Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25, 2013, Week 3 is the Best One Yet


I think week three has been the best one yet.  I love my companion but she really loves following rules, so sometimes things can be a little difficult.  But she loves yogurt, so all is well.  We met an elder from Orem that's going to Texas on his mission, and we both looked at each other and said, "He's from Orem?!  and he's going to Texas?  This explains everything."  We both realized that it fits his personality perfectly.  We now refer to him as the "Orem, Texas Elder" not such a positive manner.  I'm glad we understand each other in this regard.

We learned a song that an elder in the Marshall Islands wrote called "Bok in Mormon."  I made a video of me and sister seeg singing it, but it was too big to send.  I think you can look it up on youtube.  It goes:

Bok in Mormon, bok in mormon
Bar juon kalimmur kon Jisos Kraist
Riiti, riiti im jar kake
Bar juon kalimmur kon Jisos Kraist
Ohhhh! Bok in mormon!

It's really lively and fun to sing.  It basically says "book of mormon, book of mormon, another promise of jesus christ,  read it, read it and pray about it"....and it repeats.  The word promise is used instead of testament because the old testament and the new testament are referred to as "the promise before" and "the new promise," respectively.  We also learned the that title "Bok in Mormon" is incorrect.  It should be "Bok eo an Mormon."  I think the first way means it's "the book of the mormons" and the second means "mormon's book," but the first way still works.  the second one is correct because it shows possession, while the "in" in the first just means "of."  The people on the islands know the book as that, so they aren't going to change it.  

The Doctrine and Covenants has been translated into Marshallese, but it hasn't been released yet and we have no idea when it will be released.  Supposedly they can't decide on spellings of words (since there's a new system).  For example, the word for investigator can be spelled "ri-katak" or "rikatak" or "ri katak."  It's pretty annoying that it's taking them so long.  I think there is a set way for the new writing system, so I don't know why they don't just do it that way. 

We got a new elder in our district.  He was in the advanced Marshallese district, but they all left, so he's with us now.  He's going to Washington state.  He's helpful, but he and the teachers disagree on language concepts all of the time.  I never know who to trust.  The teachers all spell things differently too, since every word can be spelled at least 3 different ways.  

One day one of the Marshallese elders and teachers were talking about one of the islands, and my friend Elder Bess and I turned to each other and said, "did they just say the word 'plywood'?"  Supposedly they have a cracker/biscuit that sounds exactly like the word plywood and one of the elders says it tastes or looks like it too.  I'm not sure if they were pulling our legs, but we were convinced we heard the word "plywood" in their conversation at least five times.

Sister Seegmiller just taught an elder how to do laundry.  Oh dear. 

Although we don't have to conjugate verbs, we do have to conjugate some nouns.  They're mostly nouns that one possesses.  So body parts, houses, vehicles, family members, and a few other odd things have to be conjugated.  It's hard because you can never just refer to "a hand."  You always have to specify who's hand it is.  All vehicles (cars, boats, bicycles, etc) are referred to as "wa."  I feel like this might get confusing.  

Another interesting thing in Marshallese are demonstratives.  In english we have "this and that" and "these and those," but in Marshallese there are six different locations:  by the speaker, by the audience, between the speaker and audience, in sight of the speaker and audience by not between them, out of sight, and general (if you're just talking about, say, trees in general).  The rules aren't very strict though, because one can refer to something out of sight as actually between the speaker and the audience to bring it into the conversation.  After a lesson with an investigator, one can talk about the message as something that is between them then.  The distances are also relative based on the size of the object.  So, when we're in the MTC the provo temple is near us and other temples are referred to as "out of sight," even though we also can't see the provo temple while we're inside a building. 
Sister Seegmiller was having some foot problems because she got a bunion removed last year.  I almost got to go with her into the real world for her podiatrist appointment, but since it was in Springville and out of the mission area (Provo) we were on a split.  A 70 yr old service missionary drove her, and the lady didn't know how to start the car or drive very well, so I heard it was an experience.   

The figurative heart in the Marshall Islands is the throat, so they say they feel things in their throat and touch the base of their neck.  

I really like gym time.  I usually go to the track at the top of the gym while most people play volleyball and basketball down below.  A big Samoan elder that plays football has been teaching me how to use some of the weight machines.  After I use the machines, he adds on about 150 pounds to the machines.  But he says I'm doing well!  Haha.

I really like our teachers.  They're all really chill and easy to work with.  Sometimes we walk by other classrooms and everyone looks miserable inside.  Our teachers like to mix things up so we're never doing one thing for too long.  We're probably studying Marshallese 2/3 of the time in class.  When we learn a concept in English we then go through and practice it in Marshallese.  The teachers all say our pronunciation is pretty bad in general, but two of them have told me mine is pretty good.  I try to read out loud often.  

We're doing lessons completely with no notes.  Well, I am.  My companion still wants to take some if she forgets something, but our teachers say they would rather watch us struggle through it. Mom, my favorite word in Marshallese is lanlon (with hats over the n, o, and n).  It sounds kind of like "langaluung" and it means joy.  It's fun to say because the back of the tongue has to hit the back of the roof of your mouth to make the "ng" sound.  Say "sing" and then and then repeat the "ng" sound.  My favorite phrase thus far is "Inaaj kiji botum" which sounds like "kiss your bottom" but actually means "I will bite your nose."  It's a fun one to say too.

Thank you for the postcards, mom.  I think I got them last Friday and Saturday.  Thanks!  I've put my postcards on my wall next to my bed.  I'm not sure what the card says though...

Leans, I'm glad nankai has "wholesome veggie accents" in his meals.  Does he like them?  The photo said "Sister Butler, the spunky scientist."  Sister Whitney drew it.

My classroom is in 18M which is connected to the gym building.  We're mostly with the Spanish speakers.  I don't know why we got moved from the islanders building.  Our classroom doesn't have any windows so sometimes we can't remember if we just has lunch or dinner.  We live in a building on the other side of the gym (17M) so we're kind of in the southeast corner of the MTC. 

The yogurt in the cafeteria is either fruit or vanilla and I've avoided both, which I've heard is a good decision.  There's fresh pineapple, canteloupe, and grapes (and sometimes watermelon) everyday, so it's okay.  And plenty of cottage cheese.  Do Utahns really like cottage cheese?  I hadn't seen anyone eat cottage cheese in a while. 

Okay, two more quick stories.  When we walked to lunch today we were right behind the Samoan elders and one of their lavalavas fell off.  They wear basketball shorts underneath them, but oh man, we were dying laughing.  Sister Seeg said "I wish we could wear lavalavas...oh wait, we wear skirts everyday." 

There's a football player-like, half white, half Samoan elder in one of the Samoan districts that we, uh, call Elder "lockyourheart" for obvious reasons.  There's only one sister in his district and she said that he likes to tell "funny stories," so I've now dubbed him Elder "lockyournose."  I'm glad our classroom only smells like feet. 

I love and miss you all.  Tootles,
Sister Butler


Friday, July 19, 2013

July 18, 2013, Wednesday and Sunday are Ice Cream Days


Thanks for all of the emails, letters, and postcards!  People kept asking me why I was receiving bear postcards.  I tell them I just really like bears.

This week went well.  Well, I got sick on Friday and I didn't really get feeling better until Tuesday. I got a nasty cold.  I had a really sore throat and awful congestion (and bad headaches, etc).  I skipped some classes on Friday and Saturday (and Sunday...'cause Sundays are just long) so I could take naps.  We're allowed to take a nap on P day, and of course we can sleep if we're sick.

We're now on a rotating schedule for teaching our three investigators (our three teachers), so we taught one of them each of the last three days.  We haven't had as much time to prepare the lessons, but we have notes from things we've taught before so it doesn't take as long to put something together.  Last night we taught one of our teachers (Bro Swain) and we didn't use any notes and we said a lot of things we weren't planning on saying.  We also understood a lot more of what he said. 

We leave our shoes in the hallway when we teach and sit crossed-legged.  My foot always falls asleep when we teach.  But we have it a lot better off than the elders...most of them aren't flexible at all and can barely sit like that.  My companion and I sometimes steal the elders' left shoes while they're teaching and hide them somewhere.  Well, my companion needed some encouragement.

The classrooms always smell lovely too.  We're taught to never point our foot at someone while we're sitting down.  Supposedly it's really offensive.  Also stepping over someone's leg or stepping over a kid on the floor is not okay.  Good things to know.

Oh!  There was one good thing about the 4th of July celebration.  We got to hear a cool piano and flute duet of yankee doodle.  It was really upbeat and lively.
Before meetings all of the elders and sisters sing prelude hymns.  It's pretty funny when they announce what hymn we'll sing next and everyone gasps or says "Ohh that's my favorite hymn!"  Oh, the exciting life of a missionary.  It's the best entertainment we get.  No, maybe our district power-walking competitions are the best form of entertainment. 

My nametag says:
Sister Butler
Kabun eo an
Jisos Kraist
Im Armej ro rekwojarjar
ilo ran ko aliktata

It translates to "The Church of Jesus Christ and the holy people of the very last days."  Except that I don't know how to type accents, so it's not quite right.  The computers are awful here.  They keep freezing and switching languages, so this is taking a while.

I'm trying to think what else happened this week.  We're all getting to know each other more in the district.  Maybe some of us a bit too much.  I need to keep my companion in line...always talking to the elders.  Well, she probably needs to keep me in line too.

Wednesday and Sunday are ice cream days.  It's pretty much the highlight of the week.  We have evening devotionals on Tuesdays in the Marriott center.  We're all hoping for one of the Twelve to be there next week.  They took a big photo of all of us missionaries in the Marriott Center after the devotional this week.  I think July marks the most missionaries in the provo MTC and then I think it's supposed to drop a little.  I wonder if the photo will be online eventually.  They said it's only the third time they've taken a photo of everyone at the MTC before. 

I'm trying to think of something cool about Marshallese that we learned this week.  There are a lot of words for directions.  "to the ocean," "to the lagoon," etc.  Most of the words are built of combinations of words.  Waanlaltok means to descend (waan = to move, lal = down, tok = to me) and waanlonlok means to ascend (lon = up, lok = away).  We read 3 Nephi 11 and the first vision together as a class to learn these words.  The perspective changes depending on who is speaking, so angels seeing Christ ascend back to heaven would say "waanlontok" while the nephites say "waanlonlok."  Marshallese people also add in extra vowels in words, but only when they speak quickly.  Waanlontok sound more like Waanlonitok.  I love all of the words with repetitive sounds like "melele" and "rekwojarjar."
We're a third of the way through the MTC.  On Wednesdays when new missionaries arrive we go around to those with "dork dots" (the orange dot sticker on their tag that shows they're new) and say "karuwainene nan MTC!" (welcome to the mtc!) and they're all really confused. 

I didn't take many pictures this week.  Most of the ones I sent today were from last week, except for maybe the map picture.

We're playing a musical number in sacrament meeting this Sunday.  We're practicing this afternoon with some people from our district.  They have an instrument room in the main building where we can check them out for an hour.  Should be fun!

Mom, chocolate would be great.  I don't think I really need anything right now.  We get 8 dollars on our cards every week (the elders only get 6, haha) so I have plenty to get necessities.  I sat in some sap under a pine tree near the temple so I took my skirt to get it cleaned. 

Annie, I'll have time to occasionally write letters.  Don't worry!  I have time on P days.  And thanks for the photos.  They are very cute. 

Leans, how does the carpet look?  Did they get it clean?

Kate, yes we can count down the days together. 

Sara Jane, that's great that you're going to read the book of Mormon in French.  I read the English and Marshallese ones together side by side (except I'm not on a tiny island and I usually stop for meals :) and it really helps me learn a lot. 

Meagan, I'm glad you're enjoying the family ward.  That's great you have opportunities to tutor people.  Good luck with starting your new job!

Who has photos from my graduation?  Do you think I could also get some of those?  One of all of us and the one of me and the parentals?  Thank you!   

Love and miss you all, I Iakwe kom,

Sister Butler 

Ellen, who is this?

LOVE it! The spunky scientist indeed!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 11, 2013, "I'll Spare You the Details"


Thank you so much for the letters and emails. Well, P day is finally here. For some reason the MTC thinks that missionaries don't need a P day during the first week, which is the worst idea ever. We heard when we arrived that we just had to get to Sunday, and then the rest would be smooth--Wednesday through Sunday were the longest days of my life, but Monday, Tues, and Wednesday just flew by. My P day should be every Thursday while I´m in the MTC.

Our first day was pretty rough because the following day was the 4th of July, so they stuffed a lot of things into the schedule on the 3rd. We got back to our residence around bedtime and we still had to unpack. The next evening was the 4th and they thought staying up to watch the fireworks would be a special treat for us....I wish they said we could have gone to bed early. That would have been nice treat. We also had to endure a "special 4th of July fireside" but I´ll spare you on the details so you don't vomit.

I don't remember what I said in the letter I wrote, so I might be repeating some things. My companion is Sister Seegmiller from Springville. She´s very nice and full of energy. She just finished her first year at BYU. The other two Sisters in my district are Sister Moea´i from Hawaii (but she´s Samoan) and Sister Whitney from Murray. They look pretty funny together...Sister Whitney has curly blond hair and is very skinny. She has a fantastic Irish accent she pulls out sometimes in class. Sis Moea'i and Sis Whitney are referred to as "Sister ro" which means "the sisters" and Sis Seeg and I are referred to as "Sister ro jet" which means "the other sisters." The four of us live together, along with two sisters that just left for Kirtland this morning at 2 am. I´m glad I didn´t wake up when their alarms went off.

I think there are 17 people in our district, which is really big.  We have all of the intro Kajinmajol (Marshallese) speakers but there are a few going to Iowa, Oklahoma City, and Honolulu.  Everyone else is going to Majol.  There are two elders that speak it pretty well.  They both lived in Hawaii and they were friends before coming to the MTC.  One is full Marshallese and the other is half Marshallese, half Hawaiian.  They are hilarious.  The Marshallese Elder´s name is "Lefty Lee Leviticus." I kid you not.  But he's right handed.  He's really small just like all the other Marshallese people and he's so funny.  I asked him if everyone else there is as funny as he is, and he said yes.  He's also our district leader.  Our district is about half Polynesian.  There are about four from Hawaii, one from Australia and he has a sweet accent (but I think he's from Tonga), one from Fiji, and one from Vanuatu.  The one from Vanuatu speaks French and just a little English so he has a hard time.  Our zone consists of the Samoan elders (that are all half Samoan, I swear...and they all seem really serious and scary) and the Kiribati people.  We don't get to interact with the Kiribati people as much because they're learning Kiribati.  There are two sisters in that district.  We should get more Fiji people this week or next since a batch just left last weekend. 

A day usually consists of personal study time, two 3 hour blocks of class, personal language study time, gym time, meals, and computer time (for studying the language).  I like the days with no morning class because we have personal time and maybe TALL (it's the computer program we use to listen to audio clips of words in Marshallese), gym time, and then we shower for the day.  Of course we have to be in a skirt before gym time, but at least we don't have to really get ready.  Then after lunch we have a 3 hour block of class, personal language study time, dinner, and then more class.  We have an investigator we've taught now for five times in Marshallese.  We were told they were MTC employees that are RMs that choose an investigator from their mission to act as.  We taught on fri, sat, mon, tues, and wed.  We've really only had a few lessons learning pronunciation and grammar, but somehow we already know so much of the language.  

The language is really interesting.  The tense is always tied to the pronoun, not the verb.  It makes a lot of sense because one only has to memorize a few tenses and then you just slap on a verb.  For instance, Iaar mona (I ate), Ij mona (I eat), and Inaaj mona (I will eat).  "I" (pronounced "eee") means I and "mona" means "to eat."  Except "mona" has accent hats over the o, n and a, so it really sounds like "mung-ei."  There are 15 different vowel sounds but only 9 vowel written letters, so some letters have multiple sounds.  but you never know which sound it makes.  And women say the letter "j" more like a "z," while men say it like a "j."  It's hard because our teacher is male so we're never quite sure how to say the J's.  And there is usually a j (if not more than one) in each word.  It's fun.

Our first lesson was pretty funny.  We came back laughing and crying (from laughter) because it was just so bad and funny.  The best part was when Sister Seegmiller asked if we could sit down once we were already sitting.  We sing for our investigator before every lesson and we also sing in class all of the time.  It's fun to learn the hymns.  The Marshallese people love the hymn "I need thee every hour" and supposedly they sing it every Sunday.  All Marshallese people know the song, not just the Mormon ones.  We also learned that they will feed us non-stop, so we're all trying to cut back on our ice cream intake in the cafeteria.  

The food is pretty good.  I was mildly impressed.  They have a wrap bar where you tell them what you want in a wrap.  I got one once with guac, black beans, chicken, and those small yellow semi-spicy peppers.  It was pretty good.  

Oh...back to our lessons.  Last night we had our last lesson with Lakije (who we found out happened to be our other teacher, that we had somehow mysteriously never met before...) and after the prayer he broke from character, which he wasn't supposed to do, to say that he felt impressed to tell us we two had made the most progress in the language from our first to fifth lessons and that our lessons were always the most organized and clear.  He cried and we all cried and it was great. 

Our main teacher is really great.  He went to Oklahoma on his mission and was speaking spanish originally, and then was switched to Marshallese the second half of his mission.  He studied linguistics at BYU so he's really good at telling us how to make the different sounds correctly.  

There's a ng letter that we English speakers say in the word "sing," but it's very hard to say when it's the first letter of the word.  We also get two more teachers starting tomorrow. 

I'm trying to see if I can attach photos to this email.  I bought an SD card reader in the bookstore for 7 dollars. Hopefully it works.  I might have to try a different computer.  Supposedly the camera cords don't work on the computers in the MTC. 

Ohh...Fast Sunday.  Fast sunday was awful.  We had dinner on Sat at 4:30 and then we had to wait until 6 on Sunday.  And it's great because they just don't open the cafeteria on Sunday, so you really have to fast.  I wanted to study because we had so much free time, but I couldn't because I was so hungry.  And instead of Relief Society, which I've heard is really great, we have a terrible 2 hour long "mission conference."  Ughhh.  But we did get to walk up to the temple.  The Provo Temple is closed right now for cleaning and it opens a couple of days before we leave, so we're not going to be able to go.  We're all pretty bummed.  We've heard they might bus us over to the Timpanogos Temple once.  

All of the international missionaries get to go to Salt Lake one day, which is pretty cool.  The farthest I've gotten off campus is the Marriott Center, which was sadly kind of exciting.  But we have a lot of fun here, so Idk if I'd really call it "the prison on 9th."

I'm trying to think what else there is to tell.  I hope time continues to go quickly.  The more I hear about the islands, the more excited I am to go there. 

I need to go check my laundry.  Tootles.  Love you all,

Sister Butler

P.S. I love emails but if you can occasionally send hand written letters I would also appreciate that.  It's really nice to get something during the week instead of having to wait until Thursday.  But I understand that emails are much easier to write, so don't worry about it if it's a pain.
P.P.S. the photo outside the Marriott Center is with the Kiribati sisters and the one inside is with our roommates.

July 4, 2013, "The MTC is Actually Much Better Than I Thought it Would Be"

Dear Family,

We were instructed to write a letter home yesterday but I didn’t have any time.  Yesterday was exhausting but really good.  The host sister that helped me with my bags will be serving in Tokyo, so it was nice to talk to her for a few to distract me.

I was led all over, checking in, getting my nametags, ID, etc.  And I got my books!  There are actually quite a few books/church material the church has translated into Marshallese, which is great. We have a hymn book, phrase book, and even the Gospel Principles manual has been translated.  We also got the Practical Marshallese book that I had found on the internet as a PDF.

My companion is Sister Seegmiller (pronounced Segmiller) from Springville.  She is the yogurt girl!  We get along really well--we usually like the same food and we’re always a few minutes late to everything.  There are two other sisters in our district going to the Marshalls.  All four of us have either studied Japanese or Chinese before.  All of them are 19 and we live in the same room along w/ two sisters that will be going to Kirtland, Ohio next week.

The MTC is actually much better than I thought it would be. We get to be outside a lot and move around to different buildings.My P-Day is Thursday, but we don’t have it today b/c it is our first week.  We get to watch the fireworks tonight and stay out late!  Our residence hall seems like it’s one of the ones that was recently renovated.  The bathrooms are nice.  The food actually isn’t too bad.  There seem to be lots of options.  I’ve eaten cantaloupe at every meal so far.

There are other Marshallese speakers in our district that will be going to Honolulu, Des Moines, and Oklahoma City.  I think there are only four elders going to the Marshalls.  We met the Kiribati district last night and two sisters will be going ther.  There is one sister going to Samoa.  The Samoa elders are also in our zone along w/ the Kiribati folk.  We get a group for Fiji next week.

I seem to always be starving before each meal.  I’ve tried to take fruit in my bag.  I always try to eat quickly but I’m still hungry.  Maybe we should try to get there on time.

Well, we’re going to go eat lunch.  Love you all.


Sister Butler

Leans, do you want to type this and email it to the family? I will write next Thurs by email.It’s now Saturday and I’m finally getting around to sending this. A lot more has happened. We’ve learned so much of the language.