Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Holidays, Belts, and Fingerprints

It's raining pretty hard right now, but fortunately I have waterproof gear.  I mean, this isn't particularly intimidating after Udine right next to the rainiest city in Italy or after the tornado.  But it's still not optimal.

Pistoia duomo piazza

I hit my 16-month mark last week, my birthday this week, Halloween, and Christmas fairly soon!  All sorts of good things this time of year.
another artistic street sign

SEARCHING. We got a new ward (congregation) list, so we've taken the opportunity to do less-active pass-bys.  These are visits to those who have not been to church in awhile, to see how things are going for them, and in some cases, to make sure they still live there.  Not much success has come of it.  We had a woman yell at us and tell us the man we were looking for was dead.  Another man lived in the apartment complex we visited, but only one other person there knew him, and only knew he lived on the 2nd or 3rd floor.  And for a couple of names, there was no trace of them!

BATMAN RETURNS. I feel like the police: two guys with tags show up.
"Do you know this individual?"
"We know she's in the apartment building."
Batman: "Where is it?  Wheeeeeere is it?"

(Side note from Mom: okay for those not familiar with the Batman movies...Bruce Wayne/Batman has some serious anger management issues going on in those scenes.  For the Record: Missionaries do NOT beat people up to get information!?!?!)

WARDROBE ADVICE. I was told my pants were too loose by a member who used to work at Men's Wearhouse.
"Have you lost some weight, Elder?'
No, it hasn't changed in awhile.
"Then you bought your pants too big, they shouldn't bunch up like that with the belt."
"Hmmm," I thought to myself, "If you worked at Men's Wearhouse, when was the last time you saw a pair of 30-waist/34-length pants??"
sushi with me, Liu, Random Guy, Cunningham, Hansen

BATTLE OF THE RED TAPE. Aaaannnd...more shenanigans at the Questura (police headquarters).  We missed the original appointment to start Anziano Liu's Permesso process, so we came back the next day and they said come back on THIS date.  So we did, and took fingerprints, and thought that was it.  Then we get a call from the office saying we missed the culture and integration class, which apparently was scheduled for the day we took fingerprints.  We had no idea.  So we went back to the Questura, waited in line for an hour and a half.  We didn't want to miss district meeting, so we up and left, to try again later.  The Questura is a miserable place.

When our family comes to Firenze on our Italy trip next summer, be sure to plan a Sunday in Firenze.  Half the ward is Peruvian, and I'm sure some of them would enjoy speaking Spanish with you.  Several Peruvians, an Ecuadorian family, a Mexican family, and a Cuban.

Love you,
Anziano Whitesell

P.S. (written after 1st note, after he received his mom's email)  Thanks for the note.  I'm uploading some pics right now.  I got the music, thanks! I'm not supposed to "chat," or back-and-forth email, but I would like to add to your thought of the Celestial Room in the temple being your favorite room of all, because it's so peaceful.

My favorite room of all is that room in the Visitor's Center, Temple Square in Salt Lake City, where you go up the spiral ramp to the statue of Christ in the middle.  There is a backdrop of space: stars and planets.  It's a peaceful, beautiful place.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Free Museum Entrance, Free Lunch

VISITING A NEW TOWN.  Well, today we went to Pistoia.  Quite frankly, it made me count my blessings of being in Firenze and having Anziano Liu as my companion.  Pistoia reminded me of Ferrara in size and level of being interesting.  They had standard small town sites -- a duomo, a market, some parks, a castle, and some small museums.  Maybe I've just gotten picky after 5 months in Florence, with 2 companions for 2 transfers each.  I'm so lucky to be here!

We went to a museum that gave us free entry as students.  But it was disappointing -- the subjects were poorly done sculptures and sketches of horses and female nudes.  Very glad I didn't pay money for it.  At least it gets us a discount on other museums, some of which are in Florence.

PRACTICE WRITING ITALIAN. Padre mi ha chiesto di scrivere un po' in Italiano, quindi faccio quello adesso.  A un po' dificile perche l'Autocorrect non vuole ch'io scrivo in un'altra lingua, ma se vado pia lentamente, posso evitare quelle correzioni.  Ho sentito di un museo di Galileo, quindi penso di andarci la settimana prossima o quella dopo.  Oppure potremmo andare a Vinci, la citt dov nato Leonardo.  Si trova abbastanza vicino a Firenze.

(Translation for the above paragraph: Dad asked me to write a little in Italian, so I'll do that now.  It's kind of hard because the "autocorrect" doesn't want me to write in another language.  But if I go more slowly, I can avoid those corrections.  I heard about a museum of Galileo, so I think we'll go there next week or the week after.  Or we could go to Vinci, the city where Leonardo was born.  It is close enough to Florence.)

We met with Henry as usual last week, but today we're having a Family Home Evening (FHE) with another family and his family. That's when members of the family get together weekly for a spiritual thought or gospel lesson, or just having fun together building relationships together.  We're trying to get Henry better-integrated into the congregation ("ward").  Because as much as we love him, he has to be a part of the ward group, not just the missionaries'.

VARIED RESPONSIBILITIES. Yes, being a district leader is fun -- I feel connected to my district, especially since we 6 are all in Firenze.  Earlier in my mission I wanted to be a District Leader (DL) and also train somebody new.  And now, here I am doing both!  The way things flow in this particular mission, I might become a Zone Leader eventually, but I could also go to the office instead. That would be an interesting change in the type of work I'd be doing.  I'll know if I'm going to the office by next week.  Any other changes I'll know by November 7th.

FREE LUNCH. Here is a nice thing that happened to us: We had a baptism planned at exactly the same time as a stake youth activity.  We still had a good showing of support, thankfully.  It was the other Elders' baptism; the people getting baptized were Austin and Ike, who are Nigerians.  Some of the church leaders said, "Hey missionaries, we have these frozen pizzas left over.  You can take them!"  So we had pizza for a district meeting lunch on Monday.

(Side note from Mom: David asked for the music from the CD "From Cumorah's Hill" for his birthday, so I uploaded that whole CD's music to an internet site:  He can go to that site and retrieve the music.  That's the same site where he usually uploads his PHOTOS, for ME to retrieve them.)

Ah, I see you want to trade: "From Cumorah's Hill" music, for pictures! Clever :D ha.  I'll get over to the church and upload those.  It'll be next week, since I'm on a train right now.

Vi voglio bene!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Puzzles, Chains and Finding Your Inner Baker

POWER PRESENTATIONS. We had an interesting activity for our district (6 missionaries in the same area).  We "blitzed" the Ward Council Meeting!  Ward Council is when leaders of the congregation meet to discuss the needs and concerns of the congregation.  All 6 of us missionaries (with the Bishop's permission of course) showed up to the Ward Council meeting and presented a few possible ways to help the church members...

1) Getting "Meet the Mormons" (an American-made documentary) shown in Italian.  Our mission got the go-ahead to do that.

2) Getting more ward (congregation) unity by having activities together.  Right now there is a divide between the Peruvians and the Italians.  This is in the interest of fellowshipping new converts better.  And

3) Dedicating some time for the church members to learn from the Preach My Gospel manual (that's the manual we, the missionaries, use primarily in our teaching: "PMG").  We could do that either by teaching some from it during our monthly Fast and Testimony day, or we could have an ongoing PMG class.  We could ask 5-6 families to attend for 6 weeks at a time, and explain how the lessons work, during the Sunday School block of time.

view from Pitti Palace
These were some of our good ideas, well presented, that hopefully will get implemented after the Bishop confers with his counselors about them.  We're getting a fire started in Firenze!

TEACHING TOOLS.  One thing we are encouraged to do is to make "scripture chains:" a series of scriptures on a certain topic. One scripture chain I have is about light. I have used it for member visits, to help them think about the scriptures and how they apply to us individually.  I have probably over-used this one, so it's time to put another one together, but here it is for you.

Genesis 1:3-4
John 12:35
Matthew 5:14-16
Proverbs 20:27
Doctrine & Covenants 50:24 That book is additional scripture that we use, with the Bible and Book of Mormon.  If you don't have one, here's a link to the scripture from for this scripture chain.  And, I'll just include it:

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."

I like the progression from light, to us, to our spirits, to a perfect light.

P-DAY PUZZLES. My activity today for P-Day was called Fox in a Box.  It was a puzzle escape-room challenge.  It was a lot of fun, but more people would have helped.  I had in mind that all 6 of us missionaries would do it together, but they fizzled with the broke-college-student mentality.  So just my companion and I did the puzzles.  There were some good puzzles.  We didn't finish in the allotted hour, but with all 6 of us we totally would have finished. (When you come to Firenze, keep that one in mind as a fun activity that our family could do.)

Next p-day, I'm planning the trip to Pistoia (just 25 miles away, still in our zone). Mom you mentioned the zoo, and the underground tunnels near the hospital.

HIDDEN TALENTS.  I keep finding out more about my Inner Baker!  I'm collecting a lot of recipes now, and experimenting a bit.  I tried Rice Krispee treats, but they only had chocolate Rice Krispees, and marshmallows are really hard to find.

I also picked up a wonderful tiramisu recipe, and one for apple turnovers.  Only problem is ingredients, although I have been tipped off about a place to buy vanilla...#winning!

I think the box you sent should get to me in early November...maybe it would be better to get it after I've moved to the next city, so I don't have to try to fit the contents into a suitcase! Ha.

Also, when I do end up getting transferred, please update my address when I leave.  For the past 4 months, we've been getting the mail from one missionary's mother...and he hasn't lived in this apartment for 1.4 years.  Let's avoid that.

CLOTHES. You asked if my shoes were holding out.  I bought some Italian shoes in July, since the ones I brought with me wore through.  Not so much in the heels or soles so much, but the tops were nasty and shredded.  My other clothes are fine.  Maybe I can get another pair of  pants or 2, but that can wait until Saldi (a sale) :)

IMPROVING ITALIAN.  For Language Study, I read the Book of Mormon out loud in Italian, translate English articles into Italian, use the verb book and the dictionary to find new words, or read conference talks in Italian.

WHAT MAKES A STELLAR MISSIONARY?  There's a file being passed around between missionaries about a really admirable missionary named Elder Ricciardi, from 21 years ago.  It's called the "Ricciardi Letter."  His admirable quality is lack of fear, and his willingness to bear testimony to everyone he encounters.  This elder 21 years ago set an inspiring example of letting our faith outshine our fears.

Love you!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Conference, Parks, Haggling

CONFERENCE WEEKEND.  As for your questions: General Conference was good.  We watched a session live Saturday evening, then 3 sessions the next day.  We were at the church for about 9 hours, to beat last week's 7 hours!  I do like the new Apostles, even if I wasn't expecting any of them.  I do remember a couple of talks, but I'd have to look at my notes to remember them better.  Someone recommended that I read President Uchtdorf's talk from the Relief Society session, and it was really good.

TEACHING.  Well, this week has, as always, been an eventful one.  We met with a man names Pier Paulo for the second time yesterday.  I found him 2 months ago with Elder Jensen on exchange.  Then he left for a month on vacation.  Now he's back, and has allowed us to present our message.

The first meeting, strangely enough, was also on exchange -- with two elders he had never seen before.  But they taught him about the Restoration and showed him "Mountains to Climb," (church video) which made him cry and feel the Holy Spirit.  And promptly get defensive, saying, "Look at all these things I'm doing with the Catholic Church."  But still, he's asked us to come back twice since then.  Still encouraging him to pray about Joseph Smith, being like the lamp salesman rather than the bee swatter.

BEAUTIFUL GARDENS. Most of our finding-people-work comes from street contacting or park finding, but after endless rounds of the same two parks (which my last companions had done too...), we decided to make the "finding" time blocks less repetitive.  We found other green ares on the map and visited them, in the hopes that one of them might be a suitable park for us to visit regularly.  We found one really nice garden area close to us, and one further away, where we could go in between lessons, or if we were just in that area.  And we started doing some house-to-house finding, starting close to us.  That way if someone lets us in, it's not a huge journey to go back for each lesson.

SOME STAY THE SAME. Transfer Day was a bit weird, since for many it involves a change of everything: area, companion, level of responsibility, but for us this time, nothing was different.  (I am still training Elder Liu. Both of us stayed here with the same companion, each other.)  So there were goodbyes for the other companionships, sleepover arrangements for the other Anziani who had to get to Milano early to pick up greenies, and yet we planned a normal day.

But we still got pulled into it, babysitting one of the Zone Leaders while he waited for his companion.
We stayed at the train station to make sure people got through, got to their trains, etc., then went to the market.  Anziano Vasquez (Zone Leader) wanted a leather jacket, but they were either too pricey or not good quality.  Makes sense, but sometimes you can get both good things.

HAGGLING. Dad, I'm sure you would like the market/Duomo for haggling with vendors and getting more-or-less deals.  There are a bunch of salesmen (who close up shop really quickly when the police roll by) who sell 3-foot-by-2-foot prints of various scenes of Italy, landscapes, or points of interest.  We showed interest on accident once, and he started following us.

"30? These good pictures."
"No, too much."
"20?" We start walking away, but Liu is new and guiltily says, "Sorry, we can't."
"I give you for 10. Good price, good price."
"No, we're not interested." But Liu is clearly wavering.  The guy got up, rolled up a print that Liu had pointed to and followed us about 30 feet.
"fine, fine, I give you for 5."  Liu looks at him, thinks for a moment, then decides "No, not today."
So clearly, haggling is easier with some people than with others.

TWO DECADES.  I haven't thought too much about my birthday (coming up on Nov 1st), though it's pretty weird to think that I'm already about to turn 20.  Teresa thought it was weird, that she'd be 18 and I'd be 20 next month.  Just shows how time moves along, I suppose.  You asked about a birthday box, and I really don't know what I would want in it.  Not things, because I have enough things in my suitcase already, and I've been out 15 months...I don't think I'm missing anything.  So that leaves food, and maybe a small photo album of friends and family, tho that would be just as good if you emailed me a bunch of pictures (I can put them in a folder on the iPad).

Don't worry about me, I'm doing great! :D
Love, Anziano Whitesell