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.