August 23, 2010

Hello! I survived Girls Camp this week and am back in Vlore working it up again.
I guess survived isn't exactly the right word because we had a blast. We ended up taking seven girls from Vlore with us, although there were about 50 girls at the camp from all over Albania. I was actually a leader over a different group besides Vlore and so I got to meet a lot of girls from other cities. It was awesome, because sometimes I forget down here in Vlore that other places in Albania actually have experienced members, not just a bunch of recent converts. Don't get me wrong, I love the members here, but it was just super cool to work with some young women who have grown up in the church for the last 7 to 9 years and basically were able to do everything without me holding their hand. As for Girls Camp, it definitely wasn't the kinda camp we are used to. Instead of like workshops, activities, hikes, etc. we just had nap time. Yep, some people take 4 mile hikes when they're camping, but we took 4 hour naps. Of course it was also great to see all the other Motra's and to sleep out under the stars.
We tried to get the girls to join us, but they thought we were totally crazy for sleeping without a tent. Luckily we had packed enough blankets and sweaters and wool socks, because our Elders called us a few days before while they were at boys camp at the same spot to tell us the nights were freezing. The other highlights of the camp included an interesting talent show (where us 6 Motra's came up with a rather random last minute performance of Kumbaya in Albanian with human instruments), dancing Albania style around an imaginary campfire, and Elsa Nonai, my old companion who was at camp as a cook (yes I packed my own food for the trip), singing and dancing for the whole camp. Anyway, it was a great few days with our girls and I think they enjoyed it as much as we did.

So an awesome experience from earlier this week before camp...Kastriot came to Vlore and visited us. He only had a few free hours in Vlore so he wanted to see Motra Bentley and I while he was here from Tirana. We convinced him to go out for drinks with us and our investigator Genti, and it ended up being an awesome lesson. We didn't say anything, because Kastriot just started talking and couldn't stop. It was so amazing, just to see him so excited about the Gospel and so willing to tell another guy his age about how it has changed his life. Most guys their ages would be totally embarrassed and awkward, but not Kastriot. He was telling Genti all about his favorite scriptures and how when he started reading the Conference Ensign he couldn't put it down and he stayed up all night reading it. And then he said that since his baptism everything is even better because now he has the Priesthood, and he wants to serve a mission, and he can't wait to go to the Temple and be married some day. I'm sure Genti had lots of questions after leaving that lesson, because Kastriot covered about everything, including telling him that he should stop smoking. But it also motivated Genti a lot, and he went right home and read the chapters from the Book of Mormon that Kastriot suggested. It was just so amazing to see the progress that Kastriot has made since I taught him back in January, and even since his baptism at the end of July. He is a totally different young man, and all the better for it too. The second part of this story is that later that night we met back up with Genti for a lesson. Motra Bentley and I knew going into the lesson that we needed to talk to Genti about his smoking habit, but we were super nervous about it, because earlier he had told Kastriot that he had been smoking for 11 years (since he was 14 years old) and he just couldn't stop. It was awesome though, because when we told him that he needed to stop and that we had a program that could help him, he was totally down and asked what he had to do and when we would start. Motra Bentley and I definitely let out a sign of relief after that lesson. We'll be starting the stop smoking program with him this week, and all three of us are pretty excited about it!

Oh, I totally forgot to mention that we got transfer calls this weekend. It wasn't much of a surprise...I'm staying with Motra Bentley, yay! I'm proud to continue holding my title as the Vlore Assassin. I'm going to keep working Motra Bentley really hard so that she has to practically crawl onto that airplane home after the next 6 weeks! Don't worry though, I'm sure we'll manage to have a ridiculous amount of fun while we are in the process of working hard...that just seems to come pretty natural for the two of us! Motra Bentley, when I finish her up here, will be headed back home to Sandy/Draper, UT. She will work on finishing her Social Work degree at University of Utah, and then once I get back (because of course she can't have her wedding without me!) she'll die her next death, that of single-hood, and get married to her high school lover.

One more kinda funny story for you all. So I actually didn't get to witness this funny event because I was busy either at the piano or outside with a child that was acting up, I'm not sure which, but Motra Bentley filled me in on it afterwards. Apparently during sacrament meeting one of the members sitting next to Motra Bentley took the sacrament water and then after drinking it said "I'm thirsty" and took another one. Genti, our investigator, was sitting on Motra Bentley's other side and witnessed this little event and immediately freaked out and started telling her that she was sinning and not to do that. What makes it bad is that Albanians don't have a concept of "inside voices," let alone "whispering," so he basically was like yelling at her in the middle of the sacrament. Motra Bentley was pretty embarrassed, and everyone else stared, but it didn't really faze them because stuff like this happens all the time. For example, a little later in the meeting some old man answered his phone in the middle of the meeting and just started talking in his not quiet, Albanian voice right in the middle of the speaker's talk. I think this happens about every Sunday in our branch though, somebody answering their phone and talking without even leaving the room, and I'm always still in shock when it happens. These people....but ya got to love them!

Well, I pray that everything is going super-di-duper for all of you! I love and miss you tons, and I love the Gospel and being a missionary!

Motra Hall