How goes life over there? Probably just about the same as it usually is, eh? Life here in Durres is much different than America, much much different! The Albanian culture is basically nothing like I imagined it would be. Everyone loves to hug and kiss, I don't think I have ever been kissed so many times in my entire life. Everyone is so warm and loving it is wonderful!
The weather here right now is pretty bipolar. The first day was perfect weather, yesterday it was raining cats and dogs, and today it is crazy windy! Who knows what it will be like tomorrow....hopefully sunny again. They say right now is the rainy season, but here in about a month it will get really hot...like hotter than Mexico hot. The humidity here is definitely a lot higher, my hair goes crazy curly and is always frizzy. It makes for a fun time trying to look nice.
The people here dress a lot like the rest of the European world- lots of skinny jeans, puffy coats and basketball shoes. There are a lot of poor people here, okay so mostly everyone is, so they don't really have a lot of variety in what they wear but they dress nicely. Doing laundry is fun...they only have washers and no dryers so everything I own basically has to be ironed. Oh and the water here is very dirty (i.e. it has a lot of metal in it) so we have to use a water filter and it has turned all of my clothes funny colors. Oh the exciting adventures of foreign countries.
We have taught quite a few investigators now and a couple other lessons to members and recent converts. The first lesson we went to was at the home of the Pjetris family consisting of the mother, father, and three children all of which are members excluding the father. Everyone her lives so humbly here- it really makes me grateful for the little things in life that I have never even thought of living without before. As far as language goes I am understanding about 1\5 of the time- they speak soooo fast and there are so many different dialects, it is hard to know what people are saying. But for the most part I am able to guess what they are saying and answer their questions. I am definitely far from comfortable with the language, but I am learning avash avash (slowly). We have one investigator named Valbona who I invited to be baptized and she excepted- we are hoping to help her prepare herself before the 6th of April. She is very excited, so I do not think there will be any problems. One of the biggest things that I have had to try and get used to is not speaking so much during the lessons. While at the MTC we spent most of the time teaching but it is far from the same here. Here, if you read a scripture with them and then ask them what they learned, they can literally talk about it ten minutes. Albanians always have a lot to say and they are never afraid to say it! So in the lessons we spend most of our time listening, which has been hard for me to get used to because I want to teach more. Oh well. We also have an investigator name Arnestes who I invited to be baptized last week and he said he feels he is not ready, but I think he is. Tonight we are going to invite him again. I'm really excited!
What is the food like? This is a good question...I have not had that much Shqip food yet, but what I have had has been amazing! My favorite is by far Byrek, which is made of bread much like croissants, and is filled with meat or vegetables or sweets. It's kind of like a crepe but a lot better! I'll have to tell you more about the food once I have tried more of it. Though I did have some Nutella ice cream today that was sensational!! I don't think I've ever had any ice cream that I enjoyed as much as that ice cream.
Church here in Durres is.....exciting. Like I mentioned before, everyone speaks as fast as a race horse runs! Sometimes I literally feel everyone is trying to speak faster than the person before them. Durres is one of the largest branches here in Albania consisting of about 100 members, but not all attend church. We are also very blessed to have a meeting house similar to the ones in the States- it is very beautiful. We always walk everywhere for our appointments and lessons but since the church is so far away we have to ride the bus. Yesterday we rode the bus to church and as soon as we arrived to the chapel, the branch president asked me if I would like to go up and bear my testimony after sacrament meeting. I agreed of course and was very excited! It wasn't very long because the moment I stood up there I forgot almost all of my Albanian, but it was adequate. :) The members are very kind...again I received a lot of hugs and kisses from the old and the young, once even on the lips....that was an interesting moment. The elderly here are wonderful.
In my apartment, there is only my companion and me, Motra Gebhart. She is from Southern Colorado and this is her last transfer. I think that maybe she has gotten a lot trunky because she doesn't really seem that excited about the work, sadly. While at the MTC I was expecting to come out here and really start to work- work and teach so much that I came home exhausted every night, but that does not describe my experiences here. My companion is very laid back, and easy-going- again basically the opposite of me but in a different way than Motra Forte. It is hard for me to be motivated when she is not. I want to do more street contacting to try and get new investigators, I want to speak the language more, I want to work more with the members but it's hard to do all of this when it is just me with this opinion. I was hoping since this is her last transfer that I would be able to get a lot of help with the language and advice on how to be a better missionary but I don't know what to think right now. I am hoping that it will get better, but for now please pray that we may be able to work together better. I am also very disappointed with my district here in Durres. There are two other additional companionships here, so there are a total of six full time missionaries as well as two senior couples serving with us. To say this in the nicest way possible, my elders have a lot to learn about charity and compassion. I don't think that I even heard this much sarcasm, almost cussing, rude comments and other unmissionary-like conduct (wow that looks horrible but I hope you understand what I am trying to say) in the MTC. I thought that my Elders before pushed the line, but they were like angels when compared to what I have now. I really hope that I am just overreacting and that they are just being rude to try and scare me, but they have made it hard. When I am around them I literally have to put my mind somewhere else because they make me so uncomfortable...but it can only get better right? :) I am hoping that once I get to know them better and have more courage, I can tell them what I really think. One of them made the comment, "Don't worry, after a transfer you'll sound like us too." in a joking manner, but I decided I will never sound like that, ever. I am here to be a representative of Jesus Christ and spread the gospel, not take a tour of Albania. I am here to serve the people of Albania, not the other way around. I'm hoping that I can help the others catch that vision.
Well, I need to go soon so I will talk to you next week. I love you family! Thank you for your emails, and I hope that I answered all of your questions.