Monday, April 23, 2012

Bullet Holes in the Shutters and a cool day-trip!

~Kind of dark...but that is Karlovac behind him!~

~I'm guessing this is supposed to be proof to me (his mother) that he is actually drinking something fortified...for once in his life... ;) ~

Sorry about last week. That was pretty lame. I was a little disappointed, but we didn’t have much of a choice here in Karlovac. So I don't know if I’ll be able to remember everything that happened inthe last 2 weeks, but I’ll hit with the big events.

So Plitvice was awesome! It's like and hour and a half bus from here, so we caught the bus at 8:20 and got there around 9:50. It was such a cool place. The water is sooooo blue and clean. I’m just used to lake Lewisville and Grapevine. I didn’t know you could have water that clean and still call it a lake. We started off by walking through the woods up above all of the water to the ferry which took us across one of the lakes, and then we took the wooden plank walkways all the way around the different falls and caves. It's a must do when you come to pick me up. I got quite a few cool pictures, but I don’t know if I have enough time to upload them today. We were there until about 4:00. It started raining right when we were leaving so we had some perfect timing.

Last Wednesday was awesome, too. We found out that we were going to Ljubljana [Slovenia] for zone conference. It is such a cool city. The drive is just so cool. There are big rolling hills everywhere just covered in trees. Everything isn’t quite green yet, but it was still awesome. Throughout the hills there are a bunch of little village towns and little churches. The coolest part was seeing the Alps on the drive in. They are absolutely huge. Utah mountains have nothing on them. I didn't get to see downtown, though, because the chapel is on the edge of town. But I can now say that I've been there. And I have the passport stamps to prove it. Now I need to get to Serbia and Bosnia. Bosnia would be so cool. Hopefully some day while I'm here. So yeah... I got to go international last week...even if it was just for a few hours.

So.... I know I’m being a little missionary-esque by just taping my suit together, but it's saving me money and I don’t even know if I can get a good suit in Karlovac. I would probably have to go up to Zagreb to get anything decent (since it's a small town here) and that would cost, too. So I'll probably just keep using the suit I have until I can no longer. But I think a suit here is somewhere around 1200 kuna or like $240 or so.....but I don’t know for sure.

Those are the two big events that I can think of, so now I’ll start answering questions.

1. Any second appointments?

Eh....kind of. There's a man named E that we found when we were tracting. He's pretty unsure about what he believes and he's been trying to find a religion that makes sense to him. He's done a lot of research and is leaning towards Hinduism because he likes the idea of Karma, but he's not sure. He had heard a little about Mormons, but not a ton. So we met with him. And he has so many questions!!!!!! But the cool part is that he doesn't ask questions to be argumentative or to disprove us like most people. He just asks questions because he's curious. And he likes to talk a lot, go figure...he's a Croat. So we've met with him three times and we're gonna try and meet with him again sometime this week or next.

2. Still loving the shower?

The shower is still nice. I like it a lot, but it has lost a little bit of novelty.

4. What is your favorite scripture?

5. How goes the work?

The work is good. We have a new investigator name I*** who is a lonely old guy with health problems. He's so nice, but he has issues with health and money, that are preoccupation his time and mind. After our first lesson we prayed, and afterwards he just started crying and was pretty much speechless. After he gained control he asked us to teach him how to pray like that so he could ask for help. He's just so awesome and I feel so bad for him.

6. Are you doing okay??

I’m doing well. We walk a lot everyday and my callouses are getting big. But I’m holding up well. I’m tired all the time, but I’ll get over it.

7. Are you staying healthy?

Yup.....and I got harassed about not taking my vitamins by Sister Turner, the nurse, but oh well. I got the "foods not fortified" lecture, but all of the juice and milk that I drink says "with vitamin C and D" so I’ll be fine.....and no one else takes vitamins either and everyone's fine....and I never drank milk for calcium before my mission either.

8. How is the language coming?

The language is getting better. Just this last week I’ve started to notice how much more I’m able to say and understand. I can feel it starting to just come out naturally a little bit. Instead of thinkingand translating, sometimes I find myself just saying. It's pretty cool.

9. Miss anything from the states food-wise?

I was just talking about that yesterday to the other missionaries. I don’t think so. I miss the frozen food isle from the grocery stores back home, because it doesn't really exist here. But I’m getting by fine. Chicken Express is almost sounding good again....It sounds like I’m getting desperate for america.

10. Miss your mommy? Just kidding….

yes....tear...sniff....sniff......good thing I get to talk to you in a couple of weeks!

11. Miss your bed?? Just kidding, again.

Yeah. My queen size bed is nice for size, but it is nowhere near as soft.

12. JoJo misses you…ha! **side note....JoJo is our evil cat**

I still hate her......

So yeah. It's been a good couple of weeks. A couple of other things I forgot. We had to go and get stuff that our apartment didn’t have like an iron, broom, trash can, dish drying rack, etc......and we may or may not have spent $50 on an iron. But, then we called the office and they said it was reimbursable. So, now we have an awesome iron.

I think that's about it for this week. Oh yeah....the address for the mission home is the one on the Zagreb. That's cool about moving offices. I hope it works out all right for you.

I love you all and miss you all. I'm looking forward to Mother’s Day....p.s. In Croatia we have shutters on every window that pull down and they are pretty much black out shutters. They're awesome. We pulled down the shutters in the study room the other day and we found something interesting. I put the pictures on shutterfly.....We found a souvenir from the Serbs.....bullet holes in our apartment. Isn't that crazy? I thought it was kind of cool.

Anyways I gotta go. Talk to ya next week.



~Bullet hole in the apartment shutter~

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moving, a baptism, and fun explorations!

~Picture from the baptism....she is pixilated for privacy reasons in case you are wondering~

To Bri [his sister]:

You're welcome for the journal....don’t feel bad. I kind of forgot that I sent it ;). That's too bad about your car.** But hopefully soon enough you'll no longer need it. I'm doing pretty good out over here. For about a week it was really warming up and getting into the high 60's, but now it's back down to the 50's. But that doesn’t stop me from going out in short sleeves and getting harassed by old people that tell me I'm going to freeze (we just look at them and say "neču: no I wont") As far as new investigators that are solid....not really. We've been so busy this last week with moving apartments (I’ll explain that in the family email) and other stuff like that we haven't had a whole lot of time for tracting. But we met a few people that we're going back to talk to this week.

So some sad news....Croats think it's incredibly barbaric and kind of white-trash/hickish to eat horse. It's mostly a Serbian thing. Most people here think it's stupid to eat horse, so I wont be trying it while I’m in the country. I’ve just been eating same stuff as usual. know how strict Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays...especially during Lent? Well we were at someone's house teaching her and her mother and her dad made us dinner....a potato and onion salad with olive oil and apple vinegar on top and then he pulled something fried off of the stove and told us that we had to have some. It looked alright from far away.....but then he put it down in front of me and I saw a bunch of little tentacles.........a whole plate of fried squid!!....but I ate it. It wasn’t bad with lemon squeezed on it...but it was still squid.

The language is getting better. I’m understanding more of what I read on signs and books. The listening is getting better too. I still have trouble getting the whole idea sometimes, but I can usually figure some stuff out. It's funny when we walk around and people say stuff about us or mock us and think we can’t understand them. Oh happens. I better get emailing other people as well, so I’ll type to ya later.

**Bri’s car was pummeled (as was Phil’s truck) by golf-ball/baseball sized hail last week.

Hello family!

First things first. Sorry about not e-mailing yesterday. Since everyone here is "Catholic" and Easter is one of two times a year when they can show it, the whole town shuts down from Friday until Tuesday. So I had nowhere to e-mail from. When I found out that we couldn't e-mail I wasn't too upset because I figured Mom would be here the next day to kill me, so I would end up having some communication with family regardless of what happened. Don't be surprised if this is how it happens next week too because we are having a zone activity at Plitvica (the waterfall place) for the day. It was such a hard choice. I had the choice to switch with a couple of missionaries that wanted to go to Plitvica and I would go to Lake Bled instead, but I figured Plitvica would be all right. I hope I don't regret my decision. But I also figured that I'll be here for 2 years and I’ll have other opportunities to go to Bled.

So it's been such a busy week....and not even with directly missionary related things. The Hs are the senior couple that we have here in Karlovac but they've been living in Zagreb for a while trying to find a place they liked here in Karlovac. They liked where we were living at B's house, but Baka really likes the young missionaries and the Hs don't understand that they're in Europe (they wanted her to remodel stuff because they didn't like the's been said that they are looking for America in a small Croatian town), So she didn't want them moving in. Well, they really couldn't find anything and they really wanted our place, so we took the opportunity to look for an apartment a little bit closer to town (okay....we were pretty much politely kicked out). So we found a place in our budget (300 euros a month...our limit is 400) and I actually like it a lot better than our old place. It's closer to town so we don't have to hike up hill to get home at night. It has 2 queen sized sleeping things (they are not beds....they are wooden boxes with an inch and a half of foam on top covered in fabric, but I can spread out) and it has the best missionary apartment bathroom ever!!!!!!!!!! For starters, at B's the toilet was in a small room next to the rest of the bathroom which is traditional here, but this one has the toilet in the bathroom. And we have a giant water heater. I've been taking cold showers for the last month because we didn't have a water heater at B's that was big enough for 2 full showers, let alone 3. So now we have a giant water heater....right next to the towel warmer. Yup...we have a towel warmer on our wall like a fancy hotel. And the best part is the shower. It's like a space ship/time machine. It has an overhead rain shower, jets on the wall, a hand sprayer, and a seat with sprayers on the wall behind it. It is soooooo AWESOME!!!!!!! Showering is by far the best part of my day. It's pretty much changed my life. Now I wake up in a queen-sized bed, shower in luxury, get out and dry off with a hot towel, and get dressed and ready for the day. And when we walk out, we are pretty much in town and we don't have to walk far. We are also right next to Kaufland, the grocery store, so it's a lot easier to carry our groceries. The only downside is the kitchen is a little small and I wish we had a little bit more counter space, but other than that, I really like it.

So other than that, Elder K left last Tuesday, so we are officially a regular companionship. It's kind of weird only being with one other person, but I don't mind it.

The most exciting thing about this last week is that we had I***'s baptism. We met with her like 4 times last week just to make sure she was ready for it and she definitely was. The scariest part was when we asked her whom she wanted to baptize and confirm her. She asked Elder B to baptize her..........and me to.....confirm her. I said that I would, but honestly I was terrified. I didn't know how it was going to work out. So I memorized the standard part of it, and then I just looked up and memorized words that I thought might be useful. It was pretty funny. Whenever any of the branch members heard that I was going to confirm her, they would say "That's English?" and when we said no, in Croatian..... they all had the same look of good luck..... and said, "Wow....that's great......" I don't think anyone really had too much confidence in me. But it went all right. Rather well, actually. The baptism was great though....although the font was a pain. We used the infamous portable font. This font travels around everywhere and since its creation, some elders decided that the elbow pieces that connect the corner were too hard to fit, so they threw them away. So now you have to be super careful and rig it so it doesn't fall over....even after it's full. Filling it was also a problem. The church has tiny water heaters, so we would use those until the heater was empty and then we also just constantly boiled water and poured it into the font every twenty minutes...but you can’t use all 4 burners to heat water at once. They figured that out in December when they overheated and burnt out the stove. We were at the church all Saturday just filling the font. But the baptism had a good turn out. President and Sister Rowe came down from Zagreb with a bunch of senior missionaries and a bunch of the branch showed up too....even people that I haven't seen at church before but never miss a baptism. Elder M and I taught about faith and repentance while I*** and Elder B were changing and the lesson went pretty well.

On Sunday we had the confirmation and then Elder B, Elder M, Elder C, and I did a musical number for Easter. Elder C played the piano and the rest of us sang. We sang, "Beautiful Savior" in Croatian. I think it went pretty well.

Yesterday was pretty cool. We went normal grocery shopping and then we walked a couple of miles to a store called Interspar, which is just a grocery store with a bigger selection of things other than food. We had to buy a new iron, I bought a dictionary, and we just got other odds and ends. After that, we went back to B's for an Easter Monday lunch that she made for us. It was sooooo good. She made us Sarma which is like a beef rice mixture wrapped in cabbage leaves and then boiled/baked/steamed in a soup/sauce stuff. It was awesome. Then she brought out a bunch of roasted pork on a pastry noodle dish that absorbed all of the flavors from the pork. And then she brought out cake and baklava for dessert. It was so awesome. We then helped her move furniture out of our old apartment that the Hs didn't want into the attic. Then we went out and explored the old cemetery in town and then hiked up the hill to the old castle. The cemetery was the biggest cemetery I have ever seen. It goes up the side of the hill and then it goes down the hill on the other side of the street. It's way cool. The graves here are almost all family plots and they have things raised up from the ground like tomb things. There are tons of fancy statues and just super old graves. They have it split into sections too. They have a Jewish, Orthodox, and then Catholic sections with Muslim graves sprinkled throughout. The castle was pretty cool. You can’t go inside unless you set up a group tour, which we didn't know, but you get an awesome view of Karlovac from up there so it was still worth it. And then when you go down the hill on the other side there's an old church and just some cool old buildings. It's finally starting to really green up and blossom from all of the rain recently, so it's starting to look more like the pictures you've found online.

I’m doing fine on toothpaste still and I can’t think of anything that I need. The master bedroom looks way nice. The TV and the Mac are best parts by far. I think you're gonna get too fancy for me by the time I get back home. It's kind of been hitting me how different things are here. The other day I was thinking about how big our house is. 2800 sq ft. doesn’t seem too big by America standard, but that is giant! I've seen some apartments with kitchens the size of my closet at home with a tiny bathroom off of it and then a living room with a pull out bed that’s about the same size, maybe smaller, than your master bedroom. Also, I haven't seen anyone with a dryer or dishwasher since being here. Everyone just has indoor drying racks and clotheslines on the balconies. I'm just realizing how spoiled I was back home. I had a car....that's the weirdest part. They are such a luxury here. And I had a job. The economy is pretty rough over here....especially in Karlovac. Unemployment is pretty huge, but somehow people manage to get by on so little. It just seems crazy that I had it much better off back home than over half the city here. I lived in a big house, had a job, my own car, and a dryer, dishwasher, a computer with Internet connections in my house, and multiple other things. All of those things are just so rare here...especially to have all of them.

I'm still not big on female music artists....or MoTab. I haven’t changed that much. But if it's too much of an issue, you can just not do it. I'll be fine if it's taking too much of your time.

I think that's about it for this last week. Not too much going on here ;). It's funny how much my mind has changed. Just the thought of going to the movies or just watching TV for a few hours, or even napping just seems so foreign. I'm starting to wonder how I ever found the time to put it in my schedule. When you plan out your days the night before, it really makes me see how short the days are. It's really weird. Another one that we talk about and laugh at.....It seems so scandalous that we ever hung out/socialized/went on dates with girls. It just seems so taboo now; it's hard to believe that it ever happened. Oh the things that happen to your mind when you're a missionary.

I better get movin' on. I still have to e-mail President Rowe.

Until next week,



~The portable baptism font~

~The Awesome Shower!!~

~....turned into a time-traveling machine....~

~The new apartment~
~Kitchen in the new apartment~

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hmmm...short sleeves before May can cause infertility??

Hello family and anyone else who reads this!

This email is not going to be in chronological order....just the order in which I remember things, so I’ll start with conference. So since we are so cut off from the outside world, for a while we thought that conference was this next weekend, until we found out last Monday, so then we started making plans so we could watch it. So there's a computer and a projector at the church, so we called Predsijednik Sikarica (branch president) to see what we could do. Well he said that we couldn't afford it this year because most internet here isn't flat rate. They charge based on data usage like a cell phone. And in years past, conference has cost around 400 kuna, which is somewhere around $80, and the Croatia district doesn't have a lot of money to spare and the branch doesn’t have any, so we had to make calls to figure that situation out. We ended up finding out that the internet contract was switched to flat rate, so we could watch it. So we decided that we would set it up and get the word out to the ward members. But since we are 8 hours ahead of Utah, the morning session doesn't start until 6pm here, so we could only watch Saturday morning....and the internet is so slow! We couldn't watch the video because it couldn't buffer so we just listened to the Hrvatski. I was so out of it. I tried to listen to the actual speaker underneath the translation because I was only picking up random words, not meanings, but it was too hard. I understood some of the Croatian, but most of it was Greek/Croatian to me (bad pun....sorry). So we did that, had regular church the next morning and then went back to the church at 6 last night to watch the Sunday morning session live.

Now the next thing. My trio is getting ripped apart. Here's why: So they're sending the first missionaries into Macedonia and they are pulling them from Serbia, and because of that they needed two more missionaries in Novi Sad. So they took one of our Zone leaders from Zagreb, Elder W, to go to Serbia, and they are taking Elder K (one of my companions) to Zagreb to go be a zone leader. So for the first time on my mission so far, I’m going to be in a normal companionship. I think it will be better though because now I’ll have to speak more so hopefully my Croatian will get better. Because of this switch, a bunch of people are getting moved around within Croatia. Every city except for Karlovac and Rijeka, is getting shuffled. Which means that next transfer in May I'll probably still be here...which is fine and what I was already expecting.

So on Wednesday, during our morning study, we got a call on the phone and Elder B answered it and it was President Rowe. He said that he had some free time open up and that he wanted to come down for the day (from 3-9) and work with us. So we hung up the phone, freaked out a little bit, and started cleaning like crazy (you can edit out the cleaning part). So from 3-6 he was with Elder B, and Elder K and I went contacting in the park, and then from 6-9 he went with Elder K while Elder B and I went tracting. He didn't spend any one on one time with me because neither of us are super great at the language. President Rowe is so awesome though. He actually speakspretty good Croatian and he'll talk to anybody. In the smaller towns in Croatia, less people speak English, but somehow every person that he started talking to knew English. Here in Karlovac we are trying to find teenagers to teach, so he saw a 16 year old kid walking down the street and he just called out to him, "Hey, you wanna go to America for a couple of years?" the kid said maybe and President Rowe told him that we missionaries could tell him how (as a missionary). We're hopefully going to meet with him and his family sometime this week. President Rowe also started just randomly started talking to another guy and it turns out that the guy is an American from northern California that has a yacht company here and a Croatian fiancée. We're gonna go talk to him more too.

Another annoying thing.....Maybe it's because I’m not a hick, but I thought roosters only made noise when the sun comes up and then they were silent for the rest of the the cartoons....not so. We have a couple of roosters in the yards around us and they are so loud....all the time. They sound like they're dying. It makes me want strangle the actual rooster....but it's kind of funny too.

A funny thing....people here are so cold blooded. We get harassed by people everyday for wearing short sleeved shirts. And it's like in the 70's....but people here wear jackets/sweaters/long sleeves until May. And they think that it's freezing here. All of the old people always tell us that our kidneys are gonna stop working, we'll be infertile, or we'll get cancer....because we wear short sleeve shirts in April. Also...I just can’t get over the fanny packs. I wanna take pictures, but I don’t think that it would be all that well received by the wearer. It's just funny to see people (including teenagers) wearing nice clothes with a giant fanny pack around their waist. I just want to tell them that stuff that makes them cool here would get them beat up back in America....Another interesting thing about this town.....people roller blade. It's mostly the younger people, but it's just so funny to see big groups of people roller blading down the street.

So I'll explain some of the new pictures that I'm uploading: The big building is a 4 star Croatian hotel as you can see by the sign. You and Dad can stay there if you come to pick me up in a couple of years. It's super nice. It has a few broken windows, but it just helps the fresh air come in. Just kidding.....At one time it was a super nice hotel. Supposedly it was the most beautiful building in Karlovac, but then the Serbs and their bombs got to it. I'm not sure why they left it up, but if you're dumb enough, you can climb the most sketchy staircase ever and take pictures of Karlovac from the roof......There are just some things that a 19 year old guy has got to do when his mother is half a planet away. But if you see land in the pictures, that's Karlovac. and if you see water, that's the Korana river. Also the churches. The big church is the Old Catholic church here in town. The smaller one is the Pravoslav (Serbian orthodox) church and it's right across the street.

Oh interesting thing we decided to try: We thought it might be cool to try contacting by drawing the plan of salvation in the park with chalk and then talk to whoever stopped by and asked us questions. We only got the attention of little kids whose parents didn’t care and old people, but it was still kind of cool.

One more thing. We have our baptism this Saturday for [name deleted] . And then when we were teaching her mom earlier this week she said that she wanted to be baptized too. So we have that date as a week from Saturday, but it's looking like we might just have to push it back a bit because of issues with time. And we have hopes for her dad and brother too, but I don’t think they are super interested at the moment. It's pretty cool. Her mom started crying when we taught the restoration and she told us that every time we come by and taught that it felt like there was a hot oven inside of her cooking a loaf of bread. We explained that it was the Holy Ghost and that she can have that all the time through baptism. She really wants it and says that she knows the Book of Mormon is the word of God, but is still a little hesitant about leaving Catholicism, but it'll work out. They're anawesome family.

I think that's about it for today. Now I'll answer your questions:

1. How are you liking your companions?

  • The companions are great, even though I’m loosing one. But we get along just fine.
2. How are you doing with the language?

  • The language is rough....speaking it is the hardest, but I’m starting to understand it a little bit more everyday. Especially since I’m getting familiar with the rejection statements....Ne bih is a big one. Literally it means "I wouldn't", but somehow it also means no. Also people always say ne imam vrijeme. "I don’t have time" we ask if they have time later that week and they say yes, but they usually don’t answer when we go back, or they just give us another excuse. but that's when we just move on and find other people and just keep trying to go back throughout the week.

3. What is challenging you right now?

  • I think the language is just the biggest challenge. I want to be able to communicate with people because that's why I’m here, but it's a really hard thing to do. Also.....I’m so tired all the time. At any given time I feel like I could just lay down and sleep for 8 hours. But I can’t, so I deal with it.
4. What is it like being in a tiny branch?

  • The branch is cool. All of the branch members are great and we only have 2 hours of church every week. One week we'll have sacrament and Sunday school and the next week we'll have sacrament and relief Society/Priesthood. It's weird how the missionary-branch/ward dynamic is different here. In our ward the missionaries just showed up and went to church. Here, we speak in church in a missionary minute every week, teach Elders’ Quorum every other month, and set things up like conference and just stuff like that. It's just different. But it's cool.

I better go. We have a lot to do today before Elder K leaves for Zagreb. Tell everyone that I said/say hi! I love you all and look forward to next Monday already.



P.S. I should be getting my new Croatian tags in a week or so. So I’llbe able to ditch my Slovene tags. Also....I don’t like to be the one that asks for stuff, but do you think you could make me a music cd of something. I’m already tired of what I’ve got. If you want you can buy an iTunes card with my money or something find songs that I might like and then burn a cd and send it. It just has to be like church music. That's something that President Rowe is strict about. It can’t just be regular classical. But if you were to do it, could you put the Sufjan Stevens come thou fount that i have? Also....don’t think I’m weird, but I kind of like Alex's just something different so it's nice. Just let me know if you're able to or not. Thanks!