Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Benvenuti in Italia!

Whew. First week flew by!! There's enough to tell you that I could type all night...but, instead I'm just going to run down the list of things I wrote to tell you guys about. haha.

Okay, so basically the people here are amazing. We have some serious characters. One is the guy down on the corner. He's this bald old man who is a little bit dirty if you chat with him too much, but every day we say "Buon Giorno" to him, and never know what he'll respond with. My first day he responded with the same, but then another day he busted out the Bon Jour, and another time Buenos Dias. haha. So who knows. He's a funny dude.

I have a lot of other favorite people. Like the guy who owns the coffee shop down the road. I love everyone who works there, but the guy is the funniest. He always says, in English, that he's "keepin it gangster" hahaha.

Check this out: What do you think of when you think of Italy? Pasta. Random people playing the accordion.
And it's true!! Every day for lunch we eat pasta! haha. My companion is a way legit cook, and so he's been teaching me. Pasta's cheap, it's good, and it's totally Italian! haha. (By the way, my companion is half Italian) And random people playing accordion? In this last week I've seen four or five different people just walking around playing the accordion. hahaha. It's pretty crazy.

Our branch. So we have a pretty small branch. There are around 20 active members. I think in total there are around 40 or 50 members in the city. There will be a lot more pretty soon!! haha. We're so busy. We have tons of potential investigators, which will turn into progressing investigators, and then baptisms!!

But anyway, we also teach an English class two times a week that has about 60 people!! It's a great source of investigators. And I love our students. My companion speaks with an Australian accent, so at the classes we've had they always want to me to pronounce everything. hahaha. And then after I read something they all cheer! hahaha. I'm like a pronunciation hero. haha. I love it.

We taught one lady a private lesson the other day, and I thought that was weird, but then I realized why we did it. At the end of the lesson (like normal) my companion shared a spiritual thought. And then he started asking her about her relationship with God and she started to cry a little talking about how she used to believe in God, and now I think she's going to take the lessons!! It was pretty awesome.

We also had a powerful lesson with Gina the other day. She's been feeling far away from God, and my companion promised that if she reads the Book of Mormon every day she won't have that feeling any more, and then yesterday she said she's ready to be baptized soon, and now we have a lesson with her tonight!! I'm pretty sure she'll be my first baptism!

Anziano Connell has been here for four transfers already, so he basically knows the entire town, so we're pretty popular. haha. It's way sweet because most everyone actually likes us a lot.

Hey, so I remember a trick that Dad used to do where he'd ring the bells to get let into a building and then go door to door. Well, we basically did that, and it was way sweet. Because it's ridiculously cold here, and we have to go inside to get warm! We haven't had any success doing houses yet, but I enjoy it because it's easier than doing street because you don't have to chase people down so much. But we do a ton more street, and I'm starting to talk more. But it's hard to understand people sometimes.

We get around by walking, and then on occasion taking the bus. I'm definitely not going to be putting on weight here, that's for sure! The other day we did take the bus and went down around the mall, and then we went to catch some lunch. Check this out: My companion got a Big Mac, and I got pizza!! haha. I never thought anything like that would ever happen. I'm still pretty stoked on the food here.

Nutella. So good.

I learned a lot spiritually this week. It's a lot easier to recieve revelation when you really need it. Like to help an investigator. haha. So I gained some insight on following the Spirit that I'd like to share. Basically, it's how to follow the spirit.

Here's what I've found. First, of course, you have to be being obedient. Then you'll have an idea, and if it's a good thing, you should do it, and it may be the Spirit. Because we know that all good things come from God. If it's something that the choice doesn't matter (like it's not being disobedient, but it's not something you would normally do, or it seems like a random thought), then you should do it, cause it might be the Spirit. And of course if it's something bad then it's not the Spirit. And then as we all know, hindsight is 20/20, so then when you look back on the decision and it turns out it saved your life or something, then I'm sure it was the spirit. haha. So to help you trust the Spirit, you also need to trust yourself, and try not to get stuck into a routine.

Well, it's about time for me to go.

I'll just tell you one last thing. The coats that I wear aren't even mine! Instead of the trenchcoat I've been wearing dead missionary closet coats. haha. It's so awesome.

ciao ciao.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks!

p.s. This is a picture of me and my companion and a pandoro. It doesn't taste that awesome, but it's a traditional Christmas thing here. It is a sweet yeast bread dusted with vanilla scented icing sugar and is supposed to resemble a snowy mountain peak.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sono in Italia!

It's awesome. The weather in Catania was incredible. The mission home is sweet, and I'm now in my area, and have a new companion!!

First let me tell you about my first day. Nella bellisima città di Catania. We started by getting gelato and going for a walk alongside the sea. Then we went to the mission home. We were allowed to take a nap, but me and my collega weren't about to do that! We changed and juggled a soccer ball for about an hour and went exploring a little bit. Unfortunately there weren't any people to talk to in the area around the mission home.

Then that night is when we met our companions and got our areas. I of course wanted to stay in Sicily in the beautiful warm sole. And my old companion said he'd be fine with going more north because he likes the of course he got called down to the bottom of Sicily, and I was called here to the city of Cosenza. Of course, nothing like Anziano Kramer, Marzolla, and Rowland who were all called all the way to the Bari area.

Cosenza is actually pretty awesome. It's my understanding that it's a city of about 150K, and there are only us two, and then a senior couple. It's a little chilly, but not horrible. It gives me a good chance to sport the trenchcoat.

My companion. He's from Melbourne and has been here for...I think a year and half. He's pretty awesome. His Italian is amazing, so I'm very excited to learn from him. He's also very outgoing and loves street contacting.
He's the Zone Leader, and he may also be the district leader. haha.

Our apartment is very comfortable. There were originally four missionaries here, but now there are just two. I'll probably end up staying here for about three transfers or something. So it's pretty cool.

More about the city. Apparently there is a very small branch here of about 20. But check this out: We have three progressing investigators that are basically ready for baptism, and we also have 6 people that we need to teach the first lesson to!! haha.

My companion said I was born into a great city because the work goes well here. I'm stoked about it.

As far as my Italian thank goodness I'm not in Rome because I'd freeze. But there is one reason why it would be good. Because in Rome they speak really clear Italian. I spoke with a lady on the flight and let me say first, the Italian language really sounds so beautiful, but she also spoke very clearly. Since coming down here I've found that people are quite difficult to understand. But, I am able to pick up some things. I'll let you know how it's going next week. We spoke to a couple girls from Romania and I could hardly tell what they were saying (but their Italian wasn't very good), and we also spoke to an old man on the train who was hard to understand, but I guess all the old people tend to speak in dialect.

Italy really is beautiful. I wanted to jump into the Sea as we crossed it from Sicily to the mainland.

I'm gonna go ahead and say it. I've said it before. I'm livin the dream. Most of us in our district can't believe that we're really here. I've also figured out what to say to get a response from people "Buon Giorno", because Salve sure as heck didn't work, and Ciao doesn't work all that well.

Okay, as for the Chinese. I need to review my Chinese Gospel words because it looks like I'm going to be able to use it!! Yeah, there's not a ton of chinese, but yeah, they also all own chinese stores that stand out and we're going to go to all the ones in the city, and I guess there's actually quite a few. They have chinese materials in the mission home, and they even had the Chinese missionary phrasebook. haha. Which I went to quite a bit of trouble to get ahold of while I was in the MTC.

I think we're going to get Kebabs tomorrow. Which is my favorite that's awesome.

Other than that...I don't know too much else to tell you. This place doesn't seem too ridiculously foreign. There are a lot of things that are just the same as other islands and places by the sea, and a lot of things remind me of Taiwan.

The computer keyboard has a couple things weird about it. But it's not too bad. I think maybe I should just write these letters in Italian because that would be easier. : ) sto scherzando!

Ma, seriamente, lo sarò più facile.


Okay, well let me know if there's anything else you want to know.

Here's the address to use here (This is for my apartment in Cosenza, I'll let you know when I transfer, but even then the missionaries would still get it to me, so this will be fine for awhile)

66 Via D. Frugiuele
87100 Cosenza

Hey, one other cool thing. They have these things called dead missionary closets and there's tons of free stuff there. I found two suits that fit me! One olive colored one, and one black. But in the end I decided not to take them just because I already have two, you know? But I have mission coference in a couple weeks so maybe I'll trade a suit depending on how I feel then. I just didn't feel like carrying another. I scored a new coat. It's pretty sweet. I also got a couple new long-sleeve shirts and one short sleeve. (I needed them because my neck size changed in the MTC). There are also a lot of extra coats in our apartment so I can mix it up sometimes. You know, stile. Btw, my neck size changed because I got in really good shape in the MTC. I can seriously almost do a hand-stand push-up! And as it turns out, missionaries don't even put on weight here because we're always walking around!!

Hey, and check this out: All our assumptions about Italy couldn't be further from the truth! Not only do we have those people that will be baptized, but we always get meal appointments all the time. My companion just had a week where he had one every day! It helps that he lots of relatives here. His mom is from Cosenza, and so all his aunts and uncles are here. He always shares a spiritual thought with them, and they enjoy the visits, but they don't have much interest in the church.

We have English classes every Tuesday and Thursday, and attendance is great. We give people the option to stay for the spiritual thought, and most do. I'm really excited for those.

I think we also play calcio with locals every week. And we're going to try and set up a zone soccer match.

Basically everything is just about as close to perfect as it can be.

We also have a cell phone!

Hope all is well with you. I don't have too much jetlag because I did everything I could to adjust.

Sorry I don't have any pictures to send, but I lost my camera at first. Don't worry though, I found it, and I'll be sure to send some photos in the next e-mail. Of course, that's if I can find the card reader.

My companion is on his fifth transfer here, so he knows everyone who lives around us in all the stores, et cetera, so it's pretty awesome. I lead a charmed life. I really can't think of any way my mission could be better. I guess it kind of stinks making the bed and whatnot.

I enjoyed my stay in the MTC, but I'm so glad to be out in the field. SYL with a fluent speaker is so nice. I'm excited to do that. We did it for a little while today and it was sweet.

One thing I've noticed here is that they speak very..idk, casually. Like they'll leave off the ends of words and such.
You know how Italian has extra letters on all their words? Well it seems like here they like to just drop the last letter. haha. It's pretty good.

Anyway, until next week! Things are great for me. And they say that whatever the blessings the Lord doesn't give you on you mission are either saved for after your mission or they're going to your family! Allora, penso tutto ben.

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Off to Italia!

I'm finally in Italia! We left the MTC at 4am on Monday and got through security at about 6:30. And Lia was there. But, it was all good because I was way hungry on the flight so all those snacks were awesome. Plus, no one really cared, they were just jealous their family didn't have a way to go through security and wait at the gate with them.

The flights were good. Btw, I think I illegally smuggled fruit and meat into the country. They have really lax customs here.

More later. Ciao!

Anziano Banks

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Travel Plans!

Last P-day in the MTC!!! (Ottimo)

First let me hit you with the flight plans. Here's the date: Monday, the 7th of December. We leave the MTC at 4 in the morning!!! As far as flight plans go: I'm going to be flying out of SLC something like 7 in the morning, then I'll go to Altanta Georgia. Chill there for 3 or 4 hours, call home, pass out some pamphlets, maybe a Book of Mormon, who knows :). That'll be from 12:41 PM to 3:35 PM in Georgia, after which we'll fly to Rome, arrive at 7 in the morning, and then we'll fly down to Catania at 9, get there around 10.
Long travel day!

Now let me tell you about the week, because it was quite eventful.

First off, we had two Apostles come talk to us. Elder Oaks and Elder Holland. It was pretty awesome. They both had a lot of good things to say. I don't know if there are any quotes from them that will help you out too much though. Mostly missionary directed. One cool one that Elder Holland said was that Foreknowledge is not predestination. It's like if you saw a car accident, that doesn't mean that you caused it. And God with all his power may warn one of the drivers, but the driver still has to choose to listen. Anyway, I thought that was cool.

Okay, now for one of my highlights: Anziano Rowland got put in quarantine!!! hahaha. He doesn't have swine flu, just the normal flu, but they still put him in for five days. We skype him into our classes. It's pretty funny.

The real highlight of this week though must be when me and my companion got to teach an actual investigator!! It was awesome. We taught Fratello Auna's friend Josh. The Spirit was really strong and we bore testimony a lot, and he's going to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. (And he really is too. He's been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but he's going to read the Book of Mormon now) It was AMAZING. I can't wait to go teach more real investigators in person. It was really cool.

I also had the opportunity to speak in church this week. That went really well. I guess my talk was pretty funny, and my Italian flowed really smooth. I wish I could just record myself talking because I'm pretty sure it would sound sweet if you don't understand it.

Speaking of the language, it's going really well. Just like how I said missionaries need to not try and fight the system, the same goes for learning a language! Some missionaries always question why they say it that way, or how is that right, but the thing is that it's a different language and they talk with different rules, and so instead of questioning all the rules, you should just learn them.

So the secret of learning a language? Well, you just need to use it, and not try and form it into English. Something really cool happened to me the other day (btw, we've been doing all SYL now), I decided to try and think in Italian, and I totally did!!! It was sweet. I can't express myself as much as I'd like, but I can go pretty well. We had our last TRC lesson yesterday and there was a couple spouts where I was able to say exactly what I wanted just fine.

Another cool thing is me and Anziano Garcia translated "Is this love" by Bob Marley on the spot. I know, i know, it's not a church song, but it was way sweet because we translated it while we sang!! It was cool. Translating songs is really cool.

Hey, one thing I just remembered. So there's that scripture in D&C 131 or something about reproving betimes with sharpness. Well, Brother West used the analogy of an HDTV for sharpness, and I totally couldn't relate at all!! So I'm pretty sure what we can take from that is that we need an HDTV before I come home. hahaha. (seriously though, we should get one, that would be sweet)

My life is awesome!

Con Affetto,

Anziano Banks.