Çkemi familja! Ju dua! (hi family, I love y'all). So to start I'll clear up a few things. First off there are two Albanian districts, district d and district e. I am in district e and there are a total of 9 missionaries in my district. Then in the other district there are 11 missionaries. So there are 20 in total. We have separate class rooms and different teachers but occasionally we do class activities where we practice with them. Each district has two teachers, our teachers are Motra Kokol (she's the one who's friends with the McGills), and Vëllai Bangeter. The way investigators work is the Albanian teachers are our investigators and they just take on the identities of investigators they had on their mission. Our first investigator was called Juxhin who is a real person in Albania, but our investigator was really Vëllai Knight who is one of the teachers for the other Albanian district. Now we have a new investigator called Maksim who is really Vëllai Bangeter. Now our room is just a small room with 3 bunk beds and a table with 4 chairs which works out really well for us because we only have 4 people in our room. And no we are not having a hard time keeping it clean, although it does occasionally smell like day old bananna. I am doing well with brushing my teeth which is good because we eat a lot. I can't really think of more things I need but some candy and treats are always fun.
Now for the real part of my letter. It feels like 2 months have gone by since the last time I emailed but it's starting to go by fast. We do so much here and there's a saying our Branch President told us that I feel perfectly sums up the way time works here "the days feel like weeks, but the weeks feel like days." I'm loving it here and I'm still loving all the people. There's a sense of unity and comradery that truly doesn't exist anywhere else and it's especially strong when we all sing Called To Serve together. The language is really starting to come so much faster. In the almost two weeks I've been here I've probably already learned what took me two years to do in school and this language is way more complicated than Spanish. This was so evident in our third lesson with Juxhin. Even though we knew he wasn't really an investigator we always treat them like they are because even though he is already a member we can all still grow closer to Christ. In our third lesson we decided that we were going to go in without a script and to just follow the Spirit on the way we should take the lesson and just prepare as much as we could. As we were going through the lesson the Spirit was so strong and we were able to understand questions that we had never heard and we were able to say words that we couldn't ever have remembered on our own. So as we got to the end of the lesson we got the impression that we should invite him to be baptized and he accepted! We came out of the lesson feeling so elated and it was so amazing! I'm so grateful for our teachers because they both teach so differently but through the Spirit we are able to learn so much. We're really starting to understand the basics of the language and we're starting to be able to create our own sentences.
I've also had so many different Spiritual experiences here. Last night Brother Holland, the son of Elder Holland, came and talked to us and he focused on the life of Joseph Smith. It was so amazing and such a testimony building experience for me because it showed his life in a very different and unique way. I love how he focused on how Joseph wasn't perfect and he experienced so much hardship but that he endured it so well and was so quick to change and repent. It emphasized for me how much we need to follow his example. I had the opportunity to sing with the rest of the Albanian elders, and about 1500 other missionaries, in the choir where we sang Praise to the Man. We sang this at the end of Brother Hollands talk and it was so powerful! The Spirit was so strong in that room.
Also we've gotten to the point where we work so hard and we're so worn out by the end of the day that pretty much everything that happens here is either ultra spiritual or the funniest thing on earth so none of this may actually be funny. One of the other Albis in the other district, Elder Nielsen, is one of the funniest people I have ever met. He has a super thick Delduh(Delta) accent and he has an ability to just appear out of nowhere at any moment and then he'll say "Përshëndetje". It's gotten to a point where we can't take that word seriously anymore so whenever we need a laugh all we have to do is try and say it in our best Delduh accent. Also I'm pretty sure that half of the words we say are "shumë mirë" along with the hand signal for it(it means very good and it's pronounced like "shoe meer"). Also the other district has gotten us into saying "shumë po" (very yes) and "shumë jo" (very no) as well as "jopë"(not actually a word but we us it like "nope").
So just in summary I'm loving it here and I'm learning so much! The language is coming so much faster and I've learned to love it! Side note, the language is one of the oldest, possibly the oldest, in the world and it has changed alphabets numerous times. Were just lucky that they changed it from the Russian alphabet not too long ago. Let me know if you have any more questions, I'll probably get back on later.
Mirupafshim, Elder Gardiner
Also I forgot to include some things in my first letter. First off tell dad Happy Birthday for me! Hopefully it's a good one. Also the new Turkish missionaries got here this week. One of them is from Argentina and only speaks limited English so right now the Dutch elders and I are in charge of helping to translate for him. It's sad because the Hungarians leave next Monday and the Dutch will be leaving the week after that. They've been so much fun and we're going to miss them. Hopefully the new missionaries coming in will be fun too. Also I gave my first blessing last night and that was such an amazing and unique experience. My companion has to go to a doctor off campus this week just to get something that came up right before he left checked out again. It shouldn't be a problem and he should be completely fine but that does mean that him and I get to leave the MTC for a little while which will be fun. Additionally we get to watch church videos and movies on Sunday nights so last night we watched Ephraim's Rescue. It was so cool and even though I have already seen that movie the experiences and stories are still so powerful to me. Also it's really funny because there is one part where two people kiss and the entire gym of probably 2000 missionaries just erupted into applause and laughter.