The last two and a half days have felt like a full week or more. Probably because I went from working 20 hours a week during the summer to near 15 hour days here at the Missionary Training Center. A LOT has happened to the point that I keep referring to things as having happened "yesterday" before being softly reminded that the event in question actually occurred a few hours earlier.
After being dropped off by my family in the afternoon, I was shuffled from station to station getting various papers and items. After a brief stop to my room to drop my bags off I was sent straight to class where I met my companion for the next six weeks, Elder Moore.
I wasn't really worried about who my companion would be until I got to the closed door of the classroom, at which point the fear of being stuck at the side of some antisocial nutjob or juvenile troublemaker for six weeks came to a peak. However, opening the door, I was super relieved to meet Elder Moore and couldn't be happier with my partner for the next few weeks.
During that class, each pair (there are 10 people in our District, 6 Elders and 4 Sisters) was given time to look at some of the murals around the new MTC building and think about the purpose of being a missionary. We all then shared our thoughts. After Elder Moore and I shared our thought on our turn, one of the louder Elders said with a nervous laugh:
"Are we sure these guys aren't secretly Returned Missionaries?"
That was a pretty nice confidence boost for both of us.
Elder Moore is an 18 y/o from Idaho. He's a great guy; very understanding and mature. He too played rugby in high school, as well as football, track, and basketball. We're both planning on exercising a lot to keep the MTC food weight off and have been doing push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, etc. in the morning and before bed.
One of the first videos they played at the welcome meeting was called "Equally Yoked Together" which was about Oxen using teamwork to pull heavy sleds at competitions, and had the moral that both missionaries in the companionship should be team players and work together. However, Elder Moore and I, in accordance with our fitness goal, took the title to also mean that we should both try to get as yoked as possible during our stay here. While we've only had one dedicated exercise period so far, I'm pretty optimistic.
It was a long day of class and teaching "investigators," the latter of which was an amazing experience and I really poured my heart out. That combined with the stress of leaving home and family left us pretty fragile emotionally. Consequently, Elder Moore an I made a pact that while we were reading the letters that friends and family had given us for the end of our first day, we wouldn't judge each other while the other bawled their eyes out.
When the time came though, we were both stunned. We went through each letter slowly and methodically and kept looking over to make sure the other was okay. Neither of us shed a single tear. Instead, as we found out after, we both wrote down in our journals that we were just so happy. Our hearts were so full. That feeling kept us in good spirits and helped us through the night.
We were told by several people on Wednesday that the second day was the hardest day of the MTC for them. We were pretty exhausted from the day before and still adjusting to the schedule (bed at 10:30 and up at 6:30 for my friends who don't know). I've also had a cold since Wed. which has made my brain feel pretty muddled.
We started our first day of Spanish classes. I'd like to take a moment and thank all of my Spanish teachers in school. I've been asked by multiple people who have been here for 3, 4, even 5 weeks if I'm at their level or even ahead of them in class which has made me feel pretty confident in the language.
Poor Elder Moore, on the other hand, took two years of German in school and never touched Spanish until Thursday. He had a rough time during class and was feeling pretty discouraged throughout the day. I've been trying to just be there when he needs help and answer questions, but the language is the most frustrating part for him which was hard because...
We had 10 HOURS of language study. 2 four hour classes and 2 one hour self-study sessions. I had assumed through all these classes that we'd start like a traditional Spanish class with the alphabet and sounding things out and all that. While we did at first on Thursday, it became clear on Friday that this was not the case. Instead, they just started giving us phrases and words pertaining to a specific topic and then just let us learn from osmosis. I didn't know most of the words as they were pertaining to giving prayers, and scripture is currently extremely hard for me to try to understand in Spanish. I'm starting to get the hang of at least praying now, but even with my background in Spanish the class is a lot of hard work.
Luckily, we had our first exercise time on Friday where we could get out of our shirts and ties and play some sand volleyball out across the street from the MTC. Being able to run around freely and mess around in the sand was really refreshing. Elder Moore and I make a pretty good volleyball team too which is nice. We ended the day happily tired.
Overall, the first few days were pretty rough, and the MTC is definitely a weird place. It feels like a mix of EFY, seminary, and Spanish class but all dialed up to 11. The food is pretty hit or miss with mostly misses, but since I've been using so much energy during these days I've been pretty hungry by the time we get to each meal which seems to make the food taste better. Both Elder Moore and I have been pretty impatient to get out to Jersey at times, but at this point we've been more able to slow down and enjoy the experience. Being this walled off from the outside world has been both relaxing and unsettling, and I've definitely appreciated all the emails I've gotten throughout the week.
I'll try to keep future blog posts shorter and more to the point, but I guess it seems like the best way to express how I'm feeling at the moment is to just throw a bunch of new information at you and see how you feel haha.
Love and miss you all. Week 0.5/104 complete.
-Elder Kai Reyes
I haven't taken a lot because I wasn't sure on the rules but here's a few.
1. Elder Moore and I.
2. The View from our classroom onto campus.
3 & 4: Our classroom, which I'm including to make the people who had to use the old buildings mad.