Monday, August 25, 2014

The Half-Way Mark. 半路上标志

Hey how is everyone doing? i can hardly believe that an entire month has gone by and i am already more than half way done here! Time just flies by so quickly here and before I know it I will be in taiwan. We had a lot of new missionaries come into our zone last wednesday so my group isn't the youngest anymore. That means that we're actually supposed to be the experienced ones here lol. Idk if we are or not but we're coming along. It reminds me of when I first came to the mtc, I didn't know any chinese so even if other people were saying simple phrases like I'm happy or I want to sleep, I would have no idea what they were saying. Now when I just say easy stuff like that, the other elders are like, woah, you know so much chinese!  I wish, but i've certainly have come a long way. I'm actually really glad that I'm learning chinese as opposed to some other languages, cuz some elders were saying that for their language, when you read, you have to read like up and down, backwards and sideways to understand the meaning. I don't even remember the language that it was but I'm glad that I'm not learning it lol.  At least they actually have an alphabet.  I don't have that luxury. I feel pretty good though when I can write out something in Chinese characters lol. 
   Well this last week for the most part has been pretty much the same as any other week. I guess the most exciting thing was that our neighbors in our dorm (other members of our district) had a milk jug explode in their room as well! That two bottles in two weeks lol. It didn't spray spoiled milk all over their stuff like what happened with us, but since it happened while we were out in our classes, they didn't clean it up right away and it smelled up their whole room! For the past two days their room has smelled up the entire hallway whenever they leave their door open. It's pretty funny but it's kind of bad that they have to deal with that. Another funny thing that happens every night is that one of my roommates always talks in his sleep and last night he walked around the room. He usually yells things randomly in the night and then goes back to sleep. Last night I heard him talking in chinese and it sounded like he was teaching a lesson about enduring to the end hahaha. It was really funny cuz he like introduced himself, waited for a response and then started talking like he was having a back and forth conversation lol. Then he got up and tried to turn on his desk light (which luckily doesn't work cuz I didn't want him to turn on the lights). When it didn't turn on he just went back to bed. It was really funny. I'm going to have to start keeping a notebook by my bed so I can write down what he says cuz he literally yells stuff every night lol. 
  I've also had the opportunity to host the new missionaries when they're dropped off at the mtc. It's sad seeing them leaving their family and I know exactly how they feel. I love just meeting them and seeing where their going and stuff like that. It's weird to think that some of the people I hosted two weeks ago are going to be leaving tomorrow if they're going stateside. 
  That's crazy that Alexa is driving now!!! I know how she feels though, trying to learn to drive with dad in the car haha. He always got a little excited when I would drive too haha. Just don't wreck the malibu cuz that's a really nice car! I remember i was a little nervous to drive the first time but it's really nothing to worry about cuz it's easy. You'll be fine. 
  What is eric's address that I should mail letters to? I just want to make sure so that I don't send any to the wrong place. And you can send me whatever cookies you like. I'm fine with surprises. I know that anything you make will be good so I'll leave the decision in your capable hands mom. Well that's pretty much all I've got this week. I love you all and hope you have a great week. 

Best District In The MTC

Monday, August 18, 2014

Milk Explosion, Temple Ground Walks, and More Studying!

Well my stay at the mtc just gets better and better each week. And they also go by faster and faster. I've learned so much in this short time it's almost unbelievable. I'm still not that great but I understood all of the mandarin talks last Sunday and during all of our lessons I'm able to keep up with my companion. I actually enjoy learning the language now. Every time i'm able to I study new vocabulary and the change in my attitude towards learning has really helped my progress. I just love that each time I go to teach a lesson, i'm able to understand a little more and to say a little more. We've started teaching 6 or 7 lessons a week so we do a lot of planning for the lessons now.
Being district leader wasn't too bad. The meetings were actually very useful and we had a lot of good leadership training sessions. The only challenging part was having to encourage my district to actually study. My district gets along great, but they like to talk during our language study time. And unfortunately it's my job to make sure they stay on task. I just got released as district leader this Sunday. They change the district leader every three to four weeks so more people have a chance to serve. The new district leader is a great guy so he should make sure that everyone continues working hard.
I have three other elders in my room. A lot of times they have six and given the small size of the rooms, I'm so glad there are only four of us. We get along pretty well. Sometimes a few of the elders in my district can get a little carried away, especially when they sing really loudly at all times during the day. lol  We go on walks to the temple every Sunday and Monday so these are always really relaxing times. We've had really nice weather here so whenever we go on walks it's always really pretty. I actually miss all the rain back home. It hardly ever rains here and is always just the same weather basically. At least it's not nearly as humid as Ohio. One of the elders that already left for Taiwan said that it is sooo humid there. He had to go biking in his suit coat and by the end of the day, the entire suit was drenched as if he jumped into a pool! That will make things interesting. The only time that you don't sweat over there is when you're taking a shower or laying down in your room! I'm still excited to leave though.
I'm glad to hear that Ian is going to choir. Keep it up Ian. You may not appreciate it now, but it's always nice to be able to sing well. Unfortunately I haven't been going to all of the choir practices but I've gone to a few. Usually there isn't anymore room by the time we get there. It's ok though, the last few songs they've sung have been kind of weird. I haven't been taking too many pictures of us here but that's cuz we haven't been doing anything interesting. Just studying all day haha. Funny story though, after breakfast a few days ago, my companion brought a bottle of milk to our dorm room. We forgot about it for a few days and then two nights ago it exploded. It was in the middle of the night and it freak us all out. The cap blew off and shot milk up to the ceiling and then all over the wall, floor and on my stuff on the desk! I had to wipe down everything quick so it didn't ruin anything. Luckily it didn't make the room smell really bad. That was probably the most exciting thing that happened to me all week lol.
Well since you're already sending me a package, could you send those two patterned socks I got and also four more pairs of long athletic socks. The few that I brought will get holes in them pretty quickly and you might as well send some now as opposed to when I'm in Taiwan. Also, some water flavor packets would be cool. I haven't had those in a long time. Maybe just like the Propel kind. That's probably everything I need. If you or grandma want to send me any other goodies, I wouldn't mind. It's always nice to get a little surprise.  Well that's pretty much everything thats going on. Hopefully I'll have more interesting things to write about when I get to Taiwan. Well I love you all. Have a great week.
p.s. i'll try to take more pictures this next week cuz i don't have any this time. Sorry

Learning Mandarin
Andrew is slowing learning the Chinese language of Mandarin.  To learn Mandarin, missionaries first learn to speak and read by using the phonetic system of Pinyin.  Pinyin uses letters to sound out words.  For example,  "Ni hao ma?"  sounds like, "Knee how ma?"  This means "How are you?" Once missionaries learn to speak Mandarin using Pinyin, they start to memorize kanji.  Kanji are characters that represent words that cannot be sounded out.  The meaning and sound of the different kanji have to be memorized.  Also, Mandarin is a tonal language, meaning that there are four different tones that are used to say different words.  For example, "ma" in Mandarin means four different words depending on what word you are trying to say. Ma can mean horse, ant, mother, or scold, depending on what tone you use to say the word.  The picture illustrates this concept. 



Monday, August 11, 2014

A Great Week!!

Hey everyone! This third week at the MTC has been much better than the previous two. It went by so quickly because I was actually enjoying myself and studying a lot. The initial craziness of the MTC has died down and I'd say I'm pretty much adjusted to it and the busy schedule. I actually enjoy studying the Chinese now and every free moment I have I pull out some flash cards to help cement the vocab I've just learned. We teach lessons almost every day here and for the past three I haven't used any notes to help me with the language! They were pretty simple lessons and I couldn't say too much but it's a start. I've also been able to stay focused all day during our study and class times. I think that being sick made it a lot harder to stay focused and I'm completely fine now so I don't have any problems.
Honestly the days here are pretty routine so there isn't a whole lot of interesting things to write about. I also can never remember what I did throughout the week when I sit down to write the email lol. The week went really well, and I've been learning a lot. I've been playing a lot of soccer here and have weight lifted a lot too. I like our weight set back home a lot better than the equipment here but it still feels great to exercise. So apparently we aren't allowed to listen to any music at all at the MTC! I'm pretty sure that most of the people can but our branch president is pretty strict and doesn't feel like it's appropriate to listen to music at all. It's a shame cuz listening to music really calms me down and helps me to learn better. There must be a reason that our president doesn't want us to so I won't complain too much lol. The branch president is actually really nice and does a good job. I think he is actually from Taiwan but I'm not sure.
When I first came to the mtc there was a ton of people in my branch but since then, two districts have already moved into the field and tomorrow another two will leave. When they leave, that'll make our district one of the oldest ones in the branch! There's a lot of really cool elders leaving tomorrow so it'll be sad to see them go. Only a few of them will actually be going to the Taiwan Taichung mission. A lot of them will go to Taipei or England.
On Saturday, our district went to our first TRC. A TRC is basically when we meet up with some random people that speak Mandarin and get to know them and teach them a lesson. A lot of them were actually recently returned missionaries from Taiwan. It was a little awkward cuz sometimes neither my companion or I could understand what they were saying, but for the most part we could carry on  a conversation. I can pick out a lot of the words from what the people are saying and some of the times I'm able to piece them together or just guess their general meaning. Even though I can't understand a whole lot of what is being said, all of the exposure to the language is definitely helping. I'm actually almost better at Chinese now than I am at Spanish after taking three years of it lol. Oh another thing. I saw Dallin again after a devotional and we were able to take a picture by the big map. I don't have my camera with me at the moment but I'll send the pictures later today. I can't believe that Dallin only has two more weeks here before he leaves! I hope he has a great time!
That's cool that Dad got another computer. You're probably going to get all sorts of cool things now that I'm gone haha. I'm happy to hear that Alexa and Ian are getting involved with some sports. I never really got into running but that's good that you both are. Make sure you weightlift too haha. Good luck with all of your races though. Both of you are good runners so cross country will be good for you.
Also, could you go ahead and send the Mandarin hymn book along with the cookbook? They aren't going to get any in stock for a long time. Make sure it's the small sized one. Try to get one with the pinyin next to the notes as opposed to on a page next to them. If you could get it with characters next to the notes too that would be great. If you think vitamin c would be good for me you can send that too. Oh another thing for the shopping list...earplugs... I didn't think I'd need them but suddenly after the first week everyone has decided to start snoring lol. I don't know why I didn't bring them in the first place. While you are at it, if you could send some granola bars or fiber bars, or something like that to eat that'd be great too. The food here isn't actually that good, so I'm always hungry between meals lol. I know that's quite a shopping list, but those things would be great. Thanks so much. Well, I'm going to wrap up now, some of the other elders want to go play some basketball. Love you lots.

Andrew to Taiwan, Dallin to Argentina. 
Have a Great Mission Dallin!

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Made It Through Another Week!

Hey how is everyone doing!? I can't believe I made it through another week here lol. The days go by really slow but I was surprised to find that I've almost been here for two weeks. The language is coming along better and I'm able to say a lot of different words. They only really teach you the vocab for teaching church lessons, so I can say a lot of that but I don't know how to just have a conversation with someone about other daily events. I don't know if they really teach us that lol. I'll just have to learn that on my own. I'm slowly getting used to how much we have class and I'm able to better focus during them. After like 9 hours of class though I still have a tough time staying focused for the last hour of additional study. I think that part of the reason I've had trouble is cuz apparently I have pink eye! I've been feeling pretty terrible the last week with a headache, sore throat and a cough, but I thought it was just me adjusting to the higher altitude. But after my eyes got all red I figured something bad was happening lol. I went in to the doctor's office and they said I need to take some eye drops and take naps! That should really help cuz it's rough trying to sit through all those classes when your sick lol. I don't mean to sound so negative, it's not actually that bad. It's probably my fault for being sick cuz even when I felt bad I still played a lot of soccer and basketball and it probably made it worse. Oh well, it's worth it. They have a lot of good basketball players in my zone so we get some pretty good games going. There are also a lot of good soccer players so we've played a lot of that too. I've forgotten how much fun it is to play a full sized game of soccer. My district is challenging another district in a game sometime this week so I'd better not be sick when we play them haha. There's a lot of bragging rights on the line lol. 
Last Sunday everyone got up to bear their testimony in Chinese and I was able to understand like 95% of what the people said! I was really surprised. I had to focus reeeeally hard to piece together the sentences and if I ever got sidetracked I would miss everything but I can see some progress. I didn't share my testimony cuz I was just so busy trying to understand everyone else lol. I had quite a bit that I could say though so in my lessons with our "investigators" I'll actually be able to say some more without having to look it up in my phrase book. Btw, that little orange Chinese book that you bought me and I brought with me is essential to teaching lessons here. We all got a copy of it and it's the most helpful thing to bring with you when you're trying to teach someone! 
Several of the elders in my district are really good at piano so sometimes after meals we'll go and play together. I'm glad I memorized a bunch of songs before I came cuz it's a lot of fun to play. Elder Lauti and I like to play blues and jazz versions of the hymns lol. He's good with runs and chords and I'll mess with the melody so it sounds pretty cool. It's a good way to take a break from the classes. I wish I would've learned how to play all the chords too before I left cuz it's fun to just be able to mess around and make up your own songs. 
My "investigator" that Elder Osborne and I were teaching turned out to be our second teacher. He's a pretty cool guy but he lacks in his acting abilities. Our other teachers can act out what he's saying so I can actually know what he's saying haha. It actually really helps me to learn it when he does that and with all of the Chinese that they each speak. The whole class they probably speak like 95% percent Chinese so I don't catch everything. It helps if I look up a word that he says a lot and then when he says it each time, I'll understand him and remember what it means. 
Oh btw, I saw Dallin last night. We were walking back to our dorm room and I saw him waiting to get on the bus to go back to the campus. It was good to see him again and he said that he comes over to our campus each Thursday for his pday and for devotionals so I think we'll be able to manage a picture in front of the map. 
Well that's pretty much everything that's been going on around here. Have a great week everyone! Love you lots,
Andrew Stevens
Elders Decker, Osborne, Stevens, Pearce, Rosen