Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Roommates, Statuettes, and the Case of the Missing Birthday Box

EXCHANGES. This week was all over the place.  Normally transfers are every 6 weeks, but due to the normal transfer day falling on Christmas Day this coming month, they bumped it up 2 weeks this transfer.  So I have to do all the exchanges with other missionaries within about 3 weeks (instead of 6).

Varese...not David's photo. Internet image
I went to Varese with an Italian elder, and I exchanged with the District Leader here in Como -- thank goodness I could still sleep in my own bed!  He's in the same apartment with me and my companion.  And I have another 3 exchanges the next week, and 1 exchange the week after that.

As a Zone Leader, I either go to the other companionships' areas or they come to mine, and see how they do missionary work, or I show them how I do missionary work.  I'm supposed to set an example of missionary work in this zone, and encourage the other elders to be productive and spend their time wisely.

NEW ROOMMATES.  The other people in the apartment are fun.  My companion, Anziano Valencia, is Mexican-Columbian from New York.  He has been out about 22 months.  Anziano Pesci is a talkative guy who loves sports.  His ancestors are Italian.  Also, his sister married Dylan Shearer.  Small world, huh?  That was a weird surprise: "Yeah, Brother Shearer was my home teacher."  He's been out about 14 months.  And Anziano Barragan has Mexican roots and is from Arizona.  He's a convert of about 1.5 years now, so he's learning as much as he's teaching.  This is his 2nd month in Italy.

CHURCH MEETINGS IN COMO.  Here in Como there are 2 congregations, or "wards."  We have a building that used to be a cardinal's villa or something, so we're not allowed to remove the statuette of Maria out front (the Virgin Mary).  But it's a nice building, up on a hill.  I'm in the smaller ward, and there are usually about 70-80 people in church on Sundays.  The members are very willing to help, but we don't have many people to work with right now.  So we'll work with members when we can, and visit them to talk about the Christmas video, and working with their neighbors and friends in the Christmas spirit.

iPAD TRAINING.  We had a conference on Tuesday, where the Zone Leaders presented.  As Zone Leaders, we each led a 70-minute training session on using the iPads for "teaching" (the gospel) and "finding" (people interested in hearing about the gospel).  We focused on especially using the new Christmas video.  It wasn't so bad...just get the audience participating and you don't have to talk solid for 70 minutes, thank goodness!  It is strange being the presenter now.  I remember watching the Zone Leaders present, at each conference, and now I'm the one doing the presenting!  I also remember calling the Zone Leaders, to check in when I got home later than our appointed coming-home time.  Now, people call ME when THEY arrive home late!  It's a lot of fun, though.

NO BDAY PACKAGE.  Also, I did not get a birthday package at this conference.
 I'll ask the office if they happen to have it sitting around, but I don't know what might have happened to it.  Hopefully it was just left at the office in some confusion, because there have been so many conferences lately. (Note from Mom: I sent the box on October 10th. I just checked tracking and it was delivered to the Mission Home back on October 21st.  Really.  I sent it in time!!?!?!)

Have a good week!
Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bikes, Buses and Crossing the Border

This week has been pretty wild.  It started right after I wrote the last email.

BIKE PROBLEMS. As we were writing, Liu's bike got stolen.  Straight up gone, with the helmet left on the ground.  So that put a damper on the day!  We fixed up another bike and were back to normal in a half hour...after walking back from the church.  ALWAYS LOCK UP YOUR BIKES!

Then I ran some errands and I packed, and all in all it was a hectic P-day.  But I'll miss that district.  That was one of my favorite districts I've had so far.

MINI-REUNION. The train ride to Milano was uneventful.  At transfer circles I saw several people from my MTC (Mission Training Center) district, from the VERY beginning. It was nice to see them: Friedbaum, Keller, and Russsell.  I also saw my companion from a few transfers ago, Fabiano, who is going home now.

MY NEW HOME.  Here, I've seen some of the paperwork that goes into mission work.  As a district leader, you do some paperwork, but as a Zone Leader, I keep track of 30 people in my zone.  It's been fun, though.  This is my first "bus city," so I don't have to worry about bike problems.  I'm living with 3 other elders, so that's been fun living with 4 of us again (I started out with a 4-person apartment, in Udine).  On P-days, you automatically hit critical mass for most activities, and there are shenanigans in the evenings.

SWITZERLAND.  Included in my zone are the areas of Varese, Busto Arsizio, Como, Lugano (Switzerland), and Milano.  I've been up to Lugano already, to give a baptismal interview to a lady up there.  It is beautiful.  During the train ride up, I just stared out the window the whole time.  They also have a Blue Fanta flavor that is pretty amazing.

Today we went to a Swiss chocolate factory, Schokoland.  They gave us some free samples, and I bought other stuff too.

It is good to be here.  Also, last Saturday (the first Saturday I was here), there was a baptism.  He is an African man named Wisdom.

Love you!
Anz. Whitesell

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Italian Sign Language and Motorcades

CHANGE IN ASSIGNMENT. There's a lot to do this week!  So I'm just sending a mass email.  Last week, we were expecting transfer calls, the upcoming Saturday.  Usually the President calls those who will be training new missionaries in the morning, and the Assistants call in the morning for those who will be first-time zone leaders.  I was expecting a morning call, assuming I'd be put in as a zone leader.  Nothing came, so then I expected a call from the zone leaders in the afternoon, simply telling me where my new area would be, and who my new companion would be.

Instead, I got a call from assistant Fabiano (my 2nd companion, so very long ago...he's excellent).  He said I'm going to be a zone leader in Como (by Lake Como), closer to Milano.  My new companion will be Anziano Valencia, who I think is in his last transfer.

LEARNING FROM A DEAF MAN. A service opportunity our district gets to do is learning LIS (Italian sign language) once a week for several weeks, then go "talk" to some deaf people at an activity.  We're learning LIS from a man who is nearly blind (he can sort of make out silhouettes) and completely deaf.  He types words on his computer, then shows us the motions for each word or object or idea.  It's really interesting.

CELEBRITY VISITOR. Also, the Pope came to town yesterday.  Many streets were shut down for his motorcade in the morning.  He held a morning mass at the Duomo.  Apparently it's the first time it's been free of Africans selling selfie sticks, or gypsies begging.  Then he held a 5:00 mass at Campo di Marte, and we had an appointment on the other side of it!  We rerouted past traffic, and on the way back the flood of people was like leaving Fenway Park after a game.  We biked behind a police car, so we made pretty good time.

The saddest part of leaving was saying goodbye to Henry and Julia.  We went to his house and he was there, plus Julia and his brother Anselmo.  It was sad to say goodbye, but I'll see him again when I come back.  The gospel of Jesus Christ has really helped that family.  They have so much more love in their house now.

I was packing up, looking through old letters, and I found an old MTC envelope.  Inside was my temple recommend, which I had misplaced a long time ago!  It is now safely in my wallet.

Vi voglio bene! (I love you!) Off to pick up my last group of ties, see a few more people, and run a couple of errands before leaving tomorrow.

Anziano Whitesell

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Birthdays, Bikes, and Flossing

Well I started off the week with a scambio (exchange...where we switch companions for a day) with Elder Hansen.  Reminds me of when Anziano Liu was just starting off, only with a worse American accent.  But we had a good day!

FEAST OR FAMINE. We started off talking to a lady in the park who spoke six languages.  We also met with Henry, who fed us "lomo saltado," a Peruvian dish.  Then we met with a part-member family to talk about family mission plans, and talked about praying for "missionary opportunities:" when you can share your faith or testimony about the gospel with someone.  Another missionary activity for them could be to give a Plan of Salvation pamphlet to those who have had a birth or death in the family.

Then they fed us, too!  I can't seem to spread these things out...meal appointments always end up being double-booked, or not at all.
"Buon Compleanno Anziano Whitesell"

BUON COMPLEANNO A ME.  I had a birthday!  Yay, Me!  We had a lunch in church after meetings, so it was sort of like a birthday celebration by the whole congregation.  How kind of them!  Angela was at church on my birthday, so I got to talk to her.  She gave me M&M type candy.  From France.  She said Mom asked her to bake something, but she didn't have time...I hadn't seen her for awhile, though, so it was good to catch up.  A man from English class gave me a jar of honey.  It was good!

I got some letters from people stateside, which was nice!  And the Hydes (senior couple) said they found baby pictures of me on facebook :)  And at our District Meeting, I got a Halloween skeleton mask to wear.  I think THEY think I'm getting old.  I'll get my package from you at the Zone Conference around the 20th.

TWO-WHEELED CHALLENGES.  More bike problems.  Anziano Liu's (bike#1) bike chain started falling off on a regular basis -- every couple of pedals -- so we took it to the bike shop and used a spare (bike#2) that was condemned awhile back.  We found out why it had been condemned: the pedals take a few cranks to catch properly, and if you stop pedaling while the bike is moving, the pedals, after a few seconds, keep going forward.

We swapped that one for another bad one (bike#3) that another elder had left at the church, but it rubbed really bad against the back fork.  Meanwhile, the original bike (bike#1) got fixed, but mine (bike#4) got a flat.  So I traded it for the bad one (bike#2) now left at the church, rode it for a few days, tried to fix the flat (bike#4) but didn't have
superglue, and ended up swapping a wheel and tire lying around, onto (bike#3), so now I have (bike#3) in wonderful condition.

GOOD HABITS.  I will have you not worry: I have not lost weight!  Anziano Liu has lost 30 pounds, but I'm still the same.  I eat fine, cook for myself fine, and have plenty of physical activity, brush my teeth, floss (sometimes), eat vegetables, clean the'd be proud, I'm sure.

I'm down to one more P-day in Firenze.  Have a wonderful week!
Anziano Whitesell