Tuesday, July 26, 2011

HALF - WAY!

Zenmeyang?
   Everything is coming along great, I wish I was learning faster but hey, what can you do. I am enjoying teaching though, I feel like, even though I can't really speak, I can at least be enthusiastic and fun in my lessons. Object lessons are coming along fairly well. I can't wait to teach real investigators though. The ones here laugh at us a lot, sometimes in a good way but also sometimes not. This week in one of our lessons we were supposed to teach about receiving personal revelation through the book of Mormon, but "qishi" (revelation) is only different from "discrimination" by one tone, and we are still not very good at tones, so our investigators were a little confused. 'Personal discrimination' is just not the same thing. I'm sure I will have many stories similar to this over the next two years.
   The older generation of elders left today at four in the morning. It was really interesting to see how they were taking it, I think they have been here for so long that it felt like they would never leave. You can just tell that almost none of them really felt ready to go teach in Chinese. But being humble is a necessity anyway, so that is probably good. It is weird being the "older" generation now though, the ones who need to know what is going on and understand Chinese and stuff. Time to put it into gear I guess. If we actually leave on time, we will be flying to Taiwan six weeks from today. Still seems pretty far away, but it probably will go fast.
Since they left, we had to get new district leaders and stuff, and they picked me, which I'm a little confused about since my Chinese is mediocre at best and I'm definitely not the most spiritual or obedient. Maybe they're hoping the extra responsibility will help me catch up to everyone else.
   The temple re-opened this week though. That really is a blessing, I didn't realize that I had been missing it since I've been so busy. But it is so peaceful, such a good opportunity.
   Thanks for the legos and slinky and stuff. We are accumulating so much weird stuff here. Everyone here thinks I get the best packages, my stuff is always really entertaining. But this other guy got a little electronic puppy thing, it walks and barks and stuff. It is fun to send it under the occupied stalls in the bathroom and let it bark at people, we have had some good reactions. Oh also, about those cherries: So we got those and everyone started devouring them, they were so delicious. We got through about 3/4 of them and then someone found a little white maggot/worm thing on one, and we looked at the bottom of the container and there were probably 15 or 20 little guys wiggling around. I wonder how many I ate. But I guess at least we knew that the cherries were fresh...
   Oh also, mom, it's really cool that you were quoted in the paper about that ukulele camp. I especially like what you said. "It's amazing". How profound..... But it did sound like fun. I hope you guys are all having a fun summer! It sounds like you have found cool things to do.
   Keep me updated with everything at home! I love you all so much. I am so glad that I can be here and feel the spirit so strongly. I know that this is the Lord's work. Thanks for helping me get to this point in my life.

Wo feichang ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WEEK FOUR

Jiating,
Four weeks down, about seven or eight to go. We figured out our MTC time is about a tenth of our mission. Sort of like a tithe we get to pay before actually being missionaries.

But things are going great here. I feel more comfortable with the language every day, but not by much. I'm enjoying myself though! And I feel like the majority of the important things I learn really aren't related to Chinese, which is how it is supposed to be for sure.

Things at home sound great. I bet the reunion was fun, it sounded great. Mom, that is really cool that you are going to ukulele camp. I wish I could play that, I remember reading about an elder in Taiwan who used his ukulele for street contacting. Maybe you should see if you can find some missionary opportunities through your new skills.

We try to find ways to make things interesting here. We all tried brushing each others teeth, it's harder than you would think.

My companion's mom sent me figs, I guess he told her I like them, so don't worry about getting me more anytime soon, I've got plenty. Also, I got Nam's chicken. Tell her thanks for me, it was great. She is really sneaky hiding it like that.
I wish I had more interesting things to talk about. My district leader is apparently now a star in China, about a week after we entered the MTC a video he and his friends made in their Chinese class at Harvard went viral over there, apparently they got like tens of millions of views. His parents get called almost everyday be people trying to talk to him. Anyway, you should look the video up, Huafu Huaning Ni or something (a play on the Beijing Olympics opening song), it probably won't be popular on youtube, becuase no one in China has watched it there since they aren't allowed to. But anyways, I really can't think of anything more interesting to say. I'm done with soccer, I have started running with these guys who are really into it, ironmans and stuff, hopefully this will keep me in shape until Taiwan.

I love you all, thanks for writing me. If you want to help, send me creative ideas for object lessons that would be effective for teaching the doctrines in ch. 3 of PMG to children. We are always looking for ways to make our lessons more fun, and anything that would apply to children would help us since that is how basic our language skills are. Tomorrow we are going to teach one of our "investigators", Gao Hai Quan, about sin using that toy hamburger you sent me. That should be really effective, right? It is kind of fun to teach the gospel so simply, it helps you remember what is really important about it. I think it would be fun to teach a primary class someday. The basics are what makes our message true.

Wo ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WEEK THREE

Nimen Hao,
Thanks for sending me all the stuff I need. That is probably really annoying for you, but I appreciate it.
I hope Dad is doing okay. It doesn't sound too serious, but I'll be praying for him anyway.
Nothing new here, really. The devotionals are great, along with personal scripture study time they are the highlightS of my week. I feel like I always learn so much from them. Our Fourth of July one was particuarly fun. Some people talk about how powerful it is when all the missionaries get together and sing "Called to Serve", but I can testify that it is equally impressive when we all sing "Yankee Doodle" together. (Except the line "and with the girls be handy" seemed a little ironic given our current circumstances.)
The only really notable speaker we have had is Elder Bednar, but everyone else has been great too.
It's true that this place is fairly similar to a minimum security prison. We all have to wear the same thing, have scheduled meals with dissapointing food, scheduled exercise time outside, are never alone unless we are in the bathroom, and we aren't allowed to leave our little half-mile square radius. The only difference is that we aren't allowed to have visitors. And that we're here by choice. But I guess that really makes all the difference.
In all honesty, everything really is great here, I'm not trying to complain and I really wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Except Taiwan, I suppose. But what I mean is I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. Today my companion and I were walking and trying to figure out a word in Chinese, and the guy in front of us turned around and told us. He was from Hong Kong, fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, and was headed to New York to speak English, which he could barely speak. It makes you wonder why the Lord would want a native chinese speaker from Hong Kong to learn English and preach in America and want a bunch of immature native english speakers from America to learn Chinese and preach in Taiwan. But I know there must be a reason.
There is one guy in our zone from French Polynesia who came here and is learning English and Mandarin at once. So I guess it could be worse. He's a stud.
The spirit is so strong here, I'm learning so much. I have such a greater love for the scriptures, prayer, pondering, and repentance, among other things. I feel like this has been such a great humbling experience so far. For reals. I have so much to learn and so far to go. But I know I'm not doing it alone, I guess none of us really do anything alone. The Lord is always with us, that means more to me now than it used to.
I love you all, thanks for supporting me and thanks for all the great lessons you teach me.
Wo ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

WEEK TWO


Nimen Hao!
Time is odd here, it so true that the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days, all at the same time. I have only been here two weeks, but I feel like my life at home and at college was so long ago.
I wish I had more interesting things to write about, but I can only say that things are pretty much always the same here. They just have us sit in class for a very, very long time and teach ourselves stuff. At first I was a little distressed at how much of our language study was completely based on us, without the teacher involved at all, but we figure that they want us to learn this way so we develop the habits that will allow us to teach ourselves in the field. They can't possibly teach us Chinese in 2.5 months, but they can help us set up good habits so that hopefully we will be able to teach ourselves within two years.
I have a new love of soccer. Every Friday the Mandarins play the Koreans, it is pretty intense. I scored twice last time, which was pretty good since I haven't played since elementary school. Soccer gets brutal here though, this one elder has had a black eye since we got here, another really hurt his shin, people get hurt every game. But it's so fun.

So after gym the other day I was doing the P90X ab workout in my room and all the polynesian elders were just watching me because our room door was open. They are all these huge rugby players from New Zealand and French Polynesia and stuff, some don't even know English yet. Anyways, they are always outside our room because that is where the pull-up bar is and they work out all the time. But after I was done, they said they were impressed and wanted me to teach them the workout. So the next day I ended up leading this exercise class of like 15 elders who wanted to learn P90X, we had to do it all down the hall because we couldn't fit anywhere else. So that has become the after gym tradition, more people show up every time. It is funny watching these huge, tough polys struggle though.

I can't think of any food that you guys could send, maybe dried figs. Those would be good. It has to be something that will keep at room temperature. They feed us dinner at 4:30, so we have about 6 hours before bed and we usually all get hungry and just end up eating candy, because everyone here gets boxes of candy from people and that's the only food available between 4:30 and bedtime. So whatever you do, don't send candy. 

I love you family, I hope everything is going well. Let Ashley know that the dearelders are making it to me. I'm grateful for everything you guys have done for me.
Wo ai nimen,
Elder Braithwaite