Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 19, 2013 - MTC

August 19, 2013

Dear Family,

My first impression is that you are already beginning to forget me.  I am saddened by your happiness. You should be walking around with disfigured faces to remind everyone that I'm gone.  If, when I return, you have not all lost hair or weight through grief, I will return to Hong Kong promptly.

To answer a few questions:

I have met Elder Wong, grandpa's secretary's nephew.  He was going to be the sixth member of our district but he actually does speak a lot of Cantonese, so they moved him up to the advanced class.  He seems cool.  He isn't learning Cantonese in a classroom, and he told all of us that we'd probably be better than him in a few weeks, because he only knows a little because of conversing with his parents, and he doesn't know any missionary words.  I think he's lying, he talks extremely fast in Canto.  I also met Elder Carmack, though only briefly.  I saw Cory Goates and Josh Green (whom you do not know (note correct use of whom Joseph)).

My companion, John Imano Stone Ah Mu (that is misspelled) is half Samoan, half American.  He is somewhat quiet, fairly short, but pretty athletic.  He did soccer and football in high school.  He is pretty driven. He's definitely not lazy and doesn't waste any time getting ready or anything.  He's a bit shy, in the sense that he's a bit conservative.  I'm not an extrovert, but I'm more talkative than him, mostly with strangers.  He seems pretty happy here, and is definitely a dedicated missionary.  He was made DL, and he hates that job.  His Cantonese isn't as good as mine, but he works a lot harder.  

I received the contacts moments ago.  Thanks.  For nothing.

Our district has been to the Provo Temple twice now.  It's pretty nice.  It's one of the small ones, where you don't switch rooms.  I think I already mentioned this, but Ah Mu has been to the temple over 30 times since he was ordained an elder a few months ago.  Impressive.

In regards to Joseph's comment on Cantonese:

I really am amazed at how simple Cantonese is.  The grammar follows a very consistent, simple organization, subject time place verb object.  There is no conjugation, and a lot of words can be verbs or nouns based on context.  There is no “the”, you make something possessive just by adding a 'ge' to the end, no adverb conjugation, not really much of anything.  The only grammar rules to learn are different sentence structures, like because...therefore..., or if...then..., when...at that time..., etc.  The vocab is hard, because of the tones, but it really is an elegant language.  I do agree, though, I think the characters are cool but inefficient and difficult to learn.  I am loving it so far.  I try to SYL a lot, and they encourage us to use our language as much as possible.  Oh, that reminds me.  My Chinese name is Mohk Jeung Louh. Mohk is pronounced like mock, and is a low tone.  Jeung is pronounced kind of like jerng, or j u umlaut little r ng, if that makes sense, and is mid rising tone, and louh is like low, low rising tone.  Ask Eva about the tones.  I didn't write the romanization much because it's long (lots of vowels) and I can't draw in the tones on the computer.  

About the oil, I found out I can buy some, which I will do soon.  If you get this first, don't send any.  If not, it's fine, it's pretty cheap.  The bookstore here has a ton of stuff you can buy, and missionaries get a 40% discount. Granted, we only get a $6 a week allowance.  You can buy oil, candy, books, pictures, t shirts, white church shirts, and much much more.  So come on down.

As to the blog, put anything in the letters not too personal.  I'll leave it up to you.  And ask Matthew to send the website to anyone he thinks would be interested.

Laundry the first day went well.  None of my companions really knew what to do, but it's pretty simple. The wrinkle free shirts are great.  I haven't ironed anything and they're literally not wrinkled at all.  It's amazing.  I've been going to the choir practices with my district, which I didn't think would be fun.  It has been pretty cool though.  I'm obviously still not a singer, but I can read notes and I sound decent, so even though I haven't been to any choirs before, I feel good about my skills.  The choir director is a really cool guy, Ettier or Edgar or something like that.  He teaches 1500 missionaries, most of whom are not amazing singers, how to sing a short but actually cool 4 part song in less than 1 hour 45 minutes.  I think he works at BYU, tell me if you know who he is.  He's very funny, but often falls into preaching to the choir as he directs.  He tells us about the background of the song, that sort of thing.

On Sundays we have a devotional and then time to watch a movie in one of the rooms (oh, did you guys look up Character of Christ?  It's very good), and yesterday there was no room, so we all just went back to our classroom and watched 15 Mormon messages.  Kind of weird, but whatever.  So far the hardest thing about the MTC has been the lack of privacy and dealing with my district and companion.  They're all nice, but often times I don't want to have to drag them around or get them to follow the rules, or have to interact with them socially.  And though I like Elder Ah Mu, we don't have a lot in common.  I'm trying to become closer, but it's tough, especially because we have to teach together, do planning sessions together, and study together most days.

So, our first investigator, A-Sum (pronounced a some) turned out to be a teacher.  He's from Hong Kong, served in New York Mandarin and English and Cantonese, and he talks in really fast Cantonese.  Our other two teachers talk pretty slowly to us, but he has no mercy (probably because we insulted him so thoroughly in our 5 lessons). He's really cool though.  He knows how they actually speak in Hong Kong, what colloquialisms they use, and what it's like over there.

I've been sick all week, probably from the lack of sleep.  Nothing too bad, just a cough and runny nose and sore throat and exhaustion, but since we have no down time it's been a bit rough.  I'm starting to feel better though, so don't worry.  And I'm finally sleeping easier, so that's a relief.  I hate my sentence and flow and voice when I write emails.  So mainstream.

I wish our district had some sisters in it, because since we don't we have almost no interaction with sisters so everyone is super awkward.  We all act a bit like talking to sisters is breaking a rule.  Kind of annoying. I've been playing a lot of volleyball.  We all play volleyball every gym period, which is extremely fun.  We started playing beach volleyball at the exercise field instead of normal volleyball in the gym, and it's way better, even though I'm pretty bad.

Some stuff that I thought Matthew and Spencer and any other guys coming into the MTC soon would find interesting: (I know I am probably repeating myself a bit)

You teach your first lesson, in your language, the second day.  It's a pretty pathetic lesson.
We spent about 35 hours in our classroom this week.
You have a lot of study time, hours every day, and it's hard to know what to do with it.  Despite this, we always feel rushed for our lessons.
Lessons go better if you don't bring in notes or go off prewritten scripts.  Say what you can remember, nothing else.
It's never worth it to try to change out of church clothes unless you're going to bed, doing service or gym, or it's P-Day.  Even if you think you have time, you probably don't.


I thought your letter about the Mayo clinic was very interesting.  Your mention of things never before seen intrigues me.  I'm liking the MTC so far, but I wish I was out in Hong Kong already.  You didn't say much to me, so I won't say much to you.


Miss you, but not too much, surprisingly.  Everything's been good so far.  I don't think I've ever really heard about your MTC time.  What was it like?  I'm sorry I haven't sent any pictures.  It's a little difficult, and to be honest I've only taken about 3.  It's too inconvenient to bring the camera everywhere, and honestly there's not a lot to see. I'll try to get one next to the map, but no promises.  Enjoy Hawaii.  My companion's dad got us all lava lavas and chop sticks, so that's been cool.  Don't send me any food.  We have waaay too much from the other parents as is.  I'm not joking.  Thank you for the photo book.  It reminds me of how good a baby I was.


I thought Sand County Almanac was okay, but nothing amazing, and Shimmin doesn't love it like Doherty. Believe me, he will beat it to death.  You will probably have to memorize it, or put the whole thing to the tune of an ancient American folk song and sing it.  Good luck with school.  Describe your impression of your classes, because I've probably had all of them.


Glad you did the programming thing, and I'm glad you finally modded Minecraft and got the server up.  I'll just warn you, you should probably delete any mod you make in the next 3 weeks, cause they'll be dumb. No offense.  The girls didn't lose it, you did get them banned.

Rebecca and Abby,

Glad contacts are going well.  keep at it.  Sorry I have no time left, I'll write you something long next time. I'm proud of your typing skills ABBY.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Last pictures with family

July 12, 2013 Draper Temple with Grandparents
Last Sunday at home w/ Mom and Dad

With brothers just before drop off at MTC
With sisters in front of Provo Temple

Farewell Sunday w/ family & high school friends

Farewell Sunday w/ Carmack family
Bumper Crop before they all take off
Taking off for 2 years

John's Contact Info

John's contact info:


Provo MTC Address:
Elder John Morrell
2007 N. 900 E. Unit 93
Provo, UT 84602

Dear Elder.com
Go to Dear Elder.com and choose: Write a letter.  Fill in following info:

Elder John Morrell
Unit 93 Provo MTC     Departure date:  Oct. 7, 2013

(On this site you can type a letter and Dear Elder will mail it for free that day if you are before 12 noon.)

Mission Field Address
Elder John Morrell
China Hong Kong Mission
18 Dorset Crescent
Kowloon City
Hong Kong

John's 1st Email from the MTC

Hello family.  Now that it's past the first week, we're only supposed to use our P days to send emails or communicate with family and friends, and my P days are on Monday.  SO you should be able to expect emails every Monday afternoon unless something dreadful happens.  So far the MTC has been really great, but tough and not at all what I expected.  As I said in my earlier mail (sorry for the short length) we started teaching an investigator in Cantonese the 2nd day, which was pretty crazy.  It went a lot better than I expected though.  It is amazing how quickly we're all (my district of 5) learning the language.  From the first day, our teachers talked in only Cantonese (we have 2 teachers, Sister Cook and Sister Cheng.  Cook is a recently returned missionary going to BYU and we're her first district teaching, and Sister Cheng was born in Taiwan, grew up speaking Mandarin, then moved to America and converted, served mission to Hong Kong, and is now going to BYU learning physics.  They're both super cool.) so we've been playing a lot of charades.  But I can already give a simple and limited but surprisingly varied lesson in Cantonese. 
Oh, I think I forgot, but I'm in the MTC proper, not Tree water or whatever.  I thought it was like one big building, but it's much more segmented. I also thought we'd have less free time, but we have a lot of 'additional study time' which is kind of free.  I've been pushing my district pretty hard actually to make better use of it, because I feel like we waste it a lot.  I thought that wearing Sunday clothes would be really hard, but its actually really easy.  It's P day, so I'm in casual clothes, and it feels all awkward.  The only hard things are some of the weird MTC rules (no bags in the cafeteria, so you have to make a lot of trips to drop stuff off before eating, always be in Sunday dress in the main building, stuff like that) and being with a companion all the time.  Elder Ah Mu is a really cool guy.  He's a hard worker, and much more neat than me.  I like him, but sometimes we conflict, and even when we don't sometimes I just want to be able to move around without having to consider what the rest of my district wants/has to do (our district is so small that we all stick together, like a 5 man companionship).  That's been a bit tough, but I'm having fun.  I love the class time the most, honestly.  You know what you have to do and it's really helpful.  I honestly am not homesick at all.  I miss you guys, but not too much.  I do feel like I'm getting into the feel of the mission.
Mom, miss you.  Don't worry about me much.  The food here is really good, room is good, everything's been fine so far.  I really am enjoying myself.  I do laundry in a few hours, so wish me luck.  I would send photos, but I don't know if I'll be able to till I leave.  I'll try next P Day.  Don't be too sad about me.
Dad, MTC is really cool so far, but I do really feel like I wish I was out in the field already.  I'm starting to see what you mean about it being really cool.
David, you must play lots of Starcraft for me.  If you get good enough you can play on my ladder account ranked. But you probably won't.
Becca, contacts are really good.  It will be super frustrating at first, but stick with it.  In a month they'll be fine.  I love you, don't be too sad.
Abby, your letters are always funny.  Don't fight with Becca too much.  The MTC smells weird.
This section is for you guys, but make sure it gets passed on to Matthew and some of my other friends.  Sunday we had a devotional, and afterwards watched a recording of an Elder Bednar talk he gave at Christmas at the MTC some time ago.  Character of Christ.  If you can, look it up and watch it.  It was seriously life changing.  Without a doubt the best talk I've ever seen, period.  He spoke about how Christ turned out while the natural man turns in.  That was the culmination of a theme the teachers have been developing so far.  It's all about the investigator, not you.  It doesn't matter if you gave a good lesson, or if your Cantonese was good, if it didn't fulfill the needs of the investigator.  Our language teacher kept asking us (we eventually figured out) why when we said what we'd teach.  A desire to be a good missionary because you want success, or because you want to learn the language for yourself, is selfish.  The Christlike way of thinking is to focus entirely on what will help your investigator.  I always thought that, logically, going foreign speaking is no better than a stateside mission, but I didn't really feel that.  I'm still excited to go to Hong Kong, and I'm enjoying the MTC, but honestly I've come to feel that my not speaking Cantonese is a barrier preventing me form being an effective missionary.  It's something I need to learn not to know the language but to teach other people.  Matthew has a good opportunity to be a more effective teacher and help people more than I can, because he won't have a language barrier.  Make sure he sees that, because that is an idea I didn't understand at all before coming here.  The point of the MTC and the mission is to help others, not give you a cool growth experience or chance to experience another culture.  As a stateside missionary, Matthew is going to have an easier job making other people happy, and that's what matters.
Another cool thing that has occurred to me since I've been here is that in Sunday School and at church, we learn about the more complicated aspects of the gospel, while at the MTC we boil everything down to its absolute core, and in so doing, learn much more about basic doctrines.  I think it's really interesting.  One question for you guys for my next email;  was Jesus happy during his mortal ministry?
Love you all.  I won't be able to check email till Monday next week, but we get mail every day but Sunday, so Dear Elder away.  See you in 2 years.

P.S.  I asked for envelopes and stuff, but I bought like 100 that day even though I'll probably just be sending emails.  So don't worry about that.  I'll be using them as flashcards soon.  The store here has stamps, envelopes, books, clothes, detergent, etc.  The food here is great.  Mom remembers the meal we had when we came with Grandpa Carmack to the MTC.  It's not quite that good, but pretty close.  I'm limiting myself to what I can hold on one tray in one trip, because the first two days I stuffed myself.  Chocolate milk is pretty good.  I'll admit the journal mom got me has been good, and I have been using my quad instead of the other scriptures, but that's mostly because I'd have to bring the other scriptures in my bag and you can't take that into meetings, so they're pretty useless here. 
One problem I forgot to mention was that I'm exhausted.  We get up at 6:15 am so that we can beat the line to the showers, but even though I'm tired during the day, at night I just can't fall asleep till 11:30 or 12:00.  I'm being punished for my bad habits.  Send me lots of emails, because my companion has already literally gotten about 10 or 12 dear elder letters and an email too, no exaggeration.

P.P.S.  I keep forgetting stuff to say.  I need some oil for blessing in a container, it doesn't need to be consecrated, but they want us to have some on us at all times.  I can consecrate it here, but i don't have any container.
Also tell David THERE ARE NO R'S IN CANTONESE.  I realized that yesterday.  No r's at all.