Wednesday, October 31, 2007
[Editor's note: As Sam observed in an earlier communication, Runcorn is the town where Thomas Green's parents were married.]
My new companion, Elder Anderson, is from Bethesda Maryland! He was in the Bethesda Ward and attended Walt Whitman High School. He knows the Fullers, but none of the other people I managed to dredge up from my memory. He’s also a very talented soccer (or rather, football) player and was a member (I believe) of the US national team before his mission. He and a previous companion used to do “investigator football,” playing football with local kids as a way of finding investigators, and since I arrived a couple of strangers we’ve met in our goings-about have recognized him and complimented on his “footie” skills. We’re hoping to start investigator football up again this weekend, something I’m looking forward to.
Elder Tomita and Elder Empey are in a newly-rented apartment across town (4-missionary flats have been phased out in the EMM), but we still see them a good bit and have gone on exchanges already. Elder Empey is originally from Alberta but more recently from a small rural town in Nevada just northeast of Las Vegas. He competed in professional rodeo as a teenager, in cutting and two different roping events. He also apparently resembles Donny Osmond – someone pointed this out while I was tracting with him, and he says he gets it about once a day. Apparently the Osmonds can be an effective lead-in for us missionaries among the right demographic here in England.
Runcorn seems like a nice place. It’s a very residential, almost suburban city (I think many people commute into nearby Liverpool or Manchester), and it has a shopping mall in lieu of the traditional pedestrian-only city-center shopping district – since we’re not allowed to street-contact in the mall as we would do in a city center, we focus more on tracting. Runcorn is officially a bike area, but the current bikes are not in good repair and so we do a lot of walking. It’s a big change from a car area like Barrow, simply because we have to invest more time in travel. But it will be good for me – I’ll have a chance to get good exercise, be more effective in the time I can devote to proselytising, and talk to more people on the way to and from our destinations.
The Runcorn ward is apparently really great. This week was stake conference, so I didn’t get to meet a lot of the ward yet, but we’ve had tea with a few member families already, and they seem generally both solid in the gospel and excited about missionary work. Apparently we get 110-120 people attending every week. Unfortunately vandals burned down the Runcorn chapel a few weeks ago, so the ward has to meet in a conference center for the time being. We’ve walked by the burned-out shell of the building a few times, and the damage looks pretty extensive – apparently it may take a couple of years to rebuild. But the whole thing has caused a lot of sympathy for the Church in the local community, so hopefully good things will come out of it all.
I’m running low on time here – I’ll finish quick. At transfers, I met a Sister Wassenaar from Den Helder who remembered me and Ruth from stake activities in Holland (and sang in the stake youth choir that I played the piano for in stake conference). She asked how Ruth was doing.
My study of Preach My Gospel is improving. I didn’t really appreciate it before my mission, but there’s good stuff to be found in there.
Happy Halloween and take care of yourselves!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
It's been a good final week in Barrow. The Lukes will be teaching our investigators after our departure, so we visited most of our investigators with the Lukes along. They will do a great job. The Lukes really hit it off with one of our investigators in particular, and we realized we probably should have brought them over to visit him several visits before.
Street contacting is going better for me these days, I think in part due to the good examples of the zone leaders and assistants to the President that I saw last week. I should have plenty of opportunities to get even better at it in the coming months.
We got the full update on transfers this week. Elder Tomita and I are both headed to Runcorn, a city on the Mersey River just southeast of Liverpool. Elder Tomita actually served in Runcorn earlier in his mission and is happy to be going back - he says there's a great ward there (although we hear that their chapel burned down a couple of weeks ago) and that in particular it's a good place to be for Christmas and Thanksgiving. So I'm excited. We're leaving Barrow at 9 AM tomorrow morning, handing over our car in Manchester at 11:30 AM (Runcorn is a bus area), and traveling to Runcorn by bus in the afternoon.
Elder Tomita and I will not be companions in Runcorn, however. For the past six weeks, there's been one companionship (Elder Andersen and Elder Empey) in Runcorn. Both those elders are staying in Runcorn, but each of us will get one of them as our new companion. So I'll be working with Elder Andersen, who's apparently been in Runcorn for about seven months already and hence knows the area really well. I'm a little sad that I don't get to work directly with Elder Tomita anymore, since he's so great, but it will be a good experience to get to know somebody else.
This morning Elder Tomita and I went and got our hair cut for 2 pounds apiece at this tiny little place, open from 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM, with a sign advertising haircuts for "gents" and a clientele focused largely in the 60+ age bracket. The barber, who told me he'd been cutting hair for 50 years, was chatting with one of the clients about a mutual friend who'd passed away recently ("That's the way I want to go . . . "). I told him about my great-grandfather had been a barber, and he asked me if I planned to be one too. I'd never really thought about doing that before . . . maybe if research and programming don't work out for me when I get home. :)
We spent this afternoon with our landlord Ray, going up to the nearby town of Ulverston to climb a hill with a monument on it and later to visit a Buddhist school and temple that's been established on an erstwhile estate of one of the English gentry. Ray is a wonderful guy, with all sorts of stories to tell about this area and its history, and we had a good time with him. He brought along his video camera and shot a video of our trip, which I'm hoping to get a copy of and send to you all.
Monday, October 22, 2007
My culinary education has been flying by faster than creme anglaise curdles (fast, I learned). At the same time, we do so much every day, it seems like years ago that I made peanut butter cookies in my first kitchen class. This past weekend marked the end of my basics class, which touches on a little of everything and drills in ingredient functions, a good handful of science, and some basic kitchen habits such as knife skills, sanitation, and "mis en place" (= everything in its place, or scaling and gathering ingredients and equipment before production). I'm fascinated by the science behind it all; there are so many more variables than I had imagined, and the more I learn, the more I have to hand it to the guys who first figured this stuff out and developed the formulas we use today (You may be raising an eyebrow at my use of the word 'formula.' At school we don't use the word 'recipe'--personally, I think it's just evidence of physics-envy. Psychology suffered from this too.).
I know you're all waiting for some good kitchen disaster stories, but alas, I don't have anything terribly entertaining yet (knock on wood). I do have some battle wounds, though. Last Monday was the infamous day of the genoise, when baking and pastry students are said to reconsider their education here at SCI. Reason being: we make our genoise (sponge cake) by hand, which entails about 30 minutes of vigorously whisking whole eggs. Whisking sounds like fun work, and actually is fun work . . .for about 6 minutes. After that, the joking stops, faces begin to turn a bit red, and you begin to think that now would be a good time to learn to become ambidextrous. It felt a little like boot camp, with the chef hovering over our shoulders yelling "faster. Harder. FASTER. HARDER." I emerged with some pretty brutal blisters, but we all survived the ordeal in the end.
One thing I'm learning here is that there are no superstars and no dunces. While I may smooth a cake with experience and finesse, I can turn out a pretty pitiful looking baguette. And the boy who can't pipe a decent strassburger cookie to save his life seems to have quite the knack for cooking smooth custards. The skills are so varied here, it keeps everyone from getting too discouraged or big-headed, and we end up helping each other out a lot, which is really nice.
I'm loving my ward here. We have some great people and a plethora of fun activities. The YSA are really strong in this area, as is the institute program, so there's always something interesting going on, whether it's visiting a Muslim mosque, carving pumpkins, or going to a luau. I've been lucky to make some close friends fast here, the atmosphere is so friendly.
In short, life is good. The sky is blue, the church is true, blowing sugar can be hot, and eating cake can be fattening. True doctrine.
Elder Tomita and I are leaving Barrow! :( Last Wednesday we got a call from our landlord, Ray (who, though not a member, loves missionaries and has enjoyed participating in preparation day activities and chatting with us during the fifteen years he’s rented to us - "You are a league of gentlemen," he tells us) telling us that he’d heard from the mission office that we were leaving – later that night the mission president gave us a call and told us that no more full-time elders will be serving in Barrow for the time being. The Lukes (the senior couple here) will stay and continue working with the ward. Apparently this has been in the works for some time. It makes us (and some of our members and investigators) sad, but I’m sure it’s for the best – President Jacobsen has the right to receive inspiration about this kind of thing. And I’m excited to see and serve in a new area. I’m not yet sure where I’ll be going or whether I’ll be staying with Elder Tomita, but I should know by next Wednesday.
An important footnote to this new development is that mail should no longer be sent to the address at 2 St. Lukes Street. Instead, it should be sent (for now) to the mission office:
England Manchester Mission
Springwood, Suite G5
Booths Park, Knutsford
Last Thursday we drove down to Lancaster to be interviewed by President Jacobsen and get trained by our district leaders (something that happens every transfer). We’re lucky to have President Jacobsen; he’s a great leader with a great sense of humor. He also has a degree from Stanford (yay!) and mentioned Stanford’s amazing upset of USC in football to me at the end of my interview. :)
We also had two companion exchanges in the past week – once on Thursday with the assistants to the President and once yesterday with our zone leaders. Both were great experiences for me, especially my exchange yesterday with Elder Hvistendahl, who is the first full-time missionary from Greenland in recorded Church history. He’s an amazing missionary (at interviews in Lancaster, President Jacobsen suggested we all grow up to be like Elder Hvistendahl), and I was deeply impressed with the simple way he taught the message of the Restoration to people on the street in a minute or less and helped them feel and recognize the Spirit where only seconds before they’d been trying to get away from us. This is his last week in the mission before he goes home, so it was a privilege to spend a day working with him.
I finally had a chance to read the account of Thomas Green's life that Grandma (I believe) furnished me with before I left for England. It's a great story, and I learned all sorts of interesting things (e.g. that Thomas Green was probably baptized by Heber C. Kimball and certainly knew him reasonably well). The story mentions a number of towns that played a role in Thomas Green's life, and now that I've spent some time in the EMM (short for England Manchester Mission), these places mean something to me! Warrington, where his father was born and near where he was born, is in the Liverpool Stake, and one of the people we've been teaching here just moved down there. Runcorn, where Thomas' parents were married, is one of the areas that Elder Tomita has served in. So there's a good chance I'll be visiting or even serving in one of these areas that were significant to Thomas Green in the course of my mission. Kind of exciting!
In sad news, the investigator we committed to be baptized has stopped meeting with us. :( Hopefully he’ll eventually come back to investigating the gospel at some future time. In the meantime, we’re working hard with the other people in our teaching pool, especially in trying to get members to come to teaching appointments with us so they will better be able to work with the investigators after we leave. It makes me so happy to hear about you guys in Jacksonville working with the missionaries, inviting them over for dinner, and inviting them to teach investigators at your home. That kind of support means a lot to us.
I love you! Support your local elders for me!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2007 1:25 PM
Subject: Wahoo!This is great!
The plane ride was fine. Elder Erickson and I [had] members directly in front of us and to our diagonal right, and the lavatory to my right. No opportunity to share the gospel. The people in front of us were really nice though.
We were welcomed at the airport by the Mission President and his assistants, as well as a bunch of English elders. We went to the mission home and had some orientation and training. We had a fantastic dinner and a testimony meeting of sorts. The next day we had a hearty breakfast Thursday morning and left for the chapel to have another meeting and meet our trainers. They read an intro for each new Elder, and I wasn't expecting the part where "I poke Kint!" ;) [
The sun hasn't shone at all yet, but it has been very pleasant temperature-wise. It rained all day Thursday, but I don't mind being wet.
I live with Elder Muaj Tsim and two other Hmong Elders in a not-too-shabby apartment. The other elders names are Elder Vang and Elder Vang. They didn't know each other before the mission, it's just that Vang is an incredible common Hmong clan. Elder Richard Vang is white Hmong and Elder Choua Vang is Green Hmong. Muaj Tsim's old companion (whom I replaced) was Elder Jonathan Vang, and Elder Jackson Vang is Elder Ericksons trainer and our district leader. So there are 3 companionships in our district. My area is called Frogtown, and I'm in
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Subject: Tagkis kuv los rau hauv lub ntiajteb (tomorrow come I into the world)
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go/ I'm standin' there outside your door/ I hate to wake you up to say goodbye....'cuz I'm leavin' on a jet plane!
It probably won't sink in until I get off the plane that I'm actually going to be in the field. It makes me feel excited---well, excited and scared (to the tune from Into the Woods).
This week Elder Khamsa got a bag of "Asian peppers" from a relative. Our naikhu identified them as the infamous kua txob peppers, known to many Americans as Thai peppers. We all loaded up glasses of milk so we could try them out. I bit off a little over half a centimeter from the little devil, and it was certainly a new experience. It's not so much hot, as it is painful. Like most spicy things, it takes a second to really kick in. When kua txob kicks in, it's like someone takes a cloth covered with pins, wraps it around your tongue, and squeezes. While you're in the process of drinking milk, the effects are nullified, but as soon as you swallow, you're right back where you were. What fun. I'll see if I can send one to Kent (isn't he the wasabi king?).
I ran into Elder Shields a few times. It was really weird because I always thought he was about Kent's age. Guess not.
I've gotten to be proxy at the temple for some people with pretty cool names. One was a Brother Gould (not quite Goa'uld, but still cool), another had the first name "Splinter".
Before I forget, I'd like to thank Liz for the goodies: Liz, thank you for the goodies! There.
As a zone leader, I discovered that we believe in meetings, we schedule meetings, we have endured many meetings, and hope to be able to endure all meetings. If there is a meeting we seek after it. I had 7 on Sunday.
Kent, it may amuse you to know I found the word for "Lampwick". It's teeb xeeb, pronounced 'dang sang' both with high level tones.
Doug might like to know that some Hmong use the Chinese word for 'stuff', but they change it a little to make it easier to spell. It's spelled toob xib.
Outta time! I'll call you
Thursday, October 11, 2007
British postal workers have been on strike for about a week, and so I haven't gotten any mail since last Wednesday. : ( But that's a pretty small inconvenience - one of our investigators gets paid through the mail and has had to make all sorts of special arrangements this week. Besides, pretty soon the strike should end and they should deliver all the backlog.
On Friday and Saturday we went on exchange with the other elders in our district, who are working in the village of Kendal. Elder Tomita went to Kendal, and Elder Turner, who is from Sacramento, came to Barrow to work with me. Elder Turner is recovering from surgery - he had to have his appendix removed just last transfer, I believe - but he was a good sport and we did a lot of good work. His style of missionary work is quite different from Elder Tomita's, so it was a really good experience for me to work with him for a day. Both the Kendal elders stayed with us on Saturday night so they could see General Conference (Kendal has no chapel so they have to come down to Barrow for the broadcast), and I also got to go on exchange with Elder Di Iulio from Italy for a couple of hours.
On Friday night, Elder Turner and I committed one of our investigators to baptism later this month. Gavin, the investigator, got really excited when we told him he could get baptized this soon. He made it to General Conference on Saturday night and to a baptismal service (for an 8-year-old girl) on Sunday, which helped him feel really good about going through with it. One of his big challenge right now is quitting smoking, but we met with him last night and things look very good.
Our finding efforts are also going well. Until last Friday, I had never been invited to come inside a door when tracting, but since then I've been invited in three times, once with Elder Turner on Friday and twice on Monday. One of these was a really nice old couple who were eager to chat with us, albeit not necessarily about the gospel. The husband told us all about his experiences serving in Burma in World War II: learning Urdu from Indian servicemen, negotiating with a local headhunter tribe, and "fighting the Japs." He was very apologetic when he realized Elder Tomita was from Japan. : )
Thanks again for your wonderful letters! I hope everything is going wonderfully in Jacksonville. I'll try and send you some pictures, but I may not have time - if not, I'll try next week.
Sometimes it just feels so great to be a missionary! Last Thursday we had a tea appointment with a family that had a whole bunch of Primary-age kids. The family lives at the top of a several-story apartment building, and when we got out of our car two of the kids on the balcony of the apartment building (who must have been there watching for us) starting waving to us. When we got up to their flat, the two little kids sang us a song that they’d prepared specially to greet us, and throughout the whole appointment we had a cluster of kids all around us (including two nonmember neighbor kids) asking us questions and showing and telling us things. When we taught our lesson at the end, they were eager to read scriptures and answer questions and tell us all the things they knew about the gospel. It just made me feel good about the world. As we were leaving, Elder Tomita reminded me about the scripture that tells us that we must become as a little child in order to enter the kingdom of God, and I could really see what it meant.
We've found some new investigators since I've arrived, which has been exciting to see. One of them in particular seems particularly promising, a guy who Elder Webb talked to in the street when we went on exchanges a week or two ago. He told us that he's been looking for a church to join (he's tried a couple of them and has not been satisfied); we've taught him twice so far and he's "keen" to keep on learning about the Church. Yay! And even when tracting or street contacting doesn't lead us directly to new investigators, it can be really productive. We tracted in Millom on Sunday, and although we didn't get to teach much at all, we happened to (or, I should say, were divinely guided to) run into two different less-active members who we hadn't met before (although we'd tried to find one of them earlier and failed). Both of them were friendly and said they'd be happy to have people visit them.
I can’t really comment authoritatively on the accent of the Manchester character in [the comic strip] Get Fuzzy – I’m about three hours north of Manchester right now, and apparently British accents are particularly distinctive and region-specific, changing significantly in only ten miles – but a number of the phrases he used in that comic strip sound very familiar: people are always saying “alright” (in a way that almost leaves out the L), and I’ve definitely “summat.” I think I’ve also heard people using “and that,” although it hadn’t jumped out at me before I read the comic strip. I’ve noticed a couple of other things about the Barrowian accent: people use the word “youse” as a second-person plural (a la “y’all”) and the vowel sounds from “boat” and “but” are pronounced almost identically. So when people say “Barrow,” it’s almost more like “Bar-uh.” At the open house the other day, a woman was telling us about the town in Northern Ireland where her ancestors came from, a tiny village with not much in it except a church, some houses, and a pope. After a little bit I realized the word she had said was “pub.” : )
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Subject: Txoj hau kev tau raug hloov lawm
The subject of this E-mail means "The plan has encountered changing". On Friday one of our naikhu (teachers) got a phone call saying that Elder Erickson and I were to stay until the 17th. We then received new travel plans confirming this. The rest of our zone, save it be an English district, are leaving this week, but we will get new Elders on Wednesday. We will just miss the new Hmong Elders because they will arrive on the 17th a few hours after we leave. We have been called as Zone Leaders for the remainder of our time at the Missionary Training Center, which presents us with an excellent opportunity to serve. We also have been paired up with Elder Khamsa, a Laotian Elder---the only Laotian Elder--- who is actually is Laotian and is called to serve in Oakland, CA speaking Lao. Hmong borrows around 50-60 words from Lao, so it's fun when he recognizes a word here and there when we speak. On the 17th I will likely call between 7:00 am and 8:00 am.
Conference was great! I've never enjoyed conference quite so much, and the reason is probably because I never listened so much. It also helps that I was actually looking for things to get out of the talks. Next conference, I urge all of you (even Daniel, but maybe not Tiara) to take notes and look for something to get out of each talk.
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Saturday, October 6, 2007
During Priesthood session is a good time to sit down and write a little update I've been meaning to :)
We are in our official countdown to graduation from law school. Hooray! But in that we have realized that there's still a lot of things we haven't accomplished yet on our "East Coast To Do List." We've decided that since John's already accepted a job offer at Orrick Harrington & Sutcliff in San Francisco for next fall, school doesn't need to be as time consuming as it once was. We are taking time to play! In the past couple weeks we've gone to the Jersey Shore, Princeton, hit up a Yankees game and picked our own fruits and vegetables at a farm. Next weekend is our fall foliage trip and the weekend after that is Boston. So we are packing it all in before the weather turns cold.
In between our trips we've been keeping busy. John has been involved in Moot Court and is the Law Republicans President this year. He's also been put in as Young Man's President (we really only have one active young man in our ward...sad!). Mia is learning something new everyday. She is determined to start running as soon as possible. My back is starting to ache a bit as we make lap after lap around the apartment. For Halloween she is going to be a chicken. We took pictures of her in it at the farm the other week. I think Halloween is going to be a lot more fun for me from here on out...haha. As for me, I'm loving being mom. Mia and I play with friends from the ward on a regular basis and we like to go on lots of walks. I've also started going back to work at the ad agency I worked for previously. It's nice that I just go in once a week to help with special projects while John watches Mia.
If anyone wants to make an NYC trip anytime in the next 8 months you'd have somewhere to stay! We'd love to have you!
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Weeks 1 through 6
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2007 7:32 AM
Subject: Lub sijhawm los lawm! (Yuav luag)
October already?! Gadzooks! I got my travel plans, and I am indeed embarking on the 10th. The lap bar is down, the ride operator has marbled through his speech on the loudspeaker, and train is clink-clattering up the first hill.
During my time here, I have noticed a sizable handful of flagrant grammatical and spelling errors on signs, in speech, and even in the missionary handbook. I know everyone make mistake, especially me, and my spelling isn't perfect (I can barely spell in English anymore because I'm so accustomed to phonetic writing), but I expect people to proofread signs and official handbooks before they go out. For example, the wallpaper of these computers gives this warning: Any misuse of the Internet or e-mail will cause the missionary to *loose* e-mail privileges while at the MTC. (Emphasis added). In the handbook and on a sign near the ATM, there are references to some sort of ATM machine, and I'm wondering what they do with all the ATMs the ATM machine makes (for surely that must be its function). Also, several people, including Bishops, teachers, etc. refer repeatedly to those who undergo orientation as being orienTAted (emphasis added). Sometimes (depending on who it is) I say "Wait, who was oriented?" and they get this look on their face like, "Oh, I guess there IS a word for that after all and I don't have to make one up!"
It sounds like you got my tape....cool.
My district got to give a pep talk to a new group of Thai-speaking missionaries, and give them advice etc. It was a fantastic experience. I gotta go! Love you all!