Merry Christmas! This is one of two times a year we are able to speak with our missionary. The next time we get to talk to him is on Mother's Day! Most families just call their missionary. We are some of the lucky parents who actually get to Skype (video chat) with our missionary. We were supposed to get a Skype visit at 9:00 p.m. Christmas night. But 9:00 came and went and there was no word from Jared. We waited over a half hour (that's ages for an excited mama!) and there was still no word. We were trying to figure out how much it would cost to call the Armenian Mission Office when finally the call came through! Here's some notes from our conversation with the boy. We had made a list of questions to ask him and here's how it went!
We gave Jared a nice lecture about wearing gloves and not letting his knuckles get purple. He says his knuckles are fine and everyone gets knuckles like this. RIGHT!
Dumb question we ask next: What’s the weather like? Obvious answer: Cold! We encouraged the boy to go buy a warmer coat. He proceeds to let us know that because people go out of town around this time, the ATM machines are empty—literally. The banks—out of money. So he can’t go get one. There’s got to be a way for him to get a better coat!
We were glad to hear he got the birthday package we sent. He seemed very excited that he had got a package at all. He hadn’t expected one.
On Christmas, he went to church, gave someone a blessing, had a huge dinner prepared by the sisters in his district (Jared quote: “Thank goodness for the sisters in the district!”), watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” and had dessert.
They have a couple of investigators who all seem to be accepting the gospel. Violet has been to church every week and Hakov (Jacob)—who is in the hospital.
While he was talking about the investigators, he really looked and sounded like a motivational missionary. It was neat for me to see!
Carl asked him if he was able to understand people. He says he can for the most part. He also says most people can understand him as well, especially if he slows down and has a chance to get the grammar right. He says he speaks in a simple way and they can understand him.
He said that the supermarkets in the outlying towns aren’t stocked well, but near Yerevan, it’s much better in the supermarkets.
Madeleine wanted to give Jared a bear hug, like she used to do when we Skyped with Jared while he was at college. She would hug the computer screen and so would Jared. It’s actually very sweet.
Three Kings Day (Armenia’s Christmas) lasts about a week over there, December 31-Jan 6. It’s a party all week. The missionaries have to be in by 7 every night, which is longer than what it used to be. People are drunk.
Jared and the other elders went and spent some of their own money to buy food and other items for some of the poor people in their ward. For New Years, they’re going to go deliver it and do some service.
The McDaniels (friends of ours) had asked us to ask him what decorations they had in their apartment. They had 2 strings of lights, 3 yards long, including a string that is around a plant that Elder Strader had.
Elder Seegmiller walked in at this point. He said that Jared was a great missionary and speaks the language very well. He says that Jared spoke the language the best out of their MTC group. (I guess all the sleeping during classes at the MTC didn’t affect him too poorly! Learning by osmosis I suppose!)
He describes his typical meals. They sounded pretty American when they cooked for themselves. Oatmeal, etc. for breakfast. (It was funny how he couldn’t come up with the word for Oatmeal—he only knew it in Russian—lots of things are still in Russian apparently.) Lunch-Spaghetti, noodle-y things, Pot Pies, cheese quesadillas. They use Lavash—kind of like tortillas. Now they only have sausage sandwiches in this companionship.
We threw Jared for a little loop when we joked with Jared that they were extending missions to 3 years. Kind of funny to see his reaction. It was like, “Really?? You must be kidding” kind of look. He sure hoped we were kidding.
For birthdays over there, the Mission President gives the elders one of his ties. The sisters get a scarf that the mission president’s wife makes for them.
They typically get 1-2 appointments with investigators every day and the rest of the time is walking around, looking for people to talk to. It sounds like it’s harder right now to meet with people when it’s cold because they’re either inside or they’re trying to get somewhere quickly because it’s so cold outside. It’s not bad in the summers because people are hanging around outside.
They found the YumYum donuts in Yerevan. They are just like American donuts.
His back is not good. He only takes Ibuprofen when it gets bad. Otherwise, he just deals with it. He says that surprisingly he is doing very well, health-wise, besides the back. He had one ear infection, sore throat thing. Everyone else typically has bad stomach issues, at least once a month. He says he has stayed very healthy.
One of his resolutions for the New Year is to open up more to people he meets. They’re always adjusting their goals.
He says that there aren’t typical Church services at the Armenian Church (Really? Hmmmm…). He did say that they stumbled upon an Armenian Church baptism once. They tried to blend in as well as they could. He described the service.
He says he has been waking up on time.
He said there has been a significant drop off in the number of people in their branch this winter because they weren’t getting money for the winter. They’re working on reactivating people. They only have 20 people in their branch at the moment. They have a piano player in the branch so Jared doesn’t play any more.
Jared used to buzz on his trombone mouthpiece everyday at the MTC. But then he had a feeling that he shouldn’t be doing that everyday and that everything would be okay. We then asked Jared about the talent show they had, and Carl joked with Jared, “Did you buzz?” He didn’t know he had told us about the talent show. It wasn’t a typical talent show, more of a joking around kind of thing. He was in some skits. No trombone or piano playing. :(
He said he didn’t need anything. They just got peanut butter in Armenia. He said it is ridiculously expensive. He joked and said that, maybe they’ll buy peanut butter and nothing else and live on peanut butter and water all week. Carl asked about the bread and he says it’s fabulous. It’s made fresh daily and if they get to the market early enough, it may be warm still. It’s not pre-sliced. It’s the best bread he’s ever tasted. Carl said, “So you have something to put the peanut butter on!”
Maddie shared her Christmas presents with Jared, including an incredible penguin quilt that Grandma Chloe made. He loved it. Both Maddie and Jared love penguins.
Grandma and Grandpa Hammer talked for a few minutes. We fiddled around making sure everyone could be seen. Jared asked how they were doing. He asked about their Christmas.
President Carter walked in at that moment. He wished us a Merry Christmas. He said that he loved our missionary and that they are trying to take care of him over there. He wrapped his arm around Jared’s shoulder. He said thank you for raising a wonderful son. After the president left, Jared said he’s a wonderful mission president.
Jared has talked to the new mission secretary, who is a cousin of someone in our ward. She said to say hi back to Brother Johnson.
He’s jealous of our 70 degrees weather. He says it’s just freezing over there. It’s in the negative Celsius weather. He just went on splits up to Charantsavan, where he had been for a week, and he said it was way cold. There was frost on the ground in the mornings. Grandpa told him it was going to get colder. Jared asked him if New York was really cold when he was on his mission. Yeah, it was!
They haven’t moved into the ‘Little America’ apartment. He says his apartment is really small, like the size of our apartment living room here in Santa Monica. He then said that he now knows why I cried when I walked into our very first apartment 21 years ago. (CRaZy Tiny!) He sleeps in the same room as the kitchen. The apartment is just one room.
He was pleasantly surprised to learn that his grandma is sending a box of ties that he can either wear or share. He described a typical haircut there. They do a bowl cut, leave the bangs long and shave the back. He has to adjust his haircut!
Jared took some toy planes with him on his mission. He brings them out when little kids are around. He also pulls out this yo-yo that he found. He described a time last week that he did this. The kids were totally shocked to see the toys! (You should have seen Jared imitating these kids. It was precious!) Apparently they don’t have yo-yo’s usually. He said he tried to show them how to use it and they were shocked. He tried helping them but the 30 times they would try, they would let it drop to the ground each time. When he showed them the plane, the kids used some word he hadn’t heard before. So he wrote it down. “Self Fly” is the interpretation of what they call the airplane (The toy? The actual airplane? I don’t remember!). He says it’s interesting how they put words together.
The one time he used his French over there it didn’t turn out well because he mixed it with Armenian. The more Armenian he learns, the less French he remembers.
He was really good about keeping the time he talks to us within the time limits. He then waved goodbye to us.
We’re glad this worked out!!! Now, only 5 months to wait until we see him again!