Tuesday, December 30, 2014

La Primera Navidad

First Christmas in Spain.

"You can't say no to a running missionary in a Santa Hat on Christmas!"
Running. There was a LOT of running this week, and especially on Christmas Day as we tried to pull things together for Xiomara's baptism. Leaving the baptism dress at the piso, having to make and print the program in 20 minutes, missing the metros and pulling together a musical number; It was a fanatic day, but a fantastic one, and I learned that even when things don´t go perfectly... you can still have perfect moments.

 Hermana Gillette (The other Sister Training Leader and part of the other companionship in our piso) finished her mission today. Her poor companion is having a rough go of it. We're going to be a trio until the next transfer in 3 weeks. Then MY companion will go home and two others will be brought in for us. But until then, we are three missionaries (two newbies and one old timer) covering two areas, two different wards, and (probably) having all kinds of adventures.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and wish you all a Happy New Year!

Spiritual thought: I love the Christmas story. Christmas Day is over, but the message and the spirit doesn't have to leave (especially since here, we still have Dia de los Reyes). Read Luke 2 again and remember these two little Christmas phrases.
- Are you part of the "Inn" crowd, or one of the "Stable" few?
-Wise men still seek Him.

Summary: Christmas isn't really over, and changes happen quickly.

Bonus email:
Spain has Dia de los Reyes... as you already know. So the nice thing about that, is that it is still socially acceptable to wish people "Feliz Navidad" and they still play Christmas music (AMERICAN music) in the stores.

Christmas Eve was weird (they call it "Noche Buena" here.) Thanks to the famous Spanish punctuality, our dinner at the church (with other misfit members who had no where else to go) started two hours late and we had 15 minutes to eat before BOOKING it out of the church to get home in time, planning to take a taxi. We walk out there and everything is DEAD. No metro. No bus.  I could have laid in the streets of the third largest city in Spain and not been hit. Things picked up again midway through Christmas day, but it was a surreal experience.

I'm not sure how New Year works here, other than they stay up late and eat 12 Grapes to welcome it in at Midnight.

I'm supposed to teach Piano to this little girl on Saturdays for an hour (something that Hna. Gillette used to do and now falls to the only other pianist-ish missionary) so... that's fun. It's hard to teach in Spanish when you don´t even know the word for "measure."

My companionship and two companionships of Elders are over "Barrio One." Hermana Stilson is over Barrio 2, so we'll be going to her church for the next couple of weeks as well. (6 hours of church in another language... yay?) Hers is morning, ours is night... it'll be a full day.

I loved getting to see you guys on Christmas, and I think it went pretty well. I didn't really plan what to say, it all just sort-of came out... but I'm glad it worked well. Y'all are awesome.

Lots of love for the new year!
Hermana Een

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Snipets from Christmas

From the Christmas Day video call:
--I’m an alto . . . because I can sing parts.
--First investigator meeting she moved up her baptism to choose a special day—CHIRSTMAS.  I bore my testimony and everything!
--For the baptism today we sang a mash of “Come Follow Me” and “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful”.  [Would that be “Oh Come Follow Me All Ye Faithful”???]  We practiced it without accompaniment then a pianist played and they aren’t in the same keys and it got messed up.  It wasn’t great, but it was still OK.
--Valencia oranges . . . people give you oranges at the doors, BAGS of oranges.
--NEED Knock-Knock Jokes
--Spencer’s advice:  Be obedient, love every moment and I trust you.
--A mission is hard.  There are lots of rules and I’m coming to love and appreciate them. 
--The Spirit is REAL. 
--When I try to say something I don’t know how to say in Spanish I just say what I think and it comes.  [Mom insert:  AKA The Gift of Tongues]
--There are good people everywhere.  Some are not ready yet.
--You can never teach the wrong lesson to the right investigator. 
--God knows us best.

--I’m happy!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

White Christmas

White: The absence of stain, a symbol of purity and cleanliness
Christmas: I´m guessing you guys can figure that one out.

So I had sort of planned on this being a surprise, but news travels fast (through the mother of your second cousin... crazy stuff) but I have some really cool news! My companion and I are going to have a white Christmas! Xiomara (a lady we taught in my first lesson in the field) accepted a baptismal date a while ago, but wanted to move it up and have it be on some significant day. What better day than Christmas? What better way to show your appreciation for the gift of your Savior? A Christmas baptism.

I´ve had a lot of fun singing Christmas hymns and reading the Christmas story in Spanish. Something so ancient and familiar is new again in the light of a new language. For instance, did you know that the Spanish way to say "to give birth" is "dar a luz" or, literal translation "to give a light?"
And that´s exactly what we've come to celebrate this time of year; when a light was given to the world. A light of hope, a light of peace.
It's downright inspiring and all. So in your Christmas celebrations, I hope you'll all try and remember Christ. He is the gift. Él es la Dádiva.

In other news, since I realize I haven't spoken much about Valencia or what I'm actually doing here, the mission is going well. I've walked 8.3 miles in a day, I've given out hundreds of pass-along cards, and I've taught a chunk of lessons with my companion. Hermana Manwill is a Sister Training Leader and they had a meeting in Barcelona one day last week, so I was left with the other Hermana (Stilson) in our apartment whose companion is also a Sister Training Leader. She's been here 9 weeks, I'm on my third. We were NOT professionals, but it's amazing how much you can accomplish in a day. It's amazing how much you can teach even though you don't know the language very well.

We had Zone conference this week. WOW. I love our mission President (President Pace) and the love he has for all the missionaries. The meeting was SUPER powerful. And afterwards, they rolled in suitcases full of packages and boxes and letters, bringing Christmas to the mission.

I'll try and send some pictures... eventually.
Love you guys!

-Hermana Een
African Christmas number 12/13/14, perhaps at a ward party

District photo in Valencia 12/20/14

Ice skating in Valencia 12/23/14

On the ice

Paella for zone conference 12/22/14

Lights in Valencia taken 12/15/14

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vale Valencia

"Vale" is a word found exclusively in Spain and roughly translates to "ok." Valencia is the city I was assigned to, and will work in for the next... undetermined amount of time, but probably at least 6 weeks.

European cities are amazing and unique, modern mixing with ancient in ways that should clash but seem to complement. I love it here.

We took a high speed train to Barcelona, spent a couple of days there doing necessary paperwork and getting the low-down of what being in the Spain Barcelona Mission entails.

A few years ago, a general authority visited the Barcelona mission and said that it was "a Lighthouse mission to the rest of Europe" because of how the church is growing, defying the stigma that you don't baptize in Europe.
My name (Alayna) is a derivative of the name Helen which means "torch-bearer" which seems downright profound right now. My mission scripture is an excerpt from Christ's words, and reads "I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Our mission goes by the nickname "El Faro" which is the Spanish word for lighthouse.

As missionaries, we go out in unfamiliar paths, to cities we've never heard of and places so different from where we've been before. We are called to be a light unto the nations, bringing the truth of the gospel to those who wander in darkness, kept from the light simply because they  know not where to find it. (D&C 123:12)

I love the mission. It's full of little miracles and spiritual connections you can't find or recognize in any other way.

That being said, I still have a lot to learn. I was called to a walking mission (which basically means we don't drive or ride bikes) but what they should have called it was a metro mission.... we take that thing EVERYWHERE and it'll take awhile for me to understand which lines go where and what stops connect and such, but I'll try my best.

Our ward is smallish, and we have two other companionships of Elders. It's about as diverse as you can get. Latinos of every variety, an impressively large African presence, and only a few true Spaniards. And I love them.
My companion is Hermana Manwill. She's a Utah native (like ALL THE OTHER MISSIONARIES AROUND HERE) in her last transfer (but we don't talk about that. Apparently she's also a Sister Training Leader (which I didn't find out about until a few days ago), which means that she has to go to meetings in Barcelona once a month and go on splits with other missionaries fairly frequently. Entonces (then; so), I'll be here to hold down the fort a lot... so I need to know my way around. A fun challenge for my first week. :O

My Spanish must be better than I thought, because everyone compliments me on it... but everyone is also very nice, so it's hard to gauge. I introduced myself this Sunday for Sacrament meeting and was able to handle the Spanish pretty well, but when I sat back down, I realized that my chapa (missionary name tag) was on my jacket and that I went up there without it. :(

The missionaries practically make-up the ward choir, and I've already had the opportunity to sing at a baptism and in the Stake Choir Festival (They had Los Tres Reyes [the three Kings] come out at the end and give everyone candy, of which I was a fan. Those guys are bigger than Santa Claus here.)

I've been to a few lessons, made some street contacts, eaten some Bolivian food which they tried to convince me was cat (but wasn't... I think), and had more Dominoes Pizza than I did when I was back in the States. All things which combine to make this a fantastic first week in the mission field.

Thanks for all the love and support!
-Hermana Alayna Een

Summary: Vale Valencia. Only missionaries can sing, and Spanish isn't that bad. It's crazy at first and there are a lot of metros, but I'm adjusting and doing well. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Hey guys.

So, long story short (for this moment anyway). I've been to Barcelona and now I'm gone again. Trains are REALLY fast here, and dad's probably right about the whole ¨150mph thing... it got up to 300 km.

The Paces are AWESOME. The missionaries are awesome, everything is awesome. Some of the missionaries were nervous about leaving... about who their trainers would be, about everything but I'm handling it pretty well.

Hermana Curtis is not in my mission, she's heading off to Malaga, there's only ten of us here. I had that song from Anastasia stuck in my head the whole time today and yesterday ¨Heart, don't fail me now, courage don't desert me...." and other words I don't know, but it's a great song to have stuck in your head at a time like this.

We did a bit of sight seeing in Barcelona, got stuff for our residency, and had interviews with President Pace. That guy has SUCH a big heart, he teared up a lot and kept shaking my hand and telling me how glad he was that I was here and that I chose to come. Then we split off with some other Barcelona missionaries (Hermana McWhorter) and did some street contacting and stayed in their apartment overnight.

We did some other residency stuff, more proselyting, and had a LONG meeting today, at the end of which we got our assignments and trainers.
I've been assigned to Valencia and my trainer is Hermana Manwill. A three hour train ride later, and here I am, sitting at a slightly sketchy computer place (Locotorio) writing this email. I'm excited to get started! But I feel a little conflicted because I'm pretty sure Hermana Manwill only has a few more weeks in the mission field. I don't know how that'll work into my training, but I have faith.

I love you all!!!

I might not be able to send pictures because the computer place is sketchy and last time they got viruses on their sd cards. Playing it safe for now.
Less than three!

Hermana Een
President Pace, an angel on my shoulder
New Spain Barcelona Missionaries December 2014

First Companion, Hermana Manwill

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Barcelona Attained

Dear Families of our new missionaries,

     We are pleased to inform you that your daughter has safely arrived in the Spain Barcelona Mission.  Hermana Pace and I, along with the two assistants, met her at the train station.  The group of missionaries we received is full of wonderful young men and women, ready to go to work. Their enthusiasm reflects their love for the Savior and we are grateful for the privilege of guiding them along as they serve the Lord.
     Every area in the Spain Barcelona Mission is unique and beautiful, rich in history and tradition.  More importantly, each city is full of children of our Heavenly Father, waiting to hear the glad news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
     Thank you for the trust you have put in us to shepherd your daughter.  Please know that we feel a great responsibility to guide and protect “our” missionaries.  We love your sons and daughters as if they were our own.  With the Lord’s help, we intend to make their mission experience in Barcelona the most memorable time of their lives.


President and Hermana Pace

Monday, December 8, 2014

Last Day in the CCM (MTC)

So apparently we get to write on the day we leave the MTC. Unfortunately, we only get 10 minutes on the computer.... so that's super stressful.

Only one other missionary from my district is going to Barcelona. Most of them are going to Malaga and some of them are staying here. It's muy triste, pero [very sad, but] we'll still be able to write.

I'll try and send a few pictures, but I can't promise they'll make it through.

I leave at 7 am tomorrow morning on a (highly expensive) high-speed train to Barcelona. I'm traveling in a compartment with several other missionaries, so that should be fun. Other than that, I know NOTHING. I am as Nephi, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do... nevertheless, I [go] forth in faith. (1Nephi 4:6)

Love you guys!!!

Hermana Een
Elder Braun, Elder Reading, Hermana Curtis, Hermana Een

A purple building, for Eliza

Hermana Een and Hermana Curtis in front of The Royal Palace in Madrid
Hermanas Curtis and Een

"On the steps of the Palace" in Madrid

The Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain

The Nativity on the grounds of the Madrid Temple

The highly portable Nativity we sent Alayna, lovingly colored by Eliza.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rapunzel's Flight

I just realized why Spanish computers don't have apostrophes. Because you don't use them in the Spanish language. Basically, mind blown. (You have my companion to thank for that)

So the first week or two at the MTC, we all talked about feeling like Rapunzel: Trapped in a tower, away from the world, all that stuff. Now... it's almost time to step out. Yesterday we got our train tickets to Barcelona. We're leaving on Tuesday morning at 7am.
This is the last email I'll send from the MTC (CCM). In many ways, I'm ready to go... but unprepared to leave. Because that makes sense... ;)

I got the opportunity to talk to the MTC president about a list he asked be to make (my best qualities, what good I've done, the blessings I've seen). He said I'm "quirky in all the best ways" and that he's excited for be to get out in the field. Cool stuff.

Hermana Curtis and I sang ¨What Child is This¨ for a devotional last Sunday and pretty much rocked it. Basically, I sang the cello part that I remember playing a couple of years ago. Anyway, the guy who accompanied us loved it and said he'd love to accompany us again sometime, but since we only had one more week, we didn't think it would be likely. But surprise!!! Someone wrangled up a cello and wanted vocals for "If you could hie to Kolob" this Sunday so... yep.

Also, the Elders are preparing a secret musical number (that I found out about VERY early on) "God be with you 'till we meet again." Tears will be shed.

Everyone is making plans for later: We'll be roommates, we'll have an MTC reunion, we'll have a LOTR (extended version) marathon, and so on." It's a coping mechanism. We make plans we know we can't keep because it's better than admitting the the truth... that this is an ending.

But since I can't leave it on that thoroughly depressing note, I'll jump into my spiritual thought.
President Uchtdorf said in a semi-recent general conference: "There are no true endings. Only everlasting beginnings."
I'm so glad to be part of a Church that teaches eternity and for the perspective we gain through our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation.

Scripture: D & C 123:17
  17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

Summary: I am Rapunzel: I sing a lot, I'm in a tower, and I'm leaving soon.

Love always!
Hermana Een

Thanksgiving Dinner!

The Hermanas in our room: Ross, Staker, Een, Curtis, Brawn, Gallegos

Thursday, November 27, 2014

SnailMail at the end of the MTC (CCM)

Dear Een Family
So here’s some fun snail mail stuff:
Remember how I went to college last year and took a couple of art classes?  Well, one of the girls in my class showed up yesterday. She was born in Italy but grew up in America.  She’s serving in Italy, already knows the language, and is learning with our group.  We just had a moment, pointed at each other, and then it clicked.  Pretty funny.  Her name is Stephania Bautizata which is almost the Spanish word for Baptism . . . which is funny.

I love you guys, love hearing from you.  I’m working on the language, but—while we're on the subject, here’s some awesome Spanish mistakes.
                Orejas – ears
                Ovejas –sheep
I just told one of my teachers that I have sheep on the side of my head.

Jesus died for our fish.  (No joke, elders in our district have said that in lessons before.)

One of our teachers told a story of a sister missionary in his home ward last week who stood up at the pulpit and meant to say “I’m embarrassed because the Bishop asked me to speak” but because of the funny way Spanish works, she ended up saying “I’m pregnant because of the Bishop.”  So . . . the Bishop turned beet red and the whole congregation burst into laughter.  *Note to self:  Don’t try to say ‘embarrassed’ in Spanish.  Whatever situation you try to describe couldn’t be worse than the one you almost put yourself into.

Today we had a Thanksgiving.  I love stuffing.  I love to stuff myself with stuffing.  We usually have a bit of free time on Thursdays so I suggested that we take a little while and have each member of the District grab their photos and do a little background/intro.  Today I got to talk about you guys.  “Yes, I know, my Dad does look like Abraham Lincoln” and “Yeah, I know it doesn’t look like it, but that little dark-haired girl really is related to me.  No, that’s my younger sister; she’s not the married one.”  Or Yes, my Mom is really 6’0”.  Yes he’s really 14 . . . and 6’4”.  I played our trio to the EFY medley.  Hermana Curtis says I just melt when I talk about you guys.  Well, you are my favorite subject.  (Well, besides the Gospel, of course.)

We didn’t get to go out and do anything tody because A) it’s Thanksgiving and B) we’re watching the MTC Devotional live, so it cuts into our time. 

Anyway our “Special Activity” (a consolation prise, if you will) was watching “Meet the Mormons”.  A lot of people didn’t have the opportunity to see it before coming and a lot of the teachers hadn’t seen it yet either.  The candy bomber gets me every time.  It’s fun seeing it on this side of things, relating to the missionary efforts more.

I’m super excited to listen to the Christmas CDs you guys sent (starting this afternoon, since Thanksgiving is officially over) and want to thank you once again for the package.  It was . . . so great to hear from you guys and nice to have a physical copy.  (Elder Reading wanted to email Mom and tell her that she should replace the toner, but he forgot.  He’s funny like that.)

Last Sunday, instead of the typical Bednar devotional (apparently MP is neighbors with Bednar, and he probably said ‘hey, can I show the missionaries every devotional you’ve ever given?’)  we watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.  ALL the feels.  I LOVE that movie.

This Monday we lost the Ukranians, so to commemorate their last day we had . . .American food (you know . . .because we’re so culturally sensitive and all.)  There was reverence in the comidor as we savored every bit of the Dominos pizza.  (Apparently they have those here) Nothing like the taste of home.  (Literally)

Lots of love coming your way!

Alayna Een

Hermana Een J

(Sticker of Cinderella)  [arrow] to commemorate the new Cinderella movie.  Marissa sent these in her package because everyone needs stickers. 

Other slips of paper in the envelope:
A card to accompany the Tigger outfit we were instructed to send to SpAria for Christmas.  It joked that they can return it if they don’t name their baby Alayna.
P.S. Sorry for leaving my room a mess L guilty face.

Oh, and also, those Christmas CDs make me really happy.  And my District loves you guys by extension.  (We all love Christmas).  Also, through the MTC Devo Sister Bednar suggested we have our families and friends pray specifically for me to be blessed with the gift of tongues.  So . . . ya.  J

MTC group on the steps of the Madrid Spain Temple
Goofy pose

MTC (CCM) district at the Park Retiro in Madrid where they went each Saturday.

Keen, Een, Green, Bean

Spain Again

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!!!!
I love holidays. I love P-Days. Today will be great.
We're having a Thanksgiving feast for lunch today (since most of us are Americans anyway), so I'm super-excited for that.

As for other news:
-As of today, I have been on my mission for exactly a month. Crazy, right? Yes, I'm still in the MTC (CCM), but it still counts.
- I have now officially played soccer in Spain (fútbol, I guess) so that makes me pretty official, though I can't say I was very good at it. ;)
-Last P-Day we went to the Prado Museum of Art (it's like... a pretty big deal) and I got to see some AMAZING pieces from some classic masters, as well as some lesser-known but just as cool. My only regret was that we only had an hour and a half.
(I promise that my week doesn't revolve around P-Day, it´s just the easiest thing to talk about)
-Christmas decorations are going up everywhere, they started to turn on the Christmas lights on the temple grounds, and the little stable they set up for the nativity looks like a hobbit hole. (Or maybe I'm just a nerd.)
-My District sang ¨Nearer my God to Thee¨ as a musical number last Sunday, and we totally rocked it.

I want you guys to know that God loves His children. He loves them and knows what they need. I'm not the greatest or most out-going person, and I'm not one to start conversations, so when we were assigned companions for the park on Saturday (the one day when we go out and talk to people like real missionaries) I prayed that my deficiencies would be covered by my companion and that I would be able to contribute in other ways. And that's exactly what happened. I needed her (Hermana Griffin's) fearlessness in talking to people, she needed my insight and higher language skill. And because we made such a well-balanced team, we were able to make a couple of really strong contacts.
My companion struggles sometimes with thinking she's not good enough, and on Sunday we
had a lesson about perfectionism and how to work with and overcome those feeling. It was exactly what she needed.

I love being out here to do the Lord's work. I love being able to -sometimes- be the one to help him help his children.

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, I'm really feeling the love and throwing it right back at you!

-Hermana Een

Our only District picture: Hermana Een, Curtis, Elder Smurthwait, Hermana Gallegos, Elder Bean,
 Hermana Brawn,  Elder Reading, Elder Male

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Day in the life at the MTC: Madrid Edition

But first, a message from Elder Reading:  We wake up eat a badly horrible pre-lunch.  Then Een and I talk and joke until lunch.  Then talk & joke until post lunch!  It’s fechin swoll & such. (He means “fetching” He loves lunch.)
OK, but really:
6:30—wake up, dress, companion study
7:00--breakfast until 7:45 (we usually get there at 7:15)  Sometimes Spanish stuff, Always cereal.  Good day when there is Frosted Flakes.
8:00—personal study in the classroom (for your investigator or scriptures)
9:00-9:30—Companionship study
9:30-10:30—Teach investigator  (these two might be switched)
10:00-11:00—Fundamental study with teacher (Growing a testimony through  Book of Mormon, Church Attendance, etc.) or Grammar, topics; Both with teacher
Morning teacher, Hermana Salas

11:00-12:00—Language study.
12:00-1:00 Companionship study/prep for investigators/teach (if assigned)
1:00-2:00 Lunch (called Comida here) largest meal.  They serve Fanta soda.  It’s like liquid gold.  (I like it well enough but most people complain)
2-3  More classes, usually Grammar, also below
3-4  “
4-5  Language study (Personl)
Afternoon teacher, Hermana Martinez

5-6 SPORTS  (2 choices every day)  They play soccer every other day, and people are super passionate about that.  Usually Dodgeball or Volleyball, which I’m getting better at.
6-6:45 A little bit of wiggle-room, time to actually work out, shower and get dressed (only free-time you ever really get)
6:45-7:30—Dinner, usually smaller
7:30-8—Companionship study/Prepare
8-8:30—Teach or companionship study
8:30-9:30 Language Study (with teacher . . . but not a lesson)
9:30-10:30—Ready for bed, shower, write in journal
10:30 Lights out
Evening teacher Hermana Santana & Lacombre

*We do fit in a fair amount of joking, as Elder Reading mentioned.  Sometimes a 10 minute break does wonder to help re-focus.
*They play “Called to Serve” over the intercom at 5 ‘til, so we get to class on time.  I think they play “Abide With Me, ‘Tis Eventide” at night and something else in the morning.
*It’s a lot of work, so I understand why most people think it’s hard to adjust to.  Once you get in the groove though, it’s not that bad.
*People are really strict about mission rules.  It’s the Lord’s time, and you’re supposed to spend it exactly how it’s allotted to you.  That makes doing laundry really hard, since you can’t leave class to switch a load.  Also, you can only write letters on P-Day, which is why I’m speeding through this one.  There are a lot of mission rules . . . You can only take pictures on P-Day and only outside the MTC, but I do follow them.
*P-Day is everyone’s favorite.  Temple in the morning, then letter writing and emails, then lunch, something awesome in the afternoon (trips and such) back for letter writing (actually, there’s never any time for that), dinner, devotional, and discussion with our district.
*Getting mail = instant jealousy from everyone else.  Everyone has a boyfriend/Girlfriend, and everyone wants letters.
*You get used to being tired.  I have to squeeze journal writing in before bed, so there’s never enough time to sleep.  My eye was twitching for 2 ½ days straight, but it finally stopped.
*We can run to the grocery store (nice) or the China store (a sketchy treasure trove of anything you might need—if you can find it, run by a Chinese couple) during lunch as long as we’re back in time for class.
*It’s super-hard not to burst into song.
*Each companionship gets a little magnet key.  If you lose it, you can’t go anywhere.  (It’s so the gypsies don’t come in and steal stuff).  Fact:  Elder Reading is terrified of Gypsies.
*If you get a “commendable” on your cleaning check, Sister Lovell (President’s wife) makes you cookies.
*Devotionals are everyone’s favorite.
*Sister Lovell makes us sing “You’ve had a birthday” and jump after every phrase whenever it’s someone’s birthday at lunch.  We love it.
It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work and I’m not sure what else I should tell you, so I’ll leave it at that.  I love and miss you guys! –Alayna Een

Postcard of 062 Plaza Mayor
I’m putting this in an envelope to save on postage. 
Spain sure does have a lot of random statues, but this is in the Centro, so it’s probably important.
P.S.  Those cobblestones are death
Every step is treacherous and you have to watch where you’re going which is hard because you want to look at the awesome buildings too!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

El Centro

I'm calling this one "El Centro" because it's half way through my MTC (or CCM) experience and because, last Preparation day (those Thursdays when we take a bit of a break and do some normal things like email and be a tourist for a day) we went to El Centro- the ancient part of Madrid.

I've felt like I'm in a foreign country because of the little things people here do differently: the stall doors, window shutters, tall red buildings... it all seems a little off, and therefore foreign. But I guess I never felt like I was in SPAIN until we walked up, out of the metro, and saw the old city for the first time. There is NOTHING like it.
Elder Keen (oddly similar name, right?) said, "Oh come on, if you've seen one European city, you've seen them all." to which I could only reply, "Maybe so... but I've never seen a European city before."

What made it even better? It was raining, so I've officially felt " The rain in Spain."

In some parts, there's no difference between the sidewalk and the street. Everything is paved in gravity-checking cobblestone. The architecture is ancient and gorgeous, and EVERYTHING is worth photographing.

We got Churros and Chocolate at this famous place that´s been there since the 1800s. It's a "must do" in Spain, more for the culture of it than for the actual taste. One of the girls in my district told her AWESOME conversion story while we were waiting, and it's crazy to think that there might be a person like that out there for me.
Spain is awesome and I'll never be able to say enough about it, so I'll just stop there.

This week feels like it moved on fast-forward. Wasn't it JUST Sunday? It's insane.

Every Saturday we go to the park and practice contacting people and proselyting. I've never had tons of "success" because, well, I don't know the language, and I've never been comfortable just going up to people and talking them. I hate feeling like I'm interrupting them. This time I did better, held a couple of decent conversations, and felt a little better about it.

The thing is, I think we do more than we know. Earlier this week, I taught my companion the word for wind in Spanish (viento), and it helped her explain a gospel topic to a woman at the park who was having trouble believing in things she couldn't see... and a gust of wind blew by. Sometimes success isn't directly visible or measurable, but it's still there. I think we´ll be happy if we don´t worry about LOOKING for it, and just ... go and do.

Ok, that's enough of my soap-box rant.

Hey, remember in my first letter how I said my favorite phrase was¨"La lucha es real?" (the struggle is real) Well, we were singing a Hymn in class the other day (Put your shoulder to the wheel) and that EXACT phrase was in the third verse. All the girls in our district burst out in laughter and couldn't finish the song, all the guys looked SUPER confused, which just made it funnier.

Spiritual thought? Alma 32 (the whole chapter, really. It´s beyond awesome) 27.
 27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

Summary: Spain is beautiful and it finally feels like I'm here. Experiencing a bit more culture. MTC time is going fast, and I find joy in it whenever I can.

Love you guys!!!

-Hermana Een

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Rain in Spain

My last and technically first letter was a little bit mumbo-jumbo-ed but now that I'm getting into the swing of things (in the MTC and in the mission) I hope to make the rest of them much better. 

I would however like to start out with a disclaimer: If at any time my emails get annoying, or seem to be plaguing your inbox, please don't hesitate to tell me and I´ll take you off the list. No hard feelings.
Ok, now that I got that off of my chest, here's the letter (with a summary at the end, if you want to skip down there. I love you anyway.) ;)
The rain in Spain stays mostly in the ciudad (city). I keep seeing it out the windows, but I've never actually FELT it. Bucket list item yet to be completed.
The food in Spain (or rather, in the CCM, as that´s pretty much as far as my experience extends) is pretty good, and it's funny when they try to make American food. Their bread is as flaky and delicious as baklava, and today they threw chocolate in the middle and called it breakfast (napolitana). Can't compete with that. I've enjoyed many meals here but the general favorite was when there was a miss-communication and the cooks didn't make dinner so the president and his wife threw together some french toast, french fries and french vanilla ice cream. We felt SO American. ;)
Olives are in EVERYTHING.
I'm still adjusting to the missionary schedule and to being with someone almost 24/7. I thought it would be annoying but now that we know each other so well, it's hard to think about leaving these people. I already have a standing invitation to Elder Reading's wedding in two years, so that sort-of gives you an idea (he's in my district).
The Russian-speakers left a few days ago, so now our Mostly-American-Spanish-Learning group is the oldest in the MTC.
The Russians were replaced by some native Ukrainians who will only be here for two weeks, are freakishly tall, and the entire CCM agrees that one of the sisters looks like she could be MY biological sister.
I'm taller than half the elders here, and than all but one of the sisters (Hermana Fenn)... but I was assigned the top bunk in an oddly shaped room, so I have exactly 2 and a half feet between my mattress and the ceiling. Let's just say that every morning at 6:30 I get a renewed testimony of the first vision "A...light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun...";)
There's a power to being surrounded by valiant youth. I've never surrounded myself with bad, people, but... it's different. An amazing kind of different.
The Elders at the CCM have a lot of fun deciding everyone's "spirit animal" and there's actually a lot of thought and conference that goes into it. Mine is the wise owl.
Into the classes, each time you go, there's more to learn of what you know. I've been in this church my whole life, and I never realized just how much there is still to learn, and how different it is to try my hand at teaching. As my president (President Lovell) said, ours is an inexhaustible gospel.
My spiritual thought for today is in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 It´s a MARVELous scripture, if you catch my drift.

D&C 84:88 And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

Thanks for the love and the letters! Adios!!!

Summary: People come, people go. I´m in a different country surrounded by Americans, but occasionally we get other Europeans and that´s great. I´m tall, other people are short. The food is good, the bread is flaky and the best part is when they pretend to be American. Apparently my spirit animal is an owl. We have early mornings and I´m always tired with so much to learn and do. Spiritual thought: On your left.

Bonus joke: Roll up both both ends of your tie to race. Drop them. Which one won? I think it´s a tie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

First SnailMail excerpts

Some things I didn’t get to mention in my last email (which, by the time you get this, will have been two weeks ago.  I’m a time Lord)

We watched the Tad R. Callister devotional from January and I remember seeing it at BYU.  I want Melissa Balconi to see it.  I don’t know why.  There’s a moment when they zoom in on the choir and you can see Aaron.  I yelped and my district thought I was dying, I was so excited.  [link to this talk:  https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/ces-devotionals/2014/01/what-is-the-blueprint-of-christs-church?lang=eng]
I love my district.  The first time we met, I felt like each one of them reminded me of someone I knew but I couldn’t recall who.  Now I think they remind me  . . . of themselves, and that I met them in a place I can’t recall.  In a place before this one.

Last P-Day was lame-ish because we just went to the mall.  It’s basically the same as a mall in America because I only recognize ½ the stores.  I was determined, but no jeans. L
Hermana Curtis is from Texas.  She likes musicals, but hasn’t seen as many as I have.  Dear family:  I’m so glad we watch musicals together.  She’s seen Doctor Who and Sherlock and seems to like me pretty well.  As another bonus, she’s the first person I met and talked to when we went to the VISA thing.  (She remembered I don’t know that I did.)  She really knows scripture references.  I really know the words and verses.  We make a really good team.  She stretches me to use the language, and when we teach, we can feel the Spirit.

Elder Reading is an amazing 19 year old (2 days younger than me) with a million amazing stories.  He’s pulled a 180 degree in his life and will be on a mission for more years than he’s been a member.  He thinks I have a beautiful voice and bugged me to sing to him very persistently (he will be a great missionary).  (Think Phantom of the Opera) We finally worked out a deal where if I sing (during a transition period, so we don’t get distracted) he has to tell me one of his stories.  The most recent one included his driving Missy Franklin to get drug tested, holding a towel for Michael Phelps, and cutting in front of Ryan Lochte in the Gatorade line.  He’s held 11 different jobs, been pulled over 10 times, and only ever gotten 1 ticket.  I’m surrounded by amazing people.

The first week in Spain made me wish I’d taken more thought in my packing.  (hindsight is 20/20, right?) I feel like I’ve had Girls Camp packing lists more complete than the mission list.  And all this time I’m kicking myself for not bringing a Tide-to-go pen.  But you can usually get what you need from a helpful Hermana, so all is well.

Funny story though; There’s an Elder Keen going to Barcelona.  (crazy similar to our name, right?)  He’s 24 and from London, but the 1st night we were here and introducing ourselves, he said, “You’re Hermana Een?”  I nodded.  Then he said, very matter-of-factly, “You left your jeans in the dryer.”  A  very interesting 1st sentence, I must say.  Turns out he saw your post on the Barcelona Facebook page before he flew out.

Eliza will be happy to have those jeans.  I’ll find some eventually, but I wasn’t the only one to forget them, so I don’t feel bad.  We went to the mall last P-Day and I planned on getting some, but they were all skinny jeans . . . which are not allowed.  :(

I love that you’ve been using Google to see Spain.  It’s true what you say about the Graffiti.  Sometimes It’s artful, sometimes it’s potent (a cursive phrase that waxes profound), and sometimes it’s juvenile (there’s a drawing of poop on a wall across the street, and you can see it from the Elder’s side of the building.  I think it has something to do with the fact that everything is brick.  Painting over a stucco wall is no big deal.  Painting over brick is ick.
The trees are a brilliant red to rival that of the brick buildings surrounding them.  I tried to preserve one but I’m pretty sure it’s less vibrant than when I picked it.  It’s nice to see fall for once.
The MTC is a red brick building, 6 or 7 stories high and it literally couldn’t be closer to the temple.  Our stairways have full-wall windows and the view of the temple—in the rain, in the sunset, in the dark, in the early morning—it’s unbeatable.
I miss doing initiatories and stuff, but we get to go to the temple every Thursday and do a session.  This temple services France and Portugal as well, and sometimes hearing the echoes of other languages through so many little black headsets really throws me off.
The temple is beautiful inside and out and, as could be expected, the celestial room is no exception.  There are ornate chairs and gilded mirrors, but the only painting or image in the room is a grandly framed photo of Minerva Tichert’s “Christ in a Red Robe”.  Seeing that painting just made me feel at home again.  Thank you for raising me in such a way that the celestial room reminds me of our living room. :)
This is the reproduction of  Minerva Tichert's "Christ in the Red" robe that we have above our piano in our living room.

A few days after I got your letter they put in the flowers on the Spain temple grounds.  Purple and white pansies.  Our temples have the same flowers. :) [Explanatory Editing:  When we went to the Las Vegas temple the last couple of weeks before she left they were replanting the flowerbeds.  I told her they were replanted and with what flowers.]

I miss music.  I love and miss you guys as well, of course, but I know that what I’m going and learning here is important.

Lots of love!
Alayna Een

[Alayna included a PassAlong card with a picture of the Madrid temple and a pressed red leaf in the envelope.]

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hola from Espana!

You may be wondering why you haven't heard back from me. (And if you aren't, I still love you.) Just so you know, I was wondering the same thing. I already know that Spanish keyboards are strange (for example, I'm pretty sure that I'm using and accent mark instead of an apostrophe) but it turns out that sometimes the emails just don't send. Last week I wrote a beautiful email to my family about how beautiful Spain is, how great chocolate in Switzerland is, and how fantastically tired I was when the mission president said we could write our families (by the way, I thought he meant we could ONLY write our families, so there was only ONE email that day). On Thursday I found out that, not only was my email not sent, but that my family was (understandably) freaking out. Guilt guilt guilt. And now I can't even find that letter in my drafts so it´s like it never existed.
Readers Digest version: Sleeping on a plane is no fun. Food on a plane is not that bad. Everywhere in Europe has chocolate. Guys wear scarfs ALL the time. All of the buildings in Madrid are made of red bricks that glow with the rising sun. It´s a beautiful sight, but the skyline still seems empty without the mountains I've always been surrounded by.

The CCM (MTC or missionary training center in Spain)
My companion is Hermana Curtis. She´s blonde, 19, and from Texas. She thinks I'm funny and gets my references so we get along really well. ;) In all seriousness though, she has a really strong grasp of the scriptures and has a really good spirit about her.

They really like to get the fire under you here, because we're already supposed to be praying in Spanish (which takes like 10Xs longer and I end up switching to English when I don't know how to say something), we started teaching practice investigators (Gospel role-playing with teachers) in Spanish on our 4th day, I think. My Spanish has definitely been put to the test, but I'm adjusting.
I've already learned how to say the really important things like "Evangelio,"  "Jesucristo," and "La lucha es real" (The struggle is real). ;)

On Saturday, as is tradition in the CCM, we were thrown out of our comfort zones and into the real world: we went tracting in the park (Retiro). It´s a BEAUTIFUL park, filled with unbelievable statues and architecture and fountains and... people. I carried on a pretty good conversation with a Spanish man in the metro (he was VERY patient with me and I understood almost everything he said, he helped with my Spanish inflection, etc) but it was cut short because otherwise I would have missed my stop. Anyway, it´s a cool experience, we walked, sang, and talked to people. I even sort-of placed a Book of Mormon (on a library exchange shelf. It totally counts). One of the teachers got pictures of it, so Mom will like that.

Our days are pretty packed, lots of time in lessons and study, and we're encouraged to speak in Spanish whenever possible. I'm in the Amulek district (they're all named after BOM prophets) which is the most advanced in language... go figure. More about them in my next emails, I'm sure. 
I love you guys, thanks for the emails and support! I´ll try and keep you updated as much as I can... as long as the stupid emails send. :(
Oh, Thursday is my P-Day. So... that´s when you'll hear from me in the next 5ish weeks.

I know the church is true, otherwise I wouldn't be here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

You have Reached your Destination

  Alayna made it safely to the Madrid MTC on Tuesday. Her companion is Hermana Curtis in the Amulek Disrtict. They will go to the Temple every Thursday. She can receive mail at the MTC, but packages don't always make it. US Mail International Envelopes are probably the best option. Her mail address is...

 Alayna Een
 Spain Mission Training Center
 Calle del Templo 2, Planta 4a
 Madrid 28030 SPAIN

  If you want to look up more about the Spain MTC, you'll find photos and contact information on lds.org.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Lost Manuscript

Sorry, Not a Phone Call

So I made it! I didn't get lost in the airport and I didn't die and my baggage didn't get lost and I didn't miss my connecting flight.
I also didn't call you because they were RIGHT THERE to pick us up and we didn't get the chance. Seriously, we didn't even have to go through customs and stuff like the VISA guys said we would. We just sort-of... walked into a foreign country like it was no big deal.
The flight to Zurich was LONG. I slept ok for someone who didn't have a lot of leg space. The food was good, though. Lots of cheese (you know you´re in a long flight when they feed you twice).
Sometimes I forget that I´m not in America because I still see English everywhere and there was even a poster promoting the Walking Dead experience. Also, the Swiss airline played a song that sounded like Matt Nathanson (David and Eliza will know).
I didn't buy Swiss chocolate in the airport, but the Elder who I met up with did (he got franks just for that purpose before he left) and shared. They also gave us chocolate on the plane.
Flight attendants usually speak to me in German and I blame it on the fact that I'm wearing a scarf. That’s a very European thing to do.
The temple is right next door, and every floor has a new and beautiful view. I´ll try and send pictures with my next letter.
Our P-day is Thursday and we go to the temple every Thursday morning.
They put me in a more-advanced Spanish speaking district. Challenge accepted.
Spanish keyboards are weird and will probably contribute to the deterioration of my language skills.

I love you guys!
-Hermana Een