June 7, 2010

Greetings from a blistering hot, humid Balkans! It sounds like you all have been getting your share of heat too, but I'm just telling you it doesn't compare when you add the humidity. :)

Despite the weather, which I know will just continue to get worse, we have had a great week again here in Vlore. As always, it was full of fun exciting adventures, and I'm just loving working with Motra Larson.
So I think I was just mentioning to someone in a different letter a few weeks ago how sometimes Missionaries are not very honest and I've probably never been such a ridiculous liar in my life until now. This isn't like a confession session, it is just the preface to another funny story from this week. Anyway, so sometimes we are dishonest because of language barriers. For example, if someone asks us our favorite food or color, sometimes we just reply with whatever we know or can remember in Albanian, because we don't know the right words to say our real favorite. That is one instance where we lie. Or more often the case is where we just want to get away from creepy people (usually men) so we make up different stuff. So this week we are walking and this lady who is sitting on the side of the road with a scale stops us. By the way, that is a normal job to sell things on the side of the road and to have a scale that people can pay to weigh themselves. Personally I don't want to weigh myself in the middle of the road, let alone pay for it, but whatever. Anyway, this women stops us and starts telling us all her problems. First she tells us she has no money and she just sits here on the side of the road making a few cents a day. We told her we couldn't give her money, just a spiritual message. Then she told us that she has a daughter who moved to American and doesn't talk to her anymore, so she wanted us to email her. We told her we couldn't. Then she she said she had a son in prison and he really needs a Visa to America to get out. So she told Motra Larson, "If you can just marry him so he can get a Visa and get out of prison. And then you can create a family with him, or not, whatever you want." Motra Larson then whipped out the, "I have a lover waiting in America" fib, so she turned to me and asked me if I could marry her son. I used Motra Larson's same fib, and so then she was just like "ok, no problem, do you have any extra clothes or anything else you can give me." I realize this is like actually a sad story because there are so many people like that here with nothing, but at the same time crazy women trying to marry us off to their sons happens so much, it's just pretty funny the ridiculous things we sometimes say to get them to leave us alone. Anyway, I realize that it probably isn't that funny if you weren't there, but just trust me.

Also this week we went to my first Relief Society activity. Oh, how I love Albanian women! We just went up to the cafe on the hill and had drinks and cake together and the women all just talked, but it was just nice to get some of the women together. It was a nice little mix of a turnout too, because we had three young single adults, three middle-aged moms, and us two Motra Missionaries. With all the women together and talking at lighting speed about things that didn't come from my "Gospel Vocabulary," needless to say, I didn't understand too much of the conversations. The only question they asked me that I did understand was if when I returned from my mission if my parents would take interest in and if they took part of the responsibility to find me a suitable spouse (kinda like arranged marriages). I hope I didn't offend any of them, because I kinda laughed at the question, and then remember that it still isn't an uncommon practice here for arranged marriages, or at least for parents to find suitors. So then Motra Larson filled me in later on the rest of the conversations. Basically all the married woman were just telling all the single young girls to never get married, and how they wished they knew what they were getting into when they married in their teens. I guess that maybe you don't find this too funny either, but it was just kinda an ironic R.S. discussion that I can't imagine hearing anywhere but Albania.

Okay, since I've bored you will all my stupid stories that I thought were funny, I'll just finish off with a really awesome experience we had. So it started a couple weeks ago when we were tracting. We met a lady who was in this empty house cleaning and she said that she was busy but we could come back later. Usually that means, "I don't want to talk to you, and I know you'll never bother to come back." Well then we knocked on her neighbors door, Aferdita, and she had met with missionaries before and had a Book of Mormon, so we started teaching her instead. So since we are now in the neighborhood visiting Aferdita, we have tried a couple times to meet with this neighbor lady that kinda blew us off in the beginning. The first time we knocked on her door, right as we had knocked a man came up the stairs and started yelling at us. He told us that no woman lived there and that we could leave. We argued with him for a bit, but to be honest he was a very rude jerk, so we left. We tried again a few days later, and I was scared to death that the man would answer, but Motra Larson has no fear. It didn't matter because nobody answered. So we had mostly given up, and then this week we had gone to see Aferdita for an appointment and she ended up not being home. As we were leaving, this neighbor woman walked out of her house and was headed to the store to get medicine because she was really sick, and she looked it too. Instead though she invited us right in and we started talking. Her name is Neri, and she actually is amazing. Apparently she and her husband don't even live in that house, they are just fixing it up to move in later, which may be why her husband said that no woman lived there...he was still mean though. But Neri had talked to Aferdita about us and had heard good things, and now wants to learn. She said we can come everyday to teach her if we want, and she won't do any house work until after she meets with us. Quite the enthusiasm! Anyway, the amazing thing was that as we were leaving, she said that she felt totally better, (and she looked a ton better too) and she knew that it was a miracle that we had come to heal her. It really was a miracle, and we were grateful to see the Hand of the Lord extended yet again in our work.

So briefly, I forgot to mention that Motra Larson and I just got back this morning from Tirana. Yesterday after a baptism here in Vlore, we rushed to Tirana to go to a beautiful baptism of someone that Motra Larson had been teaching there before she came. It was one of the most spiritual baptisms I've been to here in Albania, and it was just lovely. It was also good to see some of my Tirana branch members that still love and remember me, as well as to see all the other Motras, and my old companion Elsa Nonai. Last night we spent the night with Motra Bentley and Yourstone, and then first thing this morning came home. A nice little trip out of Vlore for a few hours though.

Oh, also the senior couple, Elder and Sister Smith have arrived. They are from Gila Valley, AZ from some small town out by Benson. They are amazing! We are so excited to have them here and since Vlore is now the home of almost all the AZ missionaries Sister Smith made us all some Mexican food for lunch today. Delightful!

I guess that is all I have for this week. Hope I haven't bored you all too much. Just know that I love you and miss you! I love the work I'm doing here and the small successes and miracles that we see are worth all the sacrifice. I know that Gospel is true!

Thanks for everything! Have a great week!

Motra Hall