Dear family and friends,
I have survived another week at the MTC. Pretty hard to believe, I know, but I don't even think I have gained any weight from the cafeteria food (just wait, it will come, right? :). I feel like I have been here for years, or at least months, and I still have such a long, long, long way to go! I feel so jealous of the missionaries who are here for 2.5 to 3 weeks--just think, I would already be more than halfway done with my stay here! And all they do all day is study the gospel, while I am trying to learn yet another language! :)
Speaking of the language, that will be my "informational" topic for the week. Chinese is really, really difficult. I am sure that some of you out there think that I have "special language learning skills," or something, but I think that I do not. Perhaps "special insanity skills," or something, but whatever. Anyway, Chinese is difficult for several reasons, not least of all that I have finally trained my mind to think in Arabic! So things go from English to Arabic (and sometimes Hebrew, German, or other languages) before they finally get to Chinese. I really sound ridiculous when I speak :). The other day I was talking to one of my companions about skiing, and I couldn't think of the word for "slalom." I kept calling it "shalom" skiing (which means hello in Hebrew)! I felt kind of ridiculous--but hey, it is all part of the language game, right?
The second item of business about Chinese is the tones. There are five tones in Mandarin, and while I don't have a hard time hearing them, it takes me twice as long to memorize words because I have to memorize the word and the tones (one tone for every syllable). My Chinese is totally understandable, though (when I get the right word), because I completely overemphasize each tone. It is kind of like Eliza on "My Fair Lady" when she starts speaking proper English. Perhaps I will start a new accent trend in Taiwan! :)
The language will come, though, and I pray daily for the gift of tongues. It is coming slower than I wish but faster than I expected. Yesterday was fast Sunday and I bore my testimony in Chinese. I can also pray in Chinese, ask what time it is, and make hand motions in Chinese. I can make hand motions in almost every language, actually. :) Tomorrow is our first SYL day, which means all we can speak all day in Mandarin. We will see how that goes!
My second item of business will be the spiritual, which in this case will be speaking about my district. I don't know what in the world could have given me this impression, but I always thought that MTC-elders (and often beyond) were quite immature, not gospel-oriented, playing pranks in the residence halls, ignoring the sister missionaries, not-hard-worker types. And, I do meet plenty of those (they are usually going Spanish speaking...) (just kidding Corban--my brother went Spanish speaking!), that is an exactly opposite description of what the elders in my district are actually like. I had no idea that brand new 19-year-old elders could be so diligent in their language study, so core-doctrines-of-the-gospel centered, and so normal-acting to the sisters (namely, myself and my two companions). All of the teachers and plenty of others in the MTC are talking about our district and how amazing (why step around the bush?) we are! I am amazed every day and how excited they are about missionary work. For example, Sunday evenings we have movie night, and 4 movies play each Sunday to choose from. Yesterday the choices were Legacy, The Mountain of the Lord, The Restoration, and "The Desires of Our Hearts," a devotional by Elder Oaks. When the four elders in my district saw the "Desires" film, they said, "An apostle of the Lord! Let's go to that one!" Unreal, right?
I, on the other hand, was in Legacy, the choice of my companion. And I have to admit that I don't think 19-year-old missionaries should watch those kissing scenes--I guess I realized that not all the missionaries are as "mature" about such things as the ones in my district! And my zone (branch) is also quite excellent. They are coming up daily with new ways to keep the rules in ways that I am sure no one else in the MTC does--such as not reading mail until 9:30 at night, and not going back to our rooms during the day, etc. All of the elders in my district are going to Taipei, so I am excited to work with them in the field. Good things are coming to Taipei!
And finally, the funny story for the week. I have called in my contacts and set forth my usual importance (just kidding) and left the MTC campus twice last week. The actual reason--going to the eye doctor and picking up a prescription--is not that exciting, but how many people get to leave the MTC while they are there? In the eye doctor's office, my companion and I were all ready to hand out some pass along cards, but the only person waiting was a man and his 4-year-old son. We did, however, get the son to commit to go on a mission in 15 years. We felt quite successful. And when we went to pick up the prescription, everyone in the whole store (all 4 of them--it was Rite-Aid :) spoke to us about our missions. It is easy to forget while you are in the MTC what being a missionary means to other people, so I was grateful for the opportunity!
For those of you who are concerned, my eyes will be fine. It is something I picked up in Jordan (Israel actually) and I have finally found what the problem is. I got some eye drops to last me 10 days that cost $100 (no joke) but otherwise all is well.
Thank you for your love, support, and especially prayers.