Thursday, February 28, 2013

Il Sifone

The biggest problem remaining with our apartment was the awful smell which would fill the apartment when we were out for a few hours. It was definitely a sewer smell coming from the sinks in the kitchen. Our first fix was to leave the plugs in and fill the sinks with water. The plugs don’t hold water perfectly, so if we were out too long, the water would drain out, but with the plugs in, the smell was noticeable, but not overwhelming. When the landlords returned, I told our landlady about the problem. I opened the doors under the kitchen sink and told her I thought the problem was that there was no water blocking the sewer smell.

 (Every sewer in the world, including the ones in Afton, Wyoming, smells pretty much the same. To prevent the smell from entering the house, a goose-neck pipe is installed so it is always filled with water. The water blocks the odor of the sewer from entering the house. All drains must have this type of system for the same reason.)

In our apartment they were using something called a “siphone,” or syphon. Specifically, this one is called “un siphone di cuccina” – a kitchen syphon. (See picture to the right) It is kind a sink trap. The bottom unscrews so debris that is too heavy to float can be emptied from the trap so it doesn’t clog the pipes. I decided to remove the trap to see what it looked like because I couldn’t imagine how this kind of trap could also act as a block to the sewer odor. Our landlady didn’t like me doing this at all. She worried that I would ruin all the plumbing under the sink. Against her protest I unscrewed the trap. I tried to do it carefully so I wouldn’t get water all over, but it slipped out of my hand and dumped a cup or so of water onto the bottom of the cupboard. Now she was really worried. She said to stop what I was doing because she was sure the “sifone” was working properly. They had just had someone repair it. This made me very uneasy. If “someone” repaired it, it was probably her husband who is a great guy, but not a very careful repairman. I stopped my exploration and let her leave wondering how we were going to eliminate this amazingly offensive odor.

As I was lying in bed the next morning, half awake and half asleep, I suddenly realized how a trap like this could also be a block to the sewer smell. It seemed like a mini-revelation, but it was so simple I wondered why I hadn’t figured it out before. There must be a pipe inside the trap that extends straight down from the sink below the level of the discharge pipe. So, the trap which I had removed and which looked like an upside down cup was not the important item. It was the device above that holds the trap that I had to see.  I immediately got up and took all the plumbing under the two sinks apart, being careful not to spill any water this time. Sure enough there was a pipe extending down just like I imagined, but it was all chewed up. So it was not making a complete block as it was supposed to, but was letting the sewer smell through. It looked like someone had tried to put some kind of putty or something on the chewed up parts to fix it.
Chewed up center of sifone. Shadows make it difficult to see.
Cup which screws on is on the left.

I took the chewed up part down to the landlords to ask them where I could purchase a new one. All the pipes are made of plastic, so I knew it couldn’t cost much. They laughed at the idea that 1. I thought I could actually repair it by myself and 2. That I could find a store which sells plumbing supplies. Finally, the landlord decided he would accompany me to a store. As we got to the parking lot, he said “Just a minute,” and proceeded to open his little garage. Inside his garage (which probably comes with our apartment) he found another sifone. It looked like it might work.  So we went back up stairs and installed it. Unfortunately, it was a little wider than the original and there is a little sliding rack under the sink where sponges and cleaning stuff are stored. It wouldn’t close all the way because of the additional width of the new sifone, but I figured we could live with this. So, he left and I thought we had solved the problem.
Two non-working siphoni with traps unscrewed. Chewed up
 one upper left, leakyone lower right (notice how the pipe
 inside the wider one is not chewed up at tll, but a
 smooth circle.)
That evening we discovered that this sifone leaks about a drop every 30 seconds. The problem was still not solved. I went to the location where the store the Landlord had suggested was located to purchase a new siphone. The store was closed – out of business -- looked like it had been closed for some time. So I asked our gas station attendant whose station is nearby for a reference. He suggested we try a ”ferramenteria,” hardware store. I was carrying the old siphone in the pocket of my jogging (make that walking) jacket and I showed it to the men in the hardware store. They were a little surprised to see me pull a sifone out of my pocket, but they recovered quickly. They didn’t have one but suggested Idrotermica Russo. I looked it up on the internet and it is located on Via Parini 13. My Tom-Tom came in handy and I soon found a little plumbing supply warehouse. They said that they didn’t use sifone any more, although they had one for sale like the one which was leaking which was too big. I asked what they use now days and they said an “S.” What do you know, an “S” is a goose-neck, just like back home – amazing, we are now full circle.

They sold me a goose-neck kit for 11 euros which had all the parts including gaskets (guarnizione). I took the kit home, and with some old parts and some new parts managed to get things hooked up pretty well. At least, it hasn’t leaked for 24 hours and the smell is gone.
Finished new plumbing under sink. White parts are new, gray
parts are old. Red basket slides forward and closes nicely.

Our water heater. (Two pics
spliced together - upper and
lower.) The white adapter with
blue holes was the culprit.
Just a quick note on another successful fix-it job. A few mornings ago we woke up and there was no hot water. Fearing that the condominum had shut off our hot water because we were using too much with our laundry and showering every day, I thought we might be in trouble. Then I remembered seeing an on-demand water heater on the wall outside the kitchen door. I went out on the terrace and looked at it. I noticed a power switch and a gas line and not much else. There was also a row of little holes that looked like they might be indicator lights. Nothing appeared to be powered up. I suspected the outlet adapter. Sure enough, when I plugged a lamp into the socket there was no power. They had used an inside adapter instead of an outside adapter. By reversing the adapter to the other side, and plugging the heater in, we had a power light. Then there is a little hole labeled "reset" which looked like it might be important. I used a match stick to try to feel a little switch inside, and after fooling around a while and with the help of the Elders, we found the reset switch and everything took off. I love hot water.
We have invited Flavia’s family to have dinner with us Saturday before her baptism. Our friends the Steuers are bringing Flavia’s friend Laura and her husband Antonio down from Rome and the Steuers will be staying overnight with us Saturday night. We thought they would like something to eat after their long drive. ...and we want to get to know Flavia’s family better, so we thought having a lunch before the baptism would do the trick. We originally thought there would be about eleven people. But, it turns out that Flavia’s mother and sister are also coming as well as her friend from Milano, so there will be 14. We want to have the apartment as respectable as possible for all this company, so we are furiously trying to get everything ready. At least we will have hot water and the house won’t smell like sewer any more – hopefully…

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The Filippella Family
Our Branch Organist is named Alfredo Fllippella. He is really good. He steps the organ down a key or two so no one has to sing very high. As a result, the bass part is really low – fun though. He adds a few arpeggios and interludes as he plays the hymns. The most interesting thing about Alfredo is that he is not a member of our Church. He has been familiar with our church for many years, but remains with one leg firmly in the Catholic Church and the other in the LDS Church. He also plays the organ for his own parish in Salerno on Sunday evenings. Alfredo and his wife, Sabrina, have two children, their son Fausto Maria who is 10, and their daughter, whose name I just forgot who is 7 I think. Guess I better refresh my memory.

Anyway, for some reason Alfredo and I hit it off as soon as our eyes met the first Sunday we were in Battipaglia. We visited their home in Salerno a week ago Friday and had a wonderful time. The most exciting part of the evening was finding a place to park in Salerno around 6:30 p.m. After touring the neighborhood for a while, we finally found a place to park about a kilometer from his apartment. It had been raining quite hard as we drove into Salerno, but (tender mercy) it stopped as we found the parking place and we had a very pleasant walk to Alfredo’s apartment on Via Raffele Ricci in Salerno.

As we met his family and sat down, he asked if we would offer a prayer, which we humbly did. We then had a great get-acquainted talk and found our all about their family. They then brought out some delicious dolci (cakes, cookies, other pastries, etc.) and some orange Fanta.

We asked him how he came in contact with the Church. He said he was walking along the street one day several years ago and met a young missionary who approached him. As he took the missionary lessons, he kind of liked what he was hearing and went to his parish priest and asked him what he (Alfredo) should do. The priest, surprisingly, said, these must be good people. Go and find out more about them.
Alfredo later picked up a book about modern American religions which talks about Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, etc. In he chapter on the Mormons, he read how Brigham Young helped Father Edward Kelly of the Catholic Church obtain clear title to some land for the first Catholic church in Salt Lake City in 1866, (see:  when they wanted to build a Cathedral in Salt Lake City. Then how in around 1872, the leaders of the St. George Tabernacle invited Father Lawrence Scanlon to celebrate high mass in their tabernacle. In fact, their choir was ready to sing the necessary parts of the mass in Latin in two weeks. On reading this, Alfredo felt he needed to pay back a debt the Catholic Church had incurred many years ago, so he leaves his wife and two children each Sunday morning to play the organ for the Battipaglia Branch. He will also be playing for Flavia’s baptism this Saturday.

He is truly one of the most spiritual men I know, and one of the most loving. We are introducing his family to genealogy indexing in the near future.


 As Sister Scherbel mentioned in her blog, Ivan Sapio is our Ward Mission Leader. He is a young man nearly 26 years old and an outstanding example of a Latter-day Saint. He studied to become a professional chef and the man he was studying under in Rimini was LDS and introduced Ivan to the Church. At 21 he was called to serve in the Italy Catania Mission. Rimini is in the Milano mission and Ivan lives in Battipaglia which is in the Italy Rome mission. During his mission, the Church decided to combine the Catania Mission into the Rome Mission. So, Ivan ended up serving in the mission where his home town is located.  In fact, he was an assistant to President Kelly, our current Mission President. Ivan (pronounced “eevahn”) speaks English (American) very well and is a very talented member of our branch here in Battipaglia. His dream is to start his own restaurant near the new temple being completed in Rome. Selfishly, we would love to see him remain here in Battipaglia. So many members of the Church in Southern Italy leave the area because there are a lot more good jobs in the North.

One of our fondest hopes is that we can learn to cook Italian food from Ivan. He graciously met us last  Wednesday (Feb. 20), took us shopping, and then showed us how to make lasagne Bolognese. At the store we learned several things: 1. When you purchase Parmesan cheese, they will grate it for you for free. 2. Parsley and celery are free. You just ask for “un po di sedano o un po di prezzemolo” and they give you a few sticks of celery or parsley at no cost. 3. They have very good milk. When I was a young missionary, I never found any milk that tasted good. Things have really improved. For making lasagne, however, Ivan purchased milk which has been boiled and packaged for a long shelf life without refrigeration. I have always been skeptical of this kind of milk, but it is less than half the price of fresh milk, and was perfect for cooking. 4. There are essentially three grades of olive oil. First is extra virgin olive oil (from the first press of olives, less than 1% acidity), then virgin olive oil (also from the first press with less than 3% acidity), then normal olive oil (which we had purchased because it was less expensive). It may contain refined olive oil (not only pressed, but also filtered and treated in some way) mixed with virgin or extra virgin oil). He reluctantly used the oil we had on hand. We will do better next time.

We are not sacrificing a bit in the food area. We have found the fruits and vegetables here to be wonderfully fresh and flavorful. In most stores, if they are designed as “self-serve,” you must put on a glove made of the same plastic as the plastic bags you put the vegetables in(no touching vegetables with your bare hands,) put them in a plastic bag and weigh them indicating with a numeric code which vegetable you are weighing. The scale then prints a label indicating the weight and cost for the cashier. In some stores, the store personnel weigh the vegetables or fruit and put the proper sticky label on for the cashier. This differs a bit from store to store and since we are still trying new stores, we get to learn new approaches frequently.

Like in Germany, to take a shopping cart, you must insert a 50 cent piece, or a one or two Euro piece in the handle of the cart to free it from the line of carts. When you are finished, you bring the cart back to the line of carts and you use a chain with a kind of key on the end to reconnect your cart to the line and receive your coin back – very cleaver. You never see shopping carts in the parking lot blocking parking spaces.

So, after helping us shop, Ivan returned with us to our apartment and showed us how to make lasagne Bolognese. (I am using Sister Scherbel’s notes.) He started by cutting up the vegetables which would take the longest to cook – carrots, celery and onion into small cubes – about 1/8th inch on each side. He said for his first two years in cooking school they were only allowed to work with vegetables. His knife skills are amazing. He started sautéing the carrots and celery in a bit of olive oil and added some salt, maybe a teaspoon. Then he added about a pound of hamburger (chopped veal) and let the vegetables and meat sauté for a few minutes. He then added about 800 grams of canned tomatoes which had been blended with a hand blender. This mixture cooked for about 25 minutes, then he finally added about 700 grams “passata di pomodoro” (tomato sauce) and let everything cook until the béchamel sauce was finished. This became ragout (ragu in Italian) or red spaghetti sauce.

Next he started on the béchamel sauce – normal béchamel sauce with equal parts butter and flour cooked in milk and salted to taste. He wanted to put some nutmeg in the béchamel sauce, but we didn’t have any and had forgotten to purchase it. (It turns out that you purchase the actual “nut” and grate it so it is always fresh when used as a spice.) He put black pepper in instead – quite a bit, maybe a teaspoon.

When the two sauces were finished, he put a little of each on the bottom of the lasagna pan so the noodles wouldn’t burn on the bottom. Then he began layering uncooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Each layer contained both red and white sauce, some pieces of a cheese like the dry mozzarella cheese we use, and some Parmesan cheese. He covered the top layer with the two sauces. Interestingly, he didn’t boil the noodles first. He just put the hard, uncooked noodles in between the layers of sauces. Then it went into the oven which had been headed quite hot – probably 400 degrees or so. He checked every so often to see that it was boiling and that the top was a bit crispy and that was it.

Sister Scherbel and Ivan Sapio with our Lasagne ready to go
into the oven
It was soooo delicious. Sister Scherbel had prepared some boiled zucchini slices mixed with a bit of butter and Parmesan cheese on the side. We enjoyed it for a few meals.

Ivan and I have joined together a couple of times to teach lessons to people and give blessings. He is an amazing young man. He is growing a very thick beard because he has a part in a movie someone in the Church is making in Sicily and they want him to have the old time, Mediterranean, bearded look. The beard comes off at the end of April. I can’t wait for our next cooking lesson.

Ivan is also our Brach Institute Teacher. He teaches a small group of young single adults each Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. He is an excellent teacher. He was taught Institute by Stefania D’Andolfo – more about Stefania later.
Our Institute Class: Greta Piccirillo, Ivan Sapio, Elder Taylor
Elder Carr, Alessandra Di Martino, Allessandro Piccirillo,
Sorella Scherbel
After English class: Sorella Scherbel, Raffaele, Anita, Stefano,
Elder Carr, Elder Taylor, Rosella, Fabbio
We also have English class after Institute. About a dozen people come. Sister Scherbel and I really enjoy teaching. We bring our computers so we can show photos and get on Google Maps. It is really a kick.

Life in the Slow Lane

View from the Slow Lane
As we were receiving instructions in Rome about mission rules and policies, one of the subjects Elder Steuer covered had to do with mission driving policy. One rule is that no mission vehicle is to travel more than 120 kilometers per hour – 72 miles per hour. The speed limit on Italian Freeways (Autostrade) is 130 or 78 mph. So, we pretty much drive in the slow lane –sometimes in the middle lane. In Europe, it is forbidden to pass on the right. All passing must be on the left. If you are in the fast lane and going too slow for the car approaching you, he will flash his headlights to let you know you must change lanes so he can pass. Even in the second lane, cars will sometimes flash their headlights to let you know they want you to move over so they can pass. Mainly trucks, old people, and missionaries drive in the slow lane.

When we lived in Germany, I had a very nice company car – a Mercedes E240 I think. In Germany there is no speed limit on the freeways (autobahns). So, I normally cruised at 180 which is 108 mph. I spent my share of time in the fast lane, but was frequently being passed like I was standing still by larger Mercedes, Porsches, Ferraris, etc. When I crossed the border into Italy, I was probably aware of the 130 speed limit, but no one seemed to pay any attention to it, so I cruised at around 160 and never had any problems.

As missionaries, we are trying to use a much different approach. We want to be courteous and calm. We never want to get a ticket for speeding or even for improper parking for that matter. (I have never been quite sure what the definition of illegal parking is in Italy – especially in southern Italy where people seem to view driving as a non-contact sport – kind of like soccer-- and parking as a game with rules that must be followed only when they are convenient.) Cars are commonly parked illegally with their emergency flashers on indicating that the driver will return relatively quickly to move his car which is probably at least partially blocking traffic. So we are very careful to travel at or close to the speed limit and to take extra care to park legally. This has been a bit challenging for me, but I am quickly learning to love life in the slow lane. We have had quite a bit of rain, so driving slowly has been a good idea for several reasons.

Local traffic is also interesting. The streets are frequently narrow, so people choose to adjust their driving habits. It is not uncommon to be driving down a local street, following a long line of traffic and have a car from a side street nose its way in front of you. Stop signs are really yield signs. In traffic circles, the cars in the traffic circle have right of way which is usually respected. Drivers in southern Italy are worse than in northern Italy and much worse than in Germany. However, they are better than in Honduras or Morocco.

I don’t really feel I am driving aggressively. I frequently stop to let vehicles enter from side streets and I usually stop for pedestrians trying to get across the street. I do nose my way into a line of traffic if there have been no spaces for a while. I hardly ever honk my horn and not too many other drivers honk at me, so I think I am gradually getting more comfortable driving in the slow lane.

On Monday, February 25, we went into Salerno to visit the local police (Questura) office to get fingerprinted and to finish applying for our two year permessos which allow us to be in Italy legally. Salerno is a very old and picturesque town right on the Mediterranean Sea. It is beautiful to look at, but a bit challenging to drive in. The Questura office was located in a very old section of town with tiny winding streets and virtually no parking. Our Tom-Tom led us to kind of a dead end area which turned out to be within 150 feet of the Questura office, but we didn't realize it and couldn't have parked there anyway. It wanted us to enter a "Ingresso Limitato" (limited access) area. Other missionary couples have racked up beaucoup fines for doing this, so we decided we wouldn't risk it. I carefully backed out of the piazza. After driving around for a while, we realized our Tom-Tom was taking us basically in a circle so we felt we must be close to our destination. When driving in narrow streets with high buildings on either side, the Tom-Tom occasionally loses its signal. "Recalculating" is a common phrase for us. So, we don't trust our Tom-Tom absolutely.

Sister Scherbel said she started praying we would find a parking place. We immediately found one. However, it was in a "blue" zone which means you have to pay to park. We read a nearby sign which emphasized this point.

I went to a nearby magazine stand and asked how one pays for parking. It turns out that he sold parking vouchers -- one Euro per hour.

We had heard horror stories of people having to wait a long time at the Questura, so we purchased three hours’ worth. I managed to parallel park in a pretty tight space (with expert coaching from Sister Scherbel) and we were set.

The parking vouchers must be displayed on the dashboard, visible from the front.

They are designed to indicate the year, month, day, hour and minute within 10 minutes when you park by scratching off the appropriate information. We scratched off the info for our three and headed off.

We were about half a kilometer from the Questura according to google maps on Scherbel's iPhone. We started waking and ended up right back where the Tom-Tom had taken us in the first place. We had to ask several times where the entrance to the office for foreigners was. One man said, just go like you're going to church and you will be right there. I didn't understand what he meant until I asked a couple more people as we got closer. Actually, the door to the foreigner office was literally just to the left of the main entrance to a nearby church. We walked up the stairs as though we were going to enter the church and at the top of the stairs veered left and there was a little door to the foreigner office.

(This is a copy of a Google Map showing our walking path. You can double click to make it bigger or double right-click to make it smaller. To the right of the green pointer with the black "B" about an inch and just a little bit down, you can see the round top of a church copula, kind of aqua in color. To the left of the copula along the roof line you can see the steps leading up to the church. Just to the left of the entrance to the church is the entrance to the foreigner office. The courtyard shown in the photo below is just above the copula.)

Courtyard where we awaited the next step
Inside there was quite an unorganized crowd of people. We had been given appointments at 10:03 a.m. and at 10:08 a.m. The precision of the appointments lead me to believe that we needed to talk to a specific person at a specific time. I asked a couple of the people waiting in the waiting room who we needed to talk to. One lady indicated a man entering the room dressed in plain street clothes -- no uniform. Even though we were half an hour early, he immediately took our documents and told us to wait a minute. In a couple of minutes he ushered us into an area where three agents sat behind bars and bullet-proof glass. We had each brought four photos which our agent mounted on a form. Then one photo was mounted onto a special card which we had to sign. It was then inserted into a type of scanner. The agent indicated to us in order which finger to place on a finger scanner and a digital image of our fingerprints was taken -- very high tech. When that was finished, he asked us to go out a locked door and cross a small courtyard to another unmarked door for the next step.

Sister Scherbel waiting for the next step

We tried several doors with no success -- all were locked. I finally found an open door and wandered into their offices. I finally found someone to talk to who was surprised to see me in the office area, but showed me where we had to wait. We had to wait outside in the courtyard until the people doing the next phase showed up. We waited about twenty minutes. By that time a dozen or so other people had finished their first step and were waiting with us. We met some very interesting people. A very nice looking woman was from Georgia, near Russia. She had come to Italy to find work and was taking care of an older woman. We met a small family from Albania, also in Italy to find work. We met two women from the Ukraine and another couple from Albania. It is interesting that many Italians are having trouble finding work, yet people from these poorer countries find Italy a much better place to work and live.

Anyway, we were the first to proceed to the next step which was basically a bunch more fingerprinting. A man guided and pressed each of our fingers onto a scanner and then scanned our palms and the heel of our hands. That was it. We then headed off to District Meeting in Castellammare.
When living life in the slow lane, the forgotten beatitude we learned in the MTC often comes to mind: Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

We were so excited that Flavia had set her baptismal date. When we returned home the Elders called President Kelly immediately with the great news. He wasn’t nearly as excited as we were about Flavia being baptized in Rome. In fact, as the Elders later related to us, her had several good reasons why he didn’t want her to be baptized Rome, but in Battipaglia which is her home Branch. We were devastated. Obviously, we had over-stepped our bounds by telling Flavia she could be baptized in Rome. I had even said she could be baptized in Alaska if she wanted to. She had responded that Rome would be just fine.

What to do…Elder Taylor, Elder Carr and I sat in our living room in silence for quite a while. We weren’t sure what our options were. We discussed the fact that being baptized in Rome was so important to Flavia. In fact, she had planned to be taught by the Sisters in the Rome Third Ward. When we visited her, we assured her that the Elders in Battipaglia were the ones who should teach her and that her desire to be baptized in Rome was no problem. We also felt that President Kelly is a very inspired Mission President. I felt the strength of his spirit immediately when I met him in November. We didn’t doubt he was right; we just didn’t know how to back out the hole we had dug for ourselves without devastating Flavia. We knelt in prayer, and each one of the three of us offered a vocal prayer seeking to know how to approach this situation. After the prayer we all felt that we needed to schedule another visit with Flavia as soon as possible. We called her Saturday evening after our prayer and asked if we could come to visit her again on Monday. She agreed.

We had kind of a tight time window because we had also arranged to meet the Branch President’s family at 5:30 p.m. and the drive from Avellino takes at least an hour.

On Sunday Flavia wasn’t in church. Fearing that she had had an automobile accident or something, I called her during the first hour of the block (Priesthood Meeting for me) to see if she was all right. It had snowed in Avellino Saturday night, and the roads were bad, so Flavia had wisely decided not to try to get to Battipaglia for church. We were so glad she was safe.

We worried all day Sunday, wondering how we should present President Kelly’s decision to her. The Elders felt that I should be the one to break the bad news to her.

On Monday, we drove up to Avellino. Flavia met us at her Aunt’s home where she lives. Only she and her grandmother were home. It was about 2:00 p.m.  After an opening prayer, I told her that we were not going to be able to baptize her in Rome. She was absolutely devastated – our worst fears had come true. The most important aspect of her baptism was for her friend, Laura, to be there. She then told us that Laura didn’t even like to leave her house. The cemetery where her son is buried is right across the street from her house. She can see it from her front window. The only time she had left her home in recent months was to visit Flavia as she had another doctor visit in Milano. Apparently, they are as close as mother and daughter.

I asked her what the chances were that given Laura’s depressed state she would actually attend Flavia’s baptism even if it were in Rome. She said a hundred percent.  I was going to argue that maybe after going to all this trouble to arrange for a baptism in Rome, maybe Laura wouldn’t come anyway – wrong again.

 We had brought a sample baptismal program with us that Sister Scherbel  had prepared to show Flavia how many people her baptism would effect and to try to help her understand why it would be so much better to be baptized in Battipaglia where people she knows and loves could give prayers, talks, and even perform her baptism and confirmation. She thought that was all fine, but she didn’t really care who baptized her if Laura couldn’t be there.  Elder Carr bore his humble testimony that he was sure that in some way Laura would be blessed by Flavia getting baptized no matter where it happened. Elder Taylor then related his challenges in Malta and how sometimes disappointments happen in life and we need to go on in spite of them. It was a very spirit-filled meeting, but we were really at a loss to find an answer which would bless all those involved including Flavia, Laura, Flavia’s family (who probably wouldn’t be coming to Rome), and the Battipaglia Branch. We asked if there was any chance that Laura would come to Battipaglia. President Kelly had indicated that the Mission was prepared to help her get to Battipaglia if necessary. Flavia indicated that there was probably no chance that Laura would consent to travel down to Battipaglia. We left her with the suggestion that she at least call Laura to see if there were any way she would consider coming to Battipaglia. Even Flavia’s grandmother was so sad that things were not working out as we all thought they should.

We barely made our appointment with the D’Andolfo family. We spent a wonderful evening getting to know them. Sister Scherbel had made some chocolate cookies that tasted kind of like brownies which were a big hit. I took a couple of pieces of my sister Annette’s Christmas caramels which Sister Scherbel had hidden away in her luggage. I expressed my concern to President D’Andolfo regarding Flavia and asked him to pray for her too.

The next day, we headed for Rome for our Zone Conference with Elder Kent F. Richards. We were staying with the Steuers. Sister Steuer had prepared a wonderful supper of homemade soup with fresh ham and cheese pannini on wonderful Italian bread. Just as we were about to sit down to eat, my cell phone rang. It was Flavia. She had called Laura. Incredibly, Laura had said she would be happy to come to Battipaglia for Flavia’s baptism. I have rarely been so happy. We were absolutely elated. …And the Steuers immediately volunteered to drive Laura down to Battipaglia. As it turned out, Laura’s car had been in an accident and wasn’t drivable, so did need the help of the mission to get her down to Battipaglia. President Kelly had been totally correct all along. This solution allows absolutely everyone to be at Flavia’s baptism.

We went back to visit Flavia Thursday, the day after we arrived home from the conference. Elder Carr had scheduled her baptismal interview. Again timing was critical because Flavia had to leave for Milano for her check up on Friday and wouldn’t be back for eight days. We had the most wonderful visit. Flavia’s grandmother, her Aunt Delia, and her cousin Amerigo (10) were all there. As Elder Carr interviewed Flavia in the living room, we all went into a back room and discussed how they felt about Flavia’s decision. They were extremely supportive. We learned about their firm faith in God and how they had obtained their faith. Elder Taylor started relating the Joseph Smith story to them, but was interrupted by two workmen coming to mount some shelving to Delia’s living room wall. So, the Joseph Smith story will have to wait. But, now that she is being baptized in Battipaglia, Flavia’s Aunt Delia, her grandmother, her cousin and, probably, Flavia’s Uncle Sabatino (who we haven’t met yet) will be at her baptism and her confirmation on Sunday.

Flavia has now selected who will pray, who will give talks, who will baptize her, and who will confirm her. I will be giving a talk on the Holy Ghost. Since it will be Fast Sunday, the Branch Relief Society has agreed to prepare a simple luncheon after the Sunday block especially for those who have to travel back to Rome. Flavia’s Aunt is going to be helping with the luncheon.  It should be a marvelous occasion. We can hardly wait.
Aunt Delia, Elder Taylor, Flavia, Grandma, Amerigo, Elder Carr in Delia's beautiful Living Room

Missionary Work Day 1

Yesterday, February 8,  was a great day – probably our first day of actual missionary work. 

Elder Carr, Sister Scherbel, Sister Petruzziello, Elder Taylor
 at hospital in Avellino
The first city I served in as a young missionary was Avellino. I only served there for six weeks and never dreamed that I would return. There were no members when I left and it was closed to missionary work a couple of months later. As it turns out, missionaries returned a couple of years later and there was actually a branch established there with a dozen members or so. Due to economic problems, several families moved to other cities and the branch was closed. Yesterday, we met with a former Branch President named Umberto Petruzziello and his wife Luigina. He is in the hospital with kidney problems. He had one kidney removed a few years ago and the remaining one isn’t working very well at this time. We were able to meet him and give him a blessing. His wife doesn’t drive so she has to take two buses each day to visit him at the hospital. She has a pacemaker, so has a bit of problem walking up hills, but is really a trooper and goes to see her husband every day. It was good that we could give her a ride for at least one day.

After visiting the Petruzziello’s the Elders had an appointment with a young lady who had been taught by some sister missionaries in Milano. It turns out that she found out she had leukemia when she was sixteen. She traveled to Rome at that time and had a bone marrow transplant using her sister as a donor. However, the transplant was unsuccessful. After a couple of years, she went to another hospital in Milano and received another bone marrow transplant using her father as the donor. This time it worked and after a great deal of pain and suffering including three years of chemotherapy her leukemia is now in remission and she her hair has returned and she is a beautiful young woman. She has an amazingly strong testimony and wants to be baptized. While she was receiving treatments in Milano, a friend suggested that she might be interested in the LDS Church. She was taught in Milano by a pair of sisters who must have done an excellent job.

 However, while she was receiving treatments in Milano, she met an older woman who had a son who was receiving similar treatments. Unfortunately, the treatments weren’t as successful for him and he passed away. She has remained friends with this woman who is suffering from depression as a result of losing her son. Flavia, the young lady, wants to be baptized in Rome where this other woman lives so she can attend Flavia’s baptism. Her friend is Catholic, but Flavia believes it would be a big help for her to witness her baptism and feel the Spirit. Flavia is a really special girl and has been through a lot.

She set a baptismal date for March 2 in Rome. I am sure we will be able to help make this happen. We also met her grandmother and her Aunt, both outstanding women and very supportive of Flavia.

We also met a lady from Russia during our walk yesterday named Nadia and a lady who lives in our apartment building named Maria. We are planning to invite them to our home to get to know them. Battipaglia is a bit challenged economically, but there are lots of wonderful people here.

The Elders introduced us to the owners of a little pizzeria called Sofia's (named after Sofia Loren who was born in their home town of Pozzuoli) in the neighborhood last night. They gave us a discount on their wonderful pizzas. We will definitely get to know them better.

We are definitely enjoying Italian cooking, and are trying to walk at least a mile each morning together and are also taking the stairs instead of the elevator a few times each day to get some extra exercise. We live on the fourth floor (fifth floor in the US) so the stairs might help some.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Here are some miscellaneous photos I forgot to include in previous blogs.

Geri on one of our one mile walks in Afton as we were preparing to leave on our mission.
Looking our the window of the MTC while taking a break from studying Italian
Early morning temple trip to Mt. Timpanogos Temple in December
Baby Matthew in Grandpa Wagstaff's shoes.
Nearly our "Last Supper" with Roland, Lizzy, Charlotte and Isabel, Ryan and Shelly
Instructions for trash separation in Italy. Different items are picked up each day. For example on Monday, we set out our "dirty" plastic -- that which can't be recycled, i.e. diapers, food wrapers, etc. On Tuesday, we set our food related stuff, i.e. fruit and vegetable peels, uneaten food, etc. On Friday we set out our cardboard and paper. We carry our glass items to a nearby recycling bin. It is quite a complicated system.
Geri's foot after being run over in London Airport by another passenger's luggage carrier - Notice the crease across her foot.
Our mission car with a green bin for recycling glass items in the background
View from our living room balcony, north side toward Salerno - notice the snow capped mountains on the horizon. It is colder than we expected...
This video was taken inside the Maximall. The week before Carnivale, the children dress up in colorful costumes - princesses and princes, knights, etc. They purchase confetti and toss it all over the floor and at each other. This train operates inside the mall and is a fun addition. You see our shopping cart full of stuff. There is a gelateria just down the hall which has delicious ice cream.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It is Wednesday evening, February 6. We have had an exciting several days. Let me start by mentioning how we resolved some of our concerns:

No shower curtans: We think we can live with this situation. The water pressure isn’t too strong, so only a little water sprays out on the floor when we shower. We purchased some soft rugs from IKEA and put them down on the bathroom floor. We hang them out to dry each day and think this will work well – so, no shower curtain. We have decided not to even think of using the smaller shower which has never been used.

Toilet Seats: IKEA again to the rescue – only 3 euro each – granted they are plastic and too short for the toilets we have, but they will definitely do until we find some larger ones.

We cleaned the refrigerator and stove, and we use the heat as needed. Sister Scherbel also transferred some of the landlady’s stuff to cupboards already nearly full to the brim and has managed to clear out enough kitchen cupboard and drawer space. We are still learning the finer points of trash separation, but feel we are nearly there on that subject as well.

Hairdryer: Everyone just uses the Max. 1500 Watt plugs for their 2000+ Watt hairdryers. We are doing the same.

Internet: No good solution yet.

Sunday was wonderful. Church started at 9:30 a.m. There were nearly 30 members there – twice the number we expected. We met the Branch President, the Branch Clerk, the Elders Quorum President, and the Ward Mission Leader. Priesthood/Relief Society Meeting were first. Priesthood was more or less Utah quality – possibly a bit better. We attended the Gospel Doctrine class while the Elders taught the Gospel Essentials class. They had four investigators there. Amobi, an African brother, is being baptized Feb. 16. Gospel Doctrine was taught by Stefania D’Andolfo, the Branch President’s wife. She is an outstanding teacher. It is so wonderful to hear the Gospel taught by Italian members. During my mission in the 60’s I don’t ever remember hearing an Italian teach a lesson. The missionaries did pretty much all of the teaching then. Sacrament Meeting was next. It was Fast Sunday, so time for testimonies. Several people bore their testimonies including Sister Scherbel and I. She was a huge success. She did such an amazing job. I didn’t know she could say so many things in Italian. After Sacrament Meeting, one of the sisters who was recently baptized came up to me and said she really enjoyed my testimony, but my wife’s was much better – it made her cry. It kind of made me cry too…

Battipaglia Branch Luncheon
After the block of meetings, they held a branch luncheon. They served two kinds of delicious rigatoni – one had a simple tomato sauce made from tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, chilies (The Branch President and his wife had spent four months in Mexico waiting to adopt some children, so she loves to include Mexican ingredients in her Italian food – amazing!) and Parmesan cheese. The other was more of a butter/cream sauce with Parmesan cheese. Both were delicious. Then they served some potatoes boiled in kind of a gravy with a bit of beef and peas – again, delicious. One sister also brought a couple dozen pastries from a local pasticceria (pastry bakery as opposed to a panificio – bread bakery). We try to stay away from the pasticcerie because they are way too tempting. So we had a pastry as well. It was so fun to eat this wonder food and get to know the members and investigators a bit better.

As we were leaving the Church, it started raining a bit. We thought we could rush home before it starting coming down hard. We rushed to the back gate to our apartment complex thinking we had a key to open it. We didn’t and it started pouring rain. We had to walk/run all around our apartment complex and come in the regular way. We were soaked before we could get to our apartment. We spent much of the evening drying out our clothes and getting warm.

Elders, Sister Scherbel, Willie's and Tavernari's
Monday was District Meeting in Castellammare di Stabia, a beautiful city right on the Mediterranean Sea. There were eight Elders and Elder and Sister Willie who work with the military bases in southern Italy, plus us.  After a very well-run meeting by Elder Decker, we retired to the home of Jonathan Tavernari of BYU basketball fame who now plays professionally here in Italy. He and his beautiful wife Kiri, along with their six month old Xander, were wonderful hosts and served some Café Rio style burritos. Sister Tavernari shared a wonderful poem written by some missionaries. Here it is:
I had been in that hole for a very long time
In the dark and the damp, in the cold and the slime.
The shaft was above me; I could see it quite clear
But there’s no way I ever could reach it from here.
Nor could I remember the world way up there
So I lost all my hope and gave in to despair.
I knew nothing but darkness, the floor, and the walls
Then off in the distance I heard someone call:
“Get up! Get ready! There’s nothing the matter.
Take rocks and old sticks and build up a fine ladder.
This had never occurred to me—had not crossed my mind.
But I started to stack all the stones I could find.
When I ran out of stones, then old sticks were my goal,
For one way or another I’d get out of that hole.
So I soon had a ladder that was sturdy and tall
And I thought, “I’ll soon leave this place once and for all.”
I climbed up my ladder.  It was no easy chore,
For from lifting those boulders, my shoulders were sore.
I climbed on up the ladder, but soon had to stop
For my ladder stopped short—some ten feet from the top.
I climbed back down my ladder and started to cry
I’d done all I could do.  I gave my best try.
And in spite of my work, in this hole I must die.
And all I could do was to sit and think, “Why?”
Was my ladder too short?  Or my hole much too deep
Then from way upon high came a voice, “Do not weep.”
And then faith, hope, and love entered into my chest
As the voice said to me that I’d done my best.
He said, “You’ve worked very hard, and your labor’s been rough,
But the ladder you’ve built is at last tall enough.
Do not despair.  You have reason to hope.
Just climb up your ladder; I’ll throw down my rope.”
I climbed up the ladder, then climbed up the cord.
When I got to the top, there stood the Lord.
I couldn’t be happier; my struggle was done.
I blinked in the brightness that came from the Son.
I fell to the ground, his feet did I kiss
I cried “What can I do to repay thee for this?”
Then he looked all about Him.  There were holes in the ground
They had people inside, and were seen all around
There were thousands of holes that were damp, dark, and deep
Then the Lord turned to me and he said, “Feed my sheep.”
Then He went on His way to help other lost souls,
And I got right to work, calling down to the holes:
“Get up!  Get ready!  There’s nothing the matter.
Take rocks and old sticks and build up a fine ladder.”
It now was my turn to spread the good word.
The most glorious message that man ever heard.
That there’s one who is willing to save one and all
And we’ve got to be ready when He gives the call.
He’ll pull us all out of the hole that we’re in
And save all our souls from death and from sin.
So do not lose faith; there is reason to hope
Just build up your ladder; he’ll throw down His rope.
(Author Unknown as yet.)
We stopped at IKEA to show Sister Scherbel how lucky we are to have an IKEA nearby and again purchased a bunch of “necessities.”  We also stopped at our wonderful Maximall and purchased the things we couldn’t find at IKEA. After getting slightly lost and taking one wrong freeway exit, we finally made it home.

We love the Knorr dried soups for quick suppers as we dunk delicious Italian bread in them. We are definitely eating well.

Tuesday was an unusual day. We are required to register with the Questura (local police) within eight days of our arrival in Italy. In order to do so, we need to pay some money and sign some special forms. President and Sister Kelly were going to bring these forms down to us as they came to visit the Battipaglia Branch last Sunday. However, President Kelly was sick and unable to come down. So the Mission Office in Milano shipped them by DHL and asked us to wait at our apartment for their arrival. So, Sister Scherbel waited all day for this special delivery. On Monday, the door handle broke off our washing machine. We had noticed that our Landlady was treating it kind of tenderly as she showed us how to use it. Now we know why. We notified the Mission Home of this mini-disaster. They told us to also await the delivery of a washing machine on Tuesday. So we were awaiting two deliveries.

In the meantime, I went out to take care of a few more errands. We needed copies of our house keys and gate key. After getting soaked Sunday, we went through the many various keys hanging on the wall and finally found one for the back gate. We were paranoid that if we accidently left the house and forgot the house key we wouldn’t be able to back in because the door locks automatically when it closes. We had heard stories of missionaries scaling walls and balconies to get in their apartments when they forgot their keys. So I found a place to copy our keys – even the large skeleton key which opens our front door.

I also wanted to find out about Internet and cell phone options. All the stores are closed from around noon or 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Finally, at 4:45 pm the cellular telephone store opened. I learned about several plans. I then needed an Ethernet cable so I could connect my laptop to the church’s Ethernet and a usb cable to connect our printer to our computer. I finally found a little computer store. A husband and wife operate it much like my computer business in Star Valley.

Tuesday evening I helped with English class. There were only two students – one “advanced.” Stefano and I had a fun evening talking about his schooling and career plans. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering. He had lots of questions about the United States, so we got on the Internet and looked at Google Maps.

Today, we went back to visit the Tavernari’s. Jonathan had done a bunch of research about Internet/cell phone options and volunteered to help us purchase what we needed. We took a small walking tour of Cava de Tirreni where they live. We then purchased a SIM card for Geri’s iPhone with an Italian number so I can call her. It is a pay as you go plan which requires no contract. There is no charge for incoming calls and she gets unlimited internet and 200 text messages (in Italy) and 200 minutes for 13 euros. We don’t expect to use this phone too much, but it is great to be able to stay in contact. I’ll carry the mission cell phone and she will have hers.

We also purchased a cellular modem which allows us to connect our iPhones and computers to the Internet over the cellular network. We get 5 Gig per month for 20 euros. We will see if this will be sufficient for our needs. This gives us the flexibility to connect to the Internet even while we visit members’ homes so we can show them Church videos.

We really like the Tavernari family. We had a delicious lunch with them (mozzarella and provolone cheese with fresh lasagna with artichokes) at a local restaurant, learned where to buy such things as vanilla, brown sugar, baking powder, and chocolate chips. Sister Scherbel has already made a batch of peanut butter cookies from peanut butter she brought with us.

So far, except for a few problems with our apartment, we are doing more celebrating than missionary work. We love it here. We try to take at least a mile walk every morning to explore new areas. We are gradually getting familiar with our surroundings.

Avellino, the first city I served in as a young missionary is in our branch. I never dreamed I would be able to return to Avellino, but we have an elderly couple that lives there, a wonderful investigator named Flavia, and the daughter of another of our members in the hospital there. We are scheduling a visit there probably this week.
We try to walk at least a mile together each morning. This a picture of our apartment from a nearby overpass.

Line points to our apartment

Sunday, February, 3, 2013. It is nearly 4:00 a.m. Since arriving in Italy, I have consistently woken up around 3:30 a.m. -- Just having trouble adjusting to the new time zone. We are spending our second night in Battipaglia. So, let’s see, we arrived in Rome around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, January 31 and stayed that night with the Kelly’s in the mission home. We met with President and Sister Kelly for some instruction Friday morning and received a brief tour of the four floor mission home – three floors plus a basement floor. It turns out that they can sleep 25 – 30 Elders and half a dozen Sisters at the mission home when they have mission conferences. The top floor is filled with bunk beds. Some men were inspecting the mission home for any needed repairs before the new Mission President arrives in June. We understand the Elder Kent F. Richards will be touring the mission week after next. We need to return to Rome for a conference with him on February 13th. We will go up the night before to be ready for an early meeting.

We were introduced to our car, loaded our luggage, and headed south toward Battipaglia just before noon. We had asked Elder Steuer if our car was a diesel like his. He said he thought so. We discovered that we had only half a tank of gas, so our first order of business was to fill up. We stopped at a little corner gas station and tried to decide if our car was diesel or gas. I tried looking in the manual, but couldn’t find it. (I found it later right in the glove box. I just couldn’t see it in the heat of the battle while other cars were waiting to fill up behind us.) It turns out that the diesel nozzle is larger than the gas nozzle and it wouldn’t fit. We then knew our car uses gasoline --definitely a tender mercy. I had pulled into a self-service station planning to save a little money. Luckily, the lady filling up the other cars realized that we were novices and came to help. If we had put diesel into the car instead of gasoline, we would have been in real trouble.

Our car came with a Tom-Tom GPS device, so we entered our address in Battipaglia, and set off. We drove south for around three hours through the beautiful southern Italy mountains and valleys. I got sleepy about half way and Geri drove the rest of the way. We exited at Battipaglia and found that our GPS device wasn’t quite perfect for the smaller city streets. After driving down an extremely narrow alley and making a few wrong turns, we finally found Via Fiorignano which we recognized from looking at Google Earth before we left the US. We then telephoned the Elders – Elder Vitali, from Hacienda Heights, CA and Elder Taylor from Idaho Falls. (We had also received a cell phone from the mission office – all the comforts of home.) It turned out we were 50 yards from the church and about the same from our apartment. Our apartment complex is gated, so they opened the gate for us and we had arrived.

Our apartment had been occupied by the Elders’ Landlords. She is 70 and he, a retired fireman, is 74 and both are still fit as a fiddle. She is the boss. When I heard we were to live in their apartment, I was immediately worried that it would contain a lot of knick knacks and other junk. We had heard that there were three bedrooms and that they wanted to store some of their things in one of the rooms. My worries were confirmed in spades. The apartment was literally filled with tons of knick knacks, family photos, clothes, and just plain junk. We had only a couple of drawers and a bit of closet space. Everything else was filled to the brim with their things. I asked if we could relocate a few things and maybe even throw a few things away such as a hair dryer which didn’t work. I received a definite “no” to both questions.

Elders Vitali (L) & Taylor (R). We ate most of four pizzas...Very tasty!
Once our landlords had left, we started discussing our options. The Elders had also had a bit of trouble getting them to fix things. In the meantime, Sister Scherbel wanted to stop by a couple of stores and purchase some essentials. The two most important things were a hair dryer and a hair straightener. Toilet paper also seemed important even though the toilets had no seats.  We then asked the Elders where we could find a good pizzeria. After looking for one they really liked, but couldn’t find, we went to Franco’s Pizza. I was unbelievable. Besides pizza we tried arancini, which are rice balls stuffed with peas and cheese, fritatini, which are balls of macaroni with cheese inside, and something else whose name I can’t remember but are essentially breaded mashed potato sticks.  All three were very good. The pizza was amazing (Each one had a golf ball size dollop of fresh mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk in the center.) and we were able to get to know the Elders quite well as we ate with them.

Returning to the apartment (the Elders live right across the hall) we went to bed wondering how to get the apartment situation resolved. Brother Calabrese, a much loved Patriarch, coordinates apartments from Rome. He has an amazing reputation for keeping things organized and under control. I thought we would just have to give him a call and see if he could help us resolve the situation. We could hardly sleep with worry. Our landlady had said she had washed and ironed the sheets, but the mattresses, blankets, and pillows looked old and very used. I was imagining armies of dust mites attacking us in the night. The whole apartment had a strong odor of human bad breath. I couldn’t sleep and got up around 2:30 a.m. and made a list of my concerns so that I could talk to brother Calabrese in the morning. Here are my notes:

We understand from the Elders that our landlady has really worked hard to clean up this apartment. However, notwithstanding her progress, it still has some serious concerns:


1. Strong odor from previous occupants -- Landlords of the Elders' apartment - hopefully this will go away as we live here and remove some of their stuff.

Knick knacks covered every horizontal surface
2. Lots of personal stuff:

   a. Master Bedroom: large pile of stuff behind make-shift curtain, pile on chair, letters/books/bills on dresser, large armadio (free standing closet – schrank in German) brim full

   b. Living Room: Tons of knick-knacks, pictures, junk around TV, two hutches completely full, buffet full and surface covered with knick-knacks

   c. Guest Bedroom: too much furniture

Kitchen drawer full of dried bay leaves
   d. Kitchen: cupboards and drawers full of stuff we can't use, i.e. wine, chamomile, a drawer completely full of chamomile, another drawer full of bay leaves, decorative sugar/coffee/salt/pepper holders, and all drawers and cupboards are full of junk in general, i.e. plastic bags, string, etc.

   e. laundry: junk behind door, old mops, old broom, old plastic buckets

   f. hall: pictures, marble stand, knick-knacks, spare keys, three old vacuums, a bunch of junk (plastic bags full of light bulbs, a length of braided hair, metal rods, etc.) on top of armadio – every horizontal surface is covered with pictures or knick knacks.

3. Showers:
Nice bathroom - no shower curtain, no toilet seat

   a. Bathroom: tub/shower - no shower curtain, tub slick to stand on

   b. Laundry/half bath: very small shower - never been used - wooden window will get wet, no shower curtain (not sure this one is usable.)

4. Toilets: no seats

5. Internet: none

6. Mattresses, pillows, blankets: Old, used

7. Can we use the heat?  Quinto sternly warned about using too much electricity, and said they never used the heat because it was always warm in Battipaglia. (We were cold our first night, but I tested the heat [old radiators] and it seemed to work fine.)

8. Microwave: none

9. Refrigerator: needs cleaning

10. Gas Range: burners need cleaning

11. Need multiple trash cans – Italy has recently decided that all residents must separate their trash into five categories. Each day a different kind of trash is picked up – one day paper, one day plastic, one day food related garbage, one day miscellaneous. We are trying to learn exactly what the rules are.

I went back to bed around 4:30 and must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew the door buzzer was sounding from the ground floor. I didn’t have time to answer it before someone was pounding on theapartment door.  It was nearly 9:30! I answered the door in bare feet and my pajamas, still bleary-eyed. It was our landlady. She wanted to know if everything was all right. She had indicated that they were leaving for Reggio Calabria that morning, so I decided that I needed to express my concerns while she was still here. I had wanted to phone Brother Calabrese to get a little bit more prepared, but since we had slept in, this was not going to be possible.

So, I started expressing my concerns as gently as possible. She wanted to hear none of it and couldn’t understand why we needed so much space. I said, well, since we can only use about one fourth of the space, maybe we should pay only one fourth of the rent. She definitely didn’t like that idea. I offered to move their things into one of the bedrooms which we wouldn’t use. She didn’t like that idea either. Then her husband started lecturing me about not using too much electricity again. I told them I had had enough of this conversation and we would have to call Brother Calabrese and see if we could work something out, because we couldn’t stay in this apartment under the current conditions. As soon as I started to actually telephone Brother Calabrese, her tone completely changed. She said, “OK, we will move anything you want us to.” She said she would be embarrassed by calling Brother Calabrese.

This started a very long morning. We had to point out each group of items in each area which we felt needed to be cleaned out. She would point to each item and ask can I leave it or must I take it away. We would say as kindly as possible, please take it away. This went on for about three hours. She didn’t want us touching anything, but started putting her things in boxes and plastic bags. It turns out they own another apartment on the second floor where they took all their stuff. I can only imagine what this apartment must look like. As we agonizingly went from room to room, we finally were able to convince them to remove enough of their things that we could live fairly comfortably and not be too embarrassed if someone came to visit us. There are still plenty of their things in the apartment, but it is much better than it was initially. Wouldn't you know it, in all the excitement, her husband accidentally picked up Sister Scherbel's new $80 hair straightener and a hair dryer she had borrowed from Sister Kelly.

Once the landlords had left, we started organizing. Sister Scherbel sent me shopping while she cleaned and organized. The missionaries introduced me to the Maximall about six kilometers (3.5 miles) away. Wow! What an amazing, modern mall! One of the stores is a huge Walmart type of store called Carrefour. It seems to be part of an organization called SpesAmica (Spending Friend). It had absolutely everything include all kinds of groceries. We picked up the cleaning products on Geri’s list and some electric multiple plugs. The hairdryer we had purchased the night before had a plug that was too large for our outlets. We tried to find an adapter. The adapters all say Max 1500 Watt. The hairdryer uses 2100 Watts. We were worried burn out a fuse or trip a circuit breaker, so we kept searching.

Then the Elders took me to IKEA. What a wonderful surprise to find an IKEA store relatively nearby. We purchased hangers, pillows, plastic trash cans, toilet seats, toilet brushes, bathroom rugs, etc. We also grabbed some lunch – a tiny pizza for one euro and a lingon berry drink for one euro. By the time we got back, Sister Scherbel had things pretty well organized. I then took her back to the Maximall for some more shopping. We bought a little microwave oven, an HP 6510 printer for 49 euros, and a bunch more food. We then came home and made Caprese salads, ravioli, and leftover pizza for dinner. Dinner was wonderful. The day ended much better than it had begun. We were able to unpack, hang things in our closets, put a few things on shelves, and sleep on new pillows. We had decided that the blankets and sheets were probably ok. We are still thinking about getting new mattresses.

We love the Battipaglia area. It is a little bit run down for a European town -- probably not so unusual for a town in southern Italy. There are a few vacant/derelict buildings and quite a bit of trash around, but all in all it is a beautiful area. We are anxious to meet the members in church today. It is Fast Sunday. We understand only around fifteen people attend church, so we will probably be bearing our testimonies…