Thursday, March 28, 2013

Week 2, Day 11

So I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. waiting for Preston's letter.   I finally fell asleep and the email came in at 4:00 a.m.  I woke up and checked my email at 6:00 and there it was, and I couldn't go back to sleep afterward.  I've got to get better at this.  He is definitely in the swing of things now.  He sounds like he is a little frustrated with the lack of time he has to email everyone that he wants to.  I know it's a pain, but he says he'd rather have actual mail because he can take all the time he wants to read them.  So if anyone needs international stamps, I have lots of them!!!  I'd be happy to mail any letter anyone wants to bring by the house.  :) 
Wow. So much has happened and I only have twenty minutes left of emailing. I barely had time to skim everyone´s emails and then read the ones from you and my grandparents. I don´t know why the flip the Provo MTC gets two hours, because we get a half hour and that is all. Well. I don´t know where to start. My companion is Elder Webb. The first missionary I really talked to. He was there with me in line. I totally had him pegged wrong at first. The biggest challenge for me right now is bonding with my companion. I have never met someone that I have had such a hard time connecting with. He is the opposite of me in every way. But he is a great missionary. He is here for the right reasons and he does have a desire to learn. His Spanish isn´t very good, and it is a burden sometimes but he is trying and I appreciate him. I have such an incredibly difficult time not being alone. I miss that terribly. I never realized how much I valued the time I spent by myself. I hate not being allowed to spend time by myself. And it doesn´t help that my comp and I aren´t exactly close. But I´m trying. I know that I was assigned to him for a reason.
My spanish is the best in my zone. Which is sad. But I´m way better than I thought I was. I am a zone leader. Elder Webb and I are. We were called the day after we got here. There are two zones in this MTC. Each of about 30 missionaries. This MTC is really...laid back. It´s not structured or orderly like I hear the Provo one is. There is a lot of down time. In the MTC, the teachers act as fake investigators and you and your companion teach them. There are districts, and each district has 6-8 missionaries in them. Our districts are our classes. The teachers will leave the classroom and one companionship will teach them while the others are supposed to be in class studying but everyone just messes around. And it is hard to focus when everyone else including your companion is just hanging out. I need to have much more discipline. I wasn´t planning on having to worry about that in the MTC, but the CCM is totally different. It´s a little bit all over the place. I am learning Spanish quickly. Much faster than I thought. I am literally teaching discussions without notes or anything. They´re aren´t correct by any means, but we´re doing it. Elder Webb isn´t quite at that point yet. But he is defintely improving!! I do love it here though. Elder W and I had a companionship inventory a few days ago and we discussed our differences. He says I´m too intense of a person, which made me laugh. We are just the opposite in every way. He is super laid back and doesn´t really worry about anything, and he loves making weird noises randomly and it is impossible for him to sit in silence. He has to be making some kind of noise. And I´m sure you realize how much I love random noises ;) Haha. It´s ok though. It´s a challenge for me but I am trying. The hard thing is that I can´t just put up with him and get through the MTC. I have to love him. ANd I am trying really hard. I pray every night. IT´s getting better. I was SOOOOOOO excited to email you. I cannot express to you how wonderful it is to get mail. Thank the proctors for me for their letter. I miss you soo much. All of you. I miss Spencer´s voice. I miss singing with him. I miss Quincey and Lincoln. A lot. I miss Clayton getting mad at me for putting old shirts of mine in his hamper. I miss Brigham and his slang. I miss you and Dad so much. I keep telling myself that I´m really not homesick, but I think I am. My first clue was the fact that I fall asleep every night listening to Pride and Prejudice, balling my eyes out. It´s only difficult at night. I´m pretty muc hfine during the day. I love being here, but I seriously miss my family. Much more than I thought I would.
I am in a room with five other Elders. Elder Ellsworth and Elder Frederick who are in the other zone, but they´re alright. Elder F is really odd. And Elder Ellsworth is a nice kid. Also Elder Easton and Elder Smith, who are absolutely hilarious. I laugh so hard that I cry sometimes. But we waste a lot of time with them. They are both football players and Easton was an SBO president. Everyone is from Utah. Easton did choir so we sing a ton. But it´s not the same as Spencer. They are comps and we hang out with them a lot. Elder Webb doesn´t like to though because he thinks we´re in a clique. Which I don´t agree with. I talk to everyone. Really. We´re pretty close here. Everyone knows everyone. Some missionaries came in yesterday from the Provo MTC, including Hermana King. I haven´t seen much of her because she´s in the other zone. They were waiting for their visas. The food is weird here. They try to be American but they don´t do well. It´s alright. I took some pictures but it takes way too long to load so you g uys wont get those until I´m in the field. I leave the MTC on April 30th. So we went proselyting in a park on Saturday. And that was crazy. Really scary. I was with Elder smith because we had assigned temp comps and we only placed two pamphlets. The only word that Smith said was Hola, so I talked 99 percent of the time. We talked to a lot of people but none of them really cared. Some people were atheists and they kept arguing with me about God and how did I know that he was there and all this stuff. I talked to one lady for about twenty minutes. I´m learning quickly. I don´t know how but it´s fast. Elder Easton and this other elder placed nine books of mormon which really discouraged me. But I have to remember that it´s not about numbers and I just need to have more faith. I think speaking better Spanish is almost a discourtesy to me in that regard, because everyone else just handed people books and acted out stuff because they had no Spanish. People actually understand what I say so they talk back and interrogate me. It was nerve racking but I LOVED it. So excited for Saturday. I am being really lazy and not studying like I should. So I am trying to realign my focus. I´m super busy usually and when I´m not I just waste time. It´s so laid back here. Elder E,S,W and I all walked to Burger King during dinner yesterday. We had permission of course but it´s like 10 minutes away. That would never happen in provo. I just want more structure. I really just need to have more discipline.
Sorry about the bad punctuation and spelling, I am way over time and I have only written this one email. Let everyone know that I appreciate their emails. But I would much rather get letters. I know it´s hard but missionaries love mail and we only have a half hour here in the MTC. I would never have enough time to respond to everyone. I love wearing the badge that I wear. I know that I am a representative of Jesus Christ and I am striving to honor his name in every way possible. Going to bed at 10:30 is hard, and getting up at 6:30 is easy. The jet lag was not too bad, I got over it in five or so days. Umm I will write a more detailed letter. I have stamps and stuff.
Well. Please don´t think I´m not enjoying my experience here. Although I wish some things were different, I absolutely love this and I am SOO excited to get into the field. I am making the most of what I have and that´s what matters. My main goal is to be like Christ. That is all that matters to me right now. The language isn´t a big deal. I should be fluent by September according to my maestro.
Mom I would love the lyrics to all the le mis songs and to some Disney ones too. Elder Easton and I sing a lot. I would also love a new wall adapter maybe? Mine doesn´t work. I have SOO much more to tell you but I really can´t. I´m almost double my time. I would love snacks. If you could. And letters. I don´t have time but I will give more info in a letter. I love you all so much. I love this. I really really do.
Elder Sharp

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 1- Leaving for Madrid

As we were checking his bags.  Lucky for us his bags were under-weight.  Whew.  
Before the tears had set in so badly.
Very last family photo.  Not sure we will ever look this way, as a family, again.  (Brig insists Preston will be married before Brig gets home from his mission.)
Brig went first.  Not easy.
Then Quince.
Little Linc.
Spence (that was rough)
Dad (holding my purse)
And then me.  That was the hardest hug I've ever had to let go of.

The look on his face kind of says it all.
He had a last moment with 'the babies'.  
Sweet Lincoln was struggling badly- which made it a bit harder for everyone.
 Their last photo.
He jumped in line where Will was standing....
And then he walked away on his own.  We watched him cry, alone, in line.  
Then Elder Webb's fabulous parents moved Preston into the line with him.  He is smiling!!
One final last glance at us.
 And finally, our last look at him for two years, before he walked away out of sight.

Hardest morning of my life- for sure.  I knew it was going to be rough, but it was every bit as awful as I had imagined, and then some.  Our family doesn't hold back.  We, although extremely embarrassing, show and share our emotions freely.  I felt like we were a complete spectacle at the airport.  I kept thinking that at least at the MTC drop-off, everyone is crying.

I won't go into detail about all of our emotions there and throughout the day, but I wanted to share two experiences.  First, there was a moment not photographed that was probably most special to me.  Will was standing in the line, holding Preston's place and the rest of us were all standing together in a group.  We were huddled together to try to be out of the way, which was sort of impossible, and I just kind of pulled them all together in a group hug.  (think team huddle)  I looked at them and said, "Let's do this again in four years."  Preston was sobbing as he realized we wouldn't all be together for at least that long.  It was a bitter-sweet moment, and one I will never forget.  Second experience was a tender mercy, one of many to come to Preston as he serves, I'm sure.  As we gave our final hugs, Preston had to walk through the line without us.  So we were all watching and he was alone, surrounded by strangers in the line, with his face all red and tears still flowing.  It was heart-breaking to watch.  It was all I could do to stand there and not call to him over and over.  It would have been horrible to remember him that way as he walked away.  There was another Elder about 20 people in front of him in the line.  His parents were standing near him in the line, on the outside of the roped off section.  (There were too many of us to go up there.)  This Elder's mom kept looking back at us and giving me this sympathetic look.  Then his dad walked over and moved the rope and pulled Preston out of line and sent him up with his son so that they could stand together.  It made such a difference!!  He and Preston started talking and Preston composed himself and even smiled and laughed several times.  We watched him finish through the security line and go through the scanners together with this Elder.  Then we saw them on the other side just as they were about to walk out of view and Preston looked back and smiled at all of us.  

I don't know if that Elder's parents have any idea how much it helped both Preston and us to have him with their son.  It completely changed Preston's demeanor and allowed us to see him for our final time with a smile and looking confident.  I will forever be grateful to that sweet family and to the Lord for such a blessing right as we, and he, needed it so much.  

Day 2- He Made It!!

I got a call from Preston yesterday as he got onto the plane in NYC to let me know he had made his flight and that all was well.  It was a quick, 5 second call and all I was able to say basically was "I love you so much."  But it made all the difference.  I'm so glad he was able to call.  All night last night I kept looking at my phone to see if he had emailed.  I knew that they have the Elders email home when they arrived at the MTC.  I didn't know if he might call again from the airport in Madrid, and I didn't want to miss it.  So I didn't really sleep and checked my phone over and over.  :)  I'll get better at this.  Anyway- at about 7:00 a.m. I checked my phone and there it was:  a very detailed, awesome letter of his first day!  He knows how much details mean to me-  He is so great!!  Here it is, and it is long!  :)

Hello my wonderful family!
I absolutely love it here. Honestly there is no where else I would rather be. I was born to do this!! The flight was really boring. There was a lot of turbulence but that´s not really a big deal. My rear end hurts like no other. For some reason I am incapable of sleeping on an airplane. Our flight from SLC to Atlanta was fine, and I met this guy who talked to me for a long time on the plane (us missionaries weren´t sitting together on that particular flight). The flight from Gerogia to NYC was worse because we were in the back of the plane and our seats couldn´t recline. I sat in between Elder Smith and Sister Nielsen. It is so weird to refer to people as Elder. All of us need to work on exchanging the word "dude" in our vocabulary for "Elder". Our flight to NYC was delayed, and so we had to book it to our connecting flight to Madrid. Honestly as soon as the plane landed they had us get out first so that we could make the flight. They had a rover cart thing waiting to take us to the terminal, but it took us to the wrong one. So we got off and were running around the airport trying to find our gate, but nobody would help us. Most of the airport people couldn´t even speak decent english. We were sprinting through the airport! Thank heavens I didn´t have my carry on. It wouldn´t fit in the overhead rack on the way to NYC so they checked it with my other luggage (free of charge). I could not imagine running around with that thing and my duffel bag. Apparently I have way more crap than everyone else. Because all they have is a little backpack and two large suitcases. Whatever though. They found us running in the airport and put us on a shuttle to the gate to the plane bound for Madrid. Elder Smith almost lost his passport. But I picked it up. Lucky for him. I´m so tired. Anyway. We finally made it to the plane to Madrid and we got on, sat down, and waited for two hours because they had to defrost the airplane with high powered jet stream water. It was snowing in NYC. So our flight to Madrid was delayed. It was so long. The food on the plane wasn´t actually that bad dear Father. They had SO many movies to choose from. Wow. It was hard not to watch something. But we didn´t. Elder Smith wanted to and asked if he should and I was like "Well I´m not going to...but I won´t judge you if you do. It´s a long flight". Apparently he took that as¨"you´re going to hell if you watch a movie and I will judge you for sure" cause he´s been telling people that I said that. Haha. I feel like Elder Smith doesn´t really know why he´s here. He doesn´t seem like he´s into the whole church thing as much as Elder Webb and I. Elder Webb is great, he´s just super laid back. I have been literally jumping up and down giddy with excitement the past day but nobody seems to share my enthusiasm!! Sister Nielsen didn´t even want to go on a mission, but she felt like she was supposed to. Anyway. When we landed in Madrid I was beyond ecstatic. I couldn´t wait to breath my first breath of Spanish air!!! The airport in Spain is old. It´s weird to see everything in Spanish. Lots of people smoke. We got off the plane and walked for a while through the airport and then passed customs and got our luggage. And then we exchanged our cash for euros and waited for someone to show up. And then this guy in a suit came and in broken english asked if we were elders or whatever. Which we are. Elders. So he took us and put all of our luggage in the back of his truck (I have like twice as much luggage as everyone else) and then we drove through Madrid to the Temple Square. I´ve been taking lots of pictures. Madrid is wonderful. I am SO excited. My spanish is better than everyone else´s here. Which isn´t saying a lot. But I speak a lot better than I thought I did. All of the buildings look the same here. Red brick. It´s cool. The temple is BEAUTIFUL. I love it so much. We get to go through the temple every Thursday. We get to go contacting in the park or downtown Madrid every Saturday. And our P day is Thursday and we get to go on excursions throughout Madrid. The MTC President wants us to get to know the culture. His name is President Sitterud. My group of 4 was the first one here. So I met with President first and we talked for a while. I like him a lot. I am so excited to be here. They evaluated my Spanish and then I went and showered before lunch. Get this- my first meal in Spain was sticky rice with tomato sauce on it with hot dogs and bacon on top. And then apple, orange, and this weird pudding thing. And bread of course. Super ironic. But I don´t think that´s typical for here. I looked at the menu for the rest of the month and it looks pretty good. There are supposed to be about 50 missionaries coming today and tomorrow. We were first. And then another group of 2 elders and 4 sisters came a while after us. Elder Easton and Elder Dansie. Elder Dansie is hilarious and Elder Easton is just a really good guy. He seems like the AP type. My temporary comp is Elder Smith. We will be assigned our real companions tomorrow. Everything starts tomorrow. Today we just kind of do nothing. It´s frustrating. The MTC is the top three floors of this building. It has six levels and the bottom three levels are where the temple workers live. We get an hour each day to exercise. It is going to be hard here. Really hard. But I´m ready. I cannot tell you how excited I am!! Anyway. I don´t have much time left. We only get a half hour. But I am pretty sure I will be emailing on Thursdays. Not tomorrow though. The rooms are small. I can´t unpack because I may be moved to a different room. Everything is based on spanish proficiency. I will be a senior comp apparently so when we go contacting on SATURDAY I will have to try and place books of mormon. I´m actually not that scared. But I think I will be in a few days. I have to go now. I love you all. You´re welcome for sending such a long, detailed email. I miss you already :) I love you guys. Write me please!
Love, Elder Sharp