Hi! So. So much to say, and I only have 28 minutes and 30 seconds left! AH! Here goes. Are you ready?
It is CRAZY here at the MTC. The days are all so long. Not boring, but crazy busy. So much happens. We usually wake up and go to class and/or gym, and then lunch, and then more class, then dinner, and then more class. It's just exhausting sitting around most of the day, but it's all awesome. The first day was weird, because it was all kind of surreal and none of us knew each other yet, but I ran into so many people I know. I saw my old roommate, Sister Jessie Hawkes, Hermana Jessica Jones from Twin, a girl from my freshman ward, and the brother of a girl I went to England with. The first few days especially were so exhausting, but so wonderful. I really do love it here.
So, here are just some basics about my life and the people I associate with. All Ruskis (and I guess the two Elders learning Ukranian too) sit together during meals in the cafeteria. For those of you who have been to the MTC cafeteria, on the left side as you go in, there's an alcove with windows that has some bars kind of segregrating it from the rest of the cafeteria. That's where we all sit--behind the "Iron Curtain." The cafeteria never turns the lights on back their either, so it's always really dark when we're eating dinner--at 4:30 in the afternoon. But we're always starved by then. Our teachers are AWESOME. There's Sistra (Cectpa, in Russian) Jenson, who was actually in my ward at BYU, even though we didn't really know each other, she was roommates with some of my good friends in the ward. There's Brat Storey, who really reminds me of Kent Dodds (and I'm pretty sure I took a class with him two years ago or something). And then there's Brat Savage who actually served his mission with Ryan Ballestero from Twin (he was a year older than me) and his dad is Matt's Stake president. They're all great teachers and really fun. My district is amazing too. We are all like family already, and we've been together not quite a week. We have an Elder who's an expat who's been living in Deutschland since he was 8, two Elders from the deep South--one sweet, funny Elder who always looks like a GQ cover and has great hair, and one loud, funny Elder who talks all the time and makes us all laugh. The three of them are all going to Dnipopetrovsk in Ukraine, speaking Russian, as is my companion, Sistra Clark. Then there's two Utah Elders, one who knows the American Fork Ashbys, and an Elder from Texas who are all going to Moscow with me. So 6 Elders split between the two missions, and they're all hilarious and sweet. There are 3 other sisters (so 4 of us). Cectpa Clark is my companion. She's from Logan and a farm girl and is the sweetest person I've ever met. She can give my old roommate Lila a run for her money, which is saying a lot. She is always so happy and the other day when I was so giggly-loopy tired she just laughed with me and put up with me and kept my head on straight. Cectpa Bullough is from Indiana and was roommates with Michele Porter at BYU-I. She's funny, sarcastic, awesome and is coming to Moscow with me, as is her companion Cectpa Peterson. We're all in the same room and having a great time. The "older" district takes care of us and is great, and there's two other new districts that came in at our same time. We're all in one Russian branch with the 2 Ukranian Elders and then there's another Russian branch/zone too, and we eat with them but don't really know them that well.
Fun Russian language facts: There are no articles, or no present tense for the verb "to be," both of which are awesome. I'm so glad I studied German for so long, because when we started cases last night, it was so much easier, and I remembered struggling with them like 2 years ago and how long it took me to get them, so I was glad I didn't have to do that again. I just have to learn the 2 extra ones Russian has (they use the 4 German, plus another 2), but they should be pretty easy, and they make sense. Also, my branch President, President Childs, was a German major at BYU and he told me that at any given time about 20% of the branch has German experience. Just in our district there's me, Cectpa Clark, Elder Rodriguez-Vargas (the one from Germany), and Elder Clawson even has a bit. I guess once President Childs was talking with Elder Cook and he said that one of the indicators a missionary will be able to learn Russian is if they have German experience.
Before I forget, I need to ask for some things. I either need someone to bug Chip (Amanda Hufstetler) to write me a letter or to get me her address so that I can write her. I also need my loofah, which I left on the guest bathroom counter, some old plain flipflops for the shower/bathroom, a wristwatch and my old Preach My Gospel. I got a new one here, but I've found myself wanting some of the notes i wrote in my old PMG. I think it's just in either my green study abroad backpack or my black one. I packed it up last, so it should be pretty easily accesible. Also, just forward this onto Elizabeth so she can post it on my blog. :)
Let's see . . . what else is there. It's kind of hard, because all the days start to run together, and it really feels like I've been here about 3 months already. haha. Um. I can bear my testimony, and kind of pray in Russian, as well as sing hymns slowly, and read slowly, even if I don't know what it says. We all seem to be picking up really fast--the gift of tongues is VERY real. I can also introduce myself as a missionary and have a basic opening, "How are you?" conversation. It's crazy how much we've learned, and we don't even spend the majority of our time learning Russian. We spend most of it on the doctrine and how to teach it. For example. On Saturday, we got "thrown into the fire," as Brat Savage said, and had to teach one of the "older" missionaries who was role-playing as an investigator. We taught "Katja," a Russian single mom who taught Russian and English and has absolutely NO religious background! It was difficult to explain everything, but we managed to survive, with lots of help from the Spirit. Having the Spirit is everything--that's what tells you to give have the Restoration and half the Plan of Salvation sometimes, like when it was necessary with Katja to talk about how God loves her and is our Father and then about the Savior and why he's necessary. It was hard, and we get to do it again in the TRC with a real volunteer (not just someone we know) tomorrow, and then we get to keep teaching "Katja" as a progressive investigator every week. Practice makes perfect, I guess. But it was pretty nerve-wracking, especially since they told us we were teaching just a few hours beforehand.
Sunday was great. Relief Society is all the sisters together, and then we have Sacrament meeting after lunch with our branch. It's great, because Sundays are full of music--we can watch Music and the Spoken Word before RS, and we sing tons of hymns all day long. Sacrament meeting is great, beacuse it's half in English, half in Russian/Ukranian. Whenever we can, we're supposed to speak Russian in church, so...it's awesome to hear prayers and the sacrament prayers and hymns in Russian. Even though I couldn't understand anything that was said except for the announcements, the Spirit was so strong. We also get to get out and walk up to the temple on Sundays, which is really nice, because we don't see the sky at all here, and it's dark when we walk up to the temple in the mornings on Tuesdays/P-Day. But it was light when we got out this morning, which was beautiful. It's so great to be outside.
Well, my time is almost out. I just have 3 minutes left. Feel free to ask me any questions or send me any letters. It'll be hard to read your emails and respond in one 30 minute period. Write me! I love letters. Yesterday we were all depressed that there wasn't any mail, and we have no idea what's going on outside in the real world. I've gotten letters from Garin, Matt, Sister Lila Jenson, and a package from the Bastows so far, and it always makes my day to get mail! I feel really bad for not being a better letter writer to my friends on missions now.
Cectpa Rachel Ashby
MTC Mailbox #124
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604
Love you all,
Cectpa Ashby! :D