Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Albania Pictures!

We just got these in the email this week from Austin. Looks like Albania is treating him well!


Make sure to check out the new mailing information! ALSO, Austin can't RECEIVE emails from anyone other than family. We just found that information out.

Life in Albania - Week 1

Hello Family and friends!

How is life going?

1. How was your first experience street contacting? Did you do it right after you got off the plane?

We got to Albania and had dinner at the presidents house. Then we went in the streets and started street contacting. I was paired off with sister leit who was from my MTC group. (we were both fringo fare) so we started stopping people and talking to them. the second person we stopped was a girl probably about age 20 to 25. She stopped and talked to us for quite a while. Turns out, we talked to her for about an hour. We gave her the first two lessons right there on the streets. It was crazy. I didnt even know half the words i was saying. The spirit was helping a ton. She commited to reading some chapters in the book of mormon and to pray about it. Unfortunately, we left the next day and I have no idea how she is doing. We gave her number to the people serving in Tirane. I hope she is doing well. Her name is Jodina (yo deena) please pray for her.

2. How is your new companion?

My new comp. is the bombbbbb. He is seriously so awesome. He is way helpful with the language. He has only been here for 6 months. His name is Elder Warburton. He is super good at the language for only being here 6 months. I have already learned so much from him. He is a great misisonary. My language skills have already increased dramatically. I can pretty much say what ever i want to say. (usually not the exact way i want to say it, but with the words i know, i can get across what i want to). The only problem is that I still have trouble understanding everything that people say.

3. Tell us a little bit about Vlore.

Vlorè is so so so so sweet. It is on the beach. It is very very dusty. Did I mention it is dusty? Oh and it rains a lot too. So dust + rain = MUD!!!! haha. It's all good though. I love it here. I love the people here too. The people here are so incredible. They have nothing to give, but they give everything they have. There are mountains everywhere in Albania. It is beautiful here in Vlorè.

4. How often will you meet with your Mission President. Did he seem pretty nice?

We will meet with our mission pres every 3 months until we are done with our trainings from the new version of preach my gospel, and then we will meet with him every 6 weeks. He is a very nice guy.

5. Is the food normal – or different?

The food is different, but they have a lot of food that is similar. I like it all. I have become not so picky of an eater of the past few years, so if it's in front of me, i will eat it. Oh, also, sorry about how bad my typing is. The keyboard is different here and so it's hard to type correctly while typing fast.

6. What is the monthly allowance you get?

we get 20,000 lek which is about 200 dollars. It is only to be spent on food and neccessary things for the apartment though.

7. Are you walking everyday or are you driving?

We walk...... A lot haha. It is great. I guess EVERY missionary here loses at least 10 pounds from what I hear. So yeah. We walk quite a bit. Oh and we don't eat dinner ever. we only eat breakfast and lunch. Pretty wild.

8. Do you have any investigators you are teaching?

We currently have no Investigators. We are planting lot's of seeds though. Not a lot of people want to listen to us though. A lot of people think we are J dubs (jehovas wittnesses) and they don't like them for various reasons. I will tell the story a different time. We are doing everything we can. We know there are people looking for the Gospel, so we will continue to look. We have been trying to get member referrals. Hopefully we will get some soon. We had a lot of lessons this past week with members doing the referral lesson which was way good. Please pray for the Albanians hearts to be softened so that they can hear the Gospel.

9. How is the language going?

The language is going well. I am getting better every day. I don't let myself get stressed out about it because that won't help at all. I stay positive and my companion helps me a ton. I love the language though. It is great.

10. What is your apartment like?

Our apartment is soooo nice. We have a view of the Adriatic Sea from our balcony. We have one of the only apartments in Albania with 2 bathrooms. And we keep it way clean. It's great. I will send pictures eventually.


Okay, so here is the dealio. I love ALBANIA!!!! it is so awesome.

After I found out who my trainer was (thursday), We got on a Frugon (a van) that went from Tiranè to Vlorè. It was hilarious. I cant even explain why. It just was. People here.... they drive... unlike anything i've ever seen in my life. I cant believe how there are no car accidents here. When people honk, its not a mean thing at all. It is just a warning that they are coming. There are hardly any such things as lanes here. People just drive as they please. It is so funny. hahhaa I cant even explain it. When we got into vlorè the driver dropped us off about 20 minutes walking distance from our apartment. We had all of our bags plus motra leit is in vlorè too so her and her companion were with us and they had bags. So we helped the girls get their stuff to their apartment which was about 5 mintutes away from where the van dropped us off. My companion suggested that we take a van to our apartment but I said nah lets just walk. its not that far and i don’t want to waste money haha. Bad idea. It was WAYYY longer than I thought. And my bags were WAY heavier than I thought. Oh well haha. MY companion just laughed at me the whole way. I kept apologizing to him ha and he just smiled and said that it was all good.

Oh, before I forget. I was kissed by an old man today hahahah. It was so funny. Every one kisses when they greet each other and an old man came up to me today and started rattling off a bunch of mumbled albanian words, took my hands, called me a small but strong boy and then kissed me. HAHA it was the funniest thing ever. My companion said Looks like you got your first kiss from a gja gji (old man). I was a little scared by that haha. He said my first one. I am hoping that there arent too many more of that.

So we went tracting the other day. It was my first time tracting. My companion said he would take the first turn to talk. He did it and the people kindly shewed us away. Then It was my turn. We walked up to a door. There sounded like there was activity going on in the house. It was looking promising. I knocked. No one came. I knocked again. finally an old man wearing super short shorts and a wife beater and he started yelling at me and telling me to never come back. I didn’t know that was what he said so i continued to proceed to tell him that i was a missionary and that i had a message about a living prophet. I guess he didn’t like that idea either and he made a motion with hands that to me looked like he wanted to hit me. hahaha. we left. i asked my companion what he had said to me. my companion just smiled and shrugged. I knew that he knew what he said haha. But they probably weren’t good words.

Sundays in Vlorè are much different than Sundays in America. First of all, church is only 2 hours instead of 3. And there are a million other differences too. For example. There is a closet at the church with white shirts and ties of all sizes for the kids and adults to have white shirts and ties. They don't have their own. Also, sacrament meeting is crazy haha. I cant even really explain why. But its just a little different. So I was asked to bless the sacrament. I obviously was more nervous than ever. I was more nervous this time than I was the first time i ever blessed the sacrament. Then i gave my testimony to the congregation in the meeting. There is an elder that has been here for 3 months and people were telling me that my albanian was way way good for only being here for 4 days and that it was better than that other elders. So i hope that they werent just trying to be nice and that i am picking it up pretty quickly. During the other new missionaries testimonies the congregation would vocally correct their mistakes in Albanian hahaahaha it was so funny. They didnt correct anything in mine though! pretty cool huh? The Lord has helped me out so so so much with this language. I know that as long as I try my hardest with the language, The Lord will help me out big time. The kids lined up to have me tie their ties for them haha. I guess they liked how i tie my knots. They all kept saying I want to learn how i want to learn how! haha. Speaking of ties. Ties here are so so so sweet. Today our district went tie shopping. Ties are however much you can talk them into them being. I bought my first 3 ties for a total of 15 bucks. They started out at 20 a piece. I am getting good at bartering for ties haha. Yes! in fact. The workers of the store asked me if I was from Cosavo ( a country north of Albania that speaks Albanian) because those people where american clothes. They basically were telling us we speak good albanian. When we told them we were american they were stunned. It was pretty funny. Don't worry. I only bought 5 ties haha. I had to get some sweet Albanian ties.

So far here in Albania, I have annointed a blessing, helped ordain 2 people into the priesthood, taught a few lessons, played soccer on the beach, ate lots of crazy food, and have walked a million miles. Oh and i was kissed by a gja gji. There are probably many more stories to come. I am pretty stoked to be here. I wish I had more time to email but I dont. Dont worry though. I have everything in my journal so when I get home I can tell all sorts of crazy stories to you. I know, that will be a while from now but hey. Its the best I can do. Please keep praying for me. I love you all so much. Thanks for you emails. I dont have much time to touch on them. Mom, you are in my prayers. Hopefully you arent too sore from the car accident.

At most places we can print emails out but this one I cant. So normally, i will be able to print things out. Oh also, I am just not allowed to email people back from this email besides you. Sweet! I love you all! Keep on Keepin on.

Love, Elder Ekèll

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Holler! Elder Eckel has landed!

Hello everyone,

Elder Eckel has arrived!! We did not get to talk to him like we thought on his layover in New York City – but he did call at 2:00 a.m. this morning from Vienna, Austria. He sounded great and his flight to Albania was only going to be another hour. He has already done street contacting and seemed to have some success. Enjoy the picture and the letter from his Mission President!

Dear Brother and Sister Eckel,

As you can see from the attached photograph, Elder Eckel arrived safely here in Tirana. In this photo, he’s with Sister Neil and me in front of our bookcase in the mission home. He is a bit tired, wrinkled and overwhelmed by the cultural shock of landing here. But other than that he is excited to get to work and to be assigned to his new companion. He has already been out meeting and contacting people (with great success!). We will assign him tomorrow afternoon to his trainer, a special dedicated missionary called to that important position. But rather than wait until then to let you know he arrived safely, we thought you might be anxious to know that he didn’t get lost in transit and that he did arrive and that all is well. Earlier today, I had a wonderful interview with him and we got him registered with the American Embassy. We just had dinner, and he and his companions are off to get some rest. We will send you another short note tomorrow with contact information, the name of his companion and his first assignment, and any other information that will hopefully make you comfortable about his status.

Please also know that we already love your son and are concerned for his well being. We will do all in our power to make sure that he is safe and that he has a wonderful experience serving as a missionary. We can say without question that he has come to one of the finest missions in the world. The people are kind, the members are so loving of the missionaries, and the other missionaries are the finest young men and women in the church.

Thank you for sharing your son with the people of this country. We know that your family will be blessed as you share in his experiences.

Warmest Regards,

President & Sister Neil
Albania Tirana Mission

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Missionary Sightings 2

You may have noticed from Austin's emails that he sang in the Priesthood session of General Conference. My dad and husband couldn't find him during the actual conference. We were all bummed, but then my family went back and watched it online to see if we could spot him. Sure enough, there he was! So I decided to check it out for myself and take some screen shots and then edit the photos so you could see exactly where he was. I was totally eating this up. I LOVED seeing him sing! It rocked! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!