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 (fĂștbol, 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:]
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