Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Less than two weeks left?

dear family,

i think this computer doesn't have punctation again for some reason but i think we will just have to deal since it's the only computer i can really get to right now. plus, in thai there is no punctuation anyway for the most part. at least this computer allows me to do spaces (insert exclamation point).things are going well here for our last few weeks at the mtc. so much to do, obviously, and so little time. i am sending home the answers to your questions in the snail mail here soon but i don't know the answer to all of them really. i want to spend most of my time writing but you should get my letter sometime soon anyway.

we got two sisters, one of which is from our stake, a sister webb? (apparently president tingey interview her and said would you be willing to go to thailand since i had just gotten my call and it was on his mind. crazy random that she is also going to thailand) one of the elders went home for some medical reason. they said he should be back with the next group of younger thais in about 4 weeks. the other elder speaks thai very well... and probably could go with us if he really wanted to. other missionaries in our district are doing well. some are getting really antsy to leave and expressing it. but like david's friend said before i leaft for the mtc, take advantage of the mtc, it's the only time you will have to study the scriptures like you do and to study thai like you do. we are all pretty excited to get there. which reminds me, what kind of bike should i look for in thailand? bro. duval, one of our teachers, said he had no idea what to buy when he got over there, so i will need some tips for bike buying before i get there.

i did get the package. thank you (insert exclamation point). it was great. ummm.... i need more t-shirts probably only like one or two. and also, i don't know but my belts are a bit sketchy. maybe i have just lost weight or something but they aren't ideal. one of them, the front is already peeling off and the other is way too big. i don't know though. i have lost about 10-15 pounds since being here and i think in thailand that will just be more. bro. duval said that you bike everywhere and people who you talk to on the street think that you are either government agents or professional bikers. yes. professional bikers who wear suits and ties. in bangkok weather. =)

this next p-day we will be packing and organizing a lot i imagine. there's so much to do and so little time, that's the problem. traveling for two years is a bit like trying to eat a whole elephant followed by a small flock of penguins. our phiithays were just frantic when they were leaving because they had so much left to do. i think that us having transfers early makes things a little more crazy even. i would imagine that almost all of us would be in bangkok for the first transfer. though, we have heard that many missionaries who are in the isaan or other parts of thailand have to pick up on laotian or cambodian often. laotian especially. the funny thing about laotion is that all the r's become like h's. which is pretty drastic when you hear it but i can understand about 90% of a simple laotian conversation. the mtc has one laotian elder right now who is going to california. he has two teachers and is a solo elder (very rare).

anyway, this week has been good. we had a devotional by elder groberg that discussed the importance of instilling lasting conversion in converts by setting a temple sealing as the ultimate goal for those we convert. it reminded me of stop, who was sealed in the hong kong temple a month ago. and it also reminded me of the desire of the people in thailand to have a temple. the church has property by the airport in bangkok for a temple but thailand doesn't have enough members to feisably sustain a temple yet. but that would serve as the temple for southeast asia. brother duval said some of the steps the church needs in thailand are hometeaching and increased activity. stop's ward just got a new meetinghouse because of their work. apparently that ward is top notch. their english classes work really well to fellowship investigators and others. the missionaries teach english and it works very well as a finding tool

i also found out a little more about the living conditions in thailand. i found out that we get plenty of money for food, that all apartments that the missionaries live in have western toilets (sans toliet paper), airconditioning, a shower, and a small fridge. bro. duval said that you live very well. he also said that he never got sick after the first two weeks, which was a big surprise to me. but he said, pretty much you know which places to trust to eat and you just stick with them. other missionaries write them down in the area book and you just know. he said that you ride bikes a lot but bangkok is pretty much flat. even though the traffic might be a little hairrubbing at times, i think that it will be fun to ride bikes. as long as i get a good bike with a good seat, i think it should be really nice. apparently missionaries from thailand come back with really strong legs.this past week our task and lesson went pretty well. our phuusoncay (investigators) were returned missionaries, both sisters, who got back 2.5 years ago and 4 years ago. they both spoke very good thai. we had to talk about the plan of salvation and the word of wisdom along with giving directions to the bood (church). it was kind of a lot to fit in but we managed to do pretty well. a native thai family who lives in provo also gave us some sticky rice that was delicious (insert multiple exclamations). i really enjoyed it.

our thai is coming along fairly well. it's crazy to think that we will actually be there before you know it. please tell stop that i got his letter and that i hope he gets mine because i did send him one. tell him that i hope to see him on transfer day at the mission home.

it's been good to hear from all of you and to hear the news of what's going on. it's always so nice to get mail. i will be mailing home a...lot... of letters shall we say. i appreciate all your support and prayers. i will need them this week as the stress level increases and as we get ready to actually go to thailand. it's weird to think that this is 3 out of 24 months for us and 3 our of 18 for the sisters but it's been a great time. our district is close and the likes.other than that, i will let you know in the snail mail if i need of anything else. thanks for all your support.

i love you all deeply and miss you all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Few Answers and other happenings

Dear Khrawbkrua (a very poor romanization of family),

I hope that all is going well with you this week. My week has been pretty good. The weeks/days start to blur together when you are at the MTC as long as we are but we have had a good week.

Here at the MTC there are four people per room. We are getting a new set of roommates this Wednesday. That will have be the third set of English speaking roommates that we have had. I weighed my carryon the night before our last set left because I remember and figured that I had time to do it. My carryon weighs 10 lbs by itself. I think it would be good to take, I definately agree but I don't know how much it will weigh once it has all the stuff that I need in it. I have a tendency to think that it will be pretty heavy. But I don't know yet. We will start packing and we will have to see. I figure that a lot of the stuff I can just get rid of that were just for the MTC that take up a lot of weight. Plus I am not going to take all my books with me to Thailand (all the books I have here). I probably won't take my romanized Preach my Gospel, which weighs quite a bit anyway. Although the Thai for Missionaries book is probably the biggest Language for MIssionaries book ever I think. It's also a little outdated, talking about memorizing discussions and the likes. But it's a good book and will be heavy. So we will see. Go ahead and send two more shirts when you get a chance. I figure that will help me keep P-day and workout clothes in better shape as I rotate using them.

I haven't heard anything about the 24th. I would assume that they might do something but then again, if you're not from Utah, it might be a bit strange. I would imagine that some services will be closed.

Everyone does love Thailand. It's crazy how many people here at the MTC have been to Thailand. One day I went up to someone random to testify to them and she said that she had been to Thailand with her family. Random. But pretty neat. I was also surprised to see how many stories there are in the Church Magazines about Thailand. In fact, in Nov of 2008 in the Friend there was one about a little girl in Thailand who's a Church member.

Which reminds me of an odd ancedote Bro. Sakhaa told us about. Before he was a memeber of the Church, he remembers a girl in his class in elementary school who would carry around a green book and sing chan mii krawbkhrua yuu nay loog nii, phuagkhaw.... I have a family here on earth...Pretty random that he would know someone who was a member of the Church if you ask me. He said he would make fun of her because she would sing that.

Anyway, this week we have been pressing forward with the Thai. We taught the First Lesson for a second time on Saturday. We had two returned sister missionaries. One got back at Christmas time and one got back the week before. The one who got back at Christmas sounded like a Thai. No joke. Bro. Sakhaa wondered if she were half Thai because she spoke so Thai like. The other one had very good Thai too. She had served in the Isaan, a bit unusual for sisters, and so her Thai was partially Laotian influenced. [Thai and Laotian however are about 95-97 percent mutually intelligable. I can understand almost about as much Thai as I can Laotian. Laotian is just less tonal. Also their government a while back, a long while back, decided to eliminate duplicate letters from their alphabet so now their alphabet has less letters than even English. But if you don't have to worry about tones, you don't have to even have the different classes of letters (high, middle, low)]. Elder Fowles and I taught them more like a conversation rather than the whole first lesson. In Thailand, it is very rare that you ever teach someone the entire first lesson anyway. You pretty much work for a LONG time to establish the fact that God exists. The recently returned missionary girl told us the classic Thai line during the language task, which was to buy clothes and invite them hear about the Gospeol, that we will hear all the time that goes something to the effect of "thug sadsaanaacag sawn phuukhon pen khon dii" (All Churches/Religions teach people to be good). Both of our investigators knew our teachers and at least one had been taught by Brother Duval, our RM teacher. They said their favorite part about Thailand was, without doubt, the food. They said, you will get sick, but they said it's not too bad. From what I gather, if you are careful you will be fine. I have no doubt of that.

During the lesson, we couldn't understand everything they said but we could understand about 80%. Bro Sakhaa thinks we are doing really well. He claims that we could have gone to Thailand 4 weeks ago, which I think is... VERY generous. I don't feel very ready to speak the language because we know so little, but immersion is the key I guess right? I try to speak Thai as much as possible outside the classroom because obviously we will be in Thailand in 3 weeks. That's a very weird thought. Our flight leaves at night and it's a doozy of a long time to get there. We fly to LA then to Taiwan and then to Thailand. We should be getting our flight plans late next week.

Did I already tell you guys that the reason Thailand doesn't have a temple is because of hometeaching? Hometeaching is non existant in Thailand. They don't really know how it works because of the number of members and the distance between members in Thailand. Sad day. But President Hinckley said he thinks that there will be a temple there someday. The faithful in Thailand are really faithful.

Love you all and love you for your prayers, miss you too!

Elder Jacob Newman

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

News and Other Happenings

Dearest Family,

Phom wang waa thusing dee nay baan! (I hope that everything is going well at home). Things are going pretty well here. We got some exciting/terrifying/awesome news this week that I thought I should start the letter out with. This week we noticed that our mail started to say that we would be leaving the 10th of August. We didn't really think much of it until it was repeated several times. Then we talked with one of the Thai natives who came to our teaching appointment and we asked them about it. They have a son who is in Thailand right now. Apparently we are leaving a week earlier because the mission president has a conference in Hong Kong the week we were supposed to go so they are conducting transfers a week earlier than we thought. So... We will be in Thailand a little less than a month from now! Of course that's exciting, but it's very scary too since we had all thought we would be going on the 17th. But we should do fine. Our teachers don't think we will miss too much by missing a week of class. So I thought I would let you guys know about that.

In other news, our non-native teacher's wife had her baby yesterday so it's unclear if we will be seeing that teacher much this week. He just recently passed his optometry test with flying colors and now his wife has had their little baby girl. Naa rab jang l(upside down e's)y=really really cute.

We had our first lesson in Thai last week in the teaching appointment. We did pretty well. Our investigator was a fairly recent returned missionary from Thailand. He was very nice and patient with our Thai. But we managed to make it through the lesson and to teach somewhat simply. It's hard to get really complicated in a language that you don't really know anyway. We had a lot of investigators that day. Their Thai all sounds really fantastic to be honest. Also, their reading is amazing. They can read it almost like we can read English. I am getting pretty fast at reading but Thai has some interesting rules sometimes. Also, it has a lot of implied vowels and consonants. The hardest parts are knowing where the word ends for sure, the dipthongs and vowels, and all the tone rules. But besides that we can read it pretty well. For our task (the language based interaction task we do before we teach the lesson), I had our investigator read a scripture about prayer in Third Nephi. The scriptures are kind of harder to understand because of the way that Thai uses pronouns. Thai has a complex system of pronouns that indicate royalty or deity or formality. For example, in General Conference they use the word khaaphajaw rather than phom for I. Also the women use di chan rather than chan. Very formal. But I have been reading 1st Nephi and I am surprised how much I can actually understand and read. Reading another language is tricky but I am so grateful Thai has an alphabet. And seriously, I don't know how people ever learn to do a language like this without Divine Assistance because Thai is pretty dang hard. The alphabet is crazy large and all the rules for tones and such are pretty intense. For example, if a word ends in a G, D or B sound, the tone is determined by that and the class of the first letter of the syllable. Intense.

This week we have had all of our lessons in Thai. I have understood about 98-100% of what has been said, but then again they are keeping it nice and slow for us. It's been really neat though to think that we can speak Thai. Of course, when we get to Thailand on the 13th ish we will be totally lost but that's okay. Phraphuupencaw song hay phawn raw (God will royally bless us). I think learning Thai has been pretty much what I expected it to be like. It's pretty intense and we focus a lot on Gospel vocabulary but it's pretty much like I thought it would be. sometimes i wish that the teachers would speak more in thai but that's okay. all of the sudden i just lost my ability to capatalize on this computer for some odd reason. forgive me. anyway...a few more thought about your questions while i still have 10 minutes left.

i loved the fourth of july package. it was fantastic (this non punctuation business will drive me crazy. i can't even do an exclamation point). it was great.

my companion is pretty studious yes. he gets up at 5:15 to study thai every morning. i, on the other hand, think it's better to be well rested so i can focus better throughout the day. it was nice to have some alone time with the fireworks. your mtc schedule is so laid out that it's nice to have some time where you aren't supposed to be doing something.

my camera doesn't have too many pictures on it but i might take some more and send it home yes. some are not worth keeping some are, i haven't really had time to look through them to see what is and what isn't worth keeping.

my hair is really short, i will get a picture of it and show you soon. i wanted it as short as possible and they did it as short as possible.

this punctuation thing is really frustrating. shower shoes are doing well. the dear elder letters are kind of weird because they print multiple letters on the same page so sometimes i get like portions of three letters on a page.

we are progressing as we learn thai and put our trust in phraphuupencaaw. i play the piano quite often here. i play for sacrament meeting and once a week as a district we have a 30 minute singing in thai session so we can practice the hymns. it's very worthwhile. our reading has improved drastically.

the food is starting to get a bit old. after being here for 6 almost 7 weeks, you know all the food that they have to offer. i have seen some of my friends who work here serving food though so that's fun.

anyway, punctuation frustration and stress aside, i hope that all is well for you guys. i pray for you all everyday and love hearing from you. please continue to pray for me and all my district as we prepare to go to thailand. we know that your prayers help us immensely as we strive to learn this language.

i love you all deeply and miss you,

elder jacob andrew newman

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Phiithais leaving- Almost Half Way!

Sawat Dee Krab Family!

Phom wang waa thuugsing dee kab khaw! That's a pretty bad romanization of I hope that everything is with with you all. This week has been a pretty good week at the MTC. We have been learning a lot and speaking a lot in Thai. The first highlight of the week is that our Phii Thais officially left the MTC yesterday. We will be getting younger Thais (I can't spell this out in Thai on the computer but it sounds something like nawng Thais) in two weeks. We also heard that there is a Laotian Elder coming who will be going to California. It's crazy to think that we will see our Phii Thais in six weeks. Everyone from around the mission always goes to Bangkok for transfers, no matter where they are. That means a LONG train ride for anyone in the Isaan or the Chiang Mai area.

I heard the fireworks but didn't really see any. They let us go see them but both Elder Fowles and I preferred to go to sleep/study, etc. We had a fireside before that though that was... pretty good? Very cheesy but very memorable. They had a presentation of various people who contribitued to the restoration in some sense, be it political, religious, etc. They were the staff of the MTC dressed up and then they presented it on screen. They also had music and we sang some songs too. On one of the songs, an angel from on high, they did not put the music on the screens and the first verse only about 13% of the missionaries were singing. I knew the first verse just because of David but I didn't know the other verses. They had to get a shot of the teleprompter. One of the Thais that I was sitting next too, the Phiithai that I talked to the most, Sister O'Neil, also thought it was cheesily awesome. (By the way, Elder Ritchie must have been a phiithai of our phiithais.)

It's so weird to think that we are now the oldest Thais at the MTC. I was thinking about this and it's odd that next Wednesday we will be at the exact point that our Phiithais were at when we came. That's insane! Frankly the fact that we can even begin to learn this language is pretty crazy. Bro Sakhaa calls it an "alien language". His English is really good and he's in a masters of Special Ed program at BYU. He always tells us to make sure that our tones are good because he reminds us that tones are just as important as the letters. He remembers on his mission in Canada when he made an unfortunate mistake with vowels. He accidently told a women that he had a special "massage" rather then "message" for her. Reminds me of the story of the David's friend Esther in Thailand when she told an investigator that God slapped rather than answered Joseph Smith. I am curious about that now because I know what the word for answer is.

We are learning a lot of Thai now. It's pretty crazy. We also started this awesome game on Saturday that I am a huge fan of. We call it Khun or Phii (both mean Mr) Somsag. The object of the person who is Phii Somsag is to speak as much Thai as possible throughout the day. But also you want to trick people into thinking that you are Phii Somsag. So everyone speaks a lot of Thai. The next day we vote anyonymously to see who people thought Phii Somsag was. This may or may not be the real Phii Somsag. Then this person can choose the next Phii Somsag. I haven't been Phii Somsag yet but I am hoping to trick some people into thinking I am. On Sunday, I said more in Thai than I did in English. Yesterday was pretty much the same story. Today I am also saying a lot in Thai. It's really encouraged us to speak this wonderful language. Really, Thai is so beautiful. I love the fact that when I talk Thai, it almost feels like I am singing a song. I really enjoy it a lot. Sometimes it's hard to understand but that just comes with the new language territory.

Today I am going to make a call back for a Spanish Speaker in the Referral Center. He is having a hard time and I sent him the missionaries but in the mean time I want to be able to teach him a little bit. He was really interested, it was awesome. I do a lot of Spanish in the RC but sometimes it's hard because I am tempted to slip into Thai. But it's really great.

Other than that this week has been really good. I have been pretty focused and I have receieved some really encouraging comments from Bro. Sakhaa, the native. He says my Thai is really good. Thank heavens, seriously, for prayer. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to learn this crazy alien language! =) I am so grateful to be here. I am growing to love the Thai people more everyday. Please continue to pray for me. I pray for you all everyday.

Tell my friends that I love them all and that I will try to get back to them as soon as possible!

With much love and hope for you all,

Elder Jacob Newman

p.s.- Miss you all!

Khwaamsug caag thii MTC

Older brother fail. This should have been posted last week. Apologies

Here's the lowdown on this week. It was a bit crazy with the mission presidents here, we actually had to eat in 1/2 of the cafeteria (they got catered food), so the cafeteria was super crowded. They really seperarted us from them due to the flu. I just happened to see the Murdocks before lunch. They looked good. On Friday, we had a special fireside from Elder Holland who talked about both listening to and teaching by the Spirit. It was pretty good. Elder Holland always gives a fantastic talk.

This week we also learned a lot of grammar. Kham, khwaam and kaan are all very interesting features of Thai. They all change the part of speech but it's all dependent on what kind of verb or adjective or word it is. Complicated but fun. We are now reading only out of the script hymnbook which is hard but really cool. The translations bring new meaning to the songs.

This week we also had our task and teaching on Saturday. OUr task was to follow up on commitments while taking an investiagtor on the bus with everyone else talking to theirs. Our investigator was a Thai teacher who teaches the senior couples to speak Thai. We did well besides not knowing what one crucial word meant. He said he was confused about the reading but we didn't catch that so Elder Fowles accidently said that he was also confused about the reading. But all in all, we did well.

It's crazy to think that we have been here a month tomorrow. We still have a lot of time left but it seems like we have been here both forever and for a very short time. Apparently after our Phii Thais leave next week, time speeds up A LOT. Two weeks from when they leave, we get a new district of four Thais. These numbers replace those who are leaving Thailand. We will be replacing a group of 15 that leaves Thailand around the 14th or 15th of August. The mission has about 125 non-natives and 25 natives.

Thanks for all the letters. I loved hearing about everything from Katie's volunteering to Beth's broken bones and Sister Knight's hard mission.

The swine flu restrictions have eased up a lot. But we still dont' use metal silverware or real plates. But they started soccer back up again (I typically play either volleyball or foursquare though).

Overall, our district is very tight knit. It's really nice to have a second family here at the MTC. We all work together to learn the language and to practice it. This last week we had an English fast on Thursday that was really good until about lunch. Then we got worn out.

I am healthy and trying to do my best to eat well. I am going to get you some pictures as soon as I can. I just don't have enough time to really email them to you because I don't know how it works at the MTC.

I heard the Church is coming out with a new Thai book of Mormon but I have yet to actually hear that officially. Does anyone know if that is true. There aren't very many materials in Thai available here. They already gave us almost everything the Church publishes in Thai.

Anyway, I love you all and pray for you frequently. Your prayers really do help so much as I strive to learn Thai and come to love the khonthay (Thai people). Please keep up the letters and support, I love it. Some of the other Elders claim that I get a lot of mail. Some sort of fan club thing, as mother would say. La len la len (just teasing, just teasing!)


Elder Jacob Newman