Friday, November 27, 2015

"Have a Good Week! And Have a Blast!"

Missionary name tags from the whole Zone!

Dobrý den! Jak se máte? That means "Good day! How are you all?" Fun fact though, the "How are you all?" has a great direct translation. It actually means "How are you having yourselves." And you answer with "Mám se dobře!" which means "I am having myself well!" Fun things in Czech.
Updates for this week:
·  The MTC is the best!  Honestly spending almost all of my day learning is pretty much a dream come true for me.
·  It is official, I have not even gained 1 pound in the last 2 weeks since I weighed myself. I feel so lied to about the MTC food.
·  My companion briefly lost his room key and someone from our zone found it.  Instead of immediately giving it back they took it and used it to sticky note our room while we were gone.  Not too shabby either. They also gave the key back anonymously this morning so we still don't know exactly who it is.  We have some theories though.

    • My companion and I taught some excellent lessons this week. We may have gotten the sympathy card since he was dying of the plague and sounded like it. But he's good now. We challenged one of our investigators to be baptized and she said yes! So that was pretty awesome.
    • On Friday was our teacher Bratr Knapp's birthday. He wouldn't tell us, but our other teacher told us right before he left for the night. So Saturday morning when he came in there was a very large drawing of a cake and Happy Birthday in Czech (we think). And we got him a brownie and put it up next to the whiteboard, and then drew a candle over it. He refused to blow out his birthday candle, and we were rather upset about that. I have pictures if this computer is willing to share them with you all.

    • On Sunday my companion and I taught Priesthood. And then taught at our District Meeting (which is basically MTC SundaySchool). And then he gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. Basically we were just trying to receive every blessing that we possible could.
    • I forgot to share in the last email, but we hosted for the 1st time last Wednesday. That was pretty fun. We are also hosting next week when Elder Jeremiah Brown will be entering into the MTC. If I see him I'm going to fight people to host him. (not really, I'll actually just walk up and say "Hey, I know this guy. He's a friend of mine. Can I host him?" And they'll let me.)
    • Elder Pickett the missionary hereby decrees by the power not vested in me to make decrees that from this day forth, Monday November 23rd will be termed Revelation Monday. This decree goes into effect as of Sunday November 22nd. Also please note that only when November 23rd falls on a Monday is this day called after this name. This decree goes into effect because Monday was super spiritual and super awesome! We don't have a P-Day due to Thanksgiving this week on Thursday, so we got to go the temple Monday morning. And let me tell you, there is absolutely no better way to start your day. So go to the temple people, it is a great place.
    • I credit Elder Paxton from my district with what might be the best worst pun I've ever heard in my life. "Pragueably." I don't even feel the need to explain anything with that. I will allow it stand alone as the masterpiece that it is.
    • Now for some language fun. I started reading one of our Czech grammar books and I feel like every time I do my brain sort of explodes. It is fabulous. I learn a ridiculous amount and it explains soooo many things that we've come across, but haven't yet learned. Amongst such, I am learning a bunch about pronunciation. Czech people are smart. Also, their language is amazing. One of these things is the word "kdo," which means who. In Czech k=k sound from English. Except sometimes. For purposes of easing pronunciation, in the word "kdo" the k sound changes to a g sound. Which seems really bizarre, but actually makes the word flow better. Especially because that word is 1 syllable long. Another fun Czech thing, there are 3 ways to say I like/love something. Libit se means a superficial kind of like. So you like someone's tie, or a city. Also with that one you say that thing you like first and conjugate the verb for "it is pleasing to me" basically. Like "me gusta" in Spanish. The next one up is usually reserved for living things you can actually have a relationship with and it is mít rád. The literal translation of it is "I have gladly ___." The final one is milovat. Which is reserved for people you are married to and God and Jesus Christ basically. Because the connotation of milovat is that you would die for that thing that you love. So we use it when we teach about how much God and Jesus Christ love us. And that is all.
    • It has been confirmed, we are getting a devotional from an Apostle on Thanksgiving! We are just a little, tiny bit freaking out about how amazing that will be.
    • Final thought for the week comes from the choir director. He is pretty much the coolest guy I know, and I don't even know him. He is super entertaining and injects a lot of humor and then a lot of spiritual aspects into the music we are singing. For example, Nearer My God to Thee is actually all about Jacob's Ladder. Fun fact. Which I found out about 2 weeks ago. But he shared a thought from Elder Scott, that was shared at the MTC pulpit. It is "Have a good mission. And have a blast!" So that is exactly what I intend to do. I feel like we can say the same thing about life. So everyone, "Have a good [week]. And have a blast!"

Our impressive stash of food in our residence hall   

                Bowling alley on top of closet

Love you all, thanks for all the letters and packages and support! Hope you are having a blast in Utah partying it up! Surprise, I am emailing a day early! Thank you all so much for your letters. I feel bad that I am not really able to respond individually, but know that I appreciate them very much and love hearing from you. Also thanks for the awesome package! Mints are the Caroline, sorry, but since I don't get a P-day this week, I am not sure if I will be able to respond to your letter until next week! We just have so little free time to write letters! Also, the Nativity is up in my classroom, which is where the Christmas tree will be going too, to bring joy to my entire District. I am excited for that. This week has gone by ridiculously fast. I can't even believe it. Seriously time here is utter insanity. Also, I have some people I would like you to thank for me. I can't remember if I told you about the Sugdens, they sent candy and an object lesson on faith. Grandma has now sent me 2 letters and I haven't been able to respond yet! Yikes. I will get on that one. Also the Browns sent me a giganto tub of Redvines. Also note that the computer is not telling me to fix the word giganto. Why is this? I feel reasonably confident that giganto is not actually a word. Other than that, I am doing great, and I think I can send some pictures too!
Sweater Saturday!

-Starší Pickett

Thursday, November 19, 2015

MTC Week 3- Czech Out This Language!

Close up picture of Starší Pickett's missionary tag 

Sweater Saturday... Brad's Zone of Elders practicing their European GQ look!  
Elders going to Czech, Slovakia, Poland, and one going to England, Slovakian speaking

 Ahoj! This week has been pretty great. Lots of fun things to talk about. It seems really crazy to think that I have already been here for 3 weeks. Seriously, the space-time continuum is broken above the MTC. That's the only explanation I have. Also, I have a new appreciation for the phrase "in the world but not of the world" from the scriptures. Because technically speaking, the MTC is right next to BYU, and is part of Provo and all that. But in actuality...Not even close. Someone hears some little bit of news from the "outside world" (we actually call it that) and no one has any way to verify it, or to find out anything else about it. It's very interesting.

Czech Elders

Highlights of this week: the good, the bad, and some other stuff too:
  • We are now teaching to investigators being role-played by our teachers. And our lessons on Friday and Saturday were on point. It was awesome. Our investigators were asking questions, we were actually able to understand and answer (miracles do happen!), it was so great. It's fun to actually have enough knowledge of Czech to have real lessons instead of just we read a script and hope really badly that they can understand what we are saying and don't have too many questions.
  • On Monday morning we woke up without power. That was quite an adventure. All of BYU campus lost power for a little while. We got it back about 7 minutes later, but it was still very exciting for us.
  • On Saturday night I had a dream where I was trying to speak Czech to random people. That was a little bit different. I have also had a dream in the MTC about trying to teach people in English. Which is interesting, because we don't ever get to do that here. All of our lessons are in Czech.
  • Awesome fact about the MTC. The song Armies of Helaman, which is the super awesome one about missionaries and all that, we sing it often. Weird. But when we do, we change the line at the end of the chorus. The original is "and we will be the Lord's missionaries to bring the world His truth." In here we sing it as "and we are now the Lord's missionaries to bring the world His truth." Chills every time. It is a super awesome song and I feel the Spirit every time we sing it.
  • I have left the MTC twice this past week. My companion is sort of dying of the plague, so we've gone to the doctor's here and then walked to the BYU health center to pick up some prescriptions for him. But he's probably all good now. We mostly think.
  • Choir is super cool. The director is phenomenal and we sang an awesome song. I wasn't in it this week, because I was practicing for a small group performance of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in Sacrament Meeting. Also, the choir seats are not good. They are terrible. Really far back and super uncomfortable. Our zone enters by a side door and snags 2nd row seats right in the middle for every devotional. 
  • Fun things about the language now: The word pokoj. It is pronounced pokoy. Because, obviously, j's are actually y's in Czech. What does it mean? That is a very good question. It means peace. Or room. Depends on the context. The problem I have is that I forget that it means room. So when our teacher says she's going to look for a room, I think she says she's going to look for peace. It's a little bit confusing. Another fun story: I mixed up the verb for "to have" and "to be able to" during a lesson. I accidentally told our investigator that "God can body." So that was different. Also, a fun fact for those of you who are linguistic enthusiasts, most people think that Russian and Czech are very close languages. They are, sort of. But not really. The closest is obviously Slovakian, but the second closest is actually Polish. Cases have begun. They are ridiculous. It is not absurdly difficult to do when writing out a sentence, but when you are trying to speak and case at the same time, forget about it. That's where it becomes sheer lunacy.
  • The Injury Count: I am getting over being sick (congestion, coughing, sore throat, etc.). So that's fun. And then Saturday. Ahh Saturday. What a strange day that Saturday was. First off, I was not paying attention while reaching into the toiletry bag of my dreams (we ordered one on Amazon that looked great... and it ended up taking 3 weeks and about 30 emails back and forth to get it delivered.  Hence its name.), and I accidentally grabbed my razor by the blade instead of the handle. Note, this is a very poor life decision. So I lost a little chunk on my skin on the side of my finger. But it's fine now. Also, while I was playing volleyball during gym, I was not my most coordinated self. I went up for a sweet spike attempt, and I came down a little...awkwardly. So I was walking it off, it was all good. But then by body decided it wasn't all good. So I went upstairs and threw up in a trash can. That was good fun. But it's ok, I'm totally fine now. For those of you keeping tally at home, you may be asking why they ever let me out of the house. I swear I am not usually this accident prone. Saturday was an off day for me. Except teaching. We had a really good lesson. It was an off day for my coordination I guess.
  • Spiritual thought for the week. This week we had Elder Kim B. Clark of the first Quorum of the 70 come speak on Tuesday. He use to be President of BYU-I, and someone asked about RMs. He said that the biggest mistake that he saw from RMs was that they treated their missions as a 2 year episode instead of a foundation for their lives. So my challenge to myself and to all of us is to not treat great spiritual experiences as "episodes" but as foundations. Our baptisms, going through the temple, girls camp, high adventure, wherever it is that we have had great experiences, they should be a foundation for our testimonies and faith that we continue to grow and nourish for the rest of our lives. Conversion is a process, not an event.
  •  P-day next week (which will fall on Thanksgiving Day!) will be P-day in the morning+extra/different stuff in the evening. 
  • When the last group of missionaries left the MTC for the Czech Republic, 3 went straight over to Czech, 2 followed late, and 4 got reassigned stateside to be "visa waiters." Most trouble they have ever had with Visas.  (I mentioned to Brad that the refugee crisis in Europe will be making the visa process slow and more scrutinized I am sure.  Please pray for missionary visas and all the refugees who are fleeing for safety.)
  • Thank you Mom for the package by the way! My companion and I set up a bowling alley on one of our cupboards. (we sent him a table top bowling game and a memory card reader... which is why we have PICTURES this week!!)
That's all for this week, thank you all for the love, support, letters, emails, DearElders and packages. Also, please thank the Allisons and Sugdens for their packages. I am working on writing to thank people, but I have very little time to do so!
Love you all!
-Starší Pickett

Our classroom. That is where I spend up to 11 hours of my day. Depending on the day of the week.

Elder Anderson and I ended up with matching Mr. Mac ties on!

This is my case card. The front is the one with the Czech flag. Every noun follows one of 11 pattern words. Every adjective also. And then they all case differently if they are plural versus singular. Also, all pronounces and possessives case. Also, some verbs automatically mean you case what come after it to a certain case. And some certain words. And THEN, some cases causes "mutations" that make it change. It's good times. Our teacher told us cases are going to be difficult for the next year. I will most certainly have more funny stories of language mistakes.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The MTC Defies Real Time!

The top picture of Brad's MTC District... all 6 Elders (Staršís) and 4 Sisters (Sestras) are going to the Czech Republic at the end of December!
The next picture is "Sweater Saturday."  This is the whole Zone.

Two weeks in and the MTC still ROCKS! Time in this place is the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced. Each day feels ridiculously long. Seriously you lose track of which meal you just ate and which meals you have left. It's crazy. But then the weeks themselves feel like they are passing extremely quickly. I feel like I just got in here very recently. Like maybe a few days ago. Certainly not 2 weeks ago. It makes no sense. And then there is the added weirdness of the fact that I feel like maybe I have actually been here for my whole entire life. It's such an odd anomaly here.

Some things that I forgot to include last week:
  • Our zone is cool. I said that, but I have more to share on this topic. We have a zone table in the cafeteria that we take over and eat. It's a real struggle when new missionaries show up on Wednesday because they don't understand this fact and so sometimes we have to show our dominance by fighting them. (Not really, we just show up early and make sure we get it first at the next meal)
  • Also we do zone singing together on Saturday nights. Anyone can choose some hymns they want to sing and then we sing them all together. It's good fun. Also we have Sweater Saturday and take sweet pictures. Hopefully I will be able to get some sent.
  • To echo every single missionary ever: "Sundays in the MTC rock!"
  • My companion and I are the only ones in our room. That is made to fit 6. Not sure how long that will last, or how we were blessed with that, but it's a pretty sweet set-up for the time being at least.
New things from this week:
  • Breakfast at the Provo Temple is delicious. If you have the means, I would highly recommend picking some up. It is so choice. My personal favorite is the ham and cheese omelet. Yummy, yummy, yummy.
  • We got a 3rd teacher, Sestra Donaldson. She's cool, but she likes us to keep our desks clean. And that is a struggle. Our desks have these little metal cage things underneath, but are not really built to store that amount of stuff that we have. It's like a fiendish game of Tetris trying to fit it all in. Also, Sestra Godfrey is how my other teacher's name is actually spelled.
  • Apparently I remind my teacher Bratr Knapp of a combination between an Elder he knew from his mission, and his uncle. He says I look like his uncle, but my mannerisms are more like the Elder. Really not sure what to do with that information, but I now have it.
Class time with Bratr Knapp
  • Weight gain in the MTC is a real thing people! Everyone warns you about, but I had my doubts. Now I see what a fool I was! Since I have arrived I have gained...Less than 3 pounds. Actually, technically I don't even know how much I originally weighed according to the scale I used to weigh myself. So really I have no clue. But from my parents bathroom scale to the one in the MTC gym there is less than a 3 pound difference. Woohoo.
  • This week our Visa waiters headed off to the Czech Republic. They left Monday, really, really early in the morning. We miss them because they helped us translate sentences when our teachers weren't there.
  • We now have 2 "investigators" we are working with. They're cool. We ran out time on our lessons with both of them. That was a little bit unfortunate. But we will teach more soon. I am understanding Czech well enough to respond and have legitimate back-and-forth dialogue with our investigators. Our lessons are no longer scripted. We can take in a few vocab words, but they don't want us to just read phrases, and they ask us questions that would make it impossible to get by with just a script. It is really awesome and I am loving it.
  • If anyone is in need of hearing some AWESOME church music, look up Nearer My God to Thee and find the arrangement by Gregory Lawrence Duffin. We sang in the choir and it is fantastic.
  • We had Elder Montoya of the 70, who spoke at General Conference come and talk to us. He made a reference to all the Inigo Montoya memes that came out after conference. That was pretty entertaining to hear him bring up. Always great when General Authorities discuss pop-culture.
  • Language stuff from the week: Thursday in Czech is Čtvrtek. For your Czech lesson this week, in almost all cases, you pronounce every letter for every word in Czech. Which just makes that word sound a little bit absurd. Also, smrt means death. Notice, there are no vowels. Apparently those are considered optional. Now sure exactly how, but it just is. Also, there is a Czech equivalent for Hakuna Matata! It is (WARNING: may be incorrectly spelled) v pohodě. And you pronounce the v and the p together. It's a little bit tricky. And the ě is pronounced like yes. It is a great word. One of my favorites.
  • Spiritual highlight of the week: Teaching is very tough. We are only somewhat conversational, and it is difficult to answer questions. But my companion's and my best lesson by far was when we told our own personal conversion stories in broken Czech. Written out, and then we read them to our investigator. That was the lesson where we could most feel the Spirit. What to learn from this is that it does not matter if you are fluent. It doesn't matter if you are the most eloquent speaker. It doesn't matter if you struggle with pronunciation and grammar. The Spirit speaks to our hearts, not to our ears, and when we testify and bear witness of truth, the Spirit will make up for our own shortcomings. In short, we put in all that we can and have faith, and the Lord will magnify our efforts beyond our own abilities.
Please pass along my thanks to the Hacketts and Picketts for the letters/cookies/pictures, and Anne Tavernetti, Cathrine Goold, and Kyle Utterback for their DearElders.

I saw Elder Joseph Sobczak yesterday (a friend from our ward in Roseville). We are on the same floor for classrooms. Because we have 10 people learning Czech, we got moved away from our zone for class and we have a sweeeeet classroom. I will make sure to get a picture with him soon.

Thanks for all the letters and encouragement, love you all, and have a great week!
-Starší Pickett
MTC laundry room & computer time

Melinda note:  Pictures for this blog entry thanks to Sestra DeMann (one of the sisters in his District) since Brad is having “issues” with sending pictures to me!  From Brad:  One of the Elders in my District has a memory card reader which is really finicky and it does not work on most of these computers. They are straight up communistic. We can't get onto the control panel of anything. We open up the home menu thingy and we can turn off the computer, look at the 3 or so available programs so I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MTC- Week 1

Ahoj rodina! That is Czech for "hello family," although the grammar may be off. More on that later. The MTC is sweet! We have lots of good times in here. It's a lot of work and we do a lot of learning and stressful stuff, but we also have a ton of fun while we are doing it. 

Highlights of the week: sand volleyball. My zone is awesome. My district is awesome. Czech is such a cool language. Devotional Tuesday night with Elder Richard J Maynes from the 70. My favorite thought by him was that the First Vision was basically just the first missionary lesson of this dispensation. Joseph Smith was the investigator, and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were the first missionary companionship. That was a cool way of thinking about it. Other highlights: Lots of letters from the family. Cookies from Hannah. Ice cream whenever I want.

My District includes 10 missionaries going to Czech Republic. 6 Starší (Elders) and 4 Sestry (Sisters). We also had 3 Starší visa waiters when we got here. One got reassigned and the other two are leaving soon.  (The District is pictured in the 2nd & 3rd pictures)
Our Zone is made up of people going all over. 6 Sisters and 1 Elder going to Poland. Several learning Bulgarian. One Elder going to Macedonia, which currently has 8 missionaries in the whole country. He is learning Bulgarian, because it is very close and there is no Macedonian teacher. We have 4 Elders learning Slovakian. But one is going to England, speaking Slovakian. One Sister going to Slovenia. That is pretty much what I know. (The Zone is the big group in the 1st picture at the Provo Temple)
My companion is Starší Chadwick from Provo, UT. He is number 7 of 13 kids. Plus 5 adopted kids. If you can do that math, you have realized that makes 18 children. He is cool. We get along really well. Even though he is really different from me.

Here is a schedule of my week.
Class starts at 7:45 goes to 11:45. This time is for personal, companion, and language study. No teacher, but we have access to TALL, an online learning program for Czech vocab and pronunciation. Class resumes after lunch, this time with a teacher. We have two teachers. Bratr Knapp and Sestra Godffrey, they are both really good. Return missionaries from the Czech Republic. Our teachers speak almost exclusively Czech in the classroom, which is both extremely helpful and extremely challenging at times to follow/understand directions. In the afternoons we sometimes teach our "investigator" Terezie. Who speaks nothing but Czech to us. Quickly. And we have to try to respond and teach. It is very difficult, but she is also very nice about it. My companion and I were able to give her a Book of Mormon our 2nd lesson, so that was cool. We teach her every day except for Sunday. We learn grammar and stuff in the afternoon and/or teach. 

Gym time is at 3:30-4:20. Every day that we are allowed to, we go outside for volleyball. If not...volleyball inside the gym. My companion plays basketball, so we do splits, he goes with another basketball guy and I go with our District leader to volleyball. We went outside yesterday, when it was so cold that I wore pants and a sweatshirt, and by the end of gym time my feet felt like they had frostbite and needed to be amputated. But it was all good. Because a lot of zone goes out to volleyball together and it is AWESOME. So yeah, gym is cool. After gym is dinner and after that is more class. In case you have noticed the pattern, we do a lot of class time. 5:35-9:30 is that one. If we didn't teach in the afternoon, we teach during that time. Our teachers switch off between afternoon and evening, and one is pretty much always there.

Tuesday morning we do service (we clean another residence hall, toilets, sweeping, mopping, trash emptying, vacuuming and whatnot) Tuesday evening are devotionals where the heavy hitters come and talk. This Tuesday we got Richard J Maynes. I missed Elder Neil A. Anderson by one stinking day. After devotional we do district review, where we share thoughts about the Devotional until 9:30.

Thursday is preparation day. Wake up, eat some food and go to the temple at 8. Temple was awesome today. We did an Endowment session. Laundry whenever. Basically after the temple we have free time until dinner. Then after dinner we have the Teaching Resource Center/class. TRC we don't do yet. It's where you teach member lessons to people in your mission language. Like a home teaching lesson basically. We can't actually teach fluently, so we will just have more class. That goes until 9:30

Sunday is Sacrament meeting & District meeting. We talk about things that we want to change in our District or do better on. Temple walk, study time. Sunday night devotional .Movie (inspirational talks. Watched Character of Christ Sunday. They have all the new missionaries watch it. It's a Christmas devotional by Elder Bednar. Phenomenal) Then we have mission conference (whole MTC). We talk about missions oddly enough. And that's my weekly schedule.

Language-Czech is awesome. It is also really difficult. Some fun facts, you probably did not know about Czech. The pronunciation of "c." Is it like cats? Nope. Like city then? Nope. It is pronounced oats. Because reasons. Also Starší is pronounced like Starshy. The í makes the sound like meat. Also "ř" is madness. It is entirely unique to the Czech language. And it makes absolutely no sense. It is like a rolled r combined with the s in pleasure. Into one sound. Somehow...Shout-out to my Spanish teachers. Although Czech is nothing like Spanish, they taught me how to learn another language and understand grammar and all that jazz. Oh, and about the first grammar thing I said. Starting in a few weeks we are going to learn what cases are. There are 7 in Czech. It basically means that every noun and adjective has 7 different forms. That are used according to who knows what. Hence why rodina may be the wrong word there.

Thank you for all of the letters and what-not. Love you all!