Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's Going to be a Great Transfer!

Dear family and friends,

Oh man, can you believe another 6 weeks has come and gone, my other companion is home in America and now I have a new companion. I started this transfer off with a cold, but man, it is going to be a good one. I love my new companion, Sis. Shreeve, and she is one of the happiest, most excited people that I have ever met. Seriously. I am like a semi-black rain cloud in comparison, but the most amazing thing about her is that I have no need to compete with her, so my little rain-cloud syndrome melts away and we just spend the day talking, laughing, and being okay with life. I seriously love her and it was the best moment when I received that phone call on Tuesday night letting me know what was going to happen. 

There are times that the Lord gives you an unexpected blessing, so now I feel like I really need to work to my hardest in order to show my gratitude. 

In the training videos, there is the one part of The District that I have always liked and it talks about how missionaries in their last few transfers reach a 'shining' stage where they have been taught, they have practiced, and then they enter into a realm of just 'shining-ness' where they have the confidence and the know-how to teach at any time to any person. I really want to get to that level. The confidence is there, I love the people of Mongolia, I know have a huge source of happiness by my side, so now I just need to believe in myself. I need to shine. (Again, not in a competitive way, but in a i-love-my-life-and-I-have-practiced-over-and-over-again-so-I-can-do-this sort of way). I can feel it happening.

My group of Sisters are now the 'oldest' sisters here and it was so sad saying good-bye to all of my friends who went home, but life keeps moving forward. With Sister Lichtenberg for the last few days, I was so excited for her. That is the beauty of missions: you come, you give your whole heart, but you also get to go home. Not only that, but you should be excited about it all (going home) because this is the real test to see if you will take the things that you have learned during this consecrated time to implement it for the rest of your life. Will you continue to take the time to diligently study for the rest of your life? One of my goals after my mission is to buy a study desk right away and to find a way to study for one solid hour every day--hopefully in the morning before leaving the house. Also, there are hundreds of other things: will you be the member that you were grateful for? Will you help the missionaries and give referrals or be a gerch when needed (a member-witness for lessons)? Will you still try to represent the Lord well? Right now I don't wear my badge except for the 3 hour block of church a week, so taking off the badge will not make a huge difference, but the attitude about life will.

So while the other sisters are gone, life is happening. The most amazing thing is that the work will still move forward even when that time comes that I go home. There is still happiness ahead, even with a world of changes that you face, I think the great indicator is your personal attitude. I got really lucky this transfer and have a companion who is the embodiment of joy, but I also chose to think well of this transfer and acknowledge the many blessings of the Lord.

I love this work, It is hard, there are changes, but we will all get to that 'shining' moment in our lives.

I love you all!

Sister Jessica Olsen


P.S. I forgot my card reader at home today, so I will send A TON of pictures next week, but none this week. Life. It is still a struggle some times.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Saying Good-bye to What You Know (and are comfortable with) - Week 64

Dear family and friends,

Hahahahah, I feel like this is the same dilemma that has popped itself up over and over again, I am not good with change; so naturally, I decided to go on a mission where they make so many changes every few weeks. Then, with this transfer, my companion is going back home to America, so it is a guaranteed change, and I have NO IDEA what is going to happen. There are new American sisters on there way soon (I think in about a week), but only three--6 American sisters are going home-- so with the new ones, that is only 13 American Sisters in Mongolia and due to visas, we must stay in the city, so life is becoming very complicated.

It is okay, all things work out.

This transfer has been amazing! I have been able to go on a hike just about every P-day, and with the weather really warming up, I can see this being a pattern set for the rest of my time out here. I love the peace of nature and in Mongolia, you can just feel tranquility settle into your bones when you get out far enough. I love this place and so many good things are coming. So maybe I will get an companion that I get along with amazingly well, maybe I will get a companion who is making it through the same way that I am, maybe I will train, it is all up in the air. SO I am trying to let go of my expectations--which is so hard because I HATE letting go of control. I like making decisions for my life, so this is where that humility tool comes in handy.

I have learned a lot from my current companion. I have learned what it is like to continue to tackle the mission head-on until the very end. She has made so many good relationships and I am very lucky to have been included in it. I hope that when my time comes to go home, my next companion will be able to say the same thing. 

Life is wonderful!!

I said good-bye to the other students that I came to love and had to go back to my school. They are the same goobs that they have always been, so even English will go back to what it was. This has been such an easy transfer, I came to love more people, we have helped people, but time continues to push forward. I can still do hard things, though.

I feel like I am rambling. I guess my main point is that even when things happen that you wish wouldn't (like change), just keep your face towards the sun and believe that there will still be happiness surrounding you. I think it was Walt Whitman that said, keep your face towards the sun and the shadows will always fall behind you.

Have a great week!

Love, 

Sister Jessica Olsen
 



 

 
 
 
So this is basically how I felt when it came to my last day at teaching English with Sister Lichtenberg at her amazing school! Look at that, though, even on the last day, we were able to teach and brought in some American money for the kids to look at, they loved it.

I was, however, able to have one last day with Sister Bollwinkel, so we had to celebrate by getting the required snickers and cola to make it through the day.

Man, this school is going to eat me alive now that she is gone, but maybe I will teach with Sister Hansen, so it might all just work out.
 



 
 
Hiking Bogd.

It is actually really cool because this is the oldest protected area in the world! Back in the good ol' days of Chingis, there was something about this area like it was where he was born, or where he got married, or where he stole his wife back from a rival clan; something monumental happened here. So it has always been kept set-apart. 

Now it is a National Park and it is so beautiful. The hike up was fun, the hike down was slippery, it was basically packed ice. I slipped so many times. I think the funniest fall was when I wasn't paying attention and fell of my bum, then slid down like 4 feet, but my friend Nomin was ahead of me, and basically had this look like, 'I will catch you if you keep sliding past me'. It was really funny. I didn't get hurt at all, though, just learned that I am still a little clumsy.
 



 
 
Then we saw fun things at the end -- like a CAMEL! He was just hanging out, not caring about a thing :)
 



 
 
The hike was a lot of fun. Me and Sister Shreeve (with red hair) basically jogged down at the very end and it was so refreshing! The last time I was outside running was about April 2016--I can't wait to get back out there when I am home and go running with Lucky.

HAhahahahah, but look at this sign. Those were stray dogs that were clearly being a bunch of rebels!
 



 
 
So on Saturday, we did our Big Plan and walked over to a restaurant, but it was such an eventful walk. We went by a Gandan, a Buddhist church/temple, and they are so cool, there are probably about 2 dozen of them scattered around the city, and then on the walk home, there was a biker meet-up. Oh man, it was so great. All of these peaceful people dressed up like bikers, but still really peaceful.
 



 
 
 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Start Your Day With Protein - Week 63

Dear family,

I have learned something amazing, when you start your day with protein, miraculous things will happen. Yesterday was one busy day and it started off with us realizing that we ate (or finished off) all of the eggs, milk, and bread on Sunday, so come Monday morning, we were a little bit out of food. Normally, at that point you could just run to the local delguur (a little convenience store) and just buy them really quick and go back home and eat, but yesterday was also an English day. We taught English from 8:45 - 12:15 and then had back-to-back appointments lined up until 6 PM when we would finally make it back home and do the normal studies that we need to do daily. So, my companion pulled out her chef hat and cooked up some potatoes and chicken--if nothing else, we have the carbs and protein for the day. My breakfast tasted like a dinner, but it worked.

Yesterday was great. Our English was great, the students were willing to listen and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is my companion's last week in the country, so we are teaching the last classes there until they get new Elders to come in and teach.Then I go back to my school. We started a habit of praying specifically for some of our trouble students before we leave the house in the morning and I really do believe that it works. 

After class, we went over to one of our really good member's house (whose wife hasn't come to church since before I came to the ward in Jan) and shared a really heart-felt message. Some times it is easy to think that everything is going well in someone's life until everything starts crumbling around them at an extremely rapid pace. Something really cool is that they are struggling to find a job and last week, my companion and I were introduced to an older traditional Mongolian game that I have never seen in a store and not many people own anymore (none of the other missionaries know about it), that was hand-carved, that he is going to try to make. He radiated with energy and hope knowing that this might be the perfect way to start to provide for his family again. So our meal yesterday was more of a thank you for all of the help that we have been giving yesterday. They are amazing.

Then, we went to visit two of my companion's old less-active members so that she could say good-bye and introduce the new missionaries to them. It was two cute lessons and I then pulled water for the first time in my mission! We did the typical service that everyone does here and it was really nice!

Then came a great round of studies. It was amazing because throughout it all, I wasn't really hungry. The breakfast worked. We received potato huushuur during a meeting, then it all just worked out.

I credit it all to a good breakfast.

I love you all,

Sister Jessica Olsen

This is the best game in the whole world, I love it! Then pulling water and making friends in other wards.
 


 
 
District Meeting and Cake, what more could you ask for??
 



 
 
 This was a ward Sports activity.
Out here, there are not many sporting activities, so this was a rarity. BUT, I finally fulfilled a dream and rode in the Bishop's Micro!!! Hahhahahaha, so these types of little vans will pull up to bus stops and call out the names of the places that they will stop and try to jam in as many people as possible at every stop. I think I have ridden in one a total of 10 times (it is so much easier to just wait for the bus) and this one was full of members for the activity.

We had prime seating!
 



 
 
Figuring out how to work the water pump.
 



 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia - Week 62

Dear family and friends,

I have just experienced the equivalent of Christmas in Mongolia in March (and the last couple days of February) and the most amazing thing is that it is all the same. The love that you feel in the air, the expectations of kids to receive presents, the joy of family and friends coming together, it is all the same. We really are not that different when things are said and done. Even the missionaries were treating it more like a holiday season than I thought possible because we just 'celebrated' Christmas a few months earlier. The one realization that I felt was that I was so thankful to recognize the spirit of Christ even though i was going through something brand new and there was not an ounce of jealousy or loss because I wasn't with my family in the US. 

That really is the secret to happiness: be happy for others. Not the polite, let-me-smile-in-your-general-direction happiness, but an honest joy in being around others and seeing them do well. Their success has no negative affect on your success. 

One thing that made me so happy was that I was able to visit two grandmas (emmes) from my previous two areas and even though they do not remember my name, they recognized my face and were thrilled that we remembered them. I was also able to go with other missionaries and survived the buuz. It was so humbling because during Tsagaan Sar, older generations will make an elaborate dinner and then guests just kind of float in and out of houses without making a set appointment--some times they will call ahead, but you never know. The first day is the most special because it is a time of close family to visit, then by day four, it is just for friends. The first house we went to was AMAZING (not necessarily because of the food), but because the host was SO HAPPY to have 6 missionaries show up--the 2 currently in her area, me (I served there my first 3 months in country, so almost a year ago), and Sis. Bottorff (served there last transfer) and Sis. Bollwinkel (served there the transfer before me, so more than a year ago). We all came because we remembered her and loved her. There wasn't anyone at her house yet, so she was probably anxiously awaiting visitors and hoping that she wasn't forgotten about. I am sure that the best way to recognize the feeling is when you throw a party and that feeling that you get when you are one minute away from starting and the visitors still hadn't shown up. However, all things have a way of working out, guests show up to your planned party, and the emme welcomed us happily into her house set up with a feast.

Then we did that again for another Emme and she was just so happy.

All in all, we visited about 17 houses, and ate the same meal at every place: a ham/mayo salad, carrot salad, sliced meat, and the dreaded buuz (any where from 3-8 per house). My stomach was dying by the end of every night, but I would drink lemon water, take a digestion pill, say a very strong prayer to protect my stomach, then go about doing the same thing the next day. Do you know what, though, I survived! There was only the very last house where I had to decline eating, but the rest of the time, I know that my body was blessed.

This week, the missionary work starts again. Life gets back to 'normal' and we go back to teaching lessons. My companion leaves to go home in 2 weeks back to America, so while it is not going to be a perfectly normal week, it will be great.

I love being here. I love that I was able to experience Tsagaan Sar with my Mongolian family, and I am hitting my year in country mark in 2 weeks. Yikes! Where did all of the time go?

I love you all,

Sister Jessica Olsen

This is my beloved emme and look at how happy she is cutting up that meat.
 



Here are just the starting of the Tsagaan Sar madness~ I think that I forgot to take pics at only 1 house that we were to, but just look, it is the same feast over and over again.

And my wonderful old companion Sis. Austin went and bought Cokes for all of us that say! Man, I love that girl so much, the cola helps to kill the bugs in your stomach
 
 



Here are some more! So when you walk into a house, you greet the oldest one in the household first (what the Elders and doing) and say, 'Amar baina uu?' which means are you resting well? It is customary to give respect this way and after the greeting, you take off the hat and you give heed to the oldest one the entire meal. It is really respectful and fun. Normally Elders and Sister are not allowed to attend the same house together, but there was a scheduling mix-up where we were with a member family and they took up to the bishop's house, then the bishop took us to another member's house, but the Elders were in route all along.

It was a lot of fun and they ate all the buuz for us during that appointment, It was glorious.
 



 
The fun just keeps going. This is by day three, again, the exact same meal at every house and every house asks you to eat A TON. It is a superstition that the more that the host is able to provide to their visitors, the more success will come their way the following year. So you don't want to deprive them of future success, so you eat.
 




Then, on day 4 when we were all filled to the brim, we went on a mini hike to relieve our stomachs. It was really cool because there were these 3 big dogs that came up and were like our little protectors throughout the fun little retreat.

But I know what you are thinking, where are the rest of the pictures of the buuz? Don't worry, there were still houses left to eat at after this hike.
 




Still, just day 3, starting day 4
 



 
​These are little kids in the deel from school yesterday. It was so cute!!
video

 
Tegeed boloo! We finished Tsagaan Sar, this is a pic of my comp and I finally detoxing the last night.