Monday, March 25, 2013

Gainesville, Florida

Hello Family!

Go Gators!!  Can you guess where I am?  President and Sister Barry probably already told you.  I have been assigned to serve in the Gainesville 2nd Ward!!  My trainer's name is Sister Crowton.  She is basically AMAZING!  She is 29 and was a 1st grade teacher for 6 years before she felt that it was time for her to go on a mission.  She is so fantastic and great!

After we flew from SLC to Dallas (my most favorite airport EVER) then to Jacksonville, the first thing I noticed when we got off the plane wasn't the humidity (it wasn't that humid that day), it was the smell of stinky sweaty socks.  I guess that's kind of what humidity smells like to me.  Sister Crowton says that  she doesn't smell it but if I pay attention, I can smell the dirty socks.  Now I'm kind of used to it so I don't notice it all that much.

The first day in Jacksonville was... interesting.  We did a bunch of training, watching safety videos on driving, doing role plays, and listening to Pres. and Sister Barry. I love them so much already!!!! The dinner that Sister Barry made for all of us was heavenly!  Cool fact, driving up to the mission home (which is in a gated community) we saw a black swan in the big pond next to the homes!  I took a picture of it.  I've been taking pictures of cool looking birds.

Well, after the training , the AP's took all the sisters in one huge van/bus thing (there were 9 sisters and the two AP's) and they took us out to one of their areas and basically dropped us off on corners and said: "go talk to those people".  Sister Ashcraft and I were dropped off right in front of a door of a person that the elders had dropped a couple of weeks earlier.  Sister Ashcraft was a little worried cause this was a run down neighborhood.  But we knocked on the door and had a great conversation with a younger woman named A or something. We didn't know when the Elders were coming back, but we had a good time and asked her what she had learned from the Elders. When they finally came back, she was all excited to see them again (they had dropped this family) and wanted to know if they could come back to see them. It was cool! It was a better experience than Sisters Major and Orton had where a religious guy was chewing them out for being Mormon. Saying they'll be 'eternally pregnant' or something.
We slept with a member that night and got more training the next day and our new companions after lunch. The RS President from the GV 2nd ward, Sister Davis, drove us and Sister Major and her new companion, back to Gainesville.(She's pretty much amazing).
I cannot describe how many trees are here. There are no mountains to navigate and there are so many trees and they are gigantic!!! It's crazy!!! It's like driving through a gigantic hedge maze! Gainesville is supposed to be on a 'grid system' but only in a half way sense. There's four quadrants, and a couple of North to South, East to West roads, but that's the end of it. Everyone lives on an avenue or boulevard or place or terrace or something.

Along with the trees, there are vines and huge bushes that make it look like walls of green on each side of the road that reach three or more stories high or almost completely cover the road in some places! There's this gray moss stuff called 'Spanish Moss' that only grows on trees and it's everywhere too. I'd say about 1/5 of all the trees here have it. Makes it feel like Halloween at night. Even the cows here look creepy.
The people are so religious here its scary. There are gigantic mega churches on every corner, and huge gigantic churches everywhere in between! Baptists, Catholics, Pentacostals, you name it! Apparently Gainesville has a nickname that it's the 'city of churches'. Or that's what someone told me.

I've already taught several first lessons and one second lesson with Sister Crowton. She's so cool! She made me go talk to this one guy on the side of the road and we actually got an appointment for Elder Greenlaw and his trainer Elder Jenkins out of it!  She has been out for 17 months and this is her last transfer. There are so many Sister missionary that EVERYONE has to train. Even brand new ones who are only halfway through their 12 week training program. Sister Major's companion has only been out for one transfer. I totally lucked out! The first four weeks of this transfer we have to go around to all the sisters that she's over and stay with them for 24 hrs. We do splits with them and she evaluates how they plan and helps them with anything they need to work on. She's over the GV 1st ward (Sister Major and her trainer Sister Houtz?) the YSA branch missionaries (Sister Halt -who she also just trained for one transfer) and also the next town over (Sister Ashcraft and her trainer). So good thing about that is that we don't have to buy as much food since everyone else has to feed us! I go running with her every morning and there are TONS of birds chirping. Lots of different bird calls.

Our apartment is literally brand new. Like not even one transfer old new. And Sister Davis (the amazing RS Pres.) did a lot to beautify it! Framed pictures and everything! I feel kind of spoiled.
More next week!

~Sister Carlson