Sicily, it is a dream!
Where to start....?
First of all, I have this terrible feeling that I may have lost all my pictures from the last 5 transfers of my mission, ugh.... The memory card that they are on isn't working in any camera or on the computer. It can't read the pictures and it just tells me that I need to reformat the card. I tried to get the internet point person to burn it on to a CD but he said I have to reformat the card and lose the pictures. That gives me a horrible nauseous feeling inside, could I possibly have lost my pictures? I am going to try to not think about it right now....
Alright! On my last P-day in Rome, other than packing and organizing the area book and updating records, Sorella Dall and I visited Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the biggest churches in Rome. BUT, we didn't go just because it is a big, famous church. Do you remember Veronica? The investigator we had in Ostia who is our age and who restores old churches? Right now she is working on Santa Maria Maggiore, and we went to visit her! It may have been the coolest thing ever. We walk into this church and there are probably literally hundreds of tourists inside. The church is gigantic, with several smaller chapels on the side as you walk down the nave towards the main altar. One of the side chapels was blocked off with a big white tarp. As we approached it, there were several people looking through a little hole in the tarp and taking pictures. As we peeked in the hole, you could see this huge chapel covered with scaffolding where a few people were working on restoring the old frescos on the wall. THAT is where Veronica works. We called her and she came out from behind the tarp and let us through the locked entrance for a minute to talk to her. Can you imagine how special we felt with all the tourists looking on? I love Rome!!
On Thursday morning we went to the main train station in Rome for me to catch a train to Sicily with several other missionaries. Angela came with us to say goodbye and I was able to see Sorella Tutt for a few minutes too! The train took us all the way from Rome to Catania, no need to switch trains at all. So how did we get across the sea to the island of Sicily? They took apart the different cars of the train and stuck it on a ferry to cross the water. How cool! The ferry ride is only about 30 minutes and we are able to leave the train and walk around the ferry boat. It was gorgeous!! The sun was setting over the island of Sicily, the city of Messina, and the temperature was perfect. I fell in love immediately with Sicily, its beautiful mountains and hills and ocean.
We arrived in Catania about 9:30 and the elders gave us a ride to our apartment.
Everything is wonderful! My companions are Sorella LeCates from Highland and Sorella Buma from Sandy, and they are both great. Sorella Buma knows the city very well and Sorella LeCates just arrived from Bari. They are both great missionaries and we get along great. There are also two elders serving in Catania and just one ward, and the elders have a car and give us a ride sometimes!
Let me tell you a little bit about Sicily now!
Everything I have heard about it is true. There is a huge difference between the people in Sicily and the people in Rome! I loved Rome but Sicilians are so warm and easy to talk to! Doing "finding" and talking to people around us has become one of the easiest things. There is no more need to work really hard to break past someone's shell or worry about them feeling awkward or being rude to you. Nope, all I have to do is ask them how they are doing or if they are from Catania, and they will start talking. It's incredible and so easy! I LOVE IT! There are of course a lot of similarities, but it is almost like all the Italian traits or stereotypes are magnified 10 times in Sicily. People in Rome are Italian, yes, but people in Sicily are really really really Italian.
I had a stubbornness contest on the bus with someone that made me laugh the other day. I started talking to a guy and he was seated and I was still standing and he kept telling me to sit down next to him so we could talk more easily. I kept telling him no because I wasn't sure if I wanted to talk to him the entire bus ride or talk to someone else. He asked me again and I told him no again and he stuck out the pass along card I had given him and said "fine, you can take this back, I dont want to talk to you". Haha. I took the card and said "fine" and we stood there for a minute in silence (I wasn't going to give in!!). I started talking to him again and he slowly opened up. After a few minutes I asked him if he would like the pass along card back, and he said yes. I never did sit down :)
Catania is nothing like Rome but its fairly big! We live about a 20 minute walk away from the church (a real church building, wow!) and we spend most of our time waiting for or riding on buses. There is no metro or train like in Ostia/Rome and the buses here are waaaaaay less reliable than Rome. We honestly have no idea when they will arrive, they could come one right after the other or there could be over an hour wait between buses. I am very lost in the this city! I know the buses can be really frustrating for planning appointments, but I love sitting at the stops and on the buses and talking to people. If we get stuck far away with no buses, we can always call the elders to come pick us up!
The ward in Catania is big and full of drama, so different than Ostia! The missionaries here have been having a problem with the ward leaders- they have been telling several of our investigators that they aren't allowed to come to church anymore, for ridiculous reasons. What?! Also, the bishopric has come up with a "ward mission program" this month with a long list of restrictions for the missionaries. According to this written up program, we are not allowed to talk to people on the streets or buses because who knows who we might be talking to (um, welcome to a mission!). Before we teach someone, we must ask for their documents and they must have a job. If they don't have a job, or if they live in a certain part of the city, we aren't allowed to teach them (!!). They are some of the most ridiculous rules, but I am not too bothered because I feel fine to simply ignore most of them. But I know how important it is for the missionaries to have a good relationship with the ward leaders and it does create a big problem with they actually forbid investigators from coming to church. I think we will be able to work something out, I am not too worried! What an adventure!
Our apartment is huge, 4 rooms and a balcony with the best view of the ocean. We live right above a bakery and our apartment always smells like fresh bread, it is a huge temptation. It is strange being so far away from Rome, my home for over a year. I feel like my mission has made a circle, I have returned to the old Catania mission territory. I started in Taranto with a Catania missionary trainer and then spent a year in Rome and have finally returned back south. My trainer Sorella Stevenson served here and it is so fascinating to go back through the old investigator records and see these people I have heard about from her and Sorella Pickett. It just feels like being in Taranto again and it is surreal.
The food is wonderful. They eat gelato with brioche, a sweet bread. It is literally a gelato sandwich and it is heavenly.
I dont understand their dialect, Siciliano. It is a whole different language. Some of the old people only speak in dialect. Ahh!!
We have two baptisms coming up, a cute 11 year old girl and a woman name Lidia! Lidia prayed to know if this was the right path and had a dream about an angel presenting to her white plates and telling her that what was written on them was true. When she woke up, she felt like she had started a new life and all her past mistakes were wiped clean.
There is a US military base in Catania and they have a branch with a few American families that meets in the same building. So we attend church for 6 hours on Sunday, it is so long! It is also so strange to see the vast differences between Italians and Americans, wow, I will miss Italy so much. Cool to be missionaries for an American branch though!
I love this place and am excited to be here!!
Love you all!