Monday, January 4, 2016

Dobré Rano... I Am Here!

Dobrý den! Actually I guess dobré rano is probably more appropriate for you all. I am here! Where exactly is here? I am the library in České Budějovice, a decent sized city in the Southwestern corner of Česká Republicka with my companion/trainer Elder Galbraith (He has been out 23 months, this is his last transfer). If you are wondering how to pronounce the city, I have absolutely no way to explain it, you'll just have to wait until I get home, or you can talk with a native Czech speaker who also knows English. 

It is difficult to feel like I personally am doing much, because I can't speak the language or understand it. But I have faith that I am exactly where I need to be, and I plan to learn, and to testify. For your New Year's Resolutions I invite you all to consider the role that the Savior plays in your life currently, and how you can strengthen the relationship you have with Him. (Hint: service is a great place to start)

So many things happened this week I hardly know where to even begin. 

Let's go with Christmas. Highlights:
  • Elder Bednar and his wife did a Q&A session at the MTC. That was fantastic. He is the coolest. He talked a lot about being an agent to act instead of an object to be acted upon. I think that it is very important to remember that we have agency over all aspects of our life. We should actively take responsibility for our own spiritual well-being and study the scriptures and pray with purpose and willpower
  • The choir (which I was in) sang a real choir song. An awesome arrangement of "The First Noel." It has parts and everything and it was great. The choir director at the MTC is pretty much my musical/probably-also-spiritual hero
  • I got to talk to my family on the phone! This is the first year that they have let missionaries talk with their families and it was awesome!
  • David Archuleta put on a concert for us with some other fun musical characters (try not to be too jealous). We think that some Sister missionaries possibly died from over-excitement. It was never publically acknowledged, but we are fairly certain.
That was Christmas in a very fast nutshell, because I have way too much else to talk about today. For some reason. Packing was a lot But it was completed.
Travel highlights:
MTC Czech District in matching Christmas scarves!
  • We all got our Visas! So that was a happy time for us. It was confirmed officially on Sunday. As in the day before we left.
  • We got to leave at 8:30 so we didn't have to wake up at 1 in the morning like many other do.
  • The Slovaks came with us, and so we had a travel party of 12. We loaded onto a Charter Bus. And we believe that literally the entire rest of the bus other than us 12 was all headed to Argentina. It was just a little bit insane.
  • Our first flight to Dallas got us there at 5ish. We were supposed to start boarding for London at 5. And leave at 5:30. We did not waste any time getting over to our next terminal.
  • I slept on the way to Dallas. And to London. And to Prague. Basically, I have inherited my father's ability to sleep anywhere the need arises.
  • We were in two big blocks on the London and Prague flights, and reasonably close together on the Dallas one too.
  • The London airport was an adventure. First time out of the country. British accents are pretty awesome. It is big. Very big. As in if you have to switch terminals you need to take a bus. That big. We didn't have to, which was good, because we had a very short layover and might not have made it there.
  • Jet lag. Let me just tell you. We left Dallas at about 6 PM and arrived in London at about 9:45 AM the next morning. While flying over the Atlantic Ocean we also jumped forward 7 hours. And went forward another 1 flying from London to Prague. Tyjo. (Kind of means wow in Czech)
  • We met some Czech people on the plane and tried talking to them. It gave us a nice little indicator of what the language would be like when we arrived. (Hint: it was bad news for us)
Arrival in Prague (Tuesday afternoon) and we made it into the country successfully, no one got arrested and accused of having a fake passport, so that was a plus. In Prague that day we:
  • Walked to a hill that overlooks the entire city and President McConkie told us the story of the Velvet Revolution while pointing out the landmarks
  • Walked up to a castle. Tyjo. Engineers in the Middle Ages deserve a whole lot of awards. There was a giant church (kostel) inside the courtyard that was older than the US and basically as big as the US too.
  • We then walked down the hill into the city. I immediately lost track of where we were, luckily we had the Assistants to the President as guides. (Other missionaries who have been around for a while)
  • We went to a restaurant called Czech Kitchen, but obviously written in Czech, I just can't remember the word for kitchen. And ordered Svičková. If you have not had it before (that would be most of you) then you cannot even imagine the joy that comes from this food. It is bread dumplings. With pork. And all smothered in the most wonderful sweet/not sweet at the same time sauce. I cannot even describe its beauty accurately.
  • Then we wandered amongst the Christmas markets a little longer and then went to the Metro and went contacting! I learned something very quickly. No one has any idea what I'm saying. And I have no idea what they are saying. It's a bit of a problem. I talked with a man and my understanding of Czech was so atrocious, that he gave up and would respond to my questions/statements in Czech with English.
  • Then we went to a Prague style hotel (an apartment outfitted with extra beds) and stayed the night.
Next day (Wednesday).
  • Woke up. Went to breakfast at the McConkies'. They are awesome, and Czech breakfast cereal is awesome. It was a good meal.
  • Then we had to go fill out some official governmental paperwork for a little. And then we came back and all of our trainers where present and seated. We had no idea who we would be with
  • President McConkie explained some things and then called us up one-by-one and announced, with fun intros, where we would be going and who we would be trained by. It was super awesome.
  • Then we had a cool spiritual thought and sang the Czech/Slovak mission song. It is amazing.
  • Then we took all of our luggage and went off to our different corners of the country. There are 4 missionaries here in C-BUD. Us and 2 Sisters. Sestra Birkland is training Sestra DeMann, from my MTC group.

Our apartment
  • We took a long train ride here (several hours)
  • We then dropped off luggage at my apartment and went and contacted our way over to the church building to teach a lesson to a YSA. I have absolutely no idea what anyone is saying.
  • We then had someone not show up for our next appointment so we contacted again. Let me
    emphasize 2 things about the Czech Republic. It is beautiful. And it is winter. The most wintery winter I ever did have in my life.
The following days.
  • Since then our days have been non-stopish. We contact, teach, contact, eat food, and contact and teach some more. It is great. To reemphasize, I have absolutely no clue what people are saying. The only person I can understand is my trainer because he speaks slowly just for me. And a tiny bit (let me emphasize tiny) from a less-active member we taught, because he also talked slowly for me
  • Halušky. It is macaroni and cheese, except superior in literally every way. With Kofola. The famous Czech soda. Also amazing.

  • I say non-stopish for one big reason. New Year's Eve is crazy here. As in fireworks going off everywhere and celebrating and what-not all over the place. It is not particularly productive to try to contact while you sound like you might be in a war zone, surrounded by people who are not necessarily sober. For that reason, we went back to our apartment early that night (7:15) and then fell asleep on our two couches. I woke up again at 9 and went to bed for real.
  • Remember how I mentioned jet lag? Well. It's almost gone now. Almost. But it has been killing me. Because when it's bed time, my body thinks that's about 2:30 PM and when we wake up, the MTC is getting the "lights-out" call. It is very difficult.
  • Our branch is awesome, we had about 20 people who attended on Sunday, and I think that basically every single one is a convert. Our Branch President is a convert of 4 years. He is amazing.
  • The interesting thing that goes along with that is that basically no member here has an idea of what an LDS Ward/Branch looks like of does. And their nearest resources are the 18-22 year old missionaries. It is quite the dynamic. But it is great. I bore my testimony in Czech in church. Other than that I understand one other thing. Sister DeMann's testimony, because she speaks just as slowly as I do, and she uses words that I know.
  • We went tracting out in Dobrá Voda a few days ago. So basically our area of C-BUD includes a whole lot of little Czechish suburbs and other cities and places that we can never get to consistently. Which makes it quite difficult to teach in our whole area. And we have the one church meeting here, and some people we meet could live up to an hour away by car. It's an adventure.
  • On Friday we took a little trip to Tabor. We had P-Day on Friday except for emailing, because it was New Year's Day and there were a total of 3 people outside to contact, and all of our planned lessons cancelled. Tabor is cool. Basically all of the cities here remind me of the New Orleans area at Disneyland. They are amazing. Also castles are all over the place and that's pretty neat.
My companion and I in front of a giant church. Beautiful interior, but we did not want to be rude, so we did not take pictures.

 (below) A statue of the founder of Tabor,Jan Zizka who captained the Hussites against the Roman Empire crusades.  He had an eye patch. 

Part of Tabor

I think that is all for today, I will also be sending some pictures. Thank you all for the emails and support! Love you. Also, also. Thank you for all the letters and updates, I didn't have time to respond today, because my big email was very long, but I read them all!

-Elder Pickett

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