Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week 5 - July 30, 2013

Today we got up at five.  I know that's a shocker, but it happened.  We put our laundry in and went exercising until our laundry was done and then just took a nap for a couple hours.  In the end, we really didn't lose much sleep (although I am still not a huge fan of 8 hours of sleep). 
I love hearing about my friends and old roommates going on missions.  It is uplifting and inspires me with the knowledge that I am not the only one going through this, my friends are too. 
So I thought I would talk about a few of the Senkyoshi (missionaries) in my district.  My doryo (Elder Budge), was a baseball player (pitcher) throughout high school.  He is from Mapleton, which is like ten minutes away, so he has grown up around the MTC.  We have three missionaries who have had lots of Japanese experience before the MTC.  Sister Donnely took three years of Japanese in high school and like three in college, so she's almost fluent.  Sister Teney has taken four years and has speaking down pretty well (at least more so than most of us).  Two Elders have actually lived in Japan before, but only one of them has learned how to speak some Japanese.  One, Elder Kotter, live in Japan two years or months (I don't actually remember at the moment) but did not learn any Japanese.  The other is Elder Teney (not related to Sister Teney except distantly) and he lived in Japan for twelve years because his father teaches Japanese.  Now you may be thinking he's the best, but most of the Japanese he knows he learn in high school, which he took here in the US.  So his main advantage is reading, comprehension and not sounding super white.  He always claims he's not ahead of us, but that's not exactly true.  He is also a HUGE anime fan and a decent nerd. 
Since about a week ago, maybe longer, everyday someone puts notes on our desk that have been personalized to each of us.  For instance, one day someone gave everyone a spirit animal.  When we came into the classroom we all got to read what our spirit animals were.  Another day we each received fortune cookie fortunes and another we got Disney Princes or Princes.  Elder Teney and I (who are probably the biggest nerds here) gave everyone a super power/super hero.  It is actually pretty fun.  As a district we have been able to make ways to make everyday different and enjoyable (even though the schedule is almost always the same).  In order to encourage ourselves to SYL more, we made a couple of games.  The first we call Tanaka-san.  Essentially we have a bunch of slips of paper that all have names.  We go around the room taking names out of the container and whoever takes out Tanaka-san has to try their best to SYL all day.  The name you choose stays hidden, so no one knows who Tanaka-san is.  At the end of the day, everyone votes for who they thought Tanaka-san was.  We also pass out stickers all day.  During the day, whenever we decide someone is doing really good at SYLing, we give them a sticker.  We each have three stickers at the beginning of the day, so we have to try to get rid of them all. 
My Senseis are awesome.  They both have very different techniques but they work so well together.  I have learned so much because they are such great people.  The Spirit they bring is so strong.  I learn so much from my teachers, Branch presidency and the devotionals we are able to attend every Sunday and Tuesday

Week 4 - July 23, 2013

Well, I have to admit, I really want to get out of here.  The MTC is great and all, but I want to get out into the field sooo badly.  I am not yet to the point where I feel like could hold a conversation with a Nihonjin at all, but I still want to be in Japan. 
We are almost finished with the Myogi (one of our missionary textbooks; looks like a sketch book) which means we're pretty close to knowing all the bunpo (grammar/grammar patterns) that we will need to know as missionaries.  There may be some we need to learn later, but they at least give us a foundation.  Now most of our time will be spent learning vocab.  It's so exciting.  While I can't really understand people all that well yet, it gives me hope, since I know I still have five weeks left. 
One of the best parts of each day is gym time.  Each day (except Sunday, Tuesday [p-day], and Wednesday, so really not everyday) we get 50 minutes for gym.  While we used to branch out and do different things, we are now spending most of our time play four square.  The elders in our district play for almost the whole 50 minutes of gym everyday we have gym, so they're starting to get rather good.  I feel bad sometimes because new people come in and try to play with us, but they get out so fast (usually).  Our elders are just so practiced in the art of four square.  They're even talking about making it an Olympic sport when they get home (might as well, they have ping pong). 
I printed out a bunch of general conference talks today.  I'm excited for my Personal Study Time (PST) so I can read them.  PST is one of my favorite things.  We have a little over an hour each day (this is actually everyday) to focus on reading the Preach My Gospel, Book of Mormon and approved literature (i.e. Jesus the Christ, etc.).  I learn something new every PST, it is fantastic.  But I have found I learn most when I am focusing on my "investigators".  When I look for answers for someone else, I seem to find scriptures that will work so perfectly, or teach me how to explain principles so clearly. 
Meal time is of course a favorite time of mine.  We only get to eat three meals a day and at very spaced out periods, so I am always hungry by food time.  Although I don't love most of what we have to eat (half of the veggies look/feel like rubber) I am grateful the food is warm (mostly) and usually tastes good. 
I love Sundays here; we get to spend most of the day studying the scriptures and going to spiritually uplifting meetings.  It gives us a break from the relentlessness of the language. 
I have come to love class time.  It is one of my favorites.  Our senseis are awesome!  They are both so different, but since we get them together, it works out great.  Black sensei is very focused on the language and teaches us mostly Japanese principles, while Powell sensei focuses mostly on spiritual matters.  Black sensei is huge and hilarious and nerdy, while Powell is smaller (not that small, just by comparison) and cool and is super focused on work (seriously a workaholic).  They're the best!
I know that what I'm doing is so worth it, and I'm so grateful to be here.  Fukuin ga sinjistu da to shitte imasu
 Lee Choro

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Week 3 - July 16, 2013

Wow.  I can't believe it's been three weeks already!  The time goes so fast!  The phrase, there aren't enough hours in a day is finally becoming real for me.  One thing I have found is the inconsistency between days.  Most days are good, but somedays you feel like you did really good and others you feel like you didn't learn anything. 
The Spirit is soooooo important.  I never realized how important until coming here.  Without the Spirit it becomes ten times harder to understand what anyone is trying to say.  I get lost super easily in lessons when I am not focused on having the Spirit with me.  Before coming to the MTC they ask you to watch the District (essentially a missionary documentary produced by the Church) and one of them says it is the most challenging and draining things you can do.  And he didn't have to learn Japanese!  What he said is definitely true; being here is though.  You have to reject all of your old habits and all the things you used to think about and do, and completely refocuse you thoughts, time and talents on learning (Nihongo and Fukuin [Japanese and Gospel]). 
I am now a senpai, which means almost absolutely nothing.  People serving in Japan come in every three weeks and leave every three weeks, so when the new people come in they are called Kohai (Ko-ha-E), the people who have been here for three weeks are senpai (sen-pie) and the people who will leave in the next three weeks are Daisenpai (die-sen-pie).  We've been here three weeks now, which means we're not the newbies anymore.  It was awesome to see the daisenpai leave; they were so excited to get out into the field.  Tomorrow we get the new group of Japanese speaking missionaries.  It's great to see people come in and out. 
I don't have much more to say, things here are becoming the exactly same and have been for a while now.  It's becoming hard to believe we will ever leave this place.  It's so hard to think of going anywhere else.  But I'm a third of the way done and I'm sure I'll be out in the field in no time.  I'll finally be able to fullfill my purpose and teach the people who need the gospel. 

Week 2 - July 9, 2013

Weather here is actually quite cool; I cannot complain.  After last Wednesday I don't feel like I'm floundering with the language anymore.  I woke up Wednesday calm and collected.  I guess I just realized how much I had already learned and recognized the Lord's hand in my studies. 
For the fourth of July we had a very patriotic devotional followed by a fireworks show.  Byu stadium has a fireworks show they put on every year and we were allowed to watch from the grounds of the MTC.  The MTC presidency decided to make an exception to the rules and allowed us to stay up later than we are normally allowed to.  It was great fun. 
Since then, we have been working hard to learn how to speak and more importantly how to teach Nihongo.  I will not say that it is now easy, but it is coming along quite nicely now.  Once I finally understood sentence structure I could finally start saying things (as long as I knew the vocab.).  I still need to learn the particles, but overall it is going well.  Just memorizing words really. 
My teachers are still trying to only speak Nihongo, but since some of us still have no idea what they are trying to say, the Sensei perodically switch to eigo.  I think it's because of our blank stares (mostly mine).  We have two investigators now.  Preparing to teach them is terribly difficult.  My companion has a hard time with sentence structure and talking in Nihongo, while I can't understand what anyone is saying!  On the other hand, I can say almost anything if I now the vocab. (and I know quite a bit now), while my companion can usually follow a conversation and understand the message.  If my companion can translate what the investigator says, then I can do the talking.  We might have to try this sometime and see how it works. 
I am very happy with my district.  They are all hard workers and dedicated to learning the language.  Four out of the fourteen of us have already had some Japanese training, so the rest of us can go to them with questions. 

Week 1 - July 2, 2013

I like my district.  They're all pretty cool (not like my BYU FHE family, but still).  My companion is Budge Choro and he's from Mapleton, Utah (appro. 20 min. away from here).  Most of the rest of my district is from Utah.  The Elders are Durin, Malaska, Reagan, Kotter, Jensen and Teney Choro, and the Sisters are Colter, Donnely, Teney, Broadhead, Shifus? and Harris Shimai (Choro is Elder and Shimai is Sister in Nihongo). 
I have learned Japanese is very difficult.  The sentence structure is much different from ours, which means you have to think what you want to say before you even start speaking.  In english you can start talking and decide what you want to talk about along the way.  In Nihongo, the topic is first.  So to say the church is true you would say, "church true is", or Kono Kyokai wa Shinjitsu desu. 
Sundays are officially my favorite.  I like most days, but the Spiritual upliftment from Sunday afternoons is fantastic.  Priesthood is at 10ish, but then we have study time until Sacrament meeting at 3.  It's odd how far apart they are.  In the evening we have a devotional, which is very enlightening and great to hear.  Afterwards there are a selection of missionary movies you can watch.  This time we watched a talk by Elder Bednar that talked about how missionaries can't just expect for members to give them refferals, we have to gain the members trust first.  He told us a lot of things we need to do to be respected as missionaries, first and foremost of which was to not just go on a mission, but become a missionary.  I loved it. 
I have gotten to see a couple of people that I know.  One was from my ward at BYU, one was from our Stake, from Dixon, and the third was one of my BYU FHE sisters.  I would compare my feelings to Alma's when he saw the Son's of Mosiah returning from their mission to the Lamanites (Alma 17:1-4). 
I have been kept busy.  Even on day one, they leave you no time to relax.  You are immediatly sent to meetings and classes and such.  We have an hour and half for personal study (ussually gospel study) and hour for language study, an hour for this computer program that helps you learn the language, and three or so hours where Black Sensei teaches us.  The rest is for eating and additional study time.  The other thing we do is teach.  On our second day we were required to meet an investigator and teach him in Nihongo.  It was so awkward.  Thank goodness for our ninja (book with phrases and words, etc.).  We have taught Narita-san Friday, Saturday and Monday.  Monday we were not allowed to bring notes.  I don't think we were able to teach him anything over our three lessons.  I think I told him the Book of Mormon brings blessings, but honestly I have no idea what I said or if he understood any of it. 
Cafeteria food is not that great.  Most of the time it is room temperature, not warm like it is supposed to be.  I have had some fruits and veggies, but they're not in over abundance here.  Had a shepards pie yesterday that was pretty good. 
Spend all my time with other Japanese missionaries, but mostly with my district.  The senpai (more experienced missionaries) are all pretty nice and we learn some stuff from them. 
Overall, have no complaints.  Mitama (the Spirit) wa Chikara (strong) ga Koko desu (here).  Kono Kyokai wa shinjistu desu. 
Sincerely, Lee Choro