The Christmas presents she mentions at the end was a reference to an actual Christmas from Claire's past when Santa brought her a bike instead of another American Girl doll. Santa explained in his letter that year that she would understand someday why he knew she needed a bike more than the doll. I'll have to forward this letter to him :)
Transfer calls sometimes make me feel like I'm on some strange reality TV show and every 6 weeks, someone gets voted off the island. And this time around, it was me that got voted off the Marzahn island and then got voted onto the Bielefeld island. Yes, I'm leaving my home of the past seven months and heading west again to “whitewash” (restart a program--meaning no missionaries are there to welcome/guide/introduce the city to us) in a dritt (aka I have two companions rather than the standard one). Tune in next week to see what adventures the three of us will have on our new island!
Before I leave this island though, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Marzahn memories.
· Running for bahns (trains). Okay, that's like every missionary ever, but pretty much at least once a day we are running to catch a bahn.
· Biking! Because I don't like doing the previously mentioned memory, I have had a blast riding bikes all over east Berlin the past few months. Whether in daylight chasing people down or at night trying to translate Taylor Swift in German as we rode (I assume this is some reference to singing some Taylor Swift song while riding), I'm so grateful for the chance I had to use bikes here.
· Wild fruit and having a companion that always searched for apples for us in the Fall.
· Africans of all shape and sizes, but mostly men. A new African shows up for church every week--yesterday it was our friend Nana from Ghana! We had an awesome lesson with him on Friday where he said he hoped to join us in the "celestial city." I've learned a lot about how to talk African-English too. For example, instead of saying "you guys" when talking to a group of people, Africans say "you people." I used to think this was just a way of talking about people in our church, but this week we were with Collivan's family and the kids were being a little rowdy and so Collivan said, "You people need to stop that!" So now you know they aren't trying to distance us when they say something like "You people look so good when you eat fufu!"
· Frau Möbius. One of my favorite Germans I've met on my mission who didn't get baptized while I was here but was in church every Sunday nevertheless. She does funny things like translating obvious words in English to us and looking around suspiciously whenever we go by to see if any of her neighbors are looking. We went by this morning and and shed many 'a tear. #transfertyphoonoftears
· Schwester Kremer. Another one of my favorite Germans who got baptized last summer and is such a great example of pushing forward through the hard times of being a new convert in the church. She loves cats and is old and lonely, but so loving and giving. She also loves crossing the street when we aren't supposed to and giggles like a little girl while pulling us across and squealing "Schnell! Schnell!" We had a good sit in the park last night to say goodbye.
· Schloss Park. A beautiful place by our house where we went running almost every day.
· Dark days during the winter. Those memories actually aren't that fond, but they helped us appreciate light.
· Going on weekly exchanges with our sisters. Loved getting to know and serving with so many different sisters as an STL.
· Löwenburger Strasse--a ghetto building with duct-taped windows and occasional blood stains where we found 20 investigators/contacts. Most of whom turned out to be flakes, but one of whom turned out to be Daniel! Blind Daniel who has faithfully been coming to church and does all sorts of things that blind men usually don't do like going to libraries and playing the piano and harmonica. He has a baptismal date for the beginning of May and though I won't be here, I'm glad I met him. J
· Joint teaches. All of our best appointments had members with us. I love it when investigators and members tausch (exchange) numbers and just become friend without us even needing to be involved. I love the ward here and will miss each member dearly.
· Sisters Kriser and Rasmussen, who made me a little more beastly and a little more sweet (respectively). Laughter and love with them both.
I actually got voted off the Marzahn island early--usually we get transfer calls from our APs (assistants to the president) on Saturday morning, but President Kosak decided to give us a call on Friday night. Only missionaries know what kind of panic goes through your head when you see that your mission president is calling. We answered and he gave us our transfer calls early, which is like spoiling Christmas (though the other sisters in our apartment had to wait until morning for theirs). And admittedly, whitewashing was the one thing I didn't really want to do. And it was kinda like opening your Christmas present early and instead of getting an American girl doll, you get a bike, which you didn't want. But just like I learned to love that bike, I was excited Saturday morning for this great new adventure. Bielefeld will be the smallest city I've served in (somewhere between 100,000-500,000 people from what our map says) and this will be my first time with TWO companions.
So basically it's bound to be a great party.
This will probably be my last city on my mission, though the dritt/whitewashing part could throw in a curve ball.
I love Marzahn and am so grateful I was able to live here for so long. We sang in the choir on Sunday and so we sat on the stand and it was cool to look out and see all the people that were there that weren't there seven months ago, even if no one got baptized while I was here. It was worth it.
So, “you people” have a good week and cherish all good things and throw away the bad.
--Sister Claire Michelle Woodward