Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Have you ever wondered what i would look like with a Siena!‏

Well this was a great week with tons of cool stuff going on. But first I would like to tell you all about an important life event that occurred in the last week. I got my first buzz ever. Yes, I’m sorry mother, but it has been done. What's even cooler is that I did it myself. It was time for me to get a haircut and because haircuts are pretty expensive (like 8 gelatos) the mission style is the buzz. I have to say that my head feels pretty funny but I like it. And, after years of people telling me I should never get a buzz because I have a funny shaped head I’m pretty satisfied with the way I look.

Last week was really good. We taught a lot of lessons. In fact more than double what we have done before. It was something I was really concentrating on this last week and it was so satisfying to be successful. One of the apostles promised that if the missionaries would consistently teach 20 lessons per week baptisms would double. There has been a big push in the mission to get everyone teaching 20 lessons per week. We were only doing about 7 and this week we got 19. We were blessed for it too. I felt like I got better at teaching in just this one week and my favorite investigator Silvio accepted our baptismal invite. I'm pretty happy about it.

Summer is setting in and even though the national month long vacation isn't until August most people have decided that they don't really need to work right now. People are really hard to work with because they are all going on vacation and they normally go for a while. Like 3 or 4 weeks. Argh.

In other news last night I found out that I’m getting transferred to Siena. I have really loved Bologna but I’m excited to go to Siena. Anz Dunshee, one of the zone leaders I’ve been living with served there for a long time and loved it so he has been really excited for me. It will be a lot different though. They have a branch of about 10 people and it's a much smaller city. It's about as far south in the mission as you can get so if Nick Anderson is still in Terni we will be as close together as we can possibly be. I'm really going to miss Anz Rich. I've learned so much from him and we've grown so much together. My new companion is Anz. Blaga and guess where he is from? Romania! I'm excited. I’ve met him once before but don't know much about him. Anyway, I’m really excited to go to Siena and I think I will learn and grow a lot there.

Mr. 36- wow I can't believe you. You got a 36. Do you know what that means? You can do whatever you want now. Is there anything you aren't good at? You can go to any college in America. That’s amazing. Way to go. Any update on France? I feel like I’ve been asking you about it for months.

By the way go look up Palio in Siena. They have a big horse race right in the middle of the square twice a year and the first one is this Saturday. It's a really big deal and should be pretty exciting.

Well I love you all and I miss you too. Love Ben

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot Bologna

Hello everybody-

It is getting very hot and I sweat like crazy. Luckily I get to wear long pants and a tie to help me soak up the sweat. The Italians really know how to dress down for the heat. I can't tell you how many old men I’ve seen answer the door in their whitey tighties.

The other night we were heading to the center of the city to talk to people in the piazza. We were walking along and we came to a big parade. There were people drumming and cheering and being crazy. It looked like a lot of fun but instead of jumping in we decided that we should probably head to a nearby park instead of Centro because that was probably where they were going. After a little while in the park the parade showed up. It was kind of hard to talk about spiritual stuff with crazy drums and dancers everywhere. We decided to leave but soon found that all the entrances to the park were locked up except for the one the parade was coming through. Eventually we just had to dive in and go straight through the parade. Talk about craziness. Part of me loved it but at the same time it wasn't really a missionary place.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about something Grandpa Fritz told me. I was interviewing him for a project and the last question for the interview was if he had any advice. He said to remember that nothing is ever as serious as it seems. I think when I remember his history this makes it even more meaningful. This is someone who saw Nazis and Russians invade his home, who lived on his own at 16. Nothing is ever as serious as it seems. Whenever I’m in a situation I don't like, I think of that. Sometimes I forget that time moves on and situations change, that I won't be in the badness forever. I look back at times when I’ve been uncomfortable or in pain or anything else bad and I remember how I felt like it would never end. But, then I look back and see that it did end. Luckily for us time moves on and the bad ends. This applies to the gospel too. Something that I don't think about everyday but that's still pretty crazy is that life ends. We can't imagine it being over but we know that it does. We know that life ends and then we will see God again and be judged. We think the world will go on forever but it won't. Christ will come again and things are going to be crazy. Anyways, the point is that life moves on and changes and sometimes it helps to remember that.

Unfortunately the work hasn't been as hot as the weather. Lots of people travel a lot during the summer so we've met a lot of great people who are leaving in a week. Bologna has lots of students and school is wrapping up this week so we have a lot of people leaving.

I can't believe I'm in the last week of my first transfer. I don't know what to expect for the transfer but from what I can tell it's hard to predict exactly what will happen. I'm hoping for something good.

Dad- Are you in Texas? I'm guessing for a food show or something. Anyways things are good here. It's getting really hot. I sweat like crazy and unlike me not everyone is wearing a shirt and tie.

Mom- I loved everything you wrote. That’s so cool that your photo was on the cover of Mormon Times. Well this week I saw another case of you being right even when we just thought you were a little crazy. Our crazy investigator Alberto (who we have now dropped) was pretty weird. Last week we were talking to him and when he went to get his scriptures he came back out with a Dan Brown book. Apparently he studies that along with the Book of Mormon. That must be where he was getting his crazy ideas about being a descendent of Christ. Then last night we talked with a guy in a square and after we told him about the restoration he asked us what we thought about the Da Vinci code. Stupid Dan Brown. Stupid People. Arrghgh. It's fiction people. Anyways now I see why they can be bad.

So do you know what's going on with the package now? I think in the future it would be best to just send packages to the mission office. Oh well I guess we'll see.

You sound much better this week. The scriptures are great and prayer is too. It's nice to hear that someone in this world cares about them. Sounds like you have a busy week ahead. I hope it all goes well.

p.s. imagine your love for mascarpone combined with your love for gelato= mascarpone gelato. It’s so good.

Stefan- Thanks for your email. I'm glad you made the font so big. You know how my old eyes are. You sound like you're having a lot of fun. I have to admit I’ve been dreaming of being alone for several hours with just a good book. Make sure you take advantage of that. And you finally took the ACT. Good for you. And what in the world you're reading Harry Potter in French. Who are you? That’s super impressive. Tu puoi capire tutto? You'll really be grateful for that someday. I wish I spoke French along with Italian and English. Even if you don't go to France on a mission I promise you will end up talking to someone in French. France would be really cool. Do you want to go on a mission to France? Anyways enjoy your summer and smooch some girls.

Ciao. Love you and I miss you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

La mia famiglia meravigliosa‏

Hello Everybody!

It is getting hot in Bologna. It's so weird to have summer come without any transition except the temperature. Normally I would be excited about school getting out and worrying about finding a job but now I just keep doing the same things. I guess the gelato flavors change a bit. They have more and better fruit flavors since they use fresh fruit. School just ended here and I was on a scambio in Ravenna and we rode our bikes into a square and it sounded like a riot. It turned out to be tons of students who were celebrating getting out of school. They were throwing water and flour and it looked like a lot of fun. I almost jumped in, but at the last second decided it probably wasn't the best way to find people to teach. Italians are pretty good at celebrating. The other day I saw a bunch of cars drive past honking like crazy because they just came from a wedding. It was pretty cool.

Yesterday we went to Pioppe to help a member with some stuff. He lives in what used to be a hotel, a mechanical shop, and a bar and dancing place all in one. Now it’s a pretty big place for just one house. It’s really old too. He was saying that in WWII the Germans and Americans didn't want to bomb it because it was a central point in the area. Instead they fought for it hand to hand within his house. He said one day he found bones in the basement. Cool! It’s all made out of concrete and rocks so work goes really slow on it. In fact he's been working on it for the last 20 years. It felt a little like working in the catacombs sometimes. The nice thing is that we good some good food and improved our relationship with some members. Not to mention that they helped my Italian a ton.

A quick side note. I've been seeing ads for a Cars 2. I don't feel like I’m missing out on much as a missionary but I do have to admit I’m going to be jealous of everyone when they see it. Oh well...

As for missionary work things could be going better. We were really excited to find a little Philipino family that was really interested. One day we were doing casa and this Philipino boy let us in. we taught the restoration pretty quickly and when we got to the BoM he said he already had one. He went and grabbed his Tagalog BoM and said he started reading it about a month ago. I was super excited. Unfortunately he and his family are now out of town for at least the next month.

It has been pretty hard work opening a copia and we haven't seen a ton of success.

As for my cold I’ve discovered the magic of water. I started drinking lots of water the other day and it has helped more than any of the other medicine I’ve taken. The only problem is that when you're constantly drinking water you're constantly peeing too.

Italian it is a beautiful language but it’s hard. It gets better every day but I think if I just keep working at it every day I’ll be able to speak really well before too long. I've been surprised at how many people only speak well enough to get by but talk about the people who speak really well like they're really special, but then they don't do any language study. Funny funny. I think enduring and working hard every day is the real key.

I’m eating much better now and I love having the assurance of those Euros you sent me. Did I ever tell you how surprised I was at how much you sent me? Holy cow. Anyways I agree with you life is too short now to eat well and I’ll only be in Italy for two years. I think I’m good with money but I do have my debit card at Chase Bank if I run out again. I had a delicious canolli this morning and I can't even describe how much I love gelato.

I'm glad to hear that you're proud of me. I love being here but I still miss you guys a lot. And like you were saying about families I think we were all meant to be together so it is kind of weird being so far away from you guys. I really like to compare the mission to the plan of salvation though. It’s hard to be gone but I know I’ll be back with you guys before too long. I'm having a lot of fun and learning so much. I love you guys and think about you every day.

Mom- I'm sorry to hear that this week has been so hard. I wish I could do more but I feel like all I can do is pray extra hard for you. Lately I’ve been praying for angels to take care of you guys a lot. Is that bad? Can I do that? I think I can. So I do. Sometimes it's so hard to tell exactly what we can do and can't. The doctrine is simple but sometimes it's confusing too. I have an especially hard time with CS Lewis. I know he wasn't an apostle but a lot of the time his explanations work so well. I was thinking and reading about judgment and I love the imagery he uses in The Great Divorce. I love the idea that it's more our choice. That the judgment isn't so much God looking at us and then telling us where to go but more us putting ourselves as close to or as far from God as makes us comfortable. I know that when I make mistakes or hurt someone a lot of the time my shame makes me want to run away from them. It's hard to face people we hurt. I hope this doesn't come across as being preachy at all. I just like talking about this stuff. One thing I do know is that Heavenly Father does love us. He loves you and me and Dad and our whole family and everyone and He wants the very best for us. He wants us to be happy in ways we can't even imagine. He is the king of true happiness. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. And if they do punch them because that's Satan talking. Satan wants so badly to confuse our idea of God. What a jerk.

Fight the thing.

I love you and I'll be praying extra this week.

Stefan- I think you’re awesome. I think I brag about you more than anyone else.

Everyone else don't be lame. Take 5 minutes to write me a short email this week. I promise it's not that hard and if you don't dad will beat you with a stick. Really though I promise you won't regret it. I will eat a gelato for you if you send me an email. I promise though that you really won't regret it and you'll get benefits even more real than me eating gelato for you. I love you all lots and I just don't want you to forget me and I don't want to lose contact with you for 2 years. How sad would that be?

I miss you and I’m so proud to be part of our family.

One last thing. There are so many things I love about Italy but the government is not one of them. This morning I had to go to my questura appointment to get my permesso di soggorno. It's basically like a green card. Imagine the DMV but with 10 times more people, 5 X more hot, no organization at all with half as many workers that are twice as grumpy and drunk with power. It was terrible but eventually my good old trick of just acting like I knew what I was doing worked for me.

I love you and I miss you. Hope everyone is good and happy.

Tanto amore


Boogers in Bologna

Hello family!

Once again time is speeding up again and it feels like I was emailing just yesterday. I'm still alive here in Bologna and things are going great. We have investigators now. All three of them. That might have been a little sarcastic but I really am happy. It's tough to open a copia (new area) and I think it might just take some time to get things going.

We have Silvio,who was the first person I got a number from all on my own. We met him on the bus a few weeks ago and were finally able to teach him this week. He's from Sicily so it's cool to be teaching an Italian.

Anyalem is from Ethiopia and hard to get a hold of.

Then there's Alberto. Alberto is a merman. He just told us last time. Oh and on top of that he is a descendent of Jesus. He says he has the blood of Christ in him. But, he loves the book of Mormon. He really loves it. He and his friend were fighting over taking turns reading it. We were happy to give them another copy so the didn’t have to fight. He might be crazy but he is our only progressing investigator.

We've had a little bit of excitement this week with some big thunderstorms. I actually like it when it rains. It cools things down a little bit and adds a little excitement to our day. Unfortunately I have been a little sick. It’s just a cold but it is driving me crazy. I have turned into a booger machine and I cough and sneeze a lot, which makes other people want to talk to me a lot. One thing I love about Italians though is that they aren't shy about blowing their noses. When they need to blow, they blow. I've decided to make this a part of my life and blow my nose with wild abandon no matter where I am.

We went to San Marino today so I spent some of my day in another country. San Marino is a little city-state that built a big castle on top of a big mountain, declared themselves independent, and said they would fight anyone who wanted to come fight. The cliffs around the castle are really steep so I don't think I would want to attack them. It's funny to see some missionaries who have no trouble scheduling appointments and such the rest of the week get really stressed about the timing of a little trip to a castle.

I can't think of much new stuff for this week. We knocked a lot of doors or rather rang a lot of citofonos. I was talking to Anziano Ramjoue and he was saying he's only done casa (proselyting door-to-door) once in his two transfers. I can't believe it. Apparently his trainer is really good with the members.

Mom- Hello mother! Thank you for the blog posts I always love reading those. I can't believe how much our family is growing up. I have to admit I’m a little jealous of how much freedom you have to go and do stuff. It sounds like the summer is going to be a lot of fun. I have to admit that I hope you do take our super tent and set it up. That thing is so cool and I’m really proud of building it. By the way I would love a copy of the Ensign. Also if anyone had favorite conference talks they wanted to send I would love them. Congratulations on getting published too. That’s really exciting. I love writing in my journal. A lot of missionaries look at it like a chore but I actually really like writing. There are so many things we can learn by writing about our lives. Thanks for writing to me and keeping me updated on our family.

Well have a good week everybody. I love you and I miss you.

Don't forget about me.

Love, Ben

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beautiful Bologna

Hello world! Bologna is great. As usual I can't believe another week has passed already. It has been a good week with lots to do. One thing that everyone has been asking about is the food. I hate to disappoint but I ran out of money this week so I haven't eaten for the last couple days. Just kidding. Since I arrived half way through May I didn't get the full monthly portion and we had a lot of traveling, which does get reimbursed. Anyways, we have eaten but we haven't exactly had a lot to work with. But now that it's June 1, I have money again and will be eating. I plan on eating a lot more gelato, pastries and pasta this week than I did last week.

Like I mentioned last week I still can't get over the fact that we really are at war with Satan. I can't remember if I wrote this last week or not but I will write it again just in case. I look around at this beautiful city and think about all the great art, architecture, music and thinking what went on here hundreds of years ago. There really was a lot of good and light. But it seems like because of that Satan has fought back hard and brought them low. There is so much that is low and cheap here. It’s sad to see beautiful buildings with windows filled with gross stuff. Darn Satan. What a jerk.

The good news is that we are on the Lord’s side and in the end we will win. And don't feel too bad. There is still a lot of good here. One example is the Di Iulio brothers in my ward. There are three of them Timotio, Daniele, and Manuele. All three of them are students here and they do such great things for the ward. Daniele is the ward mission leader and Manuele teaches the gospel principles class. Last week there was a guy who has been coming to church for the last 7 years but hasn't been baptized. He always seems to like to argue and stir up trouble. This week he was at it again and it was terrible because the other Anziani had a really cool investigator there. He was arguing and being dumb and totally drove the spirit out of a great lesson. But at the end Manuele bore amazing testimony of the church and all the goodness of the gospel. He brought an amazing spirit. What was really cool to sit next to his brother and watch how his brother reacted. He got a little teary and I could really tell he loved his brother.

Another funny thing about the Di Iulios is that all three went to English speaking missions: two in England and one in New York. They all speak really well and one of them even has an almost perfect American accent from watching movies. It kind of freaks me out to hear them talk in English but at the same time it’s really nice. There are some people in the ward that speak English but most of them will only speak Italian to me to help to improve.

As for the language it’s actually not too bad. It was hard at first but the improvement has been incredible. I understood so much more in church this last week compared to my first week. It really is beautiful how the Lord works with imperfect people like me. There are still some times when we are talking to people and I just look at Anziano Rich and try to ask him with the look on my face "What did they just say?" Anziano Rich is a great guy. He's quiet but I’m learning more and more from him every day and I'm learning to love him more and more because of it. I think it's really important to work hard and still have fun together and as we get more into a groove we are getting better at having fun together. One interesting thing is that his last companion is from Australia. You'll have to let the Georges know. I was proud to say that I have Australian friends.

I'm learning so much about how to work with people to successfully get a job done. One thing about missionary work is that we teach all about how to be happier together. The gospel really is all about peace with God and with each other and when people don't see that unity in the missionaries the message just sounds stupid. I'm learning so much about how to work with people a lot like me and nothing like me.

One last thing that I think is really funny about Italians is that they are very honest. The other day we were walking along and I noticed three old ladies staring at us. We get stared at everywhere we go but they we particularly obvious about it so I went to talk to them. It went like this...

"Salve, Come state?"

"Male! Ha-ha" which means bad. She said it like she was excited about being bad. But, she continued to explain that she had never said she seen people so beautiful. (don't worry she was only about 70 years too old for me and had some pretty serious whiskers)

I thought it was really funny and even though they weren't interested in listening to us it was totally worth talking to them.

Mom- you still have a talent for making our life sound like a fairytale on the blog. You even make misery sound beautiful. I love how you have taught me to see the beauty in life. It would be so sad to go through life without noticing all the beauty around us. I loved both of the posts you sent me but I had a hard time seeing all the pictures. Feel free to print off any posts you want and send them to me. One hour of email goes really fast so anything you print and sent me is greatly appreciated. Make sure you print off the newsletter for me. I think you told me about summer plans but I can't really remember. Are you going to visit the Mitchell’s? Did you say you were shooting a wedding? You sound really good and home sounds wonderful. I really am happy to be here but I hope all of you enjoy being together at home because let me tell you once you aren't living at home you really appreciate how good it was. You and dad are such amazing parents and I’m so grateful for you.

I forgot to mention that I did a scambio (exchange) in Ravenna last week and it was beautiful.

Read your scriptures and pray every day because it really is one of the best simplest ways to draw closer to God every day.

I love you and I miss you all.

Ciao. Love Ben

p.s. I just remember another question you asked. We walk and ride the bus. Unfortunately there are no Lamborghinis for the missionaries although I did hear that once upon a time there were missionaries with Vespas.