*Original email edited to protect the innocent. 😉
So I’ve finally arrived in Germany. I knew flying over Germany that I was no longer in Texas. There wasn’t a single truck to be found on the roads. It’s been a pretty crazy week. Literally. But I’ll get to that eventually. Be excited.
Before I get in to stuff, I’d just like to say that I really despise typing on this German keyboard! The “y” key and the “z” key are switched, and it messes me up every time I try to type something with a “y” in it! I’ve never truly appreciated how many times I’ve used the letter “y” before, but now I see that I use it quite a lot! Another thing, the key that you use to create an apostrophe has been replaced with this key: ä. It’s really annoying me. By the way, I’m typing all of this in an internet cafe near my apartment. There’s a very large, elderly middle eastern lady next to me watching Snow White. She comments on it from time to time. It’s pretty sweet.
So the twenty eight other missionaries and I arrived to Germany this last Wednesday. We got there at about 8:30 German time. After getting through them checking our passports, we immediately were greeted by President Schwartz and Sister Schwartz. They told us all “hertzlich wilkommen!” which basically is the way that you welcome somebody in Germany. President Schwartz gave all of the Elders hugs. Then we all loaded our luggage onto the truck that they had rented for us. Then President Schwartz came back and shook all of our hands and hugged us again. Then we all went and got on the Bahn to go to the mission home. It took a little while for us to get there, but once we got there, one of the assistants to the president, a British chap by the name of Elder Penfold, had me and two other elders that arrived go with him to an appointment at a members house to go talk to her. Total time in Germany: one hour. Number of appointments: one. Yes, I am that good. Anyways, it was a pretty easy little visit. We just shared a quick spiritual thought, asked her if she had any referrals, and then she gave us a plate of cinnamon rolls and some mineral water. That stuff is gonna take some getting used to.
So once we got back to the mission home, they gave us a crap ton of paperwork to fill out. Boring. Then they gave us a bunch of bretzels (mom note: this is a real thing, had to look it up to see if it’s a spelling error. It’s a bread thing…carry on!), apples, apple juice, and samples of German chocolates. Tasty. After that it was my turn to go and interview with P. Schwartz. He greeted me with a third hug. The man’s a hugger. The interview went really well. We just talked for a few minutes. We discussed Me, Texas, the mission, testimonies, etc. He’s an awesome guy! He’s super nice and funny, and you can tell that he is really passionate about the mission. He also sounds a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegar, which is awesome. Once we finished and I was leaving I went to shake his hand and he declined it and went for a hug. Total conversations: one. Total hugs: four. Like I said, the man’s a hugger. So then we all gathered together and the Schwartz’s officially welcomed us to the mission, and then we had some pizza for dinner. It was pretty tasty. Then we all drove to the hotel, and promptly went to sleep at about seven. It had been a long day.
The next morning we all woke up and had a delicious German breakfast at the hotel. We had croissants with meats, and cheeses, croissants with nutella, yogurt, and fresh fruit. I like Germany so far. Then we had a meeting about the mission, and we were paired with our training companions, and were told where our first area would be. My trainer is Elder Watson. He’s from American Fork, Utah, and he’s been out for about a year. So far we’ve been getting a long pretty well. My first area is a city called Saarbrücken. It’s a pretty decent sized city and area that is on the far west side of Germany, bordering France. We could literally take a 15 minute ride on a StraßenBahn, street train, into France if we wanted to, but we’re guessing that P. Schwartz wouldn’t like us leaving the country without asking, so we haven’t done that. Yet. So anyways, once we were paired up and ready to go, we drove to the train station so we could get to our area. At the train station, Bahnhoff, we stopped to get some food there. I got some curry-wurst and fries, which was interesting, but good. Then we boarded a series of trains, and went to Saarbrücken.
Saarbrücken is a pretty big city. It’s also pretty interesting. It’s kind of a tourist city, so there are casinos everywhere. Everywhere. We passed ten once on the way to an appointment. The buildings in Saarbrücken aren’t all that pretty, but there is a lot of beautiful countryside around it, and the river is pretty nice. There are cigarette butts everywhere, though. That’s something about Germany, everybody smokes. So one thing cool about my area is that there are two other Elders that are in the same area, so we get to work with them a lot, which is nice. Their names are Elder Brown and Elder Kalt. So once we arrived in Saarbrücken, we went to drop our things off at our apartment. Our apartment is pretty nice, we have a kitchen, study room, bedroom, bathroom, and a really big closet that’s pretty much another room. It’s a little old and dirty, but I’m happy with it. The only thing I’d like to change is the shower. You have to hold it, but I guess that’s just European. We also live across from a pub, which is awesome. Sometimes we see drunk people leaving it at night. It’s pretty sweet. Our ward mission leader also lives above us, which is pretty convenient. His name is Peter, pronounced Payter, and he’s a converted Hungarian man, who’s probably in his fourties. He’s a very handy man which is pretty cool. He lives with his wife and son. His son is about 17, and is a Priest in the ward (mom note: a “Priest” in our church is an office of the “Aaronic” Priesthood – something boys receive at age 12, and is comprised of boys aged 16 – 18), and I haven’t met his wife, but she’s supposedly a very nice Muslim woman. So Peter went with us to the other Elder’s apartment to help them get set up, because their apartment is new; since they’re a new addition to the mission, and were supposed to be sisters. So we went and set up their apartment, and then we went back to our apartment, Peter gave us some chicken, and then we went to sleep.
So yesterday, Sunday, was definitely the most interesting day. We went to our ward, which is actually in a real church building which is pretty nice. It’s a pretty small little ward, only about forty or fifty people, but they’re all really nice. I did get lectured, though, by an elderly man named Bruder Kreis. He was mad at me because I said “Ich heiße Elder Cassell” which means “My name is Elder Cassell”. He told me that I am called Elder Cassell, and that it is not my real name. He told me “You were not born with that name, were you? I think not!” It made me laugh. Apparently little things like that make him mad. They had me introduce myself in sacrament meeting, and they all laughed a lot when I said “Hi I’m Elder Austin Cassell, and I’m not from Utah.” Apparently that’s hilarious. They were all really nice, and told me that I speak very well. But I’ve heard that from everyone, no big deal. We have some eating appointments, so that’s good.
Are you ready for my favorite part of my mission so far? I met my first crazy guy yesterday! It was everything I’d hoped it would be! So we were walking to go give a Book of Mormon to a potential investigator, when this guy starts walking towards us. I could tell that he was drunk, so we weren’t going to really talk to him. But he waves both his hands in the air and yells “HEY ELDERS!” he then ran over to us and shook our hands and started telling us, in English, about his life. He told us that his name was Mario, and that he was from California and that he was happy to see us because we’re always nice. He started drunkenly rambling on about who knows what, and then all of the sudden he says “hey watch this!” he steps back and dramatically places his hand over his heart and starts stating the Pledge of Allegiance. I joined in. Then he gave me a hug and told me he was proud to be an American. He smelled bad! Like alcohol and BO. Then he started stating the preamble to the constitution. When he finished I told him that he had a really good memory. He thanked me with another hug. This one lasted a solid twenty seconds. Awesome. Then he said God bless you, and he went on his way. I laughed so hard! It was amazing! So then we continued to deliver the Book of Mormon, which didn’t exactly work out. We got there and she called us and said that she couldn’t meet with us, but that her friend wanted to talk with us sometime soon, so we got her number, which was good. So we headed back, careful to avoid the area where Mario had been. We were close to our home, in the plaza of some buildings, when all of a sudden we hear “HEEEYY!!!” We already knew who it was. So we turn around, and here comes Mario jogging over to us, flagging us down. He drunkenly rambles on for a bit, something about if we ever have any trouble we can call his friend the chief of police in Kaiserslauter, and he’d take care of us. Then he gave me a hug and left. People in Germany like to hug me for some reason.
So that was my first week in Germany. Pretty awesome, right? I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy shenanigans I’ll get up to this week!
I miss you guys, and I’ll take lots of pictures and actually be able to respond to individual emails next week!
Love almost always sometimes, Elder Austin Cassell
PS. If you want to write me letters, because I can respond to those easier, or send me stuff, my address is “Auf der Werth 24, 66115 Saarbrücken GERMANY”
Mom Note: He included only a couple of pics from the MTC (finally). NOTHING from Germany! I might slap the boy if he doesn’t send me some pictures soon! But he felt it very necessary to have this one pic included…for Tran! Yes…he has the duck! The Lego is for his Legoland friends…