Thursday, July 31, 2014

Week 3 - Ten Pounds

Alright, for starters, I bought a new camera card, so I will email some pictures a little bit later today.
And I have been wearing my glasses pretty often, so you'll get a couple pictures of those maybe.

This week has been pretty fantastic! On Friday we had our first SYL day (speak your language) and it was pretty tough! We all wore red ties to help remind each other, and then we stopped at dinner time. Class was crazy hard though! The teachers rarely speak in English already, but we couldn't ask any clarifying questions, so we were all pretty lost. The Malagasy is improving though, one of our assignments has been to bear testimony to so many people we don't know each day in Malagasy. Now they aren't giving us a quota, and it's just up to us to decide. It is lots of fun though! Especially because we could just be counting backwards from twenty and they would never know, but we don't, and the Spirit still testifies, and that's why we keep doing it. Yesterday for part of my language study time I went on the Malagasy version of and listened to general conference talks in Malagasy while I read along. Comprehension is by far the toughest part of Malagasy. Most of our Malagasy is understandable at this point, but it's super hard to keep up with a native speaking. Our teachers had one on one language time with us yesterday, and I was at the end of the list and didn't get a turn at all. Brother Aldous told me that it was because I didn't really need any help, which isn't exactly true. I understand pretty much everything that we have learned so far, and I think that's why he said that, but I still wish that I could get a little more help because I am far from being mahay (fluent).
The lesson teaching is coming along pretty well. Today is our first Teaching Resource Center time, last Thursday was supposed to be our first TRC, which is just when you teach a return missionary/member who speaks Malagasy as themselves, but they didn't get anybody for us to teach! Our teachers were pretty irritated about that, but today there will be people there for us for sure.

Saturday was Soccer Saturday for our zone, or Foty Sabotsy in Malagasy, which is super fun to say becuase it rhymes. Our district represented well. We took on the rest of the zone and beat them pretty bad, like 5-1 bad. Basketball has been lots of fun, until I ripped the toe of my shoe, so no more basketball! All of the stops and direction changes will rip it up more, but soccer and running has been alright so far.
Speaking of my fitness time, our district has been having some hardcore workouts, yesterday I did crossfit with Elders Reich, Johnson, Covey, and Coleman. And I'VE GAINED 10 POUNDS! So that's pretty neat. All of the chocolate milk has been helping, I guess. And most of it isn't fat, so I still have some work to do with the donuts and ice cream.

On Sunday Elder Ahlstrom and I taught about the sacrament in priesthood meeting, and that went pretty well. Then our devotional was the managing director of the mission department and he was very entertaining. He called President Nally, the MTC President up during his talk and interviewed him, it was great. Then on Monday we went to class for 11 hours, and I ripped my shoe in basketball, on Tuesday we had service, class, and a devotional at night with Elder Groberg. It was probably my favorite devotional so far at the MTC. On Wednesday we had class for 11 hours again, and all the new missionaries came in. I didn't see Elder Bezzant though, my district was trying to be the host missionaries this week, but we got next week instead. Which is a bummer becuase the rest of our zone hosted this week. However, on Wednesdays the ice cream bar is open, so I managed to get by.

I still haven't told you about all the elders in my district, and that might have to wait a little longer because I don't have pictures of all of them yet, but I will get them!

At "the map"

Today in the temple, after the session Elder Ahlstrom andI were asked to help in the laundry room, so we got to use some pretty sweet laundry machines in the temple! I'm super jealous. Now the MTC laundry room is pretty disappointing.

This Tuesday was our halfway mark at the MTC and we celebrated by doing the same stuff we do every Tuesday! We have decided that our week is all messed up at the MTC because our "weekend" is Thursday, which makes Friday our Monday and Wednesday our Friday. Some of the districts in our zone celebrate "P-Day Eve" each Wednesday night, it's pretty funny stuff.

I found Elder Lund! Actually I see him just about every day, but I took a picture of him!

I've decided that I'm going to start doing a word of the week in my emails home, just to give you a little taste of what I'm up to. This week's word is Sorompanavotana. Soo-room-pah-nah-voo-tahn, the last vowel is usually just mouthed and not really pronounced, it's almost whispered, so there is something there, it's like you say it with a subtle Italian accent, and the r's are rolled. It means Atonement and it's one of the words I learned my first week. The Atonement is very important, and because of it we are able to grow and improve and become more like our Father. I am very thankful for my Savior who made it possible for me to become perfect.

I know the church is true. Jesus is our Savior. And Joseph Smith say God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Fantatro fa marina ny fiangonana. Mpamonjinay i Jesoa Krist. Ary nahita Andriamanitra rainay sy i Jesoa Kristy i Joseph Smith.

Tiako ianareo.
Elder Rasmussen

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Week 2 - Send Mail!

Yesterday was Wednesday, as I'm sure some of you know, or as we Malagasies call it, Alarobia, and Wednesdays mean more missionaries coming into the MTC! This was my third new missionary Wednesday here, including my first day, and it's always fun to see the new missionaries. Everybody greets them and welcomes them to the MTC, and it's funny to see them wondering how everybody knows that they're new. Then they figure it out and take the orange sticker off of their name tag. The whole "welcome to the MTC" thing is kind of a joke here. Whenever someone makes a mistake like swiping their card the wrong way, or forgetting a tie, or getting lost, everyone jumps on them and shouts "Welcome to the MTC, Elder!" I think it's hilarious.

The gym opened on Tuesday night! We got to go to the devotional there and sing in the choir, but even more importantly, we can play basketball now! I say that's more important because we can actually fit all of the missionaries in the Marriott Center, but in 19M, the building with the gym and auditorium, we can only fit the missionaries in our campus, and not the Spanish speaking missionaries in the west campus or the missionaries in wyview and raintree. Plus, as uncomfortable as Marriott Center seating is, the chairs in 19M are WAY worse!

The language is still improving. I can talk teach most of the lessons fairly decently now without any words or phrases written down. We teach both our teachers, or their alter egos Solofo and Rakoto, just about every day. So we spend a about an hour teaching each day, and the rest of the time we are preparing lessons, studying Malagasy or scriptures; or learning from our teachers. We spend 11 hours in our classroom, I think I said that last time, but 11 hours!!! And in our classroom we only speak Malagasy, so it's pretty crazy, especially when our teachers are teaching us amin'ny fiteny Malagasy.

In other exciting news I was called as a Zone Leader on Sunday. So that's pretty neat. I was super bummed that no new missionaries came into our zone this Wednesday, because the ZL's get to give them a tour and do an orientation thing and get to meet them all. Right now our zone/branch is just us Malagasies, about 12 Indonesian missionaries, and about six Malaysians. We have four sisters in our zone total, but one of them is crazy baller at basketball, and she's a sister training leader too! Our zone is ridiculously good at sports, and our district is the best. We are undefeated in soccer so far. We came in halfway through a game and the score was 4-1 for the other team, and we came back and won 5-4. I've scored a couple times now, and if it weren't for the kids that are actually good at soccer, I would feel pretty good at soccer.

Back to the basketball, our first day was yesterday and I got a fat lip... but I won, and so far Elder Pinson and I are undefeated in series against our district and zone. The most you can play is 3 on 3, which is lame, and no dunking is allowed, which is also lame, but somehow I manage... There is a list of records on the side of the gym, and apparently one elder juggled a soccer ball for more than 4000 touches. The vertical jump record is 36 inches, so Brandan, I'm expecting you to beat that when you get here!

I lost my camera sd card after last Thursday, so I think I'll buy a new on at the bookstore soon. I'm pretty bummed because that had all my Havasupai pictures on it too. So that's why there aren't any pictures this week.

Also, I have been feeling pretty unloved because I have gotten ONE letter so far, and it was from Sister Wright in our ward. I would like some more mail... Not to guilt trip anyone or anything, but Elder Covey, one of my roomates, and I are the only ones who haven't gotten more than one letter. He also got one from a family in his ward, so we're even right now. My mailing address is this:

(I don't have it on me right now, but I'll go get it and send it today.)

Also there is this great thing called DearElder... And it's free... And it's essentially an email that I can read any day, not just on Thursdays, so it would actually probably have a faster response time than email. Did I mention that I haven't gotten any mail?

I'm figuring that you've probably caught on to what I'm getting at, so I'll lay off now, but just remember that I got a package of candy from Elder Schroedter's mom who lives in Texas, and not anything from my own family 15 minutes away... I think a term for me sending emails home should be that I get stuff while I'm in the MTC. Mivazivazy aho--I'm kidding around, but it would be nice. :)

But you may have noticed the "Aug 18" on my address, that is my departure date. So unfortunately, I won't get to hang out with the new Malagasies. And that's not all the bad news for the new Malagasies, Brandan included, Brother Bingham and Brother Aldous, two of our teachers are leaving after our group, so you will just have Brother Sell and some new teachers. Which is a real bummer because Rahalahy Bingham and Rahalahy Aldous are super cool and experienced.

Mom, you mentioned Sister Higginson, and I have seen her here 3 times! Two have been at meals, and then I saw her at the devotional when the choir was singing, and she saw me too, and then I talked to her the other two times.

Did you know that there is no Malagasy version of Called to Serve?! We're all pretty mad about it.
James, you said that you didn't like the MTC, and lots of the English speaking elders have been saying that it seems like forever, but I am loving it! I'm jealous of the elders who get to stay for 9 weeks and 12 weeks because I want to get the language and my teaching skills a lot better before I leave.

Lots of love,
Elder Rasmussen the Younger

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Week 1 - New in the MTC

Manahoana fianakaviako!  Hello my family!

So you may have realized at this point that p days are on Thursdays. You may also have realized that our first Thursday was not a p day, but if you didn't figure that out, it's all good because I just told you. So the MTC is pretty swell... It's probably one of my favorite things ever!

Yes, the food is good. Some of the elders have compared it to Jeremiah 4:19-20 but I really enjoy it. Here is a sample meal: 2 small pizzas, a bowl of pineapple, BYU Creamery ice cream, an ice cream sandwich, a small salad, three cups of chocolate milk and a cup of juice from some kind of fruit or combinations of fruits. They also have soda, but I've managed to keep myself away from that so far, although I might start getting used to Coke because it kills parasites... so it might come in handy. The food changes every day, but so far it has all been pretty delicious,some of the dishes run a little bit dry, but most of them are fantastic.

Speaking of parasites, we picked up our anti-malaria pills yesterday and some of the pills are pretty interesting. The one we are on is called doxycycline, or something like that, some possible side effects include phototoxicity, which means that you essentially are allergic to sunlight and you get really painful burns from walking across the street; and you also have to stay upright for an hour after you swallow it, because if you lay down it could come back up into your throat and dissolve there, and burn your esophagus really badly, but that's nothing compared to the other one! 20% of the people who take it have really strange, vivid dreams; and other side effects include hallucinations, depression, and psychotic behavior! Some of the elders in my district have been saying that they want to take that one because it's essentially church endorsed LSD. They're joking of course, but it's some pretty crazy stuff!

Speaking of my district, the Malagasy district is the largest in the MTC and the second largest group of Malagasies ever. There are 13 of us. The largest group of Malagasies ever was 15, but they were separated into two districts. Our district is super close and we all felt like we knew each other as soon as we met, which is pretty cool when you consider that missionaries are foreordained... But I love them a bunch! We demolish everyone else pretty hardcore in soccer because we have three really good soccer players, including a pacific islander named Elder T. who is learning English. and everyone else is pretty athletic. Speaking of athleticism, we were doing vertical wall pushups in our room, and I got the second most with 6, so that's exciting.

My companion is Elder A. from Tuscon, Arizona. He is also our district leader, which means that I am pretty much the executive secretary: it's my job to make sure he's on schedule; but I am the senior companion, so I feel like the power behind the throne sometime... (That was a joke) He's a stud. He's really smart and he loves learning the language, so we get along pretty well. He's like 6'3" so he's like the fourth shortest in our district. Fourth... I'm the tallest, but a bunch of the other guys are right around his height, our shortest guy is Elder R., and we are a TALL district. With the height and the general whiteness (except for Elder T. and Elder P.) we will stick out a ton in Madagascar!

On to some very sad news. The gym is closed, so we can only play soccer or go to the little secondary gym or play kickball or volleyball... not basketball. When the gym opens in a week, our district is prepared to hand it to all the other Elders!

Malagasy is coming along pretty well. In fact, I am loving it a ton! About 1/3 of my conversation is in Malagasy, and I am having a blast! We've been teaching our investigator, "Rakoto Jean," since the second day in the MTC, only in Malagasy! The first day was super rough! He's really nice, and our teachers Ralahy (brother) S. and Ralahy A. told us he was a real investigator. We had our doubts, and yesterday while Elders P. and C. were teaching him, his white MTC teacher name tag fell out of his pocket! Elder C. said that his name started with a b, and I'd talked to a return missionary working at our devotional at the Marriott Center last night (because the auditorium in the MTC is closed with the gym) and he asked about a Brother B. After we decided that's who he must be, we were in class and he walks in, proudly wearing his nametag!!! This may not sound so cool but we were all so excited! He's going to be teaching us the rest of the time with our other two teachers! If you haven't quite caught on yet, THIS WAS A HUGE DEAL FOR ALL OF US!!!!!!! We were all just grinning when we walked to our residence hall.

Speaking of classroom and residence hall, our residence hall is in the opposite side of the MTC from our classroom, and our rooms are on the top floor, and so is our classroom so we walk a LOT. And to make matters better, the cafeteria is in another corner, so we spend lots of our day walking in the heat, which by itself is pretty good mission prep too.

I'm sorry if there aren't any pictures this week, the computers we're on can't upload them from my camera, so if they don't come, that means I wasn't able to get to one that could. But the pictures will come soon. The views from the MTC are super pretty, and my district is a bunch of strikingly handsome young men, so they'll be worth the wait.

Before I'm done, I'll just give a brief overview of an average day. We wake up at 6:30, but sometimes we get up before that, then have breakfast at 7:15, after that we head over to our classroom, where we spend about 11 hours usually. At 11:35 is lunch, and dinner is at 4:50. Sometime during the day we have gym time for fifty minutes with ten minutes before to get ready and half an hour after to clean up and take a shower, but remember that it takes about five minutes to get from the field to our residence, so we are pretty short for time. At 9:30 we leave our classroom and go to our residence, where we get ready for bed. At 10:15 is quiet time, and lights off is at 10:30. We have no free time, but I like the schedule a lot. After one thing, we have to leave right away to get to our next thing. Even during meals we barely have enough time to eat all of our food. We have devotionals at the Marriott center on Tuesdays and Sundays, it's fun to walk over with all the other 2000+ missionaries, 600 of which came in when I did. We also have choir practice after dinner on Tuesdays and Sundays, and we perform on Sundays, our whole district goes to those and it's a lot of fun. Our whole district does everything together, we are all super happy that we didn't get split up, they split up groups at 14 and they were thinking about splitting us up. Also, we get mail everyday, so if you guys would like to send some real mail, maybe even packages of goodies while I'm in Provo and that's actually affordable, please do! Elder C. and I are the only ones who haven't gotten anything. You can try DearElder, because there are lots of those coming in and I think it's super cheap.


Ok, we can't see the pictures in the browser until after we send it, and we can only send like 15mb at a time.  This is our classroom with some of our district.

 This is the view from the building that my classroom is in, there's the windows and some chairs there so we study there sometimes.

Our district going to the temple for our Sunday temple walk.

This picture is my district.

 Elder A. and me at the temple.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Beginning

He's packed his bags and now lives at the Missionary Training Center.  Six weeks of jam-packed Gospel, missionary, and Malagasy language training later, he'll head off to Madagascar!

This is all he's taking for the next two years.

This is the family who loves him (minus another missionary brother in South Africa)!

God be with you 'till we meet again.