I wrote you all a letter on the first day about the first day that I'm sending to day, so I guess you're going to have to wait to hear about that for a couple of days. :)
So, I thought I was going to be ahead of the class when I got here, but I wasn't even close. Almost exactly half of our district--or doki--(which consists of 6 shimai--sisters-- and 8 elders--choro) already has some extensive Japanese. Some have lived in Japan for a while, and some have just taken classes. Donnelly Shimai has taken 6 years of Japanese! Haha, it's lucky she is, or we'd all be a little lost.
My companion is Tenney Shimai. She's from Hawaii, and she's taken 5 years of Japanese. Ermergersh. Every companionship but one or two has someone like that. Tenney Shimai is seriously the best companion ever! If it hadn't been for her the first couple of days, I wouldn't have understood anything, and would have been in an even bigger puddle of mire than I felt I was.
All six shimai in our district live in the same room together... in a room designed for four. Luckily, Tenney Shimai prefers the top bunk (Hallelujah!), and I somehow ended up with my own closet. Cool. :)
We have awesome elders. I've heard everyone say that about their district, but I never thought I would believe it about our district . All of our elders are pretty awesome. We have Budge Choro, Lee Choro, Kotter Choro, Malaska Choro, Duran Choro, Reagan Choro (our DL), Tenney Choro (no relation to my companion), and Jensen Choro. The elders are funny, and we're Kohai (newbies) set on strict obedience! The ones who have been here the longest (the dai senpai, bound to leave in 2 weeks--the senpai have only been here 4 weeks) seem to be really relaxed on the rules, and we decided we want to be the best we can be. In 6 weeks, we want to be dai senpai the Kohai look up to and say, "Wow. We wanna be like them in 6 weeks." That's happening.
The first few days were sooo overwhelming. I swear I've never felt so useless in my life. I'm not used to being at the back of the class, and Black Sensei came in to teach speaking straight up Japanese, and I didn't understand a word of it. Luckily, I already knew how to read the Hiragana and Katakana, but Elder Batis was right: the language lessons were so hard a little part of me wanted to cry. A bigger part of me wanted to put my head down and give up. GAH! The learning style is very auditory learner-based, which makes things really difficult for a visual learner like me.
They also made us start teaching investigators on day 3. Why would they do that? And that was before we (and by we, I meant the half of us who were unfortunate enough to know absolutely nothing before coming) had any inkling of sentence structure or anything. Our investigator's name is "Narita." The first night, we went in to teach him, and I just sat there while Tenney Shimai listened and talked to him. I have never felt so pathetic and stupid, and I just didn't see what I could do at all. I left feeling the worst I've felt in a long time. Scheffler Shimai even felt the need to give me a pep talk. Oh dear. You know things are going wrong when someone not related to me feels the need to give me a pep talk. I don't like those. Just leave me ALONE to wallow in my misery, okay? Haha. (It was actually very sweet. But still frustrating.)
After the next night, though, I had a change of mindset. I realized that I was spending way too much time thinking about myself. I realized that during our lesson, I kept thinking things like "Why am I such a loser? I wish I could say stuff. I'm absolutely useless in here. Tenney Shimai is practically fluent, and I can't do squat. I just look like a loser here, and I'm doing absolutely nothing, and I'm never going to learn Japanese, and everyone here is better at it than me, and..." etcetera. The thing is, this isn't about me. This isn't about how good I am or about how bad I am at Japanese. It's been about me my entire life, but it's not any more. It's not about what I know how to do, it's about the Lord. It's about moving his work forward regardless of my personal ability. I was too busy focusing on myself, accomplishing nothing, that I couldn't even contribute to the Spirit in the room when I didn't know what was going on, and I certainly wasn't being open enough to be receptive to the Spirit. It was a form of pride, thinking that I was SO IMPORTANT that the Lord was going to let my inability slow down his work. It's not about me any more. A little before I made the turn around, I was reading scriptures to get an idea for our lesson. It was in 2 Nephi 9, and it said stuff like "come down into the depths of humility" and "with God, all things are possible." Okay, alright already, I get it. :) I poured out my soul in prayer, and the next day definitely showed it. I just remembered, "Sometimes courage is the small voice at the end of the day that says, "I will try again tomorrow." "
Once I realized that, everything got so much better. Everyone kept telling us, "Just make it to Sunday!" but Saturday was my turnaround day. I understood what Black Sensei was saying in class, I got more out of scripture study, and I was able to understand and say more in our lessons with Narita. (Most of the time, I'm still completely clueless, but hey...that'll come in time.) Now I can introduce myself, pray, testify, give an overview, and I'm learning to do more and try to put sentences together by myself. It's hard because the sentence structure is so backward. Also, all of our Japanese books have names. (They gave us a HUGE pile of about 10 books, and apparently the Japanese missionaries are the only ones whose books have names, because we're the only ones who are here for long enough.)
We have gym 4 or 5 times a week. We just have to be in the same building as our companions then, so I usually go to the track upstairs and run or do the elliptical with Broadhead Shimai and try to memorize vocabulary.
Luckily, I haven't really been homesick at all. Don't get me wrong, I miss all of you a lot, but it's definitely secondary to what I'm doing here right now. Especially compared to college, where I was sometimes almost incapacitated by homesickness. It just goes to show that the blessings I received while being set apart were true, which included not being homesick. And that's good, because being homesick would make this so much harder than it already is. That helps in having faith in some of the other promises, especially that I will "master this language" and become "articulate" in it. As far off as it looks right now, it looks like it's gonna make it!
The computer I'm on right now won't take my card reader, so I'll have to send you some pictures next week!
This is such a great work that I'm so excited to be involved in. Sometimes it just bubbles up with in my and I can hardly contain myself. The Lord definitely has his hand in guideing and hastening this work, and I'm so grateful to be a part of it!
The church is true! Tell your friends!
Ai shite imasu! (I love you!)
Love, Sister Harris