Monday, December 27, 2010

the one about Christmas

I am right now in a trio with the elders in the other area. My companion, Elder Fisher, went home early because his whole group decided to do that so they could catch the next semester of school. So until next Tuesday I'm working with these other guys in their area and staying at their house, which is cool, because it's a nice house and they're awesome. We're having a great time.

On Wednesday we had the branch Christmas party. It was pretty good, but of course the primary was the best. They sang Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad. We missionaries sang a rendition of The First Noel, and I'm happy to say it didn't sound half bad. Then, on Thursday, the whole district had their Christmas party at the national museum. It was great seeing members from all over Albania, some of them I knew. There were a LOT of musical pieces done by different branches, and then at the end all of the missionaries sang a really cool song called "Peace, Peace" (if you can find it, give it a listen). Then I got kind of worried when they gave everyone on the stand sparklers and lit them and had us all sing "Joy to the World". Luckily the place didn't burn down (because concrete isn't flammable, despite my many attempts to make it such), and the sprinkler system didn't go off. In all, it was a good experience.

My first Christmas in Albania was spent well, thankfully. The first and third branch missionaries were invited to the mission president's house and they fed us breakfast. There was scrambled eggs, sweet rolls, Cinnamon rolls, BACON, orange juice and hot chocolate. Haven't eaten that well in a little while. And then there was a little white elephant gift exchange, and I ended up with a really nice Albania Tirana mission tie pin, with the double-headed Albanian eagle on it.

Also, we visited members. Hermes (hair-mess) here is going to be one of the next branch presidents when he gets older. He's dang smart.

He's only 13 but he knows nearly as much as I do.
And then we went to the Vogli (vogue-lee) family. I got all three of their kids in front of the Christmas tree. From left to right is Sara, Jozef, and Ester.

These kids are super smart. Jozef has memorized all 13 articles of faith, and he's only six.

That's about all. I hope you all had a good Christmas filled with family and memories!

Elder Weaver

Monday, December 20, 2010

the one about unforeseen snow

I guess the streak of good weeks couldn't last forever. None of our investigators could meet this week and there was a lot of just talking to people on the road. It's times like these you just need to remember that everything happens in the Lord's time, and you don't rush the Lord. One good thing that happened was that a man from our English course came to church on Sunday! He's pretty cool. It seems like every English course ends in a discussion of games that we've played. He loves the older Call of Duty games and so we have a few things in common. He's a pretty solid Muslim. He doesn't practice that much (like going to the synagogue or growing the beard), but he really doesn't seem to want to change. He came to church because he likes us, which isn't the best reason to come, but hey, it was still a good experience.

On Tuesday it snowed!

I fully expected not to see snow for two years, but it actually snowed in Tirana. It only happens once every few years, and this year seemed to be one of them. It's been pretty dang cold here. I thought I was tough, but I am ashamed to admit that I had to put on my 3 coats and two pairs of gloves once or twice this week. The air is very humid here, and my facial muscles develop a half-second lag after a few minutes outside. This makes it difficult and slightly humorous to try and talk.

A little bit of snow doesn't stop Unloaded-AK Man!

And today we decided to have one unique experience before my companion goes home: Eating a sheep's head. It was his idea, so we went and got a head they just keep roasting on a spit. It was $4. I only had the cheek meat, which was actually really tasty. He tried the eye and the tongue, both of which had a weird texture but not-that-bad taste.

Warning: These pictures are not for the faint of stomach. Ah what the heck, they're fun.

Poor lamb. I think he had a few cavities.
Baa ram you!
Elder Weaver

Monday, December 13, 2010

the one about signs of christmas

Actually, there aren't many signs of Christmas here in Albania. They don't really celebrate it here. They do have a lot of lights and decorations, but they say it's for new year's. They even have Christmas trees that they call "new year's trees". Most of the members of the church don't know the exact day that Christmas falls on. Oh well. We have a puny little tree in our apartment with a Santa hat on top of it. And the best part of all: I found a body wash that smells like pine. Most people can say they've decorated for the season, but there are few people who can say they smell like Christmas.

The happenings of the week, in order of not-so-funness to good-memoryness.

We met Edmond while street contacting. He seemed to be interested in discussing religion, so we walked a few minutes over to the church. It wasn't until we sat down that we smelled the alcohol on his breath. Before that, I just thought he was quirky. After smelling the pungent odor of inebriation, it all made sense. What he said had very little meaning, and we were trying to figure out what he meant. Eventually, we just parted ways after exchanging numbers. Oh well, it was a positive experience for him, so I count that as a win.

On Monday, we returned from a hard day of work to find that we had no water. We checked our little pump outside the apartment and it had been disconnected. Apparently they do that when you don't pay your bills. This was frustrating, since the office elders pay all the bills online. We called some people, and they said to go to a little place down some obscure alleyway in the morning. We did, and they said we had to go to the water company's main office, so we did. They checked, and it turns out that in fact, the bill had NOT been paid for a stretch of quite a few months a while back. We had to pay for that right then, and wait for a reimbursement later. Then we had to go back to the little place, and they said they'd reconnect the water. They did, after about 3 hours. Finally, we took our refreshing, miraculous showers and never complained again about not having enough pressure. Don't worry, we used hand sanitizer when we didn't have water.

We had a good lesson with Fatjon. A member was there to help teach, and that is always good. It seems the only thing holding Fatjon back from baptism is that he feels his testimony of the Book of Mormon is not strong enough. So, every morning at 7AM we call him and ask if he's read. It's an interesting system, but it works. If he keeps going like this, he'll be baptized soon.

And on Saturday we had one of the best meals in a long time. One of the humanitarian couples, the Wilsons, invited us to their house (on the top floor of the mission home) for lunch. Now, it takes a special type of couple to invite 6 missionaries into your home and feed their huge appetites. We had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, yellow beans, and some of the best carrots ever prepared by a human hand. They had brown sugar in them, making them taste like candy. And for dessert, there was actual ginger bread cake with applesauce, lemon sauce and whipped cream. That's going on the list of top 5 meals I've had in-country.

But one other thing happened: I got some Taco seasoning in a package! That stuff is absolutely unfindable here. So, we celebrated by making some taco-seasoned ground beef and putting it with noodles and cream and arrabiata flavored tomato sauce. That was one satisfying meal.

I hope you all are doing well and good.

Elder Weaver

Monday, December 6, 2010

the one about unexpected returns

As they say on the internets, "Woot!" This has been a darn good week. Things that happened in list of excitement:

We street contacted a man named Kastriot, and right then and there took him to the church and had a good meeting. He might become another investigator.

Something not actually good but still exciting, is that the other elders are currently housing another companionship from Shkodër. Apparently it's flooded pretty badly up there and they don't know when they'll be able to go back. But for the moment they're having a good time working in our branch.

On Saturday, the owner of the other house in this branch (the house I lived in when I first came into the country) invited six of us elders out to lunch. We went to a pretty nice restaurant almost up in the mountains. When they brought out the first plate of delicious pork chops, I thought, "Ok, so three of us will share this. Cool." Then they brought out 4 more plates, and each of us got one of these:

There was about a pound of meat there. Man, that was good!

I'm really grateful for members who open up their hearts and their wallets to us when they really don't have to. I know they'll be blessed for that.

Yesterday, we attended the baptism of an 8-year old girl in the branch. It was the first baptism I've seen where the person was 8 and also baptized by her father. It was great. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures...

We had a good meeting with Fatjon (faw-tee-own), and it seems like he'll still get baptized someday, which I am hugely grateful for. And I finally got a pic with him:


We were coming home from a meeting with some members, and right as we went outside we ran into the other elders' investigator, Romeo (row-mayo). He then walked with us to the church and had a lesson with the other elders, and it looks like he'll start meeting with them again. I think God is trying to send him a message. This is the 4th "chance" meeting I've had with this guy. The first was when we decided to go on a walk, but to take a different route than usual and ran into him. The second was when I had a strange, sudden craving for grilled corn and he was there getting corn, too. Third was when we tracted into his house. And now this one. We left the house at just the right time to meet him. I don't think these are random chance meetings.

And finally, to make it a great week, the other elders met and talked to Olgert (ol-gehrt)! This is the guy who had a baptismal date but then disappeared about 3 months ago. Turns out he's been in Sarandë for a funeral. Man, I am so excited he's back! His desire and willingness to learn is the strongest and most sincere I've ever seen.

Hope this week goes as well!

Elder Weaver