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12/7/86

Right now it is Sunday morning, and I feel like a skeef because I slept in.  I think the reason for the late snooze this morning is because we were out so late last night.  We went over to see one of Early and Craft’s old contacts, and we ended up staying there for about 3 hours. This chick was pretty cool, but it wasn’t exactly a religious visit.  For about 15 minutes we read the Book of Mormon, which was good, but, considering we were there an additional 2 hours and 45 minutes discussing nothing of real importance, our scripture reading was only a minnow in the belly of a whale ( I don’t know what that means – sorry for the bad comparison).  At one point I think Early became a little mad at me.  We were playing this game where we wrote our names on pieces of paper and then exchanged them.  We all then had to draw a picture out of each other’s names. Object of the game was to draw the best picture.  I had Early’s name, and he wrote it in curvise, which didn’t leave me a lot options to draw a picture.  Somehow I came up with this idea of using the cursive loops as legs and buttocks, and (I am a little ashamed to admit)  I drew in some turds for effect.  Immediately I felt bad about it, definitely not something that someone who claims to a representative of the Savior should be doing.  Consuelo thought it was really funny, but Early was not amused at having his name transformed into a bunch of butts in mid-crap.  Also last night we went over to some student’s apartment and rapped with them a little bit.  We didn’t even get 15 minutes of church talk on this visit, but I didn’t feel bad about this since he was with his roommates and it would have been awkward for him to talk about that kind of stuff with all of them in the room.  So we just talked, and Early did card trick for all of them.  Obviously, it was not a profitable evening.

12/6/86

Sorry to be reporting this so late, but I’ve been transferred.  At this moment I am in a little city named Siena.  I think it is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in my whole life. It doesn’t seem real – I feel like I am walking around Disney World or something.  It is totally awesome.  The streets are paved with stones and they all narrowly carve their way through mazes of old buildings laced with large windows and shutters and an occasional old grizzled person looking down at the traffic below.  It is so incredible that I can’t really find the words the adequately describe it.

Our apartment is cool too. – 50 times better than my previous living arrangement in Rome.  The only catch is that we live with 3 university students – that’s a little strange.  They are always listening to the radio and watching TV.  But they seem to be really cool, and this situation should definitely help me out with the language more.  The only bad thing about being Siena is the actual missionary work – it doesn’t seem to be going so great here.  Maybe it is because Siena has such a rich history and tradition, and this wraps everyone into a culture where there isn’t really a place for new religion.  I have to go bed though, so more on that tomorrow.

11/27/86

Today was Thanksgiving.  It didn’t seem like it since it isn’t celebrated here, although I must say we did manage to do a decent job of observing the holiday on our own.  Many of the Missionaries in Rome (not all, some went up to a separate shin-dig in the mountains) got together for a feast.  Our apartment brought two big turkeys, gravy, pumpkin pie, and about 8 kili of carrots.  The other guys brought a ton of food also, and we all heartily chowed down together.  It was an awesome spread of victuals.  Everyone ate to their limits – we all had turkey and stuffing coming out of our ears.  Personally, I felt like I was going to explode.  I should add that the feast was not without sacrifice – we stayed up until about 2 am the night before, waiting for the turkeys to cook and playing Monopoly.  It has been a while since I stayed up that late, and I was feeling it – my body isn’t used to that anymore, but it was all worth the price.  I guess it was even worth the literal price…about 10 mille apiece, ouch.

After the feast we had permission from the Prez to go to the EUR elders apartment to watch “Back to the Future,” but Greening and I couldn’t go because we had a 7 pm appointment at the church.  We were fairly certain that we would be bunged, and we were right.  I was a little miffed at Greening for making that appointment when he knew there was going to be a party, but really I knew it was the right thing to do.  After our bunged appointment, we decided to go see this dude named Shawn.  He is a guy that Gale and I met on the street a long time ago.  I wrote about him earlier – he is the guy I referred to as the “Vagabondo.”  The events that followed will require some explaining, although I’m not sure I have a good explanation.

So anyway, here is the story…Somehow this guy, Shawn, aka the Vagabondo, got in touch with Elder Schuler and Elder Webb and said that he had lost our telephone number and that he would like to talk to us.  So they gave him our number and the next day he called and he told me that he had been reading the Book of Mormon and that he had a lot of questions. Great. I made an appointment with him for the following evening at 8 pm.  The next day when we went to his address, he evidently wasn’t home because no one came to the door.  It was a little strange, because we could hear the TV inside and it seemed like someone was home (OK, so that actually happens to us a lot, but not necessarily when someone specifically asks you to come over).  So I was feeling a little annoyed because we were there at his request but he still felt compelled to bung us.  Furthermore, it was very odd that the apartment where he evidently lived was very nice.  By his appearance, you would think he was either homeless or lived in an armpit.  So, fast forward to tonight – we stop by his apartment and it turns out he is actually home and answers the door.  We do our greetings, I shake his hand and start to walk in. Greenig shakes his hand and tells me immediately to wait.  I look back at Greenig, and he has this completely serious expression on his face.  It freaked me out a little a bit, then Greenig said “let’s go” and I was thinking yeah let’s get out of here, so we both quickly walked away leaving Shawn standing speechless on the doorstep.  He did not say a word.  Afterwards I asked Greening what happened and he told me that as soon as he shook Shawn’s hand he knew he wasn’t supposed to enter his apartment.  I can’t say that I really had the same knowledge, but I was sufficiently spooked by Greening that it seemed like leaving was the right thing to do.  Actually I have no doubt that the Holy Ghost told us not to go in there.  I wonder what Shawn thought? I hope he wasn’t too offended, then again, I hope he didn’t have a secret torture chamber built-in the basement just for Mormon missionaries.  Another thing I remember is that he was wearing a necklace with something weird hanging from it, like a vial or something.  I really have no idea what that was about. It was all maybe nothing, but it was definitely really strange and a little scary.

Undaunted, we looked up an address that Greenig had received doing sondaggio.  Unfortunately it turned out to be a bung address.  Yes! That makes 4 bungs in a row.  The only good thing to come out of it all was that we met two studly old guys  on the bus.  There were very excited to meet us.  One of them had just returned from the US and he was one of the Vatican City General Commandos in charge of cultural relations (or something like that).  He said he would come to our church, not this Sunday, but next Sunday.  That would be cool if he does.  So, that is about it for tonight.  Tomorrow I need to write a letter to Mom and Dad.  I didn’t really have any time today.  There are also a ton of other people I need to write.  tonight I was feeling like I don’t really want to get transferred out of Rome, even though it seems like Greening and I don’t get along very well.  I feel like the work is really going to explode here. Ciao!

11/22/86

Southwick gave me this journal.  One of his contacts, who also happens to be a plumber, gave it to him, and he wasn’t using it. One thing led to another, and it is now under the reign of my pen!

Greenig told me that yesterday was the most wasted day of his mission ever, which is kind funny because yesterday was also his hump-day.  I should note, however, that it wasn’t wasted by our choosing.  In the morning we had to do the shopping, which proved to be an incredible time-wasting adventure.  Then at 6 we were supposed to have a correlation meeting with Carlo, be he never showed.  After that, we decided to say hi to some people  and then call it a night.  The family we wanted to drop in on was one we had taught last week.  They are super cool.  The father is a retired employee of the Italian Government – he worked for NATO and has lived in Belgium, Florence, Naples, and now finally Rome.  There is a funny story behind how we found them – we in the vicinity of a Palazzo that Gale and I had tracted out before, and which had yielded absolutely no success except that a certain apartment maybe the coolest doorbell I have ever heard – when you pushed the button it played the entire line of the Pink Panther theme.  I took Greenig to hear the doorbell, but the gate the palazzo was locked, so I started randomly pushing buttons to see if someone would buzz us in, an English-speaking guy answered the second button I pushed and let us in and ended up being the neighbor of the Pink Panther apartment.  We ended up talking to him, and he told us that when he was in Belgium he lived next door to a Mormon Church.  Furthermore, he worked with an American Colonel that took him to the Mormon church once and also gave him a Book of Mormon.  So he had a little background with the church.  Anyway, our discussion started out well, I think I can truthfully say that in the beginning I felt the Spirit; however, the guy, Mimo, started asking us questions about the Book of Mormon, and yes, it seemed that maybe he had gotten some misinformation somewhere along the way, and yes, Greenig became a little fanatical.  From there, it all went downhill fast.  Mimo brought up one point that I did not know how to dispute.  He said that since there is only one God, we will all make it back to him one way or another whether it be through Catholicism, Mormonism, Buddhism, or Jehovah’s Witness.  In one aspect I totally agree with that.  If you are good person and do what you believe to be right, the type of religion you follow doesn’t necessarily matter.  However in another aspect, I think there are certain principles and ordinances that need to be followed and done with the correct authority, which I believe only the Mormon church has.  I couldn’t figure out a good way to tell him that.  Near the end of our discussion we talked about the Word of Wisdom, families, and temple marriage, and it seemed like everyone’s  mood was slightly more positive.

So anyway, as I was saying, yesterday we stopped by again to say hi.  Fortunately they were home, but this luck was wasted because we just started arguing again.  I think maybe Greenig is worse than Gale in this regard.  But, you know, who is really worse?  Those that open their mouth and argue or those that sit silently without voicing an opinion? I think the latter, or in other words, I have no right to criticize! I think one of the main things with Mimo was that he felt like we were discounting early Christian history.  I don’t think he ever fully understood that we believe in the teachings of the apostles just as he does.  He also said that it was his goal to convert us to Catholicism, and that he knew a priest that wanted to talk with us.  I thought it might be a good idea, but Greenig was against it.  Maybe that is a good thing since it is possible Greenig could lose his temper in such a situation.

And finally about today…Greenig seemed really depressed for some reason.  I am fasting, mostly for Mimo and his wife.  They are so cool, and I feel like we are doing our part, but the Lord is not doing his.  I know that sounds blasphemous, but that is how I feel.  Things seem useless – perhaps it is mostly my fault. Maybe that is why I am fasting.  Hopefully I’ll figure out what the deal is.  Right now I better go to bed.  Priesthood meeting comes very early in the morning.

11/14/86

I really need to buy some kind of journal; I don’t dig on writing my life on a loose sheet of graph paper.  Anyway, to summarize the past 5 days I’ll just say that we have been working hard.  Let it always be said that Greenig is hard-working animal! We are even getting in all of our hours now.  The only thing is that Greenig likes to do a lot of bus tracting, which is kind of hard for me.  What he does is take a biglietto and stick in someone’s face and then proceed to tell them about the church.  I don’t know, I can’t really get into that.  I have to start a conversation first and then work my into the subject of our church.  Greening definitely has better success with his method, but it just seems like an invasion of privacy.

Well, on to other subjects…a funny thing happened a couple of days ago when we looked up an address Greenig got doing sondaggio.  We went to the address and it turned out the guy wasn’t home, so we talked with his wife for a while.  She asked if we wanted “un bicchierino” and before I could say anything Greenig enthusiastically said “si!” I didn’t have time to mention that a bicchierino was a little glass of vino before she reappeared holding just that in her hand. We tried to politely refuse, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  After a few minutes I thought she was going to pin us down, pry our mouths open, and force it down our throats (a scene that I imagined would be like when I used force beef slivers down the throat of Frank, my pet hognose snake, during the winter back in Tallahassee).

Another interesting thing happened when we went to look for Fratello Torelli’s house.  We were having no success in finding the address, and in process we couldn’t get anyone to take a Book of Mormon, so we were completely bummed out.  Lacking anything else to do, we decided to do a little house-to-house near the bus stop.  We followed an old man through the door of his Palazzo, went halfway up the stairs, and knocked on the nearest door.  Amazingly, a guy opened the door and let us in.  We practically taught him the entire first lesson.  It was difficult to determine however if he was really interested in our message or if he was just being nice.  Whatever the case, he said it would be OK if we stopped back by and gave him an English version of the Book of Mormon.  He said he was originally from South Africa and he spoke English very well. The bad news will have to wait until after lunch, because right now I have to study.

11/9/86

Now I’ve been having really bad luck with pens lately – right now I’m writing with a crappy ball point.  I didn’t really finish writing about yesterday because I forgot a lot of what happened.  One cool thing worth mentioning is that we met some really cool African guys on the bus.  I am amazed sometimes at how cool the African dudes are.  These guys even knew Prince Will.  They sounded really interested and even said they would come to church.  I didn’t expect that they would really come to church, but I was happy that they at least supposedly were considering it  (so I am gullible, what can I say?).  Anyway, out with the old day and in with the new day.  Sunday was pretty cool today.  At church we found out that two of us had to go pick up some members at the train station – we drew straws, and I was odd man out so I had to stay at the church.  I pretty much talked with Prince Will the whole time.  He is a really cool dude.  After church, I took a little post-lunch nap, and at about quarter to four, Greenig was quick to wake me.  This brought about the realization that wanting to work hard and actually working hard are two different things.  I have to sacrifice. Anyway, returning to the day’s happenings…after 4:00 we went and saw the alcoholic dude.  He still looked really bad, but he told us that he was doing better.  We walked around with him for awhile and talked a bit.  We walked on one street where there were literally millions of birds in the trees.  Everyone else on the street was holding books, bags, or whatever they were carrying, over their heads to shield themselves from bird poop, and the clatter of bird chirping was incredible. It was pretty wild and messy.  After the bird incident we had appointment with a referral from the sisters, a single guy they had tracted out.  It turned out he wasn’t home, so we ended up talking with an inactive member that lived just a few doors down.  This guy’s last name was Amaru, and man, did we sure get into a wild discussion with him.  He talked about everything from the gravitation pull of the earth to the infinity of the universe.  It might not have been so bad for me if were weren’t talking in Italian.  The most amazing thing was that he looked exactly like Kenny Rogers.  Basta cosi’ – our day in a banana peel.

11/8/86 continued

Well, I’m home (now my pen is wimping out…wait a second, the more I write, the more it is starting to come to life.  Look! It’s getting darker).  I hate to let you down, but today wasn’t as exciting or fantastic as I said it was going to be.  First of all, this morning we went down to Via Candia and did some sondaggio.  Greenig got one address.  Me, the other hand, niente.  However I did at least talk to some people.  One girl was really cool, but she didn’t want to talk about religion and she didn’t give me her address.  Then I talked with a cool African guy (All African guys are cool).  He said he might come to church.  He probably won’t, but at least since he said that, then maybe he is considering it.  Then we went home, got a quick bite to eat, and were off again to an appointment with Fratello Torelli.  He had met some lady that had a lot of questions about man’s purpose on Earth, so he wanted us to go with him and help teach her.  The appointment went well, although I didn’t do much teaching.  I think Greenig was a little miffed at me.  At one point during the discussion he made me talk about prophets.  I totally screwed up.  I had to pretty much shoot from the hip, because Greenig was teaching senza notebook, and I didn’t want to look dumb by pulling mine out.  It was all for naught, however, because I ended up looking silly anyway as I stumbled badly over my words.  In the end maybe it didn’t really matter because the lady was really cool.  The incident did reinforce to me the fact that I need to study the discussions and learn them better.