Friday, November 25, 2011

MTC Letter #4 - November 22nd, 2011

Okay, so in honor of everyone who loves to hear about me wanting to die because I accidentally start laughing and can't stop (seriously trying to be better) - So, my district leader calls on me to say the prayer before class (we're with our Taiwanese teacher, Sister Fan, who I adore) and I started praying, and I kept stumbling over my words and messing this sentence up, so I started laughing a tiny bit, like, "geez", but then I started laughing a ton and then I couldn't finish the dang prayer because I couldn't speak, I was laughing too hard. After nudging Sister Winters, she finally took one for the team and finished my prayer for me. It was terrible. After the prayer, Sister Fan asked me, "Does speaking Chinese make you laugh?' I was like "Not usually!" (unless we're singing a fast hymn - talk about stumbling over words). And Elder Stallings said, "I've never met someone who couldn't finish their prayer because they were laughing too hard." Then Sister Fan started tellnig us about how on her mission, they taught someone who would always laugh when they taught her and then she told us that she had a mental disability. Thanks a lot, Sister Fan. Then she was telling us about how one time on her mission (she served in Taichung, Taiwan), they were praying with an old woman, who was a convert, who used to be Buddhist, and the way she was praying and the things she was saying sounded like traditional Buddhist chants or something. Sister Fan said she was trying so hard not to laugh, but because her companion couldn't speak teh language fluently, she didn't pick up on it at all. That's probably why Heavenly Father called me to learn such a hard language so that I won't be able to understand 80% of what goes on, especially the funny/awkward moments.

Also, sometimes when we learn a new grammar principle, Sister Fan divides sisters vs. elders and whoever can extend the most commitments wins. We all love this game, and it usually ends up with us extending commitments like, "Will you be willing to prepare for the second coming?" and other things that investigators definitely do not need to commit to.

This week when Sister Winters and I practiced teaching natives in TRC, the first women were from China and Taiwan, and they were so nice, but one of them talked so fast, I thought I was going to die. The second man we talked to was wearing a Beijing Olympics shirt and had one of those mountain-man hats, with the long racoon tail hanging down. I instantly liked him and I liked him even more once he started talking because he talked much slower than the other women. Listening to people talk always stresses me out, especially when you think you understand what they are saying and it turns out that they actually said something completely different. Our new favorite thing is to psyche the elders out, by acting freaked out when we leave a teaching appointment, whispering towards them, "That was a toughie! Goood luck." Actually, we did that in all seriousness and then realized that we liked the elders' reactions much, that we might as well keep it up. Man, I sound like the worst district member/sister missionary ever. I really am nice to them and Sister Winters and I are always trying to make sure they're all feeling okay and not too stressed out.

Oh, and since I mentioned cleaning last week, I'll mention cleaning again. This week, we had to clean the drinking fountains with poision. Seriously, it was this bright red stuff that kills AIDS, causes eye corrision if it contacts your eyes, and if it gets on your skin, you have to run your skin under water for 15-20 minutes. Yeah. Told you our cleaning jobs are no walk in the park.

Sister Winters is ultra talented and is constantly getting roped into doing musical numbers with people in our zone. This week, she played violin with a flutist and this elder in our zone accompanied them. This elder plays piano like a dream (apparently he got accepted to Juliard), but also a total diva about his piano pieces. They were done practicing, and the girls were like, "yeah, I feel good about this piece" and then that elder was like, "Um... my solos are just way too slow and boring. Seriously. I can't even stand it. I can't handle it." So then he cut all his slow solos out of the piece. Diva alert.

And this week, 2 of my favorite elders to eaves drop on and talk to (they're a total dream-team, I'll tell more about them later) were standing by this window and they looked all sad and depressed, so Sister Winters asked them why they looked so sad, and Elder Soule (he talks and acts really dramatically) was like, "We're sooo stressed out! Our investigator was high the last time we taught her!"
me: "Like pretending to be high?"
S: "No, she really was! She had just had a surgery and fell asleep twice during our lesson! She doesn't even remember what we taught her and we don't know what to teach her next!"
His comp, Elder M: "If this was a real investigator, we would've dropped her weeks ago!"
S: "Noo! Don't say that!! We looove Sister Wu! We're just stressed out!!"
So funny.

Okay, also, last thing - this week I watched some Joseph Smith restoration movie and it totally reinvigorated my testimony of the gospel and Joseph Smith. Lately, I feel stressed about the hardness of a mission, and how tired I always am, but watching that made me remember how much Joseph Smioth and the early saints did for the gospel, and that I can definitely do this little year and a half to share the gospel with others after so many have done so much for me to have the gospel. The gospel makes more and more sense to me all the time. Love it.

Sorry so rushed, always.

Love you all so, so much.

Love,

Natalie

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MTC Letter #3 - November 15th, 2011

Okay... so this week hasn't felt very eventful, but I'll do my best to make this an exciting email. Once a week, we do service projects here, aka just clean little things around the MTC. Sister Winters and I always joke about how hard it is and how much of a pain it is (sarcastically, because we always get the easiest jobs ever). For example, our list of duties we have had to do includes rinsing off chemical gloves, emptying heavy mop buckets, folding rags (by which I mean, we had to make a stack of twenty rags and then fold them in half), and lemon-oiling doors. When the custodian guy told us to do that, Sister Witners accidentally diva-ishly asked, "*All* the doors??" Ha, such a chore. We even got lemon oil on our cargo and sweat pants, respectively.

We tought in the TRC for the first time this week, which is where people come in to talk to you about gospel stuff so you can practice your language. It went okay. Our first session went well and then in the second session, the people wanted us to talk about the Plan of Salvation. We got about halfway through the lesson, before we had to tell them that we didn't know any more vocabulary to teach the rest of the lesson. Sister Fan, my Taiwanese MTC teacher who I adore, was watching us on the little TV things, and I asked her if she laughed at all while we were talking and she was like, "No.." and I said, "A little bit?" And she said, "Okay, yeah, a little bit." And then later she told us that sometimes she laughs a lot when she watches us. So flattering. Also, I asked her to give us example of something that Chinese people think is funny and after thinking about it, she told us that Chinese people always think it is really funny to watch white people try and speak Chinese. Great.

Okay, so one cool thing I realized about being a missionary is that my missionary purpose and the doctrine of Christ are the same thing (inviting others to come unto Christ, repent, accept baptism, receiving Holy Ghost and enduring to the end). And I also realized that what I am doing as a missionary is essentially the same thing that Christ would be doing if He were on the earth, albeit to a lesser degree. It's so cool to think about. I'm grateful that God trusts us with His work and lets us participate in it. Also, another cool thing I've realized since being here is how much God wants to help us and my dependence on Him. Like, before my mission, if I took a test, then I know I can study for it and I am physically capable of taking the test. I might pray for help, but it's something I can sort of do on my own and I sometimes feel bad for asking for God's help with things. But since coming on a mission, I've realized how much God wants to help us and that we strengthen our relationship with Him and show trsut in faith in Him when we recognize ourd ependce on Him and rely on and ask for His help. Also, it shows humility by acknowledging that youc an't do everything on your own. I've realized this more with missionary work, because like I said, I am physically able to take a test on my own, but I absolutely cannot do missionary work without God's help. And the biggest reason for that is because I and the epople I teach HAVE to have His spirit for conversion to happen and He is the one who grants His spirit to be with us. (Of course we have to be worthy and stuff, but you know what I am saying.) I'm also coming to realize that you can learn so much more and learn better when you have the spirit with you.

Chinese is still like the hardest language ever, but I really love it. Sometimes I feel like my mouth hurts from trying so hard to get the tons right (dramatic, I know). I sometimes can't imagine ever actually being able to speak it, but I'm also trying hard not to think like that and I'm trying to have faith that I'll be able to learn it. Also, drowsy allll the time. What do you do when you get tired or drowsy that helps you stay awake? Oh, one reason I know I am drowsy is because one of our new roommates sleeps on the top bunk of my bunk, and everytime she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathrooom, she is sooo loud and the metal ladder always slams against the metal bed frame, which obvs always wakes me up. Love it so much. The other day the elders asked us how we get up to the top bunk, and said, "Do you use the heater to get up?" And we were like, "Uh, we obviously use the ladders." And they were like, "You have ladders in your rooms?!" So funny that the elders don't have ladders for their bunks.

I still love Sister Winters and we still crack each other up all the time. Love that she laughs at all my jokes and I think she is super funny, too. I would probably die without her. Already have separation anxiety when I have to go on splits on not be with her.

Thanks, everyone who wrote me letters this week!! Love you all so much and will try to respond to everyone today!!

Loooove,

Natalie

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MTC Letter #2 - November 8th, 2011

Hi, everyone!

You should just know how stressed out i get to write home - i only get thirty minutes and so I am pant-breathin' the whole time trying to think of everything i need to say and type it out really fast. Sorry about the capitalization - I'm using a ghetto computer with a sticky shift button.
Okay, first things first, family, thank you so so so much for that cute lil' gum shoe orange package and Mom, thanks so much for sending towels! Thank you thank you thank you! And thanks for the snacks. You are all the best. But, also, i miss the boys so much and am a teensy bit chapped that they haven't written me yet. Even Zoe and Aunt Natalie have written me! C'MON! Other than that, still love you all so so much and i will try to write you all letters later today. The other thing that is really important to me - will you let me know when you have gotten an email or letter from me?? Because I wasn't even sure whether this email came through okay until Aunt Natalie mentioned it in a letter. Anyway, I get all stressed wondering if you have heard from me, so just let me know when you get something from me. Thanks!!

Chinese is getting better. I haven't felt quite so down about it or stressed about it because i have been trying to be super faithful and not fearful about it. I really do love the language and am trying hard to learn it. I definitely feel like David Sedaris' essay "Me Talk Pretty One Day." (read that essay - so funny.) We say eloquent sentences like, "When people no hearken, God bad give gospel." And the other day, someone bearing their testimony said, "I know God is monkey" instead of "I know God is alive." Love learning a language.

My companion is the BEST. Seriously, lucked out so much with her. Her mannerisms and the way she acts remind me of a mix of cousin Kayla and my India bestie Courtney Petersen (tall, DC.) She is so funny and she thinks i'm super funny, which you know how i thrive when peope think I am funny! And I can talk to her about anything, and she has learned that I need lots of reassurance, and so she is always complimenting me and telling me how much better my Chinese is getting, etc. She's so great.

I love my 2 Chinese teachers - one teacher is named Sister Fan - Faj she said that she is in that Chinese branch and that you are her high counciler person. Meet her!! i am in love with her. She is from Taiwan (biggest bonus everrrr to hear a native speak) and she served a mission in Taiwan, as well. She's great. Our other teacher is Brother Mix, and he served in Taichung. He is also really great and yes, Faj, he is super strict with tones and always corrects our tones which is awesome.

I love the people here in the MTC in my zone and branch and especially my district. My district is just me and my comp and a threesome of elders. I know i already told you that, but the dynamic of our district gets better and better. And by that, I basically just mean that the three of them are one-hundred percent different people, and so things get a little tense sometimes and Sister Winters and I always crack up. Sometimes Sister Winters and I chat with this elder from Cleveland (Matt Mays, he think maybe he knows you, but I kinda don't think he does - his name is Elder Tarver) going to Georgia on his mission. He's this tall, funny, black convert who told us the other day that he used to want to be a massage therapist, but decided not to do that becase he gets too grossed out by peoples' feet. Then he said, "This one woman - her feet looked like she'd been kicking car batteries. She had Tarzan toes, for reals. I am not massaging anyone's feet. Sorry, Jesus. That is one Christlike attribute I am NOT going to have." Anyway, love the people here.

Also, slightly funny story, we have been teaching an investigator name Wu Pei Rong, and Elder Stallings in my district, one time said her name in a gangster voice, and so, then, of course everytime someone says her name, I start cracking up. Like even in class. Dangerous. I blame the strict regime of the MTC on my extra laughy-ness. Luckily she isn't our investigator anymore

All the elders think I'm ridiculous because i crack up so easily. The other day, I was telling Sis. winters and the elders how much the laundry room stresses me out. I had just gone to get a sack lunch, and so I was making a pb&j in the lunch line, with plastic bags chuck full of clothes dangling from my wrists, so I was making the sandwich like a t-rex. So I'm already sweating and frazzled and then we get to the laundry room, which is just way too much stimulation for me. There are tons of washers and dryers, tons of people, gigantic fans, sweaty, hot, people standing in the skinny aisles, difficult to figure out how to buy soap and start your washer, etc. Anyway, the elders in my district reeeally appreciated that story (like just laughing so hard) and i thought you'd appreciate it because it is an example of me being ultimately disheveled. . Also, that same elder sometimes just says stuff in a gangster voice and I die laughing. The other day, Sister Winters was like, "Since we're getting better at reading (in Chinse), what do you say we start singing the hymns faster?" And Elder Stallings just looked at her, put his hand up and said in half gangster voice/half Chinese, "Hode up, Jie mei." (jie mei means sister in Chinese.) We died laughing. I will impersonate it when I get home and you will laugh too, even if you don't think it's funny now. Who would have thought I'd love gangster talk sooo much while on a mission?

I am learning so much about the gospel and how to talk about the gospel and how to answer peoples' questions about the gospel and how to teach the gospel. There is so much to learn. More and more, I am feeling the power of God's hand in my calling and I am realizing more and more the sacredness and solemness of this important calling. I'm so happy that I decided to do this. Even though it's been a short time, I already feel changed, and I already sort of can't imagine my life without havng this experience. I am trying to be more bold.

To everyone who wrote me this week, I think I'll be able to write you back today. Thanks for all the letters, you are all sooo great! Love you all so much.

Love love love all of you so much. Thanks so much for your support and prayers.

Love, Natalie

Saturday, November 12, 2011

MTC Letter #1 - November 1st, 2011

You guys, hi! I don't even know what to write but have got to write so much so fast!

So, first of all, my companion's name is Sister Winters. She goes to BYU and is a music ed major and is from Atlanta, GA. She is super awesome. The first day and a half or so, I felt like we didn't really connect or click really well, but now we get along so great and I love having her as my companion. Also, I think she is 100% the perfect companion for me to have right now. She is a diligent learner and hard worker, and even though she has no Chinese background, she is already awesome at Chinese. She is super patient with me and helps me with my Chinese a ton. So my district is me and her and then 3 other Elders who are in a threesome - they are Elder Stallings, Elder Timothy, and Elder Cranney. Elder Cranny is our district leader. We are all going to Taipei, except Elder Stallings is going to Houston, Mandarin speaking. We are together most of the time and have our Chinese classes together. I think that being in a threesome is a teeny bit rough for them, especially for one in particular. So sometimes when I see them, I like to say in a semi-condescending voice, "Elders, how's the threesome going??" They are always like, "oh, going good." But then one of them sometimes kind of secretly rolls his eyes. Funny. They are all so great though. Most of the missionaries in our zone are going to Taipei, and then some are going to Tai Zhung (sp?) and then others are going to NY, New Zealand, Australia, Vancouver, San Francisco, etc.

So, the other day, a bunch of the Taiwan missionaries got called to the nurses office. When we get there, we're all sitting around this table and the nurse starts explaining, "Okay, in order to go to Taiwan, you have to take 5 tests. Four of them are blood tests. No big deal. The fifth one is a stool test." She then proceded to tell us how we have to put this glove on, poo into this little container, break off a chunk of our poo, mix it with this liquid in this vial ("make sure there are no chunks!") and then turn it back into the health center. Yeah. As you can imagine, this has brought up tons of funny comments. For example, the other day, Sister Winters had the brilliant idea of running back into our classroom (where the elders were), grabbing her white paper bag (that has all the stuff we need for the test inside of it) and running back out to the bathroom. Dang, that's not funny written out, but promise it was super funny in person. Me = in the hallway, dying of laughter. Love making those elders mildly uncomfortable. Just kidding, we are super nice to them and always super appropriate with them. Also, let's just say that I did it the most difficult way. Yet another example of how I just naturally think to do things the hard way. Sorry, I know that is all so gross and so unspiritual, but it's basically made this whole week hilarious for me.

For the most part, the MTC is going really great and I really like it here. The first few days were weird/rough, but I'm liking it more and more. Occasionally the food is good (and I mean, who can complain about getting to use spatulas to butter your rolls!), and I am definitely eating more meat than I have ever eaten in my life. Love when thick white paste squeezes out from my chicken cordon bleu. No, but, really, the food is fine.

I had a minor breakdown on Sunday. I had the worst cramps I have ever had in my entire life and I had to keep running around trying to be places on time and I wanted to DIE. I accidentally broke down a little bit when I was interviewing with my branch president because I was so uncomfortable and in so much pain, especially because I couldn't stop and lie down or anything. But he and my companion were so kind and took such good care of me, and I felt better a little while later, and didn't feel frustrated or mopey anymore.

I am loving learning Chinese, but it is also so hard. The other day, as Sister Winters and I were sitting on the couches studying, we heard an elder say, "Depende" (as in, it depends in Spanish.) We were like, you have got to be kidding me. That's the easiest word I've ever heard. Just kidding, I'm not that judgmental because I think learning a language is always hard, no matter what language it is, but Chinese is extra rough. But, we have already learned how to pray, bear testimony, invite people to do things... and lots more. I'm blown away by how fast you can learn here. And I really like the energy of the MTC. Most everyone knows what their purpose is and people are always studying and progressing. It's a cool environment.

Everyone who wants to write me, will you use dear elder instead of regular email? I only have a few minutes to email, so if you want to email, then for while I am in the MTC, dear elder is the best way to go. You can call the MTC to get my address. But if you send something, they are really good about making sure I get mail.

Shout-outs! Allison, you win the prize for sending me TWO letters, Emily, you win the prize for telling me I look like a dream, and Ariel, you win the prize for sending me my first missionary letter! You all rock and I love you all so much. I will write you today.

Wah, love all you guys so, so much!! Being a missionary = totes fun and I can't wait to keep updating you and keep hearing about all of our lives.

Thanks. Out of time. Love and miss you all immensely.
- Natalie

(Editors Note: Sister Christensen's Dear Elder email address is: natalie.christensen (at) myldsmail.net.)