I hope you have had an amazing Christmas Holiday and are excited for a new year to start lots of new resolutions that will probably only last a week or two. But seriously, it is such a great time of the year to evaluate your accomplishments from the previous year and set some goals for improvement, etc. I'm excited for the fresh start at least, especially since it will be in Albania!
As far as travel plans for me, last Wednesday after I sent my email we got our travel plans. We were so excited! But this week we got new travel plans which pushed our departure day back one day. So now we leave on Wednesday, January 6th. I'm actually greatful for the extra day! So we leave the MTC at 3am and catch a 6am flight to LAX then we fly to Washington DC, then to Vienna, Austria (I'm excited cause I've never been there!) and then to Tirana, Albania. We arrive there on Jan at 12:30 in the afternoon. So we have a pretty long travel time, but we are so excited!
Christmas here was amazing! For Christmas Eve we had a devotional with music and some talks and testimonies. Music ranged from an Elder playing a song on the bagpipes, to Seour Elizabeth Smart playing a gorgeous solo on the harp, to an MTC version of the 12 days of Christmas (super fun!) After the devotional my roommates and I came back to our room and Sister Steck painted all our faces. She used to be a professional face painter and she is amazing. I can't wait for you to see the pictures. Then we moved all 6 mattresses in our room to the floor so there was no walking space and then we attempted to fly over the mattresses. I'll leave it at that, I don't want everyone to know exactly how childish we may have been acting. It was great fun though! We ended the night by singing some hymns together and sharing our testimonies of the Savior!
Christmas morning was fabulous! At our morning devotional Brother Angus gave Sister Peatross and I front and center seats again. Sister Yourstone had to sit with Elder Smith because they were both offering the prayers for the devotional. I'm quite greatful to not have had to pray because I would have been way to nervous. The speaker was Elder L. Tom Perry, and he gave a wonderful talk on the Savior. I happened to be sitting by his youngest daughter and her family, so I got to chat with her briefly, which was neat. Our next big Christmas activity was the Talent Show that I think I briefly mentioned last week. I ended up in a quartet of two singers and violin and me on the piano. They were all going to Chili, but I knew the violinist, Beth Jarrett, from my USU ward. Anyway, we performed O Holy Night, which I love to play so it wasn't a big deal, until we got into the auditorium with over 2000 people listening to you, and a huge camera projecting your face onto the megatron screen. I think this is why I went for an accounting degree instead of music performance or something like that. Actually, it wasn't that bad, and we had a lot of fun. There were some pretty interesting talents including: an Elder who did this slow motion/graceful robot/break dancing to "I like to Look for Rainbows" (the primary song), an Elder who made the Roadrunner cartoon out of balloons (like the clown guys), and our MTC President Smith played the Harmonica. That definitely was a big hit because we all kind of see him as this serious guy. Anyway, it was really fun, and it was the first annual (and possibly last ever) MTC talent show, so it was cool to be here for it!
Our evening devotional on Christmas was put on by Greg Olsen (he is a famous painter, you can probably google him). He showed us some of his artwork of the Savior and talked about it, and that was cool. No surprise, he is in Sister Peatross's home ward, so afterwards we got to go talk to him and his family.
On Sunday in Relief Society we had Sister Barbara Thompson from the General Relief Society Presidency. She is so awesome, and so down-to-earth. I loved her talk about her mission to Germany over 30 years ago and how she now has to relearn her German so that she can go back over there with President Uchtdorf in a couple months for a huge country conference.
So Monday this week was quite an adventure. Our District got called down to the travel office and were given our new flight plans. They then told us that we all need our birth certificates. That isn't a problem for most everyone because they were born in Utah (even Elder Castro-Guzman), but of course the coolest people (me and Sister Yourstone) were born in New York, so we had to make arrangements to get ours sent to us. So thank you so much to the Hardcastles and Mom for taking care of everything to get my Birth Certificate to me. And Brock, it was so exciting to talk to you for like 2 minutes! Anyway, back to the story, since all the Utah babies needed their certificates, we got to take a district field trip to the outside world...the Provo County buildings. We got dropped off there and were wandering around like total lost confused people. Of course Sister Peatross tried to take charge (but she has been sick for like a week and doesn't have a voice, which hasn't been that bad of a thing, J/k) and she has no fear of asking people for directions. So she leads us to one building after another and she even led us into the Marriage Licence office to ask for directions. I about died of embarrassment because of course we all have our tags on and people know who we are. Anyway, we had a good laugh about it, and finally found the place for everyone to get there Utah birth certificate copies. But our van had left us, and we had no phone or anything. So Sister Peatross asks some random guy to borrow his phone. It turns out he was waiting to see his Parole Officer, but he let us borrow his phone. Anyway, it was quite the adventure.
I'm so excited to go to Albania! I can't wait to get out there and share the gospel. I know that the Church is true and that we have a loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers!
I love you all and thanks for all you support, prayers, letters, and packages. You are amazing!