Cześć! I am finally in Wrocław now! Ugh! last night was trudny with a capital T! (that means hard) we basically lived in the urząd (law office) all last week. I think I mentioned in my last letter that we were trying to get our legal paperwork done and had an appointment for Wednesday. We had sat in line with our numbers, for 12 hours last Monday and they still didn't get to us, and I was only number 57! Well, we went back on Wednesday, we had appointments for 11:30 so we were pretty sure we'd get in. Come to find out that the fingerprinting machines were broken... all of them. So all we could do was paperwork, and my paperwork was already done. We didn't discover all this until we had sat in line for a couple of hours though.
Afterwards Siostra Whitely and I didn't really know what to do with ourselves after that. We could do some contacting, but it's a little bit weird because we weren't in our area and we didn't really know where anything was... so we went to the chapel to help out the Warsaw 2 sisters prepare for their English class and get materials stamped. While we were there though, we got know know some of the members and got to know the Elders and Sisters there. They are really cool. One of the members we met is a girl named Katia from Ukraine. She is going to the temple soon to get her endowments. She gave me half a milka bar (which is just a really big chocolate bar).
We played soccer/futbol with the Warsaw Elders and Sisters and one member who's name i can't remember, on Thursday morning. It was super fun, and it reminded me of the stories Ailsa told about playing soccer on her mission. However, only a couple of us actually knew how to play soccer, so mostly it was ridiculous, super fun, and totally worth it, but kind of a mess.
Our legal work was still not done, so we were going to have to come back to the urząd on Friday. "Friday?" You might ask "why not Thursday?" Well, I'll tell you why, Thursday is apparently a Holiday... I'm not sure what it's celebrating, what it's called, or what people do on this holiday, but almost everywhere is closed... Poland has a lot of holidays, like several per month, and it sounds like most of them are kinda silly. There's one holiday where people dump water on each other, I think they said its like the day after Easter or something.
So we had to wait until Friday, but the good news was that the fingerprinting line goes faster than the paperwork line, so we were probably going to be able to finish in time to catch trains to our areas. I think you can see where this is going though... we missed both available trains to Wrocław... Starszy Jourdan and Starszy Johnson both made their trains to Gdańsk and Katowice, but Starszy Owens, our trainers and I were all stuck in Warsaw for another day. On the bright side, if I never get called to Warsaw, I can still say I served there for over a week!
Another lucky thing was that the lady who did my fingerprinting at the urząd was super nice. Starszy Meherg and her were just chatting up a storm and laughing. When everything was done and we were on our way out I decided I wanted to wish her a good work day because she had made the whole experience brighter, so I tried to work out the casing as best as I could and said "Miłego praca!" She just lit up and thanked me, it was super cute... I found out later from my trainer that I had cased it wrong, I should have said "Miłej praca"... but it's still basically the same thing and the lady understood my meaning, so I guess it's all good.
On Saturday morning we finally got to head off to Wrocław. It's a 7 hour train ride, so we had some time to talk/sleep/watch the countryside. Ok, guys, I am 100% serous when I say that Poland countryside looks like Georgia... like, after the zombie Apocalypse Georgia. It's totally gorgeous, but every time we would pass a small town or a train yard all I could think of was the last season of the walking dead. There were some areas that I swear they filmed the show at! We even passed a prison at one point, it was a little better fortified that the one in the walking dead, it had cement outer walls instead of chain link, but other than that, the same. It was so cool!
When we arrived in Wrocław though I was just so happy. It is super pretty. Almost every building in the whole city has graffiti all over it though. It's mostly cool stuff. We live in a pretty ghetto to part of town, there are Larries all around the bus stops and park near our apartment (A Larry is a homeless person) Our apartment, on the other hand is super fancy! Siostra Whitely told me it is fancier that the Sarszi apartments and I believe her.
Yesterday was Sunday, so it was my first day in our branch. Our church is on the second floor of an office building. The building shares a lot with a museum that has a gorgeous garden in back, so we have a great view if we look out the window in the chapel/sacrament room (not sure what you'd call it). We have about 35 to 40 members in our branch, and yesterday we had a lot of visitors, two of the Elders who recently died and their families, touring Poland before they go home, so in all we had over 50. Siostra Whitely told me I was definitely going to have to bear my testimony, so I slaved over it, figuring out perfect casing... then, come sacrament, we went way over time, so I didn't end up having to do it. Możebyć next week though.
The members are all really nice, most of them speak English. The ones who don't still wanted to talk to me though, I really struggled to understand anything they said and to respond, but I know I will get to the point where I can do that, eventually. The branch president is a pretty awesome dude. His name is president Czylański. He and his wife are both native Pols, they both served missions in Poland and they have three adorable rambunctious daughters, all pretty close in age, one is just a baby, but she still somehow manages to be rambunctious. He and his wife both speak English, his wife has a slight accent, he has no accent whatsoever! When he first started speaking to me I thought he was an American, it's crazy! Katia, who we met in Warsaw was there as well, I'm not sure which church she normally goes to or where she lives, but is was cool to see her again. When she saw me she said "hey! chocolate lover! I know you!" it was funny. There is also a family, the Calls, who all speak English, the Mom is a native Pol, her husband is American, but he lives in America... not sure what the situation on that is. Anyway, they have three children who are both fluent in Polish and English and have no accent. They translate as needed during sacrament meeting. Cindy Call is the oldest, she plays the piano in sacrament and she's really cool. I was talking with her after sacrament yesterday and she told me about the Gnomes in Wrocław. I heard a little about these gnomes from my teachers and I even saw one on the way to church. They are brass figures depicting gnomes doing various activities. What they are doing is dependant on what historical sight or building they are near. There are 180 of them I think and they are everywhere, there is even one on top of what of the trams. I'm sure Laney is freaking out now because this has reminded her of Fable, because that's exactly what it reminded me of too! I have given myself a quest! I will find all of these gnomes, even if I have to come back to Wrocław after my mission!
After church we went to the Rynek, where we apparently set up a table of free materials and sing, every week. We had a couple of people come over while we were there, though I found out later most of them were Jehovah's Witnesses looking for an argument, which is total crap! We also had an annoying drunk guy dancing around and making fun of our singing for a while. I very nearly took his knee out when he was in front of me at one point, and really just wanted to smack him and tell him to get lost but I restrained myself. I am trying to develop Christlike attributes and last time I checked whacking a drunk moron over the head with a hymn book isn't a Christlike attribute. Also, I have to remember that I am a representative of the church... plus, I could get sent home for hitting someone, and I don't want that.
The best part about being at the Rynek though was seeing the gorgeous architecture! Siostra Whitely is an Art History major, so she appreciates good architecture as much as I do. As we were approaching the Rynek she made me walk right next to a building blocking it from sight and had me look straight at her until she told me I could look. It is fantastic! there are so many beautiful buildings there, I couldn't get enough of it! We are here now in fact, there is a library inside one of the buildings. There are all kinds of shops and performers outside too. There has been someone out there playing a saxophone since we arrived, they are pretty good, but don't have a wide selection. A little while ago I heard them laying a Christmas song, but it still sounded nice.
I mentioned Larries above, homeless people, well I wanted to tell you about one in particular. Most of the Larries, at least the ones who make an impression on the missionaries, have nicknames. We met one yesterday called "Pan Obama Lady". Siostra Whitely told me that a little while ago, on a Sunday, when they were singing at the Rynek, the Pan Obama Lady came up to talk to them. She wanted to guess where they were all from, and her guesses where hilariously racist. She said Elder Hon, who has red hair was from Scottland, she said Elder Whiting who is pale and blonde was from Norway, she said Sister Whitely who has dark redish brown hair, was from Poland (that hair colour is common here) she said Elder Tingey was from Jerusalem, I only met him once so I can't really describe him. Then she looked at Elder Fotu, who is Tongan, and said "Pan Obama!" which means Lord Obama... It was just a really funny and ridiculous situation.
Yesterday, on my first real/full day in Wrocław I had a great experience on a bus. So, we were on our way to church, on the bus, standing because there's often no point in sitting. I was kind of staring off into space, admiring the pretty pond/river thing, out the window, when suddenly I turn around and realise Siostra Whitely isn't behind me anymore. I hadn't heard her say that this was our stop, so at first I seriously thought she had evaporated. I looked outside the bus and didn't see her with the people getting off, and I didn't see her on the bus. I wasn't really sure what to do, but I made my way toward the doors like I was going to get off, just then I spotted her outside the bus... just as the doors shut. So, My companion was at a bus stop and I was on the bus, headed to the next stop in a city I'm not familiar with yet. I was only mildly freaking out, and I quickly focused on my mental mapping so I could get back to her. Luckily the next stop wasn't too far away and we met up soon after we had gotten separated. It was quite entertaining though.
That's most everything that happened this week, but I thought I should include a bit about my trainer, Siostra Whitely. She is super cool, she's basically fearless and is pretty much committed to getting me over my fears with talking to people. That terrifies me, but I know it will be good for me. She has also been helping to really understand the cases in Polish so I can get really good at the language. Like I said before, she's in Art History, she doesn't do a lot of sketching, but she does use charcoal, so that's pretty cool. She used to play soccer as well, and is quite athletic, I think exercising with her is going to help me a lot. She has "the missionary stride" which means she walks really fast, I often find I have to jog occasionally in order to catch up to her... about every minute or so. We went running today and I was pathetic, she ran for about a half hour straight, I had to walk a lot, she lapped me like 8 times. But I'm going to keep working at it and see how long I can run with her everyday before I have to stop and catch my breath.
Well, I think that's the bulk of it, I'm super happy to finally be in my area and finally be able to experience real missionary work. I love you all!
P.S. The saxophone music was just traded out for an accordion, it's pretty awesome! Oh, wait, I can still hear the saxophone, he's playing "my heart will go on", from Titanic, Ha!