November 29, 2010

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

What a lovely holiday it is-- eat, drink, be merry, and be grateful! Those are all things that I think I can do pretty well. We had a mission conference on Thanksgiving (actually it was technically a "combined Zone Conference" just for the record) and we had a wonderful time together. Sister Neil and all the Senior Couples worked really hard to have a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving dinner for us. And just for the record I didn't just eat rolls with Nutella and mashed potatoes with gravy, but I sampled some vegetables and turkey as well. The dinner was just a small part of my eventful Thanksgiving day though.

Thanksgiving actually started a little after 4am when Motra Leit and I woke up to get ready. We headed to Tirana around 5am in the morning with our District, which got us there a little early so we could do a little pre-Black Friday shopping in the huge Tirana outdoor Market. I had never been there before, but I can easily say that place puts Algodones to shame. I totally enjoyed just wandering around watching the Elders barter, since as we know I'm not exactly a big shopper. Anyway, back to Mission Conference....after we had all feasted and were too full to even touch the dessert table, we all wandered back into the conference room where the Neil's treated us to a traditional Thanksgiving movie. This year we watched "Toy Story 3" and I loved it. I laughed, I cried (yeah I took it pretty hard at the end when Andy gave his toys away to the little girl), and all around just thought it was great. I don't know, maybe my movie critiquing skills have gone pretty downhill since I've seen no normal movie for over a year, but it got two thumbs up from me.

Does it sound like I had a great Thanksgiving? Just wait, there's more!

So it was getting kinda late and we still had the drive back to Vlore, so we volunteered to drive back with the Smith's who had come in their own vehicle that morning. So we all took off and we were still in the middle of Tirana when we found ourselves in a little fender-bender. Actually if you want to get technical it was more of a scratch(er)-dent(er). So we were all fine and it wasn't that big of a deal; I mean what do you expect when there are hundreds of cars going 7 different directions in a circle intersection with no lights, signs, or police directing traffic. Needless to say, I didn't envy Elder Smith at all having to drive in that mess. Anyway, we of course were all fine except the lady in the other vehicle who was yelling at us because "we hit her" (she was behind us though). The Smith's were so cute they were just like, "we are American. No kuptoj Albanian." (Kuptoj means "understand"). So she starts yelling in horrible English, and in the meantime the hundreds of cars around us are honking cause we are blocking the way. Finally we get to the side of the road and get a policeman to come to the scene. No offense, but as all Albanian policeman are he was completely "kote." I got the pleasure of trying to translate and talk our way through this little problem, and it was quite entertaining to say the least. Of course the Albanian mentality was to try and just get us to pay them some cash and then we could all leave and be happy. The policeman just tried to look official and ask for our documents (too bad he forgot to ask the other car for their documents!) Finally a special accident analysis was called to the scene, but before he arrived the other car decided they didn't want to wait so they just got our phone number and left. So yeah, typical Albanian situation....lots of yelling and nothing was accomplished. It made for a lovely Thanksgiving story though!

Motra Leit and our newest investigator on Thanksgiving. November 2010

Okay, and the last exciting part of Thanksgiving day...more early Black Friday Shopping. On the way out of Tirana the Smith's stopped to get some special groceries that we don't have in Vlore from this Albanian Shopping Mall place. It was the craziest thing and totally blew my mind - it was like walking from the streets of Albanian right back into America. I was just walking down the hall of this place staring all around me and turning around and staring at the ceiling, you know that "totally in awe" kinda thing. And get this, Motra Leit bought stuff with a CREDIT CARD! I forgot what those things were. Like I haven't seen one of those in almost a year. I'm pretty sure mine is just locked in my suitcase because the only thing it would be good for here is to scrape your windshield, but I have no car so its completely kote. Oh and the other funny part of that little mall visit was that we ran into the same couple from the car accident in an aisle in one of the stores. That was super awkward, and afterward Motra Leit and I ran and hid in the corner of the store till they left to avoid any other unpleasant collisions.

Okay, on to reasons why I was especially grateful this Thanksgiving year.....we had a baptism! Denisa, the girl I talked about last week, was able to get baptized on Saturday. A lot of smiling and reassuring words on my part, as well as lots of childish begging from Denisa, got her mother's signature of approval for her baptism. I jokingly told her mom that if Denisa gave her any problems she could call me up and we'd take care of it. Her mom held me up to that one though, and the night of her baptism she had me come to her house so that she could tell me to talk to her daughter about not keeping secrets from her mother. So we got to have a lovely lesson about that today and it looks like I'm getting the opportunity to step into this teenage counseling role. So as you can imagine, I don't envy my parents or anyone else who has/had the pleasure of dealing with teenagers. Denisa's commitment of the week is to just say "hi mom, how was your day?" when she gets home from school before going to lock herself in her bedroom. It's a start. But really she is super good and it was a lovely baptism.

Even better though is Denisa's little sister, Eva. She is 13, but so cute and so awesome. On Sunday we came out of a branch council meeting about an hour after church had gotten out and Eva was just still sitting in the church reading a "Preach My Gospel" (the guidebook for missionaries basically). She showed us all the parts she had underlined and liked and she asked if she could take it home to read some more. When she came back today she told us all the things she had learned from it and she was like, "did you wake up at 6 this morning and do your exercises, because I read that in your book?" Then in her lesson yesterday she told us that she feels so good at church and feels like it is already her baptism because she can't wait. Then she asked what she should do when her mom asks her to go buy bread or something on Sunday, because she said I know I'm not supposed to and I repent, but I know that I'll break that commandment again when my mom asks me the next time. We told her that God understands and it is good that she is obeying her parents. Now she wants to help her mom stop drinking coffee. She's so good! I learn so much from her and her simple little Christlike example that she constantly radiates!

So yeah, like really life couldn't be better. We have been so blessed and are so grateful to the Lord for all we have been given.

I love and miss you all! Thanks for all you do!