July 12, 2010

Greetings! Quite a crazy, tired, but as always, awesome week here in Albania! Because of a full week of conferences and exchanges, we only had three meager days of working here in Vlore, but we got a good couple handfuls of lessons in and made the best of it. I guess I'll just give you a run-down of the past week:

Monday: Motra Larson's last P-Day in the country. A few last minute things, and then packing, with me mostly not doing much of anything but picking her brain and trying to learn as much from her as possible. It seems like our transfer together went so fast and I really could listen to that girl's stories forever.

Tuesday: Left Vlore at like 6am to go to Tirana for exchanges. Once we got there I helped Motra Larson get all her bags weighed and figured out and then she took off to do "dieing missionary stuff." I got my new companion Motra Bentley and we came back to Vlore and picked up right where we left off. Someone mentioned that it sounds that between having awesome companions and serving in a beautiful coast town that I'm more like on a Senior Trip than a mission. Okay...I can't really deny that, my life is pretty awesome, so my only disclaimer is that we do get lots of work done!

Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday were the normal work days here in Vlore which were good, mostly with everyone just telling us how much they missed Brooku (who I formerly knew as Motra Larson). It's great working with Motra Bentley again though too, and she has really gotten amazing at the language since we served together. She also said the same about me, but let's be honest, when I first was with her I knew absolutely nothing, so any little improvement would appear huge to her. We feel pretty cool though, since we don't know of anyone who got back with a former companion, especially not their trainer, so a major blessing!

Friday: My first Mission Conference! It was in Tirana, so we headed up there at 6am again...you'd think I'm getting used to the trip, but it's still kinda long and I try to spend as much time as possible asleep. :) Elder Causse (he's French, but lives at church headquarters in Germany) was here for our Mission Conference and spoke to us. It was really good and he had a great talk about our desires as missionaries with relation to our success. It was also cool to see the whole mission together for the first time. We are so small...only like 35 or so missionaries total. I also got to meet Motra Yourstone's new trainee, Motra Halabuk. She seems pretty awesome, so she'll be a great addition to us six Motras, although she does have big shoes to fill because Motra Larson was probably one of the most amazing missionaries to step foot in Albania (I realize I'm a little prejudice, but it's true). Anyway, it was a super long day in Tirana and we didn't get home till almost 8pm, which gave us just enough time to go squeeze in one lesson for the day.

Sunday: Just in case I hadn't had enough trips to Tirana this week, we went again on Sunday. It was District Conference, which is for all the members of the church in all of Albania. Elder Causse was there to speak to all of us again, and it was a great meeting. We were able to take a couple of our investigators, and they had a wonderful experience, which was great. In Albania I think there are somewhere around 1,000 members, and at this meeting we had attendance of somewhere in the 300's. I know that sounds like a pretty bad ratio, but it was still an awesome sight to see that many Saints in this huge Tirana Conference Center. At the end of the conference, all the Missionaries went up on the stage and sang "Come Follow Me," which has just been translated into Albania. As we all know I'm not much for singing, especially not in front of people, but it was a pretty cool experience to be part of. I decided the 7+ hours in a hot bus with Albanians was totally worth it to attend that meeting!

So that was the general outline of my week. Here are a couple things that happened to us too, which you probably won't find as funny as I did, but I can at least say I shared them...

Our current house is kinda a dump. As I've mentioned in some of my previous letters we usually don't have running water, etc. Motra Larson and I were always super busy though, so we never had much time to look for a new place, but when Motra Bentley saw the state of the house she said it was time. So we spent a couple mornings this past week walking around asking people about places and looking at a couple. My favorite though was a couple days ago. After a lesson with one of the little member girls, she walked us over to a neighboring communist apartment building (that is mostly all there is here, and we live in a communist apartment building of all concrete, so I didn't think anything of it) where we asked if they knew of any apartments for rent. The woman there told us no and that we wouldn't have any luck in this area of town, but then as we were walking away she called us back and said her friend had a place for rent in that very building. Apparently they were looking for a "specific kind of tenant" but when they found out we were Americans they decided that was good. So we waited for like an hour for the landlord to come with keys to let us see this apartment. I'll never be able to give justice to this place in words, but I'll try to paint a little picture for you. The landlord actually lives in Greece, and hadn't been in the apartment since he got married 20 years before. So it had a little bedroom with an ancient dusty chest of drawers that he said were a wedding gift for him and in the one other room that would be like a living room there were a couple bed frames and mattresses leaning against a wall that he said were newer. There was no kitchen or sink or stove, but he had recently bought a new huge refrigerator that was sitting in the tiny hall way. And the little closet that was used as the bathroom just had a little Turkish toilet in it, which if you don't know what that is, I recommend that you Google it and check out some photos. Basically it is a little hole in the ground with some "foot holds" and you just squat to do your business. I know they are still used here in Albania in public restrooms, but it was the first time seeing one in a house. Needless to say, we told them we weren't sure if the apartment was exactly what we were looking for, but we'd get back with them if we decided we wanted it. After that little experience, we haven't been too motivated to check out any other apartments, but we'll see what the coming week has in store for us.

Another quick story from this morning. We went to the beach like old times to play soccer and frisbee. This time though because it is summer the beach was covered with old, large people (mostly old men in Speedos), so we picked a small area by the shore and started to play football. It was kinda like an American World Cup that all these people who were laying out tanning could enjoy for free. Apparently they were enjoying it too much because one old man came over to us and started telling us that this beach was just for the old Albanian people to enjoy, so we should leave. The six of us all pretended that we couldn't understand or speak Albanian though (usually what we do when we're in trouble...play stupid), and so we were like miming and speaking slow, loud English. Finally we just moved down the beach like 20 yards and picked up the game again. But this time another old man came and wanted to play with us, but we were still caught in the "we don't know Albanian" lie, so we just put our thumbs up and said "very good" and played with him. It surprised me how hard it was to not speak Albanian while we were playing with this guy. I guess that is a good sign!

I guess that is all I have for this week. Sorry I didn't have any more inspirational stories for you all, but just know that I love you all and I love the Gospel. Being a missionary is absolutely awesome (and I'm not just talking about all the funny, random things we do). I love helping people and teaching about Jesus Christ and his restored church. I know the Church is true!

Have a great week!
Motra Hall