Friday, May 10, 2013

Cagliari at First Sight

Apparently, our mission P-day (preparation day, ie: day off) is different from other missions who have it on Mondays.  Our P-day is on Wednesdays, so post renewals will be at the latter end of the week.
Fun Fact:
The Rome Mission Home (from which the president and his wife live and run the mission) is the largest mission home in the world.  It was built by Mussolini, of all people, in 1924 for his niece. Super beautiful.  Sister Kelly, the mission president's wife, had me plant some flowers out in front, so I've left my mark on the place!
Rome Mission Home, since 1970
Built in 1924
My trainer, Sorella Cojan (from Etienne, France - near Lyon) is going home at the end of this transfer - a 'dying missionary' they call it.  I assume I will stay with Sorella O'Connor thereafter to finish my training.  At least I hope so; we get along well and make a great team.

Cagliari (pronounced CAL-yuh-ree) is the southernmost city and the capital of Sardinia.  It is gorgeous, full of sights, sounds, and smells I don't think I would ever have imagined putting together.
Climate: like home.  Temperate, sunny, a bit breezy.  But the weather can change FAST.  Don't know too much about the island's history yet, but the people are definitely Sards first, and Italians second. There's even a sard language (of which I only know 'Eya' - yes, and 'Ayo' - let's go).

The flag is a white banner emblazoned with a red cross, and 4 black princes in white bandannas.  From what other missionaries tell me, the people's italian here is slow and clear compared to elsewhere in Italy, but of course I still can't understand half of what anyone is saying.  But everyone is quick to smile if you say hello to them.  I must be about a foot taller than everyone here - the Sards are short - or maybe I'm just ridiculously tall.

The typical reaction of an Italian to a person from California is "Ah California! Che bellissima!" Apparently Italians want to go to California about as much, if not more, as Californians want to go to Italy!  Lots of immigrants: Romanians, Nigerians, Chinese, Americans, French, Argentineans, Brazilians, Germans, etc.  There's a copy of the Book of Mormon in about 40 languages on our apartment bookshelf.  Incidentally, our apartment is also one of the largest ones in the mission - I'm just spoiled any way you look at it!

Can I just add - Italian driving is crazy?  Every street has double parking going on.  There's no sense of rules or reason to road conduct at all.  In fact, in my first week alone, I saw three cars (on different occasions) reverse the entire length of a street.  Also, cars frequently honk at women on the street, especially by the older men (my mom told me to expect that).

The city itself is just marvelous!  Modern shops in dilapidated buildings.  An exquisite collision of old and new: modern society meeting rustic history.  Fantastic.
Modern Caffe Nestled in Antiquity
Downtown Cagliari
Charming Cagliari Street
Historic Cagliari Cityscape
Everything is so beautiful and charming. Apartments with hanging gardens, iron lions on wooden doors, multicolored streets revealing a collage of historical periods, narrow winding alleys that seem to barely break through the rows of buildings.

Graffiti or Art?
Graffiti everywhere, but different from the graffiti in the states.  I mean, there is still the typical tagging of crude things, but there are also drawings/paintings that almost blur the line between graffiti and art murals.  And then there are interesting thoughts on some - almost like poetry.

                                                     Check these out:

Two guys still working on this fence

The size of most graffiti works are huge - covering walls along the streets or the
full sides of buildings. To appreciate size, notice (top right) the arrow street sign in front.


Notice (right) the person on the sidewalk and the car parked on the curb, giving perspective
to the scale of this art piece.  Seems artisans of both past and present have made Cagliari their canvas.  It's fascinating.

Cool Graffiti Tree

Translation: "The moon is always behind the gray of the cities."

Cagliari's Branch (congregation) is small.
There were about 50 people in church on Sunday. We actually have a church building to meet in, one of the few in the mission from what I've heard. There are 5 missionaries in Cagliari (my companionship and a set of Elders). Six more missionaries cover the rest of Sardinia, making a total of only 11 of us in our zone.

Haven't had many opportunities to teach because when I arrived, we were starting from scratch - no investigators.  We found one man in the english course we teach on Wednesdays and Thursdays that is showing some interest in the gospel.  There was a ward activity on Friday where I bore testimony to one woman who seemed really touched.  My companion gave her a pass along card - hopefully something comes of it.  There have been several miracles - people who turn up on the bus or in the street that my companions have been looking for, but couldn't find, random successes with the area book list of contacts, people from long ago turning up out of the blue.  I've had a couple lessons since arriving here, and all of them have gone relatively well so far.

On Sunday, we met with a few students in one girl's home.  They were doing a project on the Mormon religion and wanted information from us.  We were happy to help.  My trainer delegated who would speak about what as the questions came and I ended up talking about Joseph Smith, the Plan of Salvation, and the Word of Wisdom.  I didn't feel like I did a very good job altogether, but when I was telling the story of Joseph Smith's First Vision, the Spirit was super strong. I remember the room going absolutely silent, and everyone was riveted (even the parents who had been in and out of the room came and sat down to listen, and then stayed the rest of the time).  There was a point in the lesson when their questions switched from questions for their class to personal questions and insights.  We left them several pamphlets: Finding Faith in Christ, the Restoration, and a copy of the Book of Mormon (which the dad started thumbing through).  We also told them to give our information to anyone who showed interest.  It was a great experience, and the member student who had come to the discussion with us (a classmate of the other students) - she was so excited; she told us she wants to serve a mission in a few years (she is the only active member of her family).  Apparently, these students chose to do a report on the Mormon religion because of this girl's faith.  They wanted to learn more because of her great example.  You never know who's watching.  People watch our actions more than they listen to our words. Exceptional examples are quite possibly the best missionary tool that anyone could have.

So, there you have it: the first sights and impressions of lovely Cagliari, though my painting this brief picture for you doesn't come close to the experience of being here. Yet, having a beautiful message to share with these warm people makes the adventure all the more enchanting.

Ciao for Now!
Sorella Ashley Nef

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