Thursday, January 30, 2014

“Hey! I know you! We met in Keukenhof the other day, remember?”

 *Mother’s editorial note-for those of you not of our faith, I wrote out Nicole’s abbreviations, and tried to explain some of our LDS lingo in parentheses.  If anything is confusing, feel free to ask or leave a comment!

HELLLOOOOOOOOO! I am so excited to email you all that my hands are literally shaking and my heart is racing! :D I am so excited to tell you all about my first week!

Well, the “Best Two Years” quote of the week comes from what happened right as I was getting on the plane!!! (“Best Two Years” is one of our favorite movies! It is the story of 4 missionaries serving in Holland-their crazy adventures, funny experiences, and tender moments. Nicole’s plan is to use a quote from the movie each week as the topic of her email) As Dad and I were waiting in the gate area, we saw two young men in suits. I wondered if they were going to SLC for the same reason I was! One of them looked really familiar, but dad didn't know who he was. As I was waiting in line to board, he ended up right behind me, and said, "Nicole?" Turns out he was in my Book of Mormon class this last semester at BYU! He's going on a mission to Ogden, I think. Anyway, I sat down, and the other young man in a suit came and sat down next to me. I asked him why he was going to Salt Lake City, and he said he was heading to the Missionary Training Center as well! I asked him which mission, and he said......TAIWAN TAIPEI! Crazy, huh?! He's actually in my district! And yes, Dad, it was really nice to "get on a plane and get off at Grandma and Grandpa's house". But it was pretty much the longest 3 hours of my life because I was so stinking excited!

Speaking of my district, they are the BEST! There are two companionships of elders- Elder Dethloff and Elder Hughes (the one I met on the plane and the one that hugged me after tunnel singing that one time), and Elder Mangleson and Elder Stewart. They are really good for us because they are a little goofy, so they keep us perfectionist stressed out sisters from going crazy. They are our comic relief! My tongban (companion) is Sima Jiemei (Sister Smith). I love her! She is super sweet and has a ton of faith. She is a really hard worker, and we are really good together. The other three jiemeimen (sisters) in my district are Wei Jiemei (Sis Williams), Chiang Jiemei (Sis Keung) and Ai Jiemei (Sister Knight). Chiang Jiemei is from New Zealand and she has the cutest accent ever. We all just adore it. All of us sisters share a residence. They are amazing. My district is the people I have class with everyday. We are trying REALLY REALLY hard to SYL (speak your language). If we zhidao (know) a word in Zhongwen, we say it in Zhongwen. Basically, we speak in “Chinglish” all the time! Hence, the random Chinese words in this email. There are some words I've just started to think of first in Chinese. Sorry dad, that probably drives you insane. Our zone is my district and one of the older districts. Our zone also = our branch (the group that meets together for Sunday meetings), so there are 15 of us in the branch (more on that later!).

On Wed when we got here, we went straight into class and our teacher started speaking Chinese to us! We had no idea what was going on! :D We have the cutest laoshi (teacher)! She is super sweet and motivates us to work hard and is really just a fantastic teacher. Here is what our schedule is like: get up, go to gym, get ready, go to class and do an hour each of personal, companionship, and language study, eat lunch, have three hours of class, eat dinner, have three hours of class, go back to residence, get ready for bed, and CRASH! On Saturdays and Mondays we do an hour of service in the morning. In the MTC, service= cleaning. On Saturday we got to clean toilets, but on Monday, we got to vacuum the chapels! I was so excited! I love vacuuming! Not that cleaning toilets isn't fun or anything, but....

All her language materials
On Tuesday nights and Sunday nights we have devotionals by a general authority. (church leaders who help to direct the work of the church) Sundays are the only days that are really different from the rest of the week. We don't do gym, and we just have a ton of time for personal study. It's really relaxing. On Saturday, we were all feeling super overwhelmed and tired because of the language. We just felt like our brains couldn't hold another Chinese word! But Sunday was so amazing! We felt so rejuvenated and ready to get back to work! For Relief Society, (service organization for women in the church), we have it with all the sisters in the MTC. First, we get to watch Music and the Spoken Word (musical program performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and broadcast each Sun from Temple Square in Salt Lake City) (Christine! I saw your mom! That was the highlight of my morning!). Then we have a special speaker. This Sun it was Janice Kapp Perry! She talked about music, and we sang a bunch of songs and we all just cried the entire time. Pretty much, we cry a lot here. We were all just so relieved to have a break and feeling the Spirit that the tears just kept flowing! When we sing Armies of Helaman here, we change the words to say "we are now the armies of Helaman" and "we are now the Lord's missionaries"! So powerful! Our branch is all in Chinese. We sing in Chinese and the talks and prayers are in Chinese. Each Sun there is a topic, and everyone has to prepare a talk in Chinese, and during the meeting, the branch president announces who is going to be sharing his or her talk. Taking the sacrament on Sun was such a spiritual experience for me. As I renewed my baptismal covenant to take His name upon me, I sat there with the Savior's name on my nametag. Even though I can't read it yet because it's in characters, I know who I represent. After Sacrament meeting, we get to take a temple walk! (The Provo temple is just up the street from the MTC) I thought it would be weird to be here at the MTC so close to my BYU apartment, but it turns out that what's weird is that I don't feel like I'm in Provo! It's like an MTC bubble! The temple walk is so nice because we get to leave the bubble, and it's the temple, so of course it's great. We took a ton of pictures- I'll try to send them. (PS- Roommates, don't try to stalk me on temple walks. I would get in trouble if we accidentally met up!) We also got to watch “Character of Christ” by Elder Bednar! (One of the 12 Apostles) I'll tell you more about it in a written letter because it was amazing!

On Friday, we taught our first investigator. IN CHINESE! Well, it was mostly Chinglish. His name is Lin Zhi Hao- he's not a real investigator, of course, just one of the teachers, but he feels real to us because we pray about him and study for him and worry about him. Teaching in a language you have only spoken for three days is hard! It forces you to teach very simply because you have to look up every single word. He is an atheist, so we had to start by teaching him who God was. We teach him every day. It takes us about 2.5 hours to plan our lesson (which in English, would probably take about 15 min). We learn so much from teaching him because we are not very good at it.

We study Zhongwen ALL THE TIME! We study while we do sit ups or run in gym, while we are getting ready, at meals, while walking to class, in class, in bed when we can't sleep...all the time! It's a really hard language, but I LOVE IT SO MUCH! WO AI ZHONGWEN! I LOVE CHINESE! It makes my brain hurt but I love it! I've discovered that there's about a 3 day lag time- the things I learned 3 days ago, I don't have to think about anymore- they are just natural. I know the Lord is blessing us all tremendously because there is absolutely no way we could do this alone. Our tradition as sisters in the district is that every night we take turns each saying a prayer in Zhongwen. It's amazing. The other day, our laoshi asked us why we thought God would send foreigners, who don't know the language, to Taiwan. She shared 1 Cor 2:3-5. I don't have time to type it up, but you should look it up! God uses us to show forth His power! We have the tiniest desks on the planet. They are literally 1 square foot. All the English speakers have HUGE desks with comfy chairs. I'm trying hard not to covet, but if someone sent me a cushion for the chair I sit in for 12 hours a day, I would love you forever and ever.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to those who “Dear Elder”-ed me (shout out to Sis Taylor! You rock!), sent me emails, and mom for sending the package. Mail is a super exciting time of the day.... especially when you get letters! If you get a chance, you can get on and send me a quick note telling me your favorite scripture and why you like it. It will only take you 5 min, and it's free, and I will be the happiest missionary alive! Just think of what a great Family Night activity or Sunday activity, or any day activity that would be! I will love you forever! To those who emailed me, I'll be sending you back a handwritten letter since I have only 60 minutes to email and that is nowhere near enough time to tell everything that happened in a week! I think email time is more stressful than teaching in Zhongwen! But THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SENDING ME THINGS! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU!!

I feel such urgency about this work. I only have 18 months to give every single part of me to the Lord and His work. I don't want to waste a second of His time. It's already going by too quickly. I don't want it to ever end. One of my favorite parts of the day is putting on my nametag.  I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!! I LOVE CHINESE! I NEVER EVER WANT TO COME HOME!!! (sorry family. don't worry, I still love you.) I am working super hard and just loving it. Can you tell?

Mu Jiemei (Sister Murri)

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