Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Livorno, Italy--Week 11

I want you to title this week's post as “Miracles.” Or if you come up with a title that fits better, go ahead and use it.

This week has been weird! Well, I mean last week because as a missionary you plan a week from Monday to Sunday. So last Monday, I already told you that Sorella Kenney broke her toe. Tuesday we found out our toilet broke. The plumber was supposed to come over on Wednesday, but we had an appointment and couldn't be there to open the door. He came over Thursday, thought he fixed it, but didn't really. He came over on Friday to check on it and said he would come over on Monday and it would be a full day's work. As far as last week went, I didn't feel like it was very successful at all. Half the time we were in our apartment with the plumber. It was Sorella Kenney's last week and I felt like I was in another reality...I wasn't a missionary.

Well, I already told you last week that we had a good appointment with Lito last Tuesday. So that was one good thing. Either Friday or Saturday, a girl called. Her name is Patrizia She said she had met the missionaries two years earlier but didn't have time. She's not working now so she has time and wants to learn. That in itself was a miracle: a contact seeking us.

Then came Sunday. Patrizia came to church. Lito came to church with his five kids, his wife, mother and a friend. Then Alexandra came but only for the last five minutes. She wanted to salute Sorella Kenney again. I think it was some sort of record for the most nonmembers in church (bear in mind to include the investigators of the anziani also).

Lito is AWESOME! We had another meeting with him yesterday. We taught him the rest of the Plan of Salvation. Without Sorella Kenney there, we didn't talk as much so we ended earlier than we anticipated. It seemed to me like he honestly didn't want us to go because he kept talking. Finally he asked if we wanted coffee. We told him last week we couldn't drink any. So this week we promised to talk about the Word of Wisdom next time we met with him. However, he wouldn't let it go, so we taught a spur of the moment Word of Wisdom. We told him we don't drink tea. He told us that his kids love to drink iced tea, but now he's going to have to tell them to stop. WE DIDN'T EVEN ASK HIM TO! He takes everything we say and applies it to him. Sorella Barbiere wants me to invite him to be baptized during our next meeting. We're going to have dinner with him and his family this Saturday. Mom, honestly I don't know if I'm going to have the courage to, but I'll let you know next week. I wanted to take things slower, but he's taking it all in. I asked Brother Eubanks and he said he thinks Lito is ready. However, he wants to talk to his wife. We've only been teaching Lito up to this point, so Friday is going to be interesting.

Sorry, no, I haven't looked for grandma's package. I'm really sorry, I'll do that next week...hopefully.

Sorella Kenney left us yesterday morning. This next transfer we are getting Sorella Gadd so we will be in three again. Right now we have Sorella Hawkey because her trainer is "dying" also so she is with us until she gets her new companion, who happens to be Sorella Gadd's companion right now. They closed Florence 2 to sisters because we're losing four sisters and gaining none.

Yes, it's weird without Sorella Kenney. She's a good missionary, but I can tell that with her gone I'm going to grow a lot. This will be the first time Sorella Barbiere goes senior and she's nervous about it. I think it will all turn out okay. I knew Sorella Gadd in the MTC. She was ending her MTC experience when we got there, so she has one transfer in Italy on me. However, we're still both pretty young in the mission. Of course, it sounds like that's what's happening all around. A lot of the older missionaries are "dying" off and within the next few transfers the bulk of the missionaries will be pretty young.

And please pray for my companions. Hmm, it says not to ask you to fast for our investigators or our causes, but I can ask you to pray for my companions right?

Well, I'm not sure that I have much else to say. Lito has been keeping me excited since Sunday when he came to church with his entire family. He's excited, you can tell.

English class was a little hard without Sorella Kenney, but the class members all acknowledge that Sorella Kenney was the most talkative they've ever had. No one's expecting me to fill her shoes. I just have to go on and do the best I can.

Oh, and the plumber did come on Monday and fix our toilet. I don't know if our landlord is paying, the church, or if we have to pay. Our landlord is trying to blame it on us. So, we might have to pay. And who knows, maybe that's where my birthday money will go:) Keep smiling:) Life is great. After a horrible week, we had 11 nonmembers in church (not all of them can be called investigators yet). The Lord is mindful of us. “It's always darkest right before the dawn of a new day.” (quote from The Blood Tribunal. If it's not exact it's because it's been a while since I've read it.)

Keep smiling:)

Love, Aubry

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Livorno, Italy--Week 10

Packages: I meant to tell you last week some more stuff, but the computer started acting up so I couldn't send another email. I got Sariah's package and I got a letter from both Becky and Raeann all two weeks ago (as in I could have reported it last week). This week we had interviews and President brought up the package from Uncle Bryant and Aunt Marynell. I'm trying to think if I've gotten a package from grandma. I'm pretty sure I've gotten a letter from her but I'll have to look for that because right now I don't remember.

News for the week: The Book of Mormon I gave out...oh I'm so excited! Lito is golden! We've had two appointments with him with the Eubanks. The Eubanks are the American family that don't speak any Italian (that's why she needs a translation in Relief Society. They know less Italian than I do). However, Brother Eubanks served his mission in the Philippines and speaks Tagalog. So our lessons with Lito contain all three languages, Tagalog, Italian and mostly English. He didn't come to church last week because there was something about his car. However, he said he wants to come this week and if he can't take his car he'll allow us to find him a ride. Yay!

Alexandra came back yesterday. I saw her briefly at English class. However English class didn't go as I had planned. Sorella Kenney leaves for Rome next Tuesday morning. So yesterday was her last English class. We prepared a Jeopardy game for our class. However, neither of the teachers for the beginning class came so at the last minute Willie (the second counselor in our branch presidency) asked me to help out. Honestly, I don't think they needed me because I had no idea what I was doing, so he sent another elder to help me help them anyway. So I missed the party in my class for something I'm not sure was very important. However, I'm not complaining. I think it was actually really good for me because the people I spoke with didn't speak English very well (obviously because they are in the beginning class). It was good for me to see how the Elder talked with them because he talked very slowly, which I don't do. And I was nervous so even my trying to talk slowly came out quickly. Oh well. It was fun. Anyway, we're all hoping to see Alexandra again because it's Sorella Kenney's last week.

Russian problems: one night as I was getting ready for bed, I decided I should study some Russian, get it into my head again. Well, I read a little in Russian, but nothing stuck. The next day we did zone singing in Pisa. There was a girl that I decided to talk to. Guess what! She was Georgian (or Armenian, I'm pretty sure she told me she was Georgian and then told someone else she was Armenian) Anyway, she spoke Russian. All I could remember to say in Russian was that I've forgotten everything. Then this other person came along who spoke Russian and she spoke with him the rest of the night. He wasn't a member, but he was a good friend of the missionaries in Pisa. I hope they become friends and he leads her to the church along with himself. Oh well, that's in Pisa. There aren't sisters in Pisa so there's no way I could help her anyway.

Don't get settled though. So now I'm hitting myself because I need to refresh my Russian and Heavenly Father decides to throw another one at me. Yesterday at English class, people were talking as usual when I notice a girl standing around. She looks a little lost, so I decided to approach her. Why on earth did I do that, I'm still not sure. I don't know anything, my Italian's not that great, and all I can really do is point her in someone else's direction anyway. Maybe that's why I approach people. It's because I want them to be approached before they leave. Anyway, I told her I didn't speak Italian very well, so she said she would try in English. After a few minutes I realized that maybe her Italian wasn't natural Italian. I asked where she was from. Russia! Okay, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, those are all places where if someone is from you still have to ask if they speak Russian. I think if someone is from Russia it's pretty dang obvious they speak it.

Sorella Kenney says we should do an exchange where I help her learn English and she helps me learn Russian. I like it, but when can I do that as a missionary? And Sorella Kenney is leaving! She's the one with power, not me. She was the one who talked to Alexandra in the beginning to get us appointments at her house. I don't know how to do that on my own. However, Heavenly Father knows me and he has already made plans to help us become friends. Lilya, the Russian girl, went to the intermediate class last week, but she wants to go to the advanced class next week. Next week they can't take me out of the advanced class because it's always belonged to sisters and Sorella Barbiere can't teach it on her own. Of course, next week we'll have a trio because Sorella Kenney is leaving and so is another sister in the mission, so her companion will be with us until she gets her new companion. I'm pretty sure Sorella Barbiere and I will stay the same, but I'll let you know next week.

Life is good.

Our toilet is broken. We think the shower is connected to the breakage too. Our neighbors beneath us are complaining about us. Because our toilet is having problems, their apartment is having water leakage problems too. We can't flush our toilet, so we now have decided to only use the church's bathroom. So I'm sure we looked like an interesting group headed to the church this morning at 7am.

So, as noted above, we had to go to the church this morning as part of our getting ready for the day procedures. We only get so much time as it is to get ready. Since this trip happened with all of us included, we decided it could count for part of our companionship study time. Today we have a lunch appointment with a sister who lives in Piombino which is about an hour away. She doesn't get visited very often and if we went today, we could get a ride home from a member of the church who is also going down to visit her. So, to save mission money, we decided to switch some P-day hours. We have another appointment with Lito tomorrow in the afternoon, so we couldn't change the whole day even if we wanted to. Thus, why I am emailing you today. At the internet place that we use, there are six computers. Now that we are in a threesome, our district is in seven. So, because we need to get a train to go visit this sister for lunch, we decided it was better that we beat the elders to the internet point so we didn't have to wait for them. For our lessons we had to make some photo copies in the church. As we went in, we realized that the doors were not locked. I have the church keys. I know I locked it this morning. The elders were doing companionship study by watching conference. That's all well for them, but that means they caught us not doing companionship study. Oh well. I still consider myself new. There are worst things. Anyway, this story is really not all that important, but it just happened so it's on my mind.

I don't think there's anything left to say. This week has been strange. Oh, Sorella Kenney broke her toe. This has been a strange week and I'm sure it's only going to continue to get more strange. I cut my thumb and my forefinger on an umbrella. It bled on the Jeopardy cards we made for English class yesterday. Never fear, I do enough for everyone else. Life is great.

Love,
Aubry

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Livorno, Italy--Week 9

This has been a great week. And I have to give credit to dear Sister Kenney. Things weren't right in our companionship, but she set things straight. Thursday morning for companion study we talked through things. We are all now really good friends. I love my companions. Sorella Kenney is now going through her dying stages. She often looks into the distance and ponders about how its almost over for her. Her work is done. Sorella Barbiere is fearful for the future. Someone needs to translate in Relief Society for Sister Eubanks (the American family whose phone we used to call). My Italian is about as good as Sorella Barbiere's English. Neither of us feel up to the task of translating, but someone has to do it. And all the English speaking sisters in the ward are in primary, so they can't do it. She's also scared about English class. I think that falls more on my shoulders than hers though. We teach the advanced class. Yesterday she tried to sit in with us, but she was completely lost. And I'm just not good at leading a conversation. Next transfer is going to be trying, but I'm excited for the challenge. We have interviews tomorrow with President. I know she wants to tell him she can't do it. I plan on telling him that we can. I love my companions. They are both really good missionaries.

Here in Tuscany, communism is really big. I like to laugh about it, but I fear Sorella Barbiere thinks I really am a communist. I promise, I'm not. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because on Saturday morning the communist party were giving bread away (I think) if you registered with them. The problem was they were doing it in our spot! Well, we don't really have a “spot” per say, but they were doing it in the same square that we had a permit for. We didn't want to be proselyting too close to them because we didn't want to be associated with them. So we changed places...ending up out of the sun...and cold. There you go, that's me complaining.

We had a lot of things planned for Saturday, but the elders called us up and invited us to do gesso with them (chalk). So we went. And I gave away my first Book of Mormon!!! His name is Lito and I'm pretty darn sure he's golden. He's from the Philipines so he speaks Tagolag, Italian, and English (I'm most excited about the English because that's how I talked to him). He's Catholic, but he says he likes listening about other religions. At first I thought that meant he's just interested in learning but not doing. I've changed my mind. On Saturday I only had an Italian Book of Mormon, so I gave it to him and got his phone number so we could give him one in Tagolag. Luckily the elders had some in Tagalog so we didn't have to wait long to call him back. We saw him yesterday to give him the book. He asked for our address so he could come to church. Sorella Kenney told him about primary and he said, “Oh, so I should bring the kids.” And we also have an appointment with him on Friday because Sorella is really good at making appointments.

On Monday we invited Virginia to pray about the 31st as a baptismal date. Yesterday we asked if she prayed and she said she didn't get an answer. We're going to see her again today. It's her time. She needs to realize that. I love Virginia. She doesn't like being pushed, but I have a feeling Sorella Kenney is going to be doing this a lot. However, Sorella Kenney is so good! She said she thought that a lot of sisters have pushed Virginia right before transfers. She didn't want to do that. Yes, she wanted to be here, but the date she came up with is the week after she goes home. She wants Virginia to do it for herself. I hope Virginia finds her courage and steps forward. Oh I hope!

Thanks for the email about Befana. I spent about 85 euros...but before you gasp let me tell you what I bought. I bought one coat, 3 shirts, one sweater, one vest, one pair of boots and a hair dryer (it's about time I got one). Oh, and some make up (they made me do it). About 65 euros were on the card and I took out 40 euros today from a bankomat.

Life really is good. I don't know what else to say. It's been a great week. Our companionship is strong.

Oh, about the language. I am improving. I'm having conversations with people. I'm not understanding everything, but I'm progressing. Everyone has been saying that my Italian has improved. Our branch president even said it.

Oh and Monday we had FHE with the Branch President and his family. There's a girl named Jennifer who is a recent member and she's staying with them. President Busoni is awesome and so is his wife! We played this animal sounds game with them. Silly me, as an American, kept making American animal sounds. They didn't like my “ribit, ribit” frog or my “oink oink” pig. Oh well, it was fun.

Today I'm writing to you in jeans because we are planning on going to the beach. We're allowed to do that in Winter and Sorella Kenney wants to say goodbye to the sea. I want to send you pictures, but none of the pictures I've developed have the “new me.” So, you'll have to wait a little. Sorry. And yes, I am still the same Aubry. Sorella Kenney says I'm more confident. Maybe that's true too. Boh. (Boh is Italian for “I don't know”)

I love you mom. Thanks for everything. Life is so good right now. It's hard sometimes, but it's so good. I love everyone. The church is true, even in Italy. Keep smiling:)

Love,
Aubry

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Livorno, Italy--Week 8

I do want to change. I really do. And I can guarantee that if I keep changing throughout the mission, you won't recognize me when I go home. This week Sorella Kenney cut my hair. You know me, I don't really care\know about hair styles. She cut it in an obvious A-line. It really is cute. Man, I'm getting out of order of things I wanted to say. Oh well. The thing is last night we had an appointment with Alexandra. Alexandra looked at me and said she liked the new look. Two minutes later I said something, and Alexandra said, “you are the same.” She commented that even though I looked different, I was the same Sister Bjarnason. It made me feel good.

Sorella Barbiere is a lot like Sorella Kenney. I'm worried about communicating with her next transfer, but I think she's going to be a great companion.

Okay, really moving on. January 1st. No I did not stay up late for the new year. However, I did tell some people this week about our tradition of the Baby New Year. They told me to not tell anyone about it again or it will spread and Italy will adopt it for the New Year too. Apparently Italy takes everyone's holidays to the point where they now have too many. For the first, we have Festa di lovoro. I think that would translate to “Party of work.” President Acerson described it like this. “January 1st no one really wants to see you anyway, so we make the day into good use by cleaning the apartments.” So we cleaned our apartment the whole day. Festa di lovoro is supposed to end at 6, but we as sisters, cleaned until about 8:30. After 6, if we don't have an appointment, we would treat it like P-day because people still wont want to be seeing us.

I also wanted to tell you about Befana. I have no idea how it's spelled, sorry. You can try looking it up. From what I understand, January 6 is when the wise men supposedly came to see the baby Jesus. Just as Christmas got turned into Santa Clause and Easter turned into the Easter Bunny, Befana got turned into a witch who gives children candy or coal depending on whether they have been good or not. So, that's Befana.

This last week Sorella Barbiere got really sick. I didn't even realize at the time how sick she was. She had a temperature of 102 when we came inside, so it was probably higher outside. The whole time she was talking and not really making sense. She was literally delirious. The next day Sorella Kenney told her some of the things she said and she didn't remember them at all. She got a blessing from Anziano Biondi and his companion, but only vaguely remembered talking to the ZLs beforehand. It was during one of her recuperating naps that Sorella Kenney cut my hair. This last weekend we spent a lot of time inside for Sorella Barbiere. I think she's better now.

We've been doing a lot more of mostra and chalk lately. I know I've described mostra before. We have a permit to do it every morning for the rest of the month basically. Of course, we can really only do it Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Monday we have DDM, Wednesday is Pday and none of us are willing to do it, Friday we plan, and Sunday we have church. Still, it's a good permit. Chalk is when we put out a sheet and draw on it while others (always me because I don't draw) go out and try to talk to people. Since we have a permit for mostra I asked one of the elders if it were illegal for us to do chalk. His response: “If they catch us, yeah.” Yesterday doing mostra I talked to a young man and gave him a pamphlet. Really the experience showed me how much I have to improve on being a missionary. I had his attention, but I didn't know what to say, so I gave him a pamphlet and sent him on his way. Ugh, I didn't even bear my testimony. Oh well, next time I'll do better.

I don't know if I ever told you this story. In one of my classes at BYU there was a girl who had had Elder Bednar as a home teacher. She said that he would always ask them how they were doing in an area (such as reading their scriptures). Then he would say, “Repent and do better.” That's kind of been my motto ever since. Dang it, I messed up. Okay, repent and do better.

Thank you for all of your support. I am glad I'm here in Italy in Livorno. Have you gone on a map to see where Livorno is? Sorella Barbiere is from Genova. Her best friend is married to the son of a couple in our ward. So she saw them last Sunday because they came down. And then we all had lunch together. I didn't think the mother liked me up until that point. However, all during lunch she was really nice to me and trying to make me feel okay despite the fact that I was quiet and confused most of the time. And the dad, I always saw him as a fun kind of crazy. I for one like them.

Hmm, I meant to be closing this letter, how did I get distracted? Okay, yes, I am really glad to be here. I really love the people here. We have some great members and just great people. I hope you can come to pick me up and I hope we have time to come back to all my cities. Don't worry, I hear it's normal for sisters to have only three cities. And I THINK that my release date is March 24 2010. That's what it says on my Ministerial Certificate.

Be good. Stay strong. I love you and I'm grateful for you. I'm doing just fine. Sure there are ups and downs. That's how a mission is. And I really am loved...I think:)

Love,
Aubry

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Livorno, Italy--Week 7

I LOVE YOU! You told me exactly what I needed to hear. Okay, so many things, there are so many things I need to tell you. First off, yes, we finally got a copy of the Conference Report. In fact, I wanted to request that you save your copy so I can have it when I get home. Or, if you want to get me my own copy, I'll take that too. You asked if I knew any of the missionaries. YES! Sister Barbiere is in there! Page 6 She's the one in the front on the right. She has dark hair and is clasping her hands (I think, it's been a few days since I've seen the picture). She was in Prato. Then one of our zone leaders, Anziano Melis, was in Napoli. He is on page 11 and is the one on the left side in the front row with his Book of Mormon slightly tilted. (Wasn't it nice of both of them to stand on the ends so I could describe their location so easily!)

Let me put your fears to rest. Yes, its hard. Yesterday especially was hard. It came to the point when one of the elders felt he needed to come to my rescue, which I was grateful for. But I'm moving forward. I remember feeling at one point that if I did grow from this experience, people would think the threesome was good for me when it isn't...it's just plain hard. Then I realized that maybe I was being proud. Maybe I needed this to be this hard because if it wasn't this hard, I wouldn't push myself as hard to become a better missionary. Okay, this is probably not putting your fears to rest. Let me try again. I really do love my companions. They are not like me but they are still good people. And there really is a lot of love amongst the three of us.

I guess there's one more thing I should say about my companions. They attacked me with make up. Sorella Barbiere is forcing me to wear it every day. She has been putting it on me, but today she plans on teaching me how to put it on myself. Yuck. They like to say that it's a commandment to wear make up. Really, all the white handbook says is “Makeup also should not call attention to itself.” To me that doesn't mean you have to actually wear it. And to me it says that what they do to me is not appropriate because people notice. Yes they do...I don't know how many people commented on Sunday. Grr. Oh well. I don't know what I can do except give in. They are two and I am one.

The Work!!! Alexandra left for her boyfriend's. We stopped by to talk to her mom last night and she said Alexandra is coming home tomorrow with her boyfriend and that we should stop by. I, for one, hope that we do.

We had a meeting with Virginia yesterday morning. I love Virginia. I don't know what's holding her back. I don't know how much I've told you about her. She's had two baptismal dates with different missionaries, but hasn't kept them. She said she was afraid of the enduring to the end. Hmm, I wonder if really all that means that she doesn't understand repentance all that well.

Christmas I told you we watched Cars. We also watched Kung Fu Panda. Cars, you remember the characters that are obsessed with Ferraris? I think they speak Italian. No I don't know what they say, but when they spoke, all the other missionaries laughed. One of the elders made the comment, “I know what they say now.” So, well, when I come back in a year and two/three months, I'll let you know.

Well, I think that's all I have to say. No wait! Today I pulled money out. It works. Yay, I have money. Bufana is on the 6th, so next week we're going shopping. If you want to let me know how much I have in my accounts so I can be prepared, that would be great.

And yesterday I got your letter that confirmed the phone numbers. Thanks again. I think it takes longer for letters to travel than you think...or maybe its just the season. I hope you get my package soon. Sister Eubanks said it would probably not arrive in time for Christmas, so I think we're okay.

Okay, I think that's it. I love you family!!! Keep smiling:) (That might be something I need to tell myself more often too...it can be hard sometimes. Life is great though).

Love,
Sorella Aubry Bjarnason

Italy--Week 5

(Editor's note: Somehow this e-mail got lost along the "holiday" way!! We will try to stay in order after this!!)

Is my Italian improving? Well, I dont see it. However, the assistants were with us on Thursday doing splits with our ZLs. (The ZLs are in our district). Anziano Silva (one of the APs) told me that my language really was improving and that I just couldnt see it. I think that sparked something in me. I think I may have done a little more talking this week..maybe, maybe not. But Im starting to feel more accepted by the members and Im trying to talk with them more, even if its just in one or two sentences.

Its funny that you both brought up the Best Two Years. A while ago Sorella Kenney decided to get on a bus to check out this store (not to go in the store, but to practice "doing bus." We met a lady on the bus who became a potential investigator. Sorella Kenney always equates me with that crazy elder. "You were inspired to get on that bus." Im pretty sure I never said those words, but Im pretty sure she still thinks of me as that elder...Elder Calhoun? Im a nerdy Mormon and shes more borderline apostate. No, shes not apostate, but she feels apostate in comparison to me. Its funny.

Christmas: I dont know what the whole plan is for the whole day. WE have a branch Christmas dinner on the 23rd. The 24th is Pday. That night we have an appointment (as a district) with the Noe family. Massimo Noe is a member along with his American wife, but his parents are not members. 25th we get to sleep in. Eventually well get a schedule going of when we call based on where people live in the US. We will be calling from the Eubanks house. Brother Eubanks is military, so Im pretty sure I wont need a calling card, but if I do Ill get it. Anyhow, I need to know Grandmas phone number because I cant call a cell phone from their house. I think. That might just be for Anziano Biondi because hes from Genova Italy and so its long distance for them to call him. Maybe I can call the cell phones, I dont know. Give me Grandmas landline phone number anyway. Anyway, I think Christmas is just going to be a lot of fun.