Buenos dias mi familia y mis amigos!
(Today I am pretending to be a Spanish-speaking hermana)
Hey, guess what....it's EMAIL TIME! Yeahhh! Today is my first p-day (and on my birthday, how wonderful!) so it's time for your very first weekly update from Sister Dougal! I'll try not to write a novel, but sometimes I tend to be long-winded and there is quite a bit I could write about. Anyways, bear with me. I promise to throw in something funny here and there.
Facts about the MTC:
a) It is basically EFY on major steroids, but without the dances and flirting. (Also there are WAY more guys than girls, which never happens at EFY!)
b) The food here is really good. I don't know why everyone complains so much. It's not quite as good as the Cannon Center, and it's definitely not as good as the food at University of Puget Sound where I did EFY this summer, but it's still pretty good.
c) Everyone who told you that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth lied to you. The MTC is the happiest place on earth!
d) The teachers here are fantastic. But they all sort of look the same and they're all built the same (body-wise), which is a little strange.
e) It's very easy to forget that you are in Provo when you're here.
f) Going on a walk to the temple feels like the most liberating thing in the world. Even though it's wonderful here, it is quite enclosed. Our branch president told us a joke: "What's the difference between the Utah State Penitentiary and the MTC? In prison, you can have visitors!" Oh har har har.
Seriously, though, it is the happiest place I've ever been! I love it here. The spirit is amazing--its influence is everywhere and it is so apparent because of the joy that just radiates through the corridors! Everyone is happy. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is excited about the gospel. What a great feeling!
It's still a little surreal to think hey, I'm a missionary, I'm really doing what I've been talking about my whole life! I remember the first day at dinner, I actually forgot until I saw someone's nametag and suddenly remembered Oh my gosh we're all missionaries here! I think I thought I was at EFY again or something :) In my journal the first night, I wrote, "It still doesn't feel like I'm really doing this. I feel like in a week or so I'll be back to my normal life again." In a way, it still feels like that. The first day felt a lot like freshman year again...checking into the dorm, getting my nametag (I have an official, real black missionary tag that says "SISTER DOUGAL". Crazy, huh?!), going to orientation, meeting the rest of the district...definitely very EFY- or freshman-esque. It sort of felt just like I was starting another school year. Isn't that interesting...the first time in my life that I'm not starting school ilke every other year and yet, in a way, I still am. I was quite excited that first day.
My companion's name is Sister Hiatt. Okay, so mom, remember how I kept saying I was praying to have a roommate who was a massage therapist? Well, Sister Hiatt is. No joke. To me it seems like it's just a little bit of God's sense of humor. He thought, Okay Sister Dougal, I'll give you what you kept asking for. But the funny part is that I would NEVER ask her to give me a massage! That would be super weird. So what a bummer, I actually end up with a companion who knows massage and I probably won't get one! I guess we'll see. She did crack my back the other day, which was wonderful.
The other sisters in my district are named Sister Haddock and Sister Thomas. Sister Thomas and I realized that we actually ate Thanksgiving dinner together 2 years ago, which is super random. Her cousin Ali was my roommate at the time and I ended up going to her grandparents' house in Provo for Thanksgiving. They're both going to the Kennewick, WA mission, which is MY home mission! So that's pretty cool. Sister Hiatt is going to Houston, TX. I'm the only one I've met so far going to Florida. All of the elders in our district are also going to Houston, TX. They are all SO great. I just love them. I've been super impressed with them, especially our district leader Elder Smith. He will be a phenomenal missionary. I've learned so much from him so far, which was very humbling since he's only a 19-year-old boy. I've been praying for some help with humility and I've definitely gotten it. :) It's cool to see how we all learn from each other here. We've bonded super well with the guys in our district and we just love them. They're all so different; there's Elder Carter, who is 6'7" and who introduced himself by saying he loves to "sing really loudly while cooking" and loves anything music/theater related. Last night we actually got to watch President Monson's birthday celebration and it was full of Broadway songs. Elder Carter was just dying. There's Elder Ayono, who is this huge Samoan guy who is totally chill and funny. There's Elder Brooks, who (bless his heart) is endearing because he's just a little bit awkward. The other day in class he started snapping his fingers and our teacher asked, "Are you snapping to get my attention?" Elder Brooks replied, "No, but I just learned to snap and I'm trying to keep in practice." SO random and so funny. Anyways, there are 6 elders and then us 4 sisters, so 10 total in our district. We're the only sisters in the zone and in the whole branch (well, along with Sister Rappleye, who lives in our room and who is going to the Phillipines speaking some crazy language called Hillaginen or something. She's a solo sister, meaning she doesn't have a companion right now.)
I've run into lots of people I know from school (mainly sisters). I've also run into a couple elders I know, like Elder Sam Henrickson from our stake, my friend Kaitlin's younger brother (Elder AJ Robinson), and Elder Kimball Davenport. I actually run into Elder Davenport a lot. We played volleyball together the other day and here's a random fact about him, he's really good. (He's probably writing his family and telling them that Sister Dougal is embarassingly NOT good at volleyball, haha. But Sisters Thomas and Hiatt taught me to serve overhand the other day so I am feeling increasingly more competent about my volleyball-playing abilities!)
Our teachers are SO amazing. One of them has only been teaching here for 3 weeks but I have been really impressed with him. And our other teacher...well, if I wasn't a missionary I would TOTALLY have a crush on him. Okay, what am I saying...I do! But yesterday I actually found out that I'm not the only one...all four of us sisters do! Haha. I wish you could have heard the conversation. We were just dying because we were laughing so hard, especially because Sister Haddock said something like, "He's just got...he's got these lips..." Oh dear.
I laugh SO much here. When I'm not studying or eating I'm probably laughing. The 4 of us sisters get along really well, even though we're all so different. We also get along super well with our elders and sometimes it's so hard to want to study because we're just having fun talking to each other. But then we've also had really cool moments of learning together and being taught by the Spirit, like on Saturday night. Most of our district was sitting together in our classroom while some of the groups taught "investigators" (aka our teachers' alter egos) and we just had these amazing discussions about some pretty hairy issues, i.e. homosexuality and helping people understand the gospel perspective on it. I've studied the issue a lot on my own, yet I received more answers in a half-hour discussion than I ever have before. And that's basically the MTC in a nutshell; you learn so much so quickly here, and it's because the Spirit is so strong. It's cool to feel words put into your mouth or thoughts put into your head as you read a scripture or as you listen to something that someone else has to say. Just being here is so strengthening, and I can understand why so many missionaries feel like their testimonies really grew in the MTC. As you feel your knowledge and your joy increase just from being here, it's so clear what the source of this inspiration and happiness is. It's coming from our Heavenly Father! This is his work, and there is nothing that feels better than learning more about Him and what He wants for his children. I can't remember being this happy in a long time!
Gah, there's still so much I could say! I am learning a lot, and in some ways I'm glad I get to speak English because I get to focus more on learning the doctrine and deepening my understanding of gospel principles. On the first day I was here, I heard some sisters speaking Russian and I was very glad that I didn't have to learn another language. But now I honestly feel a little bit jealous of the people who are studying a language as well...I hear people all around me speaking other languages and I just REALLLY want to be able to do that too! Plus I'm kind of jealous that they get to be at the MTC for so long. Three weeks is nothing. Maybe by the end I'll be ready to head out, though. :) It's also hard to look at other people and think, "Wow...they're learning so much more than me!" But I know I shouldn't feel that way. I really do believe that I am being sent where I need to go because there are people I need to touch. I need to take my own advice from my farewell talk (I talked about Elder Hollan's talk, "The Laborers in the Vineyard") and not envy others!
Okay, well I've got to go! I absolutely love it here and I am so glad I made the decision to come on a mission. There is nowhere else that I would rather be! I love you all...and I absolutely love getting letters! So far I've gotten a few and I'm even going to give them a shoutout because I love them so much. I got letters from the Hancocks (Travie's family), Shaelyn (one of my EFY girls! I was thrilled to get her letter!), Gwammy (thanks for the birthday card, I loved it!), and Travis (he's sent me 2!!). Remember, you can always send me mail really easily through dearelder.com.
Adios! Tengo vida bien! Tengo labios de fuego! (hahahahaha)