August 30, 2010

Greetings! We are all very lucky that I have lived to see this moment of writing you about my week. You see, I had a very trying experience today, and wasn't sure if I'd survive. I can sum it up pretty quickly for was a huge Albanian meal! We've know about this big Birthday Party for about a week, and to be honest Motra Bentley and I have kinda been dreading this event, but there was no getting out of it. It is one of the families in the branch here in Vlore and they have this big party every year and invite all the missionaries from Vlore (which includes the 4 elders, us, and the senior couple Smith). The family requested that we come for 3 hours, and since I've visited them before, I was pretty sure I knew what was in store. Still, right before we left the house I offered a very sincere prayer requesting that we wouldn't have to eat anything too yucky. Apparently someone upstairs was on their own dinner break or something because when we got to this family's home there were plates piled high with food covering two long tables. You know how in America we usually just have all the food in serving bowls and then pass it around and serve yourself, well that is not a concept here. Everything is served on plates for you beforehand, in huge amounts. We each started with one plate FULL of fatty lamb meat, oily french fries, and byrek, and another plate with all kinds of vegetables, onions, smelly cheese, a hot dog, and a couple slices of bread. Then of course there was still a third plate with all kinds of fruit like melons, apples, etc.

Conveniently I stationed my seat right next to Elder Thorpe, who was willing to help me out a bit and would just snitch stuff off my plate for me when nobody was looking. This started a little bit of a chain down the table. So for example, he would eat my hot dog, and then Motra Bentley would hand me her hot dog and I would set it on my plate and Elder Thorpe would snitch that, and then President Smith would pass his hot dog to Motra Bentley, who would give it to me, and then Elder Thorpe would eat it. And then Sister Smith would send her hot dog down the same way, etc. Of course this was all done super casually and hidden like under the table when nobody was looking. At the same time Motra Bentley and I were dropping lamb meat into our laps and then sliding them into our bags under the table (thanks for that idea Brother Hardcastle!) Unfortunately Elder Thorpe got pretty full pretty fast, but President Smith kept passing down all his meat, so by the end of the meal I ended up with a huge pile of lamb meat on the plate in front of me! I was getting kinda worried, but as the meal ended I just nudged it all over to Elder Thorpe, and the mother of the family told him he could just take all that meat with him, so she ripped out paper from a notebook for him and wrapped it up so he could take it. Then we had birthday cake which I nibbled at until we started the chain again and Elder Thorpe ended up eating about 3 slices of cake besides his own! Then it was time to eat more, so they brought in grapes and more watermelon. We ate some, but even I was feeling super full at this point from all the little things I had been picking at. When the Motra of the house pushed another plate of fruit in front of us I finally just had to tell her "thank you very much, but we are very full." She looked pretty ticked so I tried to explain, "we just aren't used to eating so much wonderful food, because we always just cook very small easy things because we can't cook as miraculous as you. This all is just so amazing though, thank you!" She still looked at me with her super ticked face (see photo), but I think we still left on good terms.
Anyway, that was a really long story and I'm sure I sound like some snobby ungrateful Ame
rican, but really I was grateful. Mostly I'm grateful that I really didn't have to eat anything too gross because Elder Thorpe did for me, or I stuck it in my bag. I guess my prayers were heard after all! Oh, and the family really is super nice and super loving, so I'm glad that we were all able to be together for their oldest sons birthday (because only the oldest child got to celebrate his birthday). See they really know how to spoil and do everything for only the oldest child here...maybe we could learn something from these Albanians! Haha, Just kidding! Okay enough culture insight for now, moving on...

Since email time is so limited, Motra Bentley and I have come up with a way to share more stories with you all. We each write one or two stories and then swap them so we both aren't writing the same thing twice. We think we are pretty smart. So here is Motra Bentley's portion from today....

"So this past week was great! We heard wind of quite our fair share of tragedies or in Motra Hall's and my terms, miracles sent from our loving Heavenly Father to help his work move on in good old Albania!!! So the first tragedy was a death, the future mother in law of one of the recent converts here in Vlore recently passed away when we first heard word of this… we jumped around yelling for joy because this mother in law was the reason why this young woman, danjela, wasn’t coming to church anymore. She was expected to spend every Sunday with her mother in law to be, and she had too much shame to inform her mother in law or her future husband that she was a member of this church… so still that problem is there but with the death of that old lady that frees her schedule up for Sundays!!! Woot woot! The next tragedy but miracle in disguise was with our investigator Eva whos boss refused to pay her for all the extra hours she has been working! She works from 6 am – 12 am (midnight) yet she gets paid $5 a day! When I first heard that I was shocked as well but I guess its pretty normal to only get $5 for a whole days worth of work here anywho her boss had been refusing to pay her so finally she just quit! Which also freed up her Sundays!! Heck yes thanks god!!!! So that was pretty exciting! Two really bad things being amazing miracles for us two little sister missionaries!!!"

Okay, back to Motra Hall:

Another highlight of the week was starting the smoking program with our investigator, Genti. He is now on day four and still going super strong. The stop smoking program we have is super intense, but 100% effective and requires lots of explanation. Motra Bentley and I were pretty nervous to explain the program in our meager Albanian, but it actually went really well. My favorite part was at the beginning we told him from this point on that he was no longer a smoker, so the first thing he did was pull out his cigarettes and lighter and handed them over to us. We didn't even have to ask him for them, and then later in the presention we gave them back to him and he crushed them. It was totally awesome...kinda like the clip from Saturday's Warrior where the guy stops smoking and crushes all his smokes! We did have a little scare though yesterday because we met with Genti and he was in a really bad mood. We were trying to figure out why and we asked if he had smoked and he shook his head down once and said "kam pire." Now in Albania the head shaking thing is opposite, so up and down is "no" and side to side is "yes." So I still mess up head shakes all the time, but what he said to me sounded like "I have smoked." So I'm quickly trying to think of scriptures of comfort and encouragement and something about overcoming our weaknesses. In the meantime Motra Bentley picks some other scripture that I thought was totally random and was reading it with him. Then in the middle he said he didn't want to continue and he got up and left. So I'm freaking out thinking he doesn't want to continue with lessons or the stop smoking program, and Motra Bentley and I start talking and realize that we both had been thinking totally different things in the lesson. She thought he said "s'kam pire" which means " I haven't smoked" which makes sense why she started going off with different scriptures that I was thinking. So we both were totally confused and thinking totally different things because of one little "s" that we heard wrong. Luckily we talked to him later and thankfully I was the one that had heard wrong and he still hadn't smoked and everything was going much better. We just thought the little miscommunication that was so small, was so funny how it changed the whole situation. Oh, how we love this language! :)

Only other major highlight of this week was Motra Bentley's last Zone Conference. It was a great conference and we got to hear about all the new changes that are being applied to missions throughout the world and will be fully implemented summer 2011 (after I get home).

Also this week, in case you didn't know it was Mother Teresa's 100th birthday (if she was alive still). She is with origin from Albania, so of course everyone here worships her because it is like their only claim to fame!

Well, I guess that is all the great fun stuff that I have for this week. Hope you all are fabulous and loving life! Love and miss you all tons!