Friday, December 30, 2011

Week 6

Hey everyone! Hope y'all had a good Christmas! I know I did. Ok, this was a really crazy week, so I'll just do the list thing again:
1. My favorite lesson of the week was on Monday night. I'm normally a little tired during the day, but I could barely keep my eyes open that night. Seriously, I was struggling. But... when we went into the room for the lesson, that all went away! It was incredible! We ended up having a really powerful lesson on the Plan of Salvation. Our investigator, Esperanza, had lost her parents when she was little, so it had added significance for her. After the lesson, I went back to being super tired haha. But that's just more evidence that I was blessed during the lesson :)
2. We got new roommates on Wednesday. I'll be honest, I wasn't too happy about it. They're going to Houston English speaking though, so that's given us some stuff to talk about. But the downside is I'm on the top bunk, and Elder Hebert and I can't have our nightly talks about life anymore haha. Plus it's pretty cramped cuz there are only two desks. It'll work out though - I suppose it's just preparing me for Honduras. And when Hebert and I don't want them to know what we're saying, we just talk in Spanish haha
3. We had the funniest role play this week! Our teacher asked Elder Hebert to be his companion when they contacted someone in the street. They were just practicing getting to know someone and incorporating a gospel message into that. So our teacher, Hermano Davis, asked how the people were doing and what they were talking about. When they said they were talking about girls, Elder Hebert said "Oh ya, I remember those days!" There were a few seconds of silence, and then everyone busted up laughing! Ok maybe it's not that funny now that I'm reading over it. If you thought it was funny, awesome! If you didn't, I guess you had to be there.
4. Spanish is going pretty well. We've learned all the verb tenses, so I guess that's exciting. So we're just reviewing some of the more difficult concepts for the next couple weeks. I feel pretty comfortable with gospel stuff, but I'm not gonna have a clue what's going on when Honduran people start talking about soccer or something. I hear everyone gets owned in the first couple months, so hopefully I get a good, patient trainer.
5. There's been a big emphasis this week on forgetting ourselves when doing missionary work. Elder Bednar said it on Sunday, we've had lessons on humility during class, and the speaker for the Tuesday devotional mentioned it as well. He also included 23 scriptures in his talk! And he read every one of them! Elder Hebert and I started taking bets on how many scriptures he would use. Don't worry though, it wasn't for real money. By the way, I lost the bet :(
6. So I pulled a mini-prank on Hebert by getting the coldest water possible and throwing it into his shower. He screamed like a little girl and even said I was worse than Hitler. I thought that was a tad bit of an overreaction, but I guess it was kinda mean. I still make fun of him for it though. And who knows, maybe I'll do the same thing a couple times this week. I feel like it builds companionship unity haha
7. Hebert and I also started a new fad called "owling." For those of you who know what planking is, it's pretty similar to that. You just sit in a catcher's stance and try to look like an owl. You can even throw in a few "Whoooo"s if you feel like it. But like planking, we try to do it in the most random places possible. It's been quite fun, and we've gotten some strange looks as a result. Send me some pictures of your best "owling" photos if you want to follow the sensation that's sweeping the nation.
Quote of the Week: "You are a product of your choices, not a victim of your circumstances."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas at the MTC

Hey guys! Merry Christmas! Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! We have a special schedule today for Christmas, which includes 30 minutes for an e-mail! This is good because I've had a ton of experiences over the last few days.
First, Christmas Eve! We taught a lesson in the morning, which I have to include because it was awesome! So that morning, I was super tired for some reason. Like for the first few hours of the day, I could barely keep my eyes open. So I was a little nervous about how the lesson would go. But once we got in the door, I was suddenly awake and alert! What a blessing! Anyway, we taught our investigator about the Plan of Salvation, specifically what would happen after this life. When we got to the part about how families can be together forever, the atmosphere in the room changed. She had lost her parents when she was young, so the knowledge that she could be reunited with them was really powerful. To be honest, I can't even remember exactly what I said at that point in the lesson. It was a really neat experience! And after it was over, I went back to being really tired again, so I know I was blessed for the thirty minutes we were giving a lesson.

Second, more Christmas Eve! That night, we had a special devotional where people reenacted Christ's birth and we sang hymns together. Then we watched A Christmas Carol! I had never seen this version of the movie before- it was one from back in the day so the special effects were terrible and there were some really weird parts haha. But it still shared the great message that we can all change and become better people. Oh, plus we got to eat popcorn :)
Third, the Christmas Sacrament meeting we had this morning! It just got over, so it's fresh in my mind. Because Christmas was on a Sunday, we had a special Sacrament with the entire MTC! 2100 people! Haha it took them like 20 minutes just to pass the sacrament to everyone. Oh and the speakers after were Sister Bednar and Elder Bednar... no big deal haha. And Elder Bednar gave the best talk I've ever heard in my life. That's not even hyperbole- it was that good! He talked about putting off the natural man, becoming converted, and having Christ-like charity. I can't really do it justice because it was so fantastic. To give you an idea, he coaxed a few tears out of me at one point. And you know I don't cry easily haha.

Ok, now just a few random fun facts from the last few days:

1. There was no hot water this morning for my shower! So my first Christmas present was taking the coldest shower ever! I think if it would have been any colder, it would have been ice. I couldn't feel my hands after a few minutes and I was shaking like crazy. But I guess it's just preparing me for Honduras- I've heard there's no hot water in a bunch of the places there.

2. We had a district sleepover last night! Well... more like a half district sleepover because we all still wanted to sleep on beds. But we stayed up til 12:30, telling stories from our lives and just having some great district bonding time. It was great, but I wasn't too stoked about my alarm clock going off 6 hours later :(

3. We've kinda slowed down on the Spanish the last few days. Probably not the best idea, but it's tougher to speak Spanish on P-days and holidays. It's like your own Christmas present to yourself to not go through that frustration lol. But we'll be back at it tomorrow!

Well that's all the time I have. Hope everyone is having a great Christmas! Make sure you remember the true meaning of Christmas- it's not all the presents and decorations, but the birth of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. I know I've struggled to remember that in the past. It's a lot easier in the MTC though haha. I'll leave you with a few quotes from Elder Bednar's talk: "Character refers to moral qualities strongly developed, strikingly displayed, and consistently lived... The character of Christ turns outward in love, service, and compassion."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Week 5

Wow what a week! Thanks to everyone who sent me letters and packages! It's great to hear from people during the holiday season. But just for future reference, I don't think I need any more food for the whole time I'm in the MTC. My family really came through, so I'm set for the next month haha

1. Spanish! So this last Monday, my companion said he was going to start talking only in Spanish all day. I was pretty skeptical when he said it, but he's kept to his word. This has meant some serious frustration for me at times though. When he can't communicate something after a couple tries, I'm like "Just say it in English!!!" But he hardly ever does. The awesome thing is that it's really helped us in our lessons and just speaking in general. I feel like we improved more this past week than any other week, and it's really due to Elder Hebert's diligence. Another funny thing that we've started doing is translating English sayings into Spanish. My favorite so far is "Ganador, ganador, la cena de pollo" which loosely translates to Winner, winner, chicken dinner. It's kind of stupid, but we're so tired, that everything is funny haha
2. Gym! The scale has been kind to me this week, as I've maintained my weight. Also, basketball has been super fun. The only lame thing is that I got elbowed in the mouth the other day, so my lip is killing me. At least it wasn't my nose though. Also, there's a guy from the new district who is a beast at basketball, so it's pretty fun to be on his team lol
3. The Dorms! So one night, we were really bored and decided to look above the ceiling tiles in our room. Turns out some missionaries before us had thought the same thing! There was a box of toys up there, including a pinata of Big Bird. It was really random, but kinda cool. It's like the missionaries before us had their memory live on. Anyway, we put the Big Bird pinata in one of the showers, and it really scared the first guy that went in there the next morning.
4. Lessons! Ok funny story from our lesson yesterday. We've been trying to get one of our investigators (Ariel) to bring his wife for our lessons cuz apparently you can get really creative with these role plays. But we were planning on teaching the law of chastity for the first time ever in our lesson to Ariel because it comes up in the baptismal interview. However, his "wife" was there for the first time. He hadn't even told us about it, but we didn't wanna teach law of chastity for her first lesson cuz that's just weird. So we adjusted on the fly and talked about the importance of families. It was kind of an awkward transition at first, but the end of the lesson was really powerful. We almost got her to agree to baptism actually, but she ended up backing out and saying that she needed to think about it some more.
5. Competitions! Elder Hebert and I have a competition every day where we see who weighs less. It was really funny this week cuz I won every day, but it was by a pound or less every time haha. I like to make him think he has a chance. Also, the new tic-tac record is 2 hours, which is held by me. Noone, under any circumstances, should try to break this record because it absolutely destroys your mouth. It took me like 5 days to recover, which wasn't good combined with the busted lip.
Well, that's all for this week! Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas! If you haven't gotten your presents by now, I feel sorry for you because it's a lost cause. Have fun and stay safe! Nos vemos!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Week 5

So today, I hit the one-month mark at the MTC! It's weird cuz on one hand, it feels like it's already been two years. But on the other hand, I can still remember coming into the MTC like it was yesterday. I don't know, I guess the MTC just distorts how time is passing. This week felt a little more normal though, so that's good. One of the guys in our district left for the Guatemala MTC (actually it was our old district leader), so we're down to eight now. The new district leader is one of my best friends, which is definitely a good thing to have. Ok here's a random list of things from the week:

1. Lessons! We've taught about once a day this week, and our lessons are definitely improving. Although there have been a few where our teachers give us like two minutes to prepare, so they're a little sketchy haha. But we had one yesterday on the Atonement that was super powerful! The spirit was really strong, and our "investigator" accepted our message really well. Also, we had another TRC with that same lady from last week (the one from Mexico that talks REALLY fast). This week went a little better. I could actually understand the points she was making, even if I couldn't understand every word. I guess that means my Spanish is actually improving! Yay!

2. Sleep! I've realized the two things you treasure most in the MTC are sleep and letters. We only get about 7 hours of sleep a night, and we work really hard all day. The good thing is I fall asleep right away. The bad thing is that after lunch, we have a district-wide malaise haha. It's honestly hard to keep my eyes open, and mumble stuff back to the teacher in Spanish.

3. Pranks! So the guys next to us got new roommates this week, and decided to play a prank on them. They just made it really awkward by acting like they hated each other. It got pretty elaborate, and our whole district joined in on the prank haha. Anyway, they started yelling at each other, having some shoving matches, storming out of the room, etc. I think it kinda freaked out the new missionaries, but we ended up telling them by the end of the night. They looked pretty relieved lol

4. We had a substitute this week that ended up telling us stories about his mission for like an hour. It's probably not exactly what he was supposed to be doing, but it was good to have a break after working hard all day. He told us about having a companion that had a scholarship offer to play catcher for Texas A&M, so he was obviously good at baseball. Anyway, while they were tracting (in Argentina by the way), a teenager threw an orange at him as a joke. The kid didn't throw it hard, but it hit the guy who played catcher and he got really upset for some reason. Our teacher said he picked up the orange and threw it like he was trying to throw someone out at second base. So this orange going about 70 miles per hour whizzed past the kid's head, missing him by about a foot. I know it's a really random story, but it was quite funny at the time.

5. Bets! Not for money of course, that would be ridiculous. But my companion and I made a friendly wager with our new district leader this week. If he and his girlfriend break up before he gets home from his mission, he has to go to BYU! So basically he has to come to BYU because there's no way his girlfriend will wait two years for him haha. That's just how it works. But he seems convinced that they'll stay together, so I guess we'll see what happens.

Ok just a little disclaimer: I think these stories make it seem like we're just having fun all day, which is totally not true! We just like to have a good time, and our district has become super close over the last few weeks. But we've also learned a TON, and had so many awesome spiritual experiences. Ok that's all for my disclaimer. Hope everyone has a good holiday season! Stay safe and have fun! Remember the true reason we're celebrating Christmas. Ok I really gotta go else the MTC police will be after me for going 8 minutes over my e-mail time haha. Nos vemos!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Week 4

Dang it seems like I've been here for FOREVER! Seriously, everyone in our district says it seems like we've been here for 4 months instead of 4 weeks. I guess it's because we do so much every day. When I write in my journal at night, I can't even remember what we did in the morning cuz the days are so long. It's not bad though. I've learned so much already. I guess I'm gonna go with the quick list format again cuz it's a lot easier.
1. We taught this lady from Mexico at the TRC yesterday, and she talked SO FAST! My companion and I should have asked her a lot more to slow down because I think we only understood like 60% of what she was saying. I'm still at that point where I'm translating Spanish back into English while people are talking, so I was always like 2 sentences behind what she was saying haha. But it was still a decent lesson. We probably didn't teach to needs as well as we should have though since we didn't catch all of what she said. Experiences like these make me realize how far I have to go to be able to understand the Honduran people.

2. We had our best lesson by far with Ariel (role played by our teacher Hermano Davis) on Wednesday. We had a rough outline of a lesson, but decided to switch it up halfway through after asking some questions and listening to the spirit. Obviously, it turned out to be a good move. Our Spanish wasn't anything special, but the Spirit was so strong as we bore testimony that Ariel could find an answer to his questions through prayer. It was such a powerful lesson that Ariel prayed without any hesitation at the end of our lesson, which was a real sticking point for all of the other companionships. After the lesson, Hermano Davis told us to write everything down that we did to make it such a powerful lesson. It just strengthened my testimony that we don't have to have perfect Spanish skills to have a good lesson. Teaching by the spirit is definitely the most important thing to do.

3. So I've had a couple run-ins with my district leader this week, which probably isn't so good. I guess that's bound to happen when you're around each other for pretty much the whole day. He's a good guy, but we just have totally different approaches with teaching, leadership, and basically everything. I'm becoming such good friends with everyone in my district though, including Elder Walbeck, the district leader. Elder Hebert and I especially, just seem to be on the same page pretty much all the time. Hopefully I keep getting awesome companions like him.

4. So in the bad news of the week, it turns out the scale wasn't wrong. I somehow weigh 180. It's all muscle, of course, but I'm disappointed all the same. But since I realized that on Monday, I've started running. Elder Hebert and I also have a friendly competition every day because we're always within a pound of each other. I've won 2 out of 3 days so far! Hopefully, I can keep it up haha

5. Gym story of the week: I pretty much had the most amazing 2 games of basketball ever yesterday. Seven 3-pointers and a layup, which I think is pretty solid. And that was after running 2 miles too, so it was definitely a good gym day. I didn't play any more Four Square this week though- basketball is just way more fun.

6. Thanks to everyone who wrote me letters this last week! It's awesome to hear what's going on outside of the MTC. I might have even come close to beating Elder Hebert at who got more letters.

7. Since I make everything into a competition, I guess I'll share one more story. During class yesterday, 4 guys in our district decided to see how long we could keep a tic-tac in our mouth. Surprisingly, the record is now an hour and 45 minutes! So if anyone beats that, let me know. My personal record is only an hour and fifteen minutes if you want an easier mark to beat :)
Ok I've already gone over my alloted time for e-mail, so I should probably get off before the MTC police come. Hope all of you have a great week! Stay safe and start buying Christmas presents! Take it from an expert, it's never good to procrastinate. Nos vemos!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Week 3

Hey everyone! I can't believe I've only been in the MTC for 16 days... it feels more like 16 months. Haha I don't mean that in a bad way, we've just learned so much in such a short time. Anyway, I don't have a ton of time (30 minutes always goes by fast), so I'll just share some quick stories from the week.

1. I'll get the bad news out of the way first- there are some really strange rules here. Our district thought we could plan our own P-day since the older districts told us that's what they do. So we had a plan all laid out where we could get laundry and letters done quick, so we would have time for a nap. But our Branch President, President Shumway, came to our dorm Thursday night to tell us we have to follow the schedule. It's super inconvenient, and I probably won't get a nap today as a result. And that's pretty lame because I'm still trying to get used to the no-sleep thing. But that's what ShumDaddy (that's what I call him but not to his face) wanted, so that's what we did. Ok, there's my mini-rant of the day.

2. We've had some awesome teaching experiences this week! We taught our teacher, Hermano Davis, when he was role playing an investigator. I just had a moment like halfway through the lesson where I was speaking really good Spanish and remembering words that I hadn't seen in forever. It was a neat experience, and the Spirit was really strong. Next, we taught our other teacher, who was also role playing. The lesson was a little sketchy, so I just decided to go off the script and start bearing testimony. Good choice by me (or technically by the Spirit). The lesson took a turn, and by the end we committed her to be baptized... in only the second lesson! I know it's role-playing, but it still made me happy haha. That same day we had our first TRC (Teaching Resource Center), where we teach actual members of the church acting as themselves. It was actually weird at first because I'm so used to role-playing but it was a great lesson! At the end of the lesson, she asked how long Elder Hebert and I had been at the MTC. When we said two weeks, she said it was "un milagro" that we spoke such good Spanish. So that made me feel pretty good!

3. So this whole week, I've been feeling pretty confident about my Spanish abilities. I'm nowhere close to fluent, but I feel like I'm at a good spot for right now. But yesterday, we watched a movie about the dedication of the San Salvador Temple. It was obviously really good, but everyone spoke Spanish (with English subtitles). When I just listened to the Spanish, I had no idea what they were saying cuz they spoke SO FAST! I literally understood like 20% of what they were saying, so that was kind of a blow to my self-esteem haha.

4. Some guys in my district have been trying to get me to play Foursquare in gym for the last week. I was like "No, foursquare is for kindergartners, why would I ever play that!" But they kept bugging me about it and telling me it was fun, so I decided to try it out. It's actually a hilarious game where you can do really cheap things to win! So I was pleasantly surprised. But don't worry, I'm still sticking with the true man's game of basketball most of the time :)

5. I finally found out where they had a scale here, so I could weigh myself. I hadn't checked since like May, where I was 165. So imagine my surprise when I stepped on to the scale to see... 180! I'm still convinced the scale is wrong, so don't worry about it too much. And it's not just because of me, it's because another guy in my district said he's gained ten pounds just during his time in the MTC. So the scale is definitely wrong... or that's what I'm gonna tell myself anyway.

Ok I'm out of time. Hope everyone is doing great, and had an awesome Thanksgiving. Put up your Christmas lights if you haven't yet- the ones at the MTC are ballin! I'll try to send a picture at some point, but I might be too technologically challenged to do that. Nos vemos en la semana que viene!