There's a lot of questions you have been asking in letters and such that I need to answer. I don't have time during emails, so I'll just do it like this. I can't send very many letters like this, my funds are somewhat tight, but I'll send as many as I can. Next month will be better money wise. haha :)
Grammy sent me a letter with a bunch of questions that I'm sure you all have as well so I'll answer those and add some other things too.
The first question was about the gypsy people I teach, whether they are a poor class of people or they are an actual ethnic group. Though they don't have much money, this isn't what makes them gypsies. They are absolutely their own ethnic group. They originated in Europe and over a lot of time have been making their way eastward. They were in Slovakia for a long time but recently have been moving to places like England and Canada (basically places that they can get good social benefits in). They actually have their own language, which I don't understand a word of. When I first got here (for the first couple of weeks, minimum), I thought they were only speaking Slovak so I felt really lost when they would speak to each other in gypsy. I thought I understood Slovak much worse than I had originally believed. Also, my companion speaks a lot of Czech rather than Slovak (him being from the Czech Republic) which didn't help in the beginning either. However, once I realized these things, my mind was able to process what was going on much better. I'd put myself at about 80% understanding the Slovak and Czech at this point. Gypsy 0%.
Grammy also asked if I would ever be transferred. To be honest, I have no idea. My companion has been in this area the entire time he's been out (a year and a month), and I know it's because he speaks the language which is so needed here. I will likely spend at least the majority of my time here in Sheffield. As for teaching/knocking doors outside of Slovak people, no. Everyone we teach in Slovak. I street contacted a teenage boy (an English one) and got his information but we referred him to the English speaking elders. We don't really knock doors, either. Our teaching pool is constantly growing because these people are all somehow related and refer us to other family members. Which is awesome because support from members is what helps people stay strong after baptism.
My companion, Elder Sindylek speaks English pretty well, but you can certainly tell he is not a native English speaker. His questions sound like statements 90% of the time because of word order, and sometimes his statements sound like questions. I've been able to explain the meanings of words and phrases to him as well as what English is colloquial. He's reading "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder", which is written using old-style educated English, and sometimes there are words in there that we never use in normal conversation, so I help explain that to him. Of course, he helps me a lot with Slovak. Because of cases, which English doesn't have, there are about 444 ways a single word could change it's ending. I've almost got the application of these down (I've had them memorized since the 3rd week in the MTC, it's just the matter of fluency changing words at conversation speed that is hard). Anyhow, he helps me when I case things wrong and also helps me with sentence structure which is much less flexible than English.
There were also many questions about my apartment. It's more like a flat that I stay in, and it's pretty small space-wise. There is another companionship in here with us, too. (Elder Williams and his companion, Elder DeShazer) We have one washer and dryer as part of our flat. As for the cooking in the flat, it's pretty decent. However, we rarely have time to really cook something, so a lot of our food is fast and easily prepared stuff that's also cheap. We probably have about 3 meal appointments a week. Yes, I have a warm blanket that was here upon arrival. It rains very often here, as expected, but I have an umbrella, so it's alright. We walk a lot here and there are many, many hills. Sometimes we use the bus but they are rather unreliable as to what time they arrive at the stops. A lot of the time it's faster to walk than to wait for the bus.
I met the mission president on Oct. 23rd. He's a good man and I can tell that he's very pressed for time. Our interview was rather brief, but I was glad to finally meet him. I have no idea how far away the mission home is.
Sundays we walk to church about 2 miles away, gathering members and investigators along the way. With this branch being young, the Sunday meetings are a little different in that it's recent converts teaching lessons and giving talks and such. Other than that, the setup is pretty much the same. I am indeed playing the piano- I am the only Elder who can in our zone, and only two of the branch members play the piano (they are English, and are aiding the Slovak branch's development by serving in leadership positions). As for going to the temple on my mission, that one's a no. It's not a part of my mission boundaries, so I can't.
Yes, I had fish and chips for the first time just the other day and it was excellent! Much better than the intestines, which were disgusting, and the pig tails, which were mostly fat, skin and bone. I probably won't have fish and chips again on my own budget- it was over 4 (pounds), which I could buy like 4 frozen pizza's with. My companion really likes doner kebubs, which are cheap Pakistani fast food (there are a ton of Pakistani people here, and thus many Pakistani restaurants and shops) that I wasn't overly fond of.
Being a Slovak speaking missionary, we don't really have exact boundaries. Basically wherever Slovak people are, we go. most of our investigators live in Darnall, which is like a section of Sheffield, sort of a sub-section. We also teach in Firth Park and have one family in Rotherham. The Rotherham family is hard to travel to because we can only get there in a reasonable amount of time if we go by car, so we've only really taught them when the Allen's (the senior missionary couple that send you pictures) can go since they have a car. The majority of our time is spent in Darnall, which are flat likes right on the border of. The rest is almost entirely spent in Firth Park. These are both sections of Sheffield. Rotherham is the only city we've taught in outside of Sheffield and just that one family.
I've been doing something with my Slovak Book of Mormon that I'm pretty excited about. I've been going through the sections of Preach My Gospel that have applicable scripture references, and then marking them in my Book of Mormon. I also have those scripture tabs (I think Grandma Brown gave them to me?) that I've been sticking on the pages so as to be able to quickly flip to them when needed. I write on the tabs the main idea of the scripture and they are color-coded to the 5 lesson categories. When it's done, it will be a great resource for teaching with the scriptures effectively. When I'm finished getting it all marked, I'll send a picture.
Traffic here is pretty crazy, and the roads are a mess. I honestly don't ever want to drive here; it scares me too much. The other day Elder Sindylek and I were crossing the street and this parked car suddenly shot back in reverse, right in between us. We were both maybe three inches from the car. I know we were protected, for sure. I've been sick this week too. My head has been killing me. I've still kept working though. That's why I'm out here.
Hopefully this letter helped give you a better idea of what I'm doing here. I love hearing from you. Letters are the best way to hear from you, that way I don't have to spend as much time reading during email time. Thank you for writing me. I send this with all my love, and I hope things are going all right back home. You're all amazing, every single one of you. Look for a miracle this week- I promise you'll find one. You may not be on a mission and "living and breathing" the gospel like me, but you are still children of God dedicated to Him and He will bless you. I pray for you every day and I know Heavenly Father hears those prayers and will bless you. I love you so much! Always remember that. :)
All my love,
Elder Zachary Brown