Monday, April 25, 2016

I Have Become a Clutz! - Week 17

Dear Family and Friends,

So, the most awful thing has happened and I have become a clutz here in Mongolia. I have tripped so many times that I cannot even count it (i.e. at least 5 times a day), I have almost fallen down concrete steps on three different occasions (this ones thankfully I have been able to catch a handrail in time), and I keep accidentally dropping my money. Seriously, this one is the worst. Last week I dropped 500 T outside when I was in the country-ish and we were able to chase them all down, one landed in mud and my companion fished it out for me--so the 500 is about the equivalent on $0.25--but yesterday I dropped 500 T again and was not able to catch most of it, I was only able to save 200 T. This one was ridiculous because I was in the outskirts of the city and when it dropped, I was next to a semi-busy street and watched a couple hundreds float off in the wind, we caught one because it was run over and smushed into the road. I hope that someone really needs that money because there must have been a reason that i keep dropping this. Lol, normally it is not a big deal, but my bus card ran out of money and since it was a Sunday, I couldn't put more money on it, so I had to take all the buses with cash. I hate carrying small amounts of cash, so I only had a limited supply and here I was letting go of one bus ride in the wind. The struggle is real, but I made it through. :)

So this has been a really good week in Mongolia. On Tuesday we had a training for New Missionaries and the funniest thing happened when I walked out of the class. I was looking around and everything felt so familiar, I actually reached into my bag to look for my phone because I was going to just call home to check in. This would happen all the time when I was at BYU-I where I would randomly just call home to see what was going on because I had the time. It was in the middle of having my hand in my bag that it ihit me that I was a missionary and that I did not carry a personal cell phone to call home. My body just kind of reverted and I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am more comfortable here and it is not completely overwhelming like the fist month. Even the speech patterns are becoming familiar, not to say that I understand what is being said, but I now look for words that I understand. Haha, needless to say, I was not able to call home on Tuesday, but the thought was there! It would have been about 5 AM for you, so I don't think you would have wanted to hear from me at that time anyways. 

One really great thing is that I have started to really LOVE my English class that I am teaching. Don't get me wrong, this is a ridiculously hard assignment, but there is joy in the struggle. This week, they have increased the classes that we teach and now, in addition to the 6-8th graders, I am also going to work with the 10-12th graders; with the increase of the 6 classes, I will only teach the lower set on Thursdays and the older set on Tuesdays, teaching from 8 AM to 2 PM both days. The interesting thing about this schedule is that due to the large portion of the day going into English and then the additional 4 hours of study I do daily, I will be lucky to meet with a single person on those days. For Americans, with the visa and English classes, with the addition of this being a non-proselyting mission, it is important to work with the members. We only have a limited amount of time to meet with people and need to make it count. When teaching, though, I am still being a good missionary so even though I cannot meet with people in their homes during that time nor talk to people on the street, by being friendly and keeping a good attitude will do just as much as anything else. This is the Lord's work and He will lead us to people that are prepared. 

On Wednesday I hit my one-month mark in Mongolia! Can you believe it?? During the day, I can feel every minute, but then you look back and realize that the week is already over and it is P-Day again. So to celebrate, I got a little cake and ice cream, it was delicious! Yesterday, though, I met with my first investigator who is starting from ground zero where they have never had a single lesson before. I am really excited to see what happens and if they keep meeting with us! She is really great and we spent about 40 minutes trying to find her house yesterday, it really was a miracle that we found it. We were guided there, I know it. She gave us delicious bread and listened kindly.

I love her. I love the ward that I am in--oh my goodness, one of the members gave me a hymn book that she wrote a letter in and decorated, it was so sweet. I cannot wait to see what else is going to happen on this mission because it is wonderful.

With all my love,

Sister Jessica Olsen

Monday, April 18, 2016

Another Great Week In Mongolia - Week 16

Hello family and friends,

This is the Mission Home and Church building that my branch meets at. On the top floor was where I stayed for my first night here in Mongolia.
This is also my district, the two Elders, the Ward Mission leader, me, one of our Ward Missionaries (she is putting in her papers this year) and my companion
So the most wonderful feeling came to me yesterday while I was on a bus to go out and visit a member, and oh my goodness, I am in Mongolia. Mongolia. I was sitting there and thought, who would ever picture me here. This is the land of the blue sky and everyday is getting a little warmer and you can see that the plants are going to start to come back to life soon. It is great! I went to church yesterday and realized that I think I know more Mongolian than I give myself credit for; I am starting to become friends with the members of the ward and more people are trying to talk to me. That is such a double-edged sword because as soon as they talk to me, they want me to talk back, and then I get all flustered because I didn't understand what they said originally... so I just smile and say, "I am learning Mongolian. Can you repeat?" Lol, there was this really cute little 8 year old girl who was just baptized about 2 months ago and she wanted to talk to me, but I couldn't understand her. It was also in the middle of Sacrament, so I was trying to whisper that we would talk later, when she ran off for a few minutes. I thought that she gave up. It turns out, she went to find someone to translate her question into English and then cam running back and again shouted it to me in the middle of Sacrament. What was more awful was that I still didn't understand, but after Sacrament she went missing, so I couldn't follow up.

I am pretty sure that we are going to be best friends, so I will find her again next week. :)

This is the center of the town

A view of the city. Look at those clouds!
This week, we were able to watch the Women's Conference and that conference basically had me tearing up every two seconds. There are so many opportunities to do good, I had a thought come to mind (that originated during the full General Conference), I think that I am going to try to teach an English class to the Denver 4th ward when I get home. There was a thought that came to mind saying that I was sent here for a reason and one of those reasons might be that I am learning skills that will bless the lives of those in Colorado. With my schedule and assuming that I move into the family ward eventually (Denver 4th, I'll be there soon), I am going to have more free time because there won't be as many activities as the Singles Ward. So, since we cannot do activities on Monday because of FHE, maybe I could set it up for Tuesdays or Thursdays for about an hour, also assuming that I will be hired again with a similar schedule of 8-5 PM. It would be such a good missionary tool for the Elders and Sisters to invite investigators (or even find investigators) and Less Actives to learn a good skill, it would give me something to do with my extra time, and I would be able to give service to others. This is just a thought, I mean I have more than a year to think about it. I just wanted to throw it out there, what do you think?

Look at the snow! 

The view from my window. It's so beautiful!

This week has been very good. We had two surprise snow storms and I was able to get a really cool picture, it did make for two very cold days. I am going to really have to dress warmer by the winter because with these two little storms, my face froze off. I carry around a scarf with me everywhere I go, but then the next day it is nice outside. Mongolia is a lot like Colorado where the weather changes every two minutes, except Mongolia is a little more extreme with the temperature changes. For a minute this week, I thought that my camera was lost! My mind immediately jumped to the idea that it was pick-pocketed, I was really sad/frustrated about it (pick-pocketing is about the worst thing that happens here, it is very safe otherwise). The Lord let me sulk over that for a long 2 hours before suddenly I found it wedged into a crevice by my bed. I am learning my lesson and will switch out my memory card so that at least the beginning part of my mission will be saved--I have taken so many pictures. At first here in Mongolia, I have been very hesitant to take pictures out in public, but I don't think it will be a problem so long as I am smart about it. You know, don't look like a tourist.

Bah, the biggest change is that I finally started teaching my English class. Oh my heck, I am teaching middle school aged kids (6, 7, and 8 Grade). It is a hot mess. So the school is a private institution, I believe, and all the kids are in uniforms, but I am teaching the pre-teens who feel like they do not have to listen to anything and it is like herding cats; some of the kids really know English and have lived in an English-speaking country previously, and others do not know a single word. There is such a huge spread, I teach for 12 hours a week, so Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 AM to 2 PM. The first time that I taught was on Thursday and I felt like I had to basically shout the entire time, and I don't like shouting, but you had to get their attention some how. I tried to do that thing where if you speak quietly, they will quite down, that doesn't work. It is crazy trying to get order in the classroom because the disciplinary principles are different, Mongolian teachers are allow to give a swift swat to get a student's attention. We cannot do that and the student's know it. I think the 6th graders are the hardest to teach because they don't want to be in the class and they want to be 'cool', but it gets easier as you go up in grade. The 8th graders were the easiest, but there was also a Mongolian teacher there for discipline. 

I am determined to somehow get the student's respect and find a way to want them to learn English. This is a huge part of my calling here, so I might as well find a way to enjoy it. I have a companion teacher, so there are two of us in the class and we'll hopefully be able to figure something out. 
Ger district that I serve in (Harhad). It looks warm, but it is actually FREEZING COLD. 

This is a family that we met, we had visited the Grandma a couple times already and called another member to visit her, only to find out that it was her daughter. Hahahah, it was a funny moment, but I love them.
I love you!
Sister Olsen

This is the ger district that I serve in (harhad)

This was taken during our big planning session for the week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Week of Training - Week 15

Dear Family and Friends,

Oh my heck, this has been such a fun and crazy week here in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia! We have had quite a few training meetings and I have been able to spend time learning how to be a better missionary despite any language issues--that will come with time and faith. Mongolian is considered a hard language for a reason, to be fair, all languages are difficult to learn so my heart goes out to any single person trying to learn anything other than their native language. 

To begin the week, we had Zone Conference on Tuesday and it was WONDERFUL! It was a full-day event from 9 AM to 4 PM and all of the missionaries in our Zone were able to come together and be edified. Our Mission President is amazing at switchin
g between English and Mongolian (think of Popi with English and Spanish) where every missionary was given a headphone and had to take turns wearing it and taking it off depending on the language that was being spoken. President Benson is making our mission a dual-language mission, so all Americans learn Mongolian and all the Mongolians are learning English, it is really cool. So to begin, you will randomly be called to give a 3 minute talk and it needs to be in both languages, and about 10 people go through this. We then were spoken to about different subjects like Faith, Diligence, Learning to Find, and Being a Good Teacher. It was fantastic. To finish the conference, the rest of us who did not give a talk was asked to bear a 2 minute testimony (in both languages). It is nice because I was able to say most of it in Mongolian, but for the part where my thoughts became too complex for the Mongolian that I have learned, I was able to say it in English. 

I spent Wednesday with the Sister Training Leader on a split--this is where you spend the evening and next day with one of the STL's seeing how they work--and it was nice because you learn different ways of being a missionary. My trainer has an amazing ability to understand and have correct pronunciation in Mongolian even though she has only been here for 10  months, this is what is most important to her. The STL that I spent the day with (Sister Bennett, she also has a blog) has a different approach and is so stinkin' friendly with all of her investigators and speaks a little louder where I just had a feeling that she shows her love by being friendly with them. Right now, I feel like I mostly can only offer a smile, but in the end, I want to being able to ask questions and let them know that I really care about how they are doing. I love people by trying to be their friend. I don't know if that makes complete sense, but I want to make people happier than before we met. I want to be able to serve them a relieve their burden by any small degree, even if it is with a happy attitude. I loved it and am really excited for the different transfers that will be coming my way, there are so many personalities out here and I cannot wait to see what I can learn.

My favorite day of my entire mission came on Thursday, this was such a fun day! We started with the normal studies (about 4 hours every morning) and I was able to work with my companion about both of us contributing to the work, even though we are both still learning how to be good missionaries. The Lord's hand was in the work. I had two people who came to mind and as soon as we reached out to them, they were able to make appointments with us and or give us reference of who to reach out to. It was amazing! It was such a small thing, too. We also reached out to a Less Active member that we haven't been able to speak with for the past 2 weeks and she finally answered the phone and let us know that we would be able to meet with her. Right now!

So we basically went running out of our apartment because we still had to take that hour long bus ride. Off we went and had an appointment in the same area 3 hours later, so this was divine intervention that led us to call here out of the blue. The problem, though, is that we didn't know quite which stop to get off at because there may have been another stop rather than the one we usually take. It turns out, the bus doesn't stop twice for this little Gep district--we saw the town that we needed to get out at quickly fading in the rearview window of the bus--these buses also speed down these country roads. We were able to get out about 5-7 minutes (riding time) after the stop that we missed. We had some time, so we decided to walk it.

Oh my heck, what a decision to make. The wind was STRONG and we walked right into it--I saw this little brown finch trying to fly into the headwind and it was flapping it's little wings and made absolutely no progress. I thought that it was going to be a quick 20 minute walk because we didn't ride the bus for too long, but again, I was wrong. It was a solid hour walk into the wind and every time I smiled I probably swallowed a pound of dirt, I would estimate that we ended up walking about 3 miles. With the cold wind, it felt like an eternity, but we were in the country-ish, so it was absolutely beautiful. I would take that walk again. 

We then wandered around the district for another 45 minutes trying to find her house, if you do not know the neighborhood, it is so easy to get lost. Luckily, none of the stray dogs were aggressive, I will have to take a picture some time of these dogs. Finally, we were just kind of standing there at a loss, when I saw this guy walking toward us and I had a feeling that he was going to be able to help. Well, he was probably a little tipsy, but he was able to help. We handed him the phone and the lady told him how to get to her house (directions are hard to understand in Mongolian) and so he led us along... except he held my hand the entire time. It is kind of a Mongolian thing to hold hands, everyone does it. I wasn't sure if I should have pulled my hand away, but I was wearing gloves (and looked like a goober with my hat and ear muffs), so I figured it was okay.

We made it and was able to share a nice lesson with the member. She is so cute and was watching her little 2 year old grandson, it was like being at home. With all the time lost between trying to get there, we could only stay with her for about 30 minutes before heading out to the next appointment. The next lady, when we got to her house, ended up having an issue at work and wasn't home, so we met with her mom, two daughters. and neighbor. Those kids made my day! I let the little one wear my badge and we played a game where they told me how to sat body parts in Mongolian (like eyes, chin, hands) it was really cute. 

I loved this day so much because absolutely nothing worked out the way that I thought it would, but I don't feel like a single moment was wasted. The Lord knew that we were trying with every possible way to fulfill our calling and I think that the full effort was what counted. We built relationships and I wouldn't trade that for the world.

Being a missionary is VERY humbling, but I am glad that I am here. I think that I am learning how to be a better person for it.

I love you all!

Sister Olsen

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Work is Starting

Dear family and friends,

So last week I ran out of time and wasn't really able to get as many pictures sent home as I thought, so we'll try again! I am starting with a plan to write my big letter and kind of planned out what I was going to say about this week--very missionary of me with even planning out my letter to you. :)

To begin, I want to let you know that I absolutely LOVE the ward that I am in! I work in two different Ger Districts and the border of the city--with both of the Ger Districts, one is more out in the country (about an hour bus ride) and the other is more on the border of the city and they both have such a different feel to it. The one out in the country is nice just because there is more room and you can see the mountains better, it has a very calm feeling to it. I just went to the one in the city and it is a bit more crowded and it feels like you are going on a little hike each time you visit because it is up and down hills. I am getting such a work-out every single day! 

One really cool thing that happened is seeing how the Lord really does let all things work together for your benefit. On Wednesday, we had a District Meeting and I was assigned to give the Spiritual Thought--they asked that it is about 5 minutes in length and my Mongolian is going out the window because my brain is so overwhelmed--so I put in a lot of effort to be prepared to convey my thoughts. It was amazing because in the meeting, there was a Senior Couple that had the meeting translated into English, so as I was giving my thought, I heard someone else making it into English; they understood everything that I was trying to say! Oh my heck, it was amazing and I felt so much more confident about it. Then that night, we had a last-minute appointment with a less-active member and called her, was invited over, and was on a bus within a 10 minute span; since this was a last-minute appointment, we didn't have anything formally prepared and it was going to be a getting-to-know-you sort of meeting. Well, I was asked to lead the discussion and even though I couldn't understand any of the pleasantries at the beginning of the meeting, I was able to share the same spiritual thought. More than that, I already knew that it was understandable in Mongolian, so I was more confident about everything.

You could see that the member was surprised when I started to talk because I couldn't communicate just minutes earlier. So the way that I learned Mongolian is that I learned how to teach gospel lessons and understand gospel terms, the rest will come by immersion and independent study, so there are large gaps in my communication ability at this point. It will come with time. The member was able to ask questions about different principles and I was able to use to Book of Mormon to help point toward answers. I felt like it was a huge success and the first real lesson that I had since coming to Mongolia in Mongolian. She like us so much, that she even offered us dinner--fish. It was a fish with whiskers and bones. I saw her chop the head off, but I ate it. The Lord really does bless you with a stomach of steel because this fish was given to us when she didn't have anything else, it wasn't from her abundance, so how in the world could I reject even a bite? Being here, I am so humbled by how blessed and comfortable my life back at home is.

The biggest change came from adjusting my expectations for the time of my training. I thought that I was going to be coddled every second of the day, but that is not how it is. I do not just get to shadow for the first 12 weeks while I learn how to be a missionary, but I have to hit the ground running. I have to work hard and be a contributing member to my companionship, even though I do not know what to offer. Even when you are in a new country learning a new language, you are still an adult. Before I came, I pictured my trainer completely different, but in all reality, she is still just a person trying her best to continue to learn the language and follow the promptings of the Spirit. What is even crazier is that they say that in the Mongolian mission, they want you to be prepared to be a trainer after the first 12 weeks and I will most likely be a trainer before my one year mark--just because the mission is smaller in quantity. Something like that, I just hope to learn as much as I can as fast as I can. My learning curve is still there, but I have only been here for less than a month, so I need to take it one step at a time. 

It is hard to be completely outside of your comfort zone, but the minute my feet leave the apartment, I completely forget about myself and love what I do.

I love you,

Sister Olsen