Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week 2... or something close to it

Wow, another week has passed by. I think the flow of time has accelerated since I got in the field; I thought it would slow down! Every day is work, work, work. We have our morning studies and then we get out the door, usually to a lesson at the church. We usually tract in the evenings, and in between all that we either just stand on the street and talk to people or set up a little table with the Book of Mormon, a few first presidency declarations (The Living Christ, The Family) and a couple of pamphlets. People are pretty nice, they return your greetings and keep on moving, and if someone does a double-take or stares an extended amount of time at the table, we try to talk to them more. It usually goes something like this:

"We're missionaries from America, and we're talking to people about our church and this book. Have your heard of our church/this book?"
"All right. So are you a believer?"
"I'm Muslim/Orthodox"
"Ah, so you believe in the word of God, right?"
"Of course, of course!"
"Well, this book contains the words of God revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith..."
They spend a while looking at the book and leafing through some pamphlets while we explain more, then they kind of lose interest and make an excuse why they can't stay and talk, or they politely decline and move on, but in most cases express they have respect for us and and wish us luck. What's really fun are the people who don't understand who we are and think we're Jehovah's Witnesses no matter how hard we try to explain that we're not. Sometimes those people can get pretty mad... But all they can do is yell at us in their confusion, and after they leave, it's a net gain: we're back to talking with normal people and that's one less person to sift through to see if they're interested.

The last few days have been pretty dang wet. When it rains in Tirana, it really rains, fluctuating in intensity throughout the day. There was only a light sprinkle this morning, but now it's almost a downpour. It's all good though: I've got good shoes, a good coat and an umbrella. The weather is one thing that won't stop the work from progressing.

Let's see... Ah! Eating! We usually have Muesli cereal for breakfast, or occasionally a few fried eggs. That cereal is heavenly, I hope I can find it back home. So far, Apple Hazelnut is my favorite, but Chocolate Banana and Raspberry Blackberry are pretty good, too. We then have a 2 hour lunch break from 2 to 4, wherein we have a few of our favorite places to go eat. Somedays we feel like a suflaqe, which is pita bread, assorted vegetables, french fries and veal covered in some kind of tasty sauce, I don't know what it's called or what exactly it is. Other days we go order a pizza for each of us and wolf it down. There's this sausage-sandwich type thing that's delicious, and then one of my preferred meals is good old rice and beans. Now that I think about it, the rice and beans is probably the only healthy lunch we have. We've eaten at a member's house once, and it was some kind of noodles with a fried broccoli/cauliflower cross breed vegetable that was really good.

We have that 2 hour lunch break because in Albania, lunch is the main meal of the day. Most places shut down and everyone takes a nap. In the summer, we'll start waking up half an hour earlier and taking 3 hour lunch breaks because it gets so hot. I'm not looking forward to the heat... especially when we walk everywhere and average about 5 miles a day (that should burn off some of those extra calories from the less-than-ideal diet). But heck, I'll still work as hard as I can, and who knows? Maybe I'll develop a liking for hot temperatures.

We haven't run into any "thugs", and I'm doubting that there are even any "thugs" in this whole country. All the bad guys you see in the movies ('Taken') are Albanians who've moved out of Albania to make an illustrious crime career. All the bad apples have moved out to find better opportunities in the big world. That's my theory, anyway. The worst things we run into are kids who half-heartedly say "bad words" after we've passed by, and most of the time they don't even say it right, which just makes it funny.

Well, it's almost time to go. Even if it weren't time to go, we could afford to linger, it's only 70 lek (about 70 cents) an hour to use these computers. Man, we're blessed as missionaries that we can afford to eat out every day. The most expensive restaurant we've been to, where we got a big salad and a big bowl of delicious pasta, was about $6 for the whole meal. Food is very cheap here, a loaf of bread is 50 cents. Even the raw ingredients of our Sunday lunch (chicken, potatoes and broccoli) are cheap. Good for us, I don't know if it's good for the country.

It was only in the past 5 years that most of the roads in Tirana were paved, and back then you wouldn't see all these shops along the street. There's probably 20 pharmacies and 20 internet cafes per square mile, and that's not an exaggeration. All the young people are wearing the latest "fashions" that are popular in Europe (kinda weird if you ask me), lots of businesses have LCD TVs showing the news or sports, and about every 5th car is not a Mercedes. I don't know where all of this money is coming from, and I'm worried that they can't actually afford all the stuff they have.

Thanks for all your prayers and support, us missionaries need all we can get.

(l to r) Elders Warburton, Johnson & Weaver

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