Hoi! I love it here! I've been in Groningen for 5 days so far (arriving a day late due to an exciting adventure of airport delays), have the best trainer ever, Sister Meier, from West Valley, UT (near Salt Lake) (we have some mutual friends including both of our good friend Maddy Thompson), and the people here are awesome.
I love talking to people in DUTCH, it's so fun, and it's been beautiful, sunny, Florida-status weather here (I was teasing the ward members yesterday about the weeks of constant rain in Nederland being a false rumor), which means the city parks are filled with people laying out in pleasant moods because of the sun = hello contacting. In fact, yesterday I was joking about how "the fields are white [with pale northern Europeans who are trying to tan] and ready to harvest" haha. But, Sister Meier's had so many appointments planned for us that we've hardly had time to contact, although we did for about an hour on Friday, and also I did talk to two different college-aged students on bike while we were waiting at a light to cross, which Sister Meier thought was so funny, because when the light turned green (yes, they have bike traffic down here, I mean they have to, it's the top form of transportation), we kept talking, biking side by side haha. It's great, because I can always just say some type of small talk, like, "I like your shoes" or "aw, what's your dog's name?" etc., and then apologize for my nederlands- I've only been here for 3 days, and then they say "oh wow no that's awesome, are you studying here?" and I tell them that I took a break from studies to serve a volunteer mission, etc. It's nice to be able to pull the "I'm new, let me practice my Dutch card".
There is this awesome investigator who I will call K, who was an atheist philosopher a few months ago, is 28, and is so smart, and is getting baptized this Saturday! He is so cool to talk to, so strong, and apparently changed so much in the past few months (making changes while still maintaining his awesome and individual identity, of course - this seems to be something that people are scared of here, that if they become religious, their individuality disappears). But a good counter-example is H, the Gospel Principles teacher in our ward who is a total hippie musician who was converted 13 years ago and LOVES the gospel and is seriously so cool and popular and hilarious.
Mission home in Leiden
My first day Elder Melligan and I met President and Sister Robinson, the assistants and our trainers in Leiden, we signed some legality paperwork, and then I hopped on the train with Zuster Meier to Groningen, way up in northern Netherlands, and we had an appointment with K (and his cool friend W who sometimes comes over when we come, he smokes in the corner and has read some chapters from hBvM and thinks it's pretty cool and is a crazy good pianist and will play at K's baptism) which was great. I've met so many awesome ward members, investigators from Cape Verde, Saint Martin, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Nederland of course, you name it, but I don't have much time to talk about each one! Groningen is pretty diverse, and there are lots of students- University of Groningen just celebrated its 400th birthday- and is beautiful.
Sister Meier and I live in a house (yes, a 3-story condo previously owned by members!) in a neighborhood out in the countryside, about a 45-min bike ride from the church, and 30 mins from the downtown station. So I get to see cows, sheep, ducks, countryside canals and even a Windmill on our quick morning run (wish it was longer!), and get to see diversity, cute cafes, bikes, bikes, and more bikes, and cool-looking old buildings as well as cool-looking architecture in the city, it's great. I love the ward here, it's so great, I was invited to introduce myself/ bear my testimony in Sacrament Mtg. which was exciting! And I met the Van der Puts' son who is in our ward and showed him the picture of us with his parents which was really cool. (The Van der Puts were a missionary couple from the Netherlands serving in England when we were there in 2002-2004. Our children loved them and we had them over often, and Sister Vanderput spoke at Eliza's baptism. Eliza is carrying around the photo of our family with them, to show to them when she finds them. )
The members are so fun to talk to, it's funny because I tried to be sly about not loading up on the Dutch sausages at a dinner appointment, and they totally pried and kept asking if there were certain things I don't like, and when I casually mentioned that before my mission I didn't eat meat/ cheese/ etc. and was seeing if it would work to keep that up here, they were like, oh cool yeah don't change, but you have to tell people, we'll make an announcement in Relief Society, and it's been such a blessing because the Dutch pride themselves on being accepting of differences and actually think that's so cool, and Sister Meier already eats stuff I like, for example the first day she suggested Dutch muesli (so good) with hazelnut milk, and beet and pea salad.
I got a bike! She's a beaut, only 80 Euro, but rides like she was 150 Euro, one of my investigators is gonna help me spray paint it a bright color which is the trending Dutch thing to do. Ah it's been so great, the people here are so cool, and I love talking to people about my beliefs and how we're really not that different. Something so neat was yesterday, I met M, a 28-year old who has been coming to Jo-Vo (young adult- they have a great, fun Institute program here) activities and church and learning so much with the missionaries, and after talking about the what and why about baptism with her yesterday, I asked her if she wanted to, and we set a date as a goal to work towards! She's so great. Little kid Dutch is so cute, and church in Dutch is so powerful, we had a great High-Council speaker yesterday about why hard things happen and how to stay strong, ah it's great here.
I love you guys, and I love it here, I'm so excited to be engaged in the work and look forward to talking to and teaching and befriending so many people. I'll try and send a few pics real quick, but really not that much time! Tot volgende vorberidingsdag!
Zuster Riley (: