies of the MTC garbage and recycling system, so that was actually really fun.
 
Elder McClellan got here this week so that has been really fun.  It's really cool because he lives basically directly above me, so we can see each other sometimes during the last hour of the day.  He's doing really well.  His comp. is British.  Also there are only 4 Slovak speakers so he has a really small class, compared to our 12 jammed into a little room.
 
This week for our district goal we picked 3 days when we were only allowed to speak Russian for the entire days.  It was really hard.  We don't know enough to communicate everything yet, so that made it especially tough.  I imagine that we are probably going to increase the number of days for the next week.
 
The pictures that you sent from the vacation are awesome.  It looks like you all had so much fun, I don't know about dad's scruff though.
 
We see President and Sister Gibbons around a lot here. It was both of their birthdays this week so Sister Sanford, already dutifully fulfilling her sister missionary role, made a really cutsie card with a picture of all the Novo Missionaries on it and had us all sign it.  So we set up a special time to meet them and give them that card.  It was fun, I really like them.
 
It's very monotonous around here, but we've all managed to make it fun in our own little ways to stay sane.  There are a bunch of little things that we find to be really fun that I don't think an outsider will truly understand but I will try to explain them anyway.  I already talked about our 4th of July fist pump celebration.  We have those occasionally on special occasions like holidays, or when missionaries are leaving, or someones inherited calendar had an illegible scribble on that certain day, we felt it was worth celebrating.  Also, in each of the rooms are these places that missionaries have dubbed "narnia holes" they are really fun.  It looks like there used to be an outlet in the wall there or something, but now its just covered with a metal plate, but the screws are really loose so its easy just to swing it open by hand.  Whenever new missionaries come we are always really excited to inform them about and help them check their Narnia holes because you never know what kind of surprises that previous missionaries left for you in there.  Anything from candy, notes, toys, all kinds of stuff.  We are already preparing things to fill our Narnia holes with for the next group of Elders. 
 
We have a full P-day each week.  At least one that lasts until dinner.  We have TRC right after dinner so that stinks.  That's when you teach the volunteers.  It makes it kinda hard to relax on the P-day because you want to study for it.  But only a little, not too hard to relax.  When the temple was open we would always be really rushed to finish all of our letters on time, with laundry and everything, but with no temple we have plenty of time.  I usually have time to workout hard on P-day with my ultra TNT fitness cables and to study some things.  I've been getting a lot stronger and bigger. I'm gonna weigh myself when they open up the gym, but I am very optimistic.  People who have seen me before the MTC with my shirt off like Tanner and Kyle have noticed a difference, so that's good.
 
Anyway love you all
 
-Elder Topham

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Awesome

Hey Everyone!
I'm doing awesome.  First I'll let you know what happened for the 4th of July here.  Thank you very much for the package, Mom.  Elder Fausett also got some decorations in a package so we were able to decorate our classroom which was awesome.  On Saturday night they had a special devotional.  It was a pretty random yet very fun program that included patriotic songs, a speaker, bagpipes and "Praise to the Man."  Not exactly sure where the bagpipes fit into Fourth of July, but praise to the man is awesome with bagpipes, so I'm not complaining.  Then, they let us go outside and watch the fireworks which was really awesome.  We were able to get a really good view from behind our building and we were allowed to stay out passed 10:30 until the fireworks were over which was really awesome.  I'm glad I had that Fourth of July celebration wand that you sent me, because all of my friends knew I had it and were able to find me amid all of the chaos after the devotional.  Sunday night was awesome too.  Dallin H. Oak's daughter, who is like the best violinist in the country or something like that, performed and it was so awesome!
Then on the 4th we had a real celebration where our whole district got together in one of the rooms. And had a minute long celebration that included much fist pumping and shouts of "America" and "USA" and such. It's kind of hard to describe but it was awesome.
I can't remember, did you decide that if I send my memory card you would be able to read it?
Mom: how often should my suits and slacks be dry cleaned?  I should have enough money saved up on my card to get it all done once before I leave if you think that would be good.
Sad story, the gym is closed starting today because they are refinishing the floor... That means I'm stuck outside again for about a week.  That really stinks because the basketball here has been really fun. 
Hey Sam: can you see if you can get Bronston's address through Facebook and dear elder it to me. Thank you.
Everything here has just been pretty awesome.  There's really not much going on new here.  I feel like once I actually get to Russia I'll actually have cool stuff that I can write in my emails that will be interesting.  Elder Fausett and I have our first fake baptism on Saturday haha.  Its for Artyom (Brother Barnes) - I don't really know how to spell that in English letters.  And Katya's (Sister Doty) is a week from Saturday.  Those lessons are always really fun and good practice, but for some reason I think it's much easier than it will be in the real world.  Although like I said, they do shake it up sometimes.  For example, Katya walked out on Elder Davis and Smith's lesson when they told her that our church was the only true one and her baptism wasn't valid, so that was pretty crazy haha. Our lessons usually go pretty smoothly, unless they have weird questions that we don't understand. Like when Artyom asked us about something in 2nd Nephi that I didn't even know how to answer in English.  Those are fun lessons, but I feel like it will be really stressful in the real world when it's not fake and it actually matters if I make a big mistake and don't teach well.  I guess that's why we have senior companions.  
Other than that, please ask me some questions so I know what to write about.
It's cool having the new Russian Elders here and getting to know them a little bit.  They are all great, but they crowd the gym :(
Love you all,
Elder Topham

I'm trying to point where Elder Walker and Harrison are pointing (Novosibirsk)...not St. Petersburg, where Elder Faucett is going.

I could be the poster boy for missionary work.

It's really hard to get the whole district to stay still for, like, 12 cameras.  This is the best I have so far.

Elder Mantell and me.

It's okay, you know I have a forehead, you don't have to see it in the picture.  I like the Elders posing in the background.

That's where I'm going to live for 2 years.

My mission is on both sides of the map!