Wednesday, April 27, 2011

strange things are happening to me

Wow I only had to wait one day longer that usual but I feel like I have an extra weeks worth of stuff to say.

Things are getting crazy. Every week on Tuesday nights rumors fly about who will be speaking. We hadn't seen an apostle until last Tuesday when Elder Scott came. We couldn't believe it. Then last night Elder Oaks came. Both of them were so good in their own way.

Elder Scott is one of the most gentle people I can think of. I think he was a little sick so he didn't give handshakes like he normally does but he did give everyone a virtual hug- the one for the sisters was very discrete but with the elders he gave a pretty vigorous virtual hug. He's so nice and you can tell he still loves his wife so much. What a nice guy.

Then last night Elder Oaks talked and was so good. As usual his talk was very logical and well organized. I loved it. It's so refreshing to hear someone who actually thinks about the doctrine. I think missionaries are in particular danger of making things up. We’re surrounded by it all day and sometimes I think that leads to overzealous anziani making things up.

The theme for this week has been change. First off, they are replacing the floor in the kitchen because it had problems, but because of it they closed 2/3 of the serving lines. Now we have super long lines at every meal. An extra bonus is that we get to eat to a chorus of jackhammers. It’s like eating during a bombing raid, or under a jet engine. We have to yell at each other the whole time we're eating.

Speaking of yelling I really love talking to people in Italian when they don't understand. I can politely tell a Russian elder that I really wish he would pass me the ball and stop shooting air balls.

As you can probably tell this is a day later than normal. They changed the schedules for the whole MTC this week. We asked our branch presidency why and they told us that they went to a meeting for all the branch presidencies this week they heard about a lot of new changes coming to all missionary work. They couldn't tell us what they were but it sounds big. Everything should be in place by August 1 so we should know by then. There have been rumors for quite a while about changes as big as Preach My Gospel coming. I normally don't believe stuff like that but it certainly feels like something big is coming. The schedules, the meeting...I feel like something is rumbling and it's not just the jackhammers.

Last week I showered after we had gym in the evening. I was walking back to my room in my towel when I ran into some Samoan elders. They saw how I had wrapped my towel and told me I should do it their way. They don't speak English too well so it was an interesting conversation. Anyways one of them came up behind me and said I’ll show you. I tried to tell him "but I’m not wearing anything under my towel" but he just wrapped my arms around me from behind and started to retie my towel. I just decided that whatever happened would happen and if everyone saw me naked so be it. He tied it for me and I even stayed covered up the whole time. Everyone thought it was hilarious...and it was. I now tie my towel like a Samoan every day. I figure I went through too much to learn that not to do it.

Every week we write a letter to the branch president to give him an update on ourselves. We also write something we learned in the scriptures. This week I thought about prayers a lot. I was reading about prayer in the bible dictionary and it talks about how when we remember that God is our Heavenly Father, prayer becomes natural and instinctive. I think this is so cool. When we really understand why we pray- because we are God's children- it makes so much more sense and is so much more meaningful. A side note- doctrine is so important and I think sometimes we forget the significance of things we say a lot like- God is our Heavenly Father. Do we realize what this means? God-the creator of the universe, the God of Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Noah, is our Father. It's amazing. It's ironic how we forget the things we say the most. Back to the story, I wrote this in my letter and then in sacrament meeting the branch president spoke and pretty much just read my letter. I don't mind, I don't need credit, I already know I’m brilliant (just kidding, I’m humble) but it was so funny. Either we were really thinking the same thing this week or he really liked my letter.

One last funny story, last week I woke up really fast and saw that Anziano D'addabbo was still in bed. I flipped on the lights and said its seven o' clock lets go. D'addabbo looked at me like I was crazy. I looked at my clock and saw that it was actually 2 in the morning. Whoops! Oh well. I really am crazy.

I'm out of time but I love you and I miss you.

Ciao. ti voglio bene

Love, Ben

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring has come and I hate french fries

Ciao everybody!

First of all I would like to say that the MTC is following Dad's lead and is not supporting winter anymore. As of Sunday we no longer have to wear suit coats all the time. The whole MTC cheered when they made the announcement.

It has been so nice. Not to mention how nice the weather has been for the most part. I guess it is a little rainy today but spring is so exciting and cheerful. It sounds goofy but it makes everyone a little happier seeing trees bloom and smelling flowers. Yeah, that was really funny to say but it's true. Missionary phrase- "aren't we so blessed to live on this beautiful earth." But really the earth is a pretty great place to live: trees and flowers and clouds and little baby chickens and little baby brothers and sisters. I'm happy to be living on this planet. Can you imagine living on Mars? We would have to bundle up the whole time and be so cold. But here on earth things are just great.

This week I decided I hate french fries. I get them a lot just because they are on the plate I get with the rest of my food. Maybe I'm just really lazy but I think french fries require way too much work for so little food. They're so tedious and they don't even taste that good most of the time.

We started taking our Italian to a new level this week. You can only get so good at a language without speaking it. At some point you just have to dive in and leave English behind. And it is hard! But at the same time so cool. When i think about how long we've been learning Italian I can't believe it. Our district didn't speak any English on Friday or Saturday. It was mentally exhausting but so good. We're teaching in Italian too which is really cool. Italian really is such a beautiful language. I love it.

Something I've been thinking about is that one of the first things we ask people to do when we start teaching is ask them to read the scriptures and especially the Book of Mormon and pray every day. I hate to say it, but as a lifelong member of the church I don't know how well I did with this for a long time. First prayer: I've always prayed but how often do I really pray to God? Prayers are not just a way to begin and end a meeting, but are so much more. So often I forgot what I was actually doing. I was communicating with God! Holy cow!

Next is scriptures: for so long I didn't really read that often and when I did I didn't put that much energy into it. But really the scriptures especially the Book of Mormon are so amazing. So many times I'll read something and about thousands of people dying or hundreds of people going from being murduring Lamanites to converting to the point that they would rather die than face the temptation of fighting. And I think- oh that's nice. Then I go back and read it and I think WOW. That really happened.

So my little bit to you is to think about this. We ask everyone to do this before they even get baptized but how seriously do members take it? So will you commit to read the Book of Mormon and pray every day? Oh good, I knew you would. Actually you were probably already were, but I've just been thinking about it. If not, start today. I really promise that it is great.

One last thing. Music is so awesome. There's a hymn that is from Italy called "Mandate Voce" and it is soooo good. Try and find it.

I'm out of time. 30 min. goes so fast. Thank you for your letters. I love you and I miss you.

Love, Ben

Friday, April 1, 2011

a photo, an actual photo!


Our darling neighbor up the street is also in the MTC right now. She mailed home a photo with this written on the back:

I see Ben everywhere. We are horrible at calling each other Elder and Sister. The first time we saw each other we both went in for a hug. Stopped. Got super awkward and gave a handshake. Ha! I see him at least once every day. We have the same gym time.

** note the awkward stance

We received two emails and a long written letter from Ben this week. I'm not sure if anyone besides me is interested in reading these, but I'll put up the first email.


I can't believe another week has gone by. Sometimes it feels like I've only been here for a day but other times it feels like I've been here for years. Time is meaningless now.

Before I forget, I have to say I'm so grateful to everyone who wrote to me. I can't even explain how valuable mail is here. If I don't get time to respond to everyone please tell them 'thank you' for me.

I thought I'd give you a little bit of an idea of what I do all day. I remember looking at the MTC before and thinking- "they get up at 6:30 but what do they do all day long?" Well every day is a little different but exactly the same at the same time. I get up at 6:30 and shower and get dressed. It's kind of weird wearing a suit every day, especially a jacket. I don't really like it. Luckily we can take our jackets off in class. We have breakfast and then class. Then we have lunch then more class then dinner at 4:30 then more class. It's kind of weird eating dinner so early but oh well.

The food's alright. It's actually pretty great considering how many people they're feeding but Dad would hate it. My face has been a lot greasier and I think its because of the food. After a few weeks everyone starts to love hot sauce because it adds a little flavor to the relatively bland food. Some people go crazy and start drinking hot sauce straight from the bottle. It's a sad sight.

We have an hour of gym at a different time each day and that adds some nice variety. I run every day but the track is only .1 miles long so it's pretty boring. I don't do much more than a mile or two. Still I'm not gaining any weight and I think I'm gaining muscle from exersicing every day. I still love gym.

We spend more than 11 hours a day in our classroom which is pretty small- about 15x20 feet. We have two sorelle (sisters) and 11 anziani (elders). They can be an interesting bunch but I love them. We have two teachers, Fratello Calder and Sorella Smith. They're both really good. I can't believe how much I'm learning about teaching and the language. We finish up class at 9:30 and bedtime is 10:30. I can't believe how much faster this week went.

One thing I really miss is music. Apparently the MTC had some major violations with people listening to bad music so there is no music at all now. We sing a lot but we're not that good. I can't believe how much I miss good music.

I heard BYU is out of the tournament and that we're at war with Libya now? It's weird how cut off from the outside world we are. We just get rumors every once in a while. Here's a fun Italian fact for you. Nipote is the one word for grandchild and niece and nephew. Weird huh? I can't believe how fast my half hour for email has been so goodbye. I love you all and I love hearing from you.

Love, Ben