Friday, February 24, 2012

February 21, 2012

Hi Everyone,
If my math is right (no promises), I now only have 100 weeks left in my mission. Surprisingly, that does not sound like very much time at all. There is so much to do just here in the MTC, I can't even figure out how to do it all yet.
I apologize to everyone who was expecting a letter from me last week. I lost all of my stamps and had to buy new ones. I have 7 letters sitting in my bag ready to be mailed, and will probably write a few more during laundry today. So hang in there. Although, with the dearth of letters I have received lately, I'm not sure if you all deserve it. Shame on you. 
French is going exceedingly well now. I think I simultaneously had things click together, and lowered my expectations to a more realistic level. I'm still not speaking as much as I know I could during lessons, but I can speak reasonably well. All of my prayers are in French at this point essentially, but it's hard to do first thing when you wake up in the morning. 
Story time: Last week I wanted to tell you that we got to watch a video of Elder Bednar at the MTC on Christmas day, and he did an impersonation of the Cookie Monster! It was so funny to see him go "Give me cookie now! Give me baptism now! Give me investigator now!" It really got his point across, but he would never be able to do it during General Conference. 
Story 2: Sometime in April AlJazeera (English, presumably) will be airing a documentary which will include an interview with 4 missionaries at the MTC. I am not one of those missionaries. President Brown brought them up during the Fireside on Sunday and asked them questions about it. So keep an eye out for that, and try and keep a link or copy of it so I can watch it when I get back, I'm really interested to see what it says. I'm not sure if the documentary is about the Church as a whole or general religious proselytizing or what. Morgan will probably know about it when it comes out. 
Story 3: I got a haircut! Just barely in fact. It was weird to be having it professionally done, even if I didn't have to pay for it. [by the way mom, they used the combs and slid the trimmer down it to get the transition on the sides. It seemed to make it faster] We'll see if it's any good, I have to get another one in my last week before I leave. 
Teaching has gotten better as a whole. On top of my improving French, it is just becoming easier to teach. I still struggle a little bit to come up with questions on the spot, but I'm starting to understand the concept of caring for the investigator and developing the lessons to their needs. We had a lesson last week that was really my break through lesson. When we walked in we more or less scrapped the plan we had and just walked through Alma 36 with our investigator. It was an extremely spiritual experience, multiple people cried. Since that lesson, things have just been easier. I'm not sure that I could have had that happen if I had only been in here for the three weeks as an English speaking missionary. The Lord has everything planned out, we just have to trust in him. 
I see Jacob Francis every day now. His district eats lunch a little bit before mine, but we sit in the same general area so I run into him often at meal times. Isn't Derek Moose coming in tomorrow? We want to do a picture with him when he does come it. Also, I met Shawn Turley here, he used to be in the ward like 6-7 years ago. He's going to Mexico, it was really cool to see that he has staid in the faith.  
Oh yeah, I'm senior companion now. Not that that means a whole lot in the MTC, I mostly just assign prayers for companionship inventory and stuff. I probably would have more responsibilities, but the District Leader (also an Elder Christensen) is in our tri-panionship. Although we think that they will call someone else to be district leader on Sunday, so we'll see what happens. 
As far as health and food and stuff goes, all seems to be pretty well. I was almost able to run two miles without stopping yesterday, so my endurance is increasing. The food is starting to get a little bit old, especially breakfasts and Sundays. But that will just mean I eat less, and lose the little extra weight I picked up, so I'm not worried. I checked the pants I'll actually be wearing in Africa, and I still fit into them, so we're good there. I'm sleeping through the night, but for some reason I'm waking up at about 5:30 or earlier and not going back to sleep. It's probably just the Melatonin wearing off, but I'm not positive. It hasn't been a big problem, it's just curious.
Je sais que le Livre de Mormon est vrai. I'm out of time.
The Church is true, love you all!
Elder Ethan Christensen

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 14, 2012

Hi Everyone, 
I think I pass Wes today for MTC time. Yay. I really am glad though that I get to spend extra time here though, I don't think I would be ready to teach in just three weeks. I've heard a rumor that they are going to change all Romantic languages to 6 week programs (Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian). I'm not sure I would like that, but it won't affect me. I'm just glad I'm not learning Estonian, we've done some of our teaching appointments in the Estonian room, and they have 14 cases. Arabic only has 3, and that still messed with my head!
So, I'm writing on Valentines day. I'm not really sure how different it is from any other day, but the fact that I haven't really done anything yet other than go to the temple probable has skewed my experience. I do know that there is a "tie bazaar" going down tonight just outside of my apartment, but I don't think it was actually planned with V-day in mind. It's been weird, first no one talked about tie trading, and since Friday I've seen probably 6 trades go down. It's a little disappointing to not be able to participate (what with my limited supply and the fact that not a lot of the ones being traded are hand-washable), but I'm really not that upset, it's weird to see people obsessing over something as simple as a tie. When you don't get to interact with the outside world, your priorities shift in interesting ways. At the same time though, we really aren't that separated as you would think. I've run into 2-3 friends who work here, and one who was volunteering. A rumor about Lady Gaga dying ran through the MTC like wildfire it seemed (I still have no idea if it's true or not, but I really don't care).
French is going really well, I can more or less say the things I want to say. I'm almost a little disappointed that I haven't really had any sort of "Arab accent," the Elder in our district who studied Spanish speaks with a Spanish accent, which is pretty amusing. The far bigger issue is that often I don't know what to say. It's been really interesting to just sit there because I don't even know what I want to say. It's really a humbling experience I think, especially since I know I could ramble on about a number of different topics.
I'm sleeping much better now, which has really improved things. Sunday night I found out that one of the guys in my zone has a bunch of melatonin pills, which apparently help with sleep or something. Yay, for never taking biology/anatomy. Anyway, he wasn't using them so he let me try them. They've really helped a lot, I'm still waking up during the night, but it is only once (and very briefly) rather than 4-5 times a night. I'm glad that's over. It was my second semester at BYU all over again, I could just feel myself wearing down. I still don't know why it happened, I'm a little worried it might follow me to Africa.
The Spirit is seriously so strong here. I can't even begin to list all the times I've felt the Spirit. Literally every time we have a lesson now, which is more than once a day now. After our Sunday devotional we got to listen to the address Elder Bednar gave on Christmas to the MTC about Characteristics of Christ. It was amazing, Elder Bednar really knows the gospel. By the way, that first Tuesday Fireside I wrote about the first time was Elders Holland and Nelson, they rededicated five buildings and gave some really interesting insights into the meaning and legacy of missionary work.
Also, I discovered that the building I live in is named after the man who was the first missionary to Turkey, which is pretty awesome. May have mentioned that last week, but it's just as cool now. I also discovered that some missions have it worse than Benin, our Portuguese roommates are going to Angola, which is a sub-mission right now for Mozambique. They get no mail or packages at all. So I definitely have something to be thankful for.
Thank you to everyone who has written me so far, it really brightens my day to get mail (even if I don't actually get to read them until the end of the day, you get the idea). I'll be writing responses during laundry for everyone who's written me so far. Eventually I won't be able to do that, so better mail in while I have time!
Thank you for the packages, now I can finally take my suit jacket off (although I don't know why, it's mid-February and the AC is cranked up full blast. Every time I try and change it they get mad at me). Funny story about laundry, right now I'm wearing one of E. Bangerter's shirts. I pulled out my long sleeved shirt this morning to go to the temple, and decided I'd better actually iron it. Maybe a third of the way into the ironing process, I found some brown spots on my shirt. Worried I'd just burned my shirt (the irons here are known to be really bad), I took a close look at it. To my surprise, I found that it was actually..... melted chocolate! Someone left chocolate on the ironing board apparently, and I hadn't noticed. So I washed it up and used a Tide pen to get it off, but at that point my shirt was soaked, so I had to borrow one. Oh the things that happen at the MTC.
Love you guys a lot, working on getting you pictures!
Elder Ethan Christensen

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 7, 2012

Well, I have learned just how much can change in a week. Again.
The day after I emailed you, I lost my companion. He was accepted into the accelerated program, and so he left the district. Which is kind of sad, but we still get mail for him so we see him every other day. I'm now in a tri-panionship with Elders Christensen and Bangerter. Both are from Utah, American Fork and Centerville respectively. Elder Christensen is opposite from me in pretty much every sense I can think of, but it all works out great. I haven't lost the opportunity to speak with a fluent person, E. Christensen (the not me one) took 7 years, so he's good. He was actually accepted into the accelerated program too, but turned it down. So it's the five of us now in the district. For only being 2 weeks in we are one of the smallest districts I know about. Oh, and I'm in a new room now. It's nice, no more jokes about farting. Two of the elders in the room are going to Angola, Portuguese speaking. Apparently it's being made its own mission soon. I think it's a part of Mozambique right now. 
So far I have only received one handwritten letter. So Alexis Cooper, you get a special shout-out. I realize that it's partially my fault for not getting my address out to people that first week, but I'm still a little disappointed. I didn't get any mail at all over the weekend except for the package with gym clothing (Thank you Mom!!! It was no fun getting back into stinky clothes). So this is my commitment to all my friends out there; will you follow the example of Alexis Cooper and write unto me? I will be receiving mail on every day excepts Sundays, will you prepare a letter for me by then? Yes, I did just adapt the baptism commitment from PMG to get people to write letters. 
Speaking of Visas, from what I've heard, they may not actually have mine yet. Supposedly, if they had received them before I entered the MTC, they would have mailed it to me. So I don't know what that means. I'm just glad that I'm not going to one of the France Missions (either Lyon or Paris, I can't remember). Apparently because they might be serving in Belgium, they have to run some medical tests on them. Of the "here's a bag, please bring it back with a sample" variety.
Speaking of medical stuff, I went in to the doctor yesterday. I haven't' been able to sleep through the night since I got here, I may have mentioned that last time. I figured it was just being cold and worrying about waking up on time, so I didn't want to go in, but the district/teachers made me. The doctor said pretty much the exact thing I was thinking. Apparently he's been giving some bad advice or something though, because the front desk asked if I wanted to talk to the other doctor and ended up not charging me. If it doesn't resolve soon I'll go back in to see the other doctor, but I'm pretty sure the second blanket I got will fix a lot of it.
Oh, and apparently KlouieKlouie is a real thing. That made me so happy to find out. I think I mentioned it last time (honestly, I can't remember what I tell you and what I write in my journal), but apparently the food in Benin (which by the way is pronounced /beniin/ in English /benin/ locally, and /benah/ in straight French. So I kind of got it right when I read my call. It explains why the Cline's pronounced it that way) is very greasy, so I might gain weight there. I've gained 2-3 pounds here I think, but I'm certain that at least some of that is muscle so I'm not too worried about it.
Tell Cameron that the food is good and my bed is very comfortable. 
French is going really well. I platued for a few days, but I'm back on the up now. Yesterday we taught two lessons in French, without notes. One was to "Fiacre" a Cote d'Ivoire Jehovah's Witness, and the other was "Laurence" a French Hindu (by the way, gender of French names makes no sense. Half the ones I think are male are really female). I was surprised by how much I could say, but there's still a lot more to go, obviously.
By the way, Dad, do you know if you have access to old MTC Firesides/Devotionals? There was a devotional by Bednar back in 2009 that we got to watch Sunday night called "Recognizing the Spirit." It was amazing, and I would love a copy of it if at all possible. 
I don't really have time to put pictures in my email, I'm typing as fast as I can and still can't say everything. I will print out some and send them home though. I have a picture of 3 Elder Christensens and 1 Sister Christensen in front of the giant map, it's funny.
Wow, it's amazing how much time flies while you're typing. I have to go, Love you all!
Elder Ethan Christensen

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January 31, 2012

Wow, this week has been crazy. I don't know how I'm going to get it all down. Luckily, I somehow figured out how to write in my journal every night so far. I've met a lot of people I know, even some I didn't know were going on missions. Mom, I saw Annie (Sister Anderson) on Sunday, but wasn't close enough to say hello.
So first things first, my district. There are six of us, all guys. Two are going to Montreal, and the other four are going to...............Benin! Another two came in last week with us, and there are 5 who only have a couple of weeks left. So there are 11 elders heading out to Benin in the MTC right now. A lot more than the one or two I was expecting. There are 30-ish people in our zone (the French-speakers), and most of them are going to France. My teacher is the one who served in Cote d'Ivoire/Benin/Togo, but honestly we don't see him more than maybe 2-3 hours a day so we haven't been able to ask him a lot of questions. Oh yeah, and my companion is Elder Anthian (Ahnti-on, yes it's French). He's from Sandy Utah, but his parents emigrated from France so he speaks pretty fluently. Fluently enough that he might only be here for 3 more weeks, they interviewed him for language capacity yesterday, he hasn't heard back on that yet. Our district leader, E. Christensen (no, not me. Two E. Christensens in the district, and I've met probably 10 all over the MTC) also took the interview, so we don't really know what's going to happen to our district right now. E. Anthian and I have been sharing a room with three elders about to leave for Brazil, I think two of them actually leave today. I'm happy about that, they honestly need to leave. Staying in the MTC too long can drive you crazy. We didn't get to sleep until almost midnight last night because of fart jokes. I've actually been having some problems getting to sleep anyway though, it's a little obnoxious but not surprising. The real surprise is that I haven't been able to sleep through an entire night. I wake up 2-3 times a night for no real reason I can figure out. It hasn't really affected me yet, but if it lasts all nine weeks it will be a problem.
Food and Gym
The food here is much better than I was expecting. I'm sure that in a couple of weeks I'll start getting really tired of it, but for now it's good. I've been feeling bad about how much I eat, until I look at how much the other elders eat. Then I feel a lot better. Dietary needs don't really work that way though, so I'm going to start cutting back just a little bit probably. I've actually eaten a small side salad at least once a day so far, it just feels so much fresher to me. Maybe my body is crying out for some nutrient or something. Our teacher, Frere Starita (Frere=brother), told us that he gained a lot of weight in the MTC, and then gained some more weight in Benin. Apparently the food there is pretty greasy, so maybe I won't be coming back 30 pounds lighter. Might depend on where I serve. Gym time is also a lot better than I thought it would be. I've been doing a lot of running, and playing some foursquare. Yesterday some elders in the district decided they were going to time their run, and I joined in. I came in at just under 7 minutes, which is at least two minutes faster than I've ever clocked myself. Pretty impressive difference, I think it says a lot about the physical blessings missionaries have. Then I did 6-7 miles on a stationary bike, the fact that I've had no trouble walking today is a miracle. 
Learning French is a lot different than learning Arabic. The rules for which letters make which sounds are very different, but I can read a fair bit already. I can make sense of just about everything I read in Prechez mon Evangile at this point, but reading the scriptures is harder. My accent is probably above what it should be, but that's what you get for having a French companion. As far as teaching goes, that's not so great. We had to teach our first lesson on Friday. In French. It was hard. The biggest downside to having a really capable companion is that when the investigator asks something off the lesson, he answers and then sometimes I get left behind. I'm not being pushed to really apply my language skills. That's my big language goal for the next week. 
Spirit & Blessings
The Spirit is so strong here, I seriously feel it multiple times every day. On sunday Robert Swenson of the Missionary Department came and talked to us about how the Lord has our missions all planned out, it was touching. Apparently a member of the first presidency is going to be here tonight for devotional, it's the 50th anniversary of the MTC. so that'll be exciting. We had the opportunity to go through the temple this morning, it was my best trip yet. I actually got the chance to stay and think about things, it was really good. An elder from Ghana was receiving his endowments, which was cool. I've been blessed in so many ways. Remember how my belts were too big and pants too small? Well now they both fit. Althought I don't really get to use the pants, your suit coat has to match your pants. They don't really accomodate single suit elders, but I can understand the reasoning behind it. 
So I discovered what might be a problem with my shirts. None of them have pockets. Which means the only way I can wear a tag in the field is to pin one on. Which would probably destroy my shirts before too long. Do not send the SD to DVD burner. If you do, I will send it back 2 days before I leave. I do not need it and do not have room for it. Please share my address with people. Definitely put it on the blog, put the blog link on facebook. I'll leave whether or not to put my address directly on facebook to you. Just know that I didn't really get the chance to share it with anyone before I left. Also, I could use some more white socks. We have gym 5 days a week, plus p-day. Maybe an extra t-shirt or two also.
Well, I'm almost out of time, an half hour goes by so fast! Love you all,
Elder Ethan Christensen.