Monday, February 14, 2011



Whenever I need to be driven anywhere in Moscow I always make sure I have snacks, water, and a good book, or a computer with me.  Even better I like to take a friend or two along to help  pass the hours that are sometimes spent in the car commuting.  A 25 mile commute can take as long as 4 hours, especially if it’s rush hour and it's snowing.  A simple trip to the store often turns into an all day event with hours of commute and hours of shopping, in just one store. 

We often share our drivers.  Since I share our car and driver with Brian I often go with my friend Shelly.  She has a van at her disposal all day because her husband has his own car and driver.  The van is also nice because then we have room enough for our groceries when we go grocery shopping.  Sometimes as many as four of us will go together, it makes the experience much more bearable.

Sometimes we loan our driver out to someone else if we’re not using him.  The drivers usually work full time for us so if we are not in need of a driver on certain day we will offer his service to someone else who needs him. Shelly is always very generous with her car and driver. We use him a lot for our YM and YW activities. Not everyone has drivers. Those who work for the church drive their own cars and some are not comfortable driving in Moscow.  Elke is comfortable driving their van and will often drive for us when we need to do something more local to Rosinka but she doesn’t care to drive in  Moscow if she can avoid it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Most Russian drivers are very aggressive and need very little space between them and the next car (we/re talking a couple of inches).  I’m amazed at how fast they will drive within inches of other cars.  The same applies when parking cars.  They will find the smallest openings, make the car fit and it can face any direction.  The drivers are not courteous when it comes to letting you in and seem to have the ‘every man for himself’ mentality.

Parking in Russian can be very difficult and frustrating which is another reason why having a driver is so helpful.  During the Soviet Era very few people were allowed to buy cars.  When businesses and apartments were built they did not take into a account the need for parking because most everyone used public transportation.  There are hundreds of apartment buildings in Moscow with very little parking.  There are also no parking regulations in Moscow so people will park anywhere they can find space.

There are, on average, 1200 accidents a day in Moscow.  They are not usually serious; the traffic rarely gets going fast enough with the congested traffic.  But all these little accident add to the traffic problems.  When you are in an accident in Moscow you must not move your car AT ALL until the police arrive and investigate.  It doesn’t matter how many lanes of traffic you are affecting you cannot move.  I asked Alex how many accidents he had been involved in and he said 100 or more.  He does drive for a living but that’s still an extensive a number.  

 The police in Russia are notorious for their corruption and will pull you over for anything or for nothing at all.  They stand by the side of the road and wave their baton to pull you over.  In my first two months here I was in three different cars that were pulled over. The drivers had done nothing wrong and got out of the car to talk to the policeman.  They then ‘discretely’ give the officer 1000 rubles ($32) so they can go and not have to go to the police station.

I was talking to some Russian friends about driving here because we were considering getting a car to use for our local needs.  I mentioned that I would like to drive but that I didn’t like the idea of getting pulled over.  They told me that when a policeman has me come to his car it’s a good sign because it means he’s up for a bribe.  If the policeman doesn’t speak English I can call our driver and he can negotiate the amount for me over the phone.  They won’t do any negotiating if stay in my car because they’re afraid of being recorded.  They said that in Moscow everything and everyone has a price, you just have to decide if you’re willing to pay it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011



Alex, our driver, is from Moscow and drives our Hyundai.  He is very likable and knows enough English to communicate which is very helpful.  The only drawback about Alex is that, like most Russians, he smokes.  He doesn’t smoke in the car but you can still smell it, inspite of the fact that he keeps the car very clean.  Alex takes pride in his work, a rarity in Moscow.  He is a VERY aggressive driver and made me nervous at first but it wasn’t long before I came to trust his skills and appreciated the fact that he could get me where we needed to go as quickly as possible.  

Drivers are very common for Ex-pats in Russia.  That way they are protected from corrupt policemen and are able to work during their long cummutes.  DriverS often do more for their employer than drive.  Because they are to be at your service full time they are often used for other necessities such as running errands, hanging pictures, bagging and carrying groceries, moving heavy furniture or making special deliveries.  Drivers can also be a great source for communication and will make phone calls for you to those who do not speak English. Not all drivers speak English but Alex does and we have found him to be a reliable resource in a city where very few people can be trusted.

Not all drivers are helpful or give ‘service with a smile’.  I have a friend who has a couple of drivers that are lazy obstinate.  One time her husband had been working very late and asked the driver to stop at McDonalds for something to eat.  The driver wouldn’t stop.  No matter that his employer had asked him to.  He didn't want to stop so he didn't. 

My friend loaned me her driver for a majo shopping trip to Metro (Russia's Costco).  I had to buy groceries for the Branch Christmas party and had A LOT of stuff to load and unload.  I worked circles around the driver loading and unloading while he lazily unloaded and loaded a few bags.  Alex doesn’t even like me to carry my bags but I make him let me.

Unfortunately, because Alex is so good he was promoted in December and is no longer our driver.  He now drives a big American SUV and works for a bigger company. On his  last day with us we gave him a Book of Mormon, in Russian, with a picture of us and our testimony inside the cover.  Hopefully he will actually read it some day.  We were so sad to see him go and have come to appreciate him even more since he has been gone.  Our new driver is kind, helpful and doesn’t smoke but he drives much slower  and doesn’t speak any English.  Perhaps someone is trying to tell us to learn to speak Russian. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Megan’s 8th grade class had Discovery Week in Altai.  Altai is in southern Russia and is a four hour flight from here.  Megan left on Saturday, September 11th at 6:00 pm and then returned Friday, September 17th. It was a little hard for me to let her leave with people I hardly knew and go to a place I’d never been but I knew it would be a good experience for her and that it would give her the opportunity to get to know her classmates.  The fact that Megan didn’t have any concerns and was looking forward to the trip made it easier for me to let her go.

Mountain Top View

Megan's Cabin
The kids stayed in huts and some of the parents were concerned about the fact that the kids would have to go to the bathroom in a different place than where they would be sleeping.  Obviously many of these people have not done much camping.  We had to borrow all the ‘warm stuff’ for Megan because our air shipment had not yet arrived.  The Stokers were very generous and helped us to finish up Megan’s packing list.  We borrowed most of Rob’s clothes but Megan didn’t seem to mind.

Megan - Rock Climbing

Megan called from Altai on Monday.  I didn’t think I would hear from her all week so I was surprised and glad she called.  She was having a wonderful time!  They had spent the day river rafting and then on Tuesday they were going to go rock climbing.  She texted me on Tuesday to say that she thinks she has gotten over her fear of heights.  She was also having fun getting to know all the kids and making new friends.

Meg's Hiking Group
It was obvious that Megan had an awesome experience at her Discovery Week in Altai.  I asked her if she ever got homesick and she said the first night was really hard and that she cried herself to sleep but the rest of the time was just lots of fun.  They river rafted, rock climbed, hiked, went to museums and did a rope course with a zip line in the trees.  Her favorite activity was the rope course.  The scenery was beautiful and the mountains reminded her of home.  It was also fairly cold, especially at night because their cabins were not insulated and the walls were very thin.

Megan was also bombarded with questions about what Mormons believe.  Mostly concerning our standards.  The kids had a hard time understanding why she couldn’t date until 16 and why we didn't believe in having sex before marriage. When she told them that Mormons don’t drink alcohol they wondered what it was her parents drank.  They were also surprised by the fact that she wouldn’t wear bikinis.  Megan told them that it sends the wrong message to guys and they wanted to know if she thought they were bad because they did.  These were not easy questions for Megan but I think she responded quite well from what she told me. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Shaun and Megan attend the Anglo American School of Moscow.  The school enrolls 1300 students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. Elementary, Middle School, and the High School each have their own designated halls but they all share the amenities.  Middle school starts in 6th grade and High School starts in 9th.  Megan and Shaun were excited to go to the same school but rarely see each other except sometimes in the cafeteria.

The first meeting for new students was in their Bolshoi (large) Theater, an impressive theater with state of the art features.  Overall the amenities at the school are top rate, especially compared to other schools in Russia. They have two large soccer fields, 3 large swimming pools, tennis courts, a great theater department and an amazing cafeteria and lounge.  They have an Austrian chef so it’s not your typical school lunch; in fact it’s quite good.

The administration and staff are also impressive, although a bit on the liberal side.  There are two full time nurses on staff.  This actually comes in quite handy because they can treat and provide medicine for the kids right on campus.  They can even provide medicine that would require a prescription in the states.  Shaun went to school with a red eye, went to the nurse and was treated for pink eye at no extra cost or hassle. 

LDS kids and the kids from the embassy have a good reputation with both the students and teachers.  The teachers especially like them because they’re usually more respectful and willing to follow the school rules.

Students are very well educated and well spoken, except for when they swear which is VERY often.  Most have been taught the queens English and can speak more than one language.  This is a little intimidating for Shaun.  He wishes that he would have had this opportunity when he was Megan’s age then he wouldn’t be so ‘behind’ everyone else.  He now asks why I never taught him to speak Swedish.  I’m sure he would have been as cooperative with that as he has been with other things I have tried to teach him. 

 There was opening ceremonies the first week of school, parents were invited.  The ceremony started off with the seniors carrying in 65 flags representing the nationalities of students who attend there.  It was an impressive sight!  Especially impressive to me was seeing the American flag.  I LOVE AMERICA!  All 65 flags are then displayed throughout the year in the main entrance and is known as, The Hall of Flags.  It’s a stunning sight.
There is a bus for each ‘school’, elementary, middle school and high school.  Megan’s bus comes at 7:10.  Shaun’s comes at 7:05 but he is gone to seminary by then.  The bus is provided by Rosinka and costs 35,000 rubles ($1265.00) for each semester for each student.

AAS Moscow is ranked second only to AAS London so it is a top ranked school with a strong reputation.  The advisors here are not big on BYU because they like to be able to say that a large percentage of their graduates go on to Ivy League schools.  Several LDS kids have qualified for Ivy League schools but are ready to go to a school where they are not considered so 'different'.

 For back to school night at both the middle school and the high school we moved around to each class, at the sound of the bell, as our students would and we’re able to meet the parents of their actual classmates as well as the teachers.  I was impressed with Shaun’s teachers; he will definitely have an opportunity to learn a lot this year.  They really push the IB (International bachelorette) program here and it's incredibly intense.  Shaun can’t do it because it starts in grade 11, he will still takes the classes but he does not take the IB exams.  BYU is not big on the IB program but we hope that the foreign experience will improve Shaun’s chances for BYU.

I was especially impressed with Megan’s teachers.  It is obvious that they want their students to learn and much effort is put into teaching all their students.  It's easier with smaller class sizes and they have such an enthusiastic attitude about teaching and helping the kids to develop a love of learning.  I’m so excited to see how much progress Megan makes this year and how well she adapts to a more serious learning environment.

The first few weeks I felt like I practically lived at the school.  In two weeks time I was at the school seven different days and for as much as four hours at a time.  For some people this is how they stay socially connected.  They have regular activities for adults at the school.  Many mothers will also meet at the cafeteria for lunch, the food is quite good, relatively inexpensive and the cafeteria is open all day.  It’s convenient for kids involved in after school activities that don’t make it home until 7:00 pm.

.  Because the legal drinking age is 16, most high school kids spend their week-end nights in bars.  It’s the social norm here.  Shaun found this definition for AAS Moscow on  

"International alcoholic paradise where people of all social groups get drunk together and manage to do/get/attempt at the International Diploma. often students frolic with American embassy kids (weird), oil kids (rich), Russian and mafia kids (richer) and some random other companies."

Monday, October 25, 2010



President Kosak invited Brian and I to atttend a Moscow District Leadership meeting on September 2nd, just a week after we arrived in Moscow.  Elder Russell M. Nelson was the visiting authority.  We hadn’t received our callings yet but President Kosak asked us to be there.  The meeting was the central building which is in downtown Moscow near Red Square.  Henry gave me and a few others a ride there where I met up with Bri who came straight from work.  Just as we got into the building Bri was roped into singing a song with a quartet.  They didn’t have a lot of practice and I guess it didn’t go too well.  I wouldn’t know because they split the Priesthood up from the sisters before the meetings even began.

Elder Nelson came in and greeted the sisters, said a few words and then the meeting was turned over to the Relief Society District President, Sister Wendy Nelson, Sister Schwitzer (Area President’s wife) and Sister Sorenson (Mission Presidents wife).  All three sisters spoke and gave great messages where I learned a lot.  Sister Nelson taught for about 45 minutes but the time went by quickly.  She is a powerful teacher whose words were very inspiring.  I felt as though she spoke directly to me with her words and I learned so much. Actually it felt more like I was remembering so much.  I took lots of good notes.  All the sisters in the branch were so kind to me and I felt a very strong kinship with them even though I had only just met some of them.

Here is an interesting side note that kind of explains Russian culture.  Anja, a secretary to President Kosak, whohas served a mission to Japan and speaks very good English was asked to translate for the sisters who spoke.  I’m certain she did a very good job even though I don’t know Russian.  After the meeting she received a note from one of the Russian sisters that told her she did a terrible job.  Mind you this is a member of the church feeling the need to be critical of another sister’s efforts in translating a message of which she had no prior written information to translate.  I cannot understand the need for someone to be so unkind or just plain mean.

After the meeting we were invited to have dinner at Starlight with a group of couples from the branch.  Starlight is a favorite for Americans here because it is a burger and shake joint.  Bri got a hamburger and we both got a shake.  The shakes were $10.00 a piece but at least they were very, very good.  I have found that most things here cost at least twice as much as in the states.  We had a wonderful time getting to know the Lockheads, Rusts, Butterfields and of course spending more time with the Kosaks.   Henry did a great job, as we drove through the city, telling us about the different buildings we passed by.  The city center is really beautiful at night.  It took us over an hour to get home and yet it was only 20 miles away and traffic is supposed to be lighter in the evenings.  We didn’t get home until 11:00 and the kids were already asleep so I didn’t get to see much of them today.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Once we were in the townhouse with all its emptiness, and with 15 very full bags to unpack, a very tired Shaun and Megan have their first bolt of culture shock. They are coming to a realization of what they have left behind and how different everything is here.  They miss everything from back home!  Most of all they miss Zac, Emily, Brad, and Beau.  Not necessarily in that order, both Shaun and Megan want Beau here to cuddle with while they are feeling so lost.

The Branch President’s wife meets us just outside our home and offers to send his wife, Elke, over to take me grocery shopping the next day.  Elke picks me up the next day and we have a terrific time together.  It never ceases to amaze me how truly universal the church is.  I can be with someone I’ve never met before in all my life, from another country, who knows no one I know, knock on my door and we can spend the whole day together shopping like we’ve known each other for years.  The church is such a blessing in so many ways.  I can’t imagine how much more difficult this move would be without the church organization.  We have instant friends and family simply because we are active members of the church.  It’s wonderful.

It was more than a week before we were able to get internet service.  Our only means of communication was Bri’s cell phone until his driver helped us get some cell phones. Once the internet was connected we were able to set up our Vonage phone line.  Through Vonage we can retain our Alpine phone number and call anywhere in the U.S. for free. 

I have found preparing meals to be the most difficult task for me.  Trying to find all the ingredients in one store or at all is no small task.  I have to come up with new menus and without my shipments I have very few kitchen supplies.

Finding a consistent time for family scripture study is not easy.  FHE is also difficult because of the kids’ homework, Bri’s commute and his evening phone meetings with the states.  We don’t eat dinner until 7:00 pm, shortly after Bri gets home and then he’ll have to jump into phone meetings that can last for most of the evening.   

Most stores will only take cash and all of our monthly bills must be paid in cash, rubles, so it is necessary to have A LOT of cash on hand.  In the states I carried very little cash, I was afraid of losing it and it was harder to keep track of expenses.

Whatever you could accomplish in the U.S. in one day takes at least 1-2 weeks in Russia.    I am amazed at how busy I am and yet I seem to accomplish so little.  I truly believe that one of the things the Lord is trying to teach me here in Russia is patience

 It would be nice to get our shipments I think it would help to make this place feel more like home.  We’re all tired of sleeping on blow up mattresses and having no other place to just sit down, relax and feel comfortable.  We don’t even have a TV.

Life has been even busier since the kids started school.  I thought I would have a lot of extra time to catch up on things and that I would be looking for stuff to do but I am still playing catch up and being taught over and over again that EVERYTHING in Russia takes A LOT longer to accomplish.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The smells and air of Moscow are, for Kristy, reminiscent of Sweden, along with the multiple forests and the rolling hills.

Taxes for groceries in Russia = 18%.

Apparently all of Rosinka is bugged and so nothing is private here.  If you need to discuss something no one else should hear you need to go for a walk.

We must carry passports and immigration records with us wherever we go.  Even a cashier can ask us for them.  How racist is that? J

The average life span of a Russian man is 59 years.

The legal drinking age in Russia is 16 years old.

Major appliances are much smaller than American standards.  My dishwasher, washer, and dryer are about 2/3 the size of what I have in Utah.

There is not a standard size for Russian stairs; even the same flight of stairs can have different heights and depths.

While eating at a restaurant it is cheaper to have a soda than to have water. 
You must ask for “still” water or it will be soda water.  If you want ice you must ask for it and it will cost extra.

If you are in someone’s way you will often get pushed, especially in busy grocery stores. I have experienced this more than once.

Most everything I have purchased in Moscow is 100% more expensive than what I would have to pay in America.

The Kiev Temple Dedication

On our first Sunday in Moscow we were able to participate in the dedication of the Kiev Temple via satellite.  We attended the first session on Sunday morning at a church building in the city of Zelinograd.  It’s interesting to note that during the Soviet Era even Russians were forbidden to enter this city because of the cutting-edge electronic research that was performed there. 

The Kosaks, our Branch President and his family, Henry, Elke and Lisa gave us a ride to the dedication.  It took us about an hour to get there.  During the ceremony Elke was able to point out our Area Presidency and other local church leaders that were attending.  They will be members of our branch and I look forward to getting to know them.  It was fun to watch President Monson.  He is always so jovial and attentive to all the people around him.  I enjoyed watching how he interacted with the crowd during the cornerstone ceremony.

We were in a classroom and there were about 20 people there, including 6 missionaries and the Mission President and his wife, the Sorenson’s.  It was a stark realization that I wasn’t in Alpine anymore and that I was in the mission field and I LOVED IT!!   I’m so grateful that Brian, Shaun, Megan and I were able to be any part of the dedication of the first Eastern European Temple.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Original entry to The Kremlin
Just two days after we arrived in Russia we took our first trip to the city center of Moscow where Red Square and the Kremlin are.  The buildings and streets in the center of Moscow are beautiful, impressive and very clean.  This is not the case without the city center.  The architecture of the buildings, bridges and street in and around Red Square is incredible.  The Square is next to the Moscow River which helps to make it all the more picturesque.  We took pictures in front of St. Basil’s cathedral, and at the front of the original entry that dates back to the 14th century.  We also watched the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and saw Lenin’s tomb.

"Goom" Mall
We also went to Goom mall a VERY upscale mall just off the Square. Shaun was enamored by all the ‘costly apparel'.  He also loved being in the city center where there is so much energy and where the apartments and other  buildings are better kept.  We saw lots of brides taking pictures at the square so it must be some kind of tradition, I’m not sure.  It was raining until we got to Red Square and then it was beautiful.  The experience made me anxious to understand the rich history of Russia and Red Square itself.  I look forward to taking a guided tour so that I can learn more.

Inside "Goom" Mall

Shaun & Megan on the
cobble streets of Red Square

After our sight seeing we went to our first Russian McDonalds.  It was very crowded and seems to be a popular hangout for young teens.  McDonalds is not a favorite of mine but it seriously tastes better in Russia than in the states.  Either that or it was simply a nice taste of home.  
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Rosinka is a gated expat community located just outside of Moscow in the village of Angolova.  There is a lake and a forest of trees on the west side. The townhouses are situated off winding streets and rolling hills.  There are a variety of trees and bushes that add to the beautiful landscape.  Consisting mostly of townhouses with varying sizes and floor plans there are also a few single dwelling homes that are quite nice.  The owner of Rosinka also lives here and has an incredible house and gated property by the lake.

The lake at the edge of Rosinka
Home of Rosinka's Owner

Rosinka also provides great amenities; a swimming pool, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, restaurant, weight room, bowling alley, mini-mart and security that make it a very safe place to be.  Many people don’t even lock their doors here and that is definitely not the case in other areas of Russia. 

There are a variety of nationalities represented here.  I have met people from Germany, Sweden, Venezuela, Argentina, Ireland, England, India, Canada, Iran, Ukraine, Finland, England and the United States.  There are also a number of Russians here and it is a common belief that most belong to the Russian Mafia.  It is also believed that because of this most if not all the houses are bugged.

There are also some walking trails in the forest that are frequented by walkers, runners and dogs.  In the winter time the trails make for a very popular cross country ski course.


2300 square feet
3 bedrooms
2 1/2 baths
living/dining room
wood burning fireplace
vestibule-closed entry
overly large jacuzzi tub
detached 2 car garage
includes utilities, maintenance and yard care

220 voltage
a single plug in bathrooms
small shower
no padding under carpet
flat paint on walls/woodwork
washer/dryer 50% capacity
no ready made ice
undrinkable tap water
no drawers in bathrooms
minimal cabinet/storage space
fair yard maintenance

This is a nice townhouse, especially when compared to the 'homes' where many Russians live.  Unfortunately the economy has affected the quality of yard work. The grass could use some weed/feed and a good edge job.  Also there are several trees and bushes in need of a trim job.

The only furniture we have now is 3 blow-up mattresses, a love seat, office chair, a small kitchen table set and 3 large plasitc containers we use for night stands.  Most of these items are on loan to us from a few of our very kind branch neighbors.

I enjoy having less house to maintain but I definitely look forward to the arrival of our ground shipment when we can have real beds, comfy furniture, a desk, and a few dressers to store things in.  A TV might be nice too. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our arrival...

Shaun and Megan on our flight.  We left our house at 6:00 am on August 25th, had a short layover at the JFK airport in New York and then flew straight to Moscow.  It was a 16 hour flight in total and we arrived at the Moscow airport at 10:00 am the next day.

A van and driver picked us up at the airport.  We barely fit with our 15 pieces of luggage.  A taxi driver asks Kristy if she needs a ride and Kristy responds with, "no gracias".  Don't you speak a foreign language when you're in a foreign country?

We arrived in Moscow to cloudy, overcast skies but pleasant temperatures.  On our way 'home' from the airport Shaun is surprised by all the tall, run down, or partially finished buildings and comments, "Russia is an upscale Tijuana, Mexico."

How did we get here?

In May, Brian was offered an ex-patriate assignment in Moscow Russia as General Manager of Xango's Eastern European operations.  We always thought an ex-pat assignment would be interesting, Russia wasn't exactly our first choice.  But as we moved along  in the process, we knew it was the right thing to do.  Shaun was going into his senior year and turning 18 years old in September, so we wanted to have his support.  We weren't going to go without him.  Suprisingly, Shaun responded in the affirmative and said that he always felt our family would be doing something like this.  Not surprisingly, Megan was all for it.

Shortly after we agreed to the assignment, Emily became engaged to be married on July 30th.  We decided to rent our upstairs and make a full kitchen downstairs so that she and Brad could live there while we were away.  We had a very busy summer preparing for a wedding, having a wedding, an open house in Arizona, remodeling, finding a renter and packing up.  Our ground shipment was packed out on July 15th, our air shipment left on August 9th, and we moved to Russia on August 25th.  Our original departure date was August 18th, but due to the fires and smoke in the Moscow area, we were delayed a week.

Although the summer was very busy, we were grateful for the opportunity to have the whole family together for a few months before we went our separate ways.  Zac had just returned from his mission to Argentina at the end of March and would be moving to Provo to attend BYU.  Emily and Brad Marsh would live in our basement while Emily attended BYU and Brad attended UofU.  We're glad to have them there to manage things for us and keep us updated on the happenings of the ward, neighborhood and extended family.

We hope you enjoy coming along and sharing a portion of our journey and our new life here in Russia!