I always used to wonder how missionaries could learn an entire language in just 2 or 3 months in the MTC. After spending a week here, I think I know the answer: work, work , and more work. We spend literally all day studying and about 3/4 of that time is devoted to learning Spanish. We speak as much Spanish as we can with each other even during the 1 hour a day that we get to play sports. Our teacher never speaks English (he can, it's his 1st language, but he never does). We even do all of our praying and singing in Spanish. I can say this method works though. I've already learned about as much Spanish as I did from 2 years of Spanish in high school (I've definately gotten some help from the spirit in learning it too). Definitely the hardest and scariest thing that we've had to do so far is teach an investigator*...in Spanish...4 different times. We have to read from lesson plans that we've prepared beforehand cause we're not good enough to just speak it yet. Then the investigator* will ask us questions that will force us off-script, so we just awkwardly fumble over the words as we attempt to answer him and often fail at saying anything that actually makes sense. It's a ridiculous emotional roller coaster here. At one moment, you'll be thinking, "Yeah! I just learned a whole bunch of words and the spirit will help me with the rest, I'm ready to convert the world!" Then you'll realize an hour later that all you know how to say is "the church is true" and "where's the bathroom" and start worrying about how all the native-speakers are just gonna laugh at you. I have seen elders here who will in the same day cry out of joy and then later out of frustration. I have seen a whole bunch of people here that I know, including: Elder Casperson; Elder Zollinger; Elders Jefferson Vick, Eric Judd, Josh Haertel, Chase Noel, and Adam Mower. I have also seen Stephen Arroyo's sister who is a teacher here. It's awesome to see people that I know looking all grown up and missionary-like.
My companion is a pretty cool guy who is from Salt Lake City and went to East High. We are about equal in Spanish knowledge and we usually work pretty well together. In addition to my companion, there are 2 other elders who are going to Santa Cruz and 8 others in my district who are going to Mexico City. They are all awesome, funny guys with powerful testimonies. It's often very difficult to study around them though because they are a pretty loud, rambunctious group. One time, they were being particularly loud and not studying at all. I couldn't take it anymore, so I said a quick mental prayer that they would quiet down and regain focus. Right as I said, "amen" and opened my eyes again, my district leader stood up and told them all to quiet down and listen to the spirit because without the spirit, we wouldn't be able to learn Spanish. After that, nobody really said a word and we did the best studying that we've ever done.
We've had some pretty awesome devotionals and firesides while we've been here. In the last one, the speaker said something that I really liked. He said, "The truth can defend itself, just as force always equals mass times acceleration, and that will always be true, the gospel will always be true." This really hit home for me probably because he used as an example the equation that I have probably used about 500 times and never once found it to be wrong.
Please write to me because in this crazy missionary world, letters and sports are all that I have to keep me sane. I can't wait to see you all again in 2 years and tell you all of my awesome missionary experiences, but for now, I'll just keep writing home whenever I get the chance.
P.S. my p-day is Thursday, so you can expect emails and stuff on Thursdays.