Thursday, December 23, 2010

Life in Albania - Week 11

YES it is true! i get to see all of you this Saturday! We got an email from president saying that it is now allowed! We are all confused too but I'm not complaining! I'm super excited. It's a Christmas miracle!

1. How did Alseda’s baptism go? Did you get to perform the baptism? Do you guys do the confirmation at the baptism or do you do it the next day at church?

Alseda's baptism was AWESOME! Yeah, I got to perform the baptism and it was a very cool experience. I was obviously a little nervous to do it since it was in Albanian but we did it perfectly the first time through and it was a beautiful baptismal service. The talks were great, and her testimony after the baptism was amazing. The spirit was very strong. Elder Warburton confirmed her the next day at church. It was also a very great experience. I got to stand in on it and the blessing was beautiful. She is going to be a very strong member here in Vlore.

2. Is everything still on track for Eva to be baptized on Christmas Day? Are her parents members?

Yes, Everything is still on track for Eva this saturday. Her parents are not members. Her older Sister is Denisa.

3. How has teaching English for the family with two boys gone where you were able to tell them a bit about the Book of Mormon? Are you going to their home to teach English, or are they coming to the English Class held at the church?

That family ended up going on a vacation last minute and we haven't got to meet them yet. They should be getting back soon! Pray for them!

4. What time do you want to talk on Christmas Day

Because Elder Warburton's family lives in Utah, we figure that 6pm our time is when we will call. It will be 12pm (noon) your time. Get on maybe 15 minutes early just in case but that is when we will be coming to the internet cafe. I am going to make sure my skype works! If it doesn't I will make a new one and just send you a message at 6pm.

5. Do you have a Christmas Program at church like we do here in the states?

We do not. We don't really have a primary program at all. Primary is more like babysitting. There are only 2 or 3 primary aged kids. Most of the branch is made up of age 12-18 year olds unfortunately. We need more families. We don't even have a primary teacher because there aren't enough adults to fill the positions. It's pretty sad.

6. Do Muslims join in Christmas festivities? Like would they hang up lights? Isn’t Albania like 70% Muslim? Does that impact the whole Christmas Celebration thing?

Everybody here seems to at least recognize the Holiday. A lot of people have lights up but it's a lot different than home. There aren't really houses here. So people hang lights on their balcony of their apartment haha. We are in two completely different worlds ha. You will be astonished when you come here. I think it will blow your mind. But yes, A lot of Albanians are "Muslim". They say they are Muslims because their great great grandparents were Muslim. During Communism, religion wasn't allowed and so there was a good chunk of time where there was no religion at all. Now people just kind of grasp onto what their ancestors did. But there are some real Muslims here too. It's just hard because you can never tell if they are the real ones or if they are using it as the excuse to get two guys in suits away from their door.

7. Do they do any celebration of New Years in Albania?

OH YEAH! haha I'm pretty excited. We aren't even allowed to leave our apartment on new years because it's so dangerous. And we come in early the day before. I guess the fireworks and other explosives are given out like candy. I'm pretty excited. I will take pictures for sure! There are going to be fireworks EVERYWHERE! and there aren't really laws here which makes it even better. People can light them off wherever they want haha.

8. How often do you have Zone Conferences?

Every 3 months

9. Did you see the email from Br. Petterborg about the boy’s eye? He has contacted the boy’s doctor, but I don’t think his doctor has responded yet. But if you read Br. Petterborg’s email, he thinks that there may be an easier fix – at least for now. He also emailed President Smith and President Smith did respond thanking him. I will keep you posted if I hear anything else.

Yes, Thank you a ton. You don't know how much this family loves you and they don't even know you!

10. Do you think Bird Man lives anywhere?

haha I think so. He has clothes and stuff and he changes. I think he has some mental problems but like he is actually a really nice guy.

11. What do people do there when they don’t have a job? For example, here in the great USA – the government pretty much takes care of you if you don’t work (not that I agree with this.) Does that happen over there too?

You are pretty much on your own. It's a lot different here.

12. Do you eat at people’s homes very often? If not – do you usually go home to eat or eat out?

We probably eat at peoples homes 1 or 2 times a month. Believe it or not, it is about the same price (sometimes even less) to eat out than to eat at home. We do a little of both. We like making pasta but it's more expensive to eat pasta than to eat out. There are some really awesome Albanian traditional food places here. DELICIOUS!

13. I remember reading something about the people over there closing their businesses for longer lunch times. Like it is typical here to do an hour for lunch. I think I remember them having 2 hour lunches or so. Is that true?

It is about 2 to 3 hours. I hear in the summer lunch is more like 4 hours. But yeah, It is crazy. People don't really have employees here which means the owner of the store is the worker. They go home for lunch and when they come back they come back. They take as much time as they want haha. It's crazy. You can never trust a store to be open from like 12:30 to 5.

14.Alexis got a letter from Brent this week. It was pretty funny. He said you are the only person that writes him – I hope he is kidding because haven’t you only written him once???

I have been writing Brent back and forth. He actually just sent me a letter and a tie! I'm gonna kill him! haha He sent me pictures a few weeks ago and then I commented that I liked his tie and then guess what comes in his next letter?! His freaking TIE!!! and I couldn't even do a dang thing about it ha I'm in Al-freaking-Bania! So don't worry. I am putting together a box right now for him. I bought him 2 ties and a belt. And some Albanian candy. He is getting pay back now!

15.I’m really excited about Alseda getting baptized – did it happen? How did it go?

Yeah! It was awesome.

16.Are you going to have another baptism on Christmas?

We actually have 2 baptisms planned for Christmas! Eva is one of them!

17.How did you end up touching Birdman? (Shake hands, give him a big hug, etc.?!).

Birdman came up and brushed up against me haha. It was actually pretty scary.

18.So does your companion and the other elders all talk to their families at the same time?

We all talk on Christmas but it's at whatever time we decide with the familes/ whatever is best for our schedules.

19.How has your Christmas season been?! Sad it's almost over!! So did you end up watching the Christmas devotional?

Christmas season has been good but really weird! It was really hot again today! This weather is freaking me out! Yesterday it was like 30 degrees and then today it was like 75. Hmmm. I don't really know what's going on ha. We did not watch the Christmas Devotional. I am kinda bummed about it but oh well. Hopefully when I get back.

20. Have I gotten all of my packages?
I haven't gotten any of them yet because mail doesn't get sent to Vlore. It goes to Tirana and then we don't get mail until either someone from vlore goes to Tirana or someone from Tirana comes to Vlore. But we are going to Tirana this Thursday so I should be getting quite a few packages hopefully! Thanks a TON! I received a letter from the Bakers again! Mrs. Baker! I'm going to come home from Albania and smack you if you keep spending that much money to send me letters! I promise you that all you need to do is send me the family updates! haha I love you for going the extra mile but that is EXPENSIVE! I also received a Dear Elder from Sarah Pratt! and Also a BUNCH of letters from the Young Women! Thank you all SO SO SO Much. But guess which young woman didn't write me a letter?! ALEXIS GOSH DANG ECKEL! haha I was getting so excited to see yours and it never came! haha You are LAMEEEE! I also didn't get one from Dayna Miller! haha.


Hey family! I sent a ton of pictures and a video today and that took a lot of time. Sorry I can't talk very long cause we have stuff we need to do pretty soon and I get to talk to you all on skype in like 5 days! YESS!!!! But basically I just want to fill you in a little on the week. We had two days of training on the new preach my gospel principles. Then the baptism on saturday was awesome. It made everything I have ever done in the church worth everything. I can't even explain it. It was amazing to see someones life change the way Alseda's life changed. Even her physical appearance changed to a happier person. The scripture that says How great will be your joy if you even bring save one soul unto me (or however it goes) it DEAD ON right. I can't even explain it. Being a missionary is awesome. it is also WAY HARD. But it's worth it. The language is coming along. I have to go but I will Talk to you all on saturday at noon (your time) I love you!
-Elder Eckel

ps. Kend, I don't know when I'm going to finish taking notes on the conference talks! I'm trying to hurry! It definitely won't be done before Christmas! Happy Holidays freak! Peace outtttttttttttt!

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