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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another Solid Week

Hola! Cómo están uds?

He aprendido muchas cosas sobre Español, y tambien voy a usarlas en Argentina eventualidad. El Evangelio de Jesucrito es verdadero y una bendicion para nosotros. Todos los misioñeros en mi distrito iremos a Rosario en cuatro semañas. Es chévere, no?

haha. Hopefully that all made sense. I know that my Spanish is far far from perfect, and I don't know if Gmail will send all the accent marks. Oh well. Anyways, I should probably get started. I don't really know exactly what to talk about this time, so it might sound a tad random. Still, there are a bunch of experiences and things worth telling you guys. So here I go. :)

First off, I'll talk about mis maestros (my teachers). We have two main teachers who instruct us almost everyday: Brother Reading and Sister Curtis. Brother Reading, or Hermano Reading as we know him, is really cool. His parents both grew up in Panama, so he has a pretty solid native accent even though he grew up in California. He is about six feet tall and loves soccer. He goes to BYU, just like all of the teachers here, and he served his spanish-speaking mission in Arizona. He teaches w/a really chill personality but still always makes sure we are learning and paying attention. Side note: we think he might have just gotten engaged cuz we caught him with a ring on his finger one day and he seemed really excited and happy, but he won't tell us anything until the last day of class. Whenever, I or anyone else in the class asks him about BYU sports and stuff, he doesn't tell us either. He just smiles and says "What's BYU" or "Sorry, I forgot." haha. It makes sense b/c it would distract us from our work, so I guess it's a good (but still kinda lame) rule.

Alright, like I said, my other teacher is Sister/Hermana Curtis. Guess what? She is actually taller than Brother Reading! She is about 6'2" and has a kinda funny and animated personality. She plays volleyball a lot, and it's really cool b/c she can imitate a lot of different Spanish accents. She served in Chicago, so she was exposed to three ro four different types of Spanish, depending on her area at the time. You can tell that she puts a lot of time into her lessons, and she really really wants us to learn the language. "Necesitan hablar su Idioma" is her favorite phrase. :) Basically, she teaches really well, just like Brother Reading. IDK which one I like better. They're both great for different reeasons. We also have a few other teachers who only teach like once a week, but I don't have time to talk about them. One of them is Samoan and his name is Brother T. His is super cool!

Man, I was gonna talk about a bunch of other stuff, like the cafeteria layout, firesides, devotionals (Cecil Spoke Recently!), residence room pranks, etc. This week I want to have more time to write specifically to my family :). So I'll feel you guys in with more details soon.

O, and thanks again for all of the letters! I've written back a least a short message to everyone who has sent me a letter. So if you didn't get one back from me, that means Rowan Jones got your letter and didn't write back haha. With my new name as "#Rory Jones," I've gotten all my mail and had no problems. Thx again guys. It's great to here from Y'all. For those of you starting BYU this coming week, GOOD LUCK! I'll be right across the street :).

One of the Lord's Servants,

Elder Rory Jones

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week 4

Hola Familia y Amigos!

Thanks again for all of the letters! It's been great to hear about everything you guys have done over the last few weeks.

Anyways, so with the short amt of time given to me this week, I've decided to write about my experiences with Spanish here at the MTC. Like always, I'll try to say as much as possible :)

First off, learning a new language has completely humbled me. "You don't appreciate something until it's gone" is a quote that I've heard many times, and it's definitely true. Communicating in Spanish felt nearly impossible the first day. We had truly lost our ability to express ourselves, share our thoughts, explain our different ideas, etc. All of us felt extremely incapable and discouraged whenever we attempted to speak Spanish, and I'm not gonna lie, we spoke pretty horrible the first few days. But don't worry, it's been an incredible experience and has already blessed my life, even though I've only been here for about a month. Just like I said in my first email, my adventure began the moment I stepped onto the pavement here at the MTC. In fact, I've added it up and we've studied or been in class for over 200 hours already!! I'll try to explain all the details in the rest of this letter.

Alright, so from day one, my district has been in the new spanish pilot program. Roughly half of the Spanish-speaking missionaries here are part of this new program, and it has been a rollercoaster. From the very beginning, our teachers have talked to us in Spanish about 75% of the time.Once we hit week five (next wednesday), our teachers will only communicate to us in Spanish! This concept is called Habla Su Idioma (Speak your language). So basically, everyday we hear and try to speak spanish ALL OF THE TIME, and this fact is one of the central ideas of the new spanish pilot program.

Another major part of our training is the fact that we teach people everyday. WE even taught 2 lessons during our first 3 days here! Crazy, huh? It's definitely been a work in progress, but guess what? My companion and I taught two lessons yesterday, each 30+ minutes long. We can communicate our message alright, but it's often tought to understand the native speakers b/c they talk SO FAST. It's actually really fun, though, and it's exciting to here the slightly different types of Spanish. One of our investigators at the TRC (Training Resource Center) complemented us yesterday. He said that we could communicate and talk about gospel stuff pretty well, but whenver we just talked about other stuff in casual conversation, it was more difficult. That's definitely a true statement. Our vocab and comprehensions will just come with time, so no worries. Sometimes i'll get about 90% of what they say; other times I'll get almost nothing, which is kinda funny but pretty lame and frustrating at the same time. Darn! I don't have that much time left (like always!), so I can't go into as many details. I"ll make some quick bullets that relate to my spanish experiences:

- We've taught over 20 lessons in Spanish already!
- As of a few days ago, my companion and I can read the Spanish scriptures w/o the english ones by our side. We still have to look up quite a few words, but it's all good :)
- Right now, I have two investigators: Erika and Juan
- Erika isn't as perfect as our first investigator who already got baptized, but she still listens attentively and is learning fast
- On the other hand, Juan doesn't really do anything on his own, and he fell asleep during our last lesson cuz he didn't care that much. He ALWAYS wants us to come back though, so we're trying to figure out why. He's really cool... just lazy haha.
- We have a few other people that we teach about once a week instead of everyday, but I don't have time to talk about them. It's all good though.
- Our investigators here are teachers who take the role of of one of their real investigators from the field. Some of the other investigators are volunteers, and some are members from the area who just act like themselves while we share a spiritual thought in Spanish :)
- We've spend tons of time on the computer programs here, and they have helped us with pronunciation so much!

And that's it for now. My time has gone. I wish there was more time to say more, but I will say this: Spanish is incredibly hard but incredibly exciting all the same. I love being able to read las escrituras y Predicad Mi Evangelio w/o the English copies right beside them. We still have a long long way to go, but I couldn't feel more pumped. We've come so far, yet we have so far to go! Our goal is and always will be in sight, and hopefully we'll be able to preach the gospel in fluent spanish before we know it.

Elder Rory Jones

P.S. They keep getting my dearelder messages mixed up with some guy here named Roman Jones. So if you guys put "#Rory" as my first name instead of just "Rory," that should fix the problem. I've written everyone back, but if you haven't gotten a letter yet it's b/c this roman jones got your letter. They are working on it, and apparently it has something to do with software malfunction. But for the time being, my name for dearelder is "#Rory Jones" haha. So use that name, and I'll get it for sure b/c the computer will then be able to distinguish btw our names. Thanks again for all of the letters. It's so much fun to read them, especially after a long day. I hope y'all are doing well. Nos Vemos!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Week 3!

Hello Everybody!

Once again, I'll try to say as much as possible to let y'all know about what's going on here at the MTC, and I'm going to include something a litte different: a bullet list. Hopefully this list will help me share a bunch of random information in just a few words. I thought this will work well since I have so much random stuff to tell you guys. Here it goes!

- The weather here feels great. It's warm during the day but nice and chilly at night
- There is this "interesting" elder on my floor who has 3 pounds of peanuts. Kinda weird. haha He's still cool though :)
- I usually play goalie in our soccer games, and gym time totally rocks. Whenever they schedule us indoors, I usually play volleyball or basketball!
- The Average Polynesian missionary weighs 290 pounds! The average weight of all missionaries is around 160 :). One of my teachers is Samoan, and he teaches so well! He knows spanish, samoan, and english. So basically, he is a total beast. He knows so much about the gospel and the language and always helps us when we need it. His name is Bro. Talitiana!
- On P-days, we get to sleep in until 7:30! I know what you're thinking, but it's totally awesome and feels so nice after getting up at 630am every other day of the week :)
- Serving as district leader has been exciting, busy, and thrilling
- I need to work on my soccer skills more before heading down to South America, and some of the other guys who play soccer in my zone have shown me some moves. haha
- I see so many people that I know either from college or from my good old hometown, Spring, TX.
- My departure date changed to 9/26!
- I have to shave almost everyday here. No more goatees for me. haha.
- I miss playing ping pong and tennis, but it's all good.
- The wraps here are my favorite food to eat for lunch
- It's getting hard to spell words in English, which is kinda weird. I guess it's a good sign, though. Hopefully my emails/letters make sense :)
- Apparently Jeremiah 4:19 describes how you feel sometimes after eating food in some foreign countries. Look it up if you want more information!
- There are over 100 washers in the laundry room.... It's pretty intense
- We perform an hour of service every Wed morning. The last few times, we've done landscaping and and cleaned the inside of some of the buildings.
- P-days feel like vacation
- I really enjoy reading all of the letters from you guys. I try to write everyone back on P-day! :)
- I won a handstand contest in my district!
- The creamery ice cream tastes so amazingly good here, just like it always does
- Many of the missionaries here have incredible personalities, especially since they come from all around the world, each with their own cultural background--sister missionaries included :)
- In one of our spanish/gospel classes, the teacher quoted Cecil Samuelson, the BYU president. I pumped my fist and shouted "Yeah, Cecil!" but none of the other missionaries knew who he was cuz they had attended different universities! Anyways, it was just funny cuz everyone stared at me awkwardly. It's all good though :)
- I had a great time going to the Provo Temple.
- Guess what? I saw Bishop Andrus just outside the MTC a few days ago. Those of you who were in the same BYU ward as me will know how cool that was :)
- There is a nationally recognized dancer in our zone. He's ridiculously good.
- One of my roommates worked as a lifeguard for four years, just like me!
- Different teachers came into our classroom and basically demonstrated different accents/types of spanish one day. It was really interesting, and the accent of Argentine spanish sounded really cool! The examples of Spanish from the Dominican Republic and from Mexico were cool too :)

And that's all I have time to write. There are so many other random facts about my life here, but I though these were the most interesting. You guys are the best. Please send me letters if you have time :)

Your Missionary,
Elder Jones

Friday, August 5, 2011

Week Two

Wow, my first week and a half at the MTC has already come and gone! As you might have guessed, my schedule has kept me INCREDIBLY busy. No worries, though. Once again, we each only get 30 min to type a message, so I will try to give as much information as possible. Each of the next paragraphs will be devoted to something cool at the MTC.

First off, thanks for all of the letters! Old-school mail and "dearelder" messages serve as my only source of communication with the outside world, and I really like to hear what's going on with family and friends. Thanks again! I'll write you back on my P-day, which will always be on Friday, by the way. I can only send messages on P-day, so if you dont hear from me for a long time it's because I had to wait until Friday before messaging you back. :)

Alright, so I guess one of the most interesting things about the MTC is the campus layout and building interiors. To be honest, it feels like a really, really, really old verison of BYU. I swear that my Dad probably used the same desk, bed, and shower as the other missionaries do today haha. Our dorms defintely meet the basic living criteria, though. So it's all good.

Hmmm, speaking of BYU, the food here is extremely similar to the meals served at the Cannon Center--but with a slight difference. I don't know how to describe it, so you'll have to serve a mission if you want more details :). No matter what, the food here will taste better than my typical meal of ramon noodles down in Argentina!

Okay, my next topic will be devotionals and firesides here at the MTC. Not only are they a nice break from our 10 hours of daily spanish/gospel study, butthey are incredibly inspirational and uplifting. All of the speakers give great talks, ecouraging everyone--senior, sister, and elder missionaries--to serve with honor and dedicaiton to the Lord. In a way, these firesides/devotionals feel similar to the devotionals given at BYU, but these are even better. Also, whenever we sing "Called to Serve" as one of the opening or closing hymns, it has incredible power.

Okay, I only have a little bit of time left (don't worry, i'll try to type a bunch next week too), so my last topic will be Spanish class. Our district, which consists of 10 elders going to either the Domincan Republic or to Argentina, felt a little overwhelmed at first. I don't think the MTC handbook could have put it better when it said, "You should feel stretched, but not overwhelmed, as a missionary for the Lord." I'm not going to lie, it has been tough, but so rewarding at the same time. My companion and I have already taught a handful of discussions in complete spanish, and the last one went for over 30 minutes! Our grammar is broken a lot of the time, but we can still convey our message. We can testify from the heart, even if it's not in perfect spanish. Our listening comprehension has come along nicely too. Without exaggerating, I can probably understand around 60 percent or so of what our teachers say now. They try to use simpler vocab and speak slowly, which helps a lot. This past week, our teachers finally started to talk to us in English. We found out yesterday that the teachers will speak spanish about 3/4 of the time from here on out. I think that's a good balance. It forces us to try to comprehend the language, but whenever an explanation about grammar or something like that is needed, the teacher will tell us in English to make sure we understand the fundamental concepts of the language. Each day, all of the spanish elders spend one to two hours on a computer program called "TALL." Basically, it's like an LDS-focused verion of Rosetta Stone. We are all learning fast, but it's definitely a work in progress. Okay, I only have seconds left on my timer and have to go.

Thanks again for all of the letters and support!

Elder Rory Jones