Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I love blue pens

Well hello everyone- I don't even know who these emails end up going to so I never know exactly what to say or who to expect to read it. Oh well...

Last week we had an appointment that was about a 20 min bus ride outside of Siena. Afterwards we got to the bus stop and decided we were close enough to the end of the line that we would just ride it until it turned around instead of trying to find the station going the other way. We soon found out that the last few stations were really far apart. The bus kept going and going for about half an hour before it turned around. It was kind of a long time but it was one of the most beautiful bus rides I’ve ever taken. It was like driving through a post card. Oh I can hardly describe the rolling golden Tuscan hills, the endless fields of sunflowers. It was so cool. If anyone is ever in Siena and wants to see some beautiful Tuscan country all you have to do is ride the number 5 bus. It was a mistake that we ended up loving.

Yesterday we had interviews and during the interviews we have a little bit of training. One of my favorite things was something Sorella Wolfgramm talked about. First of all it's Slla Wolfgramm who is one of the nicest people around. It's so funny to see her because she loves every missionary so much even though she doesn't really know any of us that well. Anyways, she played a few clips from “The Sound of Music” starting with the opening scenery, then the song about all of my favorite things. She talked about being happy as missionaries and finding joy in life. I like this a lot. Being a missionary is really hard but there are beautiful things all along the way. Like bus rides. Another thing I love are pens. I'm a little particular about my pens but when I find a pen I love it really can make me so happy.

I taught priesthood meeting this week and it was terrible. Not only was it the first time I had ever taught a lesson in church but it was also in Italian. Oh it was a disaster. Italian isn't too hard for me but it was just so hard to try and think about a lesson and speak Italian at the same time. Everyone was really nice but I felt pretty dumb afterwards. I feel pretty good about Italian most days but after that I walked away wondering if I even knew how to speak English. Luckily there was an Italian confidence booster on the way.

In the middle of our Sunday school I saw a familiar face poke in the door. It was the Pinnocks. I don't even know the Pinnocks that well but it was fun to see some Americans that I knew at least a little bit. They were really nice and they made me feel really good about my Italian with their tourist Italian which consisted of 'prego' and 'grazie.' It's funny how much your perspective changes when you're here in Italy for 2 years rather than just on vacation. It was really fun to see them and they're really nice people.

The work has been really good this last week and we've been seeing a lot of success. It's amazing how much good comes from just doing what Preach My Gospel says. We're told to invite people to be baptized in the first lesson unless we really feel like we shouldn't. This seems kind of scary so a lot of the time it doesn't happen but in the last few days we've been doing it and we've found three new people that accepted the baptismal invite. Sweet. Missionary work is really fun when it goes this well and it's amazing what happens when we trust what we've been taught. Until next week, vi voglio bene. Love Ben

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the emotional capacity of a teaspoon

I don't even know where to start with describing this week. One of the crazy things about missionary work is what a wide range of emotions one can feel every single day. I feel like I'm on a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute everything is amazing because someone wants to talk to us, but then the next minute it's not so good because it turns out they just want to lecture us. Things will be really hard and we won't want to work at all and then someone will let us into their house and the last five hours of casa all seem to be worth it. Up and down. Happiness, sadness, boredom, excitement, so many different emotions. I haven't always been an emotionless person either. I like to get excited and then when I get let down it's really disappointing. Sometimes I just can't believe how many emotions there are to feel in a day.

Siena continues to be absolutely beautiful. We are right in the middle of Tuscany and a lot of the time I feel like I’m walking through a postcard. It's really fun to be here right between the two Palios too. They have two races a year and the other one is August 16. They seem to be having carnivals and medieval fairs at least once a week.

We also had a baptism this week. It was a little weird because I had hardly met Daniele before his baptism, but it was still really exciting to see anyone get baptized. It was a funny day and I was reminded over and over that I am not in America. I spent the first two hours of church boiling water on the stove to heat up the mobile font. Then during sacrament meeting the AC unit in the ceiling started dripping so one of the branch presidency members started mopping while the speaker kept going. It was a funny day, and in the end it was really great to see Daniele get baptized.

Anz. Blaga is good. We have a lot of fun together. Imagine Karl Marx and Adam Smith writing a paper together. That’s kind of how things are here. We're both focused on the same subject, but we have very different ways of thinking. In the end though we're having a lot of fun. I've made getting along with him my main focus and it has helped a lot.

Not to be preachy, but then again I am a missionary, but lately I've been noticing a lot in the scriptures how often it talks about taking care of the needy, the sick and the afflicted. Alma basically says that now matter how much, faith you have and no matter how good you are, if you aren't helping the poor you’re an evil hypocrite. He's pretty blunt but he probably has a point seeing as he's a prophet. This is something I'm terrible at. A lot of the time it takes effort and time to find people in need, but then again does it? So my invitation is to join me in an experiment this week and try to find people in need and help them. Caring for people’s physical needs was a major theme in this last general conference too. I spend so much time worrying about peoples spiritual well being everyday that I think it sounds like fun to try and help someone in physical need. I feel a little funny doing this, but I guess I can be a little weird since I'm a missionary.

Well I would just like to end, by saying how proud I still am of my brother Stefan. Not just because he got a 36 on the ACT but because of who he his. I would like it to be put on the record that I am his brother and that I am predicting great things in his future. Now that I think about it I'm proud of my whole family. They're all so great. I'm so proud to be associated with them.
Until next week. Love Ben

p.s. Oh man, mom, you make our life look so good. I love all the blog posts. I can hardly describe how it makes me feel to see how beautiful life is and more specifically your lives are. I miss you guys a lot. I'm happy, but I definitely know that I'm only supposed to be away from you for two years. Any more than that would be too hard.

I have more time to read them too. We do email on the computer here in the church so I don't have to pay for email time. I can't believe how grown up our family seems now. Our family has already changed so much since I left. Mary seems like so much less of a baby. This is the first time in my life that our family hasn't had a baby. Can you believe that?

To be honest this week was kind of hard but I’m feeling much better the last two or three days. I'm really still figuring out this whole missionary business and it's hard. I feel more alone here in Siena because we are way off in the corner of the mission. But, things are good. I'm learning and growing a lot. One thing that I've started to enjoy since being on my mission and that I’ve really come to depend on in the last week or so is writing. I write like crazy. I think that's how I learn and think best. It helps me so much to write things out. I have at least five different notebooks that I use for different things.

We have interviews next week in Firenze so I should get my package then. I'm really excited about it. Well I love you lots and don't forget about your son in Italy in all the craziness of summer. Love Ben

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Palio!

Hello everyone!

I don't even know where to begin describing this week. So much has happened and every day has been an adventure. The time between emails in bologna was starting to go really quickly but this week it seems like forever ago that I emailed last. I'll try and hit the highlights and skip the boring stuff.

Once again on Wednesday I packed up everything I own and got ready to go to Siena. It's so weird to pick up and leave everything over and over. I really did love bologna. I made some good friends in the ward that I’m sad to leave and Bologna itself is a beautiful city. Not to mention Anz Rich and the other two missionaries I was living with. It's kind of fun but kind of hard to start over time and time again.

Thursday were transfers and I spent the whole day on trains. Bologna is only a few hours away from Siena but everyone goes all the way to Milan for transfers because it's a lot simpler. It would save a lot of time and money if they could figure out how to make each transfer without everyone going all the way to Milan but that’s not my responsibility so I don't worry about it. I wonder what the people in the station think about the pattern of about 100 boys in white shirts invading the station for about an hour or so and then disappearing until about 6 weeks later.


Anz Blaga is a good guy and he is really sincere. He's from Transylvania to so I’ve been eating extra garlic just in case he has any vampire in him.


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Saturday was also Palio, which was so cool. We legitimately couldn't work during palio because the whole city is shut down and crazy so we went with a member. Siena is divided into Contradas. Contradas are like neighborhoods with a Hogwarts house twist. Each Contrada parades around with its drums and flags with everyone dressed in medieval attire. It was so cool. Practically Stefan’s dream I think. It's like playing that sword game on the trampoline but instead of a trampoline you have a medieval city and instead of a wooden stick you have a real sword, real armor and real servants to carry your flags and beat your drums. The race was less than a minute long but really intense and exciting. Our adopted Contrada, Oca won too. People take the race really seriously so our member who is from Oca was really excited.

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Sunday was exciting because we have lots of BYU students here. The branch is good but about 3/4 of the people there were Americans. They're a lot of fun to have here.

Monday we had a fourth of July district meeting where everyone but Anz Blaga made lots of patriotic comments. We tried to add some excitement to a day that just isn't that exciting outside the US.


One last exciting bit of news is that we have a baptism this week! Daniele is 15 and ready for baptism. His mom got baptized about a month ago and he's next. I just met him today and he seems really great.


I miss you and I love you all. Thanks to everyone who has written me I love hearing from you even if I can't always find the time to respond.


Love, Ben