Monday, December 30, 2013
Christmas in Slovakia!
I am SO excited to email today I can hardly SEE STRAIGHT, haha. I will be emailing all about the last 2 weeks, and I apologize right now to my fam that Skyped with me, they might already know a few of these stories. So...first off, what the heck, why does my sister get a car?!? Ok, got that out of my system, I don't actually want an answer, I'm sure that will be taken care of when I get home...*wink*
Alright, so last week before Christmas was just wonderful, I couldn't believe all the success we've been having, we got 16 new investigators that week, and we are struggling now trying to schedule when we can meet with all of them because we're the only 2 missionaries here so it would be impossible for us to do splits. I'm praying that with the Lord, we're going to be able to make all of that work, because it feels like this city is ready to light up in missionary work.
Now, to my sister: Well everything, where can I start? This is the warmest winter they've had in like 35 years or so, there's no snow anywhere. Everything except Europa (the mall) is something really old that has been refurbished and is being used as something else now. It is SUPER foggy here, especially on the border with the Czech Republic, btw Banska is in the middle of Slovakia so thank heavens I don't have to associate with that border very much, it's just straight up unhealthy, but so foggy that you can't even see your hand in front of your face with a car that has its brights on behind you (I tested that, it's true!) but most of the time it's pretty ok. It is really quite a nice atmosphere most of the time, and the people are generally very helpful. When we contact in English for our English class, most people stop because they think we need help finding something, and actually, when we DO need help finding something, people will stop whatever we're doing and just lead us there no charge or anything, it's amazing. My companion...hmmm...is really motivated, and he's really calm and composed.
The food here is all SUPER heavy, like they put on their menus exactly how much mass is in every meal, and it averages about 300 grams, but goes up to about 1500 grams on some meals. Everything is really tasty though, you can tell that they really pride themselves on their traditional cooking, for example, one Christmas tradition is called Kapusnica which translates to saurkraut soup. I know, I know, it sounds nasty, but gosh, it is some heavenly stuff, it makes me wish that Christmas is year round. It's like this spicy sour cabbage soup with sausage and ham and it's just SO good. Or like Svickova, what I had my first day here. it's this tenderloin steak in the middle of this plate just FULL of sauce, like seriously, you saw the picture, there is more sauce than anything else. The goal is to use the knedlicky (pieces of bread) to soak up the sauce and finish the bread, the sauce, and the meat all at the same time. It's actually really rude to finish one thing before anything else in a meal, because the meals are all geared towards the last bite, in which you are supposed to have a tiny bit of everything still on the plate so you can finish it all at the same time in the last bite. I'm working on making a missionary recipe book for myself, and I'm regretting extremely forgetting my recipe box at home because I'm just stuck with the recipes that are in my head, but I'll be sure to copy everything down and make some for you when I get home, haha.
As far as the music goes, we hear American music nearly all the time, because the Slovak bands aren't very good, and the people like American stuff more anyway, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to be up to date or anything, you should make a Spotify playlist of every song that you think that I would like that I'm missing that I'll listen to when I get home or something, that would just be wonderful. Little kids are entirely too cute here, haha! They are just so sassy but they're just little and they do all the things American kids do like run around and scream for no reason, or cry when their mom dresses them up in some cute little bear suit that they don't want to wear, even though it will keep them warm, and laugh at the funny American missionary (my companion), which leads me to my news!!! On the 26th of December, make note of this, I got asked by a lady on the street if I was native!!! I was so surprised, especially because I didn't even really say anything, we were contacting about family history, and I just used the word for geneology instead and basically I just said, exactly that, we teach a course every for everyone that would be interested in becoming closer to their ancestors and she said, "Ste Slovak?" Then she looked at my nametag and was like, how do you speak so well, french people are not very smart. And I was just stunned, so I just said I'm a quick learner, but she's the only person who's done that, but most of the kids think that I'm native just because they don't really understand the difference in accents yet so they talk super fast to me and it's so cute, they're so matter-of-fact about everything, like I cased something wrong the other day, I think it was just river which is rieka, I said rieku when I should have said Riekym, and this little girl was just like, "I don't know why you said that you silly, nobody wants to walk in a river, that would just not be the smartest thing, especially if you aren't having any purpose, I mean I don't have that gladly at all!" Because the cases change the meaning of the words, that actually makes sense, just btw. I don't really get to play any sports, just because pretty much the places where people play sports in the winter is in Switzerland and I'm not allowed to go there... But in the summer time if I'm still in Banska, there's a sweet outdoor basketball setup right next to the apartment and we have a pretty good ball we could use, so that would be cool. But I hope that answered at least most of your questions, and maybe created a few more.
So last week I had the opportunity to go all throughout my mission with 3 other Elders and do singing displays and concerts because somebody said that I could sing to President and he assigned me. We did concerts in lots of places, and that was a Monumental amount of travelling, but my favorite one and it has the best story too was Uherske hradice in the Czech Republic. We drove there and got to where we were supposed to do our concert like 4 hours early, it was this huge outdoor cafe with a stage and everything like they do concerts there all the time, and so we had the opportunity to practice singing a bit and get our parts for the quartet down, we sang an arrangement of "Beautiful Savior" in Czech, and "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" in Slovak, and I did a piano solo and also had to accompany another elder when he sang a solo of "Come Lord Jesus to the Manger" from "Savior of the World." I had to learn that whole song in 2 hours because he decided to tell me 3 hours before our first concert that he still needed an accompanist, I did not appreciate that, but I played it pretty well and in this city I had learned and gotten it all down by that point so it wasn't much trouble, I still just felt conflicted about playing for him, but anyway, it astounded me here by how many people showed up, it was completely full with like 250 people sitting and another 50 standing up just watching us and I was even more astonished to learn that there were only like 5 people there who weren't members of the church. I'm used to having maybe like 3 people at church who aren't missionaries and we got to sing with a choir of members that came there too, and it was all just so amazing, I wish I had video-taped something, but I was too focused on being there and meeting people and playing/singing so I forgot and I just got kind of a lame picture of the 4 of us.
After that, we had to drive to Brno, where we were going to sleep before we went to Praha (Prague) the next day. Our GPS (we named it Tomaško) lead us on this super creepy winding windy road through the dwarf mountains and we passed through like 6 towns where the population was less than 100 people on their little signs that I'm sure no one has read in 30 years because there's a freaking FREE-WAY we should have been on. But our GPS is crazy and doesn't know it exists. It got so soupy foggy that we couldn't see anything. Like all we could see was that our lights were on, we couldn't even see how far they were shining. And I started to get really scared that something bad was going to happen, and we all were for a little while but it only lasted about 10 minutes and then we all just had this peace come over us. It was so cool; we felt like we were literally in the hand of the Lord, and we navigated through by using the GPS just because it knew where the turns were and which direction we were pointed and somehow we stayed on the road, and no axe murderers were hiding in the trees and we saw like 500 Christmas trees that were bigger than our apartment building (seriously, they're huge), and we made it to Brno safely. It was just so cool to actually see the prayers that people offer for missionaries every day truly work in my life and to see that we are protected from ALL harms, in every sense. The point is that when we're here, it doesn't matter what we're doing, the Lord always makes sure that we are protected and that good comes from whatever happens. In my case, about a week before Christmas, we got one of the drunk guys as a new investigator! Anyway, just some amazing experiences that I know can only come in a place like Slovakia right here, right now, just for me.
In conclusion, I just want to thank everyone for their Christmas wishes and for all of the gifts that I received, I was so touched by the presents that I got, like this guitar pick that I'm wearing around my neck, or this amazing scarf that I'm matching my companion with, the wishes really do mean everything to a missionary, and I want to with each of you the same love and success in everything you're working for right now.
Starší Chris Brousseau