Monday, June 24, 2013

Week 6

This week was a good one, but I'm starting to get anxious to get to Singapore, so time is slowing down. Anyway, I got sick on Monday, and I developed a cough, so I got a pack of cough drops, and it was bad, so I ate them all in like a day and a half, and then I saw I wasn't supposed to eat them more than every 2 hours. Oops. :D

But I don't have what the MTC is infested with: intestinal flu. We can't shake hands or anything right now. And two of my roommates have had it bad. One spent three hours the other night puking (even when there was nothing left). Speaking of sicknesses, yesterday at priesthood, this guy gave a talk and told stories about him going to India to help eradicate Smallpox. I guess he had a pretty good reputation in the medical community. Pretty much all the MTC leadership has cool backgrounds. Like a ton of the branch presidents have been mission presidents and stuff. And tomorrow we get educated on another sickness: Malaria! It should be fun. I heard someone at yesterday's broadcast behind me in the choir talking about how he and a few other elders got to pass the Sacrament to the meeting where the First Presidency and mission presidents attended. Super cool!

You were at the devotional yesterday, but it was a good one. The choir messed up, though, and they didn't let us into the Marriott Center for a very long time after getting there. And some elders decided they needed to be the first ones there and ran there, which seems a bit not missionary-like. Oh, well.

Oh, I talked more to the teacher who served in Singapore, and he gave us some good advice. He told us the weirdest things he ate were dog (yum!) and fish that apparently live in the open sewers. He told us to imagine the taste of a porta-potty. The Malays are the ones who eat these things, though, so we won't have them often. He said he took airplanes, subways, and boats between transfers. And he also said if we are planning to lose weight on the mission, even in East Malaysia, we won't. And I guess he only ever cooked breakfast. It was cheaper to eat out everywhere in the mission! Which is a good thing. The main building has been under lockdown, so we eat in the gym every day. It's weird to think so many general authorities are here often, and the prophet has been here at some point or another.

Today was our last temple trip for two years, but we do get a 3.5 hour service assignment next week to help clean it. That should be fun. Also, the Skype TRC was good, but slightly terrifying. We'll do it every week from here on out. One of the people had a bad connection and she was kind of frustrated with us. The other one was super nice, but she did laugh at us a few times. Our first teacher has been assigned to another district, which is sad, but we still get our other main teacher. Her dad is a Chinese Malaysian! Oh, and we got a cleaning check unexpectedly today (they are every week), which is the day we clean it every week, and we failed every category. It is kind of funny, but who knows what our punishment will be. It's clean the other 6 days of the week!

One of the Mainland China missionaries taught some kids in our district (who taught us) some pretty cool stuff about some characters in Chinese that has gospel symbolism. The character for ark has the radical for "boat" and the radical for "eight" in it. And the character for justice has the radical for "me" and the radical for "Lamb" connected. The character for "forbidden" (I think) has two "tree" radicals and one "god" radical, I think. Radicals just are little symbols that make up characters. He's a really cool guy! We get another generation this week, including a Finnish kid and two Singapore-bound missionaries. And then only two weeks until we are great-grand parents! Super cool!

Love, Andrew

Oh, I may have neglected to tell you about names. They are assigned before we get there and won't change. I am Ge (pronounced "Guh" in the low third tone) Zhanglao, which is elder. It means barge, I think. I don't know what my character is.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Week 5

This week was pretty good, and every week keeps getting faster. Tomorrow we will be the oldest generation of Mandarins here, which is so weird to think. When I got here I thought the oldest generation was super amazing at Chinese, but now I realize how bad they must have been.

On Tuesday we had the devotional at the Marriott Center, and me and the kids in my room were some of the first people there. It was one of the First Quorum of the Seventy guys who spoke, and it was good, but the seats are not too comfortable and the choir was probably over 1/2 the MTC. Yesterday's devotional came from Wyview, which was super weird. It was the Missionary Department head again and he gave the talk he was going to give that one time when he had something prepared but didn't give it because he felt prompted to talk about something else.

Another exciting thing that happened yesterday was that the First Counselor of the MTC came to our Sacrament Meeting and our branch split, since it was soon going to have 150+ missionaries. It's weird to think the day before we got in, it was only 35. There are now more Mandarins than Germans. I'm still in the same branch as Elder Humphries. The president of the new branch served a mission in India with his wife, which is super cool. He doesn't speak Chinese, though, so that might be a challenge for him.

I've seen Elder Norris a few times. He has the same gym time as I do.

Maybe I told you this was going to happen, but this week Elder Coloumbe (our missionary from Quebec going to Paris) had to go back to Montreal to appeal for his visa (most people go to San Francisco, since they are Americans) and he left at night, flew to Detroit, went alone to the consulate, then flew to Atlanta and back to Salt Lake City, in about 24 hours. Isn't that crazy? His companion got to sleep with us for two nights.

Tonight we get to do something exciting - Skype TRC to native members in Taiwan. We got to teach a nonmember on Saturday, too, which was interesting.

Maybe the coolest thing that happened this week was that I got a haircut, and they have this cool machine that pretty much vacuums your head. It actually wasn't that cool, but it was weird.

This week the mission president training is starting so the main MTC building will soon be blocked off to us, and we get to have sack lunches and breakfasts every day. Then we get the cool devotional thing at the Marriot Center after a huge MTC-wide sacrament meeting.

I talked to one of the teachers who served in Singapore, and he told us some cool stuff. He says at most there are 10 Chinese missionaries in the mission, and we are the first since September. There is a good chance I'll be with Elder Sutherland or Elder Mitchell in the field. He said that 4 missionaries are in Singapore, and the other ones switch around, but they are for sure in two cities in East Malaysia. He said East Malaysia is way more likely to go than West Malaysia for Chinese missionaries. And he said it's very unlikely I'll ever be paired with a Malay missionary.

Elders Earl

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The District

Week 4

This week has really flown by. Most of it has been spent studying, as usual, but there were some fun moments. This week we noticed on our schedule that we were getting a new investigator, and a couple hours before we were supposed to teach him/her, we asked our teacher about it. She left the classroom to figure it out, and when she came back, one district member confidently tried to yell to her, "I think YOU are our my new investigator!" in Chinese, but accidentally said, "I think YOU are my new girlfriend!". It was pretty funny.

Kirk arrived on Wednesday, but I didn't see him once until Saturday night at about 9pm. I've seen him six times now. His schedule is really weird, and it makes me much more grateful for mine. For example, I eat dinner at 5:50. He eats at 4, I think.

Another cool moment of the week was the TRC. They didn't have enough volunteers, so we were assigned to teach an older gentleman who worked here. Instead of teaching him, he taught us, and mostly in English. He told us that he was the fifth generation down from Oliver Cowdry (not direct, though), and that he converted to the church. A few years after he converted, he read a prophecy about Oliver Cowdry that said if he left the church, his family would be cursed up to the fourth generation, or something like that. I thought it was pretty cool. Our next investigator is actually from the seventh ward, which was really random.

The choir doubled in size yesterday, but still there wasn't enough room to fit everyone. About 1500 people wanted to join. And on the 23rd, we will join an 1100 member choir full of real musical people. From now on our devotionals will be in the Marriott Center on Tuesdays.

Other than that, my week has been pretty uneventful. All we really do is plan, study, teach, and go to class. Oh, last week our Sunday devotional was this guy who kind of acted like he was Willard Richards (IDK how to spell it), and he went through the whole Joseph Smith story. At first, I kind of thought it was weird, but it was actually a really cool and spiritual devotional. Joseph Smith prophesied several times in the days before he died that if he went to Carthage, he would be assassinated. He also had told Willard Richards years earlier that someday he would be in a place where bullets would fly past him on all sides, but not hit him. And that happened!

Well, talk to you next week.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week 3

This week has gone by so quickly, though every day feels like an eternity. I'll tell you a bit more about my district, since I spend pretty much 24/7 with them. There are 11 elders. Five are in my room, six in the other. There are six beds and four closets in each room, so we have to share a bit, but it's not as crammed as I feared it might be. In my room, there is me, my companion, and a trio of elders going to Singapore, London South, and Brisbane. They are also our new zone leaders. It seems like everyone (but me) in the district is very smart. One of the elders in the other room was my favorite TA in computer science. One was waitlisted at Harvard, another was waitlisted at Stanford. One graduated high school a year early (he's a year younger than the rest of us, who are within 4 months in birth dates), one knows more Chinese than the rest of us. I'm impressed by all of them.

One interesting thing that happened this week was on Saturday, we did the TRC for the first time. We thought we'd be teaching people pretending to be investigators, but it was really just people who speak Chinese (most of them were Chinese) and want a spiritual lift for the day while helping missionaries practice Chinese. My companion and I weren't really prepared, but it was still a lot of fun and a good learning experience. We've been teaching two new progressing investigators (teachers who role play) this week, and we feel our teaching has improved significantly. However, we only teach for 20 minutes at a time, so sometimes we don't really even fit in a lesson.

We also got a new generation in this week, so our zone is over 100 people now. They are mostly going to Taiwan, but a few are going to three different missions in England. It's kind of nice not being the least familiar with Chinese anymore. The oldest generation is all leaving today and tomorrow, though, which is sad. I hope I can be as good at Chinese as they are by the time I leave. I've started doing flashcards and my words learned per day has significantly improved. Well, it's been a good week, and I'll write to you soon.