Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Venice, Fufu, and Christian Rock


This week was, once again, pretty busy (aren't they all).  I've had a few appointments, did a lot of tracting, have had a few bike problems...  Here is a picture from our apartment. and also photos after it rained one day in Udine.
View from Udine apartment

Beautiful (GINORMOUS) rainbow

Double rainbow after it rained all day

Anziani Anderson and Whitesell
TRACTING.  We have 3-4 usual routes for tracting, where we can walk and talk to a lot of people.  One is next to a river, one is in a city, one is by a park, which usually ends up with us doing the city loop, and one is a huge 3-hour loop that involves all of those places.  I didn't see how they all connected at first, but now that I know the area better I can walk around knowing where these places are relative to each other, and know the general area where the train station is, where some members are, where the church is, etc.

BIKE PROBLEMS.  I was biking along one day, and the tire felt iffy -- I felt the bumps more than usual.  Then we did tracting, and when we got back, all the air was out of it.  It wasn't slashed or anything.  Just flat I guess from a rock or glass.  So I rode the flat home that day, and we walked to church on Sunday (about a half-hour walk). I walked my bike back into town on Monday, but the main bike shop was still closed for Feria.  So we left the bikes in the city and walked home (20-30 minutes).  Tuesday we walked back, walked the bikes to a different bike shop, and left them there.  So I'm actually going to pick it up after I finish emailing today.

VENIZIA = VENICE.  We went to Venizia today...that was our P-Day activity.  It's about 2 hours away by train, so it's at the far limit of where we can visit.  But we went, and it was pretty cool.  It's a beautiful city, and the waterways just make it really unique.
Venice canals

We got off the train in Venizia and started walking around the city.  Of course the main areas and entrance had tons of tourist shops.  They sold masquerade masks, glass figurines, tshirts, jackets, tons of touristy stuff.
Can you just hear that gondolier guy singing in the background?
And there are loads of restaurants.  But the streets are really close and it looks Italian, with cobblestone, open shutters on windows, shingled roofs, and alleyways where I could reach out and touch both sides with my hands at the same time.
Thin alleyways

So we wandered around Venizia for about an hour and a half, walking across bridges and watching some gondoliers pass by, and mingled with the thousands of tourists.

The restaurants were pretty pricey, so we just ate at a cafeteria by the train station: paninis, pizzas, and such.  The drinks are either water, fizzy water (nasty stuff), Aranciata (orange soda -- tons and tons of that here -- Fanta and other brands) or beers or wines.

INVESTIGATORS.  On a side note, whenever we meet an investigator at a bar, we'll sit outside or inside at the nice tables.  Someone comes out and asks what we want. They inevitably get coffee, and we inevitably get water.  For one fizzy water I got, they added mint flavoring.  It tasted better, but it tasted like mouthwash, so only marginally better.

FUFU.  This is fufu, a dish served to us by one of the church members from Africa (I don't know which country).  It's a play-dough-like substance without much flavor, so you break off pieces and dip it in a hot chicken-based sauce.  It was a weird consistency, but the missionaries in Italy all know it.
Fufu, you read it right

This particular member also has us drink an entire bottle of Aranciata with each meal, between the 3 of us.  Fortunately, I like sugary drinks.  As you can see from the partly-eaten-fufu picture, I didn't eat much of it.  My companion loves it, so he ate the entire thing and half of mine.  It was disgusting to think of that lump of stuff sitting in his stomach.
At the end of the meal I had only eaten this much

WEATHER.  It's not very hot, in fact it rains every other day.  It's not sticky, thank goodness, but kind of chilly.  I carry water with me on my bike.
Tower in Venice

MUSIC.  Many Elders have music on their SD cards or portable hard drives, not sure which.  We listen to hymns, or sort of Christian-rock stuff?  It's not rock, but specifically Mormon writers singing about gospel principles.  It's weird and missionaries are probably the only ones who listen to it, but it's good enough to listen to.

I think that's about it.  Letters are cool.  I can check my mailbox daily.

I love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Training, Miracles, Losing My Companion

(Quick background: the Dowlings are our exceptional friends from church.  I was her counselor when she was the Relief Society president a few years back, and her son was serving in the same mission David got called to, Milan Italy.  Our sons overlapped in Italy exactly one day: David arrived in Milan Wednesday, and Anziano Blake Dowling finished his mission Thursday. His parents went to get him, and tour Italy.)

We had a great Sacrament Meeting Sunday!  Anziano Dowling spoke, since they returned from Italy last week.  He spoke very highly of Anziano Anderson (David's trainer), so that made us happy.  He spoke about patience as an attribute of Christ that is difficult to attain, but you can improve a little at a time.

FORESHADOWING.  He also said that 3 weeks before David got there, he was serving in Udine, as was Anziano Anderson.  They knew that at the upcoming August transfer, Anziano Dowling would be going home, and one other missionary (of the 4 in the apartment) would be transferred to another area.  Anziano Dowling told Anziano Anderson, "There is a missionary coming to this mission, from my home ward building.  I think he's coming here, and I think you are going to train him."  And that's what happened.  Of all the possible areas to be sent his first assignment, David went to Udine (where Blake Dowling finished his mission) and is being trained by Anziano Anderson.  This adds to my testimony that the Lord has a plan, and reasons for people to be in different places at different times.  I think Udine is exactly where the Lord wants David right now.  Maybe we'll never know all the good that happens because of that.  But he knows David personally, and every person he'll come in contact with while he's there.

Anziano Anderson told me that story too!  About how Anziano Dowling called that I would be trained in Udine.  It was pretty cool.

Journal entry highlights:
Woke up at 5:50 today to go to the New Missionary Training Conference in Bologna.  I slept most of the ride.  At the church building, Anziano Harding was there already (another Elder from my zone in the MTC), so that was a pleasant surprise.

NEW MISSIONARY TRAINING.  Basically we went over some information about the apartments, about money, about housekeeping, then we had lunch.  Did you know in Italy they make smaller pizzas, but each person gets a pizza?  It's a lot of food, but I'm getting used to eating large quantities because I don't know exactly when my next meal will be. ("Orphan Mentality," I call it.  Fortunately, it's just food.  I feel very loved and taken-care-of, and trusting. Anyway.)

Then President Dibb talked to us about how missionary work is progressing in Italy and how each of us has an important part to play.  Recently there was a conference for Mission Presidents in Europe, at which several General Authorities were present, and 2 apostles.

MIRACLE: at the train station, when buying tickets, I didn't think I could buy tickets home.  The tickets from Milan to Bologna were expensive, and we hadn't been reimbursed yet.  My transaction register showed I had about 10 euros left on my card, and while I had enough cash to pay for the other half, it only accepted one or the other.  So somehow, the transaction still went through.  I don't know where the money came from, but it worked.  So that was very nice.

LOSING MY COMPANION.  Also, this week was the first time I lost my companion.  We were biking, and I crossed a crosswalk, apparently too close to pedestrians.  The police on motorcycles pulled me aside and told me to be careful.  Which didn't take long, but Anziano Anderson was out of sight by then.  So I went to a place I knew (Parco Moretti, it's called), and asked a lady if I could use her phone.  He picked up and biked over to where I was.  So it turned out ok, but it's strange how weird it feels to be without a companion, after 8 weeks of always being around 1 or 2 specific people.

We have appointments every day or so, sometimes more, sometimes less.

FOOD.  Food is interesting.  They don't have things like peanut butter and graham crackers, though they still have normal baking stuff (flour, sugar, pasta, etc.).  At our district meeting, the senior couple brought a box of food left over from the American base a few miles away.  So we took some Betty Crocker frosting, which doesn't exist in Italy.  Those who had been out for awhile really enjoyed it.  No need to send anything really, I can find what I need.  It's just creature comforts that I find I'm missing.  Also I figured out that when I said I was eating well last week, that wasn't really true.  So I made a meal plan and will be having actual meals -- yogurt, eggs-and-sausage, fruit; pasta for lunch or ham-eggs-cheese pitas, that sort of stuff.  Things are looking up, food-wise.

Love you lots!
Anziano Whitesell

Thursday, August 14, 2014

First Full Week in Italy

Hi Mom!

I have safely arrived in Italy, and I did receive your letter.  I will start with answers to your questions:

The church here in Udine is fairly small, just about 30 people in Sacrament Meeting.  I think there are more coming later in the year though: August is called Ferragosto, and most people take the month off and go places.  There you have it.  So I am expecting 40 people in Sacrament Meeting once August is over.

My apartment-mates are Anziani Gibbons, Kendrick, and Anderson.  Anderson is cool because he has been in Udine for awhile, and knows the area really well.  Kendrick is the district leader; he is nice and pretty funny.  Gibbons plays Magic (did not bring cards with him, it's okay) and cooks very well.

I speak some.  When we talk to people, I add in a few sentences, but mostly listen.  When we are talking about the gospel, I can pick up most of what is said.  Otherwise, I understand general ideas of what is being said, and a small part of the actual language.

Italy at night
As far as meals, I have not bought anything until today.  Anderson bought groceries last week in preparation for me arriving, and he just bought some eggs, juice, cereal, vegetables, milk, bread, some other stuff.  I made pasta with mozzarella cheese cubes, bacon bits and diced tomatoes in it.  The mozzarella cheese melted, and it tasted pretty good.  Each person makes one meal a week for the group, and that was mine. (Anderson bought the ingredients for it.  I bought his groceries this week, so we are even.)  Otherwise, meal schedules are weird here.  We have breakfast, go do stuff, take two hours for lunch/language study, then do not have dinner until we get back, around 9:30.  So I had eggs, cereal, and milk for breakfast for a few days.  It was not bad.  (INTERJECTION: I didn't find the apostrophe until now.)

For dinner I have a croissant, some bread with Nutella or jam, and some juice.  We've been fed twice, which was nice.  I don't know about being super-hungry. I've eaten well. It just doesn't sound like much.  I spent 18 Euro on groceries, which seems pretty cheap.  We have basic cooking stuff, so when I go back next week and am more settled-in, I'll look at more complex recipes.  The meal I have planned for this week is mac and cheese and sausage.  I also bought more fruit, different cereal, some yogurt, basically breakfast foods.  I can't explain well, but I'm eating fairly healthy and I'm not hungry so don't worry.

Suburban areas of Udine

rainy day

I was going to transcribe some of my journal, but I forgot it.  So sorry about that.  Next week.  The first day, we got into Milan and found that 9 suitcases were missing among 7 people.  Mine was one of them.  We still went to the mission home, and all 9 miraculously showed up the next day.  President Dibb has never lost a bag, I don't think.  We did some orientation, but went straight to Milan central to proselyte a bit, on the first day.  It was all right, we found we could talk better than we expected.  Like they told you, we stayed in a hotel the first night, then shipped out on trains on Thursday.  I was sad to say goodbye to my district and zone from the MTC, but excited to head out.
most of my zone

I'm in Udine, (OO-din-nay) by the way.  It's in the northeast.  We then traveled for two hours by train, stopped in Venezia for a few minutes (dropped off an area cell phone that a companionship had accidentally brought with them to the transfer meeting), and hopped on another train.  Oops, the wrong train!  We then spent the next several hours finding our way back to the Udine train.  It actually got so late that we called up the missionaries in Pordenone and stayed at their apartment for the night.  Interesting first day in the field.
Train Station

The next days were more normal.  It's a biking mission, so we bike all around.  We go to the park and to the river to talk to people, and we talk to some people for awhile, while others just brush us off.  We have had a lot of meetings, usually 1 or 2 a day.  The rest of the time is traveling by bike or studying.  It's pretty cool.

From a train
The picture I sent was of me at Ann's house.  She's Australian and was baptized last week.  She's really cool, and we have taught her twice.  I have found I really like Aussies, from the few I've encountered on my mission.

Welcome treat from Aziano Scott
Other was good.  I bore my testimony and gave a prayer, since it was a small branch.  I'm having fun and learning quickly.  I still have a ways to go with the Italian, but I enjoy learning and practicing.

Oh, and the picture is of a candy bar attached to a note: "To Anziano _________" from Anziano Scott, the last missionary who was here.  It was a nice note, with some tips for the mission and the first few weeks.

Love, Anziano Whitesell

Friday, August 8, 2014

First Area and Companion


(from David's mom:) Today we received an email from the mission office in Milan.  They also sent a photo of David and (I assume) his companion Anziano Andersen, with President and Sister Dibb, the mission president and his wife.  (The photo is blurry.  It's not your eyes. I can at least tell that it's David, but it's not a great picture.)  Here is the letter:

Dear Brother and Sister Whitesell,

Sister Dibb and I are happy to report that your son, David Franklin Whitesell, has arrived, received a warm Italy Milan Mission welcome, and been sent out to the field.  His first city of labor is Udine and his companion is Elder Andersen.

My primary concern as the mission president is the well-being of each missionary and to help them realize the purpose of a mission call, to "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (Preach My Gospel, page 1).  I invite you to join me in that effort.  Through your prayers, encouraging letters, and support of mission rules, you can help your missionary in this challenging but wonderful experience.

A mission is a life-changing experience for both the missionary and those he teaches.  It requires faith, spirituality, discipline, obedience, physical stamina and great effort.  Early in a missionary's mission, the task ahead can seem overwhelming.  However, with persistent effort and faith in Jesus Christ, a new missionary can achieve great things and do all that is necessary to become a great servant of our Heavenly Father.  Throughout your missionary's mission, but especially in these early months, I encourage you to write letters expressing your confidence in him and the inspired calling he has received.

Parents often have a variety of questions about mission life and policies.  To help answer some of those we most frequently receive, I have attached some information that I hope will be helpful.  I encourage you to read it carefully and save it as a reference while your missionary is here with us in Italy.  I am also attaching a photograph of your missionary with Sister Dibb and me.
Thank you for all you have done to prepare this wonderful missionary to serve our Heavenly Father and the people of Italy.  Please let us know if you have any concerns or if we can be of any help.

Un caro saluto,

Italy Milan Mission
Bruce L. Dibb

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Travel Days and a Phone Call Home

Six weeks in the MTC were busy and productive, and seemed to go by quickly.  From emails we had with David, it seemed like he had a good experience in the Mission Training Center.  His district of 7 people were very strong and supportive people.  They all spent a lot of time learning and teaching together (and eating meals of course). They got to know each other and became good friends.

The morning of August 5 arrived, and it was the beginning of the Travel Marathon!  The missionaries going to Rome, Italy took another flight path, so the Milan missionaries said goodbye to them.  Then all 21 missionaries, who were headed for Milan, luggage and bags in tow, went to the Salt Lake City airport for the first leg of the journey.  British Airways flight #1827 took them from Salt Lake City to Chicago.

Then David was able to call home!  We waited awhile since his flight into Chicago was delayed a little. But he called, actually as he was boarding plane number two.  He said it had gone smoothly so far, and he would miss his instructors at the MTC.

His second flight, British Airways #294, took them all night into London, and the third flight went from London to Milan.  They arrived in Milan August 6.

Our friends Darsi and Mike Dowling have a son Blake who was just finishing his mission in Milan.  They went to pick him up and to visit Italy, and they knew David would be coming the same week Blake was leaving.  They knew, from Blake's experience, that the brand new missionaries went to the center of Milan on their first day there.  So Mike and Darsi looked for David, and found him!  They surprised us with a photo from the first day there.  Now it's on the laptop as the background photo.  Love it!

Downtown Milano, right next to the Duomo
I also got a phone call from another missionary, in the mission office in the afternoon of the 6th.  They said our son had arrived, safe and sound, and that they would eat dinner (all 21 of the new missionaries!) in the mission home, and stay at a nearby hotel that night.  Then, the next day -- 7th -- they would head to their apartments and get to work :)

David's 1st area is Udine, just northeast of Venice.  His companion is Anziano Andersen.  There are 4 missionaries in Udine, and they are all in the same apartment.  No sisters (sorellas) are there right now.

Monday, August 4, 2014

One Day Before we Fly to Italy!

Anziano Whitesell flies to Italy on Tuesday, August 5!  They'll fly from Salt Lake City to Chicago, then to London, then to Milan.  I asked him 3 questions about the MTC.  Here is his email from the night before:

I'll be able to call home around 4:30 p.m. your time on Tuesday, from Chicago.  I'll just call the home phone, so maybe if you're home around that time, that would be nice.

(question: who has been your favorite instructor and why?) My favorite teacher has been Sorella Oakes, who you may receive an email from at some point.  Then again, maybe not: she's getting  married soon.  She gave our district wedding invitations!  Even though we won't be able to go.  It's in about a month.  But when she teaches, you can tell that she cares about us and wants us to succeed.

(question: what will you miss most about the MTC?) I'll miss having food prepared for me, I suppose.  And having my district around all the time.  I think we get districts out in Italy, but I won't be with them for 7+ hours a day.

(question: what will you be happy to leave at the MTC?)  I'll be happy to leave...I don't know. It's nice here.

Packing has been weird.  I don't have all that much stuff, but I have to make sure that neither suitcase goes over 50 pounds.  Also since I have 2 checked bags, I have to make sure that everything makes it into my satchel, the only thing coming onto the plane with me.  Anziano Blazzard is our travel leader, so he gets to stress over all of us being on time.  People have been going around collecting each others' contact info for during (between Elders OR between Sisters) and after the mission.  A lot of people will be in the Utah area for school, at BYU, U of U, Weber, Utah State...popular area for RMs, it seems.  So it's cool that I'll see people again afterwards.  Also apparently I'll see the Milan people at mission conferences, during transfers sometimes, and more frequently during the mission than I previously thought.

Sorry about not many pictures.  I'll get more at the airport and in Italy; I just didn't think the MTC was particularly interesting for photos.  It looks like college dorms and classrooms.

Hope to talk soon.

Anziano Whitesell

Sunday, August 3, 2014

5th Week in the MTC

(I sent Anziano Whitesell a box, including some items he asked for: "P-Day" and exercise clothing, including 2 tshirts and 3 pair of shorts, also nail clippers, socks, pillowcase and a favorite recipes book. We also sent their district -- 7 missionaries he's been taking classes with, who will all go to Milan together -- 7 CTR rings in Italian, and some Articles of Faith cards in Italian. The sisters were very appreciative :)  We received 3 very nice thank you notes, the best part of which was their praise of Anziano Whitesell.  He's working hard and they think very highly of him.  He was able to give Sorella Palmer a blessing.  She's from Australia and very far from home.  Anyway those thank you notes were highlights of my week!  Always nice for parents to hear good things about their kids from someone else.)

Here is his response about the box coming, and his comings and goings for the week.

Excellent!  I've been wearing a Polo shirt and khakis for P-day, and I feel like IT Personnel rather than P-day.  I'm pretty sure that's all I'll need.  I don't know what, if anything, I'll send home, but I packed fairly light so I shouldn't need to send anything back.  There will be a few charges on the credit card over the next week from picking up a few things at the bookstore and from checked bag fees, but we got a nice information sheet about travel information so I know how much weight I can carry.  Anything else I need to know can be DearElder'd, and I'll check my email one more time the night before I fly out, so I'll get in a quick message if anything unexpected is going to happen.

This past week the Germans left.  They were in the classrooms across from ours, and on the dorm floor below us.  They had a lot of leftover candy and food that they weren't taking with them, so some of us Italians went and got candy from them.  Fun stuff.
for comparison: the Elder on the far left is 6'7"

I managed to climb down the length of the hall, so attached are a few pictures. It's not the Matrix picture TK wanted, but I did my own thing and got stronger at wall-climbing.

We're learning about the future tense in Italian, after having learned and Imperfect and Conversational Past, but before Subjunctive and Conditional.  It reminds me of Spanish, but we're learning faster.

The devotional last night was by an Emeritus General Authority, which I learned means retired.  The movie "The Other Side of Heaven" was based off his mission.  Which of course I haven't seen.  But he gave a nice testimony, and then we talked about it at the district devotional review last night.

I got a nice DearElder from Angela, so thank her for me.

I play soccer and volleyball during gym time.  I can't think of all that much that happened.  The food here is still good.  People are still receiving large amounts of food, so that will either be sent back, thrown away, or if they have extra weight, taken with them.

Just after our temple trip today, we read a sign that said "missionaries needed to help in laundry" so we helped in the temple laundry room.

Anziano Whitesell