Happy weekend everyone!
It feels weird to be writing an email about my week when it feels like it's just been one very long day with vague breaks where I was allowed to pass out in a bed. I'm starting to get pretty accustomed to the repetitive schedule, and I can't decide whether that's a blessing because the time flies by or a curse because I'll be performing the same routine for the next five weeks ad nauseam.
Quick disclaimer: We've been studying Spanish for so long every day that sometimes it feels like my English is starting to deteriorate. For example, it took me 5 minutes the other day to think of the word "choir" for a journal entry because I could only think of the Spanish word. My point is, if during any part of this email it seems like English is my second language, consider that a testament to my progress in Spanish.
Our whole class has made pretty great progress in Spanish. Elder Moore, who you may remember started from ground zero in Spanish (or potentially ground negative-one, as he's expressed that the German he learned is somehow the exact opposite of Spanish), has made a lot of visible progress. In addition to learning quite a bit of the required vocabulary, he's also progressed a couple steps toward really knowing the everyday phrases of the language. Earlier this week, he when he wanted to say a Spanish word like "¿Listo?" (Ready?), he used to just say random Spanish-sounding gibberish. Now, he's progressed to saying the incorrect word, but one in actual Spanish that sounds similar, like instead of "¿Listo?" he'll say "¿Le gusta?" (Do you like it?) or "¿Luego?" (Later?) which I believe means that he's one step away from saying actual Spanish words and having them be correct. I'm pretty proud of him, because Spanish has been a struggle for all of us.
Here are a few of my favorite mistranslations from this week:
What was meant: ¡Súperfuerte!
What that means: "Super strong!"
What was said: "¡Súperfuente!"
What that means: "Super fountain!"
What was meant: "Memorice estas frases."
What that means: "Memorize these phrases."
What was said: "Memorice estas fresas."
What that means: "Memorize these strawberries."
What was meant: "¿Tiene cuentos sobre cuándo era un niño?"
What that means: "Do you have stories about when you were a kid?"
What was said: "¿Tiene historia con un bebé?"
What that means: "Do you have history with a baby?"
And of course the classic pitfalls:
Meant: "Tengo dieciocho años." (I am 18 years old).
Said: "Tengo dieciocho anos." (I have 18 anuses).
Meant: "Estoy avergonzada." (I'm embarrassed.)
Said: "Estoy embarazada." (I'm pregnant.)
As you can see, it's been a lot of struggling and failing in order to try and cram a new language into our brains. It's a tiring process and can be pretty frustrating at points--especially because both of the teachers we started with have been reassigned to new classes :( -- but we've got a couple things going for us: some amazing spiritual experiences this week, and a great District (class that does everything together for those who are less familiar with MTC terminology) of friends that support each other.
I know that I've got some friends on here who love me but want to bail before the spiritual stuff starts (That's fine, I'll get you one day) so I'll save that for last and start by introducing our District:
For convenience sake, I'll attach a picture of our District with one of our Spanish teachers as a visual aid.
Back row from left to right:
Elder Miner (Elder Batista's Companion): Our District Leader. He takes his job very seriously, but also likes to have fun. He played Division 1 soccer in high school and lets it show during exercise time when he's finessing people up and down the field. He's diabetic, and is really good natured about it. He spent an entire lunch period answering potentially awkward questions from the rest of us who don't really know anything about it. His condition apparently also means that he has the exact opposite goal from us when we work out. He needs body fat so that his insulin pump is more effective, so he's not supposed to lose weight or gain muscle which is unfortunate because he's really fit and likes to exercise. While Elder Moore, Batista, and I were lifting the other day, his task was to sit in the corner on his phone and eat chips, which wasn't his favorite. I'm not sure if that exercise time was harder for us or for him.
Me (I hope you recognize me): I've named this post "Friends" for a couple reasons. The first is that I truly do feel like I've bonded with my fellow missionaries a whole lot over the course of the last week, especially Moore, Miner, and Batista. We've had some amazing conversations about our lives, our homes, our hopes, and our fears going forward. We've started doing as much as we can together instead of just seeing each other during class, and it's made a really big difference in how quickly the days go by. We're going to be friends for a long time, and they all want to go to the U when we get back. I'd be roommates with them in a heartbeat.
However, the other reason I've named this email "Friends" is because earlier this week someone pointed out that apparently I sound exactly like the character Ross from the TV show Friends. Now, I've never actually seen Friends so I'm having a hard time trying to contest this claim, but apparently it's accurate enough that when someone mentioned it during class, the entire District agreed and then they spent like 15 minutes of class time talking about it, talking about Friends, and trying to get me to say certain key phrases of the character from the show like "Rachel!" and saying "Hi" in a really dejected voice. Since I don't know the character I'm not sure whether to be flattered or offended, but they've assured me that he's one of the best characters in the show even though that statement is always partially contested by someone in the room. Whatever.
Elder Batista (Elder Miner's Companion): Elder Batista is what would happen if a giant American Teddy Bear with a proud Spanish heritage was connected to the internet and brought to life. He's very outgoing, sometimes to the dismay of those that he's talking to. For example, on Wednesday when the new recruits came in, he would pick one at random, go up to them, and give them a "full Spanish welcome" which included taking them by the shoulders and kissing the air next to each of their cheeks in an style reminiscent of a European aunt who hasn't seen you in too long. He also seems to have downloaded an entire internet's worth of memes, pop culture references, and impressions of popular videos; all of which he has at the ready in case they become contextually relevant, at which point he fully commits and belts them out loud and proud. He's probably the best in our class at Spanish, and he and I talk a lot during class because we're the only ones who can understand each other at this point. We've also had some great talks in English as we share a lot of interests in terms of games, movies, TV, etc. His current catchphrase is "Superbien!" (Super good!) which has caught on with our District pretty well.
He and I, despite doing well at Spanish have both been having a harder time than our companions during workout times. This weird dynamic where Miner and Moore struggle at Spanish while we coach them, and then Batista and I struggle at workouts while they coach us has brought us together because we have to rely on each other to achieve what we're weak at.
Hermano Durant: The Spanish teacher that's been with us since we got here. He got reassigned and yesterday was his last day with us. :(
Elder Moore (My Companion): Elder Moore was very excited to get back into his element this week as he led us all through workout times. The man runs a 40m dash in 4.5 seconds (which is faster than some NFL players), and he's been leagues ahead of us when working out, but very helpful and supportive in getting us where we want to go. He's been holding my feet when I can't do pull-ups, helping me design my own workouts, and even getting me to push past my perceived limits by lying to me about how heavy the weights he's giving me are. Personality wise, he's uncannily similar to myself (sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself), and multiple times a day we say what the other is thinking even if it's non-sequitur or weird. I feel like God gave me myself as a first companion so that if I have any criticism about the experience then I can try to change it about myself before my future companions would likely have the same critiques.
Elder Rollins (Elder Palmer's Companion), Elder Palmer (Elder Rollin's Companion)
Front row, from left to right:
Hermana Memory, Hermana Quick, Hermana Von Feldt, Hermana Jaramillo
Our week (this is where the spiritual stuff starts):
Sunday was amazing. Everyone told us that if we got to Sunday that we'd make it all the way and now I see why. Everything but Sacrament Meeting was in English which was a great opportunity to rest from our language labors and focus on the spiritual side of things.
That night was especially awesome. We had a devotional talk from the MTC President and his wife about their family and the role that missionaries had in their lives. Both are converts and had several children go out as missionaries.
The highlight for me was when they talked about their youngest son, who loved to do their genealogy and was planning on taking a trip to Italy to do so. Unfortunately, during a vacation to Hawaii a couple months before he was set to go, he contracted a rare tropical disease and passed away a few weeks later at age 23.
This was a hard time for their family. However, over the next few months, they had several experiences while doing family history in which they felt him there, or heard his voice, or asked for his help and in each of those instances found a line of family they hadn't known about before. 1,800 names the first time, 700 the second, and 1300 the third. It was truly amazing to hear of how that son still made his contribution even though he didn't make it to Italy.
After the devotional, we had the option to watch a recorded talk. The ones at the MTC are pretty cool because they don't show them anywhere else. The one that seems to be the favorite here is "Character of Christ" by Elder Bednar, and after watching it I understand why.
He talks about turning outwards to serve others when we're going through hard times instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and had some really powerful stories. He also did an impression of Cookie Monster which is something I never knew I wanted.
On Tuesday we also had the opportunity to perform our choir piece and hear talks from Elder and Sister Nielsen of the Quorum of the Seventy. It was focused on the fact that even if we only find one person who's ready to listen, it'll be a treasure for a lifetime.
The rest of the week has been a blur of studying, exercising, and being really sick of the food already.
While I'm still already anxious to get out to Jersey, I'm feeling much more motivated again today to take on this next week.
Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, and I'll let you know next Saturday how it goes.
Elder Kai Reyes
1. Eld. Batista and I with the cat that hangs around the MTC
2. A great picture of Elder Moore