Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Week Three: Halfway Through ... the MTC!

My district (and Hermano Gomez) at the temple.
Area: Mexico MTC
Companion: Hermana Katie Neeleman
Hermana Neeleman's Blog Post: Week Three

This week has felt super strange. It feels like it has been forever since I have written home (probably because our p-day was switched from Tuesday to Thursday. More on that later). Anyway, life is good here at the CCM. I'm starting to feel like I am getting the hang of things here. We'll have to see how things turn out when I get to the mission field.

On Wednesday, we watched a big world-wide missionary devotional. Lots of apostles and other general authorities spoke, and I feel like I really learned more about what I should be doing to better teach the people that I have been called to serve. Right before the meeting started, they were going up and down the aisles asking if anyone knew how to play the piano and Hermana Neeleman volunteered me. I got her back by volunteering her to lead the music. Anyhow, they asked us to go up and lead all the missionaries in two songs. We both thought that one would be the opening song and the next would be the closing song, so after we finished the first song we went back to our seats. It turned out that there were two opening songs, so everyone was looking around to tell us to come back up. That was an awkward walk back up the aisle.

After the meeting, our branch president, Presidente Machado, pulled me and Hermana Neeleman aside. He asked us if we wanted to be the new Sister Training Leaders. Now, we have been trying to get to know the other Hermanas in our zone. Hopefully, we will be able to help them make it through the MTC.

I know that I have been talking a lot about how nice the weather is here. There is one downside to this, and I will tell you in the form of a story. Sometimes, during the afternoon, we will go outside to do our group Book of Mormon study. This week, when we were outside, I noticed something on the side of my scriptures. I thought that it was the gooey grass that you get when you mow the lawn, so I wiped it off with my hand and wiped my hand on the grass. It took the gold paint off the sides of my Spanish scriptures. I didn't think about it anymore. . . until I got back in the room. Hermana Leslie looked at me and said, "I am sorry that a bird pooped on your scriptures." I was so grossed out, I thought that I would throw up. Even thinking back on the moment, I start to feel a little sick. I washed my hands so many times that day!

I think that I had the saddest experience of my life this week -- p day was moved back. One of the Elders in my district is staying in Mexico, so he had to go to the consulate today so that he could remain here legally. However, that meant that we all had to have our p day on Thursday instead of on Tuesday. We learned this on Monday. That morning, Hermana Neeleman and I had just been talking about how much we were looking forward to p day and how it would make the entire week go by faster. When we heard the news, we were heartbroken. I felt like it was Christmas Eve and someone came and told me that Christmas had been moved to February. In the end, it turned out fine. 

My gross knuckles. I don't know if you can see it very well in the picture,
but my knuckles have been drying out and cracking like crazy.
Maybe it is payback for all the times that I have talked
about how nice the weather is down here.
I think that I have realized that my experience on my mission has just been one awkward experience after another. For example, we are teaching two "investigators" right now, Mario and Rodrigo (really Hermano Hernandez and Hermano Gomez). We teach one each day, and normally the lessons go fairly well. Both of them have agreed to be baptized! Anyway, the other day, we were teaching Rodrigo. Right before we went in to go to the lesson, Hermana Neeleman asked me to confirm the name of who we were teaching. I laughed at her a little, so I guess what happened next was karma. During the lesson, I said the opening prayer. However, instead of praying for Rodrigo, I started praying for Mario. After the prayer was over, Hermano Gomez looked at me and asked, "Who is Mario?" That would have been embarrassing enough, but later in the lesson, I was trying to be serious and get a point across, so I looked "Rodrigo" right in the eyes and called him Mario again! Hermana Neeleman and Hermano Gomez made fun of me all day long for that.

Later that same day, we were sitting next to some Latina sisters during the devotional. I made some polite conversation with them before the meeting started. During the meeting, I glanced over and saw that the Hermana who was sitting next to me had really nice handwriting. Then she saw me looking at her notebook. I wanted to assure her that I was not trying to peep at what she had written, so I tried to tell her that she had beautiful handwriting. However, I think that what I ended up communicating was that I thought that what she had written was beautiful. She gave me a weird look, and we didn't say anything else after that.

I have been feeling pretty good about my life lately. Yesterday, I realized just how far I have come in Spanish. We were helping the incoming missionaries and one of them asked me how learning the language was coming. I told her that I came in with almost no Spanish and that now I am able to go into my lessons without having to write down a script of things to say. I just take in my Spanish scriptures and a outline in English. I know that my Spanish is not even close to perfect, but I do feel like I have been progressing. I am so happy to be here and I am even more excited to be able to go out soon and to serve the people in California. I am so grateful for the influence that the Gospel has had in my life and I hope that I will be able to spread that influence with others.

I love you all and I hope that you are all doing well.

Hermana Blau

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Week Two: Time is Flying!

The hermanas in our zone right before Hermana Adair and Hermana Taylor left to go to Oklahoma City.

Area: Mexico MTC
Companion: Hermana Katie Neeleman
Hermana Neeleman's Blog Post: Week Two

This week has actually gone by really fast! After last week, I thought that my time in the CCM would be really long, but by it was already Sunday before I knew it. I am loving my stay in the most beautiful campus I have ever been in. Seriously, I am so glad that I am here instead of in frozen Missouri! For the last couple of days, me and Hermana Neeleman have been going outside to do our study instead of staying inside the classroom. She sits in the sun and I sit in the shade and we both have a really good time.

The days have all started to sort of blend together. Every day, we start with personal study. Then we go to breakfast and prepare for our first "investigator". After that, we do a lot of language study and more reading the scriptures. At some point during that time, we go to gym and eat lunch and dinner. By the end of the day, I am always so tired! But it is the good kind of tired. I am happy in my work.

I think that all of the time that we have spent reading the scriptures has really been getting to me. At night, we read the Book of Mormon in Spanish as a district and we all follow along in English. We just barely got through the story of Nephi getting the brass plates, but every night I start to think of funny backstories for all of the people in the stories and I start to get giggly. I don't know how long that will continue, but I don't know if it is a bad thing.

I feel like I have already learned so much more than I knew before. I am still not fluent and I can only understand about half of what everybody says, but I am so happy that I am not totally lost in everything. In our lesson yesterday, I didn't even look down at my paper once for hints on how to say things (I can't guarantee that this means I was saying my words totally right, I was just able to be understood). I am excited for a time that I will really be able to speak the language. Right now, I feel like I am losing my English way faster than I am gaining Spanish. I make so many spelling and grammar mistakes when I write my letters. Oh well.

On Wednesday nights, we go as a district and do our service project. Guess what we get to do every week!? Greet the new missionaries and help them to get to their casas. It was so fun to be able to see all of the new missionaries coming in and to talk to them about their flights and their lives. The only thing that was a little stressful about the experience was that the people who were helping were not supposed to speak English to each other. That basically meant that I could not speak unless I was helping out the new missionaries, but it was okay in the end. By the time that we started helping them take the luggage to their casas, we started to speak in English to each other.

This Sunday was super fun and really spiritual. I don't remember if I told you this in my last e-mail, but we have to write a five minute talk in Spanish each Sacrament Meeting and when we get there, we are randomly called on to give the talk. It is a little stressful, especially because the Spanish I do have is very broken. Anyway, I was called on this week to give my talk in front of the entire zone. It ended up being better than I thought it would be. I am just glad that I prepared even though I thought that I would be exempt because I was playing the piano :). Later that night, we went in to Sunday Movie Night. There was an extremely odd selection of movies that were shown: The John Tanner Story, an old movie about the Crucifixion, and the informational video about temple clothing. I was still glad for the break from classes and Spanish.
Hermana Neeleman and me outside the Mexico City Temple.
This morning, we got to go to the Mexico City Temple (which is why I am writing to you so late in the day). It was so nice. It was a little strange going through a Spanish session only knowing a little Spanish, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to go. I don't know when I will next be able to go to the temple, but I am grateful for every opportunity that I get to go to the house of the Lord.

I think that my biggest revelation that I had this week is that the CCM is a little bit like a prison. There are tall walls around the perimeter that have barbed wire on the tops, the time is very scheduled, and we can only communicate with the outside once a week. Despite the similarities, I have been feeling very content in my life lately. Every day, I feel the spirit so strongly. All of my teachers are so good (although one had been nicknamed Hermano Rapido because he speaks so fast). I am so excited to be a missionary and I feel constantly that this is the right place for me to be. I am really excited to be out in the mission field, but I am happy to spend a couple more weeks in the CCM.

Hermana Blau

The parrots that hang out on the palm trees here in Mexico.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Week One: What a week!

Area: Mexico CCM
Companion: Hermana Katie Neeleman
Hermana Neeleman's Blog Post: Week One

Phew! What a week! Right now I am writing from one of the computers in the labs where we learn Spanish grammar every day after attempting to use about every computer in the place. Oh well. This week has been one of the craziest that I have ever had.

When I left the family at security, I was a total mess. The ladies that were checking me through stopped to ask me if I was okay and where I was going. When I got to the terminal, I was doing a little better until Laney came through. At that point, I fell apart again. As soon as I got on the plane, however, I started to feel a little more excited about what was going to happen. The plane from Springfield to Dallas was just about the smallest plane I think I have been on in my entire life. There were only three seats in each row, so I didn't even have to sit next to anybody.When I got to Dallas, I was expecting to see at least one missionary who was also going to Mexico City, but there was no one. Instead, there was a group of about 90 Catholic missionaries who were going down to Mexico City for a weeklong workshop. On the way down to Mexico, I sat next to a man who was in training to become a priest and one of his friends from the missionary program. It was actually super interesting. He offered to let me join in his morning prayer and he taught me all about the different kinds of Catholics that there are. In the end, he asked me to bear my testimony and offered to give me a book about different kinds of prayer. Very fun.

After I got to Mexico City, I made it through customs (I didn't even have to have my bags searched) and met up with my driver. Because I was the only missionary who made it in until the next hour when the flight from Salt Lake came, and I didn't speak Spanish and he didn't speak English, it made for a very long wait. After all the missionaries came through, we got to ride through Mexico City during the middle of the day. I don't think that I have ever been in a bigger or more hectic place in my entire life [Mom note: That's saying a lot coming from a girl who has experienced rush hour in Beijing, China!] . Finally, we made it to the MTC and it was completely calm and absolutely beautiful. I met my companion, Hermana Neeleman. She is super great!

with Hermana Neeleman

Being at the Mexico City MTC is a mixture of being really fun and exciting and being super nerve wracking and stressful. During all of our lessons, the teachers only speak in Spanish, and we are supposed to speak in Spanish to them as well. I am getting better, but I am not to the point where I can converse with people yet or really speak my feelings, but I am sure that I will get there someday!

I am super excited to be here and even more excited to get done so I can really go to the mission field. Hopefully, I will be able to learn Spanish before I go, but I know that I was called to my specific assignment. I am glad that you guys are okay at home, I hope that you continue to have a good winter. I am suffering down here in the warm weather. The other day, it was a little warm, I almost had to take off my sweater. I don't know why everybody says that the food at the Mexico City MTC is so bad, I think that it's fine. One day, though, I did get a burrito for dinner and found out that it was filled with mashed potatoes. Also, I got a mysterious dish for breakfast and found out that it was actually chips that had been hardcore soaked in salsa verde. Other than that, the food has been wonderful. (also, tonight is the end of our P-day and pizza night!)

On our second full day at the MTC, we had to teach our first "investigator" EN ESPAƑOL!!! As you can imagine, it was a total trainwreck. Even though Hermana Neeleman is much better at Spanish than me (she took some during high school), we still did not have any idea what to say. At one point, we told the investigator that prophets were messengers from God. He then asked if we were prophets and we said yes! Later, I was teaching about the Book of Mormon and my nose started to run so bad that I had to stop in the middle of my sentence and get a tissue, then Hermana Neeleman just finished my sentence for me. It was soooo embarrassing. After we got out and learned that we had to teach the same investigator every night for a week, we were mortified.

Sunday at the MTC is so nice. Most days, we spend all of our efforts in attempting to help our investigators to learn about the gospel, but on Sundays, we are able to be spiritually uplifted. Church was so good and I was able to feel the Spirit so strongly. Sundays are also nice because it is movie night! This Sunday, all the non-latino missionaries watched Meet the Mormons. It was a nice break from the non-stop work that we have to do every day.
Our yoga class
On Monday, I had probably one of the best days that I have had at the MTC so far. At the beginning of the day, I was feeling a little discouraged because I felt like I was struggling with the language. Later, we had a presentation about handling stress and I think it actually made me feel a little more stressed about how I was doing. After that, we had to teach our investigator, Sergio, again. He had told us that he was having trouble making decisions in his life and that he would like help with that, so we prepared a lesson about faith, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. When we got in, we were able to be very friendly with Sergio and ask him about his life. Then when we started to teach, the Spirit was so strong! I taught the segment about the Holy Ghost and how it could help him make decisions in his life. Then I shared the story about how I chose to go to BYU. After that, I promised him that if he would recieve the gift of the Holy Ghost and live worthily, he would be able to have help in making his decisions. Right after that, Hermana Neeleman asked him to be baptised and he said yes. The Spirit was so strong in the room. After we finished with the lesson, the Hermano who plays Sergio came up to us and said that our lesson was one of the best he had listened to in a long time. Then he told me that my Spanish was good during the lesson. It really made me feel good after a kind of stressful morning and testified to me of the gift of tongues. I know that Heavenly Father knows us and what we need, when we need it.

Hermana Blau

p.s. While I am at the MTC, you can send me emails and they will print them off that day and put them in my mail box. You just have to send them to letter@MTCMexicocarepackage.com and make the subject Hermana Savannah Blau 12A.

Also, we are only able to take pictures on our P-days, or else I would have sent more. There are palm trees and green parrots everywhere and the mountains all around the MTC are so beautiful!

A view of the mountain outside of the MTC.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Called to Serve

Welcome to the new blog of Savannah Blau, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Savannah will be serving a Spanish speaking mission in Bakersfield, California, for the next eighteen months. Because she won't have access to this blog for that time, I'm going to keep it updated. Who am I? I'm Savannah's mom. I hope to keep a regular account of Savannah's adventures, and then maybe Savannah will choose to keep it as a personal blog for herself when she returns in July 2017.

Enjoy the journey!!