I have two feces related stories to start with.
Firstly: Belgium is all sorts of uptight about their immigration policies. They are afraid of "foreign fecal parasites" apparently. So we were called into the medical office and given a white paper bag with a bio-hazard vial inside of it, gloves, and plastic tub, etc... And it was our job- nay our privilege- to return with a feces sample. There was a great deal of moaning and groaning and consumption of fiber bars on the part of our district. In the end over the course of two days we had all finished our task and happily returned with a filled white bag.
Secondly: I have in my twenty years occupied a great deal of space outside. I have also been underneath many birds in my life. I have seen a great deal of bird waste on things before, including my car. I have never, however, up unto this point occupied the same space as falling bird feces before. Until this week that is. There isn't even much uncovered space for such event to occur at the MTC. Most of it has covered canopies! I cannot stress my amazement as I reached down to wipe what I assumed was a scuff or a bit of road salt off my shoe only and found something far less pleasant but equally rare. This is the least likely event that's ever happened to me and man was I pumped! I exclaimed with enthusiasm to my district about what had befallen my shoe. This has been a defining moment of my mission so far.
So the other big event would be Thanksgiving! They relieve us from the normal classroom studies and instead gave us a sweet Thanksgiving meal. Served in the cafeteria but real turkey, excessive potatos (Take that Dan Quayle), yams, fruit salad, pie(s), green beans-- all the fixings. After Lunch we had a service project. We formed ridiculous assembly lines of missionaries and filled and sealed some 357,947(?) meals for hungry children. It was a great deal of fun and not a lot of work. Serving your fellow is always a peace-bringing and fun experience. Then we had a thanksgiving devotional. Elder Dallin H Oaks spoke as did his wife. With a number of musical numbers. Many of which included his family playing instruments. They had an Oaks string quartet of sorts that were particularly moving. He spoke strongly about family and gratitude. Hearing an apostle of God speak so close was an amazing opportunity. I'm grateful. We actually had three devotional's that day. Another one was on humanitarian aid. The other was just about gratitude. Then we have dinner. We had earlier in the day thrown together some weak PBandJ's with chips and drink. We returned to our classroom as a district (just the ten of us), and pushed our desks into a cute little table and ate while sharing stories of gratitude and family and love. It was a very nice time.
The disobedience part now: We have to change our sheets weekly. And all the other elders did so enthusiastically. I forgot. And did not take the old ones off my bed. The other three elders had thrown their sheets down the hungry maw of a laundry chute with abandon. As it turns out, they had no clean sheets. My disobedience was punished with still having sheets. The others suffered.
Sunday rolled around. My companion is the district leader and he learned suddenly that he was supposed to teach an hour long lesson... avec companion, after sacrament. So we had a few minutes to prepare and threw together a little ditty about baptism and the Holy Ghost. It was actually a great deal of fun and we had awesome class participation and discussion.
We had our first snow this week! And second. They flip on the Christmas lights and it's beautiful at night. With a light layer of white.
We went to the temple again-- that was awesome. On the way out we ran into an Arabic (I think) Elder and his companion. He was pretty new to snow one might imagine. So he had, on temple grounds, built a wee little snowman, like a foot tall perhaps. It was heart-warming. He was terribly a embarrassed and refused to take a picture with it though.
|To the temple on a snowy day|
|The district by the temple|
|Some Blue Steel, part Le Tigre, and a bunch of soeurs who wouldn't "look fierce" when politely asked :-)|
|The heartwarming tiny snowman|
|And the elder who made it|
[Additional Email from Alex answering questions]
The MTC is already shaping up to be awesome. I love hearing about the family and all the things that are going on there. However mundane they may seem to you guys, it's wildly exciting over here.
The orange juice has had no adverse affects. I mostly drink cranberry juice or water though. The food is the best of a cafeteria I've had, but it's still cafeteria food. No repeats yet! They seem to have a lot of variety at least! I'm enjoying it. I see how people can gain weight though. The unlimit-ness of it all surely helps.
There is only one class and that is french/teaching/everything else.I have two instructors now. They are both amazing and impart such fantastic advice and testimony! We teach once every normal day and have two member teaching appointments (in french also) on Wednesday. These can be skype calls too. And multiple people. They are stressful but the spirit helps so much. I string together sentences with double or triple the fluency whenever I'm teaching.
Gym time is nice. If anything it's nice to just stop thinking for an hour or so. I either basketball, volleyball, or four square usually. I've ran a few times. The gym is not crowded at all right now because we are in a missionary low point right now. Until Wednesday at least.
We got to welcome and navigate the old couple missionaries too. That was interesting. They range from super pumped, ready-for-our-fifth-mission, raring-to-go geezers, to hesitant, nervous people who aren't quite sure if they're ready to leave Oklahoma for Siberian wastes.