Monday, January 25, 2010

Funny Stories, Awesome People, and Cool Experiences

One day, my companion was preparing a lesson about putting the things of God first versus the things of the world. I've seen it done with rocks (the things of God) and sugar (the things of the world). It’s a classic demonstration where you fill a jar 3/4's of the way full with the small things first. When you try to add the big things, they won’t fit. But if you put the big ones in first, then the small ones will all filter in. She was using candies to represent the things of God and rice to represent the things of the world. After awhile we realized the candies weren't big enough and decided to try something else. So I started eating the candies. My companion saw me and teased me, saying "hey, what are you doing?" and I told her "I'm feasting on the word of God."

Fanny, a kind Equadorian church member who lived around the corner from the chapel, is probably the best member missionary I have ever met. She fed us fantastic food, invited her friends to church, and gave us referrals all the time. Here's a Fanny story from my journal.

"Fanny, the woman who gives us delicious food all the time, had her friend from Equador and her friend's two daughters over. We talked to them for awhile and learned that they were staying in Milan temporarily but were actually from Genova. We did talk a little bit about the church and who we were, but we didn't offer them the discussions since we hadn't expected them to stick around. They actually came to church with Fanny the next day, and the assistants to the president ended up talking to them. They found out that the mother was going back to her native country of Equador for a month, but the daughters would stay with Fanny for that time. They enjoyed going to church and the Elders gave them a first discussion. They even wanted to be baptized. The mom went to Equador and the elders gave the daughters, Caroline and Margaret, a 2nd discussion. Then they turned them over as contacts to us. We've given them discussions 3, 4, and 5 and tomorrow will do number 6. Caroline and Margaret have come to church every Sunday since their mom left, and Caroline really wants to be baptized (she's 13, Margaret is 11). Caroline even did the Mostra with us yesterday and was talking about a mission when she gets older. Margaret wants to be baptized with her mom. Caroline called her mom yesterday to ask permission to be baptized on Saturday, but it's been a month since the mom heard anything about the church and is now saying she doesn't want to make any major decisions. But Caroline was very insistent on the phone and the mom had originally said they could be."

We spent a lot of time with Caroline and Margaret since they were alone in Milan for 5 days while Fanny went down to Southern Italy for her daughter's wedding. So when we'd come to visit them for a discussion, we'd end up being there a long time because they never wanted us to leave (they didn't have a whole lot to do since they wouldn't be starting school until they got back to Genova). We took them shopping with us, and we even went bowling together. I can't tell you how weird it was to bowl in a dress!

In the end Caroline and Margaret’s mom wanted more time to think about the church before she let her daughters be baptized. She wasn't objectionable, but she'd just gotten back from Equador after a month and had only heard the first discussion. So we understood that she wasn't comfortable with the baptisms happening so soon. The daughters were disappointed, but their mom was really impressed when she heard the 11 year old pray. I never heard what ultimately happened to them, but hopefully they were baptized in Genova."

One thing I loved about being in Italy is that I was considered to be gorgeous! Having grown up an overweight person, I wasn't used to that kind of flattery. So I have to admit I lapped up the compliments of "che bella bionda con i bellissimi occhi azzurri" (what a beautiful blonde with gorgeous blue eyes!)! I was most often given these compliments by old women. Here's one fun example.
"On Monday we taught a beautiful discussion to a 90 year old woman. She was very humble and is the next door neighbor of Fanny. She was delighted to see us and insisted on giving us cookies in return for us having given her the Book of Mormon. She's a very dedicated Catholic, but she accepted everything we said and asked for a little time to pray and think about everything we told her. We assured her that that was fine and that we understand because it's all new information to her. She insisted we come again and tell her more. She was really great! I wish every discussion was like that one. And, of course, the fact that she kept telling me how beautiful I was every 2 minutes didn't exactly lower my opinion of her. She told me I was as beautiful as a Barbie doll, which means a lot coming from an Italian because they're very blunt. She even said to my companion "tu sei bella," meaning you are pretty, "ma lei e bellissima", meaning but she's gorgeous! I've had a lot of people here tell me they like my azzure eyes. She complimented me more than even all the Arab guys here do."

Brown sugar in Italy is called "zucchero di cana." I accidentally said "these cookies contain "zucchero di canne," which made my companion and our investigators nearly die out laughing. "Canne" is a marijuana pipe. I’d told them I’d made the cookies from marijuana pipe sugar.

We got to see a lot of gorgeous art while I was in Milan. Above is a picture I took of the outside of the art museum.

These are some of the beautiful paintings inside.

I really like this almost 3D painting showing Jesus after being crucified. It's an interesting angle to see it from.

This painting of Romeo and Juliet is actually extremely famous in Italy. My companion and her friend from Rome, Sister Squarcia, ran to it when they saw it. They'd been seeing it in all their school history books while growing up in Rome. Sister Squarcia was also serving in Milan, but in another district. She and her companion came with us that preparation day to see the art museum.

While we were downtown we also went to a music museum in Milan. This one had Medieval instruments like the Hurdy Gurdy and other predecessors of the modern guitar.

I was very excited to be in Milan because that is where the most famous opera house in the world is - La Scala. Unfortunately, I never got to go inside since they were remodeling it while I was there. Here's a picture of how it looked while I was there, and here are other pictures of what it should look like in all its glory.

The most famous structure in Milan is the Dome, or "il Duomo." Every city has its own duomo, but Milan's is definitely the biggest and most ornate. It is unfinished and never will be. There is a statue for every single saint on the dome. The most recent pope named a lot of new saints during his stewardship, so there will continue to be statues made to honor them for many years to come. Additionally, it has to be seriously cleaned every so many years, so it's quite common to see it like I did (with something blocking a major part of it so it can be cleaned).

Here's a picture from the roof of the dome. In the back you can see the area that was under cleaning.
And here's a picture of the river than ran along near my apartment. During the old days when they were making statues for the dome, they would send them down the river when they were completed and then affix them to the structure.
The picture on the far right is what the dome should look like when it's not under construction.

At first glance this statue is a bit creepy. It represents a saint who had his skin turned inside out when he refused to renounce Christ.

The inside of the dome is equally as impressive as the outside. You can see a small glimpse into its incredible architecture from the picture on the right.

Our mission president encouraged us to read the Book of Mormon in Italian as part of our language study. We had this little sheet to color in every time we finished a chapter. In the end it spells "I've read the Book of Mormon."

These were 2 super nice members of our ward. When I met them my first Sunday in Italy, they invited us to a delicious dinner. I also ate a white peach at perfect ripeness while I was at their house, and I said it tasted like the fruit of the tree of life. It was delicious! I'd never tried a white peach before and none I've had since has ever compared to it. She was pregnant when we first had dinner with them, when I came back to visit them she was pregnant again, and she told me the next time I saw her she'd be pregnant again. They were a lot of fun and he was our ward mission leader.

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