So, here I am, sitting in the library here in Tuzla, Bosnia, e-mailing you! It is definitely the place that is the most unlike any other place that I have ever lived!
We did get here safely. We were originally scheduled to leave last Wednesday, but the police station in Zadar, along with the one in Varazdin for Elder C, couldn't cancel our visas by then so we had to wait another day. So Wednesday was a late day. Since other elders weren't coming, we had to deep clean the apartment. I was up until 2. Then we woke up at 5:30 to finish packing and to get our luggage to the bus station. Our luggage wouldn't fit in the Matosich's car, so we sent the luggage on the bus, beat the bus there and then just waited for our luggage for like half an hour at the Zagreb station. We then stowed our luggage at the bus station. Which was very lucky. So just to give a sense of time, we left Zadar at 7:00 and got to Zagreb around 10. We then went to the office to just wait for the 12:00 bus to Tuzla. Well, we lost track of time, and when we finally looked at a clock, it was 11:43. Needless to say, we got up and booked it out the office. We thought that we were going to miss the bus, which would mean that we would have to wait for another 7 hours for the next bus. So we ran out the door and luckily a senior couple was there, so they drove us to the bus station. We got there faster than the tram would have gotten us there. We managed to barely make the bus. It was quite frantic! But then we had a 5.5 hour drive. New Mexico is nicer to drive through than Slavonia and north Bosnia during the winter; just fields and dead trees the entire time. So we finally made it into Tuzla around 6:00 that night.
When we got off the bus,immediately a gypsy kid tried to take a piece of my luggage and carry it for me, but I wouldn't let go. He kept on trying to grab it out of my hand. Luckily he didn't get it. But he did get Elder C's. He carried it out of the station, and then demanded money for carrying it for him. He only had a 10 lipa coin, which is about 2 cents. The kid got mad, made a fist, and demanded more, but we didn't have anything. We then walked to our apartment.
The next surprising thing about this city is all of the mosques! They are everywhere. It's really weird how the predominant religion just switched from Catholic to Muslim! (he's speaking about Croatia being predominantly Catholic) Also, we get to hear the "call to prayer" all the time. I'm not sure how many mosques there are in Tuzla, but we have like 4 nearby our apartment. And we can hear the call to prayer from inside...including inside the church which is right nearby. I think the oddest thing is that all of the people look like Croats, and they speak the same language, but they all have Turkish/Muslim names and they all are Muslim.
There are also a ton of gypsies here! They are everywhere. All of the kids are cool with us though because of our members and stuff. So they always come up to us and high five and stuff.
People are super friendly here. The other night, I said hi to a lady, and she then asked me how I was! She asked how I was! That was mind-blowing to me. People usually don't even say hi back. They also tend to like Americans here. We have English class starting this week. It's usually good if you have 8-15 people in class....We somehow managed to have 5 classes with around 20 people each! We have close to 100 English students. I'm not sure how it happened, but it'll be interesting.
Church is interesting here. We have a group, not even a branch. So we have church for an hour. We have an opening song, announcements, a sacrament hymn, the sacrament, (then we put the sacrament away), then we have one talk, and then a 20-25 minute lesson. We then finish with a song, and it's over. It's kind of nice. It's also great because we only have a 45 second walk to church. It's just outside the door of our building and around the corner. The church is small. It's just a single room with a table, a white board, and 15 chairs. It has 2 bathrooms, and a little closet. That's the church building in Tuzla. We have 6 members here.
The apartment is so nice! It's the best I've lived in. I'll see if I can attach pictures. Shutterfly won’t work. So we have a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, and a balcony. We live on the 3rd floor, and we have an elevator. We also have a DISH WASHER!!!!!!! That's quite the rarity over here. We also have a full size fridge. I've only had a mini fridge under the counter for the last 7 months. My bed is great! Much better than the Zadar one. You could fold it in half. But this one is great. I'm actually sleeping through the night now! That might also be because we have central heating, which is also a great blessing. Zadar didn't have heating. But now we're always warm! Everything about the apartment is better!
So weather-wise....it's been freezing. It started snowing the day we got here and stopped last night. Luckily it didn't start sticking until yesterday, and it's already melting. It's a pretty humid cold though, so it goes straight to the bone.
The Winters seem really cool. I met them when they first came to the country. They stopped by Karlovac last June. They had us over for dinner last night. She is a great cook! And Elder C and I are companions. It's crazy. I asked him what he would've said if someone had told us during one of the home teaching lessons we had or just when we were hanging out (at BYU), that we were going to be mission companions in middle-of-nowhere Bosnia. It's pretty crazy to think about.
It's been a great start here. I'm excited to see what happens. Funny side note...we've already bought a new phone. The elders here tried to be helpful by buying us a phone before we got here. We complained a lot to the financial secretary, Elder Erwin, because we didn't like the phone at all and he said we could get a new one...So we got a nice Nokia with a touch screen. It's a lot better than the one we had.
The best thing about Bosnia so far...they have Fruit Loops! They aren't quite the same...they are all dull colors and they have a lot less sugar, but they are still really good.
Everything is a lot cheaper here! We can get lunch and dessert for 5km's it's great! One Bosnian mark is about 3.5 kunas, and the taxes are lower, and things are generally cheaper...which is why we get less money every month, but oh well.
I'm glad to hear that everybody is doing well! I better get going. I hope you can make sense of this email!
Love you all!
Until next week,