Where to even begin?? My first city is Taranto! It's in the very south of Italy and is a city of about 200,000 people. There are three elders and me and my companion here. My companion is Sorella Stevenson from San Bernadino CA and she is someone that my MTC teacher Sorella Lewis trained! She is great, she is a little more quiet and has only been in the city for 4 weeks so she is relatively new here as well. I don't know who long I will be here for but if you send letters to the mission home, it will be weeks and may be several months before I get them because Rome is so far away. So write me at my new apartment address in Taranto!
Via Cesare Battisti 269
I've heard that mail takes a little while to get to Italy.
Wow!! I am in Italy! We arrived Wednesday afternoon (last week) and President Kelly picked us up at the airport. We ate dinner at the mission home, which is a beautiful beautiful building built for Mussolini's daughter in 1924. The next morning, he drove all of us new missionaries to the temple site in Rome. It's a special place, set on a hill, although they still haven't broken ground for the temple yet. We then went back to the Villa (mission home) and had the ceremony of the "golden transfers", or our first transfer. We were a huge group of new missionaries, there were 15 of us and we all gathered together in a room with a big map of Italy and each of the possible cities were marked with a pin. One by one, each of us went up and opened our envelope that told us what our city would be and who our trainer was, with a picture of our trainer. Taranto with Sorella Stevenson!! We then went to the mission office where they gave us a new missionary orientation and then separated to our respective cities! I traveled with the Bari area group, which consisted of 2 older-in-the-mission anziani and 4 of us new missionaries. We traveled on the train for 5 hours, and I sat next to another new sister (Sorella Tinoco) who is from Peru but has lived in Italy for 11 years so she is pretty much a native! She doesn't speak very much english and she spent just 3 weeks in the Spain MTC. We talked to the people we sat next to on the train for almost the entire ride there and taught them together, even though I had just barely met Sorella Tinoco. She was a powerful teacher and she absolutely taught with the Spirit of God. I couldn't understand most of what the Italians were saying but so it will be for the next little while!
When we got to Bari, our new companions (including mine) met us at the train station, and my companion and I stayed the night in the Bari sorelle's apartment. The next morning, Sorella Stevenson, Anziano Smith (who was also being transfered into Taranto) and I took the 1.5 hour bus ride to Taranto. We dragged our luggage to our apartment and then got to work! Our apartment is cute, it has two rooms, one for sleeping and studying and the other has the dressers and mirrors, and a bathroom with a tiny tiny shower and a full-sized kitchen. We went outside to the street and started talking to people! That night we met with a member and taught her a short lesson. And so life in Italy begins.
It is a little different than I expected here in Taranto! We dont really have anyone to teach right now and we've spent a lot of time going places to get my permesso all in order. Whenever we are out, we say buongiorno to every one we walk by. Some people ignore us and some people respond! We talk to people here and there, and everyone has been really nice to us so far! I have had almost no jet lag and almost no fear to talk to people. I feel comfortable enough speaking Italian and expressing in one way or another what I want to say, although I understand little of what people say back to me, haha. Well, that depends! When we taught the member a lesson, I could follow almost everything. When we talk to people on the streets, especially older people, it is more difficult to understand. It's great though because my companion speaks and understands almost perfectly, her Italian is beautiful, so she answers every question or responds to anything that I cannot. So I have little fear to start conversations with people because of Sorella Stevenson! And I still get to contribute my fair share too, wohoo!
The ward in Taranto is one of the biggest wards in Italy, although definitely smaller than my home ward. I had my first Italian meal after church on Sunday and the rumors were true! They DO feed you way more than you can handle!!! Sister Pastano brought out a big bowl of pasta and I thought that that was plenty, but after we were done, she put another big plate of chicken and french fries and watermelon in front of us!! AH! At home we eat very simply: fruit, veggies, bread.
Everything in Italy closes down for 3 or 4 hours in the middle of the day so everyone can go home and eat. Its crazy! The Italian old people are pretty much hilarious. There are a lot of old people in Italy and they love to talk. Talk, talk, talk, talk. They say some of the funniest things too!! One lady we sat down on a bench and talked to. I continued to say buongiorno to the people walking by and she got kind of mad at me. She kept telling me to stop saying hi to people that I didnt know, although I continued to do it because I forgot and she kept looking at me like I was crazy. Some people do seem really surprised that we say hi to them, haha.
Our schedule goes like this; wake up at 630, exercise until 7, 700 we get ready, 800 personal study, 900 companionship study, then we go out. we come back around 130 for lunch and have language study and a break and then go out again for the rest of the night until 900, where we then plan for the next day.
meeting people is definitely the highlight of my experience. this is hard, but ill usually meet someone each day who makes it all worth it. I talked to an Atheist yesterday about our age, he was so nice to us and friendly. I talked to a group of about 10 kids who thought it was so cool what we are doing and we taught them all about the restoration. I met an old man at mostra (we put up a sign on sunday nights on lungo mare where lots of people walk and then try to talk to everyone!) who we are going to meet with again tonight. This is difficult for many reasons, but the MTC prepared me well with an understanding of my purpose and a hope that it will get easier.