Ziua Independenței, Orhei, and 28 hours on the train…

​A huge hot-air balloon in Centru?? Picture time.

This week has felt like two or three weeks all rolled into one. One of the biggest things was Moldovan Independence Day! 23 years ago, Moldova declared its independence from both the collapsed Soviet Union and from Romania. We knew it was Independence Day, but we had forgotten a bit until we went into Centru to contact and a HUGE parade of traditional Moldovan dancers from all over the country were walking through the main square. We stayed and watched some of the dances — which basically all looked like a super ridiculous cardio workout in heavy costumes in the hot sun. But it was so fun to see so many patriotic people so excited about their culture. I have always loved patriotic gatherings, so I definitely loved this. It’s funny to think that I am older than Moldova’s independence…weird. The Russian elders told us though that the Russian Moldovans don’t really care about the Independence Day…they still had to do finances at the church with the branch presidency even though it was a huge holiday haha. 

​Some of the teenagers in their traditional Moldovan outfits, waiting for their turn to dance

On Thursday night, the sisters from Orhei came down and I went back that evening with Sora Schwab for our exchange on Friday. It was so much fun! It started with us catching the last maxi-taxi out to Orhei. When we walked up to the bus station, around 10 people were standing outside of a maxi-taxi and we asked if they were waiting but they told us we could get on. All the seats were taken so we stood at the back and when the driver came, all of those 10 people came in and piled on top of us. It was a bit of a tight squeeze…Sora Schwab and I got close preeeeetty quickly haha. It was just one of those scenarios where I never thought my life would be like this…but then here I am and I just roll with it. I loved spending the day in Orhei! It is the smallest city in the mission, with about 28,000 people in the city — even smaller than Alexandria with 32,000. It felt a lot like Alexandria walking around. Sora Schwab and I got some great pizza at one of the two restaurants, visited one of the members who was so cute, and then bloc-knocked to try and find a less-active member where they only know the bloc number, but not the exact apartment. We had some pretty weird doors and weird people, but near the end, we met some really great promising potentials — people who wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon and wanted the sisters to come back. It is always a testimony-strengthener to me when I see that even in small towns like Alexandria and Orhei, there are people who have never heard about the gospel and want to hear more.
Sora Uhl and Sora Bynum came to Orhei on Friday evening and then Sora Uhl and I made it back to Chișinău in time for sports night! Sora Uhl wasn’t feeling super well so we spent a lot of Saturday letting her get some rest, but we did make it to the church for Anatol’s birthday. Anatol is an investigator that Elder Lex and Elder Newbern are working with who is just AMAZING. He is so receptive to the message and plans to get baptized in the coming weeks. He has two adorable sons, Maxim and Lorenzio. We baked a chocolate lava cake for him and all the other companionships baked something too. We sang “La Mulți Ani!” and the branch president and his family came as well. It was really fun and you could see that he was so touched by the gesture. He is a really great man and just loves his family so much. We actually got a phone call this morning from Elder Lex that we will be going over with them tonight to teach him and his wife, who just got back from Italy yesterday. I am so nervous — I hope we do a good job teaching her and that she will be as receptive as he has been. I would hate for his progression to stop if we don’t teach well enough.
Yesterday was missionary leadership council (MLC) in București with all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders from the whole mission. We used to hold them once a transfer but now we do them once a month, even if the first of the month falls in the middle of the transfer. We left Sunday at 4:30 for Buc on the night train. We were supposed to meet the zone leaders at the train station at 4 so they could buy the tickets since we didn’t have enough in our accounts for the cost. But when we called them at 4:05 to see where they were, we could hear them running and saying, “WE’RE LEAVING OUR APARTMENT NOW!!! WE WILL BE THERE IN ABOUT 15 MINUTES! BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!” I had to pull out money from my personal account and just as we were getting ready to pay, the zone leaders come sprinting through the doors, sweat dripping down their faces. They paid for the tickets and we managed to make in on the train with 5 minutes to spare. Not exactly how much cushion time I normally like to leave for an international train ride, but that’s how it goes sometimes when you have to rely on elders haha. They really are great, but sometimes it just stresses me out. We spent the train ride playing Phase 10 and talking and finally making it to sleep. We came into Buc at 6ish in the morning and after a McDonald’s breakfast, Sora Uhl and I went to the mission home to shower and get ready for the day. We had our 6 hours of MLC and it was really great to talk about a lot of things. Whenever I meet with large groups of missionaries, I get so energized! I also love lots of the things President Ivory talks about. One of the my favorites from this time was the idea, “Happiness is outside.” I think this applies to so many more things than just missionary work. The point with missionary work is that we need to be spending as much time as possible outside of our apartments, but it made me think of being outside when I was at Dartmouth rather than cooped up in my dorm room, or even the idea of getting outside of my comfort zone and talking with new people, whether on the mission or before. Happiness is getting outside of yourself. We also talked about ways to be more creative in our contacting and all in all, I just feel so energized and excited to continue the missionary work here!
​Things get weird after about your 16th hour of travel with in 24 hours
We took our train back that evening and had to sleep second class which was a little more ghetto, but what can you do? All 4 of us were exhausted so we had all gotten to that point where everything is funny, even if it normally would barely be worth a laugh. It was a pretty fun time until we had to do the 4 a.m. border crossing. We’re still a little wiped out from the trip, so it is nice to be here home in Chișinău again. But the bad news is that we have to do our 28-hour round trip train travel again next week to renew my Romanian visa. I guess there was a mistake when I got my initial visa and it was only valid for a year (normally they are good for two years so there is no problem for sisters). I have to apply by next Thursday for me to be able to get it in time so we are going down next Tuesday evening to be there for Wednesday morning. What a crazy couple weeks this will be. 
We had a couple of great lessons this past week with Victoria, Tatiana (an investigator from last transfer) and we are looking to meet with one of the other investigators this week. And now we have Anatol’s wife to teach as well! Things are always looking up and I am so so excited to keep doing the work here. I hit my one-year mark this Thursday which I am not accepting at all. I am in denial about the fact that I will be home in only 6 months…it feels so short until then! 
I love you so much and miss you lots every day. Have a great week and know that I am thinking about you always!
Love always,
Sora Amy

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