Christmas presents

There was a point growing up when I realized that I wouldn’t always be excited to get presents for Christmas. And that made me nervous. Christmas was my favorite holiday, the best time of the year. Without that excitement, Christmas would become just like any other holiday.

If you asked me why I liked Christmas so much back then, I would have replied with a faithful/dutiful, “Because Jesus.” I’d gone to church my whole life and I knew what I was supposed to say, but the real reason I loved Christmas was because of PRESENTS (duh).

I’m not sure why I got excited for presents. I can’t remember ever getting anything really great as a kid (sorry, parents). But I think it was the excitement of having a surprise waiting in a package, a surprise that had been chosen just for me, something that my parents thought I would like or that I had asked them for (I never believed in Santa Claus – sorry, kids).

That excitement to get those special Christmas gifts started creeping in during mid-November, then steadily built after Thanksgiving when we started watching Christmas movies and eating massive amounts of junk food, and culminated the night before Christmas,  keeping me awake until morning when it was finally time to open those presents.

The rush of excitement to open Christmas presents was the best, most important part of Christmas!

But what would happen when I grew up and became old like my parents? Us kids never got them anything for Christmas. Did they even get excited for Christmas? Maybe they did, but I was sure any excitement they felt couldn’t compare to the euphoric, sleep-depriving excitement I felt.

Sure enough, now that I’m older, Christmas has changed. I still get excited for Christmas every year, but it’s for different reasons than before (and some of the same reasons too).

I’m excited to have neighbors and friends supplying me with a bottomless pile of holiday cookies and candy.

I’m excited to open presents even if it’s just empty boxes (tearing wrapping paper off of stuff is really satisfying).

I’m excited to see Christmas lights because, honestly, I like shiny things.

I’m excited to surprise family and friends with presents that I’ve picked out just for them.

I’m excited to hear Christmas carols because even though they have different words, they all sing about the same thing.

And I’m excited to refocus on Jesus Christ. Even though I didn’t understand what I was saying when I was younger, I really believe it now.

Christmas isn’t a time to just tell the story of a baby born in a stable. It’s the time to tell the story of a man who lived a very humble life: born in a dirty stable, raised as a poor carpenter, spending his whole life with the sick and poor whom he taught and healed, then being rejected and killed by those same people whom he taught and healed, and willingly doing it all because of love.

When he died, he did it for each of us, to help each individual. He died to give me gifts he’s chosen and prepared just for me: healing, hope, and love.

Now, because I understand the true meaning of Christmas, I can be excited everyday, not just during Christmastime.

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Yayayayayay!

How to go to a Russian banya

Stripped naked + stuck in a hot room + drowned in ice water + beat with leaves = a Russian banya.

Banyas are the Russian version of saunas, except they make you want to die while you’re in them. They’re real great when it’s all finished, though.

There are three general areas of the banya: the hot room, the cold room, and the hangout room.

In the hot room, the temperature rises above 150°F (70°C) and the humidity reaches 80% or higher, so you just sit and sweat and sweat and sweat. Because you’re sweating so much, you’re supposed wear nothing but a pair of slippers and a felt hat. The hat protects your head from getting too hot and the slippers prevent you from slipping because the floor and your feet are covered in water and sweat.

Sitting there, your heart starts beating hecka fast and you start breathing like you’re running a marathon.

As if that’s not bad enough, you’re also supposed to hit yourself (or have a friend hit you) with a bushel of birch leaves because #Russia.

But slow down there, Turbo! If you’re new to the banya world, don’t sit in the hot room longer than 10 minutes or you’ll pass out and wake up naked on the floor surrounded by Russians. This isn’t a Ke$ha music video, so pace yourself.

After the hot room, you’re supposed to drench your body in ice-cold water. According to Russian folk wisdom, anything involving ice water and buckets is healthy. The idea here is that the hot room opens up your pores and the cold water closes them, squeezing out any nastiness inside.

To cover yourself in ice water you can 1) jump into a pool of ice water (terrible), 2) lay in a tub of ice water (also terrible), or 3) dump ice water on your head (really terrible). If none of these options are available, just go outside and roll in the snow (which is terrible too).

After this hot/cold torture, you’ll go to the hangout room and relax. Take 15 minutes to recover, then go back in and do the hot/cold process all over again. Repeat four times or until you pass out (but remember that I don’t recommend that option).

Afterward, you’ll feel very refreshed. Your blood has circulated through your whole body, you’ve sweated a lot of junk from your system, and the combination of hot and cold leaves your skin with a nice crackly feeling.

But you’ll also be very very tired. You basically just ran a couple marathons and did five ice bucket challenges, so just go to the closest donut shop and chill for the rest of the day (there’s a Krispy Kreme right off of Red Square).

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Pro tips:

-Banyas are supposed to be a social event, so bring a friend if you can. Otherwise you’ll just be that weird naked guy sitting in the corner alone (as opposed to that cool naked guy surrounded by his closest naked friends).

-In between hot/cold sessions, instead of going to the hangout room, if you can find a big tub of warm water to chill in, do it. I did and it was one of the most relaxing things of my life.

-The most authentic banyas are the ones at people’s summer homes. So if you want the real experience, just go into the middle of the countryside, find a stranger’s house, and crawl into their banya!

-If you don’t feel like playing Goldilocks with a stranger’s banya or are stuck in the city, I recommend Sanduny in Moscow. The prices there range from pretty cheap to pretty expensive. I did something in-between and it only cost me $40 (because the exchange rate was bomb). It would have been $10-$15 cheaper if I’d brought my own slippers, hat, and birch branch, though, so if you want to save money, buy those things before coming to the banya (you can find them at a grocery store).

Here’s a video I made right after I went in January!!!!!

“Having Cats Gives You Superpowers” — Syfy Channel Original Movie Idea

So, with all the views my blog has been getting (I can’t tell you how many because I can’t conceive a number higher than 100, which is probably my bank account’s fault), I’ve been determined to maintain the integrity of the Gordy(Gordy)Blog. Just because people want to hear about cats doesn’t mean I’m gonna make the blog all about cats.

But this opportunity is just too golden and if they can turn some Twitter posts into a movie, then maybe this post can come to the (small) screen too. I think Syfy Channel would do a good job with it.

The IDEA of the movie is that having cats gives you superpowers (like, superhero powers come from cats) and that all those crazy cat ladies out there are really people the cats have selected to be superheroes.

The story:

So there’s this girl and she’s just a normal girl with a normal life and a boyfriend or whatever. But then one day her boyfriend leaves her and she’s WAY bummed about it.

But then this cat starts following her around and she’s not really a “cat person,” but she’s so lonely she lets it come home with her. The cat is smart and kind and becomes her best friend. Also, the more time the girl spends with the cat, she is able to think clearer (like, solve crossword puzzles and Sudoku better) and she realizes that hanging out with the cat makes her smarter. Like, it gives her super-intelligence.

Anyway, she’s living with this cat and it’s just whatever (aside from the super-intelligence stuff) until one day she comes home from work and her apartment’s FILLED with cats. And she says to the first cat (you HAVE TO put this in the movie), “I said you could live here, I didn’t say anything about your friends!” But she lets them stay.

So with more cats, she gets more powers (like, a superpower for every cat): agility, kung fu, laser vision, flying, etc/whatever. And one day she realizes, “Whoa, I’m a superhero,” and she goes out saving people and stuff.

So people think she’s just a weird cat lady, but she’s actually a superhero. She’s not Catwoman. Like, she doesn’t wear a suit with cat ears and stuff. She’s just a superhero who gets all her powers from cats.

I honestly don’t know if this is the same exact plot as “Catwoman” or whatever, but all these are my original thoughts and Syfy Channel makes AMAZING movies. Please make it. Please.

Here’s a video I put on YouTube a couple months ago. I made it at, like, 2 in the morning. There are some discrepancies between the story then and now but this is still important.

Dear Future Russian Missionary

I remember when I got my call to serve as a Mormon missionary in Russia. My literal thought was, “Seriously? I’ll go, but I’m gonna die.”

When I submitted my mission papers, of course there were places I would have liked to serve — England, Australia, SPAIN (ugh, little brothers) — but I was okay serving anywhere. I didn’t have very many friends on missions, so I didn’t have to compare whether or not I was going some place “cool.” I was okay serving anywhere — EXCEPT Russia or Asia (which, ironically …). The cultures of those places didn’t interest me and the languages seemed impossible to learn (which, ironically …).

So when I got the call, I called my twin sister Meredith (who was graduated from college and married and pregnant and WE’RE NOT REALLY TWINS) and our conversation was basically, “Russia for two years … that sucks.”

But I knew the call was from God. The Russian people needed the gospel just like everyone else on the planet, even if they had a weird culture and language.

As I prepared to enter the MTC everyone had something to say about what life as a Russian missionary would be like:

“They don’t like Americans over there.”

“You’re going to see poverty like you’ve never seen before.”

“They don’t smile over there.”

“The people are hard to crack, but they’re real nice on the inside.”

“They’re all communists over there.”

“You’re going to be in the MTC for 12 weeks?!” — it’s 9 weeks now — “That’s torture!”

“You won’t get a whole lot of baptisms over there.”

Or my favorite from a lady who captured everything she knew about Russia in one sentence: “Cold Russian wind blowing through Red Square … Stalin!”

None of this really scared or surprised me since I already figured I might die. But the only piece of useful advice I got came from brother-in-law who’d actually served his mission in Russia. He told me to go without any preconceived assumptions. I didn’t know what it would be like to live outside the US or be a missionary, so it was better to figure my new life out as it happened than to expect the best or the worst.

And he was right! There was so much on my mission I saw and experienced that I would have overlooked if I had been expecting to see something else.

For example, on the bus from the airport to the US embassy, I saw real Russians walking down the street, laughing and smiling, holding hands and talking. These weren’t the tough-to-crack, communist drones I’d heard about. They were real people who laughed and smiled just like Americans. If I had only expected to see unsmiling faces and unhappy people, I wouldn’t have noticed their smiles.

Russia was a lot safer (although still crazy) than I expected it to be. My previous notion of dying on my mission had been based more on ignorance than bravery.

And when you get down to it, everybody who told me about Russia had never actually been there (everyone except my brother-in-law). Everything they knew about Russia, they’d learned from Cold War politics (which are still alive) and James Bond movies (which are also still alive). They knew as much about Russia as you do right now.

So prepare yourself by being willing to see what very few Americans will ever see or believe: that Russians are normal people.

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Rant #1 in the series Rants About Russia.

If you have any questions about serving in Russia (what to pack, etc.), hmu on my contacts page. I’ll be posting more about it too.

Sporty Gordy

“Have you ever played baseball?”

“No.”

“But you are American!”

NOW Taiwan Dad was asking the hard questions. It hadn’t been so hard for him to recruit me onto his softball team.

He’d called earlier in the week and asked, “Gordy, can you come to my softball game this Saturday?”

I replied, “Will there be food? — I mean, yes.” I think watching sports is boring, but Taiwan Dad is literally one of the coolest people, so I figured I could bring a book and yell, “Go sports!” between chapters.

It wasn’t until later that I realized he wanted me to PLAY on his softball team.

“I’m not good at all,” I warned him later that night. “I can’t play softball.”

“That’s okay, we are all old men. Nobody is good.”

But I didn’t know how to explain to him how bad I am at sports (ALL SPORTS). Maybe I should have explained that a newborn deer learning to walk has better coordination than me. Or that a seal working for fish is more capable of catching a ball than me. Or that in a game of one-on-one between me and a double amputee, I would lose.

This is ACTUAL FOOTAGE of me playing sports:

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But the problem is that most everyone says they’re “not very good” at sports, so when people like me say they’re not good at all, everyone figures, “They’re average.”

I didn’t want to be a bad host son, though, so I kept my promise to go to Taiwan Dad’s softball game. I’d had really patient roommates in college who convinced me to play basketball with them on a regular basis. Even though I never really improved (the only things I was good at were blocking and pantsing people), I’d learned to be a good sport about being bad at sports. I just felt bad for Taiwan Dad and his team, sure that they thought of me as their ace in the hole, the American import for their softball team.

I quickly dispelled that fantasy. After failing to catch the first 20 throws during our warm-up, Taiwan Dad looked like he finally believed me when I claimed to not be good at softball. I was surrounded by men older than me who’d been playing baseball all their lives (baseball is the #1 sport in Taiwan) and here I was learning to catch a ball.

I didn’t want to be bad; I wanted to surprise myself and be good. But I don’t think it’s in me; my dad was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps, so I think dodging things falling from the sky is in my blood.

I hoped after our warm-up that I’d be dismissed and could enjoy the game from the cheering section (as I originally intended), but they were short on players, so they kept me in. Luckily, I’d done my job well enough that they put me in far-right field. They said that area of the field got the least amount of action and they were correct.

Unfortunately, softball isn’t just standing out in a field by yourself. Occasionally, everyone on the team has to take a turn at bat. I, of course, missed every pitch EXCEPT one. When I hit it, I ran as fast as I could from base to base and managed to get my team a point (or score/goaling/inning/whatever). I thought that might be my turning point in the game. Now I would hit every other ball and maybe catch one in outfield!

But I didn’t. I never hit another ball.

The team was very nice, though, and not just fake nice, either. Guys can get real upset about sports, but these guys kept high-fiving me, took pictures with me, and even asked me how to say certain baseball terms in English (of course, the only baseball terms I know are base and ball). Some even told me they respected me for having a good attitude even though I sucked so bad. It’s just another testament to the niceness of Taiwanese people.

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In the end, my team lost, which I think was my fault (apparently, actually hitting the ball and scoring points is important), but I felt good about myself afterward. I’d tried something I’d never done before and even though I sucked balls (appropriate in this situation, right?), people still liked me. And I got a good blog post out of it.

I hated Japan.

McKay AhPing is not me, but I guilted him into writing this post. If you want to write for Gordy(Gordy)Blog (travel tips or photos, funny stories, etc.), send me a message on the contact page.

Now that you’re reading my blog, let me tell you how amazing Japan is!

 

Imagine a world where crime doesn’t exist.

Hint: This world doesn’t include Washington, D.C.

 

 Imagine a world where fat people can just say they’re training for a sumo match.

 

 

Imagine a world where your train floats on magnets.

 

Imagine a world where your butt gets more pampered than your face.

Hint: This isn’t the Clinton Presidential Library/Massage Parlor.

 

 Imagine a world where common people treat you like a dignitary.

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Hint: This isn’t Jersey.

 

Imagine a world where prison, cat, and maid cafes deploy their hoochies to lure you in.

Imagine a world where Hello Kitty comes in breakfast form.

Imagine a world where everyone else is so formal they make you feel like a slob.

You’re wearing jeans? Ew.

 

 Imagine a world without children.

Birthrate: -1.4 and falling.

 

Imagine a world that blurs the lines between dreams and reality.

Imagine a world where you can reserve a karaoke room like you can a restaurant table.

Imagine a world where people can become Christmas decorations.

Imagine a world where you’re blinded by flashiness.

Imagine a world where fashion comes first. Then work. Then video games. Then maybe family.

Hint: This isn’t Wal-Mart.

Imagine a world with both chaos and perfect order at the same time.

Imagine a world where ancient meets modern.

Imagine a world where gamers come out of their mothers’ basements.

Imagine a world where cat ears are socially acceptable.

“Im on the right track, baby, I was born this way.”

Imagine a world full of ramen, curry, sashimi, and sushi.

Imagine a world where your toughest choice is which Coke machine to use.

Imagine a world of both excitement and zen.

Imagine a world of ancient trees and holy forests.

Imagine a world where heaven meets earth.

Hint: This isn’t Utah.

 

Imagine dat.

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To find out about cities around the world, visit McKay’s blog WhatToExpectIn.blogspot.com.

King Hong Kong

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This weekend I visited Hong Kong, which was named after King Kong, the sister city to Hong Zilla, named after Godzilla.

Hong Kong is a peninsula and several islands off the coast of China. The peninsula is called Kowloon and the mountainous area above that is called the New Territories. Actual Hong Kong is an island right off of Kowloon. It’s REALLY close, like, Coronado-to-San Diego close. Aside from that, there’s another big island called Lantau (that’s where the airport and Hong Kong Disney are) and other small islands.

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(Image from ~~Google~~)

Hong Kong is its own city-state, formerly a province owned by England. In the 1990’s, it was “returned” to China, but it’s basically a sovereign nation. You don’t need a visa to visit and it’s pretty western because of the British influence.

I don’t LOVE cities. They’re too crowded, loud, and dirty, but Hong Kong changed my mind. Kowloon isn’t very clean, but the islands (at least Hong Kong and Lantau) are kept very clean considering how many people live there. Also, Hong Kong is so full of people that there are multiple levels of sidewalks to accommodate the crowds. As a result, it doesn’t feel very crowded.

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As with everything British, everything here was named after Queen Victoria.

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Victoria Peak.

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Victoria Harbor. (~~DARN I’m lookin’ fly~~)

Victoria Park, Victoria Secret, blah blah blah. It was British once WE GET IT. (So was King Kong a British king?)

But it was also very Asian. I mean, it’s in Asia, right?

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However, I expected there to be more English-speakers since Hong Kong was once a British colony, but there seemed to be just as many as there are in Taiwan. But I got by. The signs helped.

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I was really looking forward to going to the beach. Even though I’m terrified of sharks and other sea creatures, the California in me loves water. Hong Kong’s beaches did not disappoint.

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The beach even gave me tips on avoiding shark attacks. That means it was a really safe beach, right?

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(What exactly is a shark-like object?)

Even though I expected Hong Kong to be a gross Asian city, it was pretty clean and great! I loved it and actually want to visit again. Here’s a sick vid I made of my visit:

 

I explain my relationship with cats

I’m gonna come clean and let you all know what I really think about cats. It all starts two years ago.
Two years ago, I had a great idea for a party. I realized the only reason people come to parties is to eat food (duhhhhhhh), so I had the idea to throw a food-themed party (basically, I’ll bring some food, you bring some food and we’ll eat it — genius party idea!!).
Also two years ago, I’d just gotten a space phone. I’d gotten into the habit of writing my great ideas in my new phone, which had the futuristic ability to turn human speech into text. BUTT, with this talk-to-text technology, you had to say “comma” if you wanted to insert a comma.
Anyway, so I was real excited about this cool food party idea and I wanted it to be written in all capital letters, so I said to my space phone: “ALL CAPS FOOD PARTY.” Unfortunately or fortunately (you be the judge), my space phone didn’t understand quite what I was trying to say, so it wrote, “Cat food party.” I thought, “Lol,” dropped the “food” idea, and just kept “cat party.”
I threw an OFF.THE.CHAIN cat party, complete with a kitty litter cake, decorated with random cat items I found at thrift stores (like stuffed animals and figurines), a raucous game of pin the cat on the cat lady, and an hour’s worth of cat videos. Everyone loved and enjoyed.
I swear it’s a cake.
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Cat face paint, pin the cat on the cat lady.

 

After that, I guess people thought I really, really liked cats. I started getting at least 10 cat videos/pictures shared on my Facebook wall daily and people would make jokes about me turning into a cat lady. Since I thought it was funny and since I “lack a noticeable personality” (according to some jerk from Tinder), I took the cat lady persona and ran with it.
An old FB status. Obviously digging myself into a hole.

I mean, things got out of hand and I regret it now. I followed more cats than people on Instagram (like Grumpy Cat, Colonel Meow, Lil Bub, Hamilton the Hipster Cat, okay I’m gonna stop now). I shared a lot of cat pictures and videos. People started giving me cat T-shirts. One Christmas, literally everyone in my family gave me cat things for gifts (books, posters, aprons). Random people at work started showing me pictures of their cats.  But I guess that’s just life.

This was my Halloween costume last year, so I haven’t really been helping myself.

I’ve been working on distancing myself from cats. I haven’t shared a cat picture in four days. I haven’t worn a cat shirt in over a week. And I haven’t thrown a cat party in five months. So it’s getting better.

I’m not saying cats aren’t good people, butt I’ll admit they’re hard to get along with a lot of the time. They’re just really distant and only want to cuddle, like, 2% of the time. But they can be cute and I’ve made friends with some.
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Cat the Cat. She’s lived with my family for 16 years. I know she’s indifferent, but I LOVE her.

 

Me and a kitten my lil bro found.
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Me and a cat that lived outside my apartment for a week (named him Secret Stranger).
I know this might be SHOCKING to a lot of you, butt I had to clear up the misconception.

Picture vomit: Taiwan

These are some pics I took of some places I went during my last week in Taiwan. 😉
Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple
After being in the big city for two weeks, it was nice to bust out and get into nature. We (my fellow white American teachers and I) were able to visit rural areas, including this temple on a secluded lake in the foothills of Taiwan. The grounds are pritt, the temple is made from granite and jade with super cool carvings, and there’s a stairway with 365 steps leading down to the lake (one step for every day of the year). You gotta check it out.
View of the lake from the temple.

Steps leading down to Sun Moon Lake.
Took the liberty of taking a shot with my birthday stair.
Alishan
The word “shan” in Mandarin Chinese means “mountain,” so Alishan just means Ali Mountain. This mountain is part of the mountain range that creates the spine of Taiwan. It’s a real popular place for peeps to come and watch the sunrise. Just be sure to bring a jacket or sweater so you’re warm enough. Also, bring running shoes so you can appreciate the scenery on a jaunty little morning run.
View from up top.
The forest.
The beach!
I got my fingers in this pic for artistic purposes.
Honestly, I don’t love Ocean (because sharks and fish), but when it’s hot and humid outside and you haven’t been swimming in three weeks, it feels pretty good to put on some jaunty European swim trunks and dip in water for a bit. We took our tour bus down to Kenting, which is a party destination on the southern coast of Taiwan. We swam in the evening and partied all night. It was trick.
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#nightlife
Crowds block traffic because #nightlife.
So these were my some neat places places in Taiwan. I appreciated them.

Why it’s worth going to Russia.

Almost six years ago today, I got my mission call to serve in Russia. When I first realized I would be serving in Russia, I was like, “Crap. Russia.” I didn’t want to go to Russia. The language seemed super hard, the culture and history didn’t seem very interesting, the people never smiled, and I knew it would be a challenge living in a country that had no technology, not even have cars or indoor plumbing.

When I got there in November 2009, I started learning what Russia was actually like.

No technology
First, there ARE cars and indoor plumbing. Before I went to Russia, I thought horses were still the main mode of transportation (the only things I knew about Russia, I’d learned from Fiddler on the Roof and Anastasia, so can you blame me????), but after being in Russia for a day I quickly realized that cars, indoor plumbing, and even light bulbs are just as common in Russia as they are in America. In fact, the biggest cities and tallest buildings I’ve ever seen are in Russia, so it is definitely just as modern and developed as America.



Unfriendly people
Everyone in America told me that Russians never smiled and were a pretty tough people to befriend. HOWEVER, some of the FIRST THINGS I saw in Russia were couples walking outside holding hands and SMILING, friends walking around together and SMILING, and people just looking like normal people, not like the communist robots I’d heard about. I realized that most of the Americans who’d told me about Russia had never actually been there, so how would they know what Russians are actually like?

Climate
Russia is effing cold. I had heard the word “cold” before my mission, but never actually knew what it meant. I’d lived in California basically my whole life, so the coldest I’d ever felt was, like, 32°F. When I got to Russia, winter was just starting, so it was 32ish°, which I thought was the coldest it could ever be. I was so cold, I wore two scarves: one for my neck and the other for my face. People told me I looked like a Muslim woman.

They’d laugh and say, “You know it’s going to get colder, right?” and I’d laugh and say, “That’s not even possible, right?” But it did get colder. The coldest I ever felt was -40° (which is where Fahrenheit and Celsius meet), but that wasn’t typical. -5°F to -15°F was pretty normal. Cold, but livable.

I learned to enjoy the cold, so much so that when I went back to Russia after my mission, I made sure to go during the winter. To me, Russia isn’t Russia if your nose hairs don’t freeze.

Hard language
Yeah, Russian’s hard, at least for me, no getting around that. The alphabet only takes, like, two weeks to learn, but actually speaking the language sucks butt. However, I think being able to understand is much more important than being able to express yourself. Listening for the few words I understood and paying attention to context went a long way in helping me understand what people were saying to me. And, since I had a mission companion, I could rely on him to say what needed to be said.

So the language is daunting, but it isn’t everything.

Uninteresting history and culture
So Russians may not be the cold-hearted people that Americans make them out to be, but they certainly have a colorful history. They’ve existed as a people for nearly 1,000 years, so of course they’ve had some super interesting stuff happen. They were invaded by Huns, they drove the Huns out, they had fake tsars the people elected, they had real tsars the people killed, they had fake tsars they elected then decided to kill, they have beautiful literature and art, they had communism, they sent the first man into space, they had Stalin, they have Putin, and BORIS NEMTSOV WAS SHOT FIVE DAYS AGO OH MY GOSH WHERE IS THE TRUTH AT? So, interesting stuff.

Of course, I didn’t know a lot of this while I was actually living in Russia since I was busy doing the WORK OF THE LORD, but I learned it in college after and it explained a lot of what I’d seen on my mission. So definitely take a Russian history course if you get the chance, especially if you’ve been to Russia before and you’re wondering “What the eff???”

So I ended up having a blast in Russia. I finished my mission three and a half years ago, but I really wanted to go back, so that brings us to the next part of this story ….

Saucy pants

Okay people, so I thought I’d try the thing where I try to teach y’all how to make food again, but this time, I decided to do something that I legitly know how to cook.

Tomato sauce is something that I eat sometimes. It can go on pasta, lasagna, or homemade pizza (but I’d use less warter in the sauce if I made a pizza).

I learned how to make my own sauce when I was in the Russia. We always bought tomato paste, so I learned by ear how to mix the right amount of water and spices to make the perfect sauce. And this sauce is perfect. You start with a tiny can of tomato paste and end up with a whole ton of suited-to-you tomato sauce. Look at you, fancy pants.

Turn this …

 

… into food.

 

Ingredients

6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 cup water
A fistful of onion (about 1/4 of a large-ish onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 Tablespoon basil
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teapsoon pepper

Step 1: The onion

Onions are the basis of taste in so much food. They’re a staple to basically any stove-top recipe. A lot of the flavor in soup, sauce, and stir fry recipes is dependent on the onion. If you’re cooking something and it’s lacking that flavorful boom chicka chicka, chances are you’re missing your onion (or garlic, but that comes later).

Start by peeling your onion. Onions are like ogres: they have layers. The top layer (or two) is papery — you don’t want that. Peel it off and throw it away. The layer beneath that is rubbery. You don’t want that either; throw it away. The layers beneath that should be crisp and easy to cut through: that’s what you want. (This may be “duh” to some of you, but having lived exclusively with guys for the past four years, I know that things like this aren’t always intuitive.) Cut a quarter out of your onion and chop it into baby pieces (like, a quarter the size of a french fry or smaller). Throw it into a pan greased with cooking spray, oil, or butter. Heat it to a quarter or half heat. Cook until the onion pieces start to become transparent. You don’t want them to turn brown or crispy-looking.

I used red onions, butt it doesn’t matter.

Step 2: The sauce

While that’s cooking (you can do this step while the onions are cooking if you keep your eyes on them), y’all need to mizz your water with your tomato paste. Dump the insides of your can of tomato paste into a big-ish bowl (like, a big cereal bowl, nothin’ huge, though). Once you did this, dump that 1 cup of warter on top. Mix with a fork (or hand) and you’ll get a saucy mizzture.
It looks like tomato poop lol.
Tomato diarrhea!

Step 3: Get the Spice Girls

Next, you’re gonna want to flavor your sauce. You can just pour the seasonings into the bowl with your tomato-paste-now-tomato-sauce.

1 1/2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder: Like onions, garlic powder is a necessary part of ANYTHING tasting good. Life would be so bland without it. I hear tell it’s more flavorful than actual garlic but doesn’t make your breath smell abhorrent. Wow. If you cook something, but it’s lacking something, throw some extra garlic powder in to fix it.

1/2 tablespoon of Basil: A delicate herb, it’ll make the sauce taste fresh.

1 1/2 teaspoons of Oregano: Given my extensive knowledge of Italian cooking, I can say that oregano is THE Italian spice. Your tomato sauce won’t taste like tomato sauce without it. Likewise, if you ever has a pizza that needs a pick-me-up, sprinkle some oregano on it.

1 teaspoon of Salt: Not too much, but just the right amount with make all the other flavors come out (#everysundayschoollessonever).

1/4 teaspoon of Pepper: Packs a punch that your sauce will be boring without.

Mixzz all the seasonings with your tomato sauce and stick your finger in it to see if it tastes how you want. #magic

Step 4: Mixzz

Pour your bowl of seasoned sauce into the pan of now-cooked onions and heat until the sauce is warm. Then put it on pasta and eat it.

You turned a tiny can of tomato paste into a panful of tomato sauce. That’s a big deal, saucy pants.

So this is a super easy recipe that’ll save you all the monies in the world and allow you to make a sauce that really speaks to you. Obviously, you can add anything to it that you want (like cooked ground beef or veggies). Is this great or what?