Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WEEK #1 IN GJAKOVA, KOSOVO

June 30, 2014

Family and Friends,

Happy sweet 16th birthday to my little sister, Grace! I love you.


Hello from Gjakova, Kosovo. I have left Albania and am now serving in the Republic of Kosovo. One is more likely to have heard of Kosovo than Albania in recent history I believe. There was a rather brutal war here within my lifetime. The fighting and loss was especially high in the city in which I serve now.
Saying goodbye to Pres. Andrew Ford

Gjakova, or “I bled” in Albanian, was hit very badly in the war with Serbia and still many, many people despise Serbians or anything Serb. The street signs in Kosovo are typically written in Albanian, Serbian, and English. In Gjakova, the Serbian spellings are spray-painted out. It has passed in to colloquial usage to exaggerate how much you would want to do something if you would do it with or for a Serbian. “I want water so bad that I’d even take it from a Serb.”

As far as the Church is concerned, the Gjakova Branch consists of about 25-30 members.
The Gjakova Missionaries
Elder Tooley (a senior missionary with whom I served in Elbasan, Albania) is the Branch President. Burim Vraniqi, a Kosovar member is the 1st Counselor, and my companion Elder Anderson is the 2nd Counselor. I am the Executive Secretary and Branch Clerk.

It is a very different situation than to what I had grown accustomed in Durrës, an American-level functioning ward, were the missionaries helped on only a few very special occasions. I am very willing to step up in my level of contribution in the ministerial end of the Church’s function. I enjoy doing my part.

Despite my excitement to be in Gjakova, I do very much miss Durrës. I was very sad to part from Ersi Myrtollari, the Cani Family, and the many other people with I whom I grew very close. The members of Durrës, especially Bishop Dodaj, have a reserved section of my heart and memory. I learn the principles of Christ-like Ministration and Administration. I learned a great deal while in Durrës, thus far there have I spent the greater part of my mission.

Elders Asler and Acheson
I do greatly miss Elder Ašler. He was a great companion and I learned a great amount from him. I miss his ever-happy countenance and positive outlook on our work. I feel as though I connected with him on a very close level. I now that the new area he opened up in Durrës with Elder Linderman will benefit greatly from his experience and knowledge of the city.

I am happy to report that my new companion, Elder Anderson, is excellent. He is from Elder Ašler’s group and I get along with him very well. I think he is funny and fun to be with. He is from Kentucky originally but recently lived in Utah and Idaho.
Elder Anderson 
He went to BYU-I. He has been involved in competitive show choir and has been very athletically involved until a rather serious back operation. He works very hard and received straight A's at BYU-I. He is very dedicated and very willing to be obedient. We are on the same page and I love it
. I intend to do some very good work with Elder Anderson.
Well I am excited to be here in Kosovo, particularly in Gjakova. I am excited to work hard and do my best to please the Lord with my dedication and work level.
Gjakova Branch Building

I love you all,

Elder Açësoni

P.S.

A fun, yet important side note:

Though the language in Kosovo is Albanian, it is the Northern “Geg” Dialect. There are some very large grammatical and vocabulary differences between Geg and the Southern “Tosk” dialect which I have been speaking for the past year. Geg typically is described as "dirty" Albanian. A simple comparative example:

English: I want to go to the barber today to get a haircut. I am going at 7 o’clock.

Tosk: Unë dua të shkoj tek berber sot për t’u qethur. Do të shkoj në orën 7 darkës.

Geg: Due me shkuë në frizer sod mu qeth. Jem tuj shkuë në orën 7 mremës.

When I learn to speak Geg better, I will be able to send and expound upon better examples.

P.P.S.

A fun thing that I found upon my arrival, Suzana Biçaku and Denisa Idrizi from Elbasan were up here in Gjakova visiting the Tooleys. I was so happy to have a mini Elbasan reunion. I love those girls very much.


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