Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On the Downward Spiral-ish

Hello family and friends,

Can you believe it? The downward spiral has begun and there are only 3.5 weeks left to being here at the MTC and we are starting our English Teaching Training! For the next two weeks, we are going to do online training/classes at night from 7:30 - 9 PM in the computer lab to get the theory and fundamentals down, then the week following we will go the to BYU English Training Center (ETC) and actually lead a group of 15-20 adults and teach them English. It is really cool because the ETC is an actually working-lab for Masters students at BYU in order to be an English Second Language (ESL) teacher and needed for their graduation, so this is legitimate certification and I am so excited about the opportunity. Who knows what will come because of it, but I know that I am going to love every moment of it and I will be sure to take a picture of it.

My zone
Going back to last week's email, though, we DID have an apostle come to the MTC; it was Elder Rasband. Holy heck, this is the 2nd Apostle that I have seen (Elder Anderson came on Jan. 12, but I think that I forgot to write about it because that was one week into the MTC and I was EXTREMELY overwhelmed at that time) and his devotional was amazing. He had a microphone and got off the stage and walked around just asking questions and allowing us to ask him questions as well, but he would walk and basically be face-to-face with the person asking the question. My favorite part of his teachings was how every single missionary was hand-selected to go to their assigned zone and how those decisions were guided by the Spirit 'perfectly' and how we should not doubt the reason that we are being placed in our locations. I have had it witnessed to me over and over again why I am going to Mongolia, so I am not worried about it necessarily, but to have an Apostle also say this, talk about amazing!

In other news, the rest of my Zone is leaving or will be gone by 8 AM tomorrow morning, so I am now part of the oldest group on campus for having been here the longest. I had to say good-bye to my Cambodia-destined, Hmong-speaking, and Vietnamese-speaking friends and that is always a little rough. You never expect to love your Zone or think that leaving the MTC will be hard, but it is and we already have plans to meet up again and have an MTC reunion in 2017. I love them very much and these are amazing people that I am surrounded by! (One cool little tidbit of information: all difficult languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong--basically all Asian languages--are here for 9 weeks, but Mongolian is here for 10 because of the extra week for English Training practicum. So by my last week, my District will be the oldest on campus).
These are the wonderful sisters in my Zone (a mix of Cambodian, Thai, and Mongolian) and our farewell to them on Sunday night

Saying bye to the Cambos and Hmongs (blurry!)
It has also been really beautiful here lately and has been warming up to the high 40s, low 50s and there has been Spring fever in the air. Literally. On Saturday, it was so beautiful that we couldn't resist and went outside to study from the scriptures for an hour and it was beautiful, but there was this breeze that we were sitting in and I was wearing a cardigan, but not a jacket (also, I had just taken a quick shower, so my hair was damp-ish) and I felt great, until the next day. On Sunday I was feeling a little off and I kept sneezing and I just blew it off as me being paranoid about my health, so I didn't think anything of it--I know better, though, because I ONLY sneeze multiple times in a day at the onset of a cold. So yesterday happened and I woke up with this AWFUL cough, the kind where it feels like it is coming from your lungs and you cannot cough it out without slightly choking--it was BAD. I then started to take all of this medicine: Day Quill, Allergies medicine, Cold-eeze, and also Musinex. It was a very long day in my life and the medicine made me tired, so my Mongolian basically went out the window because I could barely think straight. I went to bed wishing for that soup that Momi/Leo will make (hahah, like that time that Momi dropped off some soup and rice at the Townhouse for me and Morgan came with her carrying a hot pot pad). This morning I woke up with the same cough-ish. I took medicine again (basically the same variety as above) and I am actually feeling a lot better, but I still have this cough, but my nose is fine. So, keep my health in your prayers, please, I cannot afford to miss any days of class. I am going to try to squeeze in a 30 minute nap soon, so that should help. Moral of the story: enjoy the beautiful weather, but you might want to do that with dry hair and a jacket. Oh man, at least I am sick here and not Mongolia. I am going to be sure to stock up again on the day quill/night quill before leaving.
Saying bye to the Cambos and Hmongs

One really cool thing that happened while I was sitting outside was that I was 'street contacted' by some Elders who were heading to Houston, Spanish-speaking. They were learning how to start conversations and just saw that I looked Hispanic and started talking to me, it was basic enough that I could understand everything that they were saying, so I just went with it. Lol, their opening statement to me was, 'Hola, do you know where we were before earth?' (in Spanish) and so was going to say 'I don't know' in Spanish as a reply when, instead of saying it in Spanish, it came out in Mongolian. This is the exact opposite of the problem that I had when I first got here! I had to mentally shut off the English and the Mongolian part of my brain to pull out the Spanish; I don't know if that makes sense, but I loved it. I really cannot wait to be fluent in Mongolian and then come back and pick up Spanish and whatever other language that I want. It will be wonderful!

Alright, I am running out of time, but I love you very much! This has been another great week at the Provo MTC and I love being a missionary.

With all my love
Sister Olsen

PS - I got my Mongolian badge!!! I will take a picture and send it next week, my name is crazy looking!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I Love Today and My Mission!

​Dear family and friends,

Oh my heck, can I just tell you how much I love you and I love today! There are birds chirping, I can see the blue sky, it is good weather, I had a donut for breakfast, and I am just happy! Honest to goodness, I am happy. It is a very good feeling. (We also night get an Apostle at the devotional tonight, but we never know who is speaking until 30 minutes prior to it beginning. It is just that I am in the walk-in choir and they said to make sure that we look our best and get as many singers as possible, so that is a clue that tonight is going to be great).

Thank you for my package! Way to go Broncos!
This week has been such a roller coaster, but that seems to be the theme here at the MTC where one minute it is going amazing and the next you are flat on you back, but you always get up again. On Tuesday last week, we had a member of the Seventy, Elder Dube, come and speak to us and he was AMAZING. He started by asking a question that just stuck with me, 'Do you feel as great as you look?' I think the reason that I keep thinking about this question is that it is the most amazing thing to be completely surrounded by missionaries and seeing them with their name tags, I sometimes forget that I am also a missionary, and can feel that I am surrounded by good people. Every single person on this campus has put their life on hold for 18-24 months in consecrated service, and whenever I see them, they just look radiant. So the question is, does your inside attitude match the way that other people see you? My answer varies from 'of course!' to 'meh, it is just an off sort of day', back to 'Yes!', and so on. So, family, do you feel as great as you look? I think that you all look amazing and wonderful; I look at your pictures and just love you so much!

After our wonderful Tuesday devotional, the next day in class, we basically had an 'Intervention' session by our teacher. It was really strange because we were all just in class with our regular moods (not always on the edge of excitement because we have now spent basically every waking hour with one another for the past 30 days, but just kind of there), when--in the middle of the lesson--our teacher just stops the grammar principle and asks us how we are doing. It was a very spiritual lesson where we were reading from the Book of Mormon and Bible and I believe it is in Mormon 5:3 (or something like that, I currently do not have my scriptures on me) and Mormon says something along the lines of, 'I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, a Son of God; my mission is to preach everlasting life..". Basically, it was VERY powerful and we just had a heart-to-heart. The next morning, the other set of teachers continued the heart-to-heart with us and we had time to contemplate the reason that we chose to go on a mission. It was a really great experience because being at the MTC is hard, there is a high level of commitment that we must constantly apply and a lot of pressure to learn the language quickly because we only have a limited amount of time to help people (it is better to learn the language ASAP so that you can do as much service as possible out in the field) and now the departure date is quickly approaching; the field is going to be so much harder. I guess that because there are not a lot of people out there trying to learn Mongolian--go figure--and so Mongolians do not really understand broken-Mongolian the way other languages understand (i.e. broken English, broken Spanish). So, the pressure is on, but I feel really good about my progression, it is slow, but steady. After our session, we were given the challenge to memorize Joseph Smith's First Vision in Mongolian, and I have 2/3 of it down. I am working on the ending half today. If it were possible, I would recite it to you right now, but I cannot. So take my word on it. :)

This is us saying "Hi" to he Thai District 
You bow to each other and put your hands to your face!
Also, for about 2 hours, we thought that they moved up our departure date to March 8 instead of March 17 and I had a mini panic attack. I NEED those 10 days! There was a group of us that just kind of freaked out, but it turned out to be a false alarm, so we are back to the 17th of March. Thank goodness. I think one of my biggest worries was because of the food, as superficial as that is, because an extra 10 days is not going to make the largest impact on the amount of language.

I do want to tell you about three different discussions that my companion and I gave, though! Two were on Saturday were we teach just a church member as a practice--it is a 20 minute lesson on any principle we chose, which was on Faith and Hope--to help bring people to Christ. It is always nice because we know that the member is going to give us the benefit of the doubt and be willing to answer questions, but again, this is a 20 minute lesson in pure Mongolian. So the first guy that we got spoke so quickly and quietly that I did not understand almost anything, haha, I even accidentally skipped to the end of the lesson when we were only halfway through and blundered through it all. I walked out feeling very... humbled. The next lesson, though, was great!! The member that we taught spoke Mongolian at a higher level than me, but it felt attainable! He spoke well, read quickly, and was just so nice! I felt like my confidence rose because I understood basically everything that he said. We were then given an evaluation by the member and it turns out that the first one that I blundered through said that the little bit of Mongolian that we knew and used was great and that he felt the Spirit very strongly.

In class Sunday morning
This is also us hanging out in the hall (during the class time, we will get a 2-4 minute break every hour or two) and this is actually what we will do
The best experience was last night, at 6:30 PM we skyped Mongolia!!! Sister Guild and I gave our first discussion to a member in Ulaanbaatar and it was so great, I honestly just loved him. It was that type of love where I just wanted to be out there, I want to do whatever I can to serve the people, whether I could speak or not, and just help. In the middle of the lesson, I was reading a paragraph from a talk and when I finished, I looked up and asked if he understood, he said no. So then about 5 minutes later, there was another quote that I read, and I totally goofed and read the exact same paragraph again with the same result. We ended up just laughing about it for a couple minutes, but even with that huge mess-up, I still knew that I loved him and hoped that he would get some sort of message from the Spirit that I could not convey in words.

It was wonderful. I love what I am doing. I love the people around me and this beautiful language. I know that I am going to Mongolia because this is how the Lord could best reach my heart and help me become the best version of myself as possible.

I miss you and hope you are having a wonderful day!

Sister Olsen

I dyed my hair and I love it! Thanks Mami
Found a secret room IN THE BATHROOM! Like Narnia!
Secret room in the bathroom
Sister Olsen with Sister Bottorff who is also from Colorado

 **Reminder, Sister Olsen's MTC information is located at the top of the blog on the right for those interested in using Dear Elder, a free mailing service that is available while Sister Olsen is still at the MTC. She won't be there for too much longer!**

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week 5 -- Half Way Completed and Barely Ready

Dear family and friends,

Can you believe that I am starting on Week 6 of 10, only 4 more weeks to go, and it feels like time is flying by! I can look back and see the progress that is being made and the blessings that are surrounding me each day, but if I accidentally look too far ahead, it is so completely overwhelming. Lol, those are the moments that I feel like I need a paper sack to breathe into to prevent a panic attack, but I cannot wait to get out to Mongolia. Our teacher took a few minutes to show us some pictures from his days of service (about 2 years ago) and the food was actually terrifying--there were pictures of him holding a roasted sheep head (you can buy it in the streets for about $1) and he had something that he was taking a bite from which turned out to be cooked eyelid skin; so if you ever feel like you are craving something delicious, I guess this is a good go-to out there. I think that I am going to starve.

Sister Guild and Sister Olsen

Sister Fifita and Sister Olsen
Any way, this week has been amazing and I feel like I have turned over a new leaf in regards to the learning and my effort associated with it. It is no longer 'new' grammar rules that we are learning anymore and there are phrases that are starting to become familiar, so now I need to focus on learning the vocabulary words and really mastering the grammar rules, I do not want to just coast for the next 30 odd days. On Saturday was our official 30 day mark and in the morning we gave another TRC lesson and it was the first time that I felt like I flopped and there was no recovery. I mispronounced one word so terribly that the person we were teaching just stared at me and suddenly I lost all of my confidence to finish strong, these are one of the only times that we are evaluated, and afterwards I read that she felt like we really wanted to share a message with her. Even with the good feedback, I just remembered feeling like Mongolian was so far out of reach that I just sat through the following language learning block feeling absolutely defeated. After the class and sulking though lunch (on the inside), I then went to the bookstore, bought yet another 2 notebooks and am trying to change the way that I study because so far it isn't working as quickly as I would hope. Keep your fingers crossed and me in your prayers, I need as much help as I can get. That night, though, we taught another lesson to our District and with only about 20 minutes to prepare (finding the materials, translating sentences), we taught a GREAT 10 minute lesson. When we were getting ready for bed, I sat there amazed that only 30 days earlier, I could barely ask what someone's name was, and now I taught a lesson on the Word of Wisdom, in Mongolian of all languages! I mean, 31 days earlier, I was trying o finish watching all the Star Wars movies.
In the cafeteria with my district

This picture was taken this morning. When you wear jeans they give you a sack lunch to eat in your room. :)
I do have this feeling, though, that I am going to really learn the language once I get out to the field because that I when I will not be able to speak English. As much as I am trying to stay humbled, but constantly being corrected by peers who may or may not actually know if they are saying the words correctly is not necessarily the most fun thing in the world--I feel like I have a live-and-let-live mentality with Mongolian where I am not running around correcting people because I know that I do not have a perfect knowledge. At least with a native or training companion, there is no doubt that they know what they are saying and will teach me correctly--they will just speak a lot faster, so that is going to be a challenge. I knew that this was going to be the hard part about the language learning process, constantly being corrected, so I really am trying to stay patient and understanding that they are really just trying to help and if we do not practice, we cannot make improvement. After all, 'if I have faith, I will speak the language.' Faith being that complete belief, hope, and then doing everything in my power to accomplish the task; learning from others is part of the journey. 

I really just love this picture so much! 

I still love what I am doing and am learning so much about the gospel of Jesus Christ, how to be a good person, and how much God loves all of his children.

I love you!

Sister Olsen 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Week Four


So, this has been one great week here at the MTC and ABSOLUTELY beautiful because it has been lightly snowing almost every day. There are these coverings over all of the sidewalks connecting the buildings, so even though it has been snowing, you are only outside for a couple minutes and do not get covered in the elements--it is pretty fantastic and no jacket needed. On Saturday, we had the most beautiful snowstorm all day and it would have been perfect to sit in and watch a movie in sweats, but instead, I was in a skirt and practiced teaching gospel lessons in Mongolian, studied, and then studied more until 9:00 PM. 

The gospel lesson that we taught was interesting because we decided to just read the scriptures aloud with the member and asked questions and tried to share some insight, but the Spirit was the main teacher, which is how it should always be. All of that practicing almost every day is helping and my goal is to be able to read at a faster pace before I leave, but it is just  a matter of time. Looking at the bigger perspective, I am aiming to learn at least conversational skills in Mongolian by the time that I leave the MTC in 10 weeks whereas the average American English-speaker takes 9-12 months to get to that point. Keep your fingers crossed!

Anyway,  I feel like I am kind of stumped as what to write about, so I will tell you about my FAVORITE day, which is Sunday. So we will typically wake up for a cereal breakfast at 7:20 - 8:00 AM and go to class and do personal/language study until 11:30 AM. During this time, we are also given a topic to prepare a short 5 minute talk that you might be called to give during Sacrament. I was called on for my second week and it was GREAT, but now I am pretty much guaranteed not to be called on for the rest of my time here. Sacrament is until 12:30 and then we go to lunch.

Matching Mongolia Shirts

The lunch is usually AMAZING and very delicious because the food is more like roast beef and mashed potatoes. They also have ice cream that they serve from the BYU creamery and it is good. From 1:20 - 2:15 we have Relief Society, then a District meeting until 3;00. At this time, we will get together as a class and talk about what we learned during Sacrament Meeting and prepared for the 5 minute lesson.

After this, we take that great Temple walk (usually where most of my pictures come from) and walk to the Provo Temple about 2 blocks from the campus. I cannot even describe how much fun it is to just get together and take a bunch of pictures. It is an hour of just fun!

The last zone picture - about 10 of these individuals have entered their mission field! 

We usually go to dinner from 4:00 - 5:00--due to lunch being so delicious just 3 hours earlier, the dinner is always a bit of a let down. Luckily, there is usually left-overs to grab and stuff down again.

After dinner, we go to Choir practice (we perform on Tuesday devotionals) and it is just a walk-in choir. The director is great at giving background story to the music and it is very edifying. I would encourage EVERYONE to go to choir when they come the the MTC.

Finally, we have a live devotional from 7 - 8 and a recorded devotional from a previous date from 8-9. These last two hours are my favorite and pump you up for the rest of the week. :)

Alright, well, let me know if you have any questions you want answered and I love you all!

Sister Olsen

The girls from the zone - Cambodia, Thailand, Mong speaking, and Vietnamese speaking

Sister Olsen in her bed; she LOVES the blanket her mom made for her before she left

**Reminder, Sister Olsen's MTC information is located at the top of the blog on the right for those interested in using Dear Elder, a free mailing service that is available while Sister Olsen is still at the MTC.**

[posted by Allie]