Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 8, in which my life resembles a Navajo quilt, and in which I receive a letter from Africa!

Only 3 more weeks in the MTC! I cannot believe how quickly time is flying! Thank you so much for all the letters this week, as well as for the package and the FUDGE! Grandparents, I love love love you!

So once upon a time, a very long time ago, I was in the middle of organizing a dance for one of my Young Women's projects, and in the midst of frantic preparations, I accidentally let go of a bunch of balloons and watched them float away to the top of the stake center ceiling. I then proceeded to flop down on the floor and cry. You know, a completely normal reaction. And one of my very good friends sat down next to me and told me about Navajo quilts. Apparently, they are never perfect. And they do that on purpose. They intentionally put in a flaw because they believe that nothing can be perfect, and that flaws are what make things beautiful. That's exactly how I feel about this missionary experience. It's never going to be perfect or predicable, but it's the mistakes and the flaws and the embarrassing moments and the unexpected blessings that make it the best, most beautiful experience of my life.

500 new missionaries entered the MTC last week. FIVE HUNDRED. What a miracle. I honestly cannot get over the fact that there are about 2900 missionaries here right now. The four new sisters that came in last Wednesday are great! We have some very different personalities, but again, that's what makes this into the Navajo quilt.

I've had "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" stuck in my head all week. But I keep putting in other people's names... usually elders' names. Elder Morton had some pretty special moments this week. Here is my favorite:

Elder Morton: So where are you from?

Sister: New Zealand.

Elder Morton: Oh that's cool. Have you ever been to Hobbiton?

Sister: No, I wish!

Elder Morton: Have you ever happened upon any of the Maoris? I hear that they eat people. Is that still true?

Here are a couple other great MTC moments:

Sister Tai (my teacher): My favorite candy? Probably... Kitten? Kitty?

Class: Kit Kat?

Sister Tai: Oh, that might be it.

A random, unathletic, yet hilarious elder with whom we've played volleyball several times: (everytime he missed the ball) Yay sports!

Elder Staheli (the new Cantonese elder, in one of his first prayers without looking at the book): Ngohdeihge gatihng, ngohdeih gamjeh leih chibei ngohdeih ngohdeihge gatih--- Dang it!

Interpretation: Our family, we thank thee for giving us our family...

Also, I had about a 20 minute conversation with one of the new districts in the branch where we basically just asked questions like this: "Who would win? Dumbledore or Gandalf?" "Who's more dominant? Sauron or Voldemort?" "Who's cooler? Sirius Black or Faramir?" (That last question was mine. I know. It's good, isn't it? It stumped them too.)

Question: Will someone send me the poem "Friend in the Desolate Time"? Also, Grandma, you promised me some poems while I was gone! I'm anxiously waiting :) Thank you!

I got a letter from Jesse this week! It made my whole day, and I keep reading it over and over again, and then bragging to whomever I'm sitting next to about my cousin in Sierra Leone.

So on Tuesday, Elder Neil L. Andersen came to speak to us! It was such an awesome experience, and he talked a lot about President Monson. I was amazed by how humble and honest he was, and his testimony blew us all away.

I've had quite a plethora of incredibly spiritual experiences this week, but the best happened when I wasn't even looking. Isn't that how it always goes? After lunch, I was playing piano in one of the classrooms, when two elders walked in and asked if I'd play a hymn for them to sing to. One of the elders was a skinny white boy, and the other was a tall, big Tongan boy. They were quite an amusing sight, let me tell you. So they picked "How Great Thou Art," and the moment they started to sing, I was blown away. Wow. Their voices, though as different as their appearances, blended so well together, and I can't even describe the Spirit that was in that room. Sister Ainge was in tears, and I couldn't stop smiling while I was playing. When we finished, we decided that we should audition to do a musical number. Unfortunately, they were scheduled to leave today, so we figured we probably wouldn't get to do anything. But the audition was awesome. So good. And President Brown came in right near the end and asked us to do the last verse again. That was the verse where they both belted it. And he insisted that they be fit in somewhere! So they had us perform for the devotional for departing missionaries on Sunday afternoon. And after that was over, President Brown said that he would use his authority to insist that we perform again at the Sunday evening devotional for the closing song. And let me tell you, I was shaking during the whole devotional! But it went so well. And the Spirit was so strong. Mom and Dad, I am so grateful that you pushed us while we were taking piano lessons, because it is such a blessing to be able to accompany these kinds of performances. Music touches people in ways that words can't. Although I've got to say that nothing beat that first time we performed. It was so unplanned and powerful and unexpected.

Well I'm almost out of time, but I've got to tell you something awesome! So every Tuesday we have a General Authority come and speak to us. And we never know who it is before we get there. But tomorrow's speaker wants to hold a special meeting with just the Mandarin and Cantonese missionaries tomorrow afternoon!!! I am so excited! So next week's email is going to be awesome, just you wait.

I love you all so much! Thank you for all your prayers and support, I really can feel them making a difference! Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pictures from the Missionary Training Center! (at last)

Katie and Sister Law

Map of the World
She can cover Hong Kong with just one finger

Lucky girl...she got the bottom bunk

The people we have heard so much about:
Sister Law, Elder Morton, Elder Arrington, Elder Kimball, Katie
( L to R)

Ice Cream from President Brown
She asked for Earnestly Chocolate Ice Cream from BYU Creamery

The Cantonese District plus teacher Gu Hing daih
in the light blue tie

Both Cantonese Districts
Sister Heaton beside Katie, Sister Lin, Sister Law

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 7, in which I step it up (literally) and stomp the yard (figuratively)

Firstly, what is that movie quote from? I can't place it, but I trust that Rebecca or Rachel will be able to help me out.

Secondly, hello family and friends! Yet another eventful week has passed at the MTC. I can't believe I'll be in Hong Kong in less than a month now! Time is just flying by. News of the day: Sister Law is officially en route to Hong Kong! She got her visa on Tuesday and my new companion came in on Wednesday. God has a hand in what's going on here, that's for sure. There are so many small miracles that happen every day, but this is the biggest miracle so far, that Sister Law's paperwork was delayed just long enough for me to get a new companion. I guess Heavenly Father knew I couldn't handle being stuck with a gazillion elders all by myself all day err-day.

Since my companion is gone, I'll be teaching one of my investigators by myself... Which means I have to teach 30 minutes in Cantonese... After learning the language for a month and a half. Wow, no pressure right? I'm pretty nervous, but I know as long as I do my best that it will turn out just fine!

Sooooo my new companion is Heaven-sent. Her name is Sister Ainge, and she loves playing volleyball and eating dark chocolate. So basically we're already best friends. I have been so blessed so far when it comes to companions. So either I have really good luck or there are some really crazy companions out there waiting for me. BRING IT ON! And now we both have solo stickers on our missionary tags, which makes us pretty legit...imate. Even after 7 weeks surrounded by Mormons in Utah, I still can't bring myself to say 'legit.' It just ain't happenin'.

So every night in class we play the question game to figure out who is going to say the closing prayer. I usually ask questions like, "Which Lord of the Rings character would you be?" or "What would your patronus be?" And everyone usually groans. One night the question was, "What is your favorite Cantonese word to say?" We had a fun time saying all the great Cantonese words we could think of, and then we talked about our favorite words in English. I said I really like 'plethora,' at which point Elder Morton makes a disgusted face and says, "Ew. Why? It sounds so... sticky." So now I've used it as much as possible in the past week or so. And you know how I always have a catchphrase that I always say? Well my new one is, "Let's bounce!" I say it every time we leave anywhere, and I think it gets one people's nerves. But I'm over it.

Random question. So, when we were younger, I distinctly remember Dad sticking his church shoes in the oven every now and then. Why did he do that? I was telling people in class about it, and they didn't believe it. But I know it happened!

Speaking of Dad, I was telling my district about how he would always reprimand me for my poor posture. I told them about how he kept poking my back while I was running to make me arch my spine. I said, "I tend to hunch over when I start getting tired." And then Elder Morton said, "When I get tired, I just stop running."

Can I just tell you how ridiculously excited I got when Rebecca told me about how there will be THREE HOBBIT MOVIES!!! How awesome is that. That means I can still go to at least one midnight premiere! And can I tell you about the reaction I got from the rest of the class when I announced this incredible news? Yeah. Nothing. NOTHING. No cheering, no nods of approval. In fact, one of the elders said, "Ew. Why?" And by one of the elders, I mean Elder Morton of course.

Recently in the Chinese hallway, we've started singing Christmas songs for our opening hymns. It makes things that much better.

One of the best places to watch people at the MTC is in the laundry room. People are in their casual clothes and it just brings out a new side of people. You also learn a lot about how they were raised. It's very clear which elders never did their own laundry. In fact, today we heard one elder yell, "Mom! Help!" Rookie.

I have a new-found love for hot tamales. Just in case anybody ever feels like ever sending me any...

One of my new favorite Cantonese expressions is "Jouh dihng mhjouh. Mouh sihah." Literally meaning "Do or not do. No try."

I started trying to read Jesus The Christ on Sunday. Next time you read it, read it in a classy, British accent. It sounds just like the introduction to a History Channel documentary.

Question: Will someone send me Sam's monologue from the end of Two Towers? Thank you!

I've been thinking a lot about how I can become more like the Savior. And something I've learned about him is how he never thought about himself. He turned out, always. Even after suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, after being betrayed by one of his own apostles, after being spit on and judged and hated, he still said, "Forgive them." He still expressed concern for his mother and his followers and the soldier who lost his ear and those others on their crosses. This mission isn't for me to become better or for me to feel like I did something worthwhile. It's a time when I need to stop focusing on myself and just throw myself into caring about everyone else. Because it's only when you lose yourself that you find yourself.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 6, in which I get the smackdown and accidentally revert to my evil ways (those two events are unrelated)

Hello everyone! Jousahn! Can you believe it's already week 6? I can! It feels like I've always been here and like I'll probably never leave. But that's okay! I've finally switched to a new planner because I used up my entire first one! That definitely felt like an accomplishment.

First off, I cannot even express how grateful I am that those four English-speaking sisters are here with us. Sisters Cunningham, Christeinsen, Asay, and Bouldin are awesome! I love having some great girlfriends. Sister Law is great, but it's fun when there is a whole group of us.
Speaking of sisters, we're getting two brand new baby Cantos this week: one elder and one sister! A two person district. So weird. But I am so excited to meet the new sister and I just know we're going to get along swimmingly! Sister Law's visa has yet to arrive, so we're still playing the waiting game. I am so grateful that she hasn't left yet. We had several really great lessons with our "investigators" (teachers pretending to be people that they taught on their missions) this week. Gu Hingdaih left this week for a study abroad in China, so our last lesson with A-Hei was on Monday evening. And guess what! We set a baptismal date with him! The change from our first lesson to this lesson was incredible. He was happy, smiling, and attentive. It felt good, like all of our hard work paid off. And here's the weird (miraculous would also be an appropriate word) thing. After we taught, Gu Hingdaih came back and told us the story about the real A-Hei, whose life was depressing, dreary, and mundane. His wife and father were both dead, his family had practically disowned him, and alll he had in the world was his son and his job at a barber shop. But when he met the missionaries, his life changed. His perspective changed. His whole demeanor changed. And he is so happy now! And as Gu Hingdaih told A-Hei's story, I felt this overwhelming love for a man who I've never met who lives literally on the other side of the planet from me. It felt like my chest was full to bursting, like there was something inside that was too big, like I could just love the whole world. I can't even imagine how the Savior. His love is perfect, and mine is just eh. But goodness gracious, I cannot wait to get out there and start loving and serving those people.

That's what's so beautiful about this gospel: it's not for perfect people. It's for everyone. We never will get that happiness that come from being like Christ through our own efforts. We can only get that through our relationship with the Savior. And that relationship is so real--I can feel it and I'm more sure of it every day. Christ's religion is a religion of hope, a religion that enables us to change. Joseph B. Wirthlin said, "The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a religion of mourning and gloom. the faith of our fathers is one of hope and joy. It is not a gospel of chains but a gospel of wings. To embrace it fully is to be filled with wonder and to walk with an inner fire." I love that. When we dedicate our lives to serving Jesus Christ, we find who we truly are and we find how to be truly happy. But we must take the first steps with faith. Ether 4 talks about how "we receive no witness until after the trial of our faith." That's what we're here to do. As missionaries, we're here to invite people to take that first step, to experiment, to just see if maybe Christ can help them. And once they feel that confirmation, then all they want to do is help Christ. It's the most rewarding thing to do!

My new favorite line from a hymn: I'll cast my burdens at his feet and bear a song away.

In other news, I met an elder from Kent, England, who claims Maidstone as his second home. So we chatted for a while (while he was getting his hair cut, which was only a little awkward) and then I found out that GUESS WHAT! He is serving in Richmond, VIRGINIA! So keep an eye out for him! I didn't actually get his name because his tag was covered by the haircutting... thing... (what do you call those???) But he's the one with a British accent, so he should be pretty easy to spot. And I gave him a piece of paper with our name, ward, and stake, so he'll be on the look-out too. I also met Trent Larsen's (from Sparks) cousin, who I've actually played basketball with a couple of times! He sat down right next to me at a devotional and we didn't even recognize each other at first haha. And today I saw Erin Schmoldt from Sparks!! And it turns out that she's friends with the new Canto missionary!

We've started telling people that we speak "the language of the Canton tongue" instead of Cantonese. Completely unrelated, we've decided that if "Called to Serve" were written specifically about us as a district, the chorus would probably say something like "Awkward, ever awkward" instead of "Onward, ever onward."

So I mentioned earlier that we had a great lesson with "A-Hei" last Monday, but let me tell you, I got off to a rough start. I walked in there and asked how his day was. He told me he'd given himself a haircut. I tried to tell him it looked nice, but instead of saying "hou leng" I said "hou jeng" a word that I'd never actually heard before. They all laughed at me... And later I found out that that's the Cantonese equivalent of, "You look fiiiiiiiiiine." Hahaha, well it was effective I suppose!

Well my email time is up! I love you all! Thank you for the letters and packages and prayers! I feel their effects every day. I love you!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week 5, in which I become a minor celebrity and see people kissing for the first time in a month

Hello dearest family and friends! Yet another week has passed here at the good ol' MTC. As per usual, I have had several interesting adventures. But firstly, I have some upsetting news to break to you. Up to this point, you have been blessed with weekly updates of the hilarity that is Elder Morton. But after I mentioned that he had his own weekly section in my email (and therefore on my blog) he resolved to say nothing that was remotely funny for the whole week--a tragedy for us all. But I know that, if we are patient, he will break eventually. He can't subdue his wonderful personality for long. But here's something you probably don't know about Elder Morton! He can play the tin whistle! He is actually really good. He makes me want to riverdance (although to be honest, it doesn't take much to make me want to riverdance). Also, he is a pro fencer.

So President Brown (the MTC President) and I have gotten to know each other pretty well this past week. As I mentioned in my last email, he promised me ice cream, which he followed through on. The next evening at dinner they had the ice cream bar (my favorite time of the week!) and I was taking my ice cream back to my seat when I walked past him and said hello, and then said something like, "Didn't get enough ice cream the first time!" To which he responded, "Well more than one bowl in a night is fine by me! Good for you!" And as I walked away, I realized that he thought I meant that that was the second bowl of ice cream I'd eaten that night, which was incorrect. At that point I was slightly embarrassed by my seemingly appalling diet. But our interactions didn't end there... (cliff hanger)

So the older Hong Kong district left early this morning! I was a little sad to see them go, but it means that it's only 6 weeks or so until I follow them! WOW! I am getting so excited to get out of here and start my mission for real! Although I know there will be times where I will miss the cushiness of the MTC--all your meals are premade, every minute of the day is scheduled to the max, and you are surrounded by fun, crazy missionaries coming from and going to every part of the world! Speaking of all different kind of missionaries, guess who I have seen every day since he entered the MTC last Wednesday... No. That's way off. You'll never get it, so I'll just tell you. The boy who played young Joseph in the Joseph Smith movie! I know! CRAZY! The first time we saw him in the cafeteria, Sister Heaton, Sister Lin, Sister Law, and I just stared. Really conspicuously. And I was debating about whether or not to ask for a picture with him when he swaggered past and said, "Good morning, ladies." And those who know me know how I feel about boys who creepily call a group of girls 'ladies.' So then I decided I wouldn't ask after all. I'm too proud for that.

The other day, our whole district had 'For The Longest Time' stuck in our heads, which, if you think about it, is a pretty appropriate song for the MTC. And I was just imagining how fun it would be to make a music video of it. It would start out with all of us listening to our teacher talking (sounding something like the Charlie Brown teacher) and then Elder Morton would start snapping really slowly under our desk. And then Elder Arrington would start to whistle and Elder Kimball would sway to the beat. And then the tempo would all the sudden speed up and all of us would jump up and start skipping around the building singing and oohing and snapping and it would be awesome. We also decided that we would start a district band. Elder Morton could play his tin whistle, I'll learn the fiddle, Elder Arrington will play the harp, and Elder Kimball and Sister Law will be dancing fairies in the background. (Please don't judge us too harshly. It was a long day.)

Speaking of my over-active imagination, I was sitting in Mission Conference yesterday morning and, about 45 minutes into it, my mind started to wander. And I imagined how hilariously awful it would be if all of a sudden a giant T-Rex ran into the room and caused absolute chaos. But I don't think God would let that happen.

Speaking of mission conference, I will now continue my President-Brown-interactions story. So President Brown was the last speaker and right at the beginning of his talk, he called up two missionaries to bear their testimonies. In front of everyone in the MTC. Over 2300 people. And the first name he called was Katharine Cutler. I wasn't nodding off this time or anything, but I still practically jumped out of my chair! I was shaking the whole entire time. But as soon as I got up there, I felt so calm and I felt this peaceful smile just come on my face and I went with it. I talked for only about 2 minutes, but I can't remember anything that I said. And I walked with my legs shaking all the way back to my seat haha. But ever since then, people have come up to me and said, "Thank you for your testimony." "You were great." "Did you know he was going to call you?" etc. So yeah, I'm basically famous now.

This week I learned that 7-11s are very popular in Hong Kong. They're called Chat-Saahp-Yaht.

During personal study last week I spent about 10 minutes just staring at a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower. And wow, what a miracle. I just felt like God sent him there just for me to see him. I felt the Spirit more, felt that calm, peaceful feeling more than I had all day. It was just what I needed.

And now for the kissing. We watched Legacy last night, which I haven't seen in years. And before they turned it on, they had to tell all of us that if we didn't keep quiet during the romance scenes, they'd turn it off haha. It was hard to contain ourselves though!

Bad news: Gu Hingdaih leaves on Wednesday! We'll get a new teacher sometime soon.

Something I learned this week: If you invest in God's work, he'll invest in you. That's what I'm trying my best to do! Just put my all in this calling, and then let God change me into who I need to become!

I love you all! Have a wonderful week!