December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I just had a super awesome week and another promisingly wonderful Christmas week in store. I guess I should finish talking about my awesome death trip last week that I kinda left you all hanging on. So as I think I mentioned we saw Butrint and then stayed the night in Sarande and enjoyed the beach out there. Then Tuesday morning we continued on to Syri i Kalter, which translates as the Blue Eye. This is a legit famous place and super beautiful! Basically it is a small little pool of water that is indefinitely deep because no measuring tool that has been sent down has been able to measure the depth of the pool. It is super gorgeous though and a stunning blue circle (thus the name). It was probably a good thing that it was freezing cold, or else a lot of us would have been super tempted to "accidentally" fall in! After Blue Eye we went to see Gjirokaster, which I had been to before with Motra Larson, but this time we went in the castle, which I didn't see last time. And I'm so glad we did, because it is probably one of the coolest castles in Albania and there was lots of exploring to do.

Syri i Kalter - "The Blue Eye"
Once back to Vlore, I turned around and was in Fier the next two days for some specialized trainings and special marriage advice talks from President Neil (he's so awesome). So after spending four days straight away from my area, it was nice to get back to work and meet with my people, because they were all worried that I had been transferred to Tirana and wasn't coming back!

On Saturday Alseda got baptized! She was the really awesome girl we met through English when Motra Leit first got here, who fell in love with the Gospel and everything about it. She, as most people have here, had some problems with her family (mostly her father) when she started coming, but the Lord really blessed us and she was finally able to be baptized. I'm not sure what it is, but it seems like each baptism I have just gets better and better. It was just so beautiful, and despite the freezing cold water, because our little swimming pool heater was broken, nothing could take the huge grin off of Alseda's face. She was just so happy and excited to finally be baptized! The good stuff!

Most useful thing I learned this week: When playing cops and robbers\guns with little boys, don't play dead because they think it is funny to try and kill you even more when your eyes are closed. I guess in my years of babysitting at the Hardcastle Ranch I was somehow deceived that all kids would run to you and be sad when you were "dead," but that is not true in the real world. Sorry, random, but it happened.

As you have probably already figured out by now, Christmas isn't too big here, but New Year is HUGE! So many people have "new year" trees in their homes. I decided not to bust their bubbles by telling them that those were actually decorated "Christmas" trees. Even the members here don't do that much because traditionally nothing is celebrated on the 25th. The Albania District will be having a huge Christmas party in Tirana though, so we will go to that, and then on the 25th we have lots of exciting stuff planned here in Vlore inlcuding a baptism, young womens activity making gingerbread houses (that should be interesting), and a Danish Night Party with the YSA's.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy this special time of the year to celebrate the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ, even more. I'm so grateful for his life and his sacrifice and service in my behalf.
And I'm grateful for all of you!
I love you!
Motra Hall