Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas in Russia

A lot of people have asked me what Russia is like. I've decided to write about a day in Russia - Christmas. The 25th of December is not too important for Russians in general. According to the old calendar, Christmas is on the 7th of January so this date holds more importance to Christmas than the 25th of December. However, we as missionaries tried to make Christmas fun and memorable. The day I will be writing about took place in the small city of Balokova when I was only three months into Russia. Christmas Eve was not so productive in regards to missionary work, but that can kind of be expected. There's only one Christmas eve a year! I did receive two packages: one from my grandparents and one from my family. I was pleasantly surprised to find certain American products that did not exist in Russia including some candy, Peanut Butter, and Beef Jerky. To say the least, I was happy. To finish the day off, we prepared some potatoes to cook for the feast that we planned for tomorrow. The next morning I was awakened by the phone which my companion, Elder Pratt, answered. The call came at 3:57 A.M. our time. Elder Pratt, my companion, picked up the phone. I can imagine my dad happily and enthusiastically asking, "Is Trent there?" I can still hear him saying ничего страшного(nichevo strashnovo), which means 'don't worry about it' in Russian. Sleepily, I flipped on the light switch and it blew a fuse. This was a common occurrence in this particular apartment that I was living in at the time. In such an urgent situation as this, I couldn't mess with the fuse, and my companion happily returned to his warm bed, so I just ended up talking in the dark. The room was cold, I didn't have any clothes on, but sometimes you don't think about trivial things like that. I was going to be talking with my family! I loved talking to my family members, especially my dad. They asked me a whole bunch of questions and I was just shootin' the breeze with them. The next thing I knew, I looked at my watch and it was 5:20 A.M. Time had really flown by. The phone card that my dad bought was for 2 hours and besides an occasional awkward silence, the whole conversation was way fun for me. Graden seemed to be doing really well, Weston too, Race had a voice change, and Jennica seemed to be doing well also. They filled me in on a lot of things that were happening at home and in the world. I was informed that my cousin Stan got a girlfriend. That bit of news shocked me. Because of the excitement of talking to them, I didn't feel tired at all. I did share a lot of stuff about mission life and some mission stories. I really just propped up mission life and what it's like here. I didn't sugar coat it. I told it how it really is--just leaving out the bad things. The only drawback to the conversation was that I didn't get to say goodbye to them because I wasn't keeping precise track of the time. Well after that was over, we listened to a talk on tape, 'The Name that Matters Most' by Chris Heimerdinger. Listening to tapes was a common occurence to my companionships in Russia. It was a perfect special occasion type of companionship study. This particular tape I received at a Christmas Zone Conference a few days earlier as a white elephant gift. Then we made our food. I focused my efforts on the potatoes. I boiled cut peeled potatoes and then mashed them with butter, milk, cheese, salt, and then grilled garlic and onions. My companion made Apple Crisp. My dad told me that he put $200 in my account. We then went to the bank where I pulled out plenty of money for a much-needed camera. The dollar at the time went a long ways in Russia. It was 31 rubles to the dollar when I was in Russia. The next stage of the day was to buy some gifts for our planned party. I bought cheap Russian cologne for Elder Zmolek and I included some saved Cracker Jack from the MTC. After meeting everyone (we had six elders in this city: Wright, Jepson, Zmolek, Gordon, Pratt and I) we hit up the Banya. The Banya is an interesting element in Russian culture. If you don't know what a Russian banya is, it is very popular for Russians. It's also really cheap to rent a banya; I think it was $1.50 per hour per person. We often as missionaries found our way to the banya and Christmas was no exception. There are three parts to the banya: The changing room, the sauna, and the large basin of cold water. Everyone in the group gets naked (don't worry, we never went to the banya with the sister missionaries.) then you go

into the sauna. In the sauna, rocks are heated in a barrel. The more water you splash on these rocks, the hotter the air gets. At times it got really hot, I'm guessing over 150 degrees. You could hardly breathe as the hot air burned your lungs. If you were sitting up too high in such temperatures, you're skin would burn. After a while of sitting in the hot room, your skin becomes wet with your sweat. It is interesting to see the individual droplets of sweat accumulating on your body. The next part involves jumping your hot body into the cold pool of water. It is a thrill to experience such extremes of temperature, but it's good for you. That's at least what the Russians told us. But then again, what do the Russians know about what's good for you? The process is cyclical and you repeat it until you are sick of it. The banya takes a lot out of your body: energy, water, nutrients. So after this, we went to go have our feast at Elder Wright's. This dinner was probably the best I had ever eaten in Russia. The potatoes I made were so good and Wright complemented them with some gravy and roast beef. We also had corn and bread for the meal. Russian bread is very dear to my heart. I made a point of eating a lot of it, and bragging to others that I ate the most bread. We topped our main course off with dessert which included Apple Crisp, banana bread, and lemon poppy seed muffins. I don't think I've have ever been fuller than I was after that meal. Wow, good times. We then went to the jazz orchestra. For someone so uncultured in musical productions as I was, I was really liking it and getting into it. The band members just played with all their heart and emotion. My companion was expecting a phone call so we had to leave early. It was pretty cold on the streets that day, I remember. Not like the day before where it was above freezing. This was a true Russian kind of cold. I'll remember this as my first, but not last, Christmas in Russia.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

New website

The History of

Last summer I started dabbling with web development. The concept of creating web pages fascinated me and I was hooked. I am studying Bioinformatics right now at BYU and so I have a decent amount of experience with computer programming. However, as I took these classes, they always bored me and I didn't find joy in what I was doing. But when I started coding on the web, my desire to learn and apply my programming concepts was definitely there! My friend, Rich Millar, was living with me at the time. Even though he didn't have a clue about web programming, he had an idea during this summer about making a website. I mean nothing against Rich, whom I love deeply (in a non-romantic way of course). He has come a long ways since those humble beginnings and nowadays, he helps me with some of the internet programming.

This website would focus on activities and things to do in Provo, Utah. The said city is where we currently live in. It is often noted for being a barren wasteland of fun things to do, especially in the Winter when it is too cold to enjoy the mountains. (I am omitting snowboarding, of course, because that is a granted activity that is fun and that can be done in the mountains of Utah.) So I started becoming more and more familiar with internet languages. I had done a little programming on the internet before, but the learning experience that I was to go through was nothing like I expected. Towards the end of September, 2006, our website was looking good and my web programming skills were improving. I then got a job doing web development projects on campus - the best job of my life by the way. I started learning much more especially about mysql, php, and flash. Rich and I found a guy who had some graphic skills and he agreed to help us. Our site started looking good. Rich searched out all the actual content for the website. Slowly, but steadily, we formed and created this website. If you want to go check it out, the url is It's a great site, hopefully it will help people out there who are looking for fun things to do in Utah Valley, but know not where to go.