Here I am in Cleveland, my trainer is Elder Marini (I'll send you a picture), and I have been assigned to the Garfield Heights area, which, due to some changes in area boundaries, actually does not include the city of Garfield Heights. My area covers downtown Cleveland and the west side. It is an interesting mix of nicer neighborhoods and poorer neighborhoods and government housing. It is always fun when you turn down a street and a bunch of guys block it of and tell you "wrong turn", but luckily the people in Cleveland are pretty bad shots, so I am okay. Just kidding, mom.
P-day is going to be Monday most of the time. My new address (the mission office, where letters should be sent) is:Elder Matthew Smith2070 W.117thCleveland, OH 44111 It is weird to me that the address is "2070, West 117th" instead of "2070 West, 117th like it would be in Salt Lake" Elder Marini is pretty cool. He likes aviation, '90s country music, and spicy food, (and the scriptures, of course) so I couldn't have really asked for a better companion. I guess the Lord really does know what He is doing.
The day we arrived we had interviews with President and Sister Sorensen and talked to the APs a lot. The next day after we arrived we got to go to Kirtland and go in the temple and the Newell K. Whitney store, then we went to transfer meeting to meet our trainers. Since then, we have been mostly just trying to find people to teach. We do not have any progressing investigators; I guess all the people our area was working with are now in a different area due to the aforementioned changes to area boundaries. Luckily we get a lot of referrals; the Ohio Cleveland mission gets the 4th most referrals of all the missions, and my area gets the 2nd most in the mission. So we spend a lot of time contacting referrals, visiting less active members, and tracting.
Funny story: we were tracting the other day and the lady who answered the door said "no Ingles", so I started talking to her in Spanish and found out that she was already a member. She invited us in and showed us pictures of all the different Elders that had taught her and that she had fed. Elder Marini was pretty lost (so was I, a little), but luckily her son spoke English. Later that day, we were still tracting and someone else said "no Ingles", so I tried Spanish on them, too. then they said "no Espaneesh; Arabic; Muslim" so I felt kind of dumb. During our tracting and contacting this week we have met a few people who might be promising, so hopefully I will actually be able to teach a lesson here pretty soon, but maybe not; we'll see what happens.
Remember in "The Best Two Years" when the new Elder gets to Holland or wherever he went and talks to someone and says to his companion, "that's not the language they taught me in the MTC!"? Well, that's kind of how I feel. I don't know how to speak black, and about half of the people I talk to are black. I hope I will be able to learn the language fairly quickly though. The other day we were contacting downtown and Elder Marini was holding conversations with people, but I mostly just smiled and nodded. I am starting to be able to pick out a few words here and there, though.
Our ward is interesting. We are in the Cleveland 1st ward. About a third of the active members are Pediatry students from out west - Utah and Idaho mostly - who are going to school here in Cleveland. The ward mission leader and the bishop both seem like really hard-working guys, also, so that should be helpful. It is about 20 miles or so, I think, to church, so the 2nd counselor of the bishopric picks us up and takes us to church, then whoever is feeding us gives us a ride from church to their house to our apartment. We live in an apartment in a nicer area about a block or two south of the lake. The cupboards are full of top ramen and macaroni, of course. Luckily, the members in the ward are really good about feeding us, I guess, so we have not had a night yet where we did not have a dinner appointment. I am going to get SO fat, I can already tell, since every night is like a Sunday dinner with dessert.
Our area is a walking area, so to get around we usually ride our bikes to a bus stop or rapid station (the rapid is Cleveland's light rail - like trax in Utah, but smellier.) (the mission provides us with bus/rapid passes), then ride our bikes the rest of the way.
Mom: If I left any slacks behind that still fit me, could you please send them to me? I need more slacks that are not dry-clean only - we don't wear suits except on Sundays in the summer, and when it rains they can get pretty dirty when we have to ride/walk through the rain.
It is kind of hard for me to tell which way is which here since there are no mountains. The lake is north, but you can't usually see the lake. Downtown is east, but you can't usually see downtown. Also, the streets that run north-south in Cleveland "usually" make sense. They are mostly numbered based on how far west (or east, but my area is all west of Cleveland) they are from Cleveland. However, the east-west streets all have names. Luckily my current area is right under the final approach course for Hopkins Airport and their big runways run Northeast-Southwest, so that is my main way of telling directions: a plane will fly over every minute or so and they always fly Southwest. My companion thinks it is pretty funny that that is how I tell directions, but it works. I will probably be totally lost once I get to my next area, though.
I am basically always tired. I guess either this is hard work or I am still living in Mountain Time; either way. I can tell I am working hard because I am not eating like a little bird anymore. That probably has something to do with being in a walking/biking area.
I'm good, the food's good, it's all good.
I love you, everyone!
Elder Matthew Smith