Tuesday, January 31, 2017

On Being a Big Sister - Week 57

Dear family and friends,
This week I feel like I am becoming the big sister to all of the sisters here very slowly. Yeah, there is the whole age thing (except I heard that there was a Sister coming who is only 2 years my junior at 27), but it is more than that. It is that I am the second oldest Sister group here now, we have walked the streets, knocked on the metal doors, and have borne through eating more buuz than many others. The oldest group (Sis. Bollwinkel's) goes home next transfer in March which is a little devastating because I am completely not ready to take their spots. Honestly, I was living in denial always wishing to remain the junior companion and slowly coming to grips every time I had to train someone. However, time and experience really does happen, whether you want it to or not.
So as a big sister, one of the most important lessons that I am learning is that almost nothing I do here is about me. I am not the most important person walking around the streets of Mongolia, it is my job to simply try my best and to love all of those around me. It is to try to adapt to any new rules that come from leadership and to encourage others to also try their best. This week, there were some changes to the missionary schedule that came from the Presidency that has made the missionaries more accountable for the time they use and exercise their agency to a larger extent. In our mission, between the crazy English schedules and splits, the new criteria makes it a little easier to do more work without losing all of our time in studies. We also get to stop everything by 9 PM and just settle down for sleep (alleluia, I might just start to sleep again). All the missionaries are going to be able to transition to life-after-a-mission so much easier.
Yes, we still work. Yes, we visit the investigators, members, less actives, to the same extent that we did before the changes, but we now work at a pace better suited for our needs and their progression. All of the stress has been relieved and I have been non-stop smiling since. I feel SO GOOD about the changes. The start is a little bumpy trying to learn how to balance the needs of the day with the demands/expectations, but there is so much agency again. I love it.
But one other thing that I have been able to have happen this week is that I have been able to share some of my talents and hobbies with those around me. On Tuesday last week, I was able to help my comp buy all of this pretty make-up and tell her what I will wear on a daily basis. I have also started my 42 Principle Notebook again (a brief summary of each principle in the PMG book that I need to teach to al investigators before baptism) and I have been pulling out my Pinterest side (I MISS PINTEREST SO MUCH!) and pasting so many pictures to use during my discussions. I have been able to use the completed pages several times this week and I feel like I have unlocked the best method for me to teach out here. Along the way, I have been able to help my comp learn about what I am doing and I think that she really likes it. We also basically scotch everything with pictures on this mission--PMG, monthly planners, hymn books, everything. Now my 42 is joining the ranks
Also, with the changes, I am going to start working out again! We have a full 30 minutes set in the morning to use, and now I have the time to use all 30 minutes--I think that I might try running stairs or something--nadad tsagt baigaa shuu!! Hahahhahaha, but to be honest, I have been so lazy these last 9 weeks of this transfer and have basically not done a single sit-up. All of my muscle is gone, so those stairs are going to kill me. It will be fun. I think that I will try to have my comp join me (well, she would have to because of the whole sight-sound thing). Also, I still need to work toward that 5 minute plank and standing splits
Any ways, this week has been great. Two baptisms. One huge change. Shopping for make-up and being in Mongolia, what more does a girl need.
I love you all!
Sister Jessica Olsen
PS - This letter is kind of all over the place, but the most important thing that I have learned as being a big sister is that it is good to be the first one to apologize. Take charge and make good changes by realizing your own faults.
Pinterest, my baptism (I think that she is the reason that I came to this ward when I did, I love the heck out of her), and taking my comp out to the best 'Americanized' Chinese food--she wasn't a fan, so I was able to take hers home for leftovers-- and then lunch with Sis. Bottorff before the big conference on changes.

I got the packages!! They are awesome and it was like Christmas all over again. :)
I have been sleeping in the pjs and received a lot of compliments on the skirt. I also loved all of the pictures, it was such a fun way to end my P-Day.
This is one of my investigators and her sons, they are golden and are set for a March baptism (after the big holiday here next month, it is like the Mongolian Christmas)

So these are moments where I am completely with my Mongolian counterparts (and one baptism of a sister in my earlier ward and I am so happy to have been able to attend).
I think that I am looking more Mongolian by the day. :)

So the other day it was -6 F, but the wind dropped the degree to -40F and it was so cold. Hahahahaha, I was holding a pop in my hand and if any of it splashed against the walls of the bottle, it almost instantly froze. Seriously, the pop was freezing and turning into ice in my hands. Then to get to the ger, we walked straight into the wind. It was so cold getting there, but in the gers was so toasty and warm. We defrosted, had a great lesson, then braved the elements again.
It was such a fun day. they built this igloo out of frozed ice chunks

Random moments. Me changing the light bulbs, walking around outside, loving Mongolia. Also, look at the frost that forms on the windows


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Just Being Happy - Week 56

Dear family and friends,
I don't think that I have mentioned this before, but I really cannot sleep ever since my mission started. It was day 2 of being in the MTC where it started that I cannot fall asleep until about 1 AM every single night, despite how tired I might be. Then will come the one magical night once a week or two where my body just crashes and I sleep for most of the night because I am so stinkin' tired. I can usually last about 5-6 days of the little bit of sleep, but after that, if I don't get the full amount, I feel like I am going crazy and I cannot keep my emotions under control. Suddenly anything has the power to make me cry, not because I am sad, but because I have too many feelings. Example: the PMG gets me (even if I have read the same section 100 times), I cannot read Liahonnas ever (they make me seriously cry), if my companion shares something really good that they felt or learned, I cry. EVERYTHING. MAKES. ME. CRY. (especially when I am tired). Again, though, it is not because I am sad.
So on Sunday, I felt myself getting to that point of just pure exhaustion where all I want to do is sleep, but since my mission, I have also lost the opportunity and ability to take naps during the day. I gave my companion ample warning that she could expect a 'Weepy Monday' where I am just a hot mess all day long. Then that night happened and it was the worst thing that could have happened, I thought: I didn't sleep. I think I finally passed out around 2 or 3 AM.
In the middle of the night, I just got up and sat in the middle of my living room floor kind of throwing a mini temper tantrum of how all I wanted to do was sleep.So I turned on my camera and started to look at some of the pictures that I have taken within the last 2 months. Then I went and pulled out my couple of memory cards from pictures that I have taken throughout my entire time of being here in Mongolia. I looked at pictures during the Spring when I was with my trainer and one where I was able to pet little baby calves that were just wandering around a ger district. Pictures of some of the people that I could never really talk to, but they still let me into their home and shared their food with me.
I saw pictures of the Summer where Mongolia was green and so pretty. The skies where deep blue, the clouds stark white, and I had fun every single day. Every picture had a smile on my face, but that was also the slowest time of my mission where we did not have any investigators, but I had fun with my companion. It was of being in the sweltering heat, hiking up mountains, eating ice cream from street vendors, and pictures with all of the members that I came to love.
Then I looked at pictures from the Fall where I had my fist Mongolian companion, of making Mongolian food, of my first Investigator baptism. Again, every picture I had a smile on my face. When the weather started to change and my companion's glasses would fog and then freeze over, she never got made, but was more resigned to it. Of the snow and the slippery sidewalks. Of the members, again, and having find FHE activities with them.
Then I switched back over and looked at pictures from this transfer and being here in Mongolia in the Winter time where it is just cold all of the time, there is tons of pollution, and the craziest thing, I still had a smile on my face in every picture. I really do love Mongolia. I love the weather and the strong people that it produces here. I love the peacefulness that you experience usually because everyone here is pretty quiet (there was one morning that I was on the bus at 7 AM with 100 other people, and nobody said a single word. Seriously, not one word for at least 5 minutes), but the buses are loud with their squealing brakes. Even the dogs are quiet here. There are your 'bad apples' here just like anywhere else, but there is not a lot of violence or noise here.
Then on Monday, I had the best day of my mission because I realized that I am so happy here in Mongolia. I didn't cry at all yesterday (I spent the day on a split with Sister Hansen, took more pictures, met with members, and played more Shaagai). I was asked by my dad if I knew the reason why I was sent here on my mission and I think that I am slowly learning, it is because this is the best place suited for me. It is a little bit of a different mission, every missionary here is a little older and has a story as to what prompted them to go on a mission, I don't wear my badge all the time, I wear a mask outside 24/7 (even more than some of the other missions, but I also don't plan on getting sick, so the mask is vital), I wear about 15 layers, but I love it. I am here in Mongolia to learn how to listen to the quiet promptings of the Spirit. I am here to learn how to make friends and be determined to show them that I want to spend time with them even if my accent is still off, and I am here to show to the Lord that I am determined to do my best. There really must be a reason that I am happy in almost every single picture that I took and that has to do with being content with my life and the direction that it is going. I know that the Lord sees my effort and is getting me to where I need to be.
Yeah, I still don't sleep at night, but that is okay. All things will become beautiful (Bukh zuil saukhan bolno).
I love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen

Washing my coat as to not offend all of Mongolia with just how dirty it gets. Then lunch with the STL's (oh my heck, look at that delicious fajitas, it was a luxury lunch), and fun all around

So I was trying to walk up this monster mountain and kept slipping. I had to put icepicks on my shoes to make it up, but look at that view!

Anyone need a ride? I can help get you there!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Finding Gratitude in my Heart - Week 55

Dear family and friends,
Have you ever had those moments where you get stopped in your tracks because you realize how little you have been grateful for? That happened to me this week. I have recently restarted the Book of Mormon again and have been reading it more slowly than usual (only reading one chapter a day) and I just started Mosiah. Let me tell you, I have the biggest 'leadership' crush on King Benjamin and I want to be a leader exactly like him. He is such an awesome guy.
When reading about King Benjamin, it is really easy to only pay attention to the last address that he gave to his people (Mosiah 1-4), but pay attention to the books before and then you can actually see that he worked HARD to get the people to the state that they were in. He really had to labor and live the life that he wanted his people to follow, giving an example, and then constantly looking backwards--not in longing--but to always remember how far he has come. Always realizing how much he has to be grateful for. That was when it hit me how much little gratitude I have in my heart at times, so I have decided that I need to change.
I need to be grateful for everyday little things, like not having a hair in my eye, like getting to an appointment on time and safely, like when my companion and I have a really good study together. She is a genius at learning the language and is starting to teach me how she is learning and guess what, it is kind of working. So I have started a Sticky Note campaign.  I am carrying around one little sheet of paper and writing down good things that are happening all around me. It is not perfect, I am still missing things, but I am trying. The more that I try, the more that I notice and the happier that I become. It is a really good little habit and I want to expand it, but I am not quite sure how yet. Maybe also starting a gratitude jar?? I don't really know, but it is happening (becoming).
This week, though, I had the best FHE of my mission life!! It was with my new Member, Bilguun, and his family and I loved every single minute of it. We crossed so many barriers with that one activity! It was a night where we helped make Buuz, shared a lesson, and then played the ankle bone game called Shaagai. Family, I am bringing this game home with me and it is so much fun! It was a really long lesson in that we were there for about 2 hours, but man, it was amazing! Horoloo, the mom, was so patient with us while teaching us how to make the food and even proved her talent by making some within 20 seconds WITHOUT LOOKING, no joke, these things are hard. It takes me like 2 minutes to do one and they are still crazy looking. We were talking about the big holiday coming up next month and she is going to make close to 700, that is a lot of food. (Buuz still make me feel like my insides are going to die, but I have worked it up to being about to eat 6 in one meal.).
Then, after the spiritual thought, we were going to head out, but I heard the dad quickly say something like, 'I guess we are not going to play Shaagai after all.' He is a less active member that we have been trying to friendship lately, so as soon as I heard that, I stopped in my tracks and even though we were kind of running out of time to be there, I asked to play the game. That was 100% the right thing to do because he lit up and all of the kids joined in on the game and it was SO MUCH FUN. It really was one of those moments where I knew that I was allowed to understand the need, and the Family Home Evening was a smash hit. We finally left and basically had to run home to make curfew, but it was worth it. While leaving, every single one of them asked us to come back next week for another family home evening.
That was one of the most gratifying moments!
Also, we had another baptism this week! His name is Ganzorig and we even made a flyer for the service--one of the members came up to me and was like, 'this is just like America'. Paper is not really given out here freely like it is at home. It was such a good night and I was so humbled by how reverent he was about everything. He just looked so happy and peaceful about making this covenant.
With all my love,
Sister Jessica Olsen

Really, this was a perfect night and I made a perfect buuz, too

I did an STL split and there were a couple dogs that made an appearance, there was this dog that followed us for a bit. Hahahah, I would turn around and look at him and every time I did, he would also turn around to look at what I was trying to see. Not realizing that he was the reason, lol, dogs.

Then I did a split with Sis. Hansen again this week (I love her so much) and there was this dog that sat outside of his home door, intently waiting to be let in. he would not even turn his head to look at us, but patiently waited. It was so funny, he was in the exact same position after seeing him an hour later. Then puppies! He was an outside-inside dog (really rare here) and was so cute.

Side story on the one with the group. So I had this picture on timer and as I was walking/running back to get in my place. I totally slid and fell on my face. I have become so clumsy, if I do not fall at least once a day (even inside) it is not a normal day. Everyone is kind of laughing because the picture was taken 1 second after I sat up from falling.