Monday, October 26, 2009

MTC Week 7: False Alarm: Three Weeks Now!

Hello, Family!
Oddly, Dad, I got your letter with all the pictures of you, which the district really liked, after the one immediately preceding it. Gotta love the postal services sometimes, eh? By the way, Elder Morris is pretty sure you could rip his head off. With the occasional Mom jokes here, it's no wonder no one's bothered me about my Mom.

I got the ATM card, Mom, but I think the Mission intends to arrange for its own special debit card when I get there. But I have both the Credit Card and the ATM card which is still unactivated. If you'd like me to do something, please send me instructions. A side note, if you'd like to get information and letters and such to me quickly, check out dearelder.com and mtcdelivery.com.  It's like e-mail but they print it out for me and I get it as soon as it gets sent instead of waiting for postal services to deliver it all.  I also got the package with the beef jerky you all sent me. I'm the envy of the district with all the boxes I get!  Thanks for everything.

Aside from it being a tad chilly here, there isn't much I could ask for. Something cheap for the mornings.  I have to stand outside in only pajamas for breakfast would be nice.  Disease is rampant! here! Well, a little bit, at least. Flu and Swine Flu and Colds are everywhere here. Lots of people getting quarantined. I've gone in multiple times thinking I had the flu, but my sinus infection's just been throwing wrenches into my system and giving me colds every couple of weeks. Probably won't be a problem in Panama.

The Spanish is coming along pretty well. I can actually speak it fairly alright. Understanding it at native speed is difficult sometimes, but I can almost understand my teachers when they're praying. I'm confident that after a couple of weeks out in Panama, I'll be alright with speaking in Spanish. As for teaching, it's just making sure I talk a bit more. I understand most of the doctrine just fine and anything like that and most of our lessons, with a couple of exceptions, go really well. We'll hope that continues in Panama. I've just got to remember to keep working hard and to keep my nose to the grind.

As for matters of testimony, I'm doing alright. Sometimes, discerning the influence of the Spirit is really hard for me. I'm not sure if it's because I don't know what I'm looking for or what, but I'm alright. I've had some pretty amazing meetings here. And, like your Filipino companion at the MTC, mine cries a lot, too. Sometimes, I worry that I'm messed up or something because of all the tears I see here, sometimes. As for our district, we had 12. Now we have 9. 2 left a couple weeks back for the Guatemala MTC and one went home on week 2. No sisters, just guys. So we're quite the bunch.

We go to the temple every Monday morning for a session before the rest of the day.   I'm actually really excited to get moving out to Panama and I'm not alone. Part of it is the State side elders here. Some of them are pretty neat, but some of them really make me wonder what happens in the States. I don't know if many of them REALLY understand what they're in for. I mean, I lucked out, in terms of a focused district and we're still working hard on it. But I'm also just REALLY curious to see what Panama is like, city or jungle, I'm quite curious. I hear President Madrigal (Unsure of the spelling), the Mission President for Panama is quite gung ho. Heard he cleaned out the whole mission when he came in. Which reminds me. I'm not sure you guys can visit me after the mission. I hear the policy is to ship me out of Panama ASAP after I finish just so they can get me released. So if you'd really like to come to Panama and have me tour you about a bit, odds are you're going to have to wait 'til I come home. And your Spanish will have to be impeccable, Dad. So I'm looking forward to "espeaking da langwich" with you, Dad.

Well, I'm about out of time. Everyone here was impressed by you, Dad. I miss you all, though I'm not feeling wrenched over it, and I pray for you all every night. I hope things are going well for you and wish you the best of luck in all your exploits and undertakings.

Your Missionary in the Field,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MTC Week 6: Over the Hump

¡Hola, Familia!

This week has been a great deal better than the last. The days here sometimes drag on and take far far longer than you could ever anticipate, but the weeks are always blindingly quick in hindsight. I think the mission only goes fast when you look back on it, but they say things will speed up once I get to Panama. We´ll see about that.

Anyway, my understanding of Spanish grammar is well enough that I think I can understand how sentences are assembled, but my vocab is lacking so I guess I´ll be doing vocab memorization drills this week. I hope I don´t burn myself out on it.

As for growing as a teacher, I seem to be getting positive reviews from most of the teaching activities, but I think I can do better than this. I´m going to start really marking up my Spanish scriptures so I´ll be ready to teach in Spanish. I forgot that we start doing that now.

Flu season is in and everyone is in panic mode. I might have a few symptoms, but I think I am alright. People here are pretty quick to send you to a doctor, though. Who knows? Getting a good night´s sleep, even this far in is really difficult for me. I just can´t seem to feel not tired for certain parts of the day. We´ll see if that changes.

All in all, things are good, I´ve got way more sweets than I know what to do with, I´m fairly healthy, and still growing. I wish you all the best of luck and hope that you remember that you´re all in my prayers. I hope that my mission doesn´t take me too long to get back to you, but I do want to enjoy the experience I got to personally hear an apostle plead the importance of.

Your Missionary in the Field,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, October 19, 2009

MTC Week 5: Panama Countdown: One Month

¡Hola, Familia!

This week has been a great deal better than the last. The days here sometimes drag on and take far far longer than you could ever anticipate, but the weeks are always blindingly quick in hindsight. I think the mission only goes fast when you look back on it, but they say things´ll speed up once I get to Panama. We´ll see about that. Anyway, my understanding of Spanish grammar is well enough that I think that I can understand how sentences are assembled, but my vocab is lacking so I guess I´ll be doing vocab memorization drills this week. I hope I don´t burn myself out on it.

As for growing as a teacher, I seem to be getting positive reviews from most of the teaching activities, but I think I can do better than this. I´m going to start really marking up my Spanish scriptures so I´ll be ready to teach in Spanish. I forgot that we start doing that now.

Flu season is in and everyone´s in panic. I might have a few symptoms, but I think I´m alright, though. People here are pretty quick to send you to a doctor, though. Who knows? Getting a good night´s sleep, even this far in is really difficult for me. I just can´t seem to feel not tired for certain parts of the day. We´ll see if that changes. All in all, things are good, I´ve got way more sweets than I know what to do with, I´m fairly healthy, and still growing. I wish you all the best of luck and hope that you all remember that you´re in my prayers. I hope that my mission doesn´t take me too long to get back to you, but I do want to enjoy the experience that I got to personally hear an apostle plead the importance of.

Your Missionary in the Field
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

MTC Week 4: Spanish, Teaching, and More Spanish

Dear Family

First off, I'd like to say that I hate Colombus Day. No mail on my P-Day. That means I don't get to write anyone for two weeks! GAH. No bueno. No me gusta.

Anywho, rumors were right, my companion is the district leader. So now I'm the senior companion. Fun stuff so far, being the leader and the whatnot. He's generally so genuine and eager and filled with ideas, though, that he practically does the work for me. Let me say that these elders are freaking nuts. I mean, really, these guys are all at opposite ends of the scales and they've all already resolved to meet up and hang out immediately after we get home.

The routine here is really quite mind numbing at times. I mean, we've all jokingly compared it to prison. Unfortunately, the similarities are striking! You know, every minute of the day planned, no entertainment, an hour of gym time a day . . . you know, the works. But seriously, I'm completely convinced I'll love being in Panama more than the MTC. Yeah, I'll lose weight. Yeah, it'll be hot and humid. The rumor is we get machetes and we canoe a lot from house to house. And heck, I've heard the percentage of people that return home from illness is huge. But at least I won't go stir-crazy being on a single block for all my time

Teaching is becoming less mind-wrecking, even if we are only teaching volunteer investigators most of the time. Spanish is going well. My vocab is limited, but my understanding of the grammar is well. Forgot to mention that the Branch President happens to know where Picatinny is. I guess he's been there on business before. President Studdard, if you'd like to look into it, Dad.

Well, the only thing that keeps my head from exploding at times is singing here. We sing anywhere from 6 to 12 hymns a day, I think. Apparently, I'm getting pretty good. Although, technically I should only be singing hymns. I mean, a little Boston or Guns n Roses slips out every so often, but now it usually only happens on P Day. I can usually sing hymns without feeling weird about it now. Although I usually only hum a couple. Currently, my favorite is "Have I Done Any Good", number 223 in English.

My testimony's developed a great deal and I think I understand why you expected such a large change during the mission. I even intend to write my friends to help them understand why I'm doing something so bizarre to them and hopefully get them to at least read the book I'm potentially risking my life over. Don't get me wrong, Dad, I don't think this will snuff out my love for video games. :D

Pero mi español esta desarollando mucho. Recordó mucho que aprendió en escuela segundaria, pero estoy aprendiendo mucho aqui, tambien. Tres elderes aqui hablan español muy bien y soy un de tres. Mi el hablar es despacio y mi vocabulario es limitido pero con tiempo puedo decir qué quiero. Which is to say I'm learning Spanish and remembering a lot of what I learned in high school. Three elders here seem to have a real good understanding of Spanish and I'm one.

Well, my time' almost up. Things are rough and strict, but I'm doing alright. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about you all and I hope you guys are doing at least three times better than me. I love you and await to hear from you again.

Your Missionary In the Field,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

MTC Week 3: Carta Numero Tres

Tambien, Hola, Mi Familia!

Because of the sheer amount I had to read, this e-mail will be a tad short as we are limited to thirty minutes of usage a week. I'll have to investigate a special way of reading the e-mails after being printed off so I don't waste time.

My clothes weren't ruined! They weren't perfect, so I'll give it one more go and leave it at that. I'll make sure to replace or order from you guys anything that I start needing.

Of all my concerns here, I only grow more eager to get into Panama.  Not to brag, but our district is kicking butt and taking names. We are learning the Spanish and have already begun talking about future and conditional tenses, most of us having minimal Spanish experience. According to the teachers, we're powerhouses and steam rollers. Also, I think my companion and I are teacher favorites. Shh! Don't tell anyone!

We are in building 3M or the Harriet Nye building. My companion's name is Elder Burke Albert Louis Laidler. Our roomies are Elder Jon Warburton and Elder Cory Stewart. We are a happy and weird bunch. We are part of district 17D.

Teachers:  Hermano Rivera who served a Spanish speaking mission in Washington. He's half Puerto Rican but has a British accent when he speaks English. So weird. And then there's Hermana Desseo. She's a Venezuelan missionary who served in the States. She's fluent, he's real close. Both of them aren't much older than me.

Our district has 12 elders. No sisters. Unfortunately we had one go home. Tomorrow two more are leaving us, but they are heading for the MTC in Guatemala. There are three missions in our district.
Panama
-Elder Ascura
-Elder Laidler
-Elder Stewart
-Elder Warburton
-Elder Grestch
-Elder Morris

Guatemala
-Elder Page
-Elder Roske (district leader)

Honduras
-Elder Tenney
-Elder Lawrence
-Elder Elison

Since our district leader is leaving, we'll be getting a new one. Rumor has it that my companion's it, which means that I'm the new brains of the operation. Aw yeah!

Well, my time is almost up, so I'll finish everything else I couldn't write in a handwritten letter. I love you all so much and hope that the Lord is taking care of you while I serve. Things are improving, even if they are getting harder. Promise!

Your Elder in the Field,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

PS My district loves your cookies, Mom