Preaching the Gospel in Taiwan

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MTC Email 28th February 2012

Dear Mom, Dad, and, Eric,

I'll begin by answering your questions. Again, I have a time constraint, so I'll try and cram as much in as possible.

1. Have I participated in curbside pick-up of missionaries? Unfortunately, no. It would be fun to see the families drop their kids off and such, but no, I haven't.
2. Is my Zhongwen or Espanol better? Spanish is better. I actually never realized how good my Spanish was until I got here. The Spanish-speaking Elders...aren't very fluent. That being said, Sister Ochoa is a native from Mexico and I can often understand what she is saying. That being said, my Zhongwen is catching up hen kuai (I can add tones in the next email if you want).
3. The gap is definitely being closed. I feel like as I study harder and harder I have passed some. Those that have a base and study hard are still well ahead of me. :/ For example, my companion has had three years prior to coming here. While his tones are better than mine, and often his grammar too, I feel like my vocabulary might be better. Hard to say. I often get lazy with my tones and I'm really trying to stop that practice.
4. I HAVE SEEN PRESTON!!! AAAAHHH! He's so Preston! :P I love that kid. He's doing great supposedly which is fantastic! There are a ton of Alta kids here. It's nigh impossible to go a day without running into several.

Now for your actual email:

 In mom's letter she said something along the lines of, "not much has changed," then she proceeded to tell me all of the many changes that she is doing to the house. It made me laugh! It sounds like it will be much different!  MALAYSIA?!?! That is so cool!!!I'm very jealous! I've met some missionaries who have been there and they loved it. Also, I was fortunate enough to study it in my Geography class at BYU. CRAZY place. But I'll try not to freak you out too much. careful what you eat and keep your stuff safe. :D I'm ridiculously jealous about the whole Hunger Games dealio. I wish I was going. I expect a full report on the film. The Oscars didn't turn out how I expected. Did Nick Nolte win? I've heard The Artist is incredible....but it's in black and white and it doesn't have sound. Harry Potter never gets love. :'( I'm so happy that you guys are learning Zhongwen! It seriously makes me very happy! Just make sure you know your tones! If you don't know the tones, you don't know the word! Xianzhi(1 and 1) means prophet(s) while Xianzhi (with 3 and 4 I think) means like evil sorcerer or something ridiculous like that. Just keep that in mind. Keep it up! And I want you to know that I am working hard as well!

So today I got a haircut. It was the most difficult thing I've done on the mission thus far. It's actually not THAT bad. :/ I was in desperate need of one however. One of the sister missionaries also gave me one of her three blow driers to help me out a bit. :P

I don't know if you guys are capable of doing this, but is there a way that you could send BYU a copy of my SLCC transcripts.  You'll need to go on SLCC's website and ask for a transcript. If you can that would be great! If not, it's all good. I also wanted to tell you some crazy news I found out today. Sister Ochoa's dad is the second counselor in the general young men's presidency. Wicked (as my Brittish roommate who is reading this email would say; we're companions for the moment)!

You'll never guess who I ran into this week....JOSH FREEMAN!! How nuts is that?! We didn't really have time to catch up, but it's SO weird! Also, for Eric's sake, I ran into......CINDY HUTCH!!!! Weird week! Tons of crazy newbies! I'm considered really old here at the MTC. The English-speakiing missionaries are only here for three weeks. I'm on my seventh (by MTC standards).

Also, the other day, we watched a few "I'm a Mormon" videos (one of the few things we're allowed to watch in the MTC). The ones we watched were in Zhongwen and they were awesome! I got totally pumped to go to Taiwan. I want to share them with you. You may have to switch the language on to Zhongwen, but look up Kaiping and Jingyi. I can totally understand some of what they're saying! Sometimes whole sentences! Too cool!

Anyway, I've gone over my time again. Keep me posted on everything that's going on at home! How's Jordan? How's Denise? How's Grandma and Grandpa Wilkes? And how's Grandpa Woolsey?? Please keep me updated!

I love you guys so much. This mission, this life is slowly becoming a waters of mormon for me (Mosiah 18:30). More importantly, last night I taught Bei Jiemei (Sister Mitchell in a "practice teaching exercise) about baptism and I began to tell her what my personal waters of mormon are. When I thought of this, I thought of you guys. I thought of our house there on Cranberry Hill and night games with the neighbors. I think of my own baptism; being able to be baptized with Eric. Most importantly, when we went to the temple. I cherish those moments. I look upon them fondly. They are "beautiful" to my eyes. I encourage you to reflect on your "waters of mormon." They are sweet and delicious. I love you guys so much. Zaijian.

Ai, Wu Zhanglao

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Packages, packages, and more packages....

Nimen hao ma? (I figure you guys should know that one). :P

Dear, Mom, Dad, and Eric,

Thank you for the emails and letter this week! They were wonderful! I'm kinda getting bogged down with letters to the point that I can't write everyone back with exact promptness. :/ I feel terrible about that. I'm only today sending a reply to Eric's letter and I have four I still need to write that I haven't gotten around to. That aside, I STILL HAVEN'T WRITTEN JORDAN!! I'm a terrible cousin. :/ So the computer is freaking out today and my time is even more limited than normal because of it, so I'm going to rush through this, but hopefully I'll be able to cram a lot in. I'll start with what I have to say, then I'll respond to your email and questions.

So I want you guys to go rent "Waiting for Superman." Apparently it's a really interesting documentary on the American public schooling system. Supposed to be...insightful. Ok, so every time a new Zone Leader is called, the previous Zone Leaders will give them some mysterious thing and no one else knows about it but them. The current zone leaders locked "it" away in a suitcase. Anyway, the Zone Leaders live in my room, right? I wasn't going to put up with this blasphemy. lunch, I rallied the ENTIRE ZONE and told them all about it. Then we discovered the many talents of our rather eclectic Zone. Half of them can pick locks. We raided our own room and discovered the mysteries that lay inside the turns out that it was only a seat cushion signed by all of the previous Zone Leaders and an old clock. Kinda anticlimactic, but a lot of fun. I'm happy that mom received her letter and that dad received his letter. Eric has one coming as I said before. I received Dad's letter as well as the package of rolls. They are highly appreciated! I'll try to send an individual letter to Dad sometime in the not-too-distant future, but there wasn't a TON to reply to. I'm really happy that everything is going so well and that you guys went out for Valentine's Day. On Valentine's Day, all I could think about was you guys. It was cool actually. And Dad, the roses, nice touch. ;) The Bakers (Preston's family -- Preston comes in tomorrow) sent me a nice Valentine's Day card. :) Speaking of packages, Hunter's mom owns this company called "Missionary Munchies" and I seriously got the MOTHER OF ALL PACKAGES. Like...I had to take a picture of this package because it was so nuts. It had Cracker Jacks, Gatorade's, Beef Jerky, Candy, Cotton Candy, a giant Pixie Stick, you name it, it was in there. Seriously nuts. I feel like I'm set for life. So awesome though! My companion made me walk all across the entire MTC campus with it and like forty people told me how loved I was...awkward! Not to mention I had the Cinnamon Rolls under the other arm. Embarrassing to say the least. Matt got one too.

So I heard that the MTC president hasn't set a specific rule for how long we can call during layovers on the way to Taiwan so get excited! I may be able to talk to you guys for a while. I'll just have to pay a lot of money for it....also, it may be while you're at work, so I don't know what you'll wanna do about that... I'll also found out that Taichung is renowned for GIANT the size of your foot and larger that end up in your shower. They're so big that they catch birds in their webs and eat them. Also, they eat monkeys....just saying. Lastly, there are massive flying cockroaches...doesn't that sound nice?

Now to answer your guys' questions and email. I'm sorry that Extremely Close, and Incredibly Loud stunk. I wanted to see that one too. :/ That's exciting about the Hunger Games! I wish I was there to go with you! It's nice to here that Grandpa Wilkes is doing better. I can't believe that Grandpa Woolsey fell again. That's so demoralizing. I feel that they don't have long for this world. I hope Denise gets better as well. I'll be praying for them all. There is no one who is more blessed than missionaries than maybe the my prayers are worth quite a bit! I'm glad that American Idol is going well. I honestly don't miss it too much right now, but maybe once you guys start talking about individual singers more I'll long for it more. Glee being terrible doesn't surprise me. It's an awesome concept that they just didn't know where to run with. It turned too drama-y. That's awesome about biking Dad! I'm so excited for you! I know you'll destroy. :) Also...650 POUNDS!! That's incredible! I'm happy that you guys like the pictures. Those were some of my favorites that you posted on the blog. Elder Houggard is 6' 5" so not too far off. He played basketball in High School and he and I play together sometimes. He's a cool fella. That's kinda strange what the guy from work said about the "e" sound. I would say it more like "UH"...kinda like someone punched you in the gut. He is a native however, and we are learning the typical mainland version of Chinese. I liked the few things you learned. Just make sure you use them correctly! Zhe ge is this BUT only for specific objects. Meaning, you can't go around and use zhe ge for a zhe ge doesn't sound like a good idea. That's not Ok. Also, "ge" is a measure word that can only be used with certain objects. So while you can get away with using zhe ge A LOT of the time for doesn't always work. Like pages, songs, flat things, animals, and other things it wouldn't work with. Same with na ge (that object not that situation).

Am I starving for regular food? YES! Does that mean sweets? No. I'm overwhelmed with nasty food and sweets. Home cooking sounds incredible (there are ways to sneak it in by the way, as long as it's concealed in a box). ;) As far as I can tell from looking around and asking other missionaries, you can't find language DVDs or study materials in the book store. It's mostly the bare essentials. I don't really know for certain if Cantonese is harder, but from what I understand they're about the exact same. Mandarin has five tones and Cantonese has either seven or nine, but the extra tones are between the others. I know that probably didn't make any sense, but from what I've witnessed (the Cantonese Elders and Sisters are on the same floor as us), it seems equally as difficult. Mandarin is harder to to speak pronunciation-wise, but more tones is still more difficult (two elders in my district were transferred from Mandarin). It's apples and oranges. I don't think I need anything really. I'm reasonably set. :) I'll be able to dry clean my suits before I go. I was going to do one today, but my companion didn't particularly want to go with didn't. Maybe next week I can convince him. My teaching has gotten much better by the way. My companion is working hard, and as long as he doesn't disagree or not understand why we do something and shut down we can work together reasonably well. We're pressing on! I'm not terribly tired of the MTC. Only a little... The older generation left today and I could feel their energy and excitement. I took pictures with all of them so I'll send those soon. It was sad to see them go. We're who people look up to now. Elder Winters is an inspiration to me...remind me to write about him next week (I have a lot to say and I'm already seven minutes over). Uhh...over doing it? Maybe a little. I wouldn't worry about sweets. I don't need any more. The Branch President doesn't like it either. Also, the language is progressing well. I can understand what people say most of the time now, I just can't say what I want to say very easily. I have to think about it pretty hard first. Also, I'm a little discouraged with my work ethic, but I'm earnestly trying to improve. If they say it twice, I know it for sure. Anyway, I really need to go. I love you guys! Zaijian.

Elder Bry

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The end of a generation, the end of a missionary, and the loss of a letter

Dear Mom, Dad, and Eric,

I'm so happy that you guys sent me an email! I look forward to this time each week.  I would first like to address your email because some things were a little concerning.  First and foremost, I sent mom a pretty extensive letter last Thursday with about thirty pictures in it (I used the appropriate number of stamps), so it's a little upsetting that it got lost.  I hope it turns up on one of our ends soon.  I did get the package with everything and I was beyond happy!  I mentioned it in the letter to Mom which you obviously haven't received. :/  Bu hao.  Everything is safe though, and I haven't needed to use them.  The language is coming along very well.  I'm always trying to push myself, but it is SOOO hard.  I think I can teach most of the first lesson without any notes in Chinese, but the Plan of Salvation is tough.  There is LOADS of new vocab involved.  I've progressed in that I can more readily recognize what people are trying to say when they speak in Mandarin (meaning that I can pick out words and the general idea of sentences).  I don't know if that makes much sense or not.  It sounds like your talk went well! I'm happy for you!  I love that you spoke with Elder Findlay.  Whitney writes me regularly and tells me about their progress as missionaries.  It sounds like your day as a whole was rather busy! Keep it up though!  You are never happier than when you are serving the Lord!  Question though....have you been assigned a new home teaching companion yet?  If so, who?

Ok, sorry about the rushed nature of my email again.  I'm just trying to cram things in.  Now for a few updates on this end.  When I said that I wanted "my letters typed up," I didn't mean the ones you sent me.  I was more hoping that when I sent you guys a hand-written letter that you would type it up so that it would better preserve them (seeing as I write them in pencil).  This last Sunday I got to hear the most INCREDIBLE rebroadcast of a talk that Elder Bednar gave at the MTC this last Christmas on the Character of Christ.  It was phenomenal.  He spoke about turning outward instead of inward, even in difficult times like death.  He also challenged us to read the Book of Mormon to receive answers to our questions.  It was more involved than this however.  He said to write down one question, then proceed to to read the entire Book of Mormon in response to that one question.  Ponder a lot, and pray a lot, and he will answer the question every time.  Then write a half-page summary on it your answer.  This sounds INCREDIBLY difficult, but a prophet said it,'s gotta be true.  He said that you should have a couple hundred copies by the time you're his age.  I really want to do this.  I'm just waiting for the MTC bookstore to restock on cheap BOMs.

Oh yeah....I'm kinda surprised that I forgot to tell you this (glad I wrote it down!), but I'm now District Leader.  Our former District Leader and his companion (Elder Chan and Elder Bishop) are now the new Zone Leaders. This (the ZL callings) is kind of a humbling moment for me, because I didn't really expect it....that's a nice way of putting it, but I hope it makes sense. Pretty cool, huh?  I'm excited to serve.  The older generation leaves this week (the people who came in eight weeks before us).  Elder Winters (the former ZL) is an inspiration to me.  I have been trying to emulate his example.  He studies so hard and is so humble.  I want to be that kind of missionary. 

I wrote Dad a letter, and I've been working on Eric's letter (he wrote a TON).  Dad will get his probably on Thursday, and Eric....sometime after that.  I really really hope Mom's letter shows up. 

Elder Richards went home again.  After coming back, he developed clinical depression and now he is gone.  For good.  Zaijian I guess. :/  I bought my own olive oil and will consecrate it tonight! STOKED!  Just one thing I never really told you:  I can't listen to music in the MTC...which has been really hard.  I may send my iPod home soon so that you can put more songs on it or something, but I don't know.  We'll see.

Brother Liu (my favorite of my two teachers) wrote a "Valentine" for us last night about his love for the gospel and his savior and how he has felt his Father in Heaven's love.  He wrote it on the board then had to leave.  Each of us were silent for about 45 min to 1 hr.  It was incredible.  Half of us were in tears and the spirit was so strong.  His testimony of his Savior's love was so pure and inviting that it was truly remarkable.  We prayed together and headed to bed.  Incredible night. 

Anyway...I'm once again out of time.  Sorry. :/  I'm also sorry that this letter is all over the place.  I would like to close with how much I love you guys.  It being Valentine's Day, it's only appropriate.  I love you guys more than anything.  I wish that I could see you guys again, but how sweet will that moment be when we get to embrace in two years.  Totally worth it.  You guys have raised me in the Gospel and taught me its importance.  You have instilled me with a love for my fellow man and a drive to serve my King.  This isn't just for Mom and Dad either Eric, so don't discount yourself.  I love you guys more than you'll ever understand.

Love, Elder Bryant Jared Woolsey

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prophets and Hurt Backs

Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, and Belle,

         Your letter was relatively short this week which is both good and bad.  Because of this, I'll be able to be more detailed and make up for the things I was going to send last week but couldn't.  Speaking of that...did Eric ever get his letter?!?  You'll all be happy to know that I got Mom's letter, and Eric's letter, and the pie, and the popcorn.  You guys are spoiling me!! Haha!  My roommates love it, however. :P 
         So a week ago from today was an incredible experience:  The MTC celebrated their 50th anniversary.  Needless to say, for the entire week preceding, rumors abounded that "the monsoon" was coming (I'm pretty proud to say that I came up with that).  But...that night arrived and Elder Russell M. Nelson, and Elder Jeffery R. Holland showed up.  Incredible.  Elder Nelson was the main speaker so Holland only bore a quick, but powerful, testimony of missionary work.  Very inspiring.  Elder Nelson's talk was wonderful as well, but it mainly focused on the history of the MTC and incredible missionaries through the ages. 
         This week was really hard on my district and zone.  Elder Snyder (an Elder who switched from Cantonese to Mandarin a couple of week ago and is now in my district) broke his back about three years ago and he has been having some pretty severe pain.  So much so, that he has had to undergo several MRI's already and there is a HUGE chance that he'll need surgery and an equally large chance that he'll have to go home.  We're seemingly dropping like flies out here!  Anyway....we fasted on Thursday as a Zone and it was incredibly spiritual.  We fasted again on Sunday.  I pray for him and wish him the best.  He is an incredible individual and I know that the Lord has great things in store for him.  The night that we began our fast, he had a prompting that he should extend an open invitation to give blessings to those in our district who wanted one.  So the eight of us gathered in his room before bed and he blessed Elder Bishop and Elder Dagenais.  INCREDIBLY spiritual.  I just felt the love of the Lord so much in the room that I began to cry (and I don't know how much of a crier I am).
        I need to address a MASSIVE misunderstanding.  I don't know how this happened, but my companion isn't and never was British.  Sorry to disappoint.  There's a British Elder that I'm rooming with who I get along swimmingly with, but my companion is from Mesa, Arizona.  And I don't want it to sound like we are at odds or anything, it's just that he has this tendenancy to correct me on most things I do (ex. calling me stupid for wearing my watch on my right hand).  Make sense?  He's actually a really good guy, and we've had some great experiences together thus far, we're just very different people.  No worries though!  I love him all the same!  He's a smart guy with a lot to bring to the table! 
       This is kinda random, but could you guys type all of my hand-written letters up, I don't wanna lose 'em. comes the section full of random things I wanted to say, so this will be beyond all over the place.  I get $6 a week on a pay card kind of thing that I can use to buy my supplies and things, so don't think you need to keep sending me supplies all the time.  I use it to buy soap and things like that.  It's not much, but it's enough for now.  Snacks I want sent to me....I don't know, something yummy that I wouldn't normally get that I can keep in my room would be great....and maybe a drink or something.  :)  Surprise me!  Also....PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send some hair paste or product.  I can't get it here and I may die without it (jk). :P  My Branch President is really cool.  He served in Taiwan, but so long ago that they didn't have a Mandarin branch at the MTC.  He had to learn in the field!  He actually can't even read pin yin, only characters.  Pretty funny stuff!  Great man though.  He likes to correct us on our tones and pronunciations. :P  I was thinking today that you guys should try practicing Mandarin a little so when you come out to pick me up, you guys can know a thing or two!  I'll send my grammar books and things home when I no longer need them.  That'll be like six months from now or so, but yeah.... My mission is moving like lightspeed.  It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that people say it's fast.  I'm trying to soak it all in, but it just moves too darn fast!  Elder Snyder actually has an incredible story.  He was kind of a partier, and he was flat drunk one night when he received a prompting that he needed to clean up his life and serve a mission.  Everyone thought he was crazy, but he did it.  He is an incredible man.  I wish I could give more detail, but I still have that dang time constraint.  Please send my baptismal clothes if you get the chance...along with the pedigree chart...I think I'll need 'em in the field.  Thanks for sending Jordan's address.  That's fantastic!  I get a lot of letters from people, it's great!  I've felt the most intense outpouring of love ever.  Missionaries are probably (aside from the prophet) the most prayed for people in the church.  I feel invincible in a way (not like a teenager does though).
         So...this is what I've heard about Taiwan recently.  Supposedly you can't sit on the toilets in fear of Hep C, so you have to master a squatting technique (Elder Bishop's brother served in the same mission).  Sounds pretty funny.  I'm gonna get so owned. 
         I get to play basketball and four-square a lot.  I run quite a bit now too. I'm trying to build some endurance and shed some pounds.  Dad would DIE if he had to eat the food here.  Everything is either covered in fatty sauces/cheeses or deep fried...not to mention it tastes like plastic.  It's SO GROSS!!
         Sometimes, when I'm not working as hard as I feel like I need to, I think of Dad.  I think about what it would mean to him to be in my shoes.  I think about how hard he would work if he had the opportunity that I have.  I definitely came out for the right reasons. It makes me work harder.  It makes me want to be a better missionary.  I had a feeling yesterday that so many people in my life are angels (in a manner of speaking), sent down to earth to help me.  Everyone has their "angels," I just feel like the Lord is really looking out for me.  I love you guys and I think about you all the time.  I pray for you.  I often think about what I can do to make you guys proud and live up to my name (not that I'm here just for you, because I definitely came out here to serve the Lord FYI).  It motivates me.  I've already written mom's letter; I'm just waiting on pictures to print (YES! PICTURES!).  You guys will likely get that letter on Friday....  I have a few more things to say but if I say them all now, I'll have nothing for next week!  I now know what Nate meant by the MTC feeling like groundhog day.  :P  Please ask more questions and tell me more about home!  I'm not upset that I missed the Super Bowl that much, but I would KILL for some of mom's cooking right now.  Seriously.  Anyway...I love you.  A lot.  Zaijian.

Love, Elder Bry ;)