Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's Almost Time to Fly to Romania

Dear Family,
Yeah, I got the piece of cake, so Sora Newell and I started eating it but there are so many sweets at the MTC, we gave the rest to some elders. One great thing about the MTC is that if you're not going to eat something, there are a million elders who will gladly finish it for you.

All of the elders in my district have told me that their moms have been checking out my blog. Make sure to say hi to all of them for me! And, thank you for making the blog interesting for me mom. 

"Hello to the mothers of Elders Brown, Cooper, Brundage, Lybbert, and Sookoo!"

Someone mentioned in a talk, I think it was Elder Bednar, that things we don't even credit the spirit for are often spiritual promptings even when we don't realize it. Maybe we will say something that is something we would say normally but it is really the spirit helping us. Was that grammatically correct? I dunno, all of this Romanian grammar and such is making life hard, ha, ha.

I guess we're not the only ones inventing games to help with Romanian. Last class period, Brother
Vizante played battleship with us. Columns are feminine and rows are masculine, so it was hard figuring how to conjugate the sentence, so hey, it helped and it was really fun.

Something I heard and utilized on the first week was that "if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." So, based off of that statement, I'm pretty sure my district is doing things right.

If our district was a sitcom, this picture would be the cover art. It captures everyone in the district so well... (taken on Rainbow Sunday!)

We also watched The Phone Call last Sunday. It was funny because it's filmed in our neighborhood, so I'm all like "THERE'S MY HOUSE!" and the rest of my district sarcastically whoopies. It was great.

This Sunday was black Sunday... obviously Sora Newell and I did NOT pick the theme. I mean, all the elders had to change was their ties, but Sora Newell and I had to go ALL OUT. Boo. But it was pretty funny in a way. That's why we're for sure never letting them pick the theme again (because you know, we have so many more Sundays together).

We had to look pouty in all of the pictures because we joked all day about attending a funeral. And when I say "we" I mean everyone but Elder Sookhoo who isn't capable of making a pouty face.
Sora Newell and I stood out like two black sore thumbs that day. We made sure that we wore NO black and as much color as possible the next day.

We had another General Authority come on Tuesday! Neil L. Anderson came and he spoke about how love and sacrifice are linked, and it was very powerful. My favorite thing he said was "We sacrifice for the things we love and we love the things we sacrifice for." This devotional is also being broadcast to the other MTC's, so Daniel might be able to see me again in the choir. Although, Brother Eggett didn't conduct this time.  I always love it when Brother Eggett conducts because he always tells amazing stories.

After the devotional, they didn't let any missionaries leave because of the thunder and lighting on Tuesday, so we hung around singing songs until the security guards gave the okay to go. We all had
to run from the Marriott Center back to the MTC in the pouring rain. It was nice, but we were drenched because we did NOT anticipate the storm. The thing is, one of the Sorelli that Sora Newell and I are rooming with started having a serious panic attack because of the stress created from having to stay and going through the rain. We're in the residence hall when we see her heaving and seriously in trouble, so we run outside to get elders to give her a blessing. It was a bit of a crazy night, but our zone president is a doctor so he was able to calm her down and everything was fine. Just a little bit of an event.

We have TALL at this MTC, too (for those who aren't reading Daniel's email, it's a computer program that helps with the language learning). We "love" TALL in my district.  Notice how I put the word in quotation marks. (Sarcasm in case you are wondering).

Every week we do TRC which is when volunteers who speak Romanian will come and we give them a short lesson (Michael Abbott came a few weeks ago!). When we did TRC this week, one of the girls we were teaching mentions that she's from Boise, so I try to say that I was born in Boise. Thing is, I said it in accusative form instead of dative form, so instead I said "I gave birth in Boise!" Language mishaps are cel mai bun (the best). In a lesson the tricycle (Lybbert, Sookhoo, Brundage) was giving, their investigator asked who she gives her tithing to. Another accusative vs. dative case, and Elder Brundage accidentally tells her to "give yourself to the bishop." and the teacher says "Elder Brundage, NOOOOO!!!" and they had to cut the lesson short for laughing. Moral of the story is make as many mistakes as you can now before going into Romania where the real investigators are.

I've been utilizing my sewing skills a lot lately. I sewed a little case for my iPod out of a sock. One of the Anziani (Italian elders) ripped his hem, so I repaired his pants for him. I found a hole in one of my shirts, so I fixed that. Sora Newell has a rip in her skirt I'm going to fix. Elder Cooper's hem also came loose in one of his pants, so I'll be doing that, too. I'm just sewing up everything around here. Thing is, I'm not that much of a seamstress, but everyone is pleased with my work and everyone is coming to me for repairs. So that's pretty cool I guess.

Sorry my letter is so scattered and poorly worded today. I'm having to type this really fast because I don't have a lot of time.

I'm a really good prankster. Vizante loves to troll us with screeching his chalk on the board, so I took the liberty of breaking all the long sticks and putting them back together so they look like they're new.  LOL, he was so mad, but he's a good sport.  Also, Elder Cooper has a pen that shocks you when you click it, I got SO close twice to getting Vizante to use it. Tomorrow I will succeed.

We got our flight itinerary on Friday! Here is the basic schedule:

Monday, September 2
9:55 AM - Departing from SLC, UT
1:34 PM - Arrival in Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
3:45 PM - Departure from Dallas/Ft Worth, TX

Tuesday, September 3
8:05 AM - Arrival in Amsterdam, Netherlands
9:20 AM - Departure from Amsterdam, Netherlands
1:05 PM - Arrival in Bucharest, Romania

I will be able to make a phone call before leaving the Salt Lake airport, so be expecting me sometime between 7:30-9:30 AM this Monday!

 Volleyball is super fun and I'm getting better at it, the language is going great and our teachers say we've been ready for a week, Brother Vizante and Brother Frandsen are the best teachers ever and I will miss them, and next letter you receive from me I'll be in ROMANIA!!! It's too bad our district will have to break up, but with such a small mission we'll most likely rub shoulders again along the way. I hope I didn't forget anything, but I'm out of time and so look forward to my call!

La Revedere!

Sora Smith

Notice Brother Vizante's Photo Bomb?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 4 at the MTC

Happy Birthday to Adam! They always have ice cream on Wednesdays and so even if there isn't any cake, I can celebrate his birthday here too!  By the way, I'm pretty good about remembering birthdays, but could I maybe get a calendar with people's birthdays written on them? I've been wanting to send personal cards, but Adam, you'll have to wait a couple days, sorry!  AND, happy anniversary to parinții mei! My present to you two is not bothering you for... you know... 18 months.

This week was just as good but there's not as much to report that is any different. The Romanian learning has slowed down a bit, but our teachers keep telling us that we're so much farther than they were when they were at the MTC, so apparently we're really good. We had another few investigator lessons with "Marian" (Vizante), and after one really powerful lesson he tells us that it was the best lesson he has ever sat through as an investigator, and if he were really an investigator at that point he would have accepted the entire gospel. We had another lesson with "Ion" (Fratele Frandsen, our other teacher) and he never gives us feedback, but he did after that saying what a good lesson it was. So, I guess that means we're pretty good.

My district is always inventing these games to play to improve our Romanian. I invented Romanagrams (bananagrams, but you can only spell Romanian words), and we do this one game in total gameshow style called "who wants to be a definizer?" where we try to beat each other in conjugation, and I won because I am cel mai bun. This is why my district is the best.  We find fun ways to help us learn.

On Sunday my district had some free time so we watched Jonny Lingo. There's nothing more I need to say about that. :-)

Sometimes we have some funny language mishaps, like in one of our lessons, Sora Newell says "God sent MY son to Earth to...". Also, Elder Brown was praying, he said "Va rog sa ne binecuvantez cu casitate..." (Please bless us with chastity) when he meant to say "cu caritate" (charity). Then, Elder Brundage is blessing the food and says, "Noi suntem recunoscator pentru acest mancare și ispașirea sa..." (We're thankful for this food and it's atonement..."). Yeah, I'm super excited to be in Romania.

So we have a classroom cleaning inspection every week, and last week we received a good score EXCEPT we were marked down for not dusting our bookshelf. It was clean, but we got a bad score just for that. SO this week, me made sure to thoroughly dust the shelf and we left a passive aggressive "Is this dusted enough?" note for the inspector. We get our report the next day, and we were marked as "commendable" on everything, but the overall marking says "NEEDS WORK". We were so mad until we found out that it was Elder Brundage who marked us, lol.

Elder Cooper tells me his mom reads my blog so, "Hi Sister Cooper!"
Standing is Elder Brown, then left to right is Elder Lybbert, Elder Cooper, Elder Brundage, and Elder Sookhoo

Anyway, I think that's about it. Things are pretty much the same. My district wants me to tell about how I ran into a window thinking it was a door, but I am not going to talk about that . . .  Instead, here is a picture of me and my companion Sora Newell.

It's cool how Tom was sealed by Elder McConkie's son!

I love being able to sing with Brother Eggett as the conductor here at the MTC. He's kind of a celebrity at the MTC.  ALL the sisters and elders want to talk to him and get his signature, but he knows me since I was in his LDC Choir and everyone wants to know why he knows me, lol. He called me out in the middle of choir once, I was super famous.
Here is one more picture of the Sisters in my District.  They are all going to Italy except for my companion and me.

Voi iubesc! Fi-va bine, toate ziua buna ziua!

Sora Smith

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Half-way Through the MTC

Hello All,

I'm relieved to hear Grandma Smith is doing better. We finally got to go to the temple for the first time today, and I kept her in my mind during the session.

I like to receive letters, but I also like to write them, so if anyone does send me a letter or package, I'll put forth an effort to write back, that is if I have time! I've been able to respond to every letter so far.

Sorry I haven't been sending any pictures, I have quite a few, but these computers are so limited, it's taken a really long time to figure out a way to do so. I'll try sending a second email later with pictures so you can know what my new family looks like! If you don't get one, I'm still trying to figure these computers out :/

Thanks for sending me cousin emails! I don't have any of their emails, so I'd like to get those!  I'd also appreciate it if Jessica could send me the emails of our friends out on missions, and get on Tyler's case to write me!

To solve the problem with the house being so quiet now that Daniel and I are gone, maybe you could get a few more dogs? Lol.

From the Provo temple I can see where our neighborhood is. It's really weird being so close and yet so far. Also, I'll see people around that I know. Eva VanCott and Camilee Bratt both work at the MTC, so I've seen them around. Brennan Jenkins' older brother works here, too.

I mentioned we got to go to the temple today. It was great! You can tell Sister Stauffer we used a
couple of the names she gave me, and we're planning on getting my whole district and part of my zone involved for next week. I've really come to love everyone in my district, so it was really special to be able to do that with them.

The Romanian is coming along great. There are things about Romanian that are so different from English, like they don't have the word "the" but every noun changes depending on whether there would be a "the" or not. Also, we don't really have Accusative vs. Dative in English, which is really confusing. Romanian is really frustrating sometimes because I'm a little impatient and I want to just know the language, but I've for sure seen the gift of tongues in my class. A couple of days ago we had a lesson with Marian, the really difficult investigator who is really my teacher who is from Romania. Lessons with him are hard, because Brother Vizante is not easy on us, but our last lesson was so incredible. We started talking just about Evanghelia lui Hristos (the Gospel of Christ) but suddenly something took over and both me and my companion were just discussing things with him. I honestly can't remember anything I had said, but I spoke more fluently than I ever have and I understood everything he said, and I answered his questions the way they needed to be answered. At the end, I asked Marian to pray with us about receiving an answer, he did so, and if Brother Vizante was the crying type, he would have been weeping. After our lesson with him, we returned to class and he was just out of it, I'm convinced it was because of the lesson we had with him. It was so cool how the gift of tongues just took over like that.

Speaking of Brother Vizante, he is so funny. When you first meet him, he seems quiet and demure. That's not true at all. We learn new things about him every day that makes him cooler and cooler. He was talking with us after class one day, just talking about Romania, and the things he said were hilarious. He says to us, "Want to know how Romanians smile?" and he pulls out a Romanian grammar book, opens the front cover, and there's a picture of a Romanian woman glaring into the camera. Later he says, "You have a few Romanians in a room one of them will say, 'What's that sound? Oh, it's laughter.' " One of the elders in my district showed me a photo he took of the other elders, and there in the background is Brother Vizante, photo-bombing them with a staged nose pick. I hope I can send that one to you, it's too priceless. Vizante has also said "One thing you'll learn in Romania is that Romanians stare," which is 100% true of Vizante. He's just a funny, funny guy.

Our other teacher is great, too, but he doesn't get a whole paragraph because he's American. Brother Frandsen does this thing where when he stops to put words together in his head, his lips curl and it's really funny to watch. I need a picture with them to send to you.

Some days we get to play volleyball. That's one of my favorite things, and it's usually just our district playing with each other, but sometimes other elders play too and THEY GET REALLY INTO IT.  Playing volleyball with a lot of really scary guys is... well, scary. Somehow I ended up on a team with two elders I didn't know and Elder Brundage, so whenever Elder Brundage would make a pass to me he'd say "Sora!."  The other two elders were really confused, they thought that was my first name, ha, ha.

Speaking of Sora, Sora Newell and I realized we're the only "Soras" in the MTC. Everyone else is "Sister" or "Hermana" or "Sorella", but since we're the only Romanian speaking missionaries, we're the only "Soras". So pretty much if someone calls out "Sister!" half the MTC will respond. But, if someone calls out "Sora", 50% chance says it's me.

On Tuesday (yesterday), Elder Richard G. Scott came to speak to us about communication with
Heavenly Father. His talk was so inspiring, and his presence there was really something different. His talk is being broadcast to every MTC, and I'm in the choir so Daniel look out for me! I loved how Elder Scott gave every foreign language learning missionary a special apostolic blessing, all of us in my district were really excited about that. When Elder Scott was leaving after his talk, he would take a couple of steps, turn back and say "Be good!" take another few steps, "We love you!" another few steps, "Still be good!". It was really cute.

Anyway, I think I have covered everything really big. Every other day is really routine, but I'm having a lot of fun and I'm really happy and I love all of the friends I've made here. In Daniel's letter he compared it to being in jail, but I see it as more of a boot camp. That being said, I really can't wait to finally get into Romania. Only 19 more days!

I don't remember if I already mentioned this, but every Sunday our district wears coordinated outfits. Our first Sunday was everyone wears purple, second Sunday was everyone wears Romanian flag colors, and this last Sunday was each of us wears a color of the rainbow. This is why I love my district!  This is our rainbow day with the Provo Temple in the background. 
From left to right:  Elder Sookhoo, Sora Smith, Sora Newell, Elder Brown, Elder Lybbert, Elder Cooper, Elder Brundage

Va iubesc!

Sora Smith

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

2nd Week at the MTC

Dear Family and Pepper,

Now that I've adjusted to the MTC lifestlye, everything seems really normal. I don't think of it as a having-to-be-super-punctual-something-scheduled-at-each-hour-I-don't-have-an-actual-life life. Although it's a different lifestyle, I've adjusted well and it's routine by now.

Speaking of Pepper, how is he doing? Is he still crazy? Is he sleeping in Adam's room? I miss my baby (puppy), so give him a lot of love for me. While waiting for our laundry last week, Elder Brundage and I were (arguing) discussing whose dog was cuter, so I showed him the picture of our three dogs and apparently Brundage's dog looks exactly like Pepper, so we tied.

I suppose I spoke a little too soon about being written to, because this week I've been receiving things from people in the ward. The Catherine Clark family sent me this really sweet package with little presents inside to open one at a time each time I'm taking a break from studying, it was really thoughtful. Sister Pipkin also wrote me a sweet letter.

I was only sick on that second day, and I've felt great this past week. Even getting up at 6:30 every day isn't a problem, although yesterday I was really exhausted.. The food is, you know... food. Oh, and yes I do have a microwave, which is funny because apparently the Elders don't.

The Romanian learning has slowed down a little because we've been working on little grammar things, but it's still coming and I've been able to connect a lot more things in my head than before. My companion and I started doing lessons with our 'investigators' off script and saying as much as we can from our heads, which works really well, except in the case of Marian but I'll get there in a minute. I can bear my testimony, pray, and hold an okay conversation as long as it's about the gospel, because we really haven't learned any secular sort of conversational things yet ha, ha.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but our lessons are in complete Romanian. Since day one, our teachers only speak in Romanian even when teaching about how to be a missionary. Our teachers only say maybe 10 words of English a day, the rest we have to figure out. It helps, but it gets really frustrating sometimes. It also helps to secretly smile at the English speaking missionaries when they start complaining about how hard their classes are.

Also, you know how looking at a foreign language is just nonsense? Well now that I can read Romanian, English is looking like nonsense to me. So, sorry if I spell things wrong. For some reason there's no spell checker on this calculator.
I'm a little jealous that Daniel can actually leave the MTC to go shopping, we have to always stay on campus and can only buy from the little over-priced MTC shop here. Also, I'm excited to actually get into Romania, so him already being in his country is different.

 As for my district, one more Elder joined us. His name is Elder Lybbert and apparently he was called to the Moldova Russian speaking mission, but since he isn't American his Visa didn't approve. So, last week he arrived to the MTC thinking he was going to Moldova Russian speaking, and then he's told he's stuck with us who are going to Romania/Moldova, Romanian speaking instead. He caught up surprisingly fast though, and was already praying on his own by day two.
Roomies at the MTC

Speaking of visas, apparently I don't need one to stay in Romania. It was a little unclear because I only heard this from a little piece of paper that was ambiguously worded, so it would probably be safe to have a Visa... but I don't know. Nu stiu.
Our district leader is Elder Sookhoo and he is from Canada, either Toronto or Calgary. He looks and acts just like that character from Community played by the actor Asaz something... I don't know, I've never seen Community.  Elder Lybbert is also from Canada, and whichever province Elder Sookhoo is from, Elder Lybbert is from the other one (Toronto or Calgary). I wouldn't say Elder Lybbert looks like our cousin Jon, but he certainly reminds me of him a lot. He was placed in a tri-panionship with Sookhoo and Elder Brundage.  Sookhoo and Lybbert are the oldest of the Elders, I think they said they were both 19. Elder Brundage is from Arizona and he sings and did a lot of theater in high school. Him and the other two Elders are youngin's though, just having graduated this year. Elder Brown is from California and actually knows Sora Newell from school. He is just like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. His mannerisms and humor are just so Sheldon. He is usually pretty reserved, but poor Elder Brown has been sick the past two days, and when he is sick he opens up and he is just so funny.

Then there is Elder Cooper from Riverton in Utah, and there is no other way to describe him other than he is Harvey Kinkle. Like, from the Melissa Joan Hart - Sabrina. Everything he does, me and Sora Newell just look at each other and "Harvey Kinkle," which is funny because none of the elders have ever seen Sabrina.

My companion, again, is Sora Newell, she is from Ohio but has been living in San Diego for the past four years for school, which is where she met Elder Brown. She was born in Germany and her family is German, so she always is referencing Germany and it gets a little funny sometimes. She is 22, so she says how weird it is feeling so old when she's not even that old.

My district is the coolest, and everyone keeps saying how jealous they are of how small it is. Everyone is so different, but we all get along great and we do a lot of the activities together as a group.
So our lessons with our first 'investigator' Dana ended with her agreeing to baptism. Sora Newell and I are scheduled to get haircuts at 2 today, so we keep joking about being invited to Dana's "baptism" at 2 and none of the Elders who also taught Dana get to go. Even our teacher Fratello Frandsen is going along with this joke, he's the one "baptizing" her. So, since lessons with Dana ended, we've had two new 'investigators'. The Sora who was being Dana is now one of our teachers, her name is Sora Whiting, so we have three teachers now (for four students ha, ha). Our new investigators are Ion and Marian (who really are just our other two teachers, (Frandsen and Vizante). Ion's first lesson went
great, and I think we really accomplished our purpose to bring him closer to Christ. Marian, however, is Fratello Vizante, and Vizante is native to Romania, so he was REALLY hard on us. We introduced the Cartea lui Mormon, and moments later he tosses it and starts heated questions like, "What makes your church different? Why should I believe in this book? Why should I join any religion?" and, mind you, this is all in Romanian. Sora Newell and I were just like, WHAT? We don't even know how to answer those questions in Romanian! So that first lesson was a flop... and we're really confused about what to do next. So, we'll see what happens.

Anyway, I'm out of time so you know, Adam's written to me but you could encourage everyone else too! Ha, ha. And Tyler and Jessica... you know... not to bother them... but...

Deci, eu sunt fericita si eu sunt excited sa merg sa Romania!

La Revedere!
Sora Smith