Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 3: Fast But Not Slow

Hello everyone,

So first of all, I  have a big announcement! We're moving to the West MTC campus next week. Consequently, I have to spend most of today packing, so please excuse me if you don't get any letters this week. I have a whole lot of stuff to pack in a not-so-whole-lot of suitcase. (Actually, I brought enormous suitcases, I just brought an even more enormous amount of clothes.)

RUSSIAN  UPDATE. Russian is crazy. We learned this week how to express wanting something. In Russian, instead of saying "God wants us to be happy" you say "God wants so that we were happy." Explain that. You can't. My vocabulary is increasing, but also has some major holes. So I can say fast but not small, big but not small, tomorrow but not yesterday. It's funny how that happens when you learn a language. I'll work on it. I have a really hard time sounding out words. It feels like I'm in Kindergarten again. We read the scriptures aloud every once in a while, and the best thing ever is when I get to read "and it came to pass" because that's one of the only phrases I can read fluidly. We taught our first TRC lesson this week. TRC is where Russian speakers from Provo/Orem area come in and you teach them as themselves, a RM or member or whoever they are. Our first one was with a 16-year old who had been adopted from Ukraine. We seriously could not understand anything he was saying and it was so frustrating and terrifying. Like "crap I've been here 2 weeks and couldn't pick a single word out of that." We came out and our teacher said, "okay sisters, I watched that on the camera, and don't be too frustrated. Every time you had no idea what he was saying, he was speaking UKRANIAN." So there may yet be hope for me as a Russian-speaking missionary. Tonight for TRC we're teaching our mission president's daughter, who just got here to start BYU and is really good friends with our teacher (which is why she's coming) and speaks Russian fluently. So no pressure there. I'll let you know how it goes. 

We left the MTC this week! I needed to go get the PIN on my debit card set up so we took a field trip to Wells Fargo (I know, big adventure). It was SO WEIRD to get in a van and just be driven out of the MTC. It feels equally weird to just walk out the gates to go to the temple on Pday. It's funny because it kind of feels like I'm locked in the MTC. I feel like I can't leave. But I realized that I totally can leave. The gates are never locked. They aren't holding us captive here and forcing mountains of rules on us. (Just realized it sounds like I think I'm in prison. I don't think I'm in prison. I love the MTC.) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it was cool to remember that being here and following the rules is a choice every day; they don't force you to obey them, you choose to. #Agency

Some things in my MTC life are getting trashy. For example, my nails. When I entered the MTC my nails were looking beautiful. Until I broke like 3 of them playing volleyball and kick ball during gym time. Now they are abysmally trashy. I think they should have a nail salon here. Another trashy thing is our district's games with combination locks. When you enter the MTC, they give you a combination lock, like you use for lockers. None of us use ours, so there are 7 combination locks floating around our classroom. This turns into a game of locking each other's stuff shut when we're not in the room. It's awesome. Finally, probably the white trashiest thing about my MTC life is my morning tea. I really really love morning tea. But I don't have a Keurig here. So I figured out a makeshift system. I boil the water in the hand steamer I brought for my sweaters. Then I pour it into the glass I borrowed for 9 weeks from the cafeteria. And drink my tea. I don't think I can possibly explain how trashy this looks, but it's the best part of my morning. 

Have I told you guys about our Russian branch's sacrament meeting? IT STARTS AT 7:30 AM. Except we have to be there at 7:00, because it's our branch president's rule. So we sing Russian hymns for 30 minutes. Which is actually all kinds of lovely. Then, for sacrament meeting, we all prepare talks IN RUSSIAN. And the branch president randomly calls on missionaries to give their talks. It's seriously the scariest thing ever. I haven't gotten called on yet, but I'll let you know when it does. The cool thing about it is that I can understand pretty much all of the talks. Not because I understand Russian, but because all the missionaries only know certain phrases in Russian from our books. So I can pick up on them. It makes for somewhat boring sacrament meetings, but it's pretty sweet to understand it.

I worry that the people of Kiev aren't going to know to use my 14 church phrases and will use their own expressions. 

Anyway, this week during personal study I did some studying about grace. As we all know, I love the principle of grace. I study it a lot, but this week I learned something interesting about it. Typically, grace has been explained to me and I have understood it as the thing that makes up what I can't. If Godly perfection is 100% and I can make it to 10% on my own, then grace makes up the other 90%. But my view of grace changed a little bit this week. I think that it is only because of grace that I can have hope of making it to 10%. Without grace, I would be permanently stuck at 0. I wouldn't be able to progress. This is what grace now means to me: I go as far as I can with Christ - be it 1 or 10 or 40 percent - and then, when I can go no more, He will carry me the rest of the way, no matter how far it is. And that grace - taking the journey from 0 to 100% with me - is why grace could not be anything besides love-inspired. 

Anyway, I love being a missionary. (I say that every week, don't I?) I love that I get so much time to be quiet and reverent. I love the high level of introspection, reflection, and changing that comes with being a missionary. I love getting letters. And I love the small miracles that I find sprinkled throughout my life. Here's my small miracle of yesterday: A sister who lives next to me and is headed to the Ukraine any day now (visa delays), came in to talk to us because her whole district was gone and it was pretty lonely in the room. We got talking and ended up having a little liberal Mormon bonding session. It was seriously so relieving to be like "right, I'm not the only one here who thinks x, y, and z." It was incredibly refreshing to just be able to talk unfiltered about what I think and feel. Filtering is hard for me (as we all know). So that was my small miracle of the day.

Anyway, thanks everyone for the letters and dearelders and packages (but not the emails, because my WHOLE FAMILY (all 3 of them) forgot to email me) and prayers. I'm the luckiest.

All the love,

Hannah



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