This letter follows General Conference. My experience is that GC in the MTC is always an amazing experience. I was there for GC, David was there for GC, and now Michael was there for GC. Very cool. Again, two letters!
Subject: "How do I find her?" "It's easy. She's standing right next to you"
Well, needless to say, this has been a great week. Particularly the weekend. Let's all just agree right now that general conference was way more awesome in the MTC, especially when they announced the reduction of the missionary age. Let's just get that out there. Having all of the missionaries (except for the senior couples who were probably asleep anyway) in one giant auditorium and hearing that announcement... it was big.
Of course, after that, all of us started thinking and were like, "we could be halfway through our missions right now!" Or much more importantly, "we could have been out of the MTC right now!!". But, the Lord called us when he called us, because he needed us called when we was called. If that makes any sense. Basically, General Conference was all fantastic. Especially Elder Holland's talk. And Elder Bednar's. And President Monson's. Oh heck, they were all awesome.
Mom, you mentioned that it felt like there were a lot of talks about "serving others", but it seemed to me that it was a lot about "missionary work". I guess we all just hear what we need to hear. Which is another reason I want to, and would encourage you all to do the same, to watch or listen to them again. And not just in passing, while in the car or something. Really listen to them. There's some solid stuff in there. And if you haven't listened to Elder Holland's CES Fireside (or Devotional?) address, WATCH IT. It's probably the greatest talk ever given. For serious. It's all over LDS.org. And the labor which you have to perform is to look.
After conference, we had the BEST fireside I've ever heard of, by a certain little man, named Chad Lewis. Usually we get people with titles like "Elder" or at least "Brother". But this was just "Chad". So when I saw that I was all, "oh, this is going to be lame. Just some random dude off the street is going to teach us". Well apparently they need to get more random people off the street. (that's not actually where they found him, for the record)
Anyway, this guy played in the NFL for... 9 years? and was a BOSS for every one of them. He spent most of his time jumping over the other time. We're talking like Super Mario *boing* jumping. And he showed us some pictures and videos and things of him succeeding, and getting OWNED. Anyway, after that, he found himself in a group to support injured veterans, climbing Mount Kilaminjaro (yeah... that's probably spelled wrong. Live with it). There's some good stories there. One of my favorite parts (and this sounds really mean when I think about it) was that one of the vets had had his leg... removed during his time in combat, and had a prosthetic leg. As they climbed, his leg became inflamed and far too painful to walk on. So someone pulled out a stretcher and they carried him back down. Just before they carted him off, one of the other vets went up to him and said "you're a hero to us. And part of you reaching the top of the mountain with us. Give me your leg". And so the guy takes off his LEG, and they take it up. Fun stuff.
Anyway, back to Chad. He helped out covering the Super Bowl in China, since he knew Mandarin Chinese from his mission. Although he could only do things like "testify that Tom Brady threw true passes". Good stuff. And this Chad married a girl who looked EXACTLY like Maggie Lawson. It was weird.
After his fireside, we watched a talk by David A. Bednar. He gave this particular address at the MTC a while ago, and can only be found here. Or so they say. It's called the "Character of Christ" and is one of the best talks I've ever heard. And he gives some awesome study advice. I had seen it my first week here, but it was still awesome the second time.
Possibly more importantly, during that video (while we were sitting in the auditorium, which is also the gymnasium) we saw a BAT flying around!! I was sitting there like, "I'M BATMAN". It was awesome. But then we looked closer. It was flying around up above us, on the track, which is about three floors up from the gym floor itself. Upon said closer inspection, we realized that it was doing laps around the track. It went about a mile and a half during that time, clocking (according to my, very stylish watch) a five minute mile. Impressive. I just felt like Bruce Wayne though, sitting there, in a sweet sweet suit, watching this awesome bat flap around. Good times.
Now, I realize that there are no pictures attached to this email. Not my fault. Sort of. Some genius decided to take all the memory card readers out of the computers. Granted, there were only about ten that had them to begin with, but that should just mean that we need them all the more. So if you haven't sent the package already (Dad) a memory card reader of sorts would be delightful.
And don't think I've forgotten your language lesson! Well, I did, but I just remembered. Let's talk numbers.
1 - isa
2 - roa
3 - telo
4 - efatra
5 - dimy
6 - enina
7 - fito
8 - valo
9 - sivy
10 – folo
Make sense? It's actually pretty easy to count with Malagasy numbers except for one thing. Let's see if you can catch it. Here's a number:
47 - fito amby efapolo (meaning efatra - folo)
Did you see it? Yeah... I don't blame you. Basically, they say the number BACKWARDS. To say 47 I'd have to say "seven with forty". If there's a hundreds column, that would go next. And so when you're listening to somebody say a number, you have to remember the first part, hold it there, hear the second part, add it on, and just continue on until they stop saying things. Because you don't know if they're saying something with two, three, or ten digits. It can get frustrating. Imagine giving a phone number (123)456-7893. You'd have to say the phone number is "(321)654-3987" assuming that they know when you mean for it to break. More likely, you would have to say "3987-654(321)". Which is just confusing and stupid. And Malagasies know it. So a lot of the time they'll just use French numbers. But that just causes MORE issues.
One common deal is that you can bargain for almost anything in Madagascar. Let's say I'm buying a water bottle. I offer 2,000 aryary (about one dollar), and the guy says "no, I want 6,000". Three bucks. "Well," I respond with a dashing smile, "how about 3,000?". In French, he changes his price to 4,000, and I agree. How is this a problem? If you're talking in Malagasy numbers, it's usually agreed that you mean aryary. If you switch to French numbers, you're suddenly talking about Malagasy Francs. Which have a different value. By switching the numbering, and therefore paying, system, this guy just charged me... 20,000 aryary? Which is about ten US dollars. Rip off. I'll take my business elsewhere. I might have gotten the exchange rate backwards, but it's a thing you have to watch out for.
Anyway, time for me to go now. I'll try to send something after lunch (as usual), so if you have any questions for me or anything, be sure to send it before... 1PM. Your time.
Until next time,
And the second letter, same day:
Subject: "Deedee, where have you been all these years??" "Standing right behind you". "Oh Deedee, you know I never look there!"
So... I've decided that the other elders in my district have TERRIBLE taste in entertainment. We've been talking about TV shows, and I brought up Boy Meets World. And they had the NERVE to say it wasn't the most fantastic show ever to grow up on. Jerks. But whatever. God will judge them accordingly.
I also tried talking about Wicked, since we need some awesome tunes to sing as we're preparing for bed. What's better than Wicked? Oh yeah. Nothing. AND THEY SAID WICKED SUCKED. Good sir, YOU suck. So now I sing "Dancing Through Life" and such even louder. Although I'm the only one who's seen it. But still. They said it's only for girls. Curses.
Other than that, I feel like I covered pretty much everything earlier. Oooohhh... wait. We have investigators.
So we've started teaching each of our "progressing investigators" twice per week, plus we have the TRC where we hopefully get to teach at least one lesson. Last week, I made a goal to teach seven lessons, not because I'm a dork, but because they wanted us to get used to setting and attaining our goals. So I said seven lessons. Two for each of our investigators, plus one at the TRC. A comfortable guess. So we taught our first six lessons pretty well, and that was all good. We were finally prepared for the TRC, knew what lesson we were giving, how to give it, the whole shebang. And then NOBODY showed up for us to teach! Not only did all my fine work get thrown out the metaphorical window, but I didn't reach my teaching goal. THE FIRST GOAL I'VE EVER SET AS A MISSIONARY. So that was rather depressing. Not the best start.
Anyway, we've been doing better with that, and our lessons with our investigators have been getting way better. For one, Lalaina (aka Brother Burton), and his "family" are preparing very well for baptism. Going strong. And we had... probably the best lesson we've ever given, with him the other day. We got him involved, asked him solid questions, and basically just owned up a storm. For his critiquing afterward he asked, "who are you and what have you done with the other Elders?" We're talking like Olympic style teaching. Booyah.
And then Miandry... he never fails to make me fail. I was totally stoked for another lesson like our one with Lalaina, and completely prepared for it. And it was actually pretty good! We had a solid structure, used good examples, and even asked a couple good questions. But Miandry let us know afterward that we were "boring". Can you believe that? He called ME boring! I'll show you who's boring. Rahalahy Mpandefa. (that's the teacher's name in Malagasy. It actually has a real meaning! Weird)
And just like that, as so many of you are so fond of saying, I'm out of things to say. Not really sure how that happened. I know things happened, but I either forget about them or just figure that you had to be there.
OH! So Mom, you'll be happy to know that the hemming came out on one of my suit pant legs. Oh goodie. So I took it to the dry cleaning place (where they CLAIM that they also fix clothes) and asked what they could do. They said they would need two weeks notice (I can walk across this apartment in six seconds) and I'd have to pay for it. What the whaaaat? Nice try. But they have a different room where they do alterations for Sisters. I explained the problem. They said it be no problem, hemmed it up in about 14 seconds, and I was out on my jolly way feeling awesome. No charge. No two week bologna. Take that. That's what we call both smart shopping, and hemmed pants.
But it sounds like you're all having some good times too! Steven, hold out there for this Mini iPad (and don't lose this one). Or maybe just use a Gameboy. You can never go wrong with Pokemon Red. Or Paperboy. Oh man. Dad and Mom, you seem to be keeping busy, although I'm not sure if I like all this "big changes" business. As I told you when I left, I expect you to still be living in the same house when I come home. If I end up having to get kung fu'd but some naked ninja, I will hold you personally responsible (that was a reference to the RM, for anyone who thought I just got really creepy). Also, I think I got the packages that you sent. The one with the sweet little rocket launcher things? Oh yeah. There's no way we could use those to cause much mischief and mayhem. Hem. Hemming. Pants. And Dad, thanks for the care package. I've seriously had weeks at a time where I sit there wishing for chips and sweet melted Tillamook cheese. Would you believe that there are people who actually DON'T like cheese out here in Utah? I guess it's like not liking Wicked. You have to try the good stuff. Anyway, thanks for the package. It's awesome.
Emily, thank Danielle for the note, although I'm not sure why she and I are wearing boxing gloves. Hm. But thanks.
I'm running out of time, so the rest of you, keep up the good work, remember it will be much easier for you to write to me while I'm in the MTC, so use that opportunity well. And be grateful Anya.
Anyway, time to go, so peace out.