Elder Keegan Karsten Brown

Elder Keegan Karsten Brown

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bucharest Architecture

La Mult Ani!

Craciun Fericit and La Mult Ani!  (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)
Man these weeks go by so quick!  I feel like I have nothing to say from week to week so I’ll tell you what happened over Christmas.

We stayed at the office Elders apartment for Christmas Eve just to be with people, which was nice. We woke up and went to the mission office to meet the rest of our district.  Elder Phelps (Viewmont high 11') made banana pancakes, eggs and bacon for us.  We had maple syrup which comes seldom here. They don’t sell it in stores, nor do they sell maple flavoring!  We then had a gift exchange within the district and opened our presents from home.  At noon, we went to President Hill’s house for lunch and games. They cooked us all kinds of good food!  We played Settlers of Catan and watched the first Hobbit movie in preparation for the second one (in theaters) the day after Christmas.  Christmas was a good day and we had way too much food and chocolate! 

The day after Christmas, I mentioned we went to see the Hobbit 2.  By the way we have the coolest Mission President!  He allows us two movies over the holidays and included Hobbit 2 and Enders Game on the list.  We saw Hobbit 2 in Imax 3D which was sweet!  That night, Elder Barclay and I went to Sylvester’s house to eat dinner.  Sylvester is the guy we contacted last week.  He tried serving us whisky and wine; we had to ask for water, followed by sarmale, pork, beef and chicken.  We stayed there for about three hours and talked. Funny thing about Romanians is that they can talk for hours and you never get a word in! 
I skyped with family this week. Most of you know that because you were the ones skyping, and it was pretty fun. We didn’t have a limit on how long we can skype, so we talked for about 3.5 hours on Saturday morning (MDT). Mom did so well and didn’t cry until the very end when we had to say goodbye. While skyping, I commented to my nephew Damon that his hair was getting long and that I liked it.  About two hours later, I heard that he went and grabbed some scissors from a drawer in his house and snipped off a piece of hair right from the front.  Hahaha, I was laughing so hard and miss those little boys and girl!  It was fun to hear about what is going on back home.  Dad filled me in on all the sports and I just read that the CHARGERS ARE THE WILDCARD TEAM!  I can’t believe that they beat both the Broncos and the Chiefs this year!  It was good to see Devan is still doing what he loves . . . working out!  Plus it was nice to know that NOW mom is healthy.  I don’t like it when people keep things from me! ;) 

Earlier this week, Elder Barclay and I went to get a haircut.  We walked into this tiny little shop on the side of the road. The lady was in such a rush and butchered my hair!  I was mad and came home, grabbed Elder Barclay’s trimmers and tried to fix it myself.  I did fix a few things, but ended up giving myself a bald spot or two!  Let’s just say I’m going somewhere quality next time I get a haircut.
Today for p-day we went to a park and played some sport. In the mission, you don’t pluralize sport.  Anyway, we played in the shadows of Casa Poporului (people’s palace) which is the heaviest building on earth and the second largest building in Bucharest.  I don’t know too much about it yet, other than it is huge and sweet looking!  We plan on going there and touring a little bit in the next transfer if I stay here in Aviatiei. 

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and now has a Happy New Year!  It’s now 2014 and I come home in 2015! 

Miss and love you! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One Month Post MTC - The District!

MTC History: From Sister Bynum’s Blog - Funny line of the week . . .

Elder Brown and Elder Bonner have an investigator (Fratele V.) who just asked these ridiculous questions so this is what happened after one of their lessons . . .

Me: How did your lesson go?!?!
Elder Brown: He asked if we had plural marriage. When I said no, not anymore, he got really disappointed . . .
Me: *I just laugh*
Elder Brown: *While semi laughing* - Then he starts asking us this question and I'm in my dictionary trying to figure out what in world the word is . . . It was Dinosaur . . . then he went to the computer and pulls-up this picture of Hristos (Christ) holding a dinosaur . . . *the picture where Christ is holding a sheep, but it was replaced with a dinosaur*-  I didn't know how to react . . .  The plus side, I now know the word for dinosaur!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Barclay's English Breakfast!
Me with all my Root Beer!

Craciun Fericit!

Craciun Fericit (Merry Christmas)!
Hey guys! I hope everyone’s having a good Christmas week.
It’s been an interesting week.  Last Tuesday we were invited to sing and the US Embassy for the employees; only because one of our members works at the Embassy. There were about twenty missionaries and we sang and then were served a free lunch.  It was a sweet experience to hang-out with Americans and eat some good food again. 

Here in Romania they don’t have root beer, which everyone knows is a big problem for me.  At the embassy they import a ton of stuff for the employees, including root beer.  Elder Barclay and I bought a 24 pack from the embassy and spent about 72 lei ($22) on it; a little expensive for root beer but we don’t get it very often so we had to stock up!
The Embassy invited us back for Easter and I’m coming with a wallet full of money!

We were block knocking on our way to the mission office this week and we usually start from the top of the block and work our way down to the bottom floor.  After two floors we were talking to this lady, who is about 25’ish, and she argued with us about our beliefs while flirting at the same time.  After ten minutes her dad comes and starts freaking-out at us, telling us we didn’t have permission to be here or to be talking with his daughter!  We explained who we were and that we did have permission but the guy was going crazy.  We decided to leave, walking down the stairs and got to the bottom floor, but before we walked out we knocked the last door in the building.  Sylvester, a guy in his 50's, walked out and started talking to us.  He let us in, and I had the weirdest two hours of my life!  The guy started by telling us that material goods don’t matter and that it’s all about family and love.  He repairs shoes and I guess the missionaries went to him to get shoes fixed seven years ago.  They left a Book of Mormon with him but that was it.  He held up two books in front of us, one being the Bible and the other was the Book of Mormon, and told us "these are the only two books that matter!"  I guess he has read the BOM four times through.  So, after that he went around the house showing us all the personal belongings he has – The stuff that doesn’t matter!  He was so excited to show us his two TVs, his car and his sewing machine.  Sylvester even had Elder Barclay count his daily earnings, which was about 80 US dollars.  He got out his camera and took our pictures, then took video of us speaking Romanian.  The guy was so cool and funny, but nuts at the same time!  Well, he ended up asking us to come to dinner on the 26th to eat with him. I'm kinda nervous and excited to go there but it would be nice to have an investigator though! 

We also have Gypsy carolers in our block every day.  They come right to the door and start singing but we don’t open the door because they're begging for money.  Kind of sad but when we do open the door we just give them a Book of Mormon and candy if there are kids. 
This week has been really cold and really foggy.  Not much has gone on though other than I went to church this week at Panduri for a Christmas party.  It was my first sacrament meeting in Romanian and it was nuts!  I tried to translate everything in my head and understand what was going on, but really only caught about half of it.  I would say that about 20% of the congregation has some type of mental illness.  Sad, but at least someone is coming to church! 

Any way hope all is well and have a good Christmas!

Love, Elder Brown

P.S.  Barclay's English Breakfast Recipe: Toast, baked beans, big sausages, cheese, two eggs, mushrooms, half tomato and more cheese!  Haha - It's nuts but good!

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Block, but it's no Block Party!

Wall-to-Wall Carpeting?

Contacting, Singing and Gypsies?

Buna Dimeneata!

For everyone wanting to google search my exact address, I couldn’t find it but looked it up on google earth and the corner I live on is: Strada Boiangiu Radu and Bulevardul Ion Mihalache. When you get to that intersection, look at the block on the southeast side - that'll be mine!  There is a little park on the inside of the surrounding blocks (apartments) where people are always hanging out.

Elder Barclay set me up to play ping pong with some teenagers in the park and I have to be prideful and say I whooped these euros - Haha! There’s also a homeless guy who lives there too and is really nice and likes to talk to us!  So yes, this is home in the Buch!

This week has been quicker than quick!  I don’t even know what to write or tell you guys about because I feel like I just wrote yesterday.  It’s been a pretty quiet week for contacting and I wish we had done a little bit more, but it’s so easy to just get busy with other assignments. Since this is a new area, we have to get the area book filled-out and try to put together some kind of information for the next set of Elders to come in. 

We had an exchange with the office Elders early this week too.  Elder Collison, from Michigan, stayed with me at my apartment while Elder Barclay went over with Elder Phelps, who is from Farmington and went to Viewmont High School.  Elder Collison has been here six months and we decided to go contacting.  We walked outside and he said - "now don’t be afraid to talk to people” - NOT A PROBLEM!   We walked for about 45 minutes and 3-4 kilometers and in that tiny stretch I contacted about 15 people!  It isn’t much in a normal mission but after we finished I thought back to how many people I stopped and it’s clear I’m not afraid.  The cool thing is Collison was waiting for me to finish my visits.  I sure appreciate Elder Barclay!  Not only does he let me do a lot of the contacting, but he will stop people himself as well.  Plus, he also contributes to the conversations that I’m having and gives me a good example of how to explain and respond to certain things.

Occasionally it’s hard to contact (some) people; they almost always call me out right from the get-go and say "where are you from?"   Before I answer, the say "ya you’re from Utah."  Just one time I want to respond as say "no, I’m from Canada, England” or somewhere else just to see their reaction but before I can even spit out those words, Elder Barclay always responds "sunt roman" which means "I’m romanian!”  He’s a funny guy and is always doing crazy things. He can speak well enough for people not to question him, but they always look back at me and call me out again.

It’s a different world out here though.  I know that some people would go nuts if they saw some of these things.  For one, there is this weird idea that Gypsies came up with. They take their newborn child and break their legs so that they grow in backwards which helps them beg for money easier when they get older.  Just thinking about it gives me the chills.  So sad!  We see everything from crazy Gypsies to 10 year-olds smoking cigarettes.  I might just be sheltered but this stuff is crazy!

Christmas is awesome here!   Romanians are better at it than Amaricans.  Imagine, Temple Square lights at every piata or round-about. When we hit the contacting wall, we sing carols.  I know it sounds really lame but it works!  I’m not proficient at singing publicly but it’s a lot easier when people approach us when singing. We performed a Christmas program this week, singing about ten songs for members and non-members in the church at Mihai Bravu.  A lady came up to me and said that she paid $50 to attend a professional concert here in Buch and we sounded better than they did.  I guess people can’t sing in Romania and they think we are professionals!  Maybe I have a future career as the J.T. of Buch!

Speaking of J.T., check out google for Antonia Lacobescu; she’s a pop singer here – The Beyonce’ for Romanians!  Well I come to find out that her father is President Lacobescu - The man who conducts my church meetings!  He is the most humble down to earth guy.  I love talking to him and he speaks very good English.  He lived in Vegas for five years and that’s where his daughter was discovered.  Pretty cool story!  Antonia is/was a member of the church (not exactly sure).  I heard whenever people ask her about the religion, she always says good things and defends the church!  Pretty sweet considering Romanians avoid any religion other than Orthodox.

Anyway, I’m having fun and struggling too – But that’s good!  The language is hard and I knew it would be. I love being around a different culture and learning different things. Be sure to send me questions for next week and I will try to answer them so you have more interesting stuff to read.

I love and miss all you guys - Have a fun week!
Elder Brown

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Market
Merry Christmas!

Block Knocking!

Buna Ziua!

What’s up!  Another week just flew by!  I still have no idea what’s going on but I’m getting adjusted to life here in a big city.

First thing, I’ve been getting questions about lessons and members and stuff lately.   Honestly, we rarely teach lessons here.  It just doesn’t happen!   In our "Standards of Excellence," they would like us to teach one lesson a week.  That’s a goal, not an expectation.  For the entire mission (110 missionaries), there are three people with baptismal dates.  I guess my point is, this is EASTERN EUROPE!   People are heavily religious but it’s been said a few times to me that "if you aren’t Orthodox, then you aren’t Romanian!"   There are only three or four members that come to church that aren’t American and we’ve never received a meal, other than on Thanksgiving.

What we do in Buch is contact all the time!   Elder Barclay has tried to get me out contacting every possible way just to get my feet wet.  Just yesterday, we were block knocking for six hours!  We gave away one BOM and received one email address.  Definition of a block . . . So I guess back in the day of communism, they destroyed everyone’s homes and stuck them in these giant block buildings – Small apartments as far as the eye can see.  Besides all of the challenges, I love talking to people and hearing their opinions and telling them a little bit about what we believe.  I am having fun and even though we don’t get to teach, I think that people are still learning from our one minute conversations.

The apartments we have are actually pretty nice; just like everyone else, we live in blocks.  We have a washing machine, but they don’t have dryers here.  There’s a drying rack in the living room that we set our clothes on and it’s nice because when your clothes dry they feel like cardboard and smell like whatever you are cooking - which is nice! 
The landlord for our apartment is a non-member but I’m pretty sure me and Barclay are going to baptize him.  His name is George and he is the coolest guy ever!  Before we moved into this apartment, there were sister missionaries in there. They told us that every so often he wouldn’t ask for the rent because he just wanted to pay for us.  We got a call this week that he was in the hospital and had to have heart surgery.  We went to visit him after church yesterday, before his surgery, and gave him a blessing.  It was the coolest thing I’ve done since arriving here.  After the blessing, he was talking with his friends and said . . . "you don’t find boys like this anywhere.  When I was their age, all my friends were going to clubs and getting in trouble!  These are men of God and they have faith."   He asked us for a BOM and gave us a hug and a kiss on both cheeks.  He then paid ‘US’ for some things we bought for the apartment.  The guy is nuts but we think he’ll be a Bishop down the road.
I still can’t understand the language too well but I’m having a ton of fun and love being completely confused!  Barclay is good about making me pray and practice different stuff.  It’s super hard to carry a conversation with native Romanians but I think I’m getting better . . . or maybe I’m just so dumb that I don’t realize how bad I am!

Anyway, another week in the Buch!

Love and miss you all,

Elder Brown

Monday, December 2, 2013

Arch de Triumph - On Top!
Arch de Triumph


Tree Trimming
Elder Jacob Barclay - Burley, ID

Ziua de Romania
Independence Day - Romania


Buna Ziua!

Actually buna demeneata for all you Americans!  It’s my first p-day in the country and I thought I would wait till the break of dawn to email you guys just so you might have the chance to email me back!

Traveling was pretty easy! I’ve done this before but the whole group was pretty uptight and nobody was having fun.   We finally arrived in Romania at 1:05 PM Bucharest time and the first thing we did was go to President and Sister Hill’s home to meet them. They have a sweet house with a great setup; a pretty good life here on the mission! They fed us and we then went to our temporary housing for the night.  It’s called Nosching, so instead of going right to your area and starting the work, President needs time to decide where to send you so we go to temporary housing with your Nosch parents which just means some random Bucharest missionary’s apartment.

The next day we went back to the mission home and then went contacting for the first time which was pretty hard. The missionary I went with (not my trainer) said that I had guts because even though I won’t say a single word correctly, I will just walk up and start speaking to people.  They usually respond and I would just look at him for help. I can’t speak a lick of this language!  That’s alright though, I’m ok with looking dumb for a while until I understand the language. After an hour or two, we went back to the mission home to finally find out who our trainers were.

I will be serving right here in Bucharest with Elder Jacob Barclay.  He is a super chill, huge guy from Idaho!  He plans on playing football for Utah State next season so keep an eye out for him!  I’m in the northern part of Buch called Aviatile (google search "Piata Victorilor" and that will be close to my apartment).  This area includes the mission office and mission home which means President attends church with us every week.  Oh, funny thing about the church, it’s a members home.  We are the only Bucharest area without a building.  The meeting is the only one held in English as well so you can imagine how much Romanian I’m learning - none!  The members are the Bensons and they’re from America!  They are working at the United States Embassy.  They fed us Thanksgiving Dinner which was the best food I’ve had yet! (not better than mom's though).  The area is pretty lame when it comes to church attendance as we had about five native Romanians at church and they all spoke English.  The rest of us are here on missions or working for the embassy!

In Romania, December 1st is their day of independence or some jazz; their version of the fourth of July!   It was nuts!  Everybody and their dog was on the streets yesterday and yes, dogs are always on the streets.  Everyone was carrying flags and singing patriotic songs that I couldn’t understand!  We went contacting again!  I’ll tell you, when I contact I get rejected every time which becomes pretty fun.  The most common rejection is "stiu, stiu" with a waving hand which means "I know, I know.” Good thing I am used to rejection from all the girls at school or else this would be discouraging!  Ziua de Romania "day of Romania" is nuts though! You wouldn’t believe all the flags that were out and about on the streets.  These people love and hate their country so much!  If that makes any sense at all. We did a tour of the Arch de Triumph which was pretty sweet!

Here is a funny story . . . so it was my first day with Elder Barclay and we went to grab a Soarma the first night to eat.  A Soarma is actually pretty good and a missionary favorite!  It’s tortilla wrap type thing with potatoes, lettuce, chicken, spicy sauce, and all other good stuff.  You can literally buy one on every corner!  The place we went to is actually pretty nice and commercialized. So we sat down and start eating.  I’ve taken 5 or 6 bites and I’m loving this thing!  . . . Mom skip to the next paragraph . . . so I’m still eating it . . . Mom seriously, skip over this part . . . I look down to take another bite and out of my lettuce crawls a little maggot looking thing - Right on to my hand!  I start laughing and ask Barclay if this is normal!  All the other Elders start freaking out and are getting grossed out over this little bug but Barclay looks at me and says "ya that's not normal, but keep eating around it" everyone else freaked out and told me to stop!  I took the maggot out and set it on my napkin.  I figured, if I’d already had eaten half of this thing I would already have eaten a maggot or two. So I took a few more bites until I was full.  Talk about a crazy first Romanian meal in the country! I haven’t eaten a Soarma since then. Can’t decide if I want to or not.

A few things I’ve noticed in the country - People stink!  They stink way freaking bad!  The metro and bus' are so gross but you kind’a get used to it.  Nobody is overweight, probably because they spend all their money on alcohol and cigarettes.  Just today some 14 year old kid whipped out a cig and started puffin right in my face – This isn’t Kansas anymore Dorothy!  I guess I will just get this over with and say, YES, the women here are way attractive!  I would even say better than home!  Don’t worry Dad, I’m not going to do anything stupid like kiss a girl ... but I’m not going to lie and say that they are ugly – because they’re not!

Language is so far from what I thought it was. They speak so fast here and the accent is nuts.  What’s nice though is the people never correct me, they just ask where I’m from and how long I’ve been here.  Elder Barclay corrects me though just so I can learn.  I wish I spoke the language more often though but really only speak it for maybe 3 or 4 hours out of the day and then English again because a ton of people speak English.  It’s funny, people here are so proud if they can speak English.  You will be contacting someone and they will say "if you want, I speak English good" using the most broken English you have ever heard.  I always want say "no, please speak Romanian so I can learn.”   

Elder Barclay and I set up all the Christmas stuff and have our presents under the tree.  Our sucky gross apartment looks like the north-pole and it’s pretty awesome!  Elder Barclay cooks pretty well and is always the first one in the kitchen stirring something up for us so that’s pretty nice.

It might seem like I don’t have any stories but that’s about it!  If you are wondering what else I’ve done since I’ve been here it is eat, sleep, get rejected, study and repeat – haha!  

Enjoy the pictures and I love you guys!

Elder Keegan Brown

Friday, November 29, 2013

President & Sister Hill at Cismigiu Park

He's Arrived! Letter from President & Sister Hill

Dear Brother and Sister Brown,

President Hill and I were thrilled to meet Elder Brown as he arrived in the Bucuresti airport with his MTC group. He seemed very happy finally to be in the mission field after his weeks in the MTC. He was surprisingly awake after his long flights. President Hill had an enjoyable interview with him, where he learned more about this young man, and I got to spend some time with him too. We were both pleased with the ease with which he fit in. Thank you very much for sending him to us.

After some time doing preliminaries for his visa, we all had dinner at the mission home with his MTC group, after which, he was whisked away to spend the night with the Elders.

The next morning, in the cold and snow, we met at Cismigiu Park where, in 1990, Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated the land of Romania for teaching the gospel. Together, we snapped a picture of the group. I'm attaching the picture for you to see, along with the picture of Elder Brown with President Hill and me.

Then, all the incoming missionaries continued their visa processing, after which they worked hard to stay awake through our orientation meeting and then met their first companions. Elder Brown is now with his initial companion, Elder Barclay, in the capital city, Bucharest. Elder Barclay is a fun, energetic missionary who will give him an excellent start. 

Thanks again for sending us such a wonderful young missionary. We could tell he will be a very good, faithful, hard-working missionary.

With much appreciation,
Sister Hill
Romania/Moldova Mission

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The District - Hosting in the Rain!
Rubix Solved in Six Minutes!

Final Correspondence from the MTC!

Family and friends - Salut!

Here are my travel plans since everyone wants to know! 

Monday the 25th - SLC to JFK 8:30 A.M.  We leave from Provo at about 4:30-5:00 AM.  Everyone is welcome to say hi but WARNING - I might be moving quickly and not have too much time to visit.  I would love to see all you guys but I just don’t want you to be disappointed with five minutes if that is the case.   If you want to, please come! 

We then travel from New York to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Bucharest!  We arrive at 1:05 PM on the 26th – I’M STOKED!!!!!!

This week was fun! I don’t think I told you guys but last week I hosted senior (old fogies) missionaries and it was fun!  They have 10x better accommodations, like a nice hotel.   Just a few hours ago we hosted the new missionaries.  It was way fun and I greeted three or four Elders.  They were all freaked out but none of them cried like I did!   It started raining like crazy and we were all soaking wet!  It was fun!  I also got a haircut today which is only exciting if you are in the MTC.  Funny, the little things excite me – haha!

Thank you everyone for my birthday gifts!   I’ve already received a ton and it’s not even the 21st yet!  You guys are the best and I love everyone!  I love the pictures that were sent as well.  They are my favorite part for sure!

We went to the Temple for the last time today.  Two more years until I fall asleep in another session - haha! We ate at the Temple cafeteria which was the highlight of the day!  How pathetic is that?  Also, just for fun, we sang in the choir . . . I of course can’t sing. 

Everyone here is getting pretty sick of each other but we try to hide it.   I’m liking Bonner, he’s alright most the time.

Love you guys so much!