Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Friends, Dead Royalty

This week has been super amazing. I continue to love Collegno . . . I love it a little more everyday. All of our members are incredible, and I always love being in a new ward and getting to know their stories. Work is still a little slow, and we don't have many people to teach. This week we've been doing a lot of finding work. We haven't had tons of success during the finding. I firmly believe, however, that casa miracles usually happen not while we're doing casa, but they come in a different way BECAUSE we did the casa. We've seen a lot of miracles this week even if most of the week seemed to be spent searching without success. 

Obviously, we're the normal coppia.

Sunday we went over to the Aramu's house for lunch. Fratello Aramu wasn't there because he had to go to a meeting . . . in Vercelli. I was broken hearted, but that's okay. Sorella Aramu made us lunch, and we just spent a lot of time getting to know her and her little girl. Turns out, Sorella Aramu studied opera before she served her mission in France. Her last transfer, she was in a performing distrect that went to every stake or district in the mission and performed a fireside. If someone could suggest that to presidente Dibb . . . I would not mind one ounce. We decided we need to do a concert or fireside. We're thinking at the end of the summer when we get to move back into our church building. She's so amazing. I already love her family so much.

Speaking of music . . . one of our amazing members used to sing in operas in Rivoli. It's a little town next to Collegno. We actually live there. Anyway, last night we went through some of the pictures of her performing. Sorella Vicedomini is one of the coolest people I know. She's just led a fantastic life,  and she truly loves people. 

Miracle story. A couple of days ago we were trying to find a referral the anziani gave us. We had decided to do it after we left the house, and we don't have a map for the town we were in. So, we called the Anziani but we didn't have service. We decided to ask a woman for directions, and she turned out to be the coolest woman I've ever met. She's Italian and her husband is Welsh. Instead of just giving us directions, she walked us to the bus stop. We actually walked past her house. In the end, we asked if we could stop by to share a message with her another day. She was really excited for us to come over. We're going tomorrow morning with a message and banana bread, just to say thank you. Sometimes it's just a miracle when people are nice to us.

We went to the Superga this morning. Good thing because it's raining now. It's always raining. Anyway, we went on a super cool tour of the tombs of superga. We were in the basebent with a bunch of dead royalty. Creepy, but amazing. It was beautiful, but we couldn't take pictures. However as we were leaving, we were amazed by a super beautiful statue of Michael and the dragon. The tour guide said in theory we couldn't take pictures, but that she would turn around and walk away . . . so we could. Loved her, she was hillarious. 

We've been caught in rain a few times this week. The problem is some days it's beautiful all day and then suddenly you're caught in a torrential storm. It's okay though . . . I'm used to it now. One day we walked through a major storm. We looked like we jumped in a lake. Just normal missionary life.

I love you all. I hope this week has been amazing for you as it has for me. 

Con tutto il mio cuore
Sorella Ellen Rose Ervin

Sometimes we get stuck in the rain . . .

Often, actually.

A beautiful street in Centro Collegno.

This is what I have to deal with . . . just like home.

View from the tram.

Another view from the tram.

Sorella Lawrence and Sorella Gunnerson

Sometimes I forget I live in Italy, and then I go to  the Superga . . . wow!

That's my Sorella Russell.

That's right folks. We entered tombs today . . .

Dead people . . . yay.

This is Michael and the dragon. Legit.

Ceiling of the superego. OH MY BEAUTIFUL!

The tram we rode up the hill to Superga.

Coolest man who owns a pizzeria EVER!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Adventures in Collegno

Manuel and Eliana
So last Wednesday night was just about one of the hardest of my life. I had to say goodbye to the Martoranas. I should know better. I should just bow out gracefully and not say goodbye . . . then there would be no crying. It was truly an incredible night, though. I felt surrounded by family. It was truly the most wonderful feeling. Saying goodbye is never fun, but it's a part of life. At one point I was just standing there crying, and Manuel said, "Eli, hug her . . . Eli you have to hug her, I can't, will you please just hug her." After saying goodbye to Salvatore and Marcella, Manuel and Eliana gave us a ride home. I cried some more, we said goodbye, and then I had to go finish packing.

Last night with Salvatore and Marcella!
My last picture with my baby girl. I'm sure going to miss
Sorella Jones.
The next morning we got to the station 30 minutes early. I always give us too much time when I'm nervous . . . and I didn't want to be at the house anymore. At the station Paolo called, and I had to say goodbye to him again. You know . . . the whole Martorana family is just going to assume I can't go without crying for more than five minutes. It's okay though . . . during transfer week, it's true.

Rimini reunion with Gjika and Strong.
We made it to Milano and the transfer circle. It's probably the best part of transfers. You get to see all the missionaries you know and love. But then you have to say goodbye again. I had to say goodbye to my Sorella Jones. It's always hard to leave a companion, but it's harder to leave a trainee. She's just so special. We grew so much together, and I can't believe our two transfers are over. She'll do great things on her mission, I'm sure. At least I only went a couple cities away, so we're still in the same zone.

Sorella Holloway!
Beautiful Sorella Walch and Anziano Reese.
Goodbye, Colemere.
My sweet MTC companion, Sorella Baer.
A cute car we found while doing casa.
Sorella Lawrence and I went to Torino to meet Sorella Gunnerson and my knew companion Sorella Russell. I feel like I've known her forever even though we never served together. She's one transfer younger than me. Mostly we just have a lot of fun everyday. Don't worry; we still work. We've just been in some weird circumstances. I'm glad she's my companion because we just laugh . . . a lot . . . each and everyday. I feel like we're on a really long scambio, and yet at the same time I feel like we've been companions forever. Every once in a while I realize we've literally only been comps for a week. I still don't really know much about her . . . but I feel like I do . . . I can't really explain; it doesn't make sense.

She does case; I take pictures.
So Sunday we had to take two buses and the metro to get to church. Collegno has a really beautiful building, but we won't be using it this summer, because it's under construction. So it took an hour to get to church instead of 15 minutes. That's okay. We get to go to church in Torino. Because I'm in the same stake, I saw a bunch of stake leaders I already know. Our high councilman was just like, "Sorella Ervin . . . I think you're lost, you do realize this isn't Vercelli?" I'm glad they have so much faith in me.

Church was amazing. Our ward is super great. Our bishop actually knows my bishop from home, or at least he thinks he does. We have some really incredible members. Our ward mission leader invited us over to lunch with his family including his non-member sister-in-law. It was so much fun, and we had the greatest conversation ever. I love the moments when people realize they have to do something to get an answer, but they want the answer, so they're completely ready to act.

Monday was district meeting. Anziano Pagano made us barbeque chicken pizza. It tasted like America! Anyway . . . later that night we decided to do pass-bys on our bikes. We didn't realize how far away everything was. No one was home or had time . . . so we just rode our bikes for four hours. Collegno is not flat. We almost died. I honestly don't know how to explain how tired we both were. I wish you could have witnessed us riding up the hills. I'm sure it would have given you a good laugh.

Yesterday we taught an amazing lesson to a woman in the hospital. I was so impressed with her faith. She has a lot of trials, and yet she is one of the happiest women I've ever met. It was such a testimony to me that life isn't supposed to be easy. If it was easy we wouldn't learn anything, and we couldn't really be happy. In consiglio [ward council] our Vescovo [bishop] said, "We were looking over the last two years, and we realized the moments that were the most difficult, where we had more to do, were the moments the ward was stronger. They were the moments in which we had more faith, in which we worked together, in which we were happy. So we're going to add more activities. We don't have a church, so it's already hard, but we think it could be more so. This is how we'll strengthen the ward." How beautiful! I know it's true. The moments that are difficult truly do bring the most joy if we will look beyond ourselves.

Today was an adventure if I ever had one. Sorella Russell needs her suitcase fixed. We were told a certain store would fix them, but it's a little far. We tried to go anyway. The problem is, a bus doesn't go there, and we didn't really know how to get there. We took two buses, and then we didn't get off at the right stop on the third bus, so we had to wait at a stop for 30 minutes to go backwards. I don't know how we got so far away. The closest we could get to the mall was a 15 minute walk away . . . on the freeway. We did it though . . . with the suitcase. We're champs. Turns out, the store doesn't fix suitcases.

It's okay, we trekked across the freeway again to Ikea, and we just walked around. Ikea smells like America. I know it's not an American company, but it kind of just feels like it is. Then we ate lunch at Ikea. We saw people getting gelato out of this cool machine, but we didn't know where they got the cones. So while we were eating we awkwardly watched people until we figured it out . . . then we got gelato. So, Ikea offers a free bus to the metro if you buy something. We bought food . . . so we got a free ride back. It took us two hours to get there . . . and only about five minutes to get back. So now we know we can take the Ikea bus for free there, and only have to buy lunch to get back. I don't really ever need to go back to Ikea though . . . so it's useless information. We still need to find a place to fix Sorella Russell's suitcase, but we'll figure it out. At least we're prepared for when we go on The Amazing Race. We will win.

I love you all and I hope you have the most fantastic week full of adventures. Maybe try not to trek across the freeway though . . . it's terrifying.

Sorella Ervin
Sorella Russell and her broken suitcase.
That's where we were trying to go.
The view from the freeway.
Another view from the freeway.
Walking down the freeway.
Lunch at Ikea with Sorella Russell
Lunch at Ikea
This is the most awesome gelato machine in the whole world.

On the Ikea bus (me and Sorella Russell).
Last view of the Ikea store.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Being Kicked out of Vercelli

Well, they're kicking me out of my perfect Vercelli. I literally haven't stopped crying in the last few days. I'm headed to Collegno which is an hour away from Vercelli. I already know and love my companion Sorella Russell, so that's rad. I'll still be in the same zone so I'll get to see my sweet Sorella Jones a lot. I think God knows I'm not ready to leave yet, so He's trying to make it easy on me by only sending me a little way away. I'll see the Vercelli ward in June when we go to Alessandria for stake conference. YAY! 

I'm super excited about Collegno. They have an amazing ward, or so I've heard. Also, they have a legit ward building. Never had that in Italy.

Of course I'm heartbroken I have to leave this place and these people. Just like when I left Rimini, I just want to introduce you to the people I love so much here. Some of these pictures you've already seen, but that's okay.

Guardate [look] how perfect these sweet girls are. Notice the flowers in my lap. Yeah, they gave me flowers for Mother's Day. I love them!

My sweet Young Women. None of the young leaders were there on Sunday, so they asked us to stay with them for the hour. One of the girls gave the lesson, and then we taped pieces of paper on our backs. We each had to go around and write what we liked about each other on them. Vescovo [the bishop] came and participated also. He was trying so hard not to touch me as wrote that you can barely read his writing. These girls are special. Some of the greatest Young Women in the world. As I was saying goodbye to them, I just started crying. They all came up and enveloped me in the best group hug I've ever received.
I love them so, so much.
Mayyer probably thinks more then anyone else I know. Every time we ask her a question, she thinks about it for a good 5 minutes and then usually a good 5 minutes more. She really wants to understand everything. She's not content to have a basic knowledge, she wants every piece of information she can have. She's giving, loving, and wonderful.
So these are Fratello Simoncini's glasses. Two weeks ago they weren't broken. Last week we came, and they were missing one side. Monday we came . . . well they were missing both sides. 

Michela is super amazing. I love her so much. She is one of those people that when she gives her heart, she gives it fully and forever. I feel so loved in her presence, and I know everyone else does as well.
The Simoncini's. I adore this couple. They are filled with so much love, and they are probably some of the funniest people I know. I've never been able to talk to Massimo for more then 30 seconds before he starts trying to make me laugh. The thing I love most about them, is that they know how things should be and they want everything to be perfect. They don't believe in picking and choosing how to be obedient or how to follow the Lord. They do what they are asked by Him. It's beautiful.

Gianina and the girls with Heber and his mom. I will miss these two families so much. I have so much love these people. Yesterday, Valeria made me a cake because I'm leaving. I could just stay with them forever. I would do it in a heart beat. As we were leaving I started crying, and they just all started laughing; then they cried with me. This is why I love them. I've learned so much from them, and I could never possible forget them.
My super rad English class. We had a murder mystery party yesterday since I'm leaving. I died. Yay.
These are my boys. Most of our English class is made up of 20ish year old boys. They all want to move to Australia . . . so I'm going with them. Scherzo.[Joke.] These kids are the greatest. I can't even tell you how much I look forward to every Tuesday and Thursday because of them. I'm going to miss them so much. They speak better English then I do, true story. Sometimes they tell me about my life, and it freaks me out. But then I remember some of them read my blog. Ahaha . . . awkward.

Francesco is amazing. I have to say that because I know he's reading this. Just kidding, Francesco. I love you! Literally, he's the greatest. We call him Papa . . . you know, Papa Francesco . . . not funny? Whoops . . . He's always so excited for class. I cried saying goodbye to him last night. Then I cried saying goodbye to his parents. Why am I so emotional?
I adore Eleanora. Literally. She gives the greatest hugs, and we just eat food together all the time. Pregnant women and fat sister missionaries . . . we always have snacks. She might be one of the most beautiful women in the world. I could talk to her forever because she's so funny. I like to think she's the Italian version of me . . . but more beautiful and way nicer. 
Michele. Oh my gosh. A couple weeks ago he and Andrea 3 just came to class with Francesco, so we haven't known them forever. But he was so sad when I said I was leaving. It's because I'm wonderful :) No, it's because he's wonderful. Probably one of the politest ragazzi [boys] I've ever met. I'm not sure if everyone considers that to be about the greatest compliment in the world . . . but believe me . . . it is.
Andrea 3! He wants to move to Australia, and I'm all for it because he's basically already Australian. He has the greatest laugh, and he doesn't get mad at me when I make him play improv games. That alone is enough to love the kid.
Stefano's so cool he gets two pictures. The first one he has his hands out because about five seconds before he tried to put his arm around me. I love my ragazzi [boys], they were all just like, DUDE you can't touch her. 

Stefano's hillarious and he hates my green skirt as much as I hate his baby beard. His girl just had a baby, and it's amazing to see the changes in Stefano in the last six months. I'm amazed at how much he's grown up. He admits it too . . . that's the best part, that he sees the changes. 
Andrea 2! He wants to be a captain in the navy. What? I think it's the most legit dream I've ever heard. Maybe the sweetest man in the world. Literally. 
Matteo came to class for the second time yesterday. He just fits in so wonderfully. I think he spent most of the time laughing at me. That's why he fits in . . . that's what they all do. 
Nicolò! Also known as Samantha. I don't even think I could begin to explain why. The best I can do is say that sometimes I make the ragazzi [boys] tell me about their days, but they never do anything exciting . . . except English class. So one day they made up a super sweet story for me. I wish it had been real! Anyway, Nicolò is fantastic. He always gets mad when we play stupid games, but then he gets really into them and tries to win . . . even if the games don't have winners. 
Andrea 1! Andrea is like one of my best friends. Whenever I don't know what to do for English class, he comes up with something. He always has my back. Also, he has a sweet wicked person beard which makes him easy to make fun of. Just kidding, I'm a missionary . . . I don't make fun of people . . . often.
Last, but not least. PAOLO! Look, he's almost smiling! I mean, he has his eyes closed, but I'll forgive him. See that sweet little book. That's the Paolo comic book. I know . . . I'm the best. No, Paolo is the best. I can't tell you how much he changed my life. Paolo is a really serious guy and he doesn't really like to share his emotions, but they're there, just hidden. He's a big thinker, and he really cares about people. I've cried in front of him only about 1000 times, and he just always knows exactly what to say to make me laugh. He's always there for us when we need something . . . even pizza :) He sends us spiritual thoughts in the moments I need them most. Sometimes we're just awkward together. Okay, in reality I'm just super awkward, and he puts up with it. He's not just my dirigente [ward mission leader], he's one of my best friends, I'll never forget him.
The Machado's! This family is definitely special. That's the only way to describe them. There is a spirit in their home unlike any other. 
The Machado's are so giving they're always thinking about other people. I feel like I'm at home when I'm with them. They're just wonderful.

Bea and Matteo! I miss them already. I've never met two sweeter people. I wish I could be half as wonderful as they are. You know those people who are just good and there isn't really a different way to describe them. This is them!

Tina and Ralf! I love them. They're loud just like me. I can be myself around them. I never feel out of place with them. They love a lot, and they give a lot. They always think about others no matter what's going on in their own lives.

Marcella and Salvatore! Oh my goodness. Could there be two more perfect people? Probably not. I never want to leave when I'm at their house. I just feel good there. Love definitely dwells in their home. Marcella only thinks about others. She's always worried about other people, literally in every moment she's probably thinking of at least five people and trying to figure out how to help them. She radiates charity. I want to be her!
Eliana and Manuel. Well . . . the Martorana's really are just a special family. All of them. These two just make me happy. I can talk to Eliana about anything, and when I'm sad she just plays with my hair. Manuel always knows exactly how I am in any given moment. He's always telling us to call them if we need something. I have learned so much from them. Especially about how a really good marriage should work. They aren't perfect but they both try really hard and they both have a lot of love. I could stay with them forever and never complain. In fact, I blackmailed Manuel into promising me a room in their house. Yeah . . . I'm a good missionary.