Monday, May 19, 2014 at 9:12 a.m. (6:12 p.m. Romanian time)
We left the MTC at the ungodly hour of 5 am for the SLC airport where we took off for Detroit. It was Sora Cox’s first time on a plane and she loved it! We were all worried about making our flight to Amsterdam from Detroit because we only had a 30 minute wait between when we arrived and when we departed for Amsterdam but the Lord gave us a flight delay of almost two hours so we didn’t miss our flight.
Flying in to Amsterdam was so pretty. Europe is GREEN, people–significantly more so than Utah, which I appreciate, having grown up in Boston where it’s really green too. It felt so familiar. We hopped onto another short flight from Amsterdam to București and then we were there.
President and Sora Hill were waiting for us to arrive and were so friendly and welcoming. The Hills are fantastic. They say “hello” to Grandma Lee and told me over and over how much they loved her and how great she is. President said that they were on the same cruise together and that Grandma was his dancing partner which was cute. The APs were there as well to help with bags and things so we all loaded up into two cars. We drove to the mission home where we had interviews with President and Sora Hill and chatted with the APs and the Office Elders who were also there. When we were finished, they gave us a bunch of papers that we started going over together.
We had dinner together and then we all went to Cișmigiu, which is the park where Elder Nelson dedicated the mission. We read his dedicatory prayer and then sang “I Stand All Amazed” in Romanian. We were all singing this hymn and then in the background of the park a bad song came on and you could totally hear it. What a total contradiction.
After that, we went with our Nașes (godmothers, and I probably spelled that wrong in Romanian….sorry teachers 🙂 ) who are the sisters living in Buc, back to their apartment so we could go to sleep. One of them, Sora Hovey, woke up at 5 the next morning to make us pancakes before we left! It was so nice.
That day we did all logistical things. We were at the mission office by 7 and then went with the office elders (Elder Reed and Elder Montoya) to have a “medical exam” for our visas. All they did was ask us our age and if we had any chronic diseases. Easy enough. We were there for about 1.5 hours though!
We went to get lunch after that, which meant we got to experience our first Romanian mall. I was able to get a new camera, thankfully :). It had been stolen on our flight to Amsterdam, along with my new glasses. Then we got money from an ATM and then we had KFC (just for you, Frate Vizante!). You should’ve seen us trying to order. It was the funniest thing, for everyone involved. Sora Timmins was ordering chicken and the woman asked her if she would like crispy or regular (or something like that). She looked all confused for a second and then just said, “Da” (“Yes”). Everyone started laughing and then they tried to speak to us in English which was almost harder to understand than the Romanian for some reason. It was a struggle, but it was great. We stopped by the visa office next and were there for almost 4 hours I think. Highlights of that include:
We headed to the gara next to meet our trainers and leave for our cities! We met up with a bunch of other missionaries. So many of them know Nelson, so it was fun to talk to them (Elder Rose, Elder Mayans, Elder Daland, Elder Poulsen). Elder Rose actually was in the university ward back in Boston so we talked a lot about that and people we both know. Crazy how small the church is! It was super fun to meet all these new people but it was FREEZING. I was so so cold. Elder Daland gave me his nice coat which helped but I was still cold. Winter is gonna be tons of fun.
My trainer’s name is Sora Newell and she’s fantastic. We already have this running list of ways we are super similar. It’s insane how many little strange things we have in common. We are serving in Pitești, which is a “harder” city but I love it. It’s pretty and I love the people.
My second day we took a maxi taxi to a town called Câmpulung, where we taught two lessons! The city is so beautiful. We were teaching some recent converts and then some investigators. From their apartment you can see beautiful mountains. It’s stunning. I love it, love it, love it. (The view from our apartment isn’t as pretty but is super green. Our place is nice. We live in “blocs” leftover from Communist days–interesting.)
These people are the sweetest. I love them. One of the women walked us back down the street and the whole time was telling me, “Tu ești forte frumosa” (“You are so beautiful”) over and over and telling us “Te iubesc” (“I love you”). She’s amazing. Their faith is so strong. To hear them talk about how their lives have been completely changed since being taught and then being baptized is so inspiring.
During one of our lessons, this woman got mad at her niece and the little girl started to cry. Her name is Alexandra, is nine years old, and she was recently baptized. She is beautiful and has really dark hair and eyelashes. Everyone got kind of quiet and didn’t know what to do, so I got down and started talking to this little girl. She’s about the same age as Julia so it was easy to speak with her. I said, “Did you know that I have 6 sisters and 1 brother? One of them is only 8 years old. I miss her a lot because I’m here in Romania. So I love to be here with you because you remind me of my little sister.” As I was saying all of this, the room became perfectly quiet and there was this still, sweet spirit that filled the room. She smiled and we are going to be good friends. It was a really neat experience.
After our lessons we were walking back to the maxi taxis and stopped to get a Pateu cu Brânză, which is like a flaky square croissant filled with melted cheese. It was so delicious. (On that note, the food here is AMAZING. I feel like I’m eating real food again–real eggs instead of powdered, amazing chocolate, chicken, rice, vegetables, etc., as well as some of the best juice I’ve ever had. I bought this pineapple juice that you would die over. I’ve had blood orange juice too. I am happy :).) As we were walking, we got cat called/weirdly hissed at/whispered at, but that’s normal for sister missionaries. It’s been an adjustment to not react.
I did contacting! That was an experience too. And it was only English contacting which they say is the easiest kind. It made me realize how hard it is for me to actually talk to people and not be afraid. So that’s what I’m working on this week (and probably for the rest of my mission, haha) – talking to everyone.
We had church yesterday and it’s so different here, but yet so similar. There are mostly men, but there were four women there besides us sisters yesterday. It was hard for me to get a lot out of the talks because I can’t understand anyone very well. But what I loved is that the Sacrament feels exactly the same. The ordinance is the same all over the world. It’s amazing and so beautiful and I’m certainly blessed to be able to partake of it. Some of our members can’t take it every week because there isn’t a group/branch where they are so they only get to have it twice a month. Don’t ever take your opportunity to partake of the Sacrament for granted. It is so so vitally important.
The elders asked me to lead the hymns. So I get up there to lead, and literally NO ONE SINGS. Or at least it felt like that because everyone was so quiet. It was slow and I could hear little mumblings here and there but like, nothing. I was giving a solo my first day at church. It was like that for the opening, sacrament and then the rest hymn. I was dying. Then halfway through the talks, a member walks in (who looks like a member of the mafia, no joke) and sits down in the congregation. When it was time for the closing hymn, I stand and walk to the front, listen to the piano introduction and raise my arm to lead everyone. When they started to “sing,” I had to almost turn around and compose myself because all of a sudden there was this huge operatic voice coming from the members. It was this late guy. Not even kidding, he sounded like all three of the three tenors in one body. I was dying, trying not to laugh. I look back and the other new elder and I make eye contact as he busts up laughing through the entire hymn. It was fantastic. Our branch is so fun. Then during Sunday School, once again I have no idea what is going on but these awesome Romanian men are all sitting there not even discussing what the lesson is, but discussing Stalin. Stalin. This is definitely going to be fun.
Today we’ve gone grocery shopping, met up with our elders for lunch and ice cream and now we’re emailing. Standard p-day stuff. I love it here. Pitești is wonderful. We’re going to work a ton with our less active members and get them all coming back to church hopefully. I just want to teach everyone. I wish I could just teach like they did at the start of missionary work during the Restoration where they had big meetings with lots of people. That would be amazing.