August 19, 2013
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,