Friday, February 26, 2016

MTC Email #5

This week was interesting. There's a new district of Japanese missionaries. They are native speakers though, so they'll only be here for two weeks. They are a lot of fun to chat with though, and between our somewhat broken Japanese and their somewhat broken English, we can actually have some fairly meaningful conversations.
As far as my health is concerned, I have a very faint lingering cough, but other than that I am better. I only cough once every couple of hours. Unfortunately, I seem to have split some cartilage in my lower left ribs earlier in the week during a coughing fit, so it now feels like an angry dwarf welder took a blowtorch to my ribs any time I cough. On the bright side, I'm coughing so little I usually don't notice.
I (and much of the rest of the district) have been struggling a little bit with one of the zone leaders, but his companion at least manages to rein in most of his questionable ideas. That is all I am going to say on the subject, mostly because I am still unhappy about his latest idea and, as Thumper so wisely said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
Something amusing that happened this week is that I now feel like a pirate when getting ready for bed. My dad sent me some eyepatches at my request, since I tend to use a trick pirates used to use. Basically, you cover one eye with it, and when you need to see in the dark, you switch it to the other eye, making it so you can instantly see in the dark. Pirates would use it when boarding ships so that when they went below decks, they could see and fight effectively. I use it so I can go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without obliterating my night vision. The best part though? Turns out that my companion brought dice, so we've been playing Liar's Dice while I wear my eyepatch. Hence why I feel like a pirate. :P
One of the other missionaries bought a journal this week. Doesn't sound strange, until you hear the reason. He's making 'The Plates of District 6A'. Basically, he's been recording the funny things we say, and plans on passing it down with the rest of the inheritance. Maybe I can get ahold of it next week and send a few 'verses' as part of my weekly email.
In other news, Ive been hearing that people want to hear about the spiritual side of things too. So, I'll now introduce... Blackjack's Spiritual Stuff Corner! <Ron: Blackjack is Thomas' gamer tag :/> I'll come up with a better name later, I was feeling lazy. Besides, it needs to have a cool acronym, and BSSC isn't one.
This week, I was studying primarily in 1 & 2 Nephi, and I noticed something cool. In 1 Nephi 13, Nephi is talking about his vision of the future, specifically about what is going to happen in the Americas. I was reading it, and saw these verses: 
17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
It's talking about the revolutionary war! A nation in the Americas, fighting off their mother nations, and being free from 'all other nations'? That's the USA! I thought that was the coolest thing.
Another thing I noticed was in 2 Nephi 29. It was talking about the revealing of the Book of Mormon, and it said this:
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.

Now, what really interested me was that last verse. We have the words of the Nephites and Jews, but not of the lost tribes. If I remember the definition of lost correctly, it means you have no idea where they are, and I'm pretty sure I have only the Bible and the Book of Mormon. So it makes me wonder if maybe we might get more scriptures later. The Lord has stated He has more information for us.
Anyway, as always, anyone who wants can feel free to email me at any time. I can only reply on Fridays, but I can read it any time. Also, I tend to write reactively. If you send me an email, I will reply. I just only rarely start a conversation is all. So feel free to write me!

Ja, mata! (Cya later!)
<Ron: The following paragraphs are excerpts taken from letters to Melanie and I this week>
<Ron: about language study>
We aren't too far from where I left off in college. Out of my two years, we've made it about 1.33 years through it. So glad I had some training beforehand, otherwise there is no way I could possibly keep up. My speech is improving. While I'm not learning too much more except for the missionary vocabulary, I am getting much better at conjugating sentences much faster. I've never been good at being able to come up with sentences quickly, but I am getting faster. I can hold a fair conversation and teach the gospel fairly effectively in Japanese now!
I've been getting to the temple every PDay. Did Initiatory this morning, although I've done endowment sessions before. Haven't done sealings yet, but I'll get to it eventually.
Companion study has been fun. We mostly spend it creating lesson plans though, so not a lot of 'studying' happens as its more planning than anything else.

Elder Harper
"Failure is simply the fuel for success"

Friday, February 19, 2016

MTC Email #4

It both feels as though I've been here for an eternity and a day. It feels like I just got here, but time has been lazily drifting by. I've been learning a lot, although mostly spiritually as opposed to Japanese. So far, I've known most everything they've taught us in Japanese, but they are catching up fast.

The senpai left, which saddens me. They were a lot of fun to hang out with, and you could ask them anything. They left us a ton of stuff.  The inheritance turned out to be about 6 boxes of stuff. Had everything from stress balls to the 'Small Plates of 6A'(A collection of whiteboards they did random stuff to and stuck together in a stack) to some of the white powdered donuts you can find in grocery stores from 2002. Needless to say, we didn't eat them. To their credit though, they look brand new. We spent about 2 hours sifting through all of it, and then put what we didn't want to use under the beds. When we are the senpai for another group of missionaries, I am going
to make sure we give it to them early. I want to be around when they see it so I can photograph their shock.

In other news, I got sick on Sunday. That sucked. One of the other missionaries got sick and accidentally passed it on to me. So, on Sunday, I looked like, behaved like, and thought like a zombie. Anyway, I'm all better now, except for a lingering cough, and all is looking great! I love you all!

Elder Harper
"Failure is simply the fuel for success"

Friday, February 12, 2016

MTC Email #3

MTC District
      Already my third P-Day. Kinda weird. As I said in my last email, I can tell time is flying by at an incredible speed, but each day feels like weeks. Our senpai are leaving tomorrow (Japanese for superiors). The way that the districts work is that when you come in, the first three weeks you have a district who is at 6 weeks as your senpai. When you hit three weeks, that's when they hit 9, so they leave. You are alone for 3 weeks, and then you are the senpai for another group for your final 3 weeks!

     Our senpai are all really awesome and I'm sad to see them go. Lucky for me, I'll be able to see about a third of them later since they are also headed to Tokyo! I am worried though about one thing. One of them, who's name is Elder Manapori(Said almost like monopoly), is extremely enthusiastic about everything, super fun to be with in general. He hails from Australia, and has the accent to show it. Super funny guy. Anyway, I'm scared I'm going to get to Japan, and he'll have already converted everyone and taught them how to speak English with an Australian accent. Probably unfounded, but I'm going to get there and have no one to convert or speak Japanese with simply because I said that. :P
     I started lifting weights last Monday. I know the concept is laughable, and I was stupid. Now my arms both hurt and I have learned my lesson. The cons vastly outweigh the pros for someone who is an aspiring programmer anyway. :P On the bright side, everyone gets a laugh out of it, right?

     We got our iPads this week too. Still trying to figure mine out, since I grew up using real technology like Windows laptops, but I should have some pictures to send by next Friday. In theory. I suppose we shall see.

     Other than that, there's not much in the way of updates to speak of.  As far as that stupid hidden alarm clock goes, we still have not found it, and I am considering sneaking out of the MTC, renting a blowtorch, and cooking the stupid thing after taking apart the ventilation while looking for it. When I get off my mission, I'm going to hunt those missionaries who put it there down, and smack them. It probably won't hurt, since I have no muscles, BUT I'M STILL GONNA DO IT.

Elder Hess
     Actually, there was one other thing. The 'inheritance'. Basically every set of senpai has passed down this set of objects, occasionally added a new one. The ones I know of so far are Vietnam Guy(A light green toy-story style paratrooper who has been taped to the walls of the dorm), and four ties. The first I'll describe is the Tie of Champions. Katie would get this one in a heartbeat. Essentially, you have to drink 1 gallon of chocolate milk in 20 minutes and manage to keep it down. Next is Stanley. It's a grey striped tie, no one has any idea about the story behind it, it's just there. There's the Chosen Tie, which is given from the last Chosen One to the new Chosen one(Who could be anyone). And there's the Melting Peacock. Super ugly, and has a hilarious story behind it. It's passed down to the first one to hear the story out of the new missionaries. Hess-chorou is the one who got that one. Here is the story in his own words: 

      "One day there was this beautiful melting peacock that lived in the city of Nagasaki in 1945. He was climbing a hill one day when all of a sudden, BOOM! They dropped one of the first atomic bombs. His colors got so distorted and melted away so that he looked just absolutely hideous. So he was cursed to live the rest of his life like that.  Then one day as he was hiking around a small little town known as Tokyo, he was hit.  He was ran over by one of them Vietnamese carts that is pulled by a person.  It made him go flat like a pancake. So then there was this one guy who saw it and walked up and scooped him off the pavement to shape him into a tie.  And ever since then it has been the legend to be worn every Tuesday."

     Kewl, right? He typed it up himself. Anyway, so he's going to be wearing it every Tuesday in honor of the poor peacock's lost beauty. Maybe I can send you a picture when I figure out how.

    The studying is awesome. I've always learned best through using what I know, as opposed to flashcards or rote memorization, and here that's 90% of your day, so it's been fairly easy. We do talk almost exclusively about the language though, and we have to self-study the kanji since they don't teach that here. I relayed what I felt was the most important cultural facts I knew about Japan to my companion, since I figured info on the 'toilets' they have there would be good to have. :P His face was great. XD

     Anyway, that's all for this week. I love you all!
Elder Harper
'Failure is simply just fuel for success"

Friday, February 5, 2016

MTC Email #2

Everything is going great! I love my district, and they are all super awesome! We are learning insanely fast, and to give you some perspective, my companion learned both hiragana and katakana, the two Japanese alphabets, in less than a week. A total of more than a hundred characters memorized. That took me HALF A YEAR. IT'S INSANE.

I suppose I should probably describe my district a bit. First, there's my companion, Graham-chorou (Chorou means Elder. It's a suffix though). He is incredibly smart, and learns quickly. I often have to help him think of a particular sentence structure or help him spell a word, but he picks it up fast and I rarely have to do it more than once for the same word. He also took Chinese and knows a lot of Kanji, the Chinese/Japanese alphabet, although he doesn't know the Japanese readings for most of them yet. He's very active and loves sports, but somehow still sits perfectly still, more than I do and I am a programmer. We get paid to sit still! :P I love him a lot. He's always super supportive and is very flexible, although somehow manages to frequently slap me in the middle of the night with his blanket by accident, despite the fact I am sleeping on the bunk below him. I dunno why or how that happens, my best guess is that Physics is sleeping too. Oh, and we both complain about a clock in our room. It's hidden somewhere and it goes off at 5:15 AM every day. No one knows where it is or who put it there, but it's a little infuriating. :P

Next up is Hess-chorou. He's like a marshmallow of sheer awesome. He describes himself as fluffy, and tells a lot of fat jokes. He's super easy going, and has the most Japanese experience excluding me. We've had several conversations in nothing but Japanese, and he is way fun to hang with. He's really friendly and out going, and never stops trying to help.

Then you've got Conover-chorou. He got assigned to be the district leader. He can be a bit of a killjoy at times, but he is very driven and is just trying to keep us on track, which I appreciate. Otherwise, nothing would ever get done. He's got a great sense of humor, and has no previous experience with Japanese. When he messes up he always does it in the funniest ways. My personal favorite so far was when he said "Pirates are important to God's Plan" (Family and pirates sound similar in Japanese.)

Hawker-chorou could be compared to Gru from Despicable Me. He's funny, often unintentionally, and he'll talk for 5 minutes sounding like he disagrees with you only to finish by saying "So yeah, I agree." He could be a great storyteller, much like Spencer Young. <RH: Awesome friend in our ward>.

Shumway-chorou is an enigma. He's like that one mysterious cook from Ratatouille("I killed a man. With this thumb.") No one really knows much about him, but he's fun to hang with. Kinda quiet, but he warms up to you quickly.

Dance-chorou is new. He showed up later than the rest of us, specifically on Monday, but he's way fun. Super helpful, knows some Japanese, and could pass for a gangster missionary, if such a thing exists. He's got a quick wit, and is quite funny.

Then all the shimai(Sisters) are awesome. There's Pearsson-shimai. Super enthusiastic, and about as non-sequitur as you can get. Way funny, and good at Japanese. Burke-shimai has been nicknamed neko-shimai. Neko means cat, and she acts like one. She's more or less the district's pet cat. Parker-shimai is quiet, but is super sweet and kind and knows much more than she lets on. For those of you who've seen the anime Wagnaria, she's like Soma-san.

<RH: I flooded Thomas with a bunch of questions, the following where his answers>
I'm doing great! My district is awesome. So far, I haven't even gotten irritated with any of them for anything. The most frustrating thing is that Graham-chorou has a tendency to wander off, but that's just because he isn't used to having a companion yet. I.E., it's fine. As far as my stomach goes, flawlessly. The food is pretty good, and as long as you have some salad from time to time, it can handle it all smoothly, much like butter on a bald monkey's head. I don't think I got the cold, although my nose was running since I got off the airplane until recently, so my assumption is that it was probably the drastic drop in humidity. As for studying, the language is easy, since I know much of what we are learning already, so I just have to get the vocabulary surrounding the scriptures memorized. Studying the scriptures has been a bit harder, since I rarely studied more than 30 minutes at home, but while I occasionally zone out in personal study, companion study is great because I can talk about what I'm learning which helps me stay on topic.

Sunday was interesting. Basically, our schedule we were given said "Breakfast, Interviews, Priesthood, Interviews, Lunch, Interviews, Sacrament, Interviews, Dinner, Interviews, Daily Planning." My companion and I weren't part of any of the presidencies or anything though, so it was easy enough, since that just meant we'd study during that time. The only real differences between church here and church back home is that priesthood comes a couple hours earlier than sacrament meeting, both are super small since our zone is about 20-30 people, smaller than primary, and that Sunday School is what the rest of the week is. :P

For exercise... Mostly I've been running. I'm much more interested in endurance than raw strength, since walking and biking take more endurance to do for long periods than lifting an incredibly heavy weight once does. I did try the weights on Monday, and my arms still hurt. Me: 0 Stupidity: 1. :P On the bright side, doing 200 sit-ups every time I did Tae-kwondo helped, since I max out at 30 pounds between both arms while curling, but I can manage a shocking 140 lbs when doing the core-based exercises.

I have spoken more Japanese here during this week than I spoke throughout my entire time at Bellevue College. SYL <RH: MTC speak for "Speak Your Language" - the dictate that you always speak the language that you're learning> is incredibly helpful, and I learn way better and faster through that than I ever did with flashcards. As for teaching, I have totally been doing so. We taught an 'investigator' named Ina who only spoke Japanese. Our lessons with him went smoothly for the most part, since I could mostly understand what he said. He made it harder for us though since I knew more of the language. :P I've also been helping the others learn Japanese. If they have questions or don't remember a word, they tend to ask me first. I've been more or less playing the part of teacher's assistant, but I don't mind. It's fun, helps me learn faster, and allows me to provide service to others, so all is good. :) About half of them have prior experience with Japanese, but no one has more than a single semester, hence why they ask me first. Like I said though, it's nice being able to help them.
Anyway, I gotta go get lunch. Bye!