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