Sunday, December 16, 2012
I AM FINALLY IN THE NETHERLANDS!
HALLO MIJN GEWELDIG FAMILIE!!!
It feels like forever since I have been able to talk to you!! I hope everyone is doing well and that there hasn't been anything really crazy that has happened in Colorado in the last week. Mom, I saw Sister Robinson yesterday and she told me the story about you not hearing anything. The President asked that we not contact our families until P-Day because it costs money...like 2 euros an hour to email for the missionaries....so he told us he would get a hold of you. I guess there was a little bit of confusion because I thought he was going to e-mail you....when in reality he was just going to post on the blog. So I'm sorry if you thought that something horrible had happened to me. I promise I am here and I am safe and sound.
I AM FINALLY IN THE NETHERLANDS!!!! I can't tell you how cool it is to actually be in the country I have been trying to picture everyday of my life for the last 6 or so months.
My first day, it was really crazy. We were all really super tired but we had to make it through a day of excitement before we were allowed to sleep. When we came off of the plane we had to find our way around the airport and the only thing I remember is that everyone was speaking some really weird language that I was sure that I had never heard in my entire life. When we finally got through customs and got our luggage, we found President and Sister Robinson along with the assistants to the President. We asked what was going on....and I remember Sister Juchau asking what everyone was speaking around us.....President just giggled and said, "Sister, that's Dutch." Now I really know how Elder Calhoun felt when he said,"Elder, that ain't the language they taught me in the MTC." It really isn't. In the MTC, everyone has the same accent and we talk really slowly. Here, everywhere you go, there is a different accent. Even people in Delft have a different accent than those in Den Haag....let's just say that church this Sunday was interesting. The first thing we had to do was go to the mission office and start filling out paperwork so that we could become legal here in the Netherlands. That took a really long time....ok, maybe only like an hour but it was crazy. We then had a meeting with the government official in Leiden(where the mission office is) and we signed into the country. It was pretty fun....but also really stressful becasue it was all in Dutch. Ok, really, everything here is in Dutch....and I have to get used to it or something :D. Then, we went to the delicious restaurant with the pannekoeken. OH MY GOODNESS!! I knew that there was a reason I suffered through the MTC food....it was to get here. The Dutch food is SO good!! Words cannont explain how amazing the food is here. It is so cool because our ward is full of people who are not from the Netherlands, but all sorts of different places. We have at least one eating appointment a day. But two days this week we had 3 in a row. The ward is really really generous and so cool!! My favorite member so far is Sister Mule. She is from Fiji and she has been here for 5 years. She only speaks English(so we really get along) But she is also so very funny!! It was the coolest thing to see her at church on Sunday because people would say something to her in Dutch and she would do her best to respond in a Dutch accent. It's pretty funny. I can't really explain it, but on Christmas I will let you hear what her mock Dutch accent sounds like. We then spent the rest of the day in the mission home. We had dinner, a testimony meeting and opened up our first area calls for our mission(GO DEN HAAG!!!) The next day I met my trainer, and we traveled to Den Haag. I found out that I have a lot to learn...mostly with the public trasportation and biking here in the Netherlands. The first time on a tram....I got separated from my companion. They have these things called OV-chipkards that you have to sign in and out when you get on and off the tram or else you have to pay a huge fine. And so...she didn't remind me, I got distracted...and then came the moment that we had to get off of the tram....and I couldn't find my chip to get off. It was a little ridiculous. But I survived.
I also learned that biking here....it's not like biking in America. My first day here....we only had one bike and we were white-washing Den Haag(which means both I and my companion are new to the area...she has never served in this area) so we didn't know where to go to get a bike. My companion told me that I had to 'achter-op'. That means that you have to sit on the back of someone's bike while they ride it. Sonds easy enough right? The answer is NO....it is ridiculous. There is this timing thing that you have to get down. You have to wait until they get going....then you have to slide on(not jump) and then balance yourself on the bike. The thing is.....I can't do it. We have to practice today while I can wear pants....but yeah. I have to learn because if there are ever problems with our bikes that is what we have to do. We definitely crashed our first time trying to 'achterop'. Also, if you think that the bike paths are good in Colorado, you are mistaken. They have a whole marking system on their streets. One for cars, one for bikes, and one for pedestrians. Each one has stop lights and it is really intricate. It is crazyness!!! I am still trying to get used to riding a bike in a skirt, following the markings on the road, and the cold weather with a lot of rain!!! I'll get the hang of it here soon though(I hope) I saw a family the other day. A mom had five children on her bike achterop-ing. Please don't ask me how they do it. I have no idea. It really is amazing!! I will be sending a picture as soon as I get one. (I kind of forgot about my camera this last week.)
The culture is definitely different here. I have a lot to learn. My trainer, her name is Sister Neilsen, she tells me somthing everyday that I need to change so that I don't look like an American. It's probably a good thing I have her around because otherwise I would look like a little tourist for the rest of my life here. My first area is Den Haag. Our area is really, Really big. We have 4 other elders in our city and we cover Den Haag as well as the surrounding cities like Delft(don't worry mom....I will be going to the Delft china place soon and I will get something cool....that you will be able to see) Den Haag is the third largest city in the Netherlands and it is where Parliment and Royalty reside and work. It is super cool. The architecture here is unbelieveable!!! Every single building is different. And the huge skyscrapers in the city are so cool!!! I love just being able to look around and see the history of the place and also how creative all of the buildings are!!
I had my first baptism this Saturday night!!! Her name is Sandra N.(I can't spell her last name) She is from Poland and she is 17 years old. She is seriously one of the coolest people I have ever met before in my life!! Her conversion story is so cool and my goodness, she is just so strong. Half of the ward came to her baptism on Saturday night(that is how supportive this ward is of missionary work...it truly is amazing) and her mother came. The fact that her mother was there really meant a lot to her because her mom wasn't really all that happy that she was being baptized. We met her for the first time on Friday night and we had a dinner with her and a member family (the Scherfs(Bro. Scherf is the ward mission leader)) and then took her to young women's. She really just loves the people of the ward and is already become a missionary. She gave us a referral yesterday for her friend that she wants to hear the gospel. It is really amazing to see how the gospel changes lives and I can't wait to learn more about her as we teach her the new member lessons.
Ok....I did take one picture for you this week. One thing that I find really, Really cool and interesting here is that they use the canals as (kind of what we would call) trailer parks. They have boat houses....that don't look like boats. They are all super nice houses. I just blows me away that people will live in them during the winter because I feel like they would be super cold because fo the water underneath.....but I guess people are used to being cold here. They also stake as much as they can on the canals. It was only cold enough the first few days I was here for that though....so hopefully the ice comes back and I can take pictures of the people skating. They really have a lot of skills when it comes to biking and skating etc. It is really cool to watch.
It rains EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! It really makes doing my hair difficult because I have to bike and try to have nice hair at the same time. And I also found out that the power here was way too powerful for my blow dryer and it kind of killed it....so I will be buying another one today. The power is really powerful here, even with a converter, so everything gets more powerful. It's crazyness!! The power is crazy strong, but the water pressure is horrible. I found out today that we have a tiny water heater that heats on the spot...so when we take showers in the morning....we have literally ten drops at a time come out of the faucet. It's a little hard to wash my hair in these circumstances...but I am surviving. I am just happy that I have a shower to enjoy....unlike those who go to weird countries.
The Dutch people are super nice. And they are really appreciative of our efforts to learn their language. One person I talked to on the tram this week told me that it really is remarkable that we are trying because everyone here has to learn English so that they can communicate with the rest of the world and we can just get by with speaking English. So since we are trying a lot of people are willing to talk with us on the street...but not so much let us into their homes. We are working hard, just got ourselves really organized with a lot of really high goals so it should really be an amazing week!!
I love you so much!!! We do get to skype here in a week or so!!! I can't wait to be able to talk to all of you!!
I am having a blast!! It is really hard, especially since I can't speak Dutch yet, but I am just trying to take it day by day and push through!! I know that I will bless my life as well as the lives of so many others by being here on a mission!!! I mean, we are trying to grow another stake here in the Netherlands!!! Only 428 more baptisms to go!!!
Ik hou van jullie!!
P.S. Mom, my p-day is on a monday so you should probably email saturday or sunday night. There is an 8 hour difference. Also, I need to know when you would like to skype on Christmas. I have heard that we have the ablility to skype for sure at our morning appointment....so I will find out more but I would like to hear your input!! I love you!!!