Monday, October 14, 2013

First email from Singapore

Hi all,

Wow, so much has happened, and it's only been a few days - actually, if I'm not mistaken, it's been fewer days for me than it has for you, because I skipped a Wednesday in there somewhere.  Now I'm on the same day as you, but way ahead.  Weird.

Well, since I can't get all the details in, I'll do what I can to give you a general idea/feeling of how my experience has been so far.  I thought I was lost in traveling to/from all the different airports/planes a few days ago.  Well, that was a good way to ease into what I feel every day here in Singapore.  Elder Fletcher and I made it safely through SLC, LA, and Hong Kong to Singapore.  On the Singapore flight, I had to fill out an immigration form, stating why I wanted to live in Singapore.  I guess Singapore and Malaysia don't like missionaries very much, and sometimes they have problems passing through immigration security.  Elder Fletcher and I experienced no such problems, except that at the very last baggage check we had to explain to a guard that we were volunteers, and had come to give service.

Mmm. . . Breakfast: Nutella, bread and 100+ (carbonated vitamin water)
The first meal wasn't really worth taking a picture of - we ate Burger King on the go - and I have subsequently forgotten, or not had time to get my camera out for other food experiences.  Actually, you can see below the typical meal so far at my apartment: the Nutella sandwich and 100+.  Apart from this chocolaty bread and carbonated vitamin water, I've already eaten Chicken, lots of curry rice, boiled lettuce, frog legs, prawn, and some unknown meat which, although having the appearance of spicy chicken, turned to caramel popcorn in my mouth.  I'm still trying to figure that one out.  Anyway, I've not yet had anything I haven't liked.

To say that it rained buckets on my first night is an understatement.  I had not yet unpacked my umbrella, so I was utterly soaked when we went out to eat at a small streetside restaurant.  There was some of the loudest thunder I've ever heard, and it was an altogether thrilling experience.  I think this may be the norm, because it's rained every day since.  

I met with President and Sister Mains on Thursday, as I hope you could see from my first iPad email.  They are both so kind and concerned for the well-being of their missionaries, and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.  At their orientation meeting, Elder Fletcher was sent to Miri, an area in Malaysia, with an Elder Mitchell, who's been out 12 weeks.  I'm staying here in Singapore with Elder Black (ironically, Bai Zhanglao, which is phonetically correct, but means Elder White in Chinese.  I'm pretty sure his MTC teacher had a laugh when he named him that).  I'm in good hands; Elder Black is a fantastic missionary, and I have a lot to learn from him.  Where so many people speak English here, I'm glad that he chooses to work hard and speak Chinese all the time with me.  I'm so glad that I've been assigned to him, and I believe that this is the Lord's design, because I can already see that he can teach me so many important things in a way that I can respond well to.

I will admit, not every moment has been as fabulous as I feel right now.  The first day was especially taxing.  I was moved to and from so many buildings with a whole bunch of way-too-excited missionaries that I didn't know, and I was hot, soaked, hungry, tired, and lost.  I was most frustrated that my first impression of missionary work was a 33-hour day with really uncomfortable conditions and no concrete information.  To add to that, I had to pack, then repack several times, because I was informed (and I still can't discern what's really true here) that I can only live out of a single bag, weighing 30 kilos.  I really was pretty disheartened that night, and that was the first time I had felt homesick.  I think I'm over that feeling for now, and things have been ever so much better since I was introduced into my new, permanent (for this transfer) apartment.

Views from my apartment
Jungle or city?
Now, a little about the city:  going outdoors really is like walking down a sidewalk through the rain forest, hearing legitimate jungle wildlife noises all around, and getting passed at upwards of 30 mph by fancy cars.  Every public place (except a few restaurants and Indian markets) is modern, stylish and high-tech.  It's a little unsettling, still, to be at the entrance to one huge, fancy mega-mall, and peer through trees to see the one on the other side of the street.  To get there, we have to go underground, since there is no other way to cross the street in some places, so we'll take an escalator down to the MRT (mass rapid transit) station, cross over, and take another escalator back up.  The MRT is like a subway, but faster and cleaner.  I have a card that I scan to get on and off every time, which can be detected through the bulk of my wallet, and to which I can wirelessly add money whenever I need.  Each missionary companionship has a smart phone, which we use to call or SMS our members or investigators, or to read scriptures or study language, with the same Pleco app that Dad has probably deleted from his iPad.  When I try to talk to someone on the MRT, in an attempt to place a Book of Mormon, I have to interrupt whatever movie or game they're playing on their touchscreen device, and ask them to take out their headphones.  It's a totally different world from Cache Valley, yet not completely foreign, either.

The goal of President Mains, as inspired by the Lord, is to flood the mission with the Book of Mormon.  The standard of excellence here is to place 7 copies each week.  Elder Black and I have already placed 3, which I was pretty pleased with, but still isn't meeting our standard.  We'll have to pick up the pace, and I need to pray for guidance more.  Elder Fletcher and I began the work early, at the Los Angeles airport.  We met a Chinese couple and their friend.  She (Mrs. Woods) noticed our nametags and began to ask about us.  We explained a little before they had to hurry off.  To our surprise, we met them again, just after I phoned home, at Panda Express.  We invited them to come over and sit next to us, and we began to tell them about our purpose as missionaries.  Mrs. Woods seemed more interested in how we had become "so good" at Chinese in just 9 weeks, and wanted to know about where we studied.  Long story short, we eventually bore our testimonies that God had helped us, and that he could help them with whatever problems they were facing as well, and we gave them a Chinese Book of Mormon.  She asked us to write our email addresses in the front, which we did gladly.  I hope something good can come of this, even though I still don't know what to expect.
Well, I'm almost out of time, and I still need to send you pictures.  I'm going to bring this letter to an abrupt end.  I love you all, and pray for you!


P.S. Remind me if there's anything I forgot to tell you, which you want to know more about.  I'd be happy to let you know!

Elder Fletcher is the only one in the Hong Kong airport (almost)

Empty hallways in Hong Kong airport (5:45 a.m.)

Hong Kong airport a little later (there are a few people, now)

Singapore from the air
Our living room
Living room

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