How is everything going?
I have been great so far. It is just about what I expected. It is actually less structured than I thought. We get these multiple hour blocks where we just sit in the classroom without specific direction, which we assume means we are just supposed to teach ourselves stuff. I think we will all get more productive with our time as we get used to the routine.
This language is "a grind" according to my district pres. It certainly seems that way so far. First day I walk into my class and several teachers just talk chinese at me. This continues for several hours, then again later in the day. None of us really have any idea what is going on half the time, they don't speak any english at all to us. Apparently we are part of the infamous "pilot program" (or at least, infamous around here) of which one part is no yingwen. This program also includes us being told to teach an investigator in chinese on the second day we are here. I've already taught three times, always in zhongwen of course. This results in a fairly stressful learning environment, but hopefully we are learning faster than we would otherwise. I can already see serious improvement in my own ability to speak.
We spend all day in our classroom, we basically live in there. There are about 70 mandarin missionaries here now, 6 elders and 2 sisters in my district. I am actually one of the worst at chinese right now. Out of the 70 or so of us, there are only a few that had absolutely no previous mandarin. Unfortunately, my exposure to the language was significantly more bogus than everyone else's. For instance, my DL is really pretty good, he took two semester while he did his freshman year at Harvard. He isn't the only elder who went there either. There are a few, which is saying something since I would guess there are only a few lds freshman males at Harvard who went on missions. I really don't think they are lying when they say they send the smart missionaries to mandarin missions.
My comp is great. He isn't very good at chinese either, which makes me feel better. Interestingly, he also comes from a vegetarian family, likes running, piano, etc. We have a lot in common. He is a little weird though. He has a thing for cologne, he probably has several hundred dollars worth. But it's all good, he is a humble guy and is definitely willing to work and has a desire to learn. We all do, we don't really have a choice. At least, not if we want to ever be able to speak well.
It is amazing how powerful the spirit can be when we teach, even though we can barely speak. All we can really do is teach, in very simple, childlike language, the fundamental docrines. No embellishment or fluff. And we know how to pray and bear testimony. Yet, that is all it really takes. We have been able to have a strong spirit as we teach. The spirit can teach directly to the heart in its own language, and it will do so regardless of the eloquence of the language of the tongue. This is true whether you speak chinese, english, or whatever.
The food is disappointing. If it weren't for Grape Nuts I would starve. Nothing else interesting has happened. We all got to collect stool samples today, that was a unique experience. I guess
needed it for the visas. I wouldn't want that if I were Taiwan though. Taiwan
I can't believe you sent me my raisin bran shirt. What if it had gotten lost in the mail? I don't want to risk keeping it with me on my mission, I will try to send it back to you. It needs to be at home when I get back.
Oh also, my chinese name is Bai Zhanglao, which literally means "white elder". I actually guessed that this would be my name before I came here. Of course they gave this name to the only redhead in the district.
I don't think I need anything else. Let me know how everything is going at home. I get thirty minutes, so try to keep the letters fairly short. P-day is tuesday.
Wo ai nimen,