Monday, January 31, 2011

the one about moldy chicken

"Numr q keni kerkuar sht e pa-" Then I hang up. That's what the automated voice says when someone's phone isn't going to answer. It's either because the phone is off, or they've changed numbers. We don't know which one it is, so we keep trying. None of our investigators answered their phones at all this week. The only lessons we got were with a retention of Hermes (hair-mess), the awesome future-branch-president 13-year old, and a fireside we had on Saturday. We invited the whole branch and told them to bring a friend, too. We started in the chapel, then went to the second floor and watched "Finding Faith in Christ" (dubbed in Albanian, of course), then back downstairs for refreshments, ping-pong, and Uno. Only a handful of people came, and only about 5 weren't members, but it was still a spiritual, fun experience for everyone, so I consider it a big success.

There wasn't anymore political excitement like last week. There was another rally-thing, but it was a big funeral service for the three people killed on the 21st. I've noticed that here in Albania, maybe it's because they're 70% Muslim here, but they make it a huge, HUGE deal when someone dies. You've probably seen women in some Arabic countries lamenting and crying for someone who died. It isn't quite that intense here, but they had a couple thousand people go to the square and they had portraits of the victims blown up to about 3 stories high. Also, when a person passes away, there's 40 days of mourning. And then multiple anniversary mournings. I'm so grateful that we have knowledge of life after this earth. When I die, I want my funeral to be about 10 minutes long, with my voice at the end saying, "See you all in a couple of years!"

Also, yesterday we made the usual pasta lunch. But when we bit into a chunk of chicken, we tasted mold. It was pretty nasty. It took awhile to determine the taste was from the chicken and not the sauce or noodles. The problem was, only one of the chicken breasts had the mold in it, so we smelled every piece before we ate it. We're not dead, so it must've been harmless mold.

I hope everyone back home is healthy and happy.

Elder Weaver

Monday, January 24, 2011

the one about violence

This was an interesting week. We got back from the hospital today, and that'll probably be my last visit there. My eye isn't getting worse, so it looks like we'll just leave it at that.

We had a good lesson with Eri (airy). He's the Muslim guy from the English course. He claims he doesn't want to change, and yet he still meets with us and comes to church, so he must be feeling something. And he doesn't show signs of disappearing. I'd honestly rather have a tough cookie investigator that sticks around than a flaky guy who accepts everything then vanishes. Hopefully we'll keep meeting with him and teach him English and religion.

On Wednesday we had a big training with all the missionaries in Tirana. We reviewed the zero lesson. This is the first lesson you have with someone, and it's more of a very, very general overview of what we are about and what they'll be expected to do. It was good to practice it, too.

On Thursday we went to the opera again. The orchestra played pieces from all the operas that they did in 2009, with singers from the performances, too. The songs were in Italian, so we didn't understand anything, but it was still a great experience. A guy sang that song that has "Figoro" repeated about 259 times at 600 miles an hour. That was fun to hear in person.

And now the interesting part: On Friday, there was a big protest in the square. We didn't know it was happening until it was happening. You can probably find news on it online. We were at home during lunch, and the district leader called and said President Neil wanted everyone to stay in that night. The protesters were peaceful at the beginning, then tempers flared. People started yelling and throwing rocks. The police had their riot gear on and shields up. Two cars were flipped and burned. Police used their tear gas and rubber pellets from shotguns to try and deter the demonstrators. Then three people were killed. We could hear the gunshots faintly from our house. We were stuck inside, waiting out the chaos. So we played Dungeons & Dragons!

It was my first time playing, and I have to say, I'm already a huge fan. My companion taught me all about it, and he also made up the scenario as he went. I made my first character: Francis, the chaotic neutral Peacemaker. He makes peace... through war! I also invented a competency that I'm pretty tickled about. If I'm in combat, or if I have the advantage before combat, I can try to hit the enemy creature/person in the legs with my two axes. If I'm successful, they are crippled and cannot fight anymore. Then I don't have to chip away at their health points! It's been very useful. So far, I've used it to avoid being wrongfully imprisoned, slow down a giant zombie, and turn the tables on a would-be assassin.

I hope you all are staying safe and aware of danger! If you'll be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, he will guide and protect you.

Elder Weaver

Monday, January 17, 2011

the one about small miracles

All right, so this week was the slowest as far as work that I've ever experienced. But, that's OK.

Last week I forgot to tell about our little service project. We went out to a red cross warehouse and helped unload some supplies the church donated to the victims of the flooding in Shkodër. There were a couple hundred pounds of oil, beans, rice, and I bet about a ton of flour we helped move from the trucks to the warehouse. It was dusty work, but worth it to help all those people who've lost everything they have.

We went to the Greek Hospital again for my eye. Basically it's the same, no big problems so far.

Today we took our district trip to Krujë (kroo-ee). It's this little town up in the mountains, and it was the homebase of Skenderbeg, the national hero of Albania. Look him up sometime on Wikipedia, it's really interesting.

BUT, the best thing about this week was sacrament meeting. And not just because it was sacrament meeting, but because it was sacrament meeting with three investigators! The first was the muslim guy from english course. He claims he doesn't want to change, but he must be feeling something or else he wouldn't keep coming back. The second person was the woman from about three months ago. Her son was killed and she's been trying to find comfort. A great sister in the branch sat with her and made her feel comfortable, so that was good. And the third person is Fatjon! After no contact whatsoever for about two months, he came back! Yeah, I'm excited. I just hope he doesn't disappear again. Heck, I hope all three of these people don't disappear.

I hope this week is great for you all back there.

Elder Weaver

Monday, January 10, 2011

the one about french cheese

Ah, another slightly slow week. The best points first: We have a new investigator named Alten (all-ten)! And he agreed to be baptized on the first lesson! He's pretty ready to hear the message, and excited to learn more. I hope he sticks around.

On Wednesday we had an opportunity for service. A woman tried to park her van , but the front right tire had fallen into a manhole. We lifted up on the front while she reversed and she got out fine. She thanked us and we went on our way. A nearby man said that the gypsies stole the manhole cover to sell the iron as scrap metal. He used some non-politically correct names and some humorous hand motions to describe said gypsies. At least I know what not to call those with darker skin here.

Today we went to the Greek Hospital to get a second opinion on my eye. They did another gooey ultrasound on my eye and said basically the same thing as the American hospital. Oh well, maybe I'll just have to live with the little blind spot. The upside is that they did something to my eye and I couldn't focus on things up close for a few hours. It was fun! In a way...

One evening we were doing a three-hour long table. There weren’t many people and I was zoning out. Then I said "hi" to a passing car.

My new companion is cool.

His name is elder Castro-Guzman, and he's from Bordeaux, France. His English is good and so is his Albanian, but he's kind of quiet like me, so we're both having to metaphorically expand our proverbial comfort bubbles. We've played a lot of the same video games and we always find stuff to talk about while doing those long, long tables. He's also funny and has a great imagination. We went and got real French cheese from a higher-end grocery store. I guess that stuff is an acquired taste. But then he broke out some duck'n'bean goodness! His family sends a lot of packages and they included a huge can of these delicious beans and two sausages, and there's also two big chunks of duck in there. I think I'm going to eat a lot more of them quackers when I get home.

Hope everything is going well for everyone back home. Remember to drive safe!

Elder Weaver

Monday, January 3, 2011

the one about fireworks

This week wasn't as slow as cold molasses flowing uphill, but close. We only had four lessons, even with all three of us working in both areas. We met with one guy named Elvis (el-veese), who is a really, really nice guy. He works as a bouncer so he has to work out and stay huge, but he's a big teddy bear, also. He brings us treats every time we meet. The only problem is that he doesn't want to take things too quickly, so he's really reluctant to commit to anything. Another guy was Lulëzim (lool-zeem), and he's just really quiet, so it's hard to get him to participate. The other two lessons were retention lessons with members who had been baptized in the last year. All of the other time was spent standing on the streets and visiting members. Man, these people really love us here. On New Year's day a family had us over for lunch, and it was amazing. We're going to the branch president's house tonight and they're probably going to feed us, too. I feel so blessed to be in an area with such great members!

Transfer calls were two nights ago, causing some anxiety to all. Usually President Neil calls everyone starting at 9PM. We got kind of antsy when 9:45 rolled around. Turns out he forgot, and everyone got called a bit later. Oh well, no worries. I'm staying in this area for another six weeks, which will make six months in all. And the companion I'm getting is elder Castro-Guzman. He's 3 months ahead of me in the mission, and he's French. He speaks English decently, and his Albanian is about as good as mine, so I'm looking forward to some adventures in language learning!

And to top this post off: On New Year's eve, we were extremely lucky to live in a house that was owned by a member. He gave us the keys to the roof, and we had one of the best views of the fireworks in the mission. I think I will remember that night for the rest of my life. You see, here in Albania there are no laws whatsoever against fireworks. Anyone can buy huge tubes of fireworks that shoot off about 60 feet in the air and explode beautifully. Everyone buys a few tubes and just shoots them out their window at midnight. We went up to the roof at about 11, and people were already shooting some off here and there. It was kind of cool to hear them going off in the distance; it felt like you were in a war zone. Then it got more and more frequent the closer it got to midnight. And at about 12:05 it was in full swing. I wish my pictures could adequately capture the beauty of it all.

Elder Weaver