We arrived in San Remo and were immediately enveloped in friendly arms of so many that Austin knew while on his mission here. He served here 8 months, so he made many friends. One of the families called Austin last week to set up dinner for the night we arrived, so his son, Mirko, picked us up at the train station and took us to Rosa’s house, the place we are staying while we are here. When we got to Rosa’s house, there were 2 other women there with Rosa to welcome us. I forget their names, but they live so far away that they can’t get to church in the morning with the public transport available, so they stay with Rosa Saturday nights and go to church in the morning with her. Due to this arrangement, Rosa put us up in her bedroom, the 2 other ladies in her bedroom upstairs, and Rosa slept on her own couch! She is a saint, and has tried to do everything possible to make our lives pleasant while we are here.
|The tunnel to the trains|
After cleaning up a little and setting up our things, Mirko drove us to his parent’s house for dinner. Graziano and Tatiana Panella were great hosts, and fed us an amazing dinner. To start off, there were two types of pasta, tortellini in a very good broth, as well as other pasta with ragù. For the second course, she made an assortment of vegetables stuffed with a delicious mixture of cheese, eggs, ham, and other yummy things. I especially liked the stuffed zucchini and stuffed peppers, but the most interesting were zucchini flowers with the mixture on top of them. I saw a bunch of zucchini flowers at the market, and asked Austin if he had ever eaten them before. He responded that he had not, but we definitely tried them tonight and they were yummy. With the second course, bread was served, and then it was time for dessert! We had ice cream with chopped pineapple on top. In Italian, the word for pineapple is “ananas”, and the Panellas were just floored that in English the word is pineapple. Both Graziano and Tatiana know very little English, but they are open to learning little by little, and Mirko speaks fairly good English, so it was fun for all. Afterwards, they let us use their internet and showed Austin an Italian comedy about the mafia in America.
|The Panellas… they fed us 3 times!|
The night was fairly late by the time we got home; the Panellas are definitely night owls and always full of energy! We woke up and got ready for church, and Rosa made us hot chocolate (SOOO GOOD with hot milk, cocoa and sugar), and we had little toasts and cookies with nutella for breakfast. We all set out to catch our rides- an older gentleman came to get some of us staying with Rosa, while the Panellas picked us up to take us to church. The new church building (it had changed since Austin was here) is right across the street from the harbor. When Austin got there, it was more of the same story. There were at least 10 couples/older gentlemen and ladies who were so excited to see him and wanted to talk to him. He ended up talking with people right up until sacrament meeting started. It was a very interesting meeting, because 5 Ghanans had just been baptized the night before, and their confirmations took place during the meeting. Because this takes a relatively long time, there was only 1 5 minute talk. Also, the Ghanians don’t speak Italian, so there was English translation with head phones set up for the meeting. There ended up not being enough headphones in the end for all of us and the Ghanans, but I got to listen to a majority of the meeting in English, which was really nice. It seemed like the branch was really rallying around these new members, just as they welcomed us. San Remo really is a great place to be a member of the church.
A little ways into the meeting, I realized that one family that looked REALLY familiar was actually a little girl that I coached in swimming in South Jordan, Utah and her mother. I thought they were from Argentina, and so I was pretty confused as to why they would be in church in San Remo. Turns out, they moved from South Jordan, Utah to San Remo 3 months ago for Giada’s school (that’s the little girl’s name). The mom was just so amazed that I was here in Italy that they invited us to lunch for tomorrow! Then she sat by me for the rest of the meetings and we tried to communicate just like we had when her daughter swam on the swim team, with hand gestures, she speaking in Spanish and I translating that into English in question form. She doesn’t know very much Italian either, but she and Austin can communicate fairly well, her in Spanish and him in Italian J. It was a gigantic coincidence for sure!
|Austin’s missionary apartment|
We stayed for all 3 hours of church, and Austin got several more dinner and lunch invitations. Currently he is trying to sort them all out so that we can see all of the families that he would like to see while we are here. This might entail us not taking the train out to Monaco for the day like we were planning on Tuesday, and staying to visit Tuesday in San Remo instead. I didn’t really understand much of what was happening in Sunday School, but I definitely understood the Relief Society lesson. It was on President Uchtdorf’s talk about the forget-me-nots. The main point they were making in the lesson was that there are good ways to sacrifice time, and poor ways to sacrifice time. Sacrificing tons of time to make cutesy handouts for class is not a good sacrifice of time, for example, whereas visiting someone who is lonely or sick is a good sacrifice of time. I enjoyed the talk, and I enjoyed the lesson even though I could only get the gist of it. After church, we were swept away by the Panellas to their house for lunch. We had pasta with pesto, leftover stuffed yummy vegetables, as well as leftover pizza and this really good other thing that I don’t have a name for. It was pie crust/filo dough with a mixture of vegetables and spices and other stuff in it, kind of like a pie. For dessert, we had melon, and Graziano had to go to work, so we sat out on their outdoor terrace in the shade eating our lunch and enjoying the amazing views.
After lunch, we got a ride back to Rosa’s house and took a nice long nap. We had less than 6 hours of sleep the night before, and definitely needed it! After napping, Austin called a few people, and we set out on a walking tour of the main part of the city of San Remo. All of the shops and the harbor/beaches are down below on flat land, but all the members live up in the hills on one side or another of these hill crevices where all the houses are. We walked through the main shopping areas, where many San Remo residents were out taking their Saturday afternoon/evening stroll. Austin took me by all of the places that were familiar to him, including a gelato shop, a pastry shop, and the apartment that he lived in with 3 other missionaries. He commented that when he spoke briefly with the missionaries at church, they were amazed that 4 missionaries lived in the tiny apartment, one of the smallest in the mission, when they felt like 2 people barely fit. We took pictures by the apartment and then made our way to the Sacco’s home for dinner.
Sorella Sacco’s husband left her and her 7 children, but she always sacrificed the time and food to feed the missionaries, since she was the closest member to their home. She invited us to dinner, saying that she didn’t have anything planned, but that we would eat whatever she had around the house. She still has 3 children at home, and she warned us that 2 of her grandchildren were also at the house. She was watching them because her daughter had just had a baby. When we got there, we found that she had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old grandson, and they were full of energy! The 4-year-old immediately started climbing all over Austin and playing with him. After grandma told him to stop rough housing, he got out an Italian/English memory game and we played several rounds of that before dinner. Turns out what’s around the house at the Sacco’s is pretty good! We had salad and a baked pasta dish that looked really easy to make- just cook the pasta, put the sauce on (both tomato/ragù and beschiamella sauces), put some cheese on top and bake it! It was really yummy and her daughter had made their version of brownies for dessert. All desserts in Italy have less sugar than American desserts, so the brownies did not taste like American brownies, but were still really good, and she had made a whipped cream chocolate frosting to go on top. She spent the whole dinner telling us that they weren’t very good, but she was pretty happy when we reassured her that they were good! (She’s 16 and the only child that still attends church out of her siblings). The evening at the Sacco’s was really great; Austin is going to be a great dad as he was really good with the Italian kids.
P.S. You know the movie Life is Beautiful with the ADORABLE Italian boy? Yeah, it seems that most Italian little kids are just as adorable as the kid in the movie.
After the Sacco’s, we went by the Panella’s in order to get a ride home, and spoke with them for a few minutes. They are the best hosts and made sure we were comfortable the whole time we were in San Remo.