Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Subject: Nyob zoo sawv ntxov!
Hello everyone! Thanks you for all your letters; I love hearing what everyone is up to. I suppose that's just the rule of the mission: As soon as you leave, your family gets all kinds of nifty new things (ovens, cars, etc.).
This Saturday I will teach the first lesson in Hmong. It is going to be quite a challenge. I can maybe manage to communicate a simplified version of what I want to say, but when they answer my questions, I fear I will have no clue what they said.
We all were given temporary Hmong names for when we are in the MTC (we will get new ones in the field). Elder Egbert is now Elder Kuam, Elder Black is now Elder Pob zeb, Elder Erickson is now Elder Xaiv, and I am now Elder Meej (pronounced 'Mayng' with a falling tone). These are pretty common Hmong names, and each one means something. Kuam is the name of a famous Hmong man who did a lot of translating for the church including much of the translation of the Book of Mormon. THe word also means "to scrape the fur off an animal", but that's beside the point. Pob zeb means a stone or rock, so I guess you could call it the Hmong version of "Peter". Xaiv means "to choose". Meej means "clear", both in the clear understanding sense and also the transparent sense. I think part of the reason I have this name is because I tend to be more careful with my tones and grammer.
Speaking of names, I found out that the way you say "John" in Hmong is "Yauhas", which sounds just like Johann, but without the "n"s, and instead of an "ah" sound it sounds like the "a" in "apple". (I just reminded myself of Kari).
Well, I have to go. Keep me posted on your activities and so forth, I love hearing from you!
Txoj moo zoo muaj tseeb,
-Tub txib Meej
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Jon has given me permission to post edited versions of his letters. We thought you might be interested.
July 30, 2007
Dear Tsev heeg (family),
They certainly know how to keep a person busy here at the Missionary
Hmong has an awesome vowel that sounds like an Australian guy saying “no.” Once I get tapes I shall demonstrate.
The spirit is so strong here; stronger and more constant than I’ve ever felt before. Kuv nyab zoo heev (I am doing great), and I love you all! I’m way excited to be a tubtxib (missionary)!
With buckets of love,
Date: Jul 31, 2007 10:12 AM
Subject: Greetings from the MTC!
On Sundays we mostly study and go to meetings. We study PMG, the scriptures, and language. My district has only four Elders; the only Elders in the MTC speaking Hmong.
We have time set aside each P-day to go to the temple.
Subject: Hurrah for
Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2007 14:45:13 +0000
This last week we got to go to the TRC, where we practiced meeting people, getting to know them, introducing our message, bearing our testimonies, and setting an appointment in Hmong with volunteers posing as potential investigators. We then practiced teaching the first lesson to the same volunteer (in English). It was one of the most spiritually charged experiences I've ever had! The week leading up to it I was a little nervous, especially because there is a camera in the corner of the room to my teacher can evaluate us and give us feedback. Thanks to my prayers, when I actually got into the room which we were to pretend was a park, I was at peace, and had no trouble communicating in the language. By the way, Hmong is a very difficult language. We have a couple "tone-twisters" that reminded me of that one Doug had for Chinese. I will let you hear them once I send home a tape, but one of them looks like this: Poj pom pog pov pob hauv pos. That means "The lady saw grandma throw a ball into the thorn bush". Crazy no?
Subject: Word from the field
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 15:25:00 +0000
That's right, even though I'm still in training, I am still an active missionary in the field. We have the opportunity to answer phones at the referral center and talk to people who saw a commercial about the church and want to receive a free Phau Ntawv Maumoos (BoM) or Bible. We get to answer questions they have about the church and bear our testimonies.
Pretty much my day to day activities include personal study, where I usually read the Phau Ntawv Maumoos in Hmoob and look up word that are used a lot that I don't know. I also do the same with a Hmoob copy of Book of Mormon Stories (the one which all the pictures). Sometime I just read the BoM in English, or do flashcards; it varies. I also have nrog tus khub kawm (companion study), where we set up lesson plans for the TRC. Our last experience at the TRC made use of my improvisational instincts. The investigator was supposed to be a Christian who was very familiar with the bible and had seen a TV special on Joseph Smith, but felt uncomfortable with the idea of a modern prophet. The volunteer must not have read the paper he was given because he said he was a Buddhist Hmong. There are almost no Buddhist Hmongs on the Earth. We had to completely change how we taught, and adjust for someone who had never really heard of God. 'Twas a challenge.
My companion is pretty cool. He fortunately does have a sense of humor.
Love you all!
Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 8:55 AM
Nyob zoo sawv ntxov!
Starting tomorrow, my teacher will only speak Hmong, and we are to try to speak only Hmong, or at least as much as possible during class. Eep! The language is going pretty well I suppose. I can mostly understand everything when I read in the Book of Mormon Stories, or should I say the Cov Dabneeg Hauv Phau Ntawv Maumoos. Elder Vang is gone now, but he was a great help. I took some pictures at the temple, but I don't know when I can get them to you guys.
This week's TRC experience was great. The teaching part went very well, but the language part was interesting (in a somewhat unfortunate way). We were to role play picking up an investigator for church, and while on the bus, talk to them about their week, follow up on commitments, and if the commitment was not kept, resolve concerns, possible adjust the commitment, and extend it again---all in Hmong. We were reasonably prepared, but our volunteer playing the role of the investigator was a mumbler. A quiet mumbler with a very nasally voice. It was a tremendous challenge. After the simulation, I heard him say something in English and he was almost as difficult to understand.
When we teach, we don't memorize anything, with the exception of Joseph's description of the first vision. We prepare an outline of the things we want to cover, and the order in which we want to cover them, and decide generally who will discuss which topic. While we teach, we have to be willing and able to alter our plan on the fly, sometimes drastically, to meet the needs of the investigator, and his/her questions and concerns. We must treasure up a mountain of doctrinal knowledge and understanding so the Spirit can pull from it whatever will best help the investigator. It is challenging work, but I am determined to be an effective tool in the Master's hand.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Officially, I went to San Francisco to present a paper at the American Psychological Association conference.
On Thursday, I had a pleasant trip on Amtrak. Andrea met me at the Ferry Building and took me to hang out at her advertising office for a while. I got to see the professional at work—simultaneously taking a conference call and eating a quick lunch with chopsticks. That evening we got some Korean barbecue in Oakland and did a session at the Oakland Temple—we were the witness couple!
On Friday I gave my presentation at the conference at the Moscone Center while Andrea was at an off-site “team-building” exercise with her agency. On the way home she picked up sushi from our favorite place—Lizzy rolls, Kamikaze rolls, yellow tail, edamame, and cabbage salad!
On Saturday, Andrea made sourdough French toast and chicken/basil/pine nut sausages for breakfast. After that we went to the “Boston Terrier Meet” (aka “mutant fest”) at a dog park. There were roughly 30 Boston terriers there, but Zoe made herself known to all the people in attendance. She greeted each of them and smothered each with kisses. There was lots of running and tussling. A fine time was had by all.
Later Andrea took me to her Yoga class. It was my first experience. It was not the serene experience that I expected. The instructor made us do all sorts of difficult things. I did my part to keep up the family tradition of limited physical flexibility. I think that Yoga could be beneficial for me. I may look into it further.
When we arrived back from Yoga, we found a package of English muffins, with 3¼ muffins missing, on the landing of Andrea’s stairway. Zoe was nowhere to be seen. Andrea found her hiding under the bed. Zoe spent some time in her crate thinking about what she had done. Andrea let her out later, but she went back in—I don’t know if she still felt guilty or still had a tummy ache.
After working so hard at Yoga, we needed nourishment, so we went to an amazing Moroccan restaurant (El Mansour). I may never be the same again after eating their bastela (savory chicken with almonds in a flaky pastry crust, covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon). I had lamb with lemons and olives. Andrea had lamb with honey and almonds—I may get that next time. We didn’t stay to see the belly dancer. Instead we went to the “European Deli and Wholesale” across the street to get some sour cream and cornmeal for Sunday breakfast. It was a fun store. Many of the product labels were entirely in Russian (or some other language that uses that alphabet). Then we went back to Andrea’s place and watched episodes of 30 Rock on her Tivo.
On Sunday, Andrea made cornmeal pancakes for breakfast (because we liked the ones that Sarah got at IHOP in Logan). Then we drove to Fremont where we attended church with Grandma and then went to her house and ate lots. We had to have the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream early so that we could have the fruit pizza later. It was fun to be with Grandma for the day. Zoe loved playing in her backyard. Andie had a hard time getting her to leave to go home.
Andrea dropped me off at the Ferry Building on her way to work Monday morning and I had a nice day riding home on the train.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Colleen has completed her tour of duty as Relief Society president and has been called to be in charge of stake activities and to serve in the Primary nursery in our ward. I (Uncle Jay) have been released from Church public affairs in order to serve in the Oakland Temple Pageant presidency. Megan participated this year in the stage chorus and loved it that cousin Spencer was there with us.
John taught the gospel doctrine class in the Alameda Ward this summer and returns to New Jersey as the early morning seminary teacher. Lisa is teaching Primary there. Cari has been the public affaris rep and historian in her ward in SLO. Megan is the youth president of our Stake Girls' Camp this year.
Megan, Colleen and I were part of our stake's youth trek this summer. We used replica handcarts to trek for three days on the Mormon Emigrant Trail southwest of Lake Tahoe. We worked hard and got hot, tired and dirty. It was a fabulous experience (for other reasons). We had our testimonies blessed and our appreciation for the pioneers increased.
We were able to squeeze in a few days in Twain Harte. With Lisa & John's baby, Mia, in attendance we were able to make it 5 generations of our family that have vacationed in Twain Harte. We discovered a new attraction on the road between Columbia and Moaning Cave - Natural Bridges. An area where we are allowed to swim through a limestone cave. A new twist on spelunking.
We have been blessed to be involved with the teaching and baptism of some wonderful people lately and it has been an inspiring reminder that the gospel is true and that those who earnestly seek to know do receive answers to their prayers and do exercise faith unto baptism.
We love and appreciate you all.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
This is us after having just over-eaten with the Greens at the Blue Bird Cafe.