January 1, 2015

I usually look through my journal and write down the things I want to write here, but I forgot to do that today, so plan on me forgetting a lot of stuff! Especially since we haven't been able to email for 2 1/2 weeks!

About 2 weeks ago, we went to Albania for Elder Prince to get some dental work done. Albania was much more what I thought I was going to be around. AND IT IS WARM THERE! I needed it. Poor people everywhere, with tiny shops and tinier roads. It's funny, cutting people off is a normal thing here. Everyone drives really aggressively, and it you don't, you're not getting anywhere. The Nelsons, our senior couple coming for some training, dropped us off, and luckily the missionaries in that area, Elder Opper and Griffiths, were right there. We asked them if we could join them and stay the night at their apartment, and they totally saved us since we didn't really have anything planned. They took us to an ethnic Albanian restaurant and got some rice with sauce and french fries. When we were about to leave, they ordered us some of this salted, yogurt milk that i forgot the name of. Easily the worst thing I've had on my mission so far.
 (Top) On the way from Albania; (Bot) View from our apartment

It was cool to see a church in Albania. Elder Opper and Prince went off to his appointment, so Elder Griffiths and I went and taught an English class at one. All I could say in Albanian was Thank You, but it still worked out pretty well. We visited some Less Active Members, and got in one apartment. The guy wanted me to bear my testimony in English, so I happily obliged.

We left the next day back to Macedonia. We had been really busy at that time, where we never had any open time, but suddenly, a few days ago, work got really slow. Nobody has been wanting to meet with us with all of the holidays, so we've spent a bit of time contacting, pretty unsuccessfully. A regular conversation goes like this:

"Hello! How are you?"
"Do we know each other?"
"No, but I-"
*Then they put up a finger, which means get out of my face, and the conversation ends.*

You get the occasional person who doesn't immediately pass you off, but then they say they are Muslim or Orthodox, and say that they aren't interested. People like to keep to themselves. Our main problem is finding a better way to find people since contacting is pretty much the definition of ineffective. Especially with how cold it is right now.
(Top) Stray dog living at the Skopje fort; (Bot) Old Town, Muslim side of Skopje

We were looking through old referrals, and the first guy we called was a man named Vasko. We went to his house, and had a decent lesson there. We came back another time and found out then that he's a paid preacher for the 7th Day Adventist church, and he translates their material from Serbian to Macedonian. He invited us to go to his church, so we went. It was all Macedonian, and I'm not very good at understanding other people speak yet, so I didn't get a lot out of it. After, we went back to his house and they fed us Tavche Gravche, which is really delicious beans that are cooked for a really long time. It was Elder Prince's first time eating at a member or investigator's house. Then we taught a lesson, and one of his sons is pretty interested, so we're going to try focusing on him from here out.

The Monday before Christmas, Elder Gierisch went on an exchange with me. We went and bought a coat for me, since it was getting a lot colder. I found one I liked, but then I found out I had to pay with cash. We went to an ATM, and got some cash and paid for it. The sisters called us, asking us to help them get around using the car to drop off cookies to people, so we hiked back to his apartment (45 minutes away from everything), so get the car. The apartment has a parking garage under it, which is where the car was parked. We got in the car, drove into the elevator, and heard an enormous crack. We thought something broke off the car, so we tried to go up on the elevator so we could check it out, but we wouldn't budge. We climbed out the windows, and saw that the crack was a reflector coming off that told the elevator the car was in the right spot. So the elevator thought something was in the way, and we were stuck. We called Elder Prince and Barber, and an hour after being confined in that box, they opened the door and got us out. We backed out of it, and found the reflector which was under the tire. We held it in it's spot on the wall, and the elevator worked, so Elder Gierisch and I bought some super glue and glued it back on. Good as new. The exchange ended, so I went back with Elder Prince, and I realized that night that I left my personal debit card in the ATM when I bought my coat. We got the number from President Swineford for Wells Fargo, and they cancelled the card, and told me that all the money was still there. That comforted me a lot, but now I'm going to have to wait awhile to get another card!

Christmas was an awesome time! We drew names for secret santa on gifts to get for each other, and I got Sister Riddle. Elder Prince and I went to a place called Beat Plazar to get her gifts, where you can pretty much buy anything for really cheap. Like, it's better than Walmart. I got her some headphones and an flashdrive, plus a few other things. Christmas morning came, and I opened a lot of warm gifts like gloves, socks, and a hat. It snowed a couple days later and has been really cold ever since, so those have been saving my life. Sister Hassell had me for Secret Santa, and she got me a chocolate bar with corn in it (they put everything in chocolate), a cactus, and a Macedonian jersey. I was pretty excited about all of them. Then we had lunch with the Swinefords, and got to Skype our families. It felt too short, but it was great to see them again.
(Top) Christmas lights! (Bot) New coat, snow, my snowman busted :(

Macedonian Christmas isn't until the 7th, so we get two of them! There's like 10 holidays here between Jan 1-19th. We've been doing a lot of caroling, and caroled at a high school. I loved high school, but I'm glad to be out of there. We had to go in early last night because people can party pretty hard here for New Years. This morning was a ghost town everywhere. We went to the zoo this morning because it's pretty much the only thing open.

I think that's about it. We don't have anyone too close to baptism, but there's a few that are getting there! Have a great week!
Elder Rigby