Monday, September 26, 2016

"Are you Asian or What?" - Week 39

Dear family and friends,
Guess what started again this week? If you guessed school, you are right! I am so happy!!! This year, I do not teach as much or as many students as I did last year, but they are all a bunch of goobers now just as much as before. I feel so lucky to be in this mission where we have the unusual assignment to teach at an actual institution as a part of my missionary assignment, being around all of these teenagers is a lot of fun and it really makes me want to be a seminary teacher in the morning (hint, hint). I was thinking about it and I would love to work with the teenagers in the morning to help build up their testimony and knowledge of the gospel enough to prepare them for their own mission or to just give them the courage to make good decisions throughout their life.

Back to school, though, walking into our first day of classes was the best feeling in the entire world. As Sis. Bollwinkel and I were walking to class, we were both extremely worried about what would happen if we walked in and all of the students absolutely hated us--I actually pictured them throwing chalk erasers at us and big puffs of chalk dusk choking us as we ducked and ran out of the classroom (lol, they don't even have those erasers here, just to show you how over-dramatic I was being). It was the opposite as it turns out, the older kids felt it, but the younger ones expressed it. We walked into the 7th grade class (we taught them as 6th graders last year) and every student had this same expression on their face of a surprise turning into a smile. A couple ran up and gave us a hug and were so happy when we said that we would be their teachers all year, we jumped right back into the swing of things and they have been SO GOOD. Our classes vary from 32 students down to 20 at a time, but it is a lot of fun. Lol, on Friday, one of the 12th graders became very confused about my ethnicity (it is really common out here as I feel like I am one of two Hispanic people in the entire country) and I heard them talking to themselves saying something about the Philippines, then finally came the question, 'Are you Asian or what?" Nice and blunt. Not many of them know where Venezuela is, but there was a really popular movie about 30 years ago about a Venezuelan that they use as a point of reference. Also, we subbed in for the 6th grader class and they were so sweet, they said that we were the prettiest and nicest teachers in the whole world. Ahh, I want to teach all of the students again!!

In other news, we had a really funny experience on Saturday when it came to extending a baptismal invitation. So we are meeting with this amazing couple, the wife being an RM (who was amazing, you can just tell) who just happened to become an ALA along the way, and for the past 2 weeks, we have been having a little difficulty meeting with the husband. However, every time we teach them, I get this feeling over and over again how they are a very special couple and once they start to progress, they are going to be amazing. So, on Saturday, we go and both of them are really sick with a cold, but they still let us in and share with them a message. My companion and I also knew that no matter what, we needed to extend the baptismal invitation that night. So at the end of our lesson after teaching about how families can be together forever and happy (they are pregnant due in December), my companion finally asks. He said 'ugyi' (no) and we were both confused. So we asked again in a different way. This time, he gave a longer explanation, but was talking too fast that I didn't understand almost anything. So, my companion asked again, this time he slowed down, but it still ended with a no, but not a 'shut door'. He said that he needed to learn more, he needed to read the book of Mormon, he needed to go to church, but the invitation was made. He now has a bigger goal in mind rather than us just telling him about what we believe for fun. Right before walking out the door, I did turn around and gave a very loud, 'please read the Book of Mormon' request and he said, 'za za, unshina' (okay okay, I will read). I still feel really good about them!

Then came Sunday when we were teaching another wonderful investigator, Bindriyaa. We finished teaching about the Savior's earthly ministry and then mentioned how He was baptized. As soon as we brought up the word, this huge smile started to form on her face. We talked about how important it was and when we extended the invitation, she said 'yes' right away and made promises of how she would completely prepare herself for the day. Let me tell you, if I ever believed in anyone, it is her. She is going to be such an amazing influence for good everywhere she goes, I just know it. As a matter of fact, when the lesson was ending and we were bearing our testimonies, she then asked if she could also bear hers. She gave the sweetest testimony of just pure truth. The contrast between the two invitation acceptations is so illustrating. Where would you rate yourself? Are you willing to do whatever you need to do to reach a goal, or do you need a little more prodding to get there? Both are getting there, but one is a little happier about it.

It has been an amazing week here. I am happy and it is getting COLD!! Ack, the weather decided to get cold two days ago and it has not warmed up since--good bye warmth  until April or May. It was nice knowing you. I am now going to turn into a 3-5 tight layer-wearing missionary in my chunky jacket, beanie, face mask (the pollution is also starting again) wearing missionary and I will love every minute of it.

Enjoy General Conference this weekend!!! We'll get it in 2 weeks after it has been translated into Mongolian, so let me know the good ones.
I love you,
Sister Jessica Olsen

Here I am with all of the Ward Missionaries and Mission Leader

Hahaha, so on our second day of teaching, it rained all day (this is where the weather turned and hasn't been warm since), we decided to make 'donuts' for dinner. My companion took the dough that I was going to make flour tortillas with and tried to morph it into a donut. Hahahahahahahaha, we probably added 6 cups of flour and way too much sugar, tried to fry it, and took two bites and threw the rest away. It was so dense and tasted delicious and like death all at the same time. Lol, I might need a donut recipe sent to me for next time.

SO, here is a mini tour of my apartment. This is our kitchen, our bedroom (those little mats are really comfortable, it is like memory foam--or at least that is what I keep telling myself), our kitchen and my closest. The closest picture of the bunch is my companion and I celebrating our first successful day at school. Hahahahahaha, it was a long day and we taught for about 5 hours, then had to make our way home and then do studies at night. It makes for a bit of a long day, but you'd never know with all that celebrating!
Lol, and yes, this is a picture of our literal toilet room. When you sit down, your knees literally hit the door. Someone was a little off in their measurements when they made this room, but I love you guys so much, I didn't want you to NOT know this information. :)

My comp and I basically taught a mini Mission prep class on Sunday for all off the ward missionaries through Mongolian, here are come fun pics from yesterday. I love it here.

Here are the pics from Sunday again :)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Being Led by the Hand - Week 38

Dear family and friends,

So, do you want to hear the greatest introduction that I have ever been given? We had our Mission Tour this week where the Asia Area President came to Ulaanbaatar for a couple days and we had a Zone conference where all of the missionaries in the city were able to learn from the Mission President and his wife as well as the Asia Area and his wife, but before all of the fun began, he stood at the door and shook all of our hands as we walked in. When it was mine and my companion's turn, Sister Harper, the mission president's wife, told them that we were the happiest companionship in the mission. I really like my companion and I think that it is really cool that it is also noticed by those around us.

Otherwise, this has been a very long week and the weather is getting colder. It is normally around 60 F right now and although it sounds nice, it is a little chilly when you spend all day in it. So, it is full-time jacket wearing season and the wind that is coming from Russia really does make a difference because it is so much colder in the shade than the sun. So mid-day is the best time, but I still love Mongolia and know that there is no such thing as bad weather, just being poorly dressed. So as I get my winter stuff and start to layer on the clothing, it will be good. As for right now, I will enjoy the pretty nice weather and take it for what it is. 

Some really great things that happened last week was that on Monday we were able to finally meet with our school about the semester that just started and had an amazing meeting. It was nice to sit at a table and hear the expectations and changes that happened at the school at the start of this school year and to know that we will begin working with the students again. It is kind of a bummer that they took away half of the students that we worked with, we used to teach 12 hours a week working with 6 different age groups, and now we teach for 8 hours a week with only 2 different age groups. I think that I will miss all of the little gobbs, but the two class levels are also my favorite students, so I know that it is going to be a great school year. We are going to hit the ground running this year and make it the best English classes that we possibly can. On Friday, my companion and I just went to our school to do a quick visit and it was WONDERFUL to be back. It felt so familiar, I cannot wait for Wednesday when we actually go to teach. I will keep you posted. 

(All of these changes are actually beneficial in the fact that it leaves a little more time to meet with investigators, members, and less active members; so this is good in the eyes of my mission.)

On Tuesday, though, I know that the Lord is in the details of our lives. My companion and I had the opportunity to spend the night at an apartment near the mission home (meaning we wouldn't have to take a 40 minute bus ride in the morning) in anticipation of the mission conference and we were hungry, so were going out to the local market to grab a quick snack. As we were outside, we saw one of the LA's in our ward and were able to talk with her trying to help, but that shouldn't have happened. We work on the other side of town, so the likelihood of us having met at that exact moment is like at a 1%, but the Lord knows what He is doing. He gave us to opportunity to be available to help her and she was given the option to choose to allow us to help her or not. Afterwards, I was astounded by the fact that we ran into her. 

Later on in the evening, we were directed to find a house of an LA that we have tried to meet with before, but her apartment was IMPOSSIBLE to find. She lives in apartment building 90-something, but all of the buildings surrounding her building were in the low 30's. Logically thinking, an apartment building in the 90's should be nowhere near the 30's, but as we were walking, I remember just thinking about checking one building in the distance after another until we miraculously found it. She was looking out the window the whole time and even she was astounded that we found her house because we went the most back-routed way possible. I know taht the Lord helped, I have a firm testimony that He knows who we MUST meet with and will help us get there. 

It has been a great week (we had one really strong LA RM come to church on Sunday!), and I know that I am giving my all to this work. I love what I am doing.

With all my heart, 

Sister Jessica Olsen

PS- I forgot my card reader today, so no pictures (but I held a vulture, owl, and petted a camel today!). Mongolia is awesome
This is from today!!! These camels were softer!!

These are from the conference on Wednesday

At the Giant Chingis Statue

Monday, September 12, 2016

All of the Dealings of the Buses - Week 37

Dear family and friends,
So, this week has been absolutely PERFECT! We had appointments that didn't fall through, yes, there have been bad things that happened (lol, that will come next in the story), but I LOVED this week so much. I really don't even know what made it any different than the others, but I think that I decided on Wednesday that it was going to be a perfect week, and thus it became. There is  a lot of power that comes when you make up your mind to accomplish something there was a quote that said that you do not need to know exactly how something is going to work, you just have to picture it over and over again in your head and it will happen over time. I believe it.

On Wednesday, I have experienced the perfect day where we met with everyone that we planned, we taught the lessons with unity between us as companions, we have return appointments set, and the weather was beautiful. If you ever wondered what a missionary would look like skipping down the street because they are so happy, you should have been here this week. I promise that you would have seen it happen at least once or twice this week (but I don't have a badge, so you would just have to guess that I am a missionary). However, I have had 3 really funny experiences in regards to buses this week.

The first happened on Wednesday, it was near the end of the day and we were heading to our last appointment of the evening. Everything was great, we were at the back of a mini bus, I was standing these, talking about how to say 'with purpose' in Mongolian (it is how to ask what someone's goal is, it also sounds A LOT like 'commandment', so I was working on my pronunciation), when we were getting near a bus stop. I kind of just shuffled out of the way to allow two guys to leave, not breaking the conversation, when (as soon as my hands had let go of the bar I was holding), the bus made a quick jerk-stop. Hahahahah, well, I went flying! This is the first times that it has ever happened, but I guess I pulled a terrified look at my companion, and landed on both of the guys that just stood up. They caught me, then as I was getting back on my feet, I stepped on this other guy twice (which is a HUGE bolohgui--a not-allowed or may-not), but I also kind of did a weird mini-scream. The two guys got a kick out of it, then the guy that I stepped on (twice) told me to sit on one of the vacated chairs. It was like a command to sit because I was clearly a danger to everyone on the bus. As the two guys got off, you could hear them making fun of the yell that I did. Hahahah, I wish that I had a camera at that moment.

The other was on Thursday when we were crossing the street to go visit someone. So here in Mongolia, there are a lot of the road crossings where the path is marked on the road, but it is kind of a go-at-your-own-risk sort of crossing because you never know if the car is going to stop or not. If you are walking in a group, it is almost always a guarantee that they will stop, but even then, you never know. So on this day, my companion and I were walking across the street when it wasn't too busy, when as we were almost across, I saw this bus coming up. Buses do not stop for anyone. So this bus, as soon as I saw it, my body went into flight-mode (it was really far away, so I don't know what my body's problem is) and decided that I need to move faster. It literally made me to a hop and skip to get out of the way--a mid walking stride hop. It was so weird, but imagine seeing someone mid-stride, and instead of letting their other foot come down, they  did a hop instead. That was me. Then I finished the whole scene by skipping. My companion just laughed and laughed at me. She saw it and asked why I was walking so weird--my body had a freakout moment.

The last incident is the cherry on top to my perfect week. Someone tried to pickpocket from me, again. So here I was minding my own business and I took a picture on a bus (never really a smart idea in the first place, so my lesson has been well-learned), when this guy was like, 'hey, cool camera. I think that I should just take it from you', so the hooligan decided to try. However, it was also a day that I was carrying a big roll of tape wedged over my camera, making it extremely protected, and my bag technically a laptop bag, meaning that you have to fully lift up the pouch to get anything out, so it is really had to pickpocket from. Well, my companion saw him start to stick his hand in my bag (she was clued in because he was standing way too close) and pushed him. Then I noticed and slapped his hand and shouted loudly,. 'get your hand out of my bag' in English--it kind of causes a bigger scene. Then, he just halfway turned away like nothing happened, but I just kept my hand tightly on my bag and stared at him until he got off. *sigh* People, stealing from missionaries makes you lose brownie points.

However, I wanted to share these stories with you because I thought that they were funny to happen on my perfect week. Life is good and I stinkin' love Mongolia.

I love you all!
Sister Jessica Olsen

Hahahahahah, so here are some bus pictures. The first two are from the hike that I took last Monday and the group that we went with and the last is the picture that I took that almost got my camera stolen 30 seconds later. I thought the clouds looks so cool through the tinted windows. :)

Here are some random pictures from around my proselyting area. I am on the city-side that borders the outskirts. It is so pretty. :)

So we had an awkward 45 minutes of free time where there isn't an opportunity to visit with someone, but too much time to just go to the next person, so we decided to HEART ATTACK! It was great! We then had so much fun doing it once, that we did it again, worked up an appetite, then had a healthy dinner. My little guy, though, was being a little piggy and almost ate all of the chocolate alone :)

Sunday is Fun day!
These all happened yesterday. These are some of the ward missionaries (and they are all very hyper, they talk fast, and are hard to understand), this is a little guy who just knocked out during Relief Society, and I have the best companion in the entire world who makes delicious things to eat.

I love Mongolia!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Working Hard - Week 36

Dear family and friends,

I cannot believe how quickly these days are changing and how time is flying by. Come Sept. 20, I will have been in Mongolia for 6 months, my mission (tomorrow) will officially hit the 8 month mark and I feel like I just got here yesterday. Except life is not completely overwhelming and I actually know a thing or two by this point. I still have not trained and with the amount that I speak, I am totally okay with that, but at the rate that there are new missionaries coming from America, I don't think that it is going to be too long now. I think that there are 3 more sisters coming in about 7 weeks, so that means that everyone in the group that came right before mine will probably be training, then my group's turn might be next. So, to test it out, I did a split this week with Sister Guild!
She was my MTC companion and has just come back from the countryside and there is something special about the MTC companion, they are just someone that you end up loving for the rest of you mission and life. So she is covering the old ward that I started my mission in and whitewashing, meaning that both missionaries are new and start from ground zero, so we had permission to give them a tour of people that we know. I split and Sis. Bollwinkel ended up with Sis. Bottorf (the other sister from my group) and we two were on our own--for a split second I panicked because Sister Guild depended entirely on me to know the area, know the people, and then we were going to teach without a 'senior' missionary with us. We were just two juniors running around. The most amazing thing is that I was able to find all of the houses, lead a discussion, and realize that I could make my way through life here. It wouldn't be easy, but I know how to figure out the buses and I can understand enough in a conversation to try to teach. It was like getting pushed off a cliff and realizing that I could fly instead of plummeting to the ground.

Luckily, after my couple of hours, I was able to partner back with Sis. Bollwinkel and safely know that she was there to understand the conversation and keep people happy where my language ends. It was a very empowering moment and, I do not want to train soon, I know that it will be fine when the moment comes.

Also, I have spent a large portion of this week working on English. All of the schools began on Sept. 1, but we do not start teaching until Sept. 15--this has been the same project that was initiated back in the middle of June. So all summer long, we would split our time meeting with people and working on the English (for about 12 hours a week, or 3 hours for 4 days of the week). It has been a lot of work and I started first making the slides, then moved to the review team (making sure that all of the content was smooth and it looked professional), then moved to the Feedback team (after the slides were tested, we would make tweaks to make the slides more cohesive), then was part of the singing group, and then became part of the Handout Team where were organized all of the slides to be printed out and made into a book. So on Thusrday, we thought that we were in the final run of it all and done, where it turned out that there was one major flaw. Everything looked great when printed individually, by when scanned in bulk, parts became unreadable for the books. So on Saturday, there were four of us who made a mad scramble to fix the problem and to then redo all of the work that it took me and Sis. Bollwinkel a week to do. Our deadline is Tuesday, but we were ale to figure it out. Now, everything is perfect and I feel like a proud momma with all of the work that has been put into these English progams that are going to be taught this upcoming school year.

This entire project made me realize how much fun it will be to be a project manager. It is just like real life where someone has an idea, then you do everything in your power to make it happen. Since there are bound to be bumps in the road, you also need to be able to adapt to the different circumstances and stay optimistic through it all. Life. Missionary work. English projects. They all boil down to the same feeling of giving everything that you have got and being a wise steward of your time. We had to be efficient to have everything completed in short blocks of time because another part of my mission out here is meeting with people and sharing the good news with them.

This has been an amazing week and I have loved how much I have been entrusted with out here. I work hard everyday to prove that 'worker is worthy of the hire' (or something like that; also I am still enjoying every moment out here. Yesterday, we were finally able to meet with a family that is partally inactive, I felt the spirit, and knew that every effort is completely worth it. I am here in Mongolia to help serve the people, with or without a badge, being able to call my self a missionary or not, I am always here to serve the Lord.

I love this country and people.
I love you, too!
Sister Jessica Olsen
PS - pics to celebrate all of the hard work and my group is back together!

Here is my District, my comp celebrating her 1 year mark in country, and today's hike

This morning's hike

I love Mongolia

These are some random English moments. I will send random pics of Mongolia scenery next week

These are my friends! I love them :)