Hello Family and Friends!!!
Holy Cow! Santa vaca! I'm in California! How cool is that?! I love it here so much already! Well actually my first impression of the field wasn't the absolutely great. When we were landing at the airport, all I really noticed was how bad the air is. The smog is so bad here. Eww. So that was my first impression. But ignorning that, I seriously love it here. My perspective is as a biologist coming from a desert. Don't get me wrong...I absolutely love the desert and love that it has a beauty all of its own. But being a biologist coming from a desert, all the plants in California are like eye candy for me. I love the palm trees! I love the flowers! I love everything. Seriously, you'll just be walking or driving along and there are so many absolutely beautiful plants to look at. There are so many interesting and different types of trees and flowers and plants. It is like being in a tropical forest. I love it!!!!
Anyway, before I forget, let me give you my apartment address first. I'll be living there for at least 3 months because they have a new 12 week program for new missionaries and their trainers. So that address is:
8960 Orion Ave #21
North Hills, CA 91343
My companion/trainer is so nice. Her name is Hermana Hansen and I can already tell that she was meant to be my companion. She is so patient with me and everything. But most of all, she loves to sing and she sings so beautifully. We get to sing all the time too. We sing before companionship study, we sing in lessons, and we sing when we get to a door of a person who isn't really interested but are willing to listen to a song. But yeah, Hermana Hansen is from Nashville and is great. When I got in the first night the apartment was so decorated in green stuff. There were green streamers all over the roof and on the doors and ballons everywhere and she had bought me some green stuff and put it in a basket on my desk. She also did little things like write a welcome message on the mirror in green. I love it!!! But the cool thing is she doesn't call me a greenie. I know I am, but she doesn't make it seem like a bad thing at all. (after all, green things grow and ripe things rot, right?!)
The schedule is kind of silly. Well there were absolutely abnormal days because of some orientation and things like that taking up all day. But when things go as normal, this is basically the schedule:
6:30 am - wake up, exercise, breakfast, shower, etc
8:00 - personal study
9:00 - companionship study
10:00 - additional companionship study using the things in the 12 week new missionary thing
11:00 - language study
So by the time language study is over it is 12 and time for lunch. So really, we don't even get out of the apartment until like 12:30-1:00 pm. That is kind of silly but it is definitely good because I need it all!
I'm in an area called Reseda and it is a car area. But it is really interesting because we don't even live in our area. I guess I'm finding out that housing here is extremely expensive. Like we live in a simple apartment with a kitchen, living room, one bedroom, and a bathroom and it costs $800 per month. So I guess we're not living closer because that is the cheapest they could get that is actually decent living space.
Oh yes, the elders in our district are also really pretty cool. Well, interesting at least haha. One day we drove home and were just about to pull into our parking spot but there was a huge origami swan in our spot (I took some pictures, so I'll try to attach them). Some of the elders had taken the grocery store ads that we get in the mail every day and they taped them together and made a huge swan. It was so funny. They were going to put it in the apartment, but the key they had for it didn't work, so they put it in the parking spot. But I guess they were worried about it flying away in some wind, so they taped the wings down. So to me it looked a little bit more like a chihuahua. But yeah, there was a sign on it that said something like "this is 'swan' great mission" and "hope you get the best deal out of it." I think the elders had a little bit too much free time on their last preparation day, but it was a great and surprising welcome to the mission on my second day in the field!!
I love being a missionary! It is so neat to get to talk to people. There is one 8 or 9 year old named Katherine who Hermana Hansen has been woring with for a while and last night her dad finally signed the permission form so that Katherine can be baptized! So I will have my first baptism in two Sundays! We have a few more investigators who we'll be trying to see if we can get a baptism date goal for them this week. A lot of the work we do is with the inactive or less active members to help them come back and it is great because we can see people in all stages of their testimonies. So getting to work with them is so sweet. We have had a chance to knock on a few doors and that is pretty fun. I mean most people are just not interested, but we've had one person who listened to a little bit and we talked about her life and left her with a song, a prayer, and a pass along card. It was really pretty neat.
Oh yes, yesterday was the 5th Sunday and evidently in the Reseda Ward on 5th Sundays the missionaries speak and I was one who got to speak. But luckily for me, every week at the MTC we had to prepare possible talks for our zone sacrament meeting, so I took one of those talks and I worked on it. I spoke about faith and how it is important in everyday life, but it is especially important in missionary work because faith is a principle of action, so when you really start having faith, you can't help but want to change your life and in a way one of those changes is to want to invite others to come unto Christ as well. Mom, the Instant Preparation book also came in handy. I used the story of the little girl whose father worked in a well and he asked her to jump into the well even though she couldn't see him. My companion and I worked and translated that for companionship study or language study (I forget) one day. I love that story/poem in English because it is such a great example of what faith is all about. The great thing is faith is not only a principle of action, but it is also a principle of power, so faith is also how miracles are possible.
I don't really know what I'm doing at this point and I feel a little lost wherever I go so far (but I am starting to recognize buildings, some streets, and landmarks), but I do know that I'll eventually figure it all out. The thing that is fantastic is that the people here are so kind. Like after sacrament meeting everyone came up to me and was telling me how my Spanish really is pretty good. I understand a lot of what is being said in lessons even though the people oft times speak a lot faster than they did at the MTC. I have a long way to go, but I'm happy and optimistic about everything. One thing that'll take me a while to get used to is how different the Hispanic culture is. It is defintley not bad. It is just different.They are very close people and the ladies always come up to you and to say hello they kiss your cheek. At church I felt like my one cheek was probably covered in lipstick. Plus, they like to eat with their fingers and so if you try to eat some things with a fork they will be like "sus dedes, hermana" (your fingers, hermana!). Also, some of them really really like to talk and they'll tell you anything and everything about their lives. I love them so much and and so excited that I'm getting to know them better, but it is a little different now.
I think that's about all for now. Have a great week and I hope your summers are all going fantastically well!
May the Spirit Be With You!