I don’t have too much time, because they only give us an hour to write to everyone who sends us emails, but I can tell you a bit about what is going on.
My first few days was really hard. Not because I was home sick, but because it was overwhelming. The 10 hour red eye meant I didn´t get much sleep, and they did not hesitate to put us straight to work. We are staying in a 100 year old building called the Alcantara, which was an old Swedish embassy until the church bought it. We are actually staying in the pool house in the back. I´ll get some pictures for you for next week.
They got us to the MTC (in Chile, they call it the CCM or the Say-Say-Emay) early the next day. Normally, our routine in awake at 6:45 and in the study room at 7:10 for personal study until 8:00, then breakfast at 8:30 and a run until 9:00, then a 20 minute bus ride to the CCM so we can begin class by 10:00. The first day, however, we were not supposed to get up until 7:00, not run, and be at the CCM by 8:00 for orientation. We got up at 6:30 so we could run, but Elder Gilbert told us we had to stay at the Alcantara and get ready with everyone else.
Elder and Hermana Gilbert are good people. They remind me a little bit of Grandpa and Grandma Mathewson, actually. They feed up breakfast every morning along with their maid Secilia, who treats us like her children. Our breakfasts are weird. We get cereal with yogurt or warm milk, the highest concentration of tang ever and spam, cheese and fresh bread every morning. The bread is what is going to make me fat. I´m trying to limit myself and run a little more in the morning.
The CCM has a striking resemblance to a prison. It has tall white walls with a fence and a gate that is closed unless the buses are coming in, it´s essentially blank, almost spartan. We are in the same room every day, all day. It´s in the basement, it has no windows and the walls are almost completely bare except for a few paintings of Jesus. I swear, I’m in an asylum.
With a temple 10 feet outside of the gate.
The shipment of missionaries that came with me on my flight is almost entirely made up of spanish speakers who will be only here two weeks. My district is two other gringos, which is Elder Barton and Elder Turner. I´ll send you pictures some time. They are good guys, although I´ll be honest, I can see why companions get into fights so often. You spend that much time with someone, even if they are good people, and you get a little tired of them. I can only imagine how I will feel if I don´t find some faith and charity and patience by the end of 6 weeks.
The Spanish is coming slowly. Slower than both of my companions, which I am finding extremely frustrating. I am a little sick and concentrating and talking all day is not helping it. There are times that I lose almost all of my motivation and I just want to give up. It´s not like I want to go home, I just want to stop being a missionary. There has been three things that have helped me get through these times of apathy.
The first is having an emotional outlet. I have been drawing a ton. Every chance I get, I pull out my sketch book and just start doodling. It usually doesn’t take long and I´m feeling way better. I am also writing a ton. I´ve been writing in my journal every day, and I´ve probably done 12 pages or so. I write about my experiences, my thoughts, my frustrations, whatever I need to express or want to remember. Also, my companions and I set up a policy of stark honesty. We tell each other almost everything that is going on and don´t bottle anything up. A good complaining session with them usually makes me feel better.
The second is prayer. My prayers have gotten so much better since I got here. I pray for diligence, clarity and the gift of tongues. And I am finding that my prayers are being answered so long as I work my butt off to make things happen on my side.
Finally, I keep in mind why I am out serving a mission. If I came back now, where would I be? Lost, unmotivated. It is very likely that I would fall away from the church and lose my testimony. I wouldn´t be able to start school because I differed my application, I wouldn´t have any friends at home because they would all be at school or a mission, and I would hate myself for not giving it my all and trying as hard as I can. And besides, I am not here for me. I am here for the people of Chile. As hard as it is, and as difficult as this emotional roller-coaster has been that I´ve gotten onto, I know that in the end, it will not matter so long as I help one person out in Chile, even if that person is myself.
I´ve got so much to tell you and so many stories already, but they´ll have to wait until next Tuesday. I hope everything is going well in Calgary, and I hope everything is going okay.