My first full week here in the country has been awesome! Here are some highlights from my week:

We started off the week by going to the church to pick up some flyers that we were going to hand out for the English class that we offer and we found that the church had been broken into. Apparently this has happened before. Last time they had broken lots of stuff and destroyed and scattered all the paperwork in the Branch President’s office. This time they just broke into a couple offices and busted the doors and broke some glass. They did steal the amp to the microphone in the chapel, but other than that we were pretty lucky.

I finally got my first opportunities to go tracting this week. The first door we finally got into was pretty interesting. The older woman who answered the door tried to close the door on us but her husband came up and said, “Come in! Sit down!” So we did. He said he was Muslim, but as are most everyone here, not a practicing Muslim. We chatted with him briefly, or rather Motra Bentley chatted with him, and then she taught him the overview lesson that tells them a little about the church. Then we prayed with them and gave them a pamphlet. All Albanian people always feed you when you are in their home, so he kept making his wife get us candy and cut us up an apple and get us Coke and on and on. We told him we were okay, but he kept insisting. His wife really didn’t want to and we could tell she didn’t want us there. The only thing she really said was that I looked like her daughter-in-law, so she pinched my face and kept staring at me. Motra Bentley finally told him that we had to leave for another appointment, and he told us, but I want you to stay and watch TV with us. Then he said, “Well whenever you are in the area or whenever you want just call us and we’ll make you your favorite soup and you can come over. You are like the daughters I never had.” Anyway, that was my first time in a door, and it wasn’t so bad, mostly just funny to me.

Motra Bentley and I tried our hand at cooking this week. She is about as much of a cook as I am so it was pretty interesting. We made this traditional soup that is really good called Fasule. Fasule in English means “beans” and well, the soup is just beans and onions. It sounds simple but it is quite delicious. You have to soak the beans overnight and then cook them in the pressure cooker for a couple hours. Our first try at it we burned the beans in the pressure cooker and ended up picking up a pizza for lunch and just tossing out that whole batch. But batch two the next day was delicious. Especially with the fresh bread from the “walk-through” bread shop window. Don’t worry I’m getting more than enough food. Food here in Albania is SUPER cheap. Like a fresh loaf of bread is 65 cents and when we go to District lunch at a nice restaurant the bill for both of us is like $12. And of course we always have bread, Nuttella, and Muesli (Granola cereal) on hand at the apartment.

My favorite story of the week occurred again with Vera, the old lady I talked about last week where I had my very first lesson. She is just hilarious and I think it is because of her family. She lives with her husband, Petrit, her like 95 year-old mother and her daughter who is in her like 40’s but is severely depressed, but she is the only member. This week we went to an appointment at her house, but she wasn’t there. Petrit said she would be home soon, and he was working with a repair man in the bathroom, so he shut us in the bedroom with the 95 year old grandma. The grandma started in on us that we just need to leave and come back, etc. We just smiled at her and nodded our heads and eventually she just crawled in her bed and layed there like she does most of the whole day anyway. Finally Petrit came in and started talking to us. He asked me a little about myself, but he made Motra Bentley translate everything, even though I was talking in Albanian. Like he asked my name and I told him and then he put his ear closer to me and so I repeated it and he shhh-ed me and told Motra Bentley to translate. She was just trying to hold in the laughter. He left and then came back and we had the exact same conversation and he made Motra Bentley translate everything again. He must have some kind of memory problems. Then he started telling me that Motra Bentley is so wonderful. “She is loving. She is smart. She is Correct.” After each thing he said he would wait and command Motra Bentley “Translate.” Then he said something to me, and I didn’t quite understand because his accent is pretty crazy cause he is missing most of his teeth. Motra Bentley hesitated to translate this last phrase he said to me, and so he told her, “Just say it. It is okay, it is true.” And Motra Bentley translated to me that he said to me, “But you are a cold person.” He said of Motra Bentley, “She is very correct. She sleeps here. She eats here. She cleans here. She is like my daughter. But you are just like this…” And then he stood straight up with his hands glued to his side and his head straight forward and stiff, and pretended to imitate me. It was all Motra Bentley and I could do to keep from busting out in laughter. I know usually I’m really sensitive, but I just thought it was hilarious that he thinks I am a cold person. Probably just because I’m super quiet because I rarely know what is being said and I never have anything to say cause I still hardly know the language. Oh the stories I have already collected from visits to Vera’s house. I could continue, but I’ll spare you all.

Some cultural lessons/facts for this week:

We went to pay our utility bills this week, and I witnessed the most interesting thing. There was only one person working at the counter, but there were two lines that were feeding to this one window. One was a line of men and the other women. I haven’t noticed this anywhere else we go, but they were definitely sexist here. There is no written rule it just is how it is. Motra Bentley is totally against stuff that segregates men and women, so I got in the woman line but she got in the man line. She was there for about 5 minutes with everyone staring at her and then like three men starting talking to her and telling her she needed to be in the other line. She asked “why” and they just said because. They didn’t really have an answer. Then at the other bill place there was only one line, but everyone in it was a women. Then a man walked up to the front of the line and was helped next and the woman at the front of the line willing let him in. This happened a couple times, and I was just shocked and Motra Bentley says this always happens and it is very common. I guess I just sometimes forget that Albania has only been free for less than 2 decades, so many people just are still used to how it has always been.

Also, I learned a few things this week that are called: “Xhunaf.” That word doesn’t translate to English, but basically it is things that are like not acceptable or frowned upon.
-Sitting on the floor or ground. Once Montra Bentley was sitting on the curb outside the church, and multiple people stopped and told he she couldn’t be on the ground. Even people stopped their cars to tell her not to be on the ground. She of course doesn’t let people bother her. She is pretty awesome!
-Walking outside in the winter/rain with short sleeves on and no coat. Motra Bentley has also done this and so many people made comments and stared at us. So funny!
-Shaking hands with gloves on. It is just considered disrespectful. Luckily Motra Bentley warned me about this, so I haven’t made that mistake.
-When you are in a group and meeting people or shaking hands, it is bad luck to be shaking hands with someone and have your arms cross with the other people shaking hands. It means something like you will marry the person you are shaking hands with.

As far as missionary work, it is going great. All four of our investigators came to church on Sunday which was totally awesome. Last week the Zone Leaders gave us the 8 year-old girl they were teaching, so we have her baptism scheduled for the end of the month. My first baptism, and we didn’t have to do anything. She is really cute and her family is super nice, although they aren’t very active. The family that we have been teaching though, is doing really great. I can really see how having the Gospel in their life has already blessed their family. The Gospel really is for everyone, as long as they are willing to make it part of their life.

I know that the Gospel is true and I’m so happy to be here sharing the gospel with the people of Albania. I love the people, the members, and the country. I also love the Lord and I love the Gospel and all the wonderful blessings that it has brought to my life and those that we teach. I know the church is true!

I love you all. Thanks for your support and prayers!

Motra Hall