Kathy was sad to report this week that she volunteered 3 hours in a Russian Cat House and didn't make a dime. ;-) Ha Ha. The missionaries that are stationed in St. Petersburg all volunteer several hours each week at the Hermitage Museum. They help people who visit the museum to find their way and translate where necessary in various languages.
Each year the Hermitage has an annual Cat Day to honor the cats that all live in the basement of the museum. Cats have lived there since the original construction of the palace to keep the mice out of the palace and now out of the museum. As you can see from the pictures that follow, the basement of the Hermitage Summer Palace is extensive and they have set up a historical record of the cats living in that area.
The people of Russia are very appreciative of the cats because they help preserve this precious record of their time and talents. The Russian Tsars were very fond of their art and would decorate their palaces with ornate decorations. The people of St. Petersburg are very proud of this art because they fought off the German armies and buried many of the artifacts in order to preserve them from the destruction of WWII. After the war they have spend 40 years preserving the buildings and art to represent the treasure of their country and share it with the world. As you have seen through many of our posts, most of the palaces are open for tours and used to teach the children of Russia traditions.
We posted previously on the Hermitage museum itself, noting that it is a world famous museum with priceless art, sculptures, architecture and relics of the times. A definite must see if visiting St. Petersburg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermitage_Museum.
This particular day Kathy was stationed in one of the rooms to help with a scavenger hunt they had for the children. They gave each child a list of paintings, sculptures, etc., that they were to find in the museum. Kathy was stationed by the painting of Adam and Eve. When the kids found the painting she then gave them the next clue to find in the museum. It was a lot of fun for the kids and provided Kathy another opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the Hermitage. Several of the pictures are from the room where Kathy was stationed.
After their time to volunteer, they were allowed to go down into the basement and see the area where the cats lived. As you can see from the pictures it is a normal basement area of a large building, with the exception of all the home areas where the cats live.
They have pictures of the various cats that have lived there and have a keeper of the cat house who is responsible for the welfare of all the cats. Kathy and the other volunteers were allowed to see and pet the cats. She said the cats were actually very appreciative of the attention and it was another rare opportunity to share the culture of Russia with the Russian People.
Kathy and I were extremely busy this week with work and teaching. We also celebrated my birthday last Sunday and served several meals and hosted several teaching visits at our house this week. With our exercise and travels I think we must have walked/run over 30 miles this week and our bodies felt it by today. Kathy and I were both exhausted, as we didn't get home last night until 11:30 from the Metro.
We had a lesson that finished around 9:00 and then we had to take the metro to the other side of town to the store to get groceries for the dinner we were hosting tonight. Then we had to go to another store on the way home that was closer to our apartment to get the heavier groceries because we can't carry everything that far. Tonight (Sunday) after dinner we have another teaching opportunity about 1 hour away from our house at 8:00 pm, so we won't get home until after 10:00 again this evening. We like to use the phrase - we can sleep when we get home from our mission :-).
The picture to the left is amazing because it was taken at 11:00 P.M. In another month we will only have 1 hour of darkness per night. We had an amazing opportunity yesterday to have an area training from Elder Bednar, seven of the area seventies and one of the church presiding bishopric. It was a 4-hour meeting that was amazing to experience. It is fun to be taught by the apostles in these types of settings because you see that they are human just like us and like to joke and laugh as they teach and bare testimony.
The focus is on unity within our church and within our homes and removing all contention. They spoke how the world will continue to see contention across borders, but that we need to stay united with our faith and brotherhood and sisterhood within the gospel. They shared many examples in the Book of Mormon and the Bible where contention was high among families or nations, and it was the leaders and prophets who united the people and then received some of the greatest revelations. We need to stay united in our faith and support of each other throughout the world, regardless of where we live or what political disruption is occuring around our lives. We need to start this unity within our own homes and remove any contention we have within our family members and forgive those who might have wronged us. Then we can move forward in the gospel.
We send our love to each of you and close with a picture of the small home Kathy picked out for us here in Russia. It is near a small park with some lakes, row boats and long trails to take the dogs walking. We think we will just build one of these when we return home to remember our wonderful trip to Russia. Love Bob and Kathy.