Monday, June 24, 2013

Szolnok, this is where Joe is currently serving.  It is southeast of Budapest.  Towards the Romanian border

Joe's apartment, love the minky on his bed!

Joe LOVES chocolate, especially European chocolate!!!

This is Joe with Alldredge Elder.  Joe emailed him a few months back and asked questions about the mission.  He was very kind and emailed back.  He must have met him in Budapest at the mission office.  What a nice guy!!!  


Sziastok csaladom es a barataim :)
Hello family and friends :)

The long anticipated event has arrived! So now you may have noticed that I didn't call from London. Funny story, so our flight from SLC to Dallas was cancelled, which left us with literally no layover in London when the time differences all worked out. So we ended up running around Heaththrow airport to our next flight only to stay GROUNDED on that plane for an hour on the tarmac for unknown reasons, really. So we were all a little discouraged as we flew across Europe to our destination. However, when we saw the Duna (Danube River) flowing like a blue ribbon across the country, we all freaked out. Sure enough, the red-tiled roofs and beautiful huge Gothic spires of Budapest showed up! Literally we (my MTC district) all started freaking out. I actually got a little sick on the plane from London to Budapest, so I was kind of out of it at first, but the screaming and fist pumping woke me up! 

We spent the first day and a half in the mission home in Budapest. It's a very pretty building, just across the river from downtown Pest, on the Buda side, if that makes any sense! The main floor is the chapel and classrooms for the wards in Buda and in Pest, the second floor is the mission offices, the third floor is the living quarters for President Smith and his wife (who are absolutely AMAZING), and the fourth floor is rooms for missionaries to sleep in who are either leaving or just arrived. We had this yummy chocolate pastry upon arrival, and a water bottle. Last week was one of the hottest weeks of my life: it was 100 degrees F in Budapest, and also in the city that I am serving in right now (I'll get to that later ;) ). And it is like 100% humidity right now, so it was NOT a fun first few days. We went and looked at the sights of Budapest the first night, and I fell in love with the city. It is absolutely incredible, such a rich history and full of different people! At night, we went up on top of Mt. Gilliert and looked down on the city. Absolutley incredible! 

The next morning we went streeting with the APs and some of the secretaries. So....I learned that I don't really know any Hungarian! What the heck did they teach me in the MTC? Oh dear, it was interesting. The first lady I stopped said something about her being a Jew and that "Jesus didn't apply to her". Girl, Jesus applies to ERRBODY. 
Super weird. Also, in Hungary when you greet someone on the street you have to do so either in a formal way or a non-formal way, depending on the person. If you don't do it correctly, you may offend the individual and/or get in trouble. I know, lots to take in the first week right?! So, I stop this girl around my age and say to her "Jo Napot Kivanok! (I wish you a good day)". She gives me the most disgusted look I've seen, flips me off, and walks away. As I watch, completely and totally flabbergasated, one of the APs walks on over and says that I just formalized her and that is interpreted as flirting here. So, I've already been breaking mission rules with flirting. Score one for Satan.
Then I didn't formalize this old "batchi" (old man) and he swore at me and walked away. So I've obviously got lots to work on!

The next day I met my trainer! His name is Elder Miller. He is from Salt Lake City and he is a year older than me, so he's been out for like a yearish. He's a really nice guy!!!  I'm also serving in (drum roll) SZOLNOK! Yes! I am serving in the cute little town of Szolnok, which is about an hour southeast of Budapest by train in the eastern zone. There is just Elder Miller and me, two sisters (Sisters Oberhansley and Grigg-yes, the same Grigg who was my ossi in the MTC), and a senior couple, the Herds. As with all towns in Hungary this time of year (nyar, or Summer), modesty does NOT exist, everyone smokes and drinks, and immoral activity is rampant everywhere! So, there is a lot of work to do! We went tracting the other day in some big ten-story old Soviet apartment buildings. Literally the scariest thing ever: the lights were all flickering in the concrete hallways, there was something dead in the corner of one room, and an old lady wearing just a bra met us at her door one time (the best part is that she is a member...). While there though we tracted into this awesome family that seemed like they were just waiting for us! We gave them a Book of Mormon, but before we left Elder Miller turned to me and told me to say a prayer. Now, the family we were with had no idea how to pray, so I was a little concerened with how I was going to go about doing this. So I just offered the most simple prayer I could say in Hungarian. The coolest spirit entered the room, and the whole family was just staring at me and Elder Miller when we finished. It was way, way cool. Like they weren't scared, just curious. 
They want us to come back next Sunday :)

My apartment smells way weird, but I'm getting used to it. It isn't air conditioned, which is horrible during the day, but it cools down a bit at night. Miller and I have our fans that the mission provided to us, so when we have down time we just sit in our rocking chairs and sit with our fans on our faces! It's pretty funny looking. I haven't had a decent Hungarian meal yet, so I'm looking forward to that. I have had some chocolate, which is DIVINE. Along with their cereal: they call them "pillows", and they are like flat Cocoa puffs with NUTELLA inside of them! Oh my gosh they're so good.

Quick shout out to any of my MTC teachers reading this: I forgot to grab all your emails when I went to the email cafe, so....hi :) I miss you all! You can email me here if you want. 

Um, I've lost like ten pounds. Lots of walking and lots of sweating. Sooo yeah, hopefully I gain it all back. The Branch here is so nice, they say that I'm a very happy Elder and that I must have Mafia roots because I am Italian! They are so cute. They are all converts, and the branch president has these sick tatoos that I would totally get if I wasn't Mormon. I bore my testimony and shared my fave scripture with our little branch on Sunday (proverbs 3: 5,6). My Hungarian sucks, but the branch said that for just having two months of learning their language they said I spoke very well! WOO. I don't have a calling, and neither do any of the other missionaires. 

Ummm I'm not sure what else to write! Szolnok is a fun little town, and we are going tabling later today! There is a lot of work that needs to be done here. 

I love you all and miss you tons! Pray for the Hungarians if you can, they are such a charming people. 
Sok szeretettel, 
Giacalone Elder 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Giacalone Elder's district arriving in Hungary!!!

President and Sister Smith with Joe

We can't wait for another email on Monday!!!  Joe looks great and more importantly his heart is ready to love and teach the wonderful people in Hungary! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another letter Joe wrote to the Family...
This is the last time I'll write y'all as an American living in America. Next time I'll be an American living in HUNGARY. al;skdfja;wervjoawekjfl;asdk fjal;sdkfawel; fasdf d   I'm fairly excited!!!
I hope you all know that this is where I need to be right now. The Spirit has been so strong in my life these past 9 weeks, and literally it still feels like I just got here! I've learned so much I cannot quite comprehend it.
How's my dog? You haven't killed her yet? I'm still miffed at that...jeez. Haha. Just kidding!
Ok here we go: 7:30 AM we meet at the travel office and go to SLC airport. 12:15PM we leave Utah and go to Dallas at around 3:55. We are only there until like 4:45 and then we go to London! So I don't know if I'll have time to call from Dallas, maybe just SLC. We arrive in London 7:50AM  and hangout there until 9:50AM London time, where we leave London and go...BUDAPEST. We land in Hungary at around 1:15! YES. So exciting!
Well, my consecration week is over and life is returning to "normal" again. It feels like I'm sinning when I speak in English, so most of the time I revert back to Hungarian anyway, it feels so much
nicer to say! I accomplished my goals I wanted to this past week: I didn't read any "posta" from y'all or anyone until last night, which was tough at first but I found I had more time to ponder and to study.
I also ate no sweets (BYU ice cream, "fank" or donuts, or cookies). And on top of all that no English! So pretty much the hardest week of my life. I was frustrated when I couldn't convey myself the way I wanted to or when I couldn't conjugate things right. Those feelings dissapated though on last Saturday afternoon. I was REALLY struggling that day: Neely and myself were overwhelmed with lots of stuff to do, we had to teach the new Hungarians some random thing, I was always seeming to forget something, and then to top it all off I lost my nametag somewhere in my apartment that day. During personal study all those emotions just piled on top and seemed to crush my soul. This is where my awesome companion comes in. Recognizing that I was seeming on the verge of tears, we went into another room where I just started crying. After that awkward session of crying, I asked him for a blessing, which he gave. Literally I have never experienced anything more powerful in my life than the Spirit that filled my heart when he finished. I just sat there and cried for another good few minutes, but this time because I felt so good! And later that night I FOUND MY TAG hahahaah. God works in mysterious ways, I think that day I just needed that little reminder!

Elder Lee (going to Albania), Neely Elder and Giacalone Elder

Work space

Wyview Apartments

 Flight Plans !!!!

Here is the link to the interview with Joe

Also an interview in the Provo Herald

This is it people!!!

I actually am going to Hungary!!! The dream is here! Speaking of dreams, I had this funky one the other day where I was already in Hungary but that my whole neighborhood lived there...super weird. I guess you're all moving to Hungary now. Better get packing!
My consecration week is over now as well! Literally the toughest week of my life, but I'm just starting to feel the blessings coming out of it! With consecration week you set goals and consecrate yourself from earthly things: mine were no letters that whole week, no sweets, and no English! Super tough! But there is real blessings in consecration.
I will be flying to Dallas, then to London, then to Budapest starting on Monday morning and I'll arrive in Hungary sometime on Tuesday afternoon. Soooooo long flight haha. Did y'all see me on KSL? Super awkward interview in my opinion.
Recap of this past week:
I finished teaching my MTC investigators-I'll miss Edit and Viktor soooo much! I'm so sad I won't be going to Viktor's baptismal service, cause that kid is getting DUNKED.
We had our first ever devo in the Marriot Center ever! It was MASSIVE and super awesome! What an exciting time to live in right now, we are so blessed!
Well MTC, this is farewell. I will always remember the awesome devotionals, the sleepless nights, the food(?), the incredibly spiritual lessons that we were able to teach. I've experienced all the MTC has to offer: musical numbers, devotionals, classes, audtions for said numbers, sad nights when a district member goes home, heck I even went to Relief Society once! (Long story). I've been to both campuses, and I've felt homesick and powerful at each! I'll miss the food, the tears from a powerful spirit residing, the funny moments with my precious district, and everything. Sometimes I think of the hymn "Lead, Kindly Light". In Hungarian, it's "Vezess, Kis Feny", or "You should lead me little light". The second one seems so much more personal, I love it. My MTC expereince is so precious to me. My conversion happened here. My BOM testimony exploded here. Things I cannot explain happened here. I love it.
But Hungary awaits.
"Lead thou me on".
Giacalone Elder.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Our campus is so pretty.
even though it's an apartment complex!!!

New Investigator Record
His name is Zsolt. he's....great! He is the weirdest guy we've ever had. He loves American rock and roll and he lives in Budapest. We've had some weird moments, but I love him to death

Party in the classroom. It's the living room of a former apartment .

It was so pretty this morning at the temple! 
The flowers are so big and pretty and the session was great! 
I love the temple!

Can I leave now?

I hope all is well back at home. My MTC experience is winding down right now, all we do in class is review and practice teach in Hungarian. It's a nice break from trying to memorize all the crazy Hungarian grammar principles, but it's also pretty weird because it means that we will be in Hungary in like eleven days.
Neely Elder and myself finished teaching our two beloved investigators this week, Edit and Viktor. Viktor is getting baptized(!) the week we leave and Edit is still uncertain, but we are pretty sure she will make the right decision. It was so sad saying goodbye to them and explaining that new missionaries would be taking over from us. When we told Viktor, he exclaimed "Micsoda? (What the miracle?), kind of their "What the crud?" We got a good laugh out of that. We'll miss teaching them, they were so much fun. Even if they corrected all of our Hungarian, all the time!
Well, advantages of living in the West MTC is the chance to visit Brigham's Landing on the south tip of campus. You can get Jamba Juice, Ice cream, there's a Great Harvest bread store and a yummy burger joint! It's super crazy though because when we walk down everyone sees our nametags and we have what we call mini "celebrity" moments. People want to take pictures with us, kids point to us and moms wave. At first it was super awkward, but now we just go with the flow. Hey, and Jamba Juice gives missionaries half off! Party on.
Well, we have officially begun our "consecration week". During this week, my whole district will be speaking only Hungarian to eachother and to everyone else. No English allowed. Along with that, we have personal goals that we have all set to help us come close to Christ. Just simple things to help us be more obedient. Mine are to fast tomorrow (Friday) and on next Wednesday, to abstain from junk food (BYU ice cream and donuts included...*tear), and to be positive. I have other ones, but I can't remember them off the top of my head right now.
We love having our new little "kici" missionaries around, they ask fun little questions like "How do you say 'sorry'"?  I remember being there, that's the funny thing! We have to speak Hungarian now all the time, so we are becoming masters of charades and name guessing with them as they struggle to figure out what the heck we are trying to say.
I appreciate all the prayers on my behalf, and please pray for my district and myself this next week and we strive to keep our week holy before the Lord.
On a more sad note, one of our beloved sisters went home this past week from the MTC. Our district was so sad to see her go, and if you don't mind, please include her in your prayers. We don't know why she left, it's between her and the Savior now. The night she left we had a testimony meeting type thing in our classroom. Usually at night the teachers leave and our district just studies at night alone, but they came back and lifted us back up. I gained a testimony that night of the power of teachers, they really do love us and care for us. I was amazed by their determination to fix what was wrong with us and help us get back to work.
I think sometimes that's how God works. I love to read in Alma 37 about how we should "counsel" with God in all our actions. It's not "lets have a simple chat with God", it's having a counsel. I like to think of that as when you counsel with your earthly father, or with a bishop, or a good friend. It's talking to someone who really cares about you. I know that God wants to counsel with us. Have you prayed to Him lately? If you haven't, please do so now. Tell Him about your day, your fears, your worries, your trials. Tell Him about things you aren't certain about, big choices in your life, or when you just need help. I know I'm just a 19 year old kid way in over his head right now with a huge responsibilty and a crazy language to learn, but I know that with God and with Jesus Christ, I can do this. There is no way one can fail with a perfect God on your side. It brings great comfort to me to know He is only a prayer away.
Our God is not a farway God.
I hope you have a fantastic week, and make sure you say your prayers tonight :)
Sok Szeretettel,
Giacalone Elder (11 days!)