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 audio....in 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 day....like 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 ya....an 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.
- 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.
- 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 Boye....it's just something different so it's nice. Just let me know if you're able to or not. Thanks!