Hello fellow Americans. I hope you've all been enjoying the cold starting to set in, especially in Wisconsin because it is still fairly warm here. We had one those heat waves you typically get mid September when you'd be sitting in class, totally regretting being in class because it's so warm. But anyway, if I had to describe this week in one word, I'd say: meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.
I'll start with our exciting Monday last week. We spent the day in Brussels. We kind of wanted a day to just dink around with no real objective, just four missionaries tramping around Brussels. We went through the main central place that all the tourists go through and saw the major let down that is Manneken Pis*. And then something crazy happened. While walking through a narrow street there were four American-looking guys with white shirts and tags – we had randomly ran into Paris, France missionaries! We talked, took a picture, and the whole time they were suspicious a little bit because it's a little debatable whether or not Brussels is in our mission. We spent the rest of the day attempting to get directions from French people and walking over to this big church we saw far off in the distance. We ended up a good chunk of the way out of the city and we eventually found the subway back home. And then amazingly as we were taking an escalator down to the metro, the SAME Paris, France missionaries were coming up the escalator. It was so random to see them once and then to see them again at some random metro station. Crazy.
The next couple of days were a blur. We knocked on a few doors and then had to quickly get back that afternoon to pack for temple conference. Yes, at 3 p.m. on Tuesday we were packing for temple conference that was at 9 a.m. the next morning. After all sorts of trains that evening, we finally arrived in Den Haag (The Hague, The Netherlands). Hungry and kind of exhausted from travel we decided to eat somewhere kind of nice that evening. Let me say, Den Haag is beautiful. It was a nice, warm evening, the red cobblestone roads glistened after a fresh rain, there was gentle hum of chatter from all the cafés, and the trees were all decorated with white lights. It was such a treat after being in Belgium for so long. The following morning we did a session in the temple. The Den Haag temple is small, but of course beautiful. And it was very cool to be able to go through the session in Dutch. I'm surprised how much I understand; I can comfortably listen without worrying about understanding. The zone conference afterwards was great, too. We're focusing on our studies this transfer, and one thing that struck me was when a sister said one of her best study sessions was one verse long and she spent the hour thinking and pondering. And pondering is a commandment of God, or at least it makes it easier for Him to be able to communicate with us.
Thursday and Friday were our only days of regular missionary work, and they were both busy. Thursday was really fun. We took the bikes and looked up referrals around town solely by map navigation. Yes, physical maps. Crazy, I know. I actually really like it, and I can understand why my Dad would always pull out the enormous maps when going on road trips. We have a cool thing going on too with referrals. Some ward mission leader started this in the Netherlands. It's a Facebook campaign. He got the church to buy advertising space for the "My Family" pamphlet, which is a little introduction to family history search and stuff. So, when someone orders a pamphlet we get a text from church headquarters with the address so we can give a little explanation to the pamphlet. It's a really easy way to get referrals, and if we make a return appointment that means a new investigator! A lot more useful than eight hours of knocking doors (which we do, by the way). We also had a first lesson with an African guy. He's here for college and is from Nigeria. He really appreciated us coming over. The poor guy; he's far away from home in a country where the people don't really like him and he can't speak the language. But anyway, he was my second English lesson this transfer, and it was hard. Everything is weird in English now. Praying, talking and things have been in Dutch mostly. But it was cool in English. I can express myself a lot better and be more myself, I guess you could say.
Saturday and Sunday was Stake Conference. Sunday’s session was in Brussels. It was cool to see a lot of church members in one place, and we were able sing "Called to Serve" in Dutch and English for the whole stake. That was pretty much it for this week. I've been a little silent about Joseph, who's getting baptized next Sunday, but that'll be for next week. I'll just say this: I'm probably going to be baptizing here on transfer No. 2, which doesn't happen a whole lot. Super cool.
Calvin, I hope you get the letter I sent you. It may be a little late. Hope your b-day was great. Also, if anyone is thinking of sending me anything in the future, like food, use Amazon.uk. It saves a lot of money on shipping supposedly.
Love you guys, have a good week,
* EDITOR’S NOTE: Manneken Pis "Little man Pee" is a landmark small bronze sculpture in Brussels, depicting a naked little boy urinating into a fountain's basin. It was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the elder and put in place in 1618 or 1619. (Wikipedia)
P.S. In a separate email, when asked about food Eli responded by saying, “I love Belgium fries. They have these places called Frituurs, and they are everywhere in Belgium. Everyone loves fries, especially with this sauce called Samurai sauce. Super tasty, spicy sauce that's sort of like a spicy mayo, but better. Whenever we are in Antwerpen, we always get Cécémel, chocolate milk in a glass bottle from France. So good, you have to shake it up too because some of the delicious chocolate settles to the bottom. Everyone in Belgium and the Netherlands LOVES broodjes. They are at every train stop and all over the place in grocery stores. It’s just a normal sandwich, but all the ingredients are fresh and they just taste heavenly. The Belgium chocolate is pretty good, too, but I haven't really had much yet. But on a daily basis we make a variety of sandwiches, some sort of cooked meat with rice, or something with eggs. And yes, I do eat eggs now – look at all the things a mission does for ya right there! In the mornings, I love a healthy-sized bowl of Cruseli. Cruseli is a cereal made by Quaker and includes these nice, filling granola chunks with a fair amount of chocolate squares. All “greenies” fall in love with Cruseli, and for now I am under the spell, too. In Den Haag this past Tuesday we ate at a fancy place called Vapianos, an Italian place with pastas and stuff they cook right before your eyes. Super fancy, and reasonably priced. I ate a big calzone, sprinkled with my favorite crushed red pepper. I’ll have to show you guys how you slice bread at a grocery store.
(PHOTO CAPTION: It was a nice, warm evening, the red cobblestone roads glistened after a fresh rain, there was gentle hum of chatter from all the cafés, and the trees were all decorated with white lights.)
(PHOTO CAPTION: In Den Haag this past Tuesday we ate at a fancy place called Vapianos, an Italian place with pastas and stuff they cook right before your eyes. Super fancy, and reasonably priced. I ate a big calzone, sprinkled with my favorite crushed red pepper.)
(PHOTO CAPTION: The Hague Netherlands Temple, taken by Eli last week)
(PHOTO CAPTION: Temple Conference for Den Haag, Eindhoven and Antwerpen Zones)