Week four is underway. Crazy to think I'm almost halfway done here. About time though...
Random note: I think I want to minor in Geography and English and maintain my Political Science major. I think that will help me a lot. Definitely not minoring in espanol. Also, I found the world's best pen but since it's felt tip I always accidentally break them by not putting the cap straight on. 2mm felt tip black pen. Glides like an ice skate.
This has been such a hectic week. We now speak only spanish in class, compared to the 75% or so we spake before. I've gotten good at charades. I can still make up words and be right 50% of the time. For that reason alone I'm glad I'm not learning a language like Russian or Mandarin; makes things a bit easier.
To anyone I have sent letters to up until a few days ago: In my lack of skill as a letter-sender (snail mail), I used 1 cent stamps. I don't know if those will make it to you guys but they havent been returned to me so I can hope. Woops. Also, mail takes a long time to get here. In one instance, it took someones letter 11 days to arrive. You'd think in the year that we can open someones chest and give them a new heart we could deliver a piece of paper a little bit quicker than 11 days. And it came from CA too, so not far away.
To Eric and Will: I overheard a newbie missionary yesterday. They all come in on Wednesday and are given orange stickers on their name tags. One of them said, while swinging his arms in a picking motion, "I'm picking at the walls, I need minecraft!" Jokes aside, some people really do struggle to stay off video games here. It's actually surprising.
I've been rowing 5Ks everyday for a week now. I made a graph to compare my 5K times. It went from an average 500 meter split of 2:11 to 2:05.6 yesterday. I felt like I was going to die but it's a great workout. I got Elder Myler on. He didn't enjoy it so much.
We lost Elder Peterson and Elder Adams to the Lima Peru MTC this week. They left the MTC at 3 am and everyone in our district got up to bid them farewell. It is also customary in our district, maybe others too, to sing "Till we Meet" in spanish to them the night before. There's something powerful about hearing 30+ elders and 2 sisters singing that song as loud yet reverantly as possible.
I learned a little bit more about a couple of them. Elder Peterson's original report date was a month from today. One Thursday night he got a phone call from the MTC and said, "Can you come in tomorrow?" In what is surely to be remembered by everyone in our zone of an act of complete selflessness, he said yes. In 24 hours, he did all of his missionary shopping, endowment, plane tickets, packing, farewells, and whatnot. He was here 23 hours later. Another person in our district actually had her dream job as a teacher yet felt inspired that she should serve a mission. She quit and reported. It's always amazing what some people do when they're truly dedicated.
This was a stressful week for a number of reasons, one of which is mentioned above. I felt exhausted and a bit discouraged as my spanish improvement has started to plateau. I did what so many people tell stories of and opened the scriptures, after praying, to a random chapter. It fell to DC 24. I read through it and immediately felt better. It was almost as if that scripture had been written for me specifically. I encourage everyone to read it if they get a chance.
Our zone got the chance to go the Temple today. It has been closed for repairs since I got here. We all walked over at 9 this morning and got into the 9:20 session. It is quite a bit different than the DC Temple but the spirit is the same. Apparently, but not surprisingly, that is one of the most productive temples. You get all the mormons from BYU and 3200 missionaries from the MTC going there. No wonder they're making another Provo temple. I still think that the people in southern Chile, or Mozambique or whatnot deserve one more. I can be inconvenienced a little bit if that means someone doesnt have to save for 2 years just to travel to the temple, let alone a 10 day via bus trip. It takes 10 minutes to walk to the Provo Temple. But in the end it is nice. Supposedly you can't read or even take your patriarichal blessing into the temple. I learned that the hard way today. I wonder why...If it's considered personal scripture, and there are bibles and copies of the book of mormon inside, why cant we read pat blessings?
Mom, did my last two API paychecks come through?
Elder Thorsen and I are contemplating with the idea of doing a Violin duet here. You can borrow violins for free, it's pretty easy, and he has played for a number of years as well. It will likely happen, I'll keep you all tuned on the progress.
I thought I would take a little bit of this letter and explain how MTC language classes work. Before I came I thought it was way different. I expected to be in a class with 20+ people and one person ranting about how to conjugate "Arrepentirse" in the past imperfect or something. I was surprised to get into my classroom of 12 people (at the time) and one teacher. The classroom is tiny. Tiny. Tiny. It's also really hot since for some reason the MTC can't maintain their airconditioners but that's a story for later. Anyway, the class is all participation. You don't cram vocab or conjugations in class, rather you focus on phrases that are important. Through learning phrases, the rest comes. It is increadibly efficient as they focus on what matters, not things like colors. Which surprised me; I was expecting to learn how to count, I can count to 10 though so I guess I'm good to go! Class time is split between teaching "investigators" (roleplaying with your teacher usually who pretends to be someone who was an investigator in their mission. Oh, all teachers are returned missionaries. One of ours served in Ecuador, the other in Washington). Anyway, it's not as easy as you would expect beacuse each "investigator" (hereto referred to without the quoatations) has very different needs. "Carolina" committed to baptism, "Gabriel" took five lessons. We were running out of things to teach him. You teach every day usually. You also often have one to two hours a week, maybe three, of English doctrine study. We also read the book of mormon in english once a week as a class and share insights we have. It's very educational and a very spiritual setting. I hope that answers some of your questions about what I'm doing here.
AC. It is so hot in these buildings. Our residence building hasn't had AC for, apparently, 1-2 months. I thought I'd do something about it and went to the maintainence building and reported it. They had had no idea it didnt work. I saved the day. Our residence is starting to cool down but I havent had a good night sleep since I got here because I always wake up sweating. I guess it's good practice for Arizona.
I realized that every hallway has microphones embedded into them. Kind of creepy. I hope they only tune in when they need to. They can use the PA and talk to a certain floor only and everyone can theoretically answer. For instance, they were looking for and Elder last week, called over the PA, and someone popped out of his room and said, "he's in 2M at the gym." It's useful but weird...
I finally ran into my cousin, Rachel. Took three weeks since she has been back but found her working in the cafeteria.
I received one of the most amazing letters this week. Hm, all of your letters are great, but this one was a surprise since it was from someone I'd never met before. Douglas Campbell, someone I had never met before, sent me an increadibly nice letter. Inside, he had written a very heart warming note on paper he made himself out of corn husk. He told me a little about his life, how he knows me (Thanks Brother Harbuck!), and how grateful he was for missionaries like me putting our lives on hold to serve the Lord. It was touching and something I plan on keeping forever.
Thank you, family, Tori, Jamie, Natalia, and Brother Campbell for the letters this week. They mean a lot. Hopefully I didnt forget anyone, so much happens that I tend to lose track of which week is which.
I'm running out of things to say. If anyone has any questions they want answered in the weekly email or a personal one, let me know via mail.
Also, Mom, could you change my address on the blog site to include "MTC Mailbox #311"? Not having that slows mail down by a day since they have to find where I am.
Is the Johnson family related to Ezekial Johnson? One of the counselors in our Branch presidency, a Call by last name, has an Ezekial Johnson in his family and that name sounds so familiar. My pedigree chart doesnt go far enough back to check, meaning the one I have with me here. It would be funny if we were related.
I don't know if I mentioned the black market of the MTC in a previous letter, but if not, here it is again. The MTC has a black market. I was sitting in my room reading from Jesus the Christ and someone I didnt know popped in, opened a bag and said, "See anything you like?" I was expecting caffeinated drinks since those arent sold here, but to my laughter and surprise it was ties. Only at the MTC do people sneak around to trade ties. Anyway, I didn't trade anything because my ties are sweet.
Two random completely non-spiritual questions I had this week that I would love answered since I don't have Wikipedia anymore: How is skin attached to the bone if at all and how does swallowing work? Wave motion?