Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The CCM is the Happiest Place on Earth...Not Disneyland

Hola Familia!

So guess what!! I'm a missionary!! For realz. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH MY GOSH do I love the CCM (MTC)!!!!!!! It's the weirdest experience because it's kinda stressful since there is so much to do, but at the same time the Spirit is so strong here that it's okay. I want to cry, laugh, and scream all at the same time. Mostly I just laugh though. I haven't cried yet, which is good. Definitely 0% of me wants to go home. The people who can't handle it here take things too seriously. Relax. We're learning. No one will be angry if you mess up. It's a place full of the Spirit and love of God.

Advice to sisters coming to the CCM (like Shannon and Sidney and McKenzie) is that close enough is not okay. Skirts need to COMPLETELY cover your knee when you sit (so glad mine all are good). Close enough doesn't fly. You'll feel super awkward. Also, DO NOT dress casual. Skirt does not equal dressy. Again, so grateful for the clothes I brought. The better you look, the better you'll feel, and more people will take you seriously.

My companion is Hermana Arias. I seriously love her. We're different, but we help each other so much and get along really well. I push her to be on time and to be organized, she helps me with Spanish and pushes me to be more serious and focused. (But come on, me distracted? Haha never.) She was born in Guatemala and moved to Rhode Island when she was 8. She's knows more English than Spanish, but still is like 97% fluent. I'm at like 70% fluent. Haha.
I have the best district and zone in the entire world. I LOVE them all. We're seriously like a family. We do everything together - even the things we don't have to. We eat together, pray together, study together, sing together (well mostly me singing), went to the temple together, and just are best friends. So much love for these people.
So super hilarious, not only am I the only gringa in my district, but I'm the only white person AND the only person who didn't grow up in a bilingual home in my entire ZONE. Since I'm the only one who doesn't have a Spanish last name, everyone knows my name and who I am. My first day here everyone kept asking me how I learned Spanish and my teachers looked shocked the first time they saw me, a gringa, in class. But everyone says I speak really well, especially for never really speaking it outside of 3 months in Spain. I don't talk a lot in class (we speak English often at meals and such) because for the first time in my life, I am totally insecure about my Spanish. Which is silly, but it's hard when I'm with people that are all Hispanic and speak faster and don't have American accents.
Okay let me give you the low down on my district. We have:
Hermana Blackford - that's my name (Arizona Tucson)
Hermana Arias - mi companera (California San Jose)
Hermana Orantes - SUPER awesome, is almost done at BYU, is a great leader. She's from Texas but she's mitad mitad mexicana y salvadoranian (California Oakland)
Hermana Sosa - So cute! She's from La Republica Dominicana and she talks SO FAST and at first I couldn't keep up but I'm okay now. (Salt Lake Central)
Elder Lopez - Convert of 3 years, born in Mexico and grew up in Nueva York. Really quiet, but is so amazingly spiritual when he talks. (California Bakersfield)
Elder Ruiz - Also born in Mexico but raised in Vegas. He's a bro. Super chill. (California Bakersfield)
Elder Carranco - Born in Ecuador, raised mostly in Utah. He is also quiet, but seriously says hilarious things if you listen closely. He's really sweet and I wish I knew him better. He's also our district leader. (California San Jose)
Elder Ramos - Oh man...where to start. SO many stories about this elder. He was born and raised in Honduras, and moved to Virginia at age 14. He speaks English really well (had ESL in high school). Better English than my Spanish actually. He's crazy. He jokes around all the time and reminds me of what Braden was probably like in the CCM. So the first few days he kept laughing when I would speak Spanish, especially when one time I went to say 137 and I couldn't remember how to say numbers. I was sort of offended and this is probably where some of my insecurity stems from, but finally on Saturday I was like "Why do you laugh!? I'm trying so hard and I know I speak slowly but at least I know another language unlike most Americans!!" And he basically didn't realize that it was hurting my feelings a little and was like "I laugh because it's so cute!" Which then he was like "We aren't supposed to say stuff like that so I never said anything, but I'm not laughing at you, you speak really well!" So then I felt better. He and I joke around all the time. Seriously he's a lot like Braden. I'm super grateful, because as much as we want to strangle him and make him focus sometimes, the humor is much needed and we all love him anyway.
So yesterday my district decided that I need to speak more in Spanish, and when I try to talk to them in English for things that I could say in Spanish, they pretend they can't hear me or that they don't speak English. Super frustrating, but very helpful.
We also learned yesterday that I am Hispanic at heart. I think my zone often forgets I'm white, because they make so many jokes about white people, and when I'm like "Hey!" they tell me I don't count. It's super weird being a minority. Haha but I love it.
So...I'm moving!!! I leave for West Campus in like an hour. They're creating basically a mini Mexico CCM over there and putting all the Spanish speakers there. My zone jokes that they just want to get the Hispanics out of Main Campus. My address is the same for letters (they'll forward it).
I have three of the most amazing teachers in the world. Hermana Williams is my favorite. She's like a General Authority and everything she says is like revelation. Hermano Ackerson and Henderson are great too, and have taught me so much. I LOVE being a missionary, I LOVE the gospel, and I LOVE the CCM. I can't believe I'm halfway through with my time here. I have so realized though that the Lord really knew that this was the exact time I needed to be here. My district is so great and I couldn't ask for a better companion. I just feel so much love for everyone. Everyone loves having the hyper peppy gringa around too, so I feel very loved and accepted. The worst thing is that I can't hug everybody. I seriously want to hug people, but can only hug sisters so...yeah. Elder Carranco was sharing his testimony yesterday at a district teaching appointment yesterday and I was practically crying and wanted to just hug him. Instead I just told him I wanted to hug him.
I wish I could make everyone in the whole world feel the Spirit. It CHANGES LIVES. Every day. There is no way you can deny the truthfulness of the gospel. It's the best thing in the entire world.
Love you all! Make sure to pray morning and night!

Hermana Blackford
P.S. Read 1 Nephi chapter 1. My challenge. Because if you think about it, there's a reason why it's the first chapter, the chapter everyone reads dozens of times. It took my district like 15 minutes to discuss the first three verses. So if you take less than 3 minutes per verse, you're missing something.
P.S. (again) Elder Carranco just gave me some sour gummy worms!! Told you I have the best district in the world. Haha we're all in the laundry room right now. Like I said...We do literally everything together.

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