Nov 25, 2013


I get all emotional just thinking about writing this post. Mistretta pretty much changed my mission, and as a result it changed my life. No joke. The best part is, because I served there, I have THE MOST jokes! I never laughed so hard, so consistently in my life as I did during my 12 weeks in the obscure town on the Northern Coast of Sicily with Sorella Annie Fuller.
After 3 transfers in Ragusa, I thought I would for sure head back to the mainland. President even told me that would be the case during an interview. So when the call came to head to Mistretta from Ragusa, we were all a little confused. I had met Sorella Fuller momentarily during a P-day after a Zone Conference a few weeks earlier, and I thought she was the strangest human to ever grace our mission. I secretly prayed that we would never be companions, because I didn't know if I could handle her quirkiness. Turns out she thought I was freakin awesome (get in line, sorella) (jokes) and was praying that someday we could be companions! I guess Heavenly Father loved her more. That's the conclusion we always came to anyway :)
Sorella Fuller was beginning her 2nd transfer, I was beginning my 4th. We were the youngest companionship in the mission and neither of us really knew what we were doing. Luckily she had studied Italian before her mission, and somewhere during our 3 hour drive to Mistretta we went from me to being hostile and ungrateful to realizing we both really loved each other! Go figure!
 On reason I knew the transfer would not be heck was the middle consul in our car (who we later named Sorella Benzina, 'Sister Gas'. Sister missionaries do strange things. I was no exception). A bottle of my favorite soda, Gassosa, and a bottle of Nutella with a fork. Yes please. These two remained in the car (well we refueled the nutella every couple days) throughout the whole 12 weeks. 
 Arriving in Mistretta was like a fairytale. Picture Beauty and the Beast. The baker was pulling around his cart of bread, the produce man had his truck and was yelling out prices to the birds in the square, two men were fighting over a card game on the sidewalk, and a donkey went walking past. A DONKEY. I was not in Ragusa anymore. Then a car drove past and a little girl leaned out the window yelling, "IS THAT HER?! THE NEW SISTER?!" and a man walked up to us with a grin on his face eager to shake our hands and invite us to dinner. I was in a dreamy haze, not sure if it was reality. 
The picture above is the 2nd man I met in Mistretta, Brother Nino Purpari. He is 97% blind and makes 97% of all his own food. Wonderful man :) 
We made a quick stop at a Chinese store where I picked out this cute little number. S Fuller bought one too, but she wasn't as sassy as me. Well, not the first day. 
 We decided that at the end of every day of the duration of our companionship, we would take a picture expressing how we felt about the day. I can't share them all with you, they would permanently scar the children. But here are a few examples :)

Oh dear heavens, forgive us for looking like this while still wearing our nametags
 One of the first things that had to be done was to furnish our new apartment. It had only been lived in for a couple transfers, and the sisters before us were way too tolerant. We made a trip to Ikea for some desks, shelves, rugs, etc. Studying in bed isn't very effective. 
Major stress-relief for me: build furniture. 
 Once we go our living quarters somewhat liveable, we headed out! 
This was one of the first families I met. The Rigoli's! Giuseppe and his daughter were two of the most genuine, humble, wealthy sicilians I ever met. We taught them about 3 days a week, and Guiseppe called us multiple times a day to tell us what he was learning and studying. He is, to this day, the #1 most active non-member of the Mistretta branch. GET IN THE WATER, GIUSEPPE! 
I guess there was high-water one day...
The roads of Mistretta
Since we worked so far from home, lunch and language study were done at the beach
This is "Wheezy Joe" (an investigator, Giuseppe Lima who had a horrible cough that lasted years), Fuller, and our buddy Costanza. EVERY male on the Northern Coast is named Giuseppe. We once met this 8 month old baby named Guiseppe Pio Kevin. KEVIN?! Then we called each other Kevin for the rest of the transfer. 
Crazy storms left boats all over the coastline. Beautiful and sad. 
One day while strolling around the town of... I can't remember, we came across this lovely party

*Parental Warning* 
The following photo expresses a scene of distress, as well as undies. 
We were NEVER home. We would leave at 9am (an hour early), do our companion study on the road, and usually wouldn't return until about 10pm (an hour late), again doing our study and planning on the road. While necessary, this schedule resulted in havoc at home. All we did there was sleep, shower, and make a mess, I guess. (How many Master Crumble boxes can you spy in this photo?)
 There was ONE less-active family in the whole town, and we tried almost every day to contact them. This is what it felt like. Then at the end of the transfer we heard that they had moved to Canada. We were still blessed for our efforts :)
 For Halloween/P-day the Elders came up from Palermo to visit the Piramide with us. This artist put these huge, strange works of art all over the northern coast. You can see this big metal thing for miles. 
 Our new mission car! 
 We found a popcorn machine in our apartment, but the only correct electric outlet was in the bathroom.  We had no counter space, but luckily we were blessed to be able to clear a spot on the floor. For the rest of the transfer, bathroom popcorn was our staple meal. It made for a lovely mid-shower or mid-poopoo snack. 
 THANKSGIVING! We held a ward party in Palermo. None of them knew what Thanksgiving was, so they brought pizza. Perfect! The Elders were in charge of the turkey, but it was a bit too expensive, so they just bought the cheapest meat they could find. 
 Gopher, Everett? 
 Sometimes I would fall asleep a little in the car. 
12:12 on 12/12/12! Street party in Catania! 
 O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree! 
 One time we were talking to people in the main square (piazza!) and we stopped a lovely little family. We started asking them about their christmas traditions etc., but they wouldn't stop staring at my feet. Finally I looked down and realized I was standing in a very fresh, juicy pile of dog dung. Or maybe it was from an elephant. It was very plentiful. The family slowly backed away, and we ran laughingly down to the beach where I bathed my foot in the sea. Divine intervention, I guess. Anyway, we couldn't stop laughing so Sorella F whipped out this incredible drawing of the Plan of Salvation instead. 
 For our last P-day, the Elders invited us on a hike to the fortress at the top of the mountain in CefalĂș. YES PLEASE. It was stunna. Google it. 
 BUON NATALE! Christmas morning brought many lovely tidings, including a call from the mission office telling us we were both being transfered, Elders would be taking our place (good thing, because we were down to one priesthood holder in our branch, meaning we could no longer have church), and that we had to leave that afternoon because of an impending storm. 
 We snuggled up in our genuine Grover-skin blankets (whodathunk that blue fuzz could be so snuggly?!) and pondered over how it would be possible to just leave our area in a matter of hours. It was a little heart breaking. I mean, we had finally received approval to buy a dehumidifier! R2D2! We fought hard for that thing! 
We went to tell our branch president (who lived next door) and him and his wife started crying. It was not a very merry Christmas. 
 First things first - scrape the mold off the walls. (We knew the Elders wouldn't get around to it, and R2D2 couldn't repair damage, just prevent it. Why am I telling you this). I'm still not sure how she got back there. 
 We got out, but it was right after the storm hit and it took us about 7 hours to get to Catania instead of 3. Good thing my dad-dad-daddio taught me how to drive in the snow! 
We spent the rest of Christmas day on Mount Etna (which is currently exploding) sledding on air mattresses down the "oreo" mountain (black lava rock and snow) with the other missionaries. We later realized this is very illegal. But no one went to the hospital! Bonus! 
At the train station we decided to open our old bottle of Gassosa. We drank it with pride :) 

I have many more lovely pictures of this transfer at home. You'll probly never see them, so just give up hope now. Sorry, man. 

Nov 22, 2013


Ragusa was my first area. It is found at the southern-most tip of the island of Sicily (somehow it is even further south than the northern tip of Africa), and it is beautiful, hilly, old, and hot. 
Meet my trainer: Sorella Heiner. (You have to yell "Heiner" like "Hitler" with your hand out. I promise it's more fun). She was awesome. We were exactly opposite in every way, and I learned many wonderful things from her. 
I love this picture so much. I only recently discovered that she looked like the crazy Sicilian flag lady in the background. Impressive. 
My first zone conference with my parents - Heiner and Cardinet. We were the Italian flag! Jealous much?
 Our ward mission leader was also a hair-stylist. It was a little awkward but he did a good job, so...
 One sunday we were walking home from church and we discovered that the entire hillside next to our house was on fire. That's hot. 
 My first pack of confiscated cigarettes! 
Then one day my feet started to swell up real bad and ooze orange puss. I spent a few days in and out of hospitals, all the doctors told me it was because of stress. Totally. Because it's normal for stressed people to weep sap from their feet. Duh! I'll spare you the real ugly photos. 
The cool part was that Italian hospitals aren't big fans of wheelchairs, so I got to ride a Heiner! (And we got to wear pants all day). This was right after a nurse gave me a bare-buns spankin and sunk a 3-inch needle into my rear. Then she went out to one of the Italian Elders who had brought me to the hospital and handed him a very large suppository pill and instructed him to stick it up there that night. Heiner took it from him and threw it away :) Narrow escape, Elder! 
 At the end of the day, this is what was prescribed to me at the pharmacy. No worries, I sold it all to the Mafia and paid for the rest of my mission. 
This is Rosario. He is an amazing man. He was once very wealthy, then lost it all to gambling, drugs, and women. He had more health problems than anyone I'd met (except he didn't have oosy feet. I one-upped him on that one). His doctor told him he had 3 months to live unless he stopped smoking, and that's when we met him! He quit smoking, was able to leave the hospital, he came to church regularly and started looking years younger. 
Right before his baptism he called and told us he had slipped up and smoked, and he was back in the hospital. He died about a month later. I love this man, and I can't wait for him to be baptized by proxy so we can hang out in the next life :) Good kid. 
 Heiner's last night! We had a waterballoon fight with the Elders in Gela (a small town about an hour from Ragusa where the rest of our district served). I'm not sure how I became the pack mule, but it was fun :)
SORELLA DALL! This lady came and brought a whole new light to my mission experience. (Don't judge how I felt by my facial expression). We got along amazingly and she taught me the joys of missionary work. 
 One day we had to call President for some advice on an investigator, and out of nowhere he suggested we go to the grocery store and stock up on a cereal called Master Crumble. Being the obedient missionaries that we were, we bought 7 boxes and didn't really eat anything else all transfer. This cereal changed my mission. I am going through serious withdrawals without it at home. 
 Below Ragusa is this ancient city called Ragusa Ibla. We went down there to work every once in a while. It was spectacular. 
 This is my great friend Yolanda. Everyone thought we were twins. I can't imagine why. 
On my last day in Ragusa we were praying for miracles, and one came! It came in the form of a sombrero on the side of the road. It is the only sombrero I ever saw in Italy. It definitely came home with us. 
And that's Ragusa :)