I am currently IN HUNGARY!!! Woohoo! It has been awesome! Let me tell you about my life since we last "talked." :)
(Just FYI, though-- it is an experience typing on an Hungarian keyboard!! The y and z are switched, there are additional letters, the symbols are in different places, and the computer tells me every word I type is spelled wrong because it is in English!! So if there are some funky mistakes in this email, sorry! I tried my best!)
(Wow, I'm just looking at my journal now-- so much has happened!! This is going to be a loong email!)
Anyways, let's take a quick trip back to the MTC before I talk about Hungary:
Our last TRC was on the Thursday before we left. Daybell Testvér's wife, Daybell Nővér, requested Christensen Nővér and I to teach her. We talked about charity and the importance of choosing to love in all aspects of life. She had not seen us in a couple of weeks and told us that we had improved SO MUCH! I think sometimes it is hard to see our own progress when we only move a little bit forward every day. But really, we have grown so much in so many ways since we started our missions a couple months ago! So that was nice to hear :) Afterwards, we all gathered around the Daybells and they gave us advice about Hungary. Daybell Testvér challenged us not to sit by our companions the first Sunday and to introduce ourself to the Bishop and ask to bear our testimony in sacrament meeting (stories about that later).
The Friday before I left, we had a new thing called in-field orientation, where the entire day was filled with workshops about in-field life. Much of our life in the MTC focused on teaching and learning the language (both very important) so this helped us learn about the practicalities and miracles of life in the field (missionary life away from the MTC), like working with the Spirit, goal setting, and working with members. Some of the workshops were taught by returned missionaries from this mini-documentary called "The District 2" that is used to help teach us (it just follows the missionaries around in the field while they are planning, teaching, etc.). So basically, they are "celebrities" in the MTC haha. One of the Hungarian sisters joked that she would get one of them to sign her Preach My Gospel (missionary study manual). She didn't actually do it. But it was funny!
The other days were basically full of goodbyes, pictures, and packing.
We did have a cool presentation about image that I really liked- the lady presenting said something I really liked: "Beauty is defined by action. Image (makeup, clothes) is a form of etiquette." Basically, those things are not beauty, but rather a courtesy to those we are with. It shows we care. And she told us to always ask ourselves if our image reflect that we care. Does our image reflect that of the Savior?
Anyways I'm going to skip ahead to traveling. We left on Monday afternoon from the MTC and we were all so excited. It was a weird experience getting on the bus and leaving the MTC grounds, where we had exclusively been for the last two and a half months. It was my district, some missionaries headed to Paris, France, and another missionary who had to go home because he had cancer (sad). We got to the airport and that was where the beginning of our adventures begin.
For those of you who do not know, I have a travel curse. It has previously struck by cancelling flights, forcing me to ride subways with tons of luggage, and sending me to Utah and my luggage to Scotland. (just a few examples) It came on in full force this past flight:
At the airport, I realized I couldn't find my little ticket thing they had printed for me at the MTC. It was ok, though, because we still had to check in and it was electronic. However, the bus driver insisted on calling just to make sure. We got in the airport to check in and the kiosk read my passport but refused to let me check in. (Travel curse.) I had to go to the little desk, where they checked my luggage, and tried to print my boarding pass off but they couldn't (travel curse). They finally realized that they had checked my luggage under the name of another missionary and that was why they couldn't. They finally got it all fixed and we went through security, where we were finally able to talk to our families a little bit. (Not for very long since it had taken awhile). We got on the plane, where I was actually graced with a window seat for the 9 hour flight. Which was awesome. The flight was great. We talked to a bunch of people, played games, saw the sun set and rise, slept, etc. I was so excited when we flew down into France. It was a lifelong dream come true to go there. I may or may not have seen the Eiffel tower in the distance (probablz not) but I like to think that I did! We got to France, got off the plane, walked through the airport and through a little check point. After that, we went to get our passports to go through customs. Guess what? Travel curse had struck again! I, absolutely horrified, realized that I did not have my passport with me! I knew I must have left in on the plane (and prayed really hard that it hadn't somehow been left in the SLC airport). We said a prayer, then begin the task of finding someone who could speak English that could help us (yeah, some advice: DON'T lose your passport. Especially don't lose it in a country where they don't speak your language!!!) We finally got to the right desk and they called to have someone check the plane. And then we waited. And waited. What was supposed to take 15 minutes ended up being an hour wait. But that was the cool part of the story: I prayed again and read 2 Nephi 4 about the Lord being our support and removing obstacles. And I felt the BIGGEST, BEST feeling of calm and peace. I KNEW that it would all be okay. I am not so sure that my companion was as confident as I was :P But we went up and asked again after an hour and a nice lady tracked down my passport for me! They had someone run it to us and all was well :D Although, the airport people were like, "Losing your passport is not a good idea, silly American girl." I know! (In my defense, I had checked my backpack before we got off and it was there. It just fell out while I was stuffing stuff into my backpack.) But I know the Lord really does watch us for us. I knew he wanted me to go to Hungary and would help the person looking find my passport. I know He blessed me with peace. And it all worked out okay, just like I knew it would. We got through customs super fast (there was NO LINE) and got to our gate with 2 hours to spare. And then I just wandered around the airport trying to understand French, eating French croissants. It was fun! Our flight to Hungary went without incident (we all had window flights, which was neat) and we arrived in Hungary Tuesday night :)
My first view of Hungary was of fields and houses with red roofs. We saw some cities the lower we descended. And in the airport, we talked to Hungarians (this language is REAL)! They told me I was adorable. (This has happened a lot since. They think it is really cute that I am trying to speak their language :P)
We were picked up by the APs. One of them turned out to be my old roommate and friend, Annie Anderson's, friend who I had met once and heard lots about, which was neat! It made a strange country a lot more familiar. The mission president and his wife were also there. We piled into cars and drove to the mission home. Budapest was all around us and I just stared out the window. To be perfectly honest, it is a city. It didn't feel all that different than other cities I have been in. It has beautiful architecture though! At the home, we had dinner, then went on a mini tour of some tourist spots.
The next day, we had breakfast, interviews, and went onto the streets with some missionaries. They gave us some Book of Mormons and some cards with info about our church on it and told us to talk to be people. My comp and I were lucky because we got to go with one of the experienced missionaries first and see an example. He actually talked to someone who was interested and he was able to give her a Book of Mormon and get her phone number so they could set up an appointment. That boosted our confidence! When it was our turn to talk to people, I just marched up to people and started talking. No one was interested haha :) That is okay though! I loved the experience anyways! I didn't come here expecting a lot of people to talk to me (heck, in real life, I don't like talking to random people on the street so I totally understand how they feel). I am here to offer the chance and do my best to show them the blessings this gospel brings and why it is so important in my life and how it should be that important to them too.
After lunch, we went into a room where our new trainers (missionaries who have been here longer that would be our new companions) were waiting. We sang songs, introduced ourselves, and then were assigned. My new companion's name is De Leon Nővér and we are serving in Kispest (part of of Budapest)! I love her! I KNEW we were going to be companions when she introduced herself and said that before her mission she loved Indie Rock. It was meant to be haha :) But really, we are a perfect fit and we keep finding funny connections between the two of us (we know a lot of the same people from BYU. We actually lived in the same apartment building there!) She has only been here for 7 transfers, but she has served as a trainer for mini-missionaries (who are Hungarians who serve a mission for 6 weeks or so) so her Hungarian is really good from SYL-ing for the last few transfers. We were assigned, took pictures with the mission president, grabbed my luggage, and then went. We bought a public transportation pass for me, and lugged my stuff across the subways to our new apartment. I didn't even have time to unpack because we had a program scheduled! I loved it :) They put me straight to work!
So, basically, I am a true missionary now! I have been working hard for the last few days! We have taught a lot of appointments and talked to a lot of people. We have set up a table in a park a few times with information on it and Books of Mormon. When people get off the bus, we talk to them about the book and if they are interested, give them a free copy and set up a time to meet with them again. I have talked to a few people all by myself and gotten their numbers and given them books! It was super exciting!
I definitely do not understand everything people say. They speak REALLY fast here. But I have found that I understand a lot through the words I do know and through context. And people were constantly surprised that I only got here on Tuesday. We went to a concert put on by missionaries and members on Friday with some of our investigators. At the refreshments afterwards, my companion told me to go introduce myself to church members and people. So off I went! I started talking to one member, by telling him I enjoyed his song. He started talking to me and eventually asked me when I had gotten to Hungary. I told him Tuesday and he could not believe it. He pulled someone else over and told them about that and said he thought I had been here for at least six months! I know I have a long ways to go with speaking but everyone is very complimentary of what I can say! This type of experience has happened often! And everyone always tells me I am adorable haha. De Leon Nővér jokes that the plan is to get me ready to be a trainer by my third transfer (which is 18 weeks here). I don't know about that! But I am working hard at improving! And De Leon Nővér is always giving me opportunities to grow. She will just ask me to explain stuff and share my testimony in lessons or talk to people. And so I am forced to talk! And it is great for me :)
I do not have time to tell you all the lessons we have taught but I will tell you a little bit about some of the people and what we do.
We have three investigators with baptismal dates!!! And bunches of other people that we have taught! We did the second best in the mission this past week, according to numbers (counting lessons taught, Book of Mormons given, etc.)
One of our investigators getting baptized is a little girl of 9 years old (Orsi) who is so excited and reads her children's version of the BOM every day! (It is fun to talk with the children because they just go and go and go. It is good practice for me to hear them speak and they are so friendly. They don't mind helping me with Hungarian!) Anyways, this last lesson with her, we brought the 17 year old that will be baptizing her with us and we practiced what the baptism will be like. It was so cute! I sat with her at church this last Sunday (not near my companion!) and she drew me a picture of a Hungarian house in my journal and gave me a bracelet.
Another story about church that will make you all laugh-- somehow I was signed up to accompany the children's primary program in sacrament meeting next week! I don't really play the piano? Haha :) But I one-hand accompanied them yesterday as they practiced (and all the little kids gave me encouraging thumbs up during and came and gave me hugs afterwards and told me I was really clever), and I have been practicing so I can actually do it. That's kind of been my welcome to the country-- we're glad you are here, let's put you to work! And I love it! That is why I am here! But maybe you could all pray for me for next Sunday!!! I will need the extra help!
Another investigator is named Zsuzsa. I didn't even realize she was our investigator at first because we met her at the concert and she just took me under her wing, pushing me to the dessert table and introducing me to everyone. And then she bore her testimony to another investigator there about the church!!! So I didn't even know she was investigating till afterwards!
Everyone here gives puszi (spelled wrong, I think, sorry) which are two kisses, one on each cheek, when you greet and say goodbye to someone you know. My first morning working, the Hungarian version of an Italian from Long Island (I swear he somehow even had the accent in Hungarian! It was funny) gave them to me and my companion. She apologized afterwards (because we are sister missionaries so we don't usually do it with men. although I wasn't that weirded out-- it just reminded me of home) but said apparently that happens quite often haha. They are very friendly and protective here once you get past the shell.
I've had some Hungarian food here, but not much yet. I've had a LOT of chocolate :D :D We actually had gyros one day, which was kind of random, but I mention this because, Dad, they actually pronounce the g and stuff here. You would appreciate it :P But my companion and I cook for ourselves a lot and are experimenting! Feel free to send recipes :D
I love it here! The city is perfect for me! The ward here is the strongest in Hungary and the members are so nice! And I love how many people are here for us to talk to and how there is always something happening!
This email is ridiculously long (I'll try to edit myself in the future) so I will end now. But if you all have any questions, send them my way!! I would love to hear about your lives (and see pictures TOO!). You are all allowed to email me, and that might be easier for most now, I don't know. But just so you know, my address here is:
1191 Budapest, Templom Tér 5
The address on my blog is the mission president's home. That works too!!!
For those at BYU, I know there is a super cheap option to send letters internationally in the mail place in the bookstore.
Anyways, keep the love coming! I will try to write to you all promptly. I am BUSY here though!! We work all day long! It is the best though :) And I know it will just get better and better as I grow!
Find someone to serve today! And do it with a smile :D
Kramer Nővér aka McKenna