Monday, February 27, 2017

Laying Down Your Burdens - Week 61

Dear family and friends,

It has only been a short while between these emails, but this is an amazing week in Mongolia. It is Tsagaan Sar and this is the biggest family holiday of the nation, it is a lot like Christmas where families from everywhere come together to share a meal with one another, share gifts, and share stories with one another. Everyone dresses in their traditional clothing and there is such a good feeling in the air. Also, the air itself is really starting to warm up (it is not quite warm yet, but it is so much better than it was earlier), the birds and stray dogs are all just a little happier, too. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Mongolia? I still do.

One thing that I have really learned about this week was that I need to learn how to let go of my burdens and not feel responsible to hold everything together on my own. So let me start with a little story about me. I love books. I love carrying them around, I love reading them, and I love learning from them. At the beginning of my mission, I would carry around 1-3 extra books 'just in case' I would need them, but I never did. In the MTC before I came here, I would carry about 6 books with me everywhere I went, even to the gym, just so I could study for 10 minutes before playing basket ball--nobody else did this, but again, 'just in case'. So this love of learning is not a bad thing, but carrying around extra weight comes at a cost. It kills your shoulders. The more that you decide to carry books, the more that you end up carrying throughout the entire day (10 AM to 9 PM). 

In the beginning, my shoulders were very strong. An extra 5-10 pounds would not make a difference at all. I carried all of these books for the first 12 weeks of being here, again, 'just in case'. Then for the next 2 transfers Mongolia began to feel like the inside of a furnace and everyday was just hot, by this point, my body was starting to get tired. Soon, I left the extra 2 books around, but still carried around 1 unneeded book, just in case. I traveled on a lot of buses, so there was no putting down my bags, so on those long bus rides where you are left standing and holding on for dear life, I would have my heavy bag swing around--by this point it was about 7 months of being on the mission. Then school started and the buses were too crowded for a big bag, so I officially swapped over to a smaller, denser bag and could no longer carry any extra books--it was now just my Book of Mormon, camera, and 42 principle notebook--then try to jam in some other notebook or whatever I could.

Having the smaller bag was amazing for a really long time. Until about a week ago when I did something that slightly twinged my shoulder. It was tired of carrying all of the weight, so it was already on the outs. I tried for a week to make my bag lighter and couldn't figure out what to do, until I emptied my bag and realized that the bag itself was a huge problem. It was made of heavier materials and probably weighed 4 pounds by itself without the extra books or other items. My bag, when all was said and done, probably weighed 8-10 pounds which is not a lot, but after 12 months of carrying around even heavier bags, running after buses, hiking up hills, and what-not, my shoulder finally started to give up the ghost. So I had to find a different solution. I had to change things up.

So last P-Day, I bought another bag that weighs about 1 pound. It has no frills, no extra pockets, no zippers, it is just a material sling, and while it is Mongolian, I really hated it for the first 2 days of using it. Well, it wasn't what I liked because I couldn't put my stuff in the fancy pockets anymore, and it was different. My shoulder, however, LOVED it. Seriously, the pain almost instantly started to go away once the extra weight was gone. So here I was in this great conundrum, I didn't like the bag that I had (I like it, just not for the task that I wanted it to perform), but I knew that it was better for my body. Due to choices that I have made earlier in my mission by carrying around unnecessary weight, I put myself here. So I had to learn to adjust my expectations and organizations. I also officially swapped my fancy Book of Mormon (that I love reading and marking) to the thinnest version of the give-away copies; however, it fives me the chance to mark up a clean copy of the book again. From making these small changes, I have a happy shoulder again.

So, now the question related to my story: how much extra problems and stress are you carrying around? Is there a grudge that you are holding on to? Is there some left over pangs of bitterness and hurt that you have not been able to let go of? I completely understand that life can become hard and there are times that you make huge plans that are forced to change at the last minute, but what then? Is it then a new opportunity or are you stuck looking backwards?

Today I had this amazing opportunity to welcome the sun for the 'new year'.  At this time of Tsagaan Sar, on the first morning of the first day of celebrations, you climb to the highest point and wait to see the first rays of sunlight. As this is also a Buddhist nation, you also flick milk toward the sun, and all of this in anticipation of a good next year coming your way. For the first time since my mission, I was outside to see the sunrise. It was cold, but absolutely beautiful. We went to this sight called Zaisan, it overlooks that city of Mongolia and it was also the same spot that Mongolia was dedicated as a place for missionary work by Elder Nelson (or maybe Ballard) back in 1993. This was also the first place that I went to with my group on the 2nd day of being in Mongolia last year (I think that I sent home a pictuer of it at that time), so here I was, almost on my year mark of being in the country, in the exact place welcoming the sun for a beautiful new year. My shoulder wasn't was it before my mission, but I made some changes, let go of some burdens, and am ready to start new again. 

I know that my letter today is all over the place, but I love today. I went to my first meal and am going to visit another 18 houses over the next 3 days, eating up to 50 buuz (these things still kill me), carrying my new favorite bag, and not carrying around extra burdens. All things work out. If you are like me and just like to carry around extra things, you can, but you don't have to. If you want to learn from my example, please don't carry it around. Let it go, make the necessary changes, then look toward the sun and welcome in a new opportunity, day, year, you. You can really do anything and all things are possible.

Make good memories and try new things, you will enjoy it. I promise. :)

I love you all!

Sister Jessica Olsen

So last week on P-Day, we went on an amazing hike and WE FOUND YAKS! It was so much fun and I took about 1,000 pictures, but here are a few

To start the day off, we took a taxi and ran into this little yak, we thought that was the icing on the cake. We were so close! Then our taxi was helping us and got stuck in the snow. All the other girls were pushing, lol, and nothing was happening. So I decided to push with one hand and then it instantly started to get out of the snow (while taking a selfie). Coincidence? I think not! I am one strong woman yom shig.

Then here we were, out of the taxi and just starting to climb up the side of a mountain, kind of goofing off and taking group pictures, when something amazing happened!

Over the ridge, look what we found! A heard of yaks!~
Hahahaha, I felt like a real adventurer and had to re-enact what you would have seen on Animal Planet. Berr Grylles has nothing on me

 Man, isn't it just beautiful?

I know, this is a lot of pictures, but it was such a wonderful day.

Once we made it to the top, we had lunch among the yaks and everyone took a few minutes to really just ponder on the beauty of Mongolia and the many blessings that we have experienced on our mission.

Then we decided to climb a tree and do some dance moves to end, then got a bus and came home. Don't you just feel like you spent an entire adventure with me?

This is a very fun transfer. :)

So, like I said earlier, this is the week of Tsagaan Sar and it will alst from Sunday to Thursday, yesterday was the beginning of it, we went to two houses and didn't eat a single buuz. Victory. Then planning and look at the source of where our meat comes from. Yum.

Here we are in our dress this traditional clothing
So I am also sending home about 4 videos from this week

Here I am trying to get down the mountain
So this is one video
​I technically haven't seen these both yet, so I am hoping for the best quality. :)
So this is from this morning and climbed A TON of steps to make it to the top of Ziasan. I have been up and out starting at 6:30 AM this morning. It was so cold for a little while.


Thursday, February 23, 2017


Dear family and friends,
So a while ago, I was thinking about how I really just blew my opportunity during my first 12 weeks of being a missionary in Mongolia because I didn't learn well enough from my trainer, well good news, repentance is a real thing. I love my companion this transfer. She is in the group ahead of me and has been teaching me basically everything that she can, we get along great, and we are both determined to stay as stress-free as possible. It is amazing what the difference a good attitude can make. Her mission ends at the end of this transfer, so in just about 4 weeks from now, and it is such a nice time. Speaking of ending, then to know that I was in the group right after her, so I will be in the most senor group with the next 'heading home' date. Times flies.
Miracles are still happening and I have fallen in love with the new students that I teach at, all of the 6th and 7th graders. Mongolia is Mongolia wherever you go, and kids are still kids, no matter where you teach. All of the changes in teaching assignments came with such a big surprise to everyone, that all the missionaries were thrown through a loop, but the attitude of it makes a difference. I was talking to one of the Elders who had experienced the same thing as me where he was unexpectedly removed from his school that he loved, and he had a bad attitude about it. He was still being an excellent teacher, but he kept saying how he was only loyal to his school and couldn't possibly come to love the kids quickly. I just looked at him in disbelief because I had to do the same thing and loving more students doesn't replace the ones that you knew earlier, rather your heart learns to accommodate more and just has a way of growing. I love these goobs at my second school, too (even though I will only be there another 4 weeks at the most). It also makes the experience a lot more fulfilling instead of dreading 12 hours a week of your mission for 6 weeks.
We also had an excellent Zone Conference on Tuesday (hence the delay in writing) and I learned some great things. Our Zone is so tiny, there are only 8 Sisters, so you really get to know everyone pretty well. We were fed American food and it was so delicious that I had seconds on everything... then the worst stomachache because I overate. Oh man, it was so delicious that I do not regret a single bite, but I can't handle it anymore. Also, something tragic has happened, officially as of yesterday, I can't eat the Burger King burgers in Mongolia anymore. I had a really bad experience about 3 weeks ago, so I have avoided the place for a while, but I had it yesterday and could barely swallow it down. What is going to happen without my burgers for the ending portion of my mission?? Hahah, an ironic thing, though, was that I had Mongolian food at a teaching appointment and it was really delicious even though it was something that I never thought I would really like. Next week is Tsagaan Sar (the biggest family celebration here, a Mongolian version of Christmas) and I am going to be fed buuz everywhere I go. Those things make me so sick, but my companion has a plan to keep us healthy. She was here last year and was one of the few who survived it without getting a stomach bug.
Also, this is a transfer of hiking!!! I went on the most beautiful hike on Valentine's Day ('What are men to rocks and mountains?') and we are planning on another 4 this transfer--I am even going on one as soon as I finish emailing! It was beautiful, but my shoes had no traction last time and I fell about 100 times. Then we almost got eaten by these two bear dogs, but luckily there was a fence that blocked the way on the only dog that I have actually been really scared of. I was so worried that I didn't even try to take a picture, but was about to scramble away on hands and knees because I kept falling so much. I don't think that I will go back to that one until the snow melts, but I also saw a furrow horse! It was so Mongolian. I survived and will be at it again soo. :)
All in all, this has been one amazing week. Next week I will wear the traditional deel all the time and visit all the people that I love, it will be great. I will survive the buuz.
I love you all!
Sister Jessica Olsen

Here are a few of the pictures, I will be sending more. :)

Here are some more :)

Oh my heck, I love these kids that I have the opportunity to teach this transfer. Just look at all of them, it is a perfect mix of angels and... well, the opposite of that, but I love them.

We were playing a game with them last week and they just love it. It was a Stop and Go where they had to file throughout the classroom and it was so stink' cute. This is one where about 1 pf them were trying to shuffle behind me while my comp wasn't looking.

Here are some fun pic from Zone Training and my entire Zone.

Then this week I also kind of learned how to play a murinkhurn (I really misspelled that!)