Monday, December 26, 2011

On the run from La Migra....

Received December 19, 2011

So this week was pretty cool. We had the interesting opportunity to help out at a Young Adult dance at the Linz meeting house. We prepared tons of food and it took a lot of work, but it was fun to see a dance in Austria. Just so you all know, Austrians dance WAAAAAAAAAAY better than Americans (in general). They actually dance "standard" to all songs. That was interesting to see. On Friday we went and passed out invitations in Haid for the Vocalis concert. Vocalis is an LDS chamber choir from the German-speaking realm and consists of all young adults. They sang Christmas songs and we handed out the invitations. Then, we went back to Linz where we helped prepare food again. After they were done eating they left for Haid again and we stayed and made more food for them. That night we went to Haid and watched the concert. They sang an O Magnum Mysterium for the opening number. The acoustics of the church that we were in (non-LDS) were wonderful and that song was amazing. It was just a little too cold in that church. We were all freezing. They sang a really good program and it was really fun. Now I can make it through the next year of my mission having recharged my concert attendance battery. It was getting a little low as it applied to good choirs. Yesterday we were privileged to hear from them again in our Sacrament Meeting. They sang well there too and it was a nice meeting for our two investigators and the visitors that came with members. The Spirit was nice and strong, especially when they sang I Believe in Christ (Mac Ws version). It was followed up by the Ward watching the Christmas devotional from the First Presidency. It was wonderful. Those of us who speak English were banished to the stage of the cultural hall where we tried to watch it steaming online on a computer screen, but after a little too much server fail-age we resorted to watching it on someone's iPad. We're hi tech. The messages of the devotional were all wonderful and helped to really set the stage for this coming Christmas week. We've got lots of stuff going on and we're looking forward to it.
So the subject line.....yeah about that. Ingolstadt never sent my police report (after several attempts) to my former abode. Soooooo, we have to take another route ordering it from the government of Germany's Justizamt in Bonn (the city of Haribo gummy bears). Everything should work out, but if not, I become illegal in Austria on the 17th of January. Yay! That might fall under the category of "things mothers don't want to hear" but I figured it's happening anyway. Everything will work out and if they have to, I'll just get transfered out of Austria. That wouldn't be my first choice, but I'll do whatever I have to in order to stay legal. I'll be going later today and getting the application notarized (pretty official huh?) so that will be fun.
Now about that phone call later this week. I will be able to talk to both of y'all. I'll figure it out with dad. I will call at 3 p.m. my time. Whenever that may be for you. It's going to be fun. We will have to keep it a little short 30-40 minutes, but that will be fine as long as I get to talk to you.
I hope that everyone has a lovely week and that everything is nice and bright and sunny on Christmas day. Just like always. Till next time Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!

It's Cold...and getting Colder!!!!!

Received December 12, 2011

Es is a bissl kalt, sag i mol. Don't put that in a translator, it won't bring you anything. Anyway, Herzlichen Grüß aus dem Vaterland. The weather just keeps getting colder and sometimes it ever rains/snows on top of that. It's just lots of fun. Everything is just kinda going along like always. Rene dropped us again, but we will see what happens. He is the kind of person who has a really big problem with peer pressure. This week is going to be crazy. We have a host of eating appointments, which is wonderful news for us. Later this week the choir Vocalis will be coming to Haid and singing in a church there. They are like the German version of MoTab, just way lower budget. Everyone in the church loves them. On Sunday they will be singing in our Sacrament Meeting and it will be a great opportunity for members to bring their friends. We're excited.....well I'm excited for the singing mostly, but that's just me. We also have Zone Conference on Thursday and that means another wonderful trip to the Salty Castle (Salzburg). I just love when we have action packed weeks because that makes it infinitely less boring everyday.
Unfortunately mother, it is unforeseeable that I will be making the trip out to Tustin to choose the Christmas tree this year. It doesn't look too promising for next year either, but I'll at least be able to observe it next year, as long as you don't take it down before January 3rd. By the way, I think that is the actual date that I come home, maybe. Not like that's close or anything, but just so you know. The whole Christmas day call thing is a little weird. I think the way it's going to run is so: Elder Gruse will be calling his parents whenever he wants to on the 25th, because it's really not that big of a deal to call Germany. Elder Chandler is going to ask if he can do it on the 24th so that he can call his family before they leave for their annual Christmas day drive to California. That means that I can probably call at any time that I want to. I'm not exactly sure how it works from America to Austria. I'll probably just call you really fast before and then you can call me back. I'm going to ask if it's ok for me to call dad just at a different time. If not I'll tell you next week. I'll probably call before your meeting on the 25th. I'll need to call around 5 pm my time, so that means about 8 am for you. That will give you time to talk to me and, hopefully be ready in time to leave. Tell me if that will work. If I call after the meeting, it will be way late at night here, but I'm willing to do that too.
Just so you know, I already bought my suit. The story behind it is kinda funny. We saw an advertisement in our mail that said that Trachtenwelt was having a sale for half off everything. We just decided to go and see what kind of Trachten stuff we could find for cheap. We walked in and saw a rack of suits and I thought, "Why not?" I went over and discovered that they were wool suits in lots of sizes and only 99€. That was the price on the tag. That meant that the whole thing was only 49€ with the 1/2 off sale. You didn't have to tell me twice. A wool suit for 49€ is crazy. So I bought it. I am having the Sister in the Senior couple in our district hem the legs, which she does free of charge. Aren't you just so proud of your cheap son? Yeah, so that's out of the way.
I hope you have a great week and that everything is fun and dandy with the Christmas tree. Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!

I Hate Internet Cafes!!!

Received December 5, 2011

So today we got kicked out of our regular place in the library because it was "reserved" for some other group. Dumb. We had to go to a nasty internet cafe and do our emails there. So, like before I am sitting in a nice smoky, dirty, internet cafe where the signs to keep the place clean are written in some of the worst German you can imagine. Oh well. This week was a little scary. On Wednesday we went to a normal meeting with Rene and just Klaus was there. Klaus tried calling him a few times and he never answered. We finally called him and he pretty much just said that he didn't have any interest. After that lovely farewell, we were pretty sad and confused that he would just so abruptly stop investigating. A few days later we got a call from Klaus and he said that he talked to Rene and everything was fine and we could start teaching him again. Apparently there was some kind of misunderstanding and Rene in a hasty move just decided to cut off all contact. After Klaus talked to him everything was better. That was scary. We are going to move his date to the 31st and we hope that he will make it by then. He's still as awesome as ever. We are going to Mauthausen again today so the new Elder in Wels can see it. My camera won't die this time, so I should have a lot more pictures this time. We found out yesterday that we have a ton of eating appointments this month. We have probably 20 I think. That's a lot for this part of the world. I hope you guys are having a good time in California where it isn't so cold. It finally started raining, which is good for the ski industry here, because without snow there is no ski industry and they were afraid because there wasn't any yet on the mountains. My companions did like all the stuff that was in the packages, so you can definitely send more of that stuff. I promise at some point I will get that package off to you. I'm just not quite sure what I need to claim on the customs form. I'll figure it all out. I hope you have a wonderful week and that those palm trees keep swayin'. Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

O Du Frohliche!

November 28, 2011

Servus y'all! Wie geht's eich? Yeah, so this week was pretty awesome. We began teaching Rene-Michael (Mike) Strassmair this week. He is really one of those people that you hope for on your mission. So meet Rene: He's a 48 year old Austrian man who was referred to us by his friend Klaus Haindl (one of the most active member missionaries in the world). Rene grew up in Florida and speaks really good English. He makes tons of jokes and likes to say stuff like "Dude" and "Dynamite". At one point in high school he had a desk mate who he really admired because he was so straight forward and honest. He just loved how good of a kid he was. It came out at some point that this kid was a Mormon. Rene kept that in the back of his head as he continued through life. Back in Austria he left the Roman Catholic church because he felt like it was too cold between the members. He went on the search for the true religion and converted to Islam. Shortly thereafter however, he left for the same reasons as before. He continued his search. One day he was invited to the Mormon church by his friend and "hausmeister" (like a landlord) Klaus. Rene took up the invitation and after seeing the primary program, he wanted to set up meetings with us (the missionaries) and said that he wants to be baptized. Now normally, we are pretty suspicious of anyone that comes up to us and says that they want to be baptized. This is a different case though. We began meeting with him this week and were surprised to find out that he is totally willing to meet as much as we want to during the week. With Klaus as our joint-teach, everything goes really well. Rene is scheduled to be baptized on the 10th of December. We will work really hard to reach this date for him. This week in church we also were surprised to receive a lady named Flor and her two sons Mario and Gabriel. This lady is the wife of a member but she is not baptized. Her husband doesn't come to church either, but she happened to ask Schw. Hager where the church was and came to two hours. She made out an appointment to meet with us this week and we hope that it will result in her becoming a member along with her son who is of age to be baptized and we hope that the father will also have interest in meeting with us. There's just all kinds of stuff going on right now in Linz.
The package was really cool. We really enjoyed the first of the four nacho cheese dips. There's something magical about nacho cheese because it doesn't exist at all in Austria, nor do tortilla chips really. With regards to transfers, they will be on the 29th of December (my year mark) so you have a little bit of time before you need to send it. If you are really afraid then just wait until after the transfer, but I don't really care when it gets here. But you know me, flexible as a V7-I resolution. You may need to ask your nearest music theory student to explain the inherent joke in that last comment.
By the way, the Best Two Years is a lot more comfortable than the living circumstances that we had with 4 Elders. Our sleeping room is about 6 ft wide and 13 ft deep. It also had two desks in it and some shelves. I don't know, it wasn't horrible.
A little request, if you could find a way of putting all of the songs from the two CDs of Thomas Hampson singing American folk songs on CDs and sending them to me, that would be cool. There are a lot of songs, so it may turn out to be something like 4 CDs. It's all on my iTunes and might even be in their own playlists.
Well, I think that's enough for this week. Handküsse zuhause. Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!

Etwas wirklich g'scheits

Received November 21, 2011

How's it goin' everybody? Once again, another week has passed in the great city of Linz an der Donau. Here it has been unbelieveably cold for November (for this Californian anyway). It sure is a lot nicer to have investigators now. Since we have been moved down to a "Dritt" (German for trio), Elder Chandler and I inherited the investigators that Elder Schulzke and Elder Gruse were teaching last transfer. Elder Blodgett, who I knew when I was in the Stuttgart Zone, came to Linz to do a little lecture on the scattering of the lost tribes of Israel. Before he and his wife came on their mission together, he was a professor of ancient studies at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. He discovered, essentially, when and where the lost tribes left and ended up. By looking at certain words in Hebrew, he came up with a seemingly easy equation which deals with the changing of letters/sounds which results in common words in many languages both modern and antiquated. Did you know that Sanskrit had anything to do with Hebrew? Neither did I, until Thursday. It was a lot to take in a two hour lecture, but it was pretty cool.
We went to a Christmas market here in Linz a few days ago. We happened to be passing through the area later at night on the way to contact a potential investigator and when we didn't find him there we decided to take a little gander through the market. There was all kinds of stuff to buy, most of it a little on the expensive side, but it was all cool. There was a whole little house set up where you could buy hand crafted nativity sets. Now this isn't just your normal box set or something thats all made of one piece. This is your hard core, made of wood, individual exchangebable pieces, painted by an old lady, Nativity set. They had everything you could possibly want to make a little manger scene. They had the traditional Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, Shepherds contingent, then they had (more or less Bethlehem-time-frame-consitent) farm tools, buckets, angels of all shapes and sizes, animals out the yin yang, and a host of other visitors to greet the baby Jesus. And all of this for sale and set up in the quiet of your own home. Now don't think that this stuff doesn't cost a pretty penny (or should I say Euro), I didn't even want to look at some things that they were selling in the fear that I might look to long and break it with my stare. It was all way cool though. I'm sure it would all be way more enjoyable when you're not on a mission, but na ja.
On Friday we had a Thanksgiving feast with the Young Adults. The Hopkins (the senior missionary couple) got probably the biggest bird I've ever seen for this meal. No joke this turkey was probably 23 or 24 pounds. When they uncovered it all I could think was "Woah! That's a big bird!" It was a lovely meal and there was even pie. Sis. Hopkin made two apple pies and Bethany (who's from Utah) baked two pumpkin pies. It was marvelous.
Speaking of Bethany, we sang together in Sacrament meeting on Sunday. It's weird setting up practice times and getting an accompanist to play when you are a missionary. Luckily, we got Louise Erlacher, who is British (Darrell...) to play for us. It is soooooo much easier to work on stuff when people can speak your language since all of the terminology is different auf Deutsch. Of course there is still some different terminology in British english (Darrell...) but it is better than German. We sang "Jesus the very thought of thee" and "Come, come ye Saints". It went pretty well and we had a fun time doing it. The weird part is at the end when you have to just shake hands with your singing partner. Of course I don't have my official singing partner with me, but what can you do.
I'll be going "shopping" this week to see what kind of price I'll be looking at for a suit and then we'll see what happens afterward. I don't need any other clothing for Christmas since everything is pretty much doing ok. Little snacks that I can't get here (Chesters Hot Fries) would be nice.
So I hope you have a great week and that all is well in Tustin, California where it's probably still at least 50 Deesgrees. Until next time, Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!

No mother I am not starving or running around in rags...

Received November 14, 2011

Per the subject line of this email, I would like to share a little bit of what it's like being where I am in my mission. I realized on Friday when we got transfer calls in the early morning that the end of this next transfer constitutes my year mark. Erstens, wollte ich sagen, Deutsch geht eigentlich ganz gut bei mir. Es ist weder schwierig andere Leute zu verstehen noch meine Gedanken zum Ausdruck zu bringen. If I know what it means "sich über die Häuser zu hauen", I think I'm doing ok. I'll always continue working at the language though, since as they say, "Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache." So lets go on a little tour of the mission life as it doesn't apply to "teaching".
Food: No mother, as I said, I am not starving. Although yesterday was a little on the tight side since we had some unexpected house guests during the week (otherwise known as the Zone Leaders) and we had only very little left to really eat. So the good the bad and the ugly. I'll start with the ugly. We receive a lot of food from the members in the ward. Courtesy of Klaus Haindl, we get a lot of stuff that is way close to or beyond the expiration date and if we get stuff from him we know that it has to be eaten within a day or it needs to go. The bad (but sometimes ok) constitutes our older single ladies in the ward, namely the Schws. Hager and Wegrath who will randomly call us and say that they bought stuff for us. We go and pick it up and find out that once again they have bought nothing that we REALLY need (except for milk) including the four bags of potato chips that we got yesterday. The missionaries have tried to tell them before to get things like bread or cereal or something, but they just buy the same stuff as always. And finally the good (which can sometimes end up bad later that day). We get eating appointments at some of the nicest peoples' houses. Most of the time they make so much food it's a wonder that we can even finish, and don't even talk about the little forks or spoons placed above the plate to announce the presence of a looming dessert in our future. Who can even do anything at the end of an eating appointment at an Austrian's house besides just going home and dying? It's crazy.
Temporal things: Since leaving home, going to BYU, and going on a mission I have lost over 30 pounds. I don't know how anything will still fit when I get home, but it still works here. My suit situation is interesting, but it works. A long time ago (actually in the MTC), one of the pants for my black suit started to separate at a seam. I put those aside and never actually fixed them. Instead I wore the other pants until they got a hole and I finally threw them away. I then switched to just using my grey suit for everything and bought a pair of pants to supplement and have been wearing them on the off days. One of the hems on the pants came out recently and it is being held together with some strategically placed safety pins until I can get them to Sis. Hopkin who is a senior missionary with her husband in our District. She does repairs for the missionaries if they need them and I will probably be able to just have her repair the things that need repairing. Otherwise, no socks have holes (surprisingly) and the pair of shoes that I bought in Heilbronn are still functional. I despise transfers because of packing and the fact that the stuff pretty much barely fits and the suitcases are sooooooooooooo heavy. If I send anyone letters and they don't get there, I'm sorry but it's not too uncommon for the Austrian post to fail epically. I will be sending out some stuff in the near future and no I haven't sent the package yet that I have been saying I would send since back in oh....August. This coming transfer I will be staying in Linz and we are going to be serving in a trio. Elders Chandler and Gruse will be staying here with me and Elder Schulzke will be going off to Switzerland.
So that's a little about the life of a missionary in Austria nearing his year mark. It's pretty much insane to think about. Well, I hope that everyone has a wonderful week and that it's not as cold as it is here. Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!

What do we do, President? Oh, just go contact some people...

Received November 7, 2011

Little exchanges like that are just lovely. So the story that goes along with this is thus:
We went to Salzburg on Wednesday. We got up at the regular time 6:30 but had to be at the train station at 8 for a train to Salzburg. Elder Chandler and I got there and took the hour-ish ride to the great Salt Castle (Salzburg in English). When we arrived at the stake center we found out that only the District leaders were allowed to be in the meeting. Sooooo, that's when the conversation in the subject line occured. So Elder Moulton (Elder Bullock's companion) and I were sent out. All we had was our stuff and a bunch of unstamped pass along cards. We didn't even have a phone with us. It's just lovely to be dropped out in the middle of a city like Salzburg and to be told to just go find somebody. So we did. We talked to one kid sitting on a bench who may or may not have interest, but we gave him a card. We found another man though who seemed to be a lot more interested. We were over in the area of the Mozarteum (for all my music fans out there, holla) and we talked to this man. He had a lot of problems with the church being so changed from what existed in the original church and so we explained how the church was restored and he sounded very interested and agreed with what we were saying. We got his number and later gave it on to the Zone Leaders who work there in the city. After three hours of that we went back to join up with our companions. Elder Chandler was hungry so we went down to the big shopping street to go find something to eat. Along the way we passed Mozart's birth house. We finally decided upon good ole McDonalds. After leaving we were walking down the street toward the busses and randomly Elder Chandler stops and I see a man talking on a phone who I very quickly recognized as President Miles. I suddenly thought "Maybe we should be contacting..." But then I realized that this is President Miles. He quickly shook our hands and then finished his phone call. Not so interested in whether we were contacting or not, he wanted to know if this was our first time being on that street and seeing all the shops. Then Sis. Miles came out of one of the shops and jokingly said, "Oh are you guys shopping?" I love how awesome she is. It turns out that their daughter Rachel who is on a mission in Rome is having a birthday this week and they were shopping for her. I think that was so awesome. They were just happy to see us again and we hurried off to catch the bus back to the train station. It was just so awesome. They are a really great pair to have as our surrogate parents for the next little while.
On Monday we went to Mauthausen which was a concentration/work camp. The sad thing is that it has a really wonderful view from the top of the hill on which it sits. The memory of what occured there still haunts the place to a certain extent. It wasn't as huge of a camp as say, Dachau or Auschwitz but it did serve a horrible purpose. It was an experience. We made our own little mark on the camp, so to speak. We went to the cremation ovens and people had placed lots of little trinkets, money, or cards in the front of the oven. We put the pass along card that talks about seeing our loved ones again right in the middle with the hope that someone will find the message and be moved to investigate this wonderful message.
Today we will be going to IL TROVATORE!!!! I'm soooooooooooooooooo excited and I hope it's good. It sounds like it should be and looks really cool.
I hope you have a great week and that everything is just hunky-dory. Tschüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüüß!