Saturday, November 22, 2008

Italy--Week 2

Our zone leaders are in our district. They went to a meeting in Rome and came back with a letter for me. YAY.

Yes theres an at button, I just cant figure out how to use it. My computer skills arent that great and things arent...well...the same.

What do I want for Christmas? Surprise me. I dont know, what types of things do people usually send missionaries? I love candy and sweets. Brown sugar doesnt exist over here, but we do live near a military base and do have connections. Im not a fan of peanut butter. I could use more socks, but I think I need to go shopping eventually. I really dont know. Send me love. Love is great. Words of encouragement.

Oh, and I want to apologize that this is late. Originally our zone conference was scheduled for today. Then some time during the week they switched it for yesterday. That meant we had to switch our P-day. I was worried it would switch to Tuesday and I would have to go a week without hearing from you. However, our zone leaders had to go to Rome AGAIN so we switched it to today. All is well.

Missionary life: wow this week has been one full of ups and downs. I know Im just starting out, but I feel like Im regressing from our first week. Im understanding a little better, but not well enough to keep a conversation. I dont like talking to people and then not understanding what theyre trying to say. Even when I tell them I dont speak very well, they still speak at the same pace!

My companion decided to make a competition. Whoever talks to the most people using the word restoration has to buy the other person ice cream. Its Thursday and Im still at zero. And, like I said, Im regressing. Monday I actually tried talking to people. Tuesday I gave up a little. Yesterday was zone conference and I used that as an excuse to not talk to anyone. Its harder when we are all on the train together and others are standing around talking. Thats what Id rather do. I dont know if I mentioned, theres an elder in our district who is Italian--Elder Biondi. So when I speak to him I justify it by saying that Im helping him learn English. My companion says Im too hard on myself. That may have been the case to begin with, but now I dont think Im hard enough.

My my, this is a depressing email, why am I always so honest? Dont worry, I think I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Ill lift myself up, I always do. Youd think Id be happier because I just had zone conference yesterday. Let me tell you about zone conference. It seems to be a tradition to make fools of the new missionaries. There were four of us (We combine the Florence and the Pisa zones together for a lot of different things. Im in the Piza zone.) One gave the opening prayer, one led the music, one led the theme and I gave the closing prayer. Prayers and leading music is pretty standard, but Anziano Reschke had no idea what to do to lead the theme and it was obvious. Thats okay. Hes the one that told me last time I saw him, "Just embrace the fact that you dont know anything." When Anziano Melis called to ask that I give the closing prayer, he said, "Dont worry, theyre will just be two general authorities there. No pressure." Oh, I wish I knew their full names. We had Elder Oaks of the seventy and Elder Causse of something...probably the seventy too. It was really cool. They shook each of our hands in the beginning, and then Im pretty sure I shook both their hands twenty more times throughout the day. It was a good conference. Elder Oaks came with his wife.

Baptisms: No, of course I havent received any baptisms, I just got here. However, the elders are eating it up here in Livorno. There actually was a baptism right before I got here. Her name is Olga and shes Ukrainian and she WAS taught by the sisters. However, since I got here our investigating list was pretty low. Now that my trainer is talking to everyone, though, that might change. See, I am working. Im here to get my companion to work. (Sweep hand over brow) Man its hard work watching her.

Sorry, I meant to talk about baptisms. Theres one scheduled for tonight. Apparently its Elder Wilsons first baptism. Hes about to "die" (go home from his mission), but now he is watching success after success. I dont know the number, but he and Elder Melis have been challenging investigator after investigator and they have I think five more people with baptismal dates. I think. Italy is ready, my friends. Italy is ready.

Then the other elders (Anziano Biondi and Anziano Litchfield) are working with a young man named Mateo. I dont know if Ive mentioned Mateo yet. He claims to speak English, French, Italian and Japanese and I dont remember if he claims Spanish at all. However, he was the first investigator that I could actually relate to because he speaks English. He is really close, I know it. On Sunday I asked him why he didnt want to get baptised. I know hes not MY investigator, but I was curious. I figured hed "humm" and "hrr" and whatever else people do when asked uncomfortable questions. No! He just told me straight out. He has a hard time believing in God and he just hasnt found out for himself that God was real. So I bore my testimony and told him that he needed to find out for himself. Now,understand, people have been after him about this for months. There was really nothing new about me telling him in I see myself as only one pebble on the mountain that others had been forming and continued to form after me. But, the next day Anziano Biondi said that Mateo had prayed and had had a dream where Jesus had talked to him and told him to talk to this other girl, Ellis, who had served in this mission previously. Thats really all I know but hes close.

In my last letter I dont think I clarified that even though Ive now been to Pisa and Florence, I still havent seen anything. We went to Florence again for zone conference yesterday, but all I saw was the roads leading to the chapel.

Tomorrow we are going to start teaching a girl from Romania. Her name is Aleksandria. How she was found was pretty amazing...but it was with the sister before me. Sorella Makinnon had a Romanian Book of Mormon, she was going to put it back on the shelf, but for whatever reason decided to keep it. At the end of the night, the sisters were cold. A bus that wasnt their own came, but they decided to get on to get out of the cold. They had no idea where they were going. A girl turned to them and asked, "Do you speak English?" They replied that they did. Somewhere along the way she said she was from Romania and Sorella Mackinnon took out the Book of Mormon and asked "Is this Romanian?" The girl looked puzzled and said, "Yes, what are you doing with a Romanian book?" So Sorella Kenney started testifying about it and she eventually said, "Okay, Ill take your book."

They invited her to English class but she didnt show up. She thought it was on Thursday and showed up for FHE. However, on Thursday, Sorella Kenney was in Rome picking up me. Luckily the elders told her English class was on Tuesday and she came back then. When I saw her on Tuesday, I thought she was one of the Elders investigators because he seemed to know her and I didnt know anyone. Since then weve helped her a little on her English homework and well start really teaching her tomorrow. Im so excited. And it will be in English because most likely because she speaks English and I dont speak Italian and Romanians her native language anyway. I think shes ready for the gospel.

Our other investigator is Virginia. Shes been investigating for a long time. She is so sweet. She saw that I was struggling with the language and wrote me a note. In the note she said that we could talk in English on occasion secretly. (On Sunday one of the sisters in our ward said they could only speak to me in Italian because I have to learn Italian). The note meant A LOT to me. Well, I accidentally pressed the caps lock button at that moment, but decided to leave it because "a lot" deserved to be capitalized. My time is up. I love you all.

Oh, and we played soccer on Saturday. Soccer has been used as a tool to get investigators. Im sure it works, but now that its getting colder and fewer people are showing up, Im not so sure. Of course, Ive only gone once. Maybe more people will come this Saturday. Anyway, Sorella Kenney kicked me pretty hard in the shins. Word of advice: never play sports with Sorella Kenney. Shes brutal and she doesnt care as long as she wins. She used to play rugby. Crazy people.

Anyway, I love you all very much. Keep smiling:) Dont worry about me. Ill get my spirits up. And today we have a baptism. The church is true. God loves each of us and he wont abandon us.

Sorella Bjarnason
aka Aubry

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Week 1 -- Italy

Wow! Where to start. Did you know that I have asked a couple of times who MY new bishop was and you never answered. Then in this letter you mentioned Bishop Brown. Thatàs when I realized that I actually did know who my bishop is. (Ask dad to find out what à means).

I wanted to give you Sorella Jones and Fratello Bonhams email addresses, but I only remembered when we had already mostly gotten to the internet. Hopefully I will remember next week. It is a pity, because I wanted to talk a lot about them. I truly had the best teachers in the world. They were both so inspiring in so many ways. And it turns out that Fratello Bonham really is a legend here in least among the missionaries. He was an AP for five transfers. My favorite question to answer was, "Who were your teachers?" Then to see their surprised look. "Anziano Bonham is teaching?" Beautiful.

Okay, so you already know that I am in Livorno. (This no apostrophe is driving me crazy.) I love my companion Sorella Kenney. I have much to learn from her. I love my district. Anziano Biondi is Italian and is my district leader. Anziano Litchfield is his companion. Then we have the zone leaders in our district who are Anziani Melis and Wilson. Apparently Anziano Wilson is my dad. Oh, and chances are good that like Raeann, I will be killing off my mom. She has two transfers left including this one.

So you asked about church. Well, I canàt really answer that because I havenàt had a regular church. We had district conference this know...the equivalent of stake conference. So here it goes. I have already been to Rome, Livorno, Pisa, and Florence! The only things that I have actually seen, though, were in Rome with my mission president and his wife.

Last Sunday we did "mostra" (I found the quotation marks...still looking for the apostrophe...I do not think it exists because they have all of their apostrophes over letters òàèéù...oh well). "Mostrare" means "to show." I dont know if its related. (Ha! I just wont used can still read it just fine). Basically mostra is when we have a poster and try to street contact. People dont notice the poster so youre basically just doing street contacting. The elders were already there when we got there (well, only two elders actually came) and they were talking to some people. So, me and my companion did what we could to flag people down. All I can really say is "Siami missionarie della chiesa di Gesu Cristo dei Santi degli Ultimi Giorni." (HA, and since I dont have my teachers email addresses to give to them, I dont have to worry about them reading this and thinking, "What! We taught her more than that!") Okay, I can say more than that, but as soon as someone starts talking, my understanding flies away and I have no idea what to say. Anyway, so my companion starts talking to this man. There comes a point when my companion gets distracted, so I try to bear my testimony, but he was uninterested in talking to me because I couldnt understand what he was saying.

The Elders get finished with their conversation and come over. It may have been a good thing because Anziano Biondi is Italian. Sorella Kenney urged me to go with his companion to go talk to someone they had talked to last week. So I go and meet Elvis. Yes, you read that right, I met Elvis. Im pretty sure he picked that name because "Elvis" was written on his bike. Elvis is from Albania. I literally stood there, smiled, nodded my head a few times and said "si" a few times. Elvis, on the other hand, decided it was important for some reason to tell me the history of Albania...most of which I just pretended to understand. I looked over at Anziano Litchfield and thought to myself, "Its kind of like we are on splits with the elders." Knowing that that wouldnt be good, I thought of the scripture "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20. I could still see and hear my companion. All was well. The fact that I had no clue what Elvis was saying and was secretly suspecting that he was talking about dangerous things is...well...I dont know...not irrelevant...but not relevant either. We tried to tell him that I didnt understand, but he just kept on talking. I figured if he was really talking about things he shouldnt be, the other elder would stop him, but he was nodding his head too!

Anyway, I thought I should look to see what time it was, but I figured if it got late, my trustee senior companion would rescue us. No! When they ended their conversation they came over. I looked down at my watch. 9:43! So we were all late going home that night. We didnt get home until 10:20/10:30. My first week. Wow! Im starting my mission grandly.

Okay, so this story actually happened before Elvis. Sorry for the out-of-orderness. Friday night (my first real night of being a missionary) I decided to say "Come va" to a lady on the bus. I figured I didnt know much else to say. It turns out she was from Ukraine, so I continued to talk to her in a mix of Russian and Italian since I dont know either of them.

That night I made the goal to say come va twice the following day. And I did. The first time the lady decided to tell me WHAT she was doing instead of HOW she was doing. So she was talking, then other ladies waiting for the bus starting talking with her and another lady who walked up started joining the conversation and soon everyone was talking except for me because I had no clue what anyone was saying. Hey, but at least I was building unity right?

The next time I decided to ask a lady on the bus late at night. She answered speedily something that didnt compute for me and attached at the end of it "perche?" I just looked at her. I had no idea WHY I wanted to know how she was doing. I mean, its a really silly question. Sorry, this foreigner is clueless as to anything, dont mind me. Seriously, all I did was look at her in panic until she looked away. But I came up with an answer. The next time someone asks me why I want to know how they are doing, its because Im learning Italian and Im trying to practice. Yay!

Everyone thinks Im afraid. Im really sorry. I really do try to smile. And Im not afraid per se. I just have no clue what Im doing or what anyone is saying. Im just trying understand. I feel like Im not doing enough. Well, obviously Im not doing enough. Im not doing anything! Im trying, but the most I can get out is "Hi, we are missionaries. We have a message for you." "How are you?" and "It is difficult for me to speak in Italian." People say give it time. No! If I dont work now then giving it time wont help me. If Im not doing all I can now, then I will never learn the language. I have to be hard on myself so that I can be better. And its not about me anyway. Its about representing the Savior. Of course, the Savior does understand me, dont get me wrong, but he would never be in a situation where he wouldnt know the language. He was all powerful. My reason for bringing this up is because I have no idea what the Savior would do because the Savior didnt try, he did! Does that make sense? Come on Sorella Bjarnason, have more faith.

Yesterday we had English class. I got to give the spiritual thought. I mostly just read 2Kings 6:8-I dont know where...after he blinds everyone. I commented along the way, but mostly I was just reading. One of the members of the church who helps us teach was impressed by how well I knew Italian...but I dont! I was reading!

Okay, times almost up. I really dont think you should plan on me ever using apostrophes again. (Wow, how shallow am I to have that be a part of my final message. Who am I again?)

I love you all. Oh, my address! My address as I understand it is

via Lombardia 2
57124 Livorno

I will most likely be here for three transfers...I really dont know how things work, thats just what my trainer says. Anyway, you can write directly to me. Packages are still best to be sent to the office but I can take letters if you want. They said 5 to 8 days for letters. I dont know. Ive never been to Italy before. Yikes, Im over time. Im such a rebellious missionary. Oh well, my companion is still on the computer too. I guess she has to write home and tell all about her trainee who is driving her up the wall because she knows absolutely nothing and has to be told everything a million times before its settled. You can tell, we are perfect for each other :)

Well, I love you all. Oh, and I got my permesso di sogiorno or whatever so Im legal. (I know you were all so worried about that :) The days run together. I have had my first gelato. Golly, I need to go. Love you all. Thanks for loving me. They say Dear Elder still works out here (but that will go straight to the office not directly to me). Love you love you love you!!!

Keep smiling:) Okay, and because I keep pressing the button, I want to show you this sign. ç Hmm, and you may not get it through the which case, Im sorry.

aka Sorella Bjarnason
(who's name is fun to have people try and pronounce)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Aubry has arrived in Italy!!

Aubry's new mission president sent us this e-mail!!

"Dear Parents,
I'm sure you're all anxious to hear word that your missionary has arrived safely! We picked them up from the airport yesterday -- with all their luggage!
They had their first pizza, then we went to the beautiful St. Paul's Basilica where Paul (teacher of the people, defender of truth) is buried. Following that, we drove past the Colosseum on our way to a lasagna dinner and an interview with President Acerson.
Today was filled with training and Golden Transfers, then they were off to their cities.
You can be very pleased with your missionary. While I realize this is a group email, I can honestly say that I am speaking to each of you individually. Every single elder and sister in the group was helpful, outgoing, happy, and excited about getting out there to serve! They will make great missionaries. Thank you for your sacrifice in sending them here to serve the Lord and bring others to Christ."

How wonderful it was to hear that Aubry arrived safely!! It sounds like she is having a wonderful start to her mission!! She arrived yesterday, Wednesday, around 2:00 p.m. Rome time. She called from the airport in Salt Lake City Tuesday morning (early!!) and then again from the airport in Chicago (just before lunch) for a few minutes. She was so excited!!!! She couldn't stop "eeeeing" again!! I know this is where she wants to be at this time in her life!! I will update her blog again when she is able to write.