I almost cried walking down the steps of the plane. I was in MY mission! I was finally there. I thought about the months of preparation, the moment I got my call, the nights I spent on Pinterest with Madi, the days I spent crying over stress, the words in my Patriarchal Blessing telling me that I was to serve a mission and that I would be okay, the look in my parent's eyes when they dropped me off at the MTC... The emotions I felt right then were indescribable! I was so happy and excited. We got our bags and walked into the front of the little airport and saw the biggest teddy bear you ever did see! His name is President Grant and he is my Mission President. He is so cute! And his wife is the cutest thing ever. I might be obsessed with them! They are SO nice! So there I was jumping up and down holding back tears shaking the biggest hand of my life and I think I called him dad... but he said welcome Sister Higgins we are so excited to have you here! My heart was on fire and every nerve in my body was screaming with the Spirit or lack of sleep or something. I was where I was supposed to be and I knew it with every fiber in me. President decided he wanted to drive the Sisters to the mission home so all 5 Sisters got in his car with him and his cute wife and the Assistants took the two Elders. On the way home he asked if we wanted to try anything and for weeks in the MTC we had been told about pumpkin oil. They use it to dress salad. So Sister Redding told him she wanted to try that so we pulled over at a store and he gave us money and told us to go get some for dinner. WAIT PRESIDENT.... HOW DO YOU SHOP IN CROATIA?!?! haha So we went into the store and realized we didn't know the word for pumpkin or oil!!!!!!! I mean we don't really need that in the first lesson so it's not in my brain! Haha So we wandered around and I saw a picture of a pumpkin on a glass bottle with a word that looked like oil hahahahaha it was so much fun! I was laughing the whole time. We paid in kuna? What is that? And then went back to the car where the President was laughing and waiting for us. Then we drove to the mission home. I love the mission home. It is so big and cute and European and it has the most AMAZING view out the back (I was too tired to take a photo, sorry). We helped prepare the dinner and then the trainers came. They were all SOOOO cute! I fell in love with the Slovenian Sisters in a second and knew I would love serving with any one of them. I had known of Sister Nydegger before my mission and I know her friends so we clicked quickly and I sat by her at dinner while she made fun of how tired I was haha. President made us stay awake for a while (apparently that helps with jet lag) so we stood and sang songs to stay awake and then he FINALLY let us go to sleep. I slept in my skirt haha I was OUT!!!! So tired! So so so tired! I didn't even know what day it was or time.... so I slept like a rock. I don't remember even turning off the lights. Best night's sleep ever. I woke up SO excited to find out who my new companion would be. I was nervous because companions are HARD and affect a lot of how you feel about the work, so I was scared. We went downstairs and had breakfast.... guys. I had the most AMAZING croissant of all time. You could hear how good it was! HEAR!!! That's not a sense I am used to using when eating. It was beautiful. And I didn't know they tasted that way?!?! What is it that we eat in America?!?! It was worth crying over, it was the most amazing thing! Then we started training. President at the beginning got up and announced where we were all headed and who we would be with. One sister got sent to Serbia hahahahahahahahaha poor girl. But when he said Sister Higgins and Sister Nydegger in Celje my heart stopped. I knew in that moment that God loved me and was aware of what I needed. I was SOO excited to have the cutest Sister train me! I also knew that moment that Celje was the place I had loved all along. It's where I belonged and I was SO excited to take the gospel there. So during training the door opens and I am too out of it to notice anything so I keep working with Sister Nydegger. Suddenly I hear, "HOLLY!!!!!" I was like wow, that's my name?? And I turn around and see Kenna LEE!!!!!!!!! (A girl from my stake at home who I went to high school with) I was so excited!!! We both hugged and got a photo and talked about home and had lunch together (some weird Chinese thing that was so spicy) I loved seeing Sister Lee! It was so great! Another answer to prayers! After training, we said goodbye to the Croatian Sister (and one Serbian haha) and left to the bus station with all our stuff. Sister Nydegger knows her stuff so I wasn't even worried. We got all of my luggage on and we got on the top floor of a double-decker bus and settled in for our ride to Slovenia. My companion and I just talked and giggled the whole time. While the other Sisters slept. The further we got out of Zagreb the more excited I got! She was telling me all about the members and how much they already love me and everything. After being in a HOT bus, we got to the border of Slovenia. We were HOT and tired and sick of sitting so we got out to show our passports. We were all so tired that we just started walking.... soon a bunch of security was coming after us.... we had walked across the border. hahahaha So fun! Oops. Good memory! So I said “Sister Nydegger you can't get me kicked out of the country on my first day!” Then we got our visas checked and got back on the bus. The second we got past the border I almost cried. It was SOOOO pretty! I am convinced I have the most beautiful mission in the entire world. It is perfect! I saw rolling hills of green with the cutest cottages with red roofs. And SO many cute European churches it just gave me chills. I loved seeing Slovenia for my first time. It is totally beautiful and precious. It is so much better than I expected. The bus took us to Ljubljana where we would catch a train. Sister Nydegger and I went and got tickets for everyone while they watched our bags. I am glad she knows this language. It was so great!!! Then after looking around waiting for our train we said goodbye to sister Redding and her companion and the Ljubljana Sisters. The train ride was nice! It was dark, so I didn’t see much. We rode with the Maribor sisters and Elders and our Celje Elders. It was a fun ride! It wasn’t a cute train and they said it was because of the hour so I am looking forward to riding one of those. Finally, after what felt like another day of travels, we got to Celje. I said goodbye to Sister Rhodes and that was sad. Then we got off the train and walked through this marble cute (dirty) train station and took a selfie haha we were so tired. Then.... I got my first look at Celje. It is the CUTEST thing I have ever seen! The fountains were still on (I am making it sound like it was 2 am... I think it was like 7) and not a soul was out (Slovenian thing) so it was just us 4 missionaries and the cobblestone streets (Elder Peterson is also in Celje and I love not being the only new missionary and I am so excited to serve with him for another 9 weeks!) The best way I can describe how it looked was like Disneyland! No building over 5 floors, all squished together to make the cutest sight. The street lights were on and we pulled my luggage through the cobblestone streets. We said goodnight to the Elders and went to our apartment.... we live on the 5th floor and the only way up is a spiral staircase. And the lights only stay on for 20 seconds. hahahaha it made for a ton of laughter and falling into walls searching for the light. When we got to our apartment we were sweating and laughing and panting and it was so great. Our apartment is HUGE for Slovenia! We have a room with our beds, a room for studies, a room with two closets for getting ready and a cute European kitchen. It was so cute. We also have 2 bathrooms, which is crazy! I love my little home. We unpacked and said prayers and went to bed. I was so excited to wake up the next morning and be a missionary in the field alongside of the world’s cutest companion.
Ok I can’t go day by day for the rest because that would be a lot so let’s go by topic.
FOOD!!!! YAY FOR EUROPE!!!!!!!! The first hours of my first day I tried palečinke which is basically a crepe! Warning: I might come home fat!! It was amazing and supper filling I couldn’t finish even though I wanted to with my whole soul, I also ate krof which is a beautiful little doughnut from heaven. Burek, which is sort of a long croissant with meat in it. That was amazing too. Sister Nydegger made me a Slovene dish.... it was weird but good. Also yesterday at a member's house we ate orange hard boiled eggs..... Don’t ask me how... we drink tea I think at every house. Literally. Every house. I like some of it! I will probably be a tea drinker by the end of this mission haha there is even tea in the church (all Mormon approved tea, of course) the weirdest thing so far was this aloe drink. Literally, a drink with Aloe chunks in it. It is green... and when Sister Nydegger bought it for me I was like “Ha! No thanks!” but it is literally the most amazing thing. It tastes like a Hichew candy. It has chunks of aloe in it which is a little weird but I am over it and I love it. We got some more this morning when we went shopping. They eat super healthy here so I have eaten a ton of healthy things. They have some awesome chocolate. I only got a little egg from a member on Easter but it was awesome! I will send some home sometime soon!
How is teaching, I am sure you are all dying to know. The first day after a district meeting, we went contacting (where you walk up to people on the street and tell them about the gospel) Sister Nydegger did two and then told me it was my turn. I got them to stop and told them who we were and what we were doing. I am actually pretty awesome at contacting. Something Sister Nydegger started doing after the first few was telling people how it was my first day in Slovenia and then having me speak... I got such praise for how amazing my Slovene was for the first day and we ended up getting 4 new investigators! SO yay for that! I am happy! I can speak Slovene, and I can understand every single thing my companion says, but I really struggle with understanding others, so that has been frustrating. Yesterday we hiked to the castle and went tracting in the cottages behind it. This was my first time tracting. Sister Nydegger did the first 2 doors and then told me to do the next one. So I knocked and waited and they answered. I was so excited that I started laughing... and suddenly I had the worse giggles. That made Sister Nydegger giggle too... so there we were on the green hills by a castle, two American girls who just happened to be wearing matching outfits and giggling our hearts out stood before this teenage boy.... he ended up not wanting a lesson... go figure! One of my favorite speaking moments was yesterday at a member lesson and Sister Nydegger made me say the prayer. I was nervous but I did it... when I finished, the cutest member (old lady) squeezed my hand and with tears in her eyes told me that I was amazing at Slovene and that it was a beautiful prayer. Sister Nydegger also looked so proud of me. I felt so happy. I love speaking Slovene and I am glad that I am not afraid to do so.
Funny moments? Oh man... where do I start! One day we were contacting down by the river and we saw a drunk guy asleep on the bench and I said hey he needs the word of wisdom! We giggled but as we got closer I really wanted to teach him!!!! So I got out a restoration pamphlet (unfortunately I didn’t have the word of wisdom one) and wrote our number on it and slid it ever so gently under his arm. haha That was fun. On Saturday we sang in town center and we had a competition with a rock singer to see who could sing louder... sadly you can only sing “I Need Thee Every Hour” in Slovene so loud with 4 people haha. One day our alarm didn’t go off... oops! So we slept in on accident! That might have been an answer to my prayers though because I felt so much better afterward! We have had some awesome memories already! We laugh all the time and are seriously so happy. We dance in the pouring rain just because, we run every morning by the river. It’s so great. I love it here.
I made a list of culture shock things that I forgot to bring with me so I promise that next week. I am loving Europe so much! The work is awesome and I grow so much every day! We got the special and rare opportunity to watch General Conference! All sessions except for Sunday afternoon. We watched the morning sessions live (like 8 pm here) and I loved knowing I was doing the same thing my cute family was doing. Conference as a missionary is different. I learned so much and got 10 pages of notes. I received answers to my prayers and it was just so great!
Well family... Unfortunately, that is all I have for this week!!! I am so happy! Please keep praying for me! I miss getting packages and letters and that has been a small adjustment for me but I know I am being supported! I love this work. I love being a missionary! I LOVE Slovenia!!! I love the cobblestone streets, the pigeons who don’t know personal space, the cute grandmas and their hats, the church bells every hour, the smells (smoke, sewer bakeries), the red roofed cottages with smoke coming out the top, the nonstop rain and wind, the countless castles, the food, the members, the homeless.... I love this mission so much! I love my companion probably the most! She has made this transition a party!!!!!! I have never been happier!!!! I miss you all more than words can express! Thanks for writing me! I love you all!