I adored Brescia! It's a cute little city full of life. I immediately felt really good there. There's something about it that I just fell in love with instantly.
I also felt like a junior companion again. Since I didn't know anyone or the city, and I wasn't opening the area like I did in Collegno, my companion led me around and knew who everyone was at our appointments. She told me she'd been hoping for an Italian companion, but said that I was the next best thing.
Sister Baird was hil-darn-larious! She always cracked me up! And she was super sweet. I still remember an enormous compliment she gave me. She said "I feel like I'm a manager for a super star. I tell you where to go and who you'll be talking to and then you just go in and do your superstar thing.” I also loved when she would tell people "I love your guts!"
The first day I got to Brescia we went to visit Alba. Alba was a returned missionary member of the Brescia ward who had recently injured her leg on a motor scooter. Being around her was always a huge highlight during my time in Brescia. She always made me laugh, and she even sent me home with about 60 Italian CD's! She enjoyed having the Sisters make cinnamon rolls for her, and we enjoyed hanging out with her and making the cinnamon rolls.
Another cool thing about Sister Baird was that she knew how to highlight hair. You can see how much lighter my hair is in this picture, and it was all her doing from a boxed highlighting kit she bought at the store. When I had my hair re=highlighted after the mission, my cousin, a professional stylist, was impressed that an amateur had done such a good job.
In Brescia, part of our service hours went to walking Maria, a blind woman, to the cemetery to put flowers on her husband's grave. She's known the missionaries for years and the missionaries walk her every week. She always bought us ice cream after wards, and sometimes she took us out to pizza. When I returned to Italy a year later and went to visit her, she still had me walk her to the graveyard.
We sometimes went to the stake president's house on Garda Lake. He lived near an inactive member of the church and he invited us to his house so she could rehear the discussions. He and his wife were great! She's German and made us yummy Bratwurst. I loved going because he and his wife know the gospel in and out and are able to put it into words a lot better than I can. I enjoyed going to their house for my own sake, actually. It was nice listening to him and his wife teach me!
Garda Lake (Lago di Garda) is gorgeous! There are several surrounding cities, and they're all very beautiful. Lots of Europeans go there for vacation.
I've been able to see President Bellini a couple of times here in the states. His son Marco and his family live in Bothell, WA and go to my old ward. I knew them in Brescia for the last 3 weeks they were here. (In fact, in future posts you'll see me in pictures wearing a purple dress. That used to be his wife, Daniella's before she moved).
I still see Daniella at the gym a couple times a week, and I've seen President Bellini a couple of times when he's come to visit his grandchildren.
One Saturday we got a call from Susie from Brisbon, Australia. She's a church member who'd been in Brescia for 2 weeks for a nanny job. She was fired just because she'd gotten sick for a week and they told her she had 2 weeks to get out. So she looked up the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the internet and found out our number. We met her in church and helped her find her way around. We actually once spent 2 hours getting lost (though we got to see a lot of beautiful countryside) trying to find our way back to her little city just outside of Brescia. It turns out it was only 5 minutes out and we'd taken the long way around. The people she worked for had let her borrow their "smart car" and were upset at how long it took her to get back. She responded to them with "it's a smart car not a bloody fast car!" LOL!!! (and for anyone who thinks I just swore by saying bloody, I asked Pia, the English lady in Torino, if bloody was a swear word in England, and she said using it in that sense is no worse than saying “I have a bloody finger.”)
When my companion went to Lake Como for her 100 days, I was allowed to take her as far as Milan and hang out with Susie. We went to the top of the dome again like I'd done with Sister Madsen. We also found a place in Milan where you're supposed to step on the bull for good luck.
On one super rare occasion that we actually went house tracting, we ended up meeting an older couple who invited us for dinner. He originally turned as down, but Sister Baird said "but I'm nice" just as he was closing the door. It made him stop just long enough to talk to us, and then his wife came to the door telling us she had a Book of Mormon given to her by missionaries years ago. They invited us to dinner on Thursday night, and they totally decked it out for us. They had glamorous dinner trays, many different choices of different foods, and the whole works! It was the best meal ever!
They ended up becoming eternal contacts for us. We'd go weekly for dinner, they'd make fabulous food (like homemade lasagna and other homemade pasta), and we'd talk about the gospel. They weren't interested in changing their religion, but they always seemed genuinely interested in what we were saying. They were a lot of fun, including the time we decked him out in 24th of July party favors that Sister Baird's parents had sent her. One time they even came to church to see Sister Baird speak and me sing, and then they gave each of us our own pasta maker when we left Brescia.
A cool thing about Brescia is that it's a very ancient city. Milano and Torino have only been inhabited since the middle ages.
One place I enjoyed visiting was an ancient Bresciano monastary. There's still lots of the original building and lots of old artifacts left standing.
Like Milano and Torino, Brescia also has its own "duomo."
We saw a very beautiful statue of Aphrodite built in 200 BC, and a pagan temple that’s been there since 73ad.
Just before President Henderson finished his mission, he held a sister's conference for us. President was told not to have them anymore by the president of all the European missions. But he still held the one I went to in September and then, since he was going home in two weeks anyway, held another one. He said "what are they going to do to me if I do? Send me home?"
During that transfer, I bought some special blue paper to write to my friend Amy since she always wrote me on blue paper as well(I censored her for the one time she didn't). I told president he should be flattered that I wrote him my final president letter on my special blue paper.
President also did something really cool thanks to a letter I'd written him. Every transfer he'd give a little 2 minute recap for the missionaries that were finishing describing what they'd learned and the amazing people they'd become during their missions. So in my last letter I asked "what are you going to do when you finish? Give a little recap of all of us? It will be your last chance." He had already planned out his talk for our sister's conference, but then he read my letter the night before, ditched the talk he'd planned, and decided to do that for every single one of the sisters. When he got to me he explained that he was doing it because of my request. He also said that I'd brought a great musical gift to the mission, but also that he'd never forget the day we had the double baptism (my fourth day in the mission) and that was when he saw a change in my face. It was te day when I really realized that my role here was not to improve myself but to help others found the same joy that the people I'd just seen baptized had found. It was a wonderful conference! He even gave the sisters 2 hours to chat when it was over. He said "I never let the elders chat, but I believe the sisters need to have time to talk with other sisters. You're in so few here in the mission that you don't have much of a chance."
These bottom two pictures are all of the sisters at the conference, as well as one of me with all of my companions except Sister Silva (who'd already finished) and Sister Gale (my MTC companion who served in Rome). I intended for the picture to express that "all of my companion hold me up and keep me from falling down." Sister Fitches thought I was trying to make it look like they all worshiped me (which now that I look at it I can see how she would have gotten that idea). So she decided to bite me instead.