(editor's note: I wish I could post some pictures of when we were dropping Trevor off at the MTC, but I do not have any : ( When we were at the curb unloading his luggage, a sweet older sister volunteer, a mom type, put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Mom, you have 30 seconds to say good-bye." So I did not want to waste my precious few moments taking silly pictures, but now I wish I would have. Maybe when he gets back, we will recreate the scene.)
I've really been enjoying myself this week. After you dropped me off at the curb on Wednesday afternoon, the hosting Elders took our bags away and to our rooms while we were shown through the registration process. They gave us our name tags, took pictures, gave us MTC access cards, checked info, and finally brought us to our classroom. It's a tiny little room that's probably about the size of my bedroom back home. We spend around 8 hours a day in that room, preparing lessons and learning French from our teacher, Brother Larimer. He's a student at BYU.
I'm really liking my district. There are eight of us: Me, my companion Elder Barr, Elder Price, Elder Oliverson, Elder Louis, Elder Wallace, Soeur Rhondeau, and Soeur Hill. The sisters, Elder Price and I have all gone to BYU before the MTC. Elder Price lived in Helaman, so I never got to meet him. There are two and a half districts of Paris missionaries, and everyone in our district has already taken three or four years of French in High School or college. Since we all have a solid background, we learn fairly quickly ... more quickly than any of the other districts.
They have all the missionaries in the MTC teach their first lesson in their language on Friday, not just us. Our investigator is named Danielle, and we're preparing to teach our fourth lesson to her tomorrow. I was really intimidated at first to go and teach her, but I found that Elder Barr and I know enough French that we can already answer her questions in French (even though she talks really fast) and we don't have to use any French notes; I've just been writing all my notes in English and translating them on the spot. It's amazing how quickly the language comes in the MTC.
So here are some of my observations about the culture at the MTC:
The first day, the name tags of the new Elders have a big orange dot on them. So, all the other Elders decide to have a competition to see who can knock the wind out of the new missionaries. Not really, but they all like to hit the new missionaries on the back seemingly as hard as they can and say, "Welcome, Elder!" It's kind of a resounding chorus of welcomes all through the MTC campus on Wednesdays.
You can tell how long a missionary has been here by the number of clips they have. The bookstore sells clips for the name tags and clips for the meal cards and clips for the keys, and missionaries eventually give in to buying the clips out of convenience. It's like we're separated into Dots and Clips, depending on how new we are.
The first day, we got a big blue bag of books and study materials. It's kind of like the MTC Santa gave us all a huge bag of presents, because they gave us so much French and gospel stuff. We were all really excited to rip into the bag and start studying. At least, as excited as you can be over a big bag of books and things you can't understand.
I suppose the MTC decided to make the East coast missionaries feel more at home. It's hotter over there in the summer because of the humidity, and the MTC decides to make the buildings even more hot than the weather is outside. It feels like a sauna for a good part of the day. Don't get me wrong, I would probably enjoy a sauna, but probably not in a suit and long pants while trying to learn French.
There are speakers all over campus that call out names of missionaries. It usually says something like, "Can Elder Steven Williams please come to the front desk?" It's like The Hunger Games and it feels like we're never going to see those Elders again. Whenever the speaker comes on, I always feel like shouting out, "I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!"
My companion Elder Barr is quite the character. He's from Kamas, Utah and went to the University of Utah for a year. He knows quite a bit of French grammar from taking French in college, so he likes to teach us everything he knows. The first day for dinner, he decided to walk straight back into the kitchen of the cafeteria and duck through the workers, asking for the head chef. I had to follow him because we're supposed to be basically attached at the hip, so I weaved through all the stoves and counters to follow him. He eventually found the head chef and expressed his concern that there aren’t enough fresh greens available to the missionaries. So, they proceeded to have a ten minute discussion on the health benefits of different greens and salads. I learned quite a bit, I'd say, haha.
Chouette is an extremely outdated French slang word that we like to use. We use chouette to describe everything. But since it's outdated, it's like saying, "Groovy, Elder!" So we're working on improving our French slang.
It's been weird for all of us to go around without any electronics or music or cars or restaurants or phone calls or Facebook or contact with the outside world. I've really appreciated your letters, because it's nice to hear anything about what everyone is doing. Even if it's what you had for lunch ... I don't even care, haha. Since we have to go for two years without all these things, we decided that we're going to feel like Frodo and Sam at the end of the Lord of the Rings. Frodo says, "Do you remember the taste of strawberries, Sam? Or the taste of water, the feel of grass between your fingers?" That's what we're going to be like. We won't remember the taste of strawberries, nor the feel of a cell phone in our pocket.
They only give us 30 minutes, so I'll have to wait until next week for the rest.
Love you all,