This month started out fantastic with a trip to Kiev, Ukraine. Boy was that awesome. We left late Thursday night June 30 and got there early Friday at around 10-11 am. At the train station we bought a new sim-card for Bryan's phone so we could have a phone while we were there. From there we went to the temple. We traveled from Moscow with a girl named Kristina, who actually lived in one of the branches I served in and she set it up for us to stay in the hotel on the temple grounds for the people doing temple work. We dropped off all of our stuff there at our room and then headed into center to meet up with Lucy Lavrinenko and get some food. We went straight to our favorite restaurant Пузата Хата and loaded up our plates and got big half liter glasses of oh so good kvas. Lucy met us there and we sat and talked for quite awhile. It was raining so we just took our time sitting inside. We finally made it outside again and went out to see some of the sights. We saw the eternal flame and the big statue of the mother of the motherland or whatever it is. I never know what anything is called I just go see and and say, "oh that's cool!" It started raining really hard so we found some shelter under the tent of a little outdoor cafe and just sat there and talked and talked and talked. It was really fun to catch up and to just talk about life and stuff. Finally we decided that it was probably time to start heading back because we didn't know how late we could get into the hotel. We mad a dash for the nearest bus stop and got drenched. When we made it to the buses there were several sitting there waiting because this was the beginning of the line. Every driver we went to would tell us that one of the other drivers was leaving first. After running to four different buses we ended back at the second bus and sat on it for a while as we waited for more people to come. We were all soaked but it was fun. We made our way back to center and hopped a bus out to the temple. Right after we got off the bus we ran into several sets of senior couples that were leaving and we talked with them for a bit. One of them was in charge of all the medical stuff for all the missions and he knew President Neilson so it was fun to talk to him. We made a quick stop by the store to grab some ramen for dinner and cereal for breakfast and walked the rest of the way to the temple. We went down to the cafeteria to meet Kristina and lo and behold I get attacked from behind! Who could that be? None other than my old mission companion Erik Gasparyan from Armenia! Haha we had a good laugh and talked a bit. He was there being a group leader for the members that had come that week from Armenia. Bryan and I quickly ate our delicious ramen and then headed upstairs and sat in on a little testimony meeting that the Armenians were having. I felt a little out of place because I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt but it was nice and there was a good spirit. We ended the night on a good note and got to bed at around midnight.
The next morning we got up at about 8 so that we would have time to get ready and eat breakfast and make the temple session that started at 10. When we got to the kitchen we realized about half of our cereal was eaten but that was fine because we had some yogurt and other goods. Lucy also came to the temple with her brother Sasha so we got to meet him. He helped out my parents with their travel arrangements when they were in Ukraine adopting 3 of my little siblings. Being in the temple was awesome. After the session there we went to a couple sealings of people that I knew. One was a girl that I didn't know that well cause I never served in her city but she was a good friend of Lucy and the other was Andrey and a girl from Poltava. I served in Andrey's branch twice, once when I started out my mission in Dnepr in the Pobeda branch and again later when I served in Dnepr in the Center branch and he had moved there. We also saw several other people that were there for the sealings that we knew. It seemed like every time I turned a corner in the temple I saw someone else I knew. It was very cool. After that we went back to the kitchen at the hotel and the Armenians fed us chicken and noodles. That especially made Bryan happen because his cereal that had been half eaten was his favorite kind haha. After lunch we took a bunch of photos out around the temple with Erik, Lucy, and Kristina. When we got done with that we grabbed our bags (we couldn't stay over the weekend because the temple isn't open on Sunday and Monday.) and headed back into center with Lucy. We called Yura Slepak, another one of my mission companions, who lives in Kiev with his wife and little baby. I had called them Friday and said that I wanted to see them. We met with them on one of the main squares and walked with them for a bit. I didn't know this til later that night but both Bryan and I had forgotten to tell him that we were coming beforehand and only realized that on Wednesday the week that we were coming. I quickly wrote him a message on facebook and told him that we were coming but he never checked it so he didn't even know til I called him and since I didn't realize he didn't get my message I didn't tell him that Bryan was with me so it was a big surprise for him. Anyways, we walked around with them for awhile. It's crazy that some of my mission companions already have babies... After that we walked around and saw some more sights and ended back up at Пузата Хата for dinner and met up with a girl from Zaporozhe and one of her friends. Kristina came a little later as did Yura. We sat in their forever and just talked and chatted with everyone. Once we left we took a little evening stroll and grabbed a couple pictures. Because we couldn't stay in the temple hotel over the weekend we asked Lucy if she knew of anywhere we could stay. She asked her brother and we ended up staying with one of his friends, who is actually the bishop of the ward that my mom went to when she was in Kiev. He was a really funny guy and as we were at his house that night talking to him, Bryan was telling him about how he had served in Kremenchug while I was in the other room. Evgenii, that was his name, worked in the Kiev Service Center and was in charge of the finances for all the branches in the Dnepr mission. Well all the sudden Evgenii asked Bryan, "Did you know an Elder Faber?" I was in the other room and I just started laughing when I heard that. Apparently I had talked to Evgenii many times because the branch in Kremenchug was new and I was trying to get all the finance stuff sorted out. He said his still had my name written on his contact list for Kremenchug. Small world. I think the Kiev trip was more seeing friends and catching up on life rather than seeing all the sights. One of the main reasons we went there was to see the temple and we did that and saw lots of friends so even though the trip was very short it still felt good. The next morning we went to church with him and then Lucy came and we went to go see some more of the city. We met up with Garret, Matt, and Lydia who are in our study abroad group with us and had also come to Ukraine. They made a different itinerary than us, so it was cool to meet up with them and make another trip to guess where? Пузата Хата!! We were only in Ukraine for 3 days and we made sure to go there everyday, stuff ourselves, and get a big glass of fresh kvas.
The time came that we needed to part ways and return to Russia. Honestly we didn't want to leave. If not for my internship I would have changed my train ticket and stayed for a few weeks in Ukraine. It was just so much fun and it was also 3-4 times cheaper than Moscow. Bryan and I were the only ones going back to Moscow that day and as luck would have it there was a group of about 12 guys from Moscow in our wagon that had just got done with a week of partying in Ukraine. I guess one of them was getting married the next week so it was like a big ol' bachelor's party. In our area of 4 bunks there were 2 of these guys. One of them had been drunk since thursday and was still drinking. It kinda funny at first cause he was just making an idiot out of himself but after several hours it began to be quite annoying. Finally, FINALLY his friends were able to get him into bed and fall asleep thank goodness. Bright and early Monday morning, the Fourth of July, we arrived back in Moscow and immediately went home and crashed for several hours. To be continued.....