I can't believe I'm finally the one on the other side of the computer, writing my first email home as a missionary! I'll try to write quickly so I can include as much as possible in the limited time we have to email. And hopefully send pictures as well... Also, I'm constantly thinking in half Spanish and half English, so forgive me if I sound a little strange.
My companion is Hermana Cole, and I have a strong testimony of the fact that she was meant to be my companion. She is so amazing, I can't even adequately describe her. Hermana Cole is from the Chicago area and attended Vanderbilt for two years before her mission, studying Spanish and Political Science. She is a convert of about a year and a half, and her testimony is rock solid. She is also the only member of the church in her family... see, I told you she was incredible! Hermana Cole has so much faith, confidence, and love for missionary work. She has helped me a lot this week in my Spanish, in teaching lessons, and as a source of moral support. She and I have been called as sister training leaders for our zone (which is only a week-long assignment because our zone is all advanced Spanish districts), so we get to welcome the new missionariesand give them an orientation. Aaah, I can't express in words everything I wish I could communicate to you about Hermana Cole, but just know that I have been highly blessed with a fantastic companion! Oh, and she'll be serving in the El Salvador Santa Ana mission.
Also, I got word from the travel office yesterday (and from Dad in email today) that due to changes in the visa requirements for Nicaragua, I will receive a new stateside assignment for the first transfer of my mission. The official travel arrangements should get to me in the mail, but I've heard that I have been assigned to labor in... drum roll please... MISSOURI! I'm happy with the change, because I know everything happens according to God's plan. Hermana Cole is temporarily reassigned to Texas, so we'll both be sweating and getting fat on rich Southern food together. :)
Speaking of food, the food here has been pretty good. We have a cafeteria in a large trailer building, but it's nice and there are a lot of options. I always get full, but I'm not super tempted to overeat, so it's a good balance. Today we went up to the main MTC campus for lunch, though, and I wish someone could have taken our picture because our jaws all dropped when we saw how big the cafeteria there is, and how much food they have! We were overwhelmed by all the people and the different languages, and were very happy to return to our cozy little Spanish heaven over here at West campus. :)
We live in the Wyview apartments and have classes in the Raintree apartments. Our apartments are spacious, with four hermanas to an apartment sharing one bathroom, so we are very blessed. The classroom is small, but there's a nice area outside with grass, trees, and a little river thing, so we like to do personal, companionship, and language study out there when we can.
My district is great! I don't think I have a picture of all of us, but I'll try to send one next week. Hermana Francom is a ballroom dancer from Preston, Idaho and is going to serve in the Chicago West mission. Hermana Geis is from San Diego and will serve in Costa Rica (if she gets some visa problems worked out); she has super cute clothes because she worked at Mikarose while she was going to BYU this year. :) Elder Dickson is our district leader, and he's originally from the Dominican Republic but has been living in West Valley for the past several years. He's going to the Idaho Twin Falls mission and wants to be a barber after he gets home. Elder Quintero is from Tucson, Arizona and is going to Ogden, Utah. He graduated from high school a week and a half ago and has earned the nickname "Cookie Monster" because he eats five cookies with every meal. I've tried to teach him that the fifth cookie tastes the same as the first, but he has yet to experiment upon the word. And Elder Garcia is the third member of their "tripanionship"; he's from California and is going to Chesapeake, Virginia. He rarely speaks, but he's a gentle giant. All of our elders and Hermana Francom are native speakers, so they help the rest of us out.
We practice teaching a lot here at the CCM! So far we're teaching Martin and Angel (who are actually our teachers, Brother Dean and Brother Adlish) just about every day. I struggle to speak Spanish during the lessons because I'm under pressure, but Hermana Cole always helps me. We also started teaching Carlos in TRC. It's so cool how you can feel guided by the Spirit to know what these people need to hear as you plan and teach the lessons, even though they're not technically real investigators. Being a missionary is the best!
Class is great, although it's long. We only speak in Spanish during class, and I can understand everything even though I can't always remember how to reply. I realized that I need to be working a lot harder to learn Spanish; the first few days I was overwhelmed, so I gave myself a pep talk about how I shouldn't expect to know how to speak perfectly in two days. Then in my personal study about faith, I realized how important it is to work diligently if we want to see miracles, because work is a super important part of faith! So I'm repenting of my laziness and developing a plan for my personal language study time (we don't do any language study in class) to improve my Spanish.
Aaah, there's still so much I could say! We have gym in the white "bubbles" or on the field by Wyview. There's volleyball in the first bubble, basketball and weights/stationery bikes/ellipticals in the second one, and basketball in the third one as well. It gets pretty toasty in there, since we have gym right after lunch. It's good though, it helps us not to eat as much. :)
Our branch presidency is President Call, Brother Nilsson, and Brother Jeffs. Brother Nilsson baptized Pelayo Bonilla and is an assistant coach of Orem High football. Brother Jeffs lives in Orem too, but he's not the same Brother Jeffs that used to be on our high council.
I haven't been to choir yet, but we're going today at 5:15.
I don't have too much more time, but I want to include a couple of funny moments: 1), we went to a people and purpose meeting where they showed a video. The man speaking had a heavy accent, and we had been speaking Spanish all day, so for a good 45 seconds of the video I had no idea what he was saying. It sounded like a completely foreign language. I was trying to listen in Spanish but was getting so flustered because I didn't understand, and then I realized he was speaking English. 2) Elder Quintero has been talking about Elder Eric Mika all week, and then we saw him at the devotional . He gets all excited to talk to him, but then when he got over there, he opens his mouth and asks, "Where's the bathroom?" He was so disappointed that he missed his chance!
Aaah, I'm nearly out of time, but I want you to know that I am learning a lot about myself and about the gospel here in the CCM. I came into the MTC a little cocky, I think; I imagined I would breeze through the MTC and thrive in an environment filled with shining moments full of the Spirit. The reality is that missionary work is still work, and you will always have to work to feel and recognize the Spirit. It's not a comfortable gospel, but a gospel of change. I'm working on changing to become the person and the missionary that God wants me to be.
I am happy and I love you and miss you! Now I'll try to send pictures...