Dear Family and Friends,
Thank you so much for your email! It really means a lot to me when I get to hear from you each!
This has been a very different week. First off, driving was CRAZY! I think that's the most stressed I've been on my mission. Everything went fine. I was a little rusty at first, but after I got going I was fine. It was a super long drive too! It was about 4 hours long from Tirana to Prishtina. We only stopped once to get a snack at a stop on the side of the road. I drove up here with Elder Price. Elder Price is actually one of the Zone Leaders here. Elder Price was born in California, but he's lived all around the world because of his dad's work. He tells people that he's from Saudi Arabia because that's where he graduated high school. His companion is Elder Austin from Mississippi. Both of them are really awesome to be around! We also have a sister companionship here. Motra White and Motra Curtis. They're both really awesome! We all get along very well up here in Prishtina. Elder Bangerter loves it here in Prishtina. This is where he's served his whole mission so far so it's interesting telling stories from Kosovo and Albania to each other.
Albania and Kosovo are VERY different. Kosovo is very much like America. In fact everyone here loves America. They love it so much that they actually celebrate the. I'm really interested to see what happens here. But the people here use the Eruo and everything is a lot more like America. It's quite a lot different. I like it here, but this last week I was a little homesick. It was strange. I wasn't homesick for Minnesota, I was homesick for Durrës and the people there. When I got set apart, President Baker talked about feeling homesick a little bit. What he described hit the nail right on the head. When you leave an area that you loved, you really miss it. You miss the members, the missionaries, and the city. This last week was a little hard for me to focus on Prishtina. But now I'm feeling a little better. It's still a little rough at times, but I'm trying my best to focus on the work at hand and to not let it get to me.
But yes, Kosovo is very different than Albania. In Albania, pretty much everyone you talk to says they're Muslim but they don't really practice their religion. However, in Kosovo nearly everyone is a practicing Muslim. I've only talked to about 3 Christians since I've been here. It's very different. And also right now is Ramadan (Ramazan in Albanian) and people actually practice it. During Ramazan, Muslims fast from morning until night everyday for 30 days. After dark they are allowed to eat. So most people don't go out during the day. Most of them sleep all day and then they party at night. Most of the restaurants have very limited hours and they don't have as many options because they don't have much business. It's a very different world here. We had a meeting with the branch mission leaderand he asked us to be very cautious during Ramazan because that's when more of the radical people like to plan things. I don't really think I'm in danger. Don't worry. If I'm just obedient to mission rules and be respectful to other people, everything will be fine. The bad thing about Ramazan is people don't want to meet with us because they are fasting. So it should be a very interesting month.
The Church here in Prishtina is very small. We had 25 people in Church. A member of the Branch Presidency asked me to bear my testimony in Sacrament Meeting as well. All of the new missionaries had to bear their testimonies. The branch president here is actually American. He's a returned missionary from Bulgaria and he has a wife and two kids. He works here in Prishtina, and he actually speaks Albanian very well. He actually knows the Junckers. He knew them while they lived in Macedonia. His name is Joe Bodell. President Bodell and his family were living in Macedonia before and that's where they became good friends. He was really surprised that I knew the Junckers. It was a pretty cool connection.
I need to learn a new dialect up here. I've been speaking Tosk for the last three months, but now I have to learn Geg. Geg is a really thick, heavy dialect. We had a lesson with a man that spoke very thick Geg and I hardly understood him, so I'm pretty nervous about that. It's a little harder now because Elder Bangerter and I don't really have a ton of experience with speaking the language, so it makes understanding people difficult. Actually here in Prishtina, there are a ton of people that speak English. While I was in Durrës I heard English once. But here there are a lot of tourists and people who work at the embassies, so there is a very diverse language range here. But we've been working well together. We actually had a pretty busy week! We had a ton of lessons with people which was awesome! I felt like we had a very successful week.
It's interesting to see how Elder Bangerter and I have changed. We've had pretty different mission experiences so far, so it was interesting to see that we were very different than the missionaries we were in the MTC. Elder Bangerter's trainer, Elder Lindermann, was actually companions with Elder Clawson in the MTC. So that's pretty interesting!
Mom, I'm glad that you went out with the missionaries! Here it's difficult to get members at our lessons because the Church is very small, and some members feel pressured about being Christian because it is a very Islamic place. When we get members to help us with our lessons it's very good! So I'm glad that you're helping them out! I'm sure they really appreciate your help! Having members help us is such a blessing! When you get the opportunity to help the missionaries, please take that opportunity!
Thank you so much for all your love and support! Ju dua shumë!