So I decided being at the MTC is like being in high school. You first get here and you're the little sophomore or freshman that doesn't know anything and everyone else is like the upperclassmen. You're insecure about everything, you're stressed about classes, etc. Then you have the juniors that think they're super sick (and yeah they actually are haha) that have been here awhile. And finally you have the seniors that are plagued with senioritis and don't really want to do anything anymore (like the people that have been here 8 weeks! They're so ready to get in the field). I think by next week, I'll be a junior cuz I'm starting to get more comfortable.
So to be honest, my first week here was hard. Probably the hardest week of my life. But everyday is a battle, fighting to be the best missionary I can be! It also helps when you laugh so hard you cry every day. I've learned that when you're feeling down or whatever, if you turn outward and just try to make others smile and laugh and be happy, you can't help but be like 1000x happier than you were before! That has made this week really awesome.
One thing the "Seniors" that are going to Taiwan next week did that made us all laugh way hard was when they put their bed sheets and blankets around their shoulders and used their belts to cinch it to their waste ( see my pictures!). They looked straight out of Star Wars!!! They used those cardboard tube things you can ship like pictures in or whatever as lightsabers. They reenacted a couple scenes from Episode 6, Episode 3, and Episode 7 for us. They knew every line perfectly and threw in some Chinese lines too!! Seriously one of the funniest things I've ever witnessed!! Hey. We have to relieve some stress somehow right?
Earlier that day, Elder Johnson (my district leader) and I just had one of those ridiculous laughing attacks over the orange juice at lunch. Ahh good times! I've grown to really love everyone. It's gonna be sad to see the older kids all leave because we just grow close and laugh and love each other. For example: we have a pull-up bar right outside my room (which is heaven-sent btw) and my whole zone is literally obsessed with my pull-up bar skills. Like it's almost kind of annoying because I'll be settling down and stuff and then everyone's like "ELDER BARKER!!! COME SHOW US YOUR BUTTERFLY PULLUPS!!!" and I'm like "ugghh, again?" But it's pretty funny. Everyone wants me to be their personal trainer or something. hahahaha. You know I'm down for that!! Haha my biggest goal while I'm here is to get Elder Jones at least 10 pounds of muscle before we head to Taiwan. We're trying hard!! haha
You guys have GOT to hear my district sing hymns in chinese before each class. It's a careful mix of one of the funniest things ever and one of the most spiritual things ever.
So I pretty much decided I'm going to be fluent in Mandarin Chinese by Christmas. I'll be functional by the time I leave the MTC. (This is where hope and trusting in the Lord comes in!!!!!;) Gotta have goals. It turns out my teacher here has mad skills at the flute, so he left us last Friday to pursue his flutist endeavors at University of Texas grad school. He showed us some of his audition videos he had to do. My. Goodness. But anyways we got two new teachers now: one of them served in Taiwan Taichung from New Hampshire, and the other is straight up Taiwanese native!!! I think that was such a blessing because I love my old teacher, but he served in New York, so not exactly the same Chinese. Like, this is the REAL DEAL. Some progress: Elder George and I gave a lesson to a new investigator without reading off of any papers or anything!! It was probably the ugliest Chinese EVER but hey that's progress, right?
I have to tell you about my Branch President. He should be on those "Dos Eques" commercials because he REALLY is the most interesting man in the world. So he's like in international business (whatever that actually means) and when he was in his 30s, he was serving as like the executive assistant to the Secretary of State or something like that. True story: President Reagan called him on the phone one day and asked him to make a list of 6 capitals in Europe he wanted to live in. President Newell chose Stokholm Sweden. Long story short, he later served as a mission president there and speaks fluent Swedish and fluent French ( and he's over a Mandarin and Cantonese branch. haha. he's working on that) and he has the BEST memory I've ever seen anyone have. He tells stories with all these details, and then he can just twist them into a gospel lesson. Also, he has been friends with President Monson for over 40 years!! Like actually tight! and he's tight with a bunch of other apostles because of his "work" or something. At least, that's all he'll tell me so far. And I got all that just from the temple walk with him on Sunday! He should write a book. And, it just goes to show that everyone's got a story and we can learn something from everyone!
President Kimball once said, "Doors will be opened. Ways will be prepared . . . but I don't believe the Lord will open doors we are not prepared to enter." AAHHH!!! I know the Lord has prepared and is preparing the people in Taiwan, but I have to ask myself, "Am I prepared enough?" I guess that's why I'm here in the MTC. To prepare for when that college student, that single father of 2, or that family opens their door and says "NI HAO!" haha. But like I said before, it's a battle. I haven't had soda in 2 weeks (see family?? jkjk), I'm living off of 7ish hours of sleep a night (Elder George's mattress is super squeaky haha), I sit in a classroom for 9 hours a day, I'm trying to learn one of the hardest languages in the world, etc. It is ssooo easy to get discouraged! But I'm not here to fail. I'm not trying to sell some "how-to" program. I'm here to bring the world His truth, testifying of Jesus Christ and inviting others to come unto Him. I know His gospel and atonement is infinite! It covers ALL trials and hardships, and everyone's got them! This brings me a ton of hope and that helps me overcome and fight the discouragement. I know it can for you too.