I got the birthday pictures! Thank you, thank you, thank you! And even more thanks to everyone who was involved in the most personalized, touching present I've ever received. How fitting for such a monumental birthday: two decades, celebrated in Italy. Wow. I can't believe how lucky I am, both for where I am, what I am, and who loves me. I love you, too!
I catch myself thinking of my family more often as of late. We met with a lively woman from Ghana this week who's first child is almost two years old. She's very intelligent and observational, and she talked about the beauty and miracle of raising children. Family is so important and so powerful. It can bring unbridled joy. Makes me think of something a friend of mine in Padova used to say: "You haven't lived until you've planted a tree, written a book, and had a child."
But I'm not in Padova anymore. I'm in Verona. We went all around the city taking beautiful pictures today, and this computer won't let me upload a single one of them! I'm so sorry. We'll try another internet point next week, and maybe I can do it there.
Believe me, though: Verona is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It's just perfect for me! We're right at the foot of a mountain range, where the green hills barely start to roll, and buildings from the ages rise and jut from treetops and hillsides, cascading into the legendary city of star-crossed love. The Arena in Centro is enormous and ancient, once used to entertain the Veronese in violent gladiatorial battles, now filled every night with people from every nation watching operas and concerts and cheering for joy. A river swerves all through the city like friendly serpent, and the view from any of the city's many bridges siphons a bubbling laugh from my very soul.
In other words, it's super pretty, and I'm happy to be here. My companion is Anziano Petterborg who has been serving here in Verona his whole mission--two transfers. This is his 3rd, my 5th, and he's rekindling a fire in me that I haven't felt since the MTC. In only six days, we've worked harder than I have in a long time. I'm tired, I'm sore, every day feels like three, and I can't stop smiling! Anziano Petterborg is a very calm, very mature, family-oriented, blonde-n-skinny soccer/violin player from Preston, Idaho. He's relaxed, but hard-working, funny, a great teacher, and a very, very good missionary: obedient, faithful, focused, cheerful, diligent, and genuine. I already love him to death, and I hope we serve two transfers together. If not, I'd better enjoy this one while it lasts.
And how can I not? I'm in Verona! I honestly would not have minded a second transfer in Ferrara, but who on earth could complain about this? We saw Juliet's balcony today. There's another huge statue of Dante all by itself in a big plaza. We went to the top of the highest tower and looked over the entire city that spreads from the mountains like a slash of orange clay shingles with the endless sea of summer's greenest trees. There is as much art here as there is nature, and I'll be sorely disappointed if Heaven doesn't remind me of Verona someday.
There are two wards here. We meet in a huge, gorgeous chapel up the hill from our apartment. We serve in Verona Uno with Anziano Modugno and his greenie, Anziano Pinnock from Holiday, UT. It's funny to see a greenie learn about Italy. I remember when I didn't know how to open the windows, or how to order pizza, or what a kebab was, or why we had to find an "internet point". Ha! He still thinks like an American. But with a trainer from Bari, that won't last long.
I'm almost ridiculously happy about living with Anziano Modugno again. He's soooo funny, and we talk about good old Padova times every night. It's especially cool to have learned a lot of Italian in the last three months since I saw him, so now we can easily communicate in two languages. After my time in Ferrara and his time in the Office in Milano, we're both pretty solid on both languages. It's fun to switch back and forth.
This email's already really long, so here's a few more scattered thoughts before I close: we ride around on tiny mountain bikes that go super fast; because there are ten missionaries serving in this city, our proselyting area is actually pretty "small", but we've got lots of work to do; there's a place called Pizza Love here that makes reeeeally good pizza and loves the missionaries, so we get discounts and free soda; the best gelateria I've ever bought from is called the Romana, not too far from Centro here; we taught two unplanned lessons on my first day here, and since then have taught nearly ten more! By Italy standards, that's really exciting! I see many miracles ahead as we stay obedient, work hard, and pray for guidance every day.
I'm predicting it now, or maybe you can call it "prophesying": this will be the best Transfer of my mission so far.
Sorry for the purple prose. I guess being in a city where Shakespeare is so prominent is getting to me. Ha!
I totally forgot today was 9/11 until I saw the date on the sent email. Wow... I don't know what to say. I hope I didn't write anything, like...too happy.