Monday, May 20, 2013

Hello everybody!
I've made it nearly a week here and haven't gone insane yet :) After you guys dropped me off here at the MTC, my host took me through the proper building and I got all the things I needed. After that, I was escorted to my classroom...where everybody within was speaking Mandarin...I understood hardly any of it! Hooray!
We have lots of class time here. By lots, I mean LOTS! I have more class time here than I did in college, which is crazy! I've learned a lot about Chinese though...I'm still very much new and unused to this language, and it'll probably be six months in the field before I'm actually proficient at it, but I have learned a lot. The Mandarin Chinese language is really sing-songy and fun to listen to. I'm growing to love it--at times I do get frustrated and down about how my language skills are going, but the Lord manages to find some way to lift my spirits back up :) He has a knack for doing that sort of thing :)
My expected departure date for Singapore is July 16! In less than two months I'll be there! Crazy crazy crazy! :) I've run into a couple elders from home and college, and it's been really nice to see people that I know from before the MTC.
I have two companions--Elders Day and Andersen. At first I was a little leery about being put in a threesome, but I've really grown to love it. They both took Chinese in high school and for a semester in college, and so I really can do nothing more than lean on their Chinese experience to help me learn this language. They've been really helpful in teaching me the proper tones and everything like that.
Speaking of tones: You have to say things a certain way in Chinese, or else you're saying a different word. There are four basic tones in the Mandarin language (technically 5, but whatevs). They are probably the hardest part of the language for me to master! But that's okay--I'm counting on the Lord to help me figure out this stuff. 
We taught our first investigator Friday night and then again on Saturday afternoon. On Friday I took in a notebook with notes on it of the things I wanted to say (we each took turns teaching her stuff), and I ended up stumbling over what I'd written and everything like that. On Saturday, though, I just worked on memorizing a specific list of vocab, and I used that to construct sentences in my head when we taught her later. That was a much more spiritual experience! I don't know very much Chinese, so I was really only able to say that "I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know that we are the children of God. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know He loves me. I know He loves you." Even then, though, it was still really cool to feel the Spirit so strongly!
We have one other companionship in our room--both of them are going to Singapore, so that's pretty great. We'll be able to hang out on the plane together, I hope--I really don't want to fly alone. I don't think they'd let me anyways, but here's hoping I'll be able to be with them when we fly out on July the 16th! :)
Since they won't usually say 'Mitchell' in Mandarin, I've been given a name that I'll go by amongst the Chinese people for the duration of the mish. I'm known as Mai Zhanglao (again, I'm not sure how to do tones yet on this computer, so you'll have to forgive me. It's pronounced 'my jhong-lao'). The 'Zhanglao' part means 'Elder', and 'Mai' is the Chinese equivalent of 'Mitchell' :)
Last night, after the Sunday devotional, me and wo de tongban (my companions) went and watched 'The Testaments' in Mandarin. Even though I only understood 0.8% of what was spoken, I still felt the Spirit SO STRONGLY towards the end, particularly when Christ came to the Americas. I know that He lives, and I've certainly felt His hand and His help while here. It is comforting and reassuring to know that fact. Last night at the devotional, Sister Mary Edmunds spoke, and one of the main themes she impressed upon us was the Plan of Happiness. We've already chosen it once before, and now we must continually keep choosing it each and every day. The first few days I was here I was sorely tempted NOT to be happy and to look at the dark side of everything. But I decided to choose to have a more positive attitude, and that has made all the difference! I'm not saying I don't get frustrated or tired when I learn Chinese or how to teach people the Gospel--what I am saying is that choosing to be happy even when we're frustrated/tired is the best! :)
Zai jian for now,
Elder Mitchell/Mai Zhanglao

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