29 August, 2013
One week has already passed here at the MTC- I can hardly believe it! It almost feels like I've been here for months!
The first day was definitely surreal. When the lady put my name tag on my shirt, I still didn't feel 100% like a missionary. I had an escort help me with my things and take me around everywhere, which was really appreciated, since I was tired and had no idea where to go.
Finnish missionaries are assigned to the West Campus, which will one day be bigger than Main Campus, but as for now, it's very small. It feels a bit isolated, and our bookstore isn't nearly as extensive, but there are regular shuttles to Main, and I overheard someone say that the food here is better! Another plus: Instead of living in the dorms and using the big, communal showers, we live in what used to be family student housing, so it feels really personal and cozy.
There are two districts of Finnish missionaries. At the MTC, a district includes the people that you attend class with. In my district there are 6 Vanhimmat (elders) and only 2 Sisaret (sisters). The other district is split 5/3. We go to church with the Estonians, Albanians, and Hungarians, aka the linguistic weirdos. More on language later.
My toveri (companion) is Sisar Nyman. She's from Norway, and her dad's Finnish! She's 19, but you'd never know it because she's really mature and is so incredibly easy to work with! She also has a really silly sense of humor, so we get along great! Her English is almost at a native level, but it's fun when we talk about cultural differences and weird language expressions. She's also one of the sweetest people I've ever met, just to make it all even better.
Finnish classes have been a roller coaster ride! Our first day we basically learned how to introduce ourselves and conjugate the verb "olla", which means "to be". On day 3, we had our first investigator! Ahhhh!! She's really one of the teachers from the other district who made up a character for us to teach, but it doesn't make it feel any less real! Our first lesson, we basically just read stuff from Preach My Gospel and the scriptures, which was pretty awkward, but what else could we do? Our second lesson we weren't allowed more than some vocabulary notes, which was really difficult. I didn't feel like we did very well, and even though I should have been grateful for how much progress I'd made in just a couple days, I was way too hard on myself. For lessons 3 and 4, we were only allowed an outline in English. ENGLISH. I know that God is helping us, because there is no way we'd have been able to do a full lesson (about 20 minutes) in only Finnish if we didn't have some kind of divine help! Our last lesson with "Maria" was about the Plan of Salvation (or Pelastussuunnitelma, seriously.) which has really, really, REALLY difficult vocabulary. But we were somehow able to breeze through it, and even answer some questions that we didn't anticipate from our planning! At one point I went to look up a scripture for Maria to read, and Sisar Nyman whispered to me, "2 Nephi 2:25?" and I got really excited and said, "Jo! Jo!" (Jo=yeah) We were so in sync through the Spirit- it was amazing! We'll get TWO different "investigators" next week- one in Finnish, and one in English. I hope we can connect with them as well as we did with Maria.
I have never been so humbled, yet so pleased with how things are in life. The fact that we can give a new lesson every day in Finnish is so astonishing to me! I am constantly reminded of how big this work is, but I'm never truly worried about the language or any trials that may come up ahead because I feel the hand of the Lord in everything I do! I know it's only through the Lord that I can see such changes in myself in such a short period of time- I am more patient and loving, and I work hard, and I'm becoming the best Karlan I could possibly be, and it's only been a week! I'm excited for week two, because I'll already have the daily routine down, and I'll have some sort of Finnish base to work with. My language goal is to solidify conjugating verbs in present and past, and get more comfortable conjugating nouns. (Yeah, that's right- NOUNS. In Finnish you conjugate EVERYTHING. We haven't even touched on adjectives! Sometimes I think I know how to do something pretty well, but then it turns out that there are eve MORE rules! Like, if the wind is blowing in a NNE direction on a Tuesday, double the last consonant. AHHHHH!!!)
Our Vanhimmat are really fun to be around. We love to sit together at meals and they make class time more enjoyable. The other day, Vanhin Stranberg prayed at the beginning of class, and he used one of our language books that has suggested words and phrases for different occasions. There's a misprint in the page about praying, so he prayed for us to learn Spanish. Even our teacher had a hard time not laughing a bit! Ever since, I've noticed that when I'm talking with my toveri about vocabulary while walking to/from different activities, we'll get a Spanish-speaking missionary try to give us some help, not knowing that we're Finnish! Sisar Nyman said she hopes it goes both ways, and that some of the Spanish missionaries suddenly start saying Finnish words.
P-Day has been great! Sisar Nyman has never used a clothes dryer before, so it was a fun learning experience for her. Service was cleaning, but since every day is P-Day for someone, they get cleaned daily, so doing the bathrooms was helppo nakki. (Helppo nakki is the Finnish way to say, "Piece of cake". It literally means "easy hotdog". It's my new favorite thing to say!)
I love it here, and I'm glad I get to stick around for a while as I learn a language and how to better teach others about the Gospel message that brings me so much peace and joy. It's hard work, but I somehow always find the time/energy/resources that I need to do all that's required of me. Sisar Nyman and I strive for exact obedience in all we do, and we are enormously blessed for it. Mina rakastan minun Vapahtajani, ja mina tiedan etta Jesusksen Kristuksen sovituksen kautta, me voimme voitte synnit ja kuolema, ja tunnee ilo. (I can't figure out accents on this computer, so that's the best I can do!)
Mina Teidan Seita!