I'll be serving in the Russia-Samara mission. I report to the MTC on July 17, 2012.
I'm so beyond excited; it would be impossible to explain how amazing I feel right now. This mission call is the answer to a LOT of prayers. I know you're not supposed to ask for specific missions, but I kept hoping that I would get a mission call that would mean something special to me, that I'd be able to make a connection with the people and the area itself. Russia was the perfect answer to those hopes. I've always loved learning about Russian history/culture, I studied the Russian language for a year during college, and I was also able to study Russian literature for a semester. I've always wanted to travel to Russia; now, I'll be living there for a year and a half. HOLY GEEZ!
Alright, here's the story of how this little mission call came to be.
It all started on Sunday, while Isaac was being set apart as a missionary. I got a really strong feeling that I would be serving in Eastern Europe, around Russia/The Ukraine area. When we went out to put Isaac's pin up on the Stake's missionary board, my Bishop noticed a long line of missionaries from my ward down the western coast of the Americas, all the way from Alaska to South America. There is also one elder from our ward serving in Singapore. My bishop said, "Annalee, we need someone in the middle. You're gonna have to fill that gap." I told him I'd work on it. That night, and in the days to follow, I kept getting the same strong feeling that I'd be going somewhere Slavic-speaking.
That brings us to Wednesday (yesterday).
I thought for sure the call would come yesterday. My younger brother entered the MTC yesterday afternoon, and I was really hoping to tell him where I was serving before he reported. I took off work so that I could watch for the mail, and then literally sat in front of a window for two hours, waiting for the mail to come. I skyped Caitie in a few minutes beforehand so that she could be there when I read the call to both her and Isaac. When the mail finally came around 1:00 pm, I ran out to the mailbox and was met with bills, a letter from my grandparents, and a newspaper that looked like it was printed by a five-year old. I was pretty distraught to say the least.
About 30 minutes later, I went to work and talked to one of my favorite 'coworkers,' Tony. We actually ended up talking about Russian; he took Russian in both high school and college, which is something NO ONE does. I told him about my own Russia-studies, and we traded a few choice Russian phrases before spending the rest of the afternoon emailing Hunger Games references to each other. It was exactly the afternoon I needed. None of this information is important…
THIS AFTERNOON is where it gets good.
I woke up later in the morning, hoping that I would be able to sleep until 1:00 pm and the mail would magically appear in the mailbox as I rolled out of bed. I walked upstairs, walked around aimlessly for a few minutes, learned "Be Still My Soul" on the piano, and then Lark and I camped by the front window. The mail came around 2:30 pm. Caitie called in on Skype, and only Lark, Mary Alice, and my mom were home. I ran to the mailbox, pulled out my mission call, and ran back inside in my pajama bottoms. The original plan for opening the call was to wait until later when my whole family could be there. Instead, my mom, Caitie, and my sisters all decided to yell at me until I opened it right then.
So, I did.
I read the letter silently to myself at first. When I read "Russia Samara," I could feel my eyes get really wide and my jaw drop. I was so, so, so happy. And shocked. As I read the letter out loud, all I heard was screaming and jumping up and down. Everything after that is kind of a blur. I called my brother's friend, James, so that he could tell Isaac in the MTC, then I called/emailed a bunch of different people. Each conversation made me more excited about going. Plus, it was nice to talk to people I hadn't talked to in a while about such great news.
After talking to people and wandering around my house in a daze, I went to the gym (screaming "I'm going to Russia!" in my car the entire way there), took my dog for a walk in the perfect Virginia sunset, took a shower, picked up my brother, and went back home for THE reading.
Around 9:00 pm, the rest of my family got together for the official announcement. I got a bunch of different predictions pinned down on a huge map on the dining room table (about 8 of which ended up being in Russia) and read the letter to my family and grandparents. I don't really remember anything about it but my dad yelling, "WAY TO GO, ANNALEE!" Then, I made the rest of my calls to various friends/family members to make sure my bases were covered. Afterwards, my family and I went to Chipotle (which is a mission call tradition in our family, apparently).
Now, a story that really has nothing to do with the mission call itself.
The universe has a way of blessing me with little experiences on days of importance. On my birthday, I met two elderly men in Los Angeles that made me feel like an ANGEL. They said I was wise beyond my years and that I was a very beautiful person, inside and out. It was the best. After I got my mission call, I headed to Shoppers to pick up a few things, and ran into a man at the self check out counter. He didn't speak any English, but motioned for me to help scan his groceries. I scanned, bagged, and loaded his groceries for him while he watched, and helped him pay when it was all done. As I left, he said, "You're very gentle. Thank you very much. Have a good night." It was really touching, actually.
And then I left Shoppers and shattered my phone's screen. But, since the universe is on my side, it's still functioning! Woohoo!
Now, for some fun facts about Samara, Russia.
-It's the largest mission in Russia, covering 3 different time zones.
-It includes Samara, the 6th largest city in Russia.
-There are no LDS Stakes in the Samara mission.
-Samara was once the home to Tolstoy and includes a Tolstoy museum.
-The record low temperature in Samara, Russia, is -40 degrees.
-The Samara mission borders Kazakhstan.
-My mission president, Brother Sartori, and his wife, have seven children, and both served in Russia themselves.
-The mission opened in 1990.
-If you look up "Russian food" on Wikipedia, the first section of the article details a cold soup made using sour milk, cucumbers, potatoes, and a boiled meat such as beef or fish. Neat!
-The full name of the area is Samara, Samarskaya oblast, Russia
-It's on the bank of Russia's largest river, the Volga River.
-It's got a circus AND a zoo.
I'm excited :)