I made it here safe and sound :) I love it here and am so happy! In case you can't tell, Friday's are my P-DAY!! I've only been here a couple days now (today is day 3) but it feels like I've been here an eternity!
The first day was a blur! I was dropped at the curb, escorted by an elder host to a building where I received my missionary name tag, room key, and lots of other envelopes. Then a sister host took me to my residence hall to drop off my luggage and we turned around and went to the bookstore to get my GIANT bag of books: Mongolian scriptures, Mongolian PMG, pamphlets in both languages, a dictionary, grammar book, and a lot more that I haven't really looked at yet. Next, we were off to the classroom where I will spend most of my time the next 8-9 weeks as I try to learn Mongolian and study the gospel. I was the first one there from my district, so I met the teacher and started learning Mongolian immediately!! We have two teachers and they are so awesome ... they don't speak English with us, but it pushes us to really try. Classes pretty much end up being charades but hopefully that will change.
My district has 4 people: Elder Kentley (24 yrs old, from Chicago), Elder McHam (from Texas/Utah, joined the church a year ago), me and my companion ... Sister Westover! How awesome is that? She's the one I found on Facebook in November and met up with for lunch. We had joked about being companions and now we are. Woohoo!! She is so awesome and I'm glad to have her as my companion. She is a great example to me. Also, we both want to stay fit in the MTC so we are waking up extra early to go to the 6am sister missionary workout classes and eating well in the cafeteria too. It's so great to have someone by my side making conscious decisions to be healthy. The morning classes are interesting - yesterday we did yoga and today we had a kickboxing class. Today's class was exhausting even though we laughed through half of it - haha. Since we are doing these classes, during our gym time after lunch, we play volleyball or stretch.
My branch president designated me as the senior companion (at least for now ... we are here so long that will probably switch), so I lead our studies and try to encourage us as a companionship to learn and grow and be obedient. There is one other Mongolian district in our zone. There are 3 sisters and 2 elders in that district: Sisters Hartley, Bennet, and Wilkins, and Elders Disney and Mulder. They are all awesome as well! Our zone/branch also includes one other elder from Russia going to Washington, DC, and 15-ish sisters from all over the world (Tonga, Tahiti, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Ecuador, Taiwan) going to Temple Square!!! It's cool seeing these sisters come from so far away and try so hard to learn English. It gives me strength and hope that I can do the same with Mongolian.
The rest of our time consists of language study, personal gospel study, companion gospel study, workshops (just for the first few days), more language study, and oh ... more language study. Learning Mongolian is HARD and at times I just want to give up but I think of the people I will meet and sever in Mongolia and I want to be able to communicate effectively with them. I want to be able to explain and share the gospel to the best of my abilities. I am grateful for what my Branch President (President Bartholomew) told me last night in my interview with him; "The Lord will have you speak Mongolian when He needs you to speak Mongolian." I'm trusting in this advice and praying to understand and have patience. We have already learned basic phrases for when you meet someone, the alphabet (which I am struggling with but working on), how to bear our testimony and pray. We will teach an investigator (our teacher) tomorrow, so hopefully we can remember what we are learning. The language sounds strange - it's a gutteral language and it sounds like we are always talking with a lisp.
I love the atmosphere here and the strong spirit everyone carries. It's like EFY on steroids, haha! It's amazsing how much I've learned in just a short time. The spirit really is the greatest teacher and I've definitely come to a knowledge of that just in this short time. I am so happy and excited to serve! I love the Mongolian people already and can't wait to get to Mongolia and start teaching them!
Love you!! I can't wait to hear from you!!!