Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Week 4 MTC!

Hey so It's week 4 here! Generally speaking the days and weeks get harder and more difficult generally, and these computers are still terrible and they freeze up all the time so you get your time cut by sitting and waiting for them to work, and that seems like it gets worse as time goes on anyway. But despite the difficulties here the Lord will make up the difference. So as far as a package goes, can you send some Arnold Palmer's??? That would be awesome! Also, I'll need more stamps and laundry detergent (my companions and I share it, they pay for my laundry to get cleaned and I let them use my detergent). I'll tell you 2 funny things that happened this last week, actually the second one happened 2 weeks ago.

So you know how we have firesides on Sunday right, and devotionals on Tuesday, well we usually get awesome seats every time, we always take the reserved row up front on the side and nobody says anything haha. So on this last Sunday, we happened to take the very front row in the center seats, best in the house, it was pretty cool. Anyway, so generally every fireside has a special musical number before the speaker, these usually consist of somebody playing the piano or singing, there was even an organ solo once, which was good but I thought kind of bizarre but anyways this time there was a piano solo, and in the gym where the devotionals are held and there are literally thousands of missionaries seated, there are a bunch of TV's and two massive projector screens that are all showing the same shot in HD so people can see and everyone looks at them, and there are like 4 or 5 cameras that they switch between periodically. So when these cameras are filming during musical numbers there are always like 1 or 2 people in the shot in the background with their face kind of dimmed due to the lighting around the stage or piano or whatever else is the musical number. I told my companions when we saw this to be the case that I wish that I was in the background so I could troll the camera by making some creeper face, and Elder Sandoval was right next to me and called my bluff and wouldn't believe me, and I told him he should have seen what trolling I did outside the MTC, then he would believe me, this all took place during the very beginning on the piano musical solo. So when they take these shots they are zoomed in like to the max so there are only 1 or 2 faces or people in view but they're very detailed and everyone can see them pretty clearly, so this one shot comes up soon after us talking and Elder Sandoval points out that I am on camera, and I was lit up very well, it was me and like 1 or 2 other people, it was the back of our heads, and this time we were in the foreground and took up like 1/3 of the screen, and my head was the most in focus so it took up like 1/4 of the whole screen! So I moved my head a little to confirm it was me and then after the shot switched I told my district to watch for the next shot because it was gonna be awesome. So soon the shot of my head comes up again and knowing where the camera was that was shooting it, I made the creepiest creeper smile and stuck my head up and twisted it slowly slowly to the camera and stared at it while making the creeper smile and the entire MTC was laughing!!! Even the MTC presidency!!!! It was perhaps one of my greatest pranks ever, haha a bunch of people came up to me afterwards and talked to me about it. It has gained me some sort of status here as a troll, some people just call me "classic kid" or "classic troll" haha. It was a great time!!! After the fireside the kid playing the piano wanted to know why everyone was laughing when he was talking to some people haha.  

The other story isn't quite as epic haha but this one happened like 2 weeks ago. Russian in many ways is largely a tonal language, meaning that if you don't emphasize the right vowel on a word then it can change the meaning of the word, similar to Mandarin Chinese, and almost every Russian verb has 2 different words depending on the content of the sentence, and 12 different conjugations in 6 different cases that change the words spelling and pronunciation from predicate to predicate throughout the sentence, haha it's intense. Anyways so the Russian verb for writing is almost identical to the Russian verb for urinating, of course I didn't know this so when I was with one of the teachers role playing an investigator, the entire time I was telling him to write down some stuff I was actually telling him to urinate because I wasn't stressing the right vowel in the word haha, he told me afterwards but it was funny anyways and now I know the difference, good thing that didn't happen in Russia!

Well I have to go, be safe. Talk to you next week!!!

 Elder Travis Skene

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 3! MTC

November 23rd, 2011
Hello Family and Friends!!!
Ok so I'll try to keep this as entertaining as possible. The MTC is usually pretty good and everything is getting easier. We have a Fireside every Sunday and a Devotional on Tuesdays, they are almost the same thing, everyone in the MTC goes into the gym and listens to somebody speak. We have mainly heard random church office people, nobody super famous or anything. However, we heard one of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy last week which was awesome, he gave a talk on the apostasy and 10 reasons why it happened. I thought it was really cool, a lot of it was backed up quite a bit by some groovy facts that I've never heard of or thought of before. That talk being cool and all, and one of my favorites, I'm not sure how it compares to the talk we had last night, which was Tuesday, one of the 12 apostles came and spoke to us! It was D. Todd Christopherson, and he spoke on missionary work and talked about how we shouldn't look at it as a burden, but that we should look at it as privilege, because that's what it is. We get to wear Jesus Christ on us and speak in his name, preform miracles and service, and bring others unto Christ. After we have devotionals, not firesides, we go into our classroom and talk about it for about an hour. It's pretty cool. I had a very spiritual experience last night when we talked about it, it was just what I had needed and prayed for. We rotate around the room and take turns saying what we thought, I was one of the first to speak and I didn't have anything very particular to say, but I had in my mind what I thought I was gonna say about it and I had it rehearsed in my head, when it came to being just about my turn, I couldn't for the life of me remember what I was going to say, It was literally taken from my heard haha. So then I just said what Instantly entered my head and an overwhelming presence of the spirit came over me, it was awesome. Right after it was my turn it remembered what I was going to say originally after the Elder after me started talking.
I also feel the spirit a lot when we sing hymns sometimes, those are generally a good time. I'm not sure what else to say, I don't have enough time on here to list all of the stories that I have experienced here. If you have any questions just ask. I think dad wanted to know how gym worked, well I usually go play volleyball or basketball for a few minutes, and then run on the track for a few miles with my friend Elder Christianson who is also going to Russia. Everybody does split in teams to answer your other question. Now to answer the question that everybody seems to have, the food here is not great but its okay haha. I am thoroughly convinced that Russian has to be by far one of the hardest languages on earth for an English speaker to learn, and I have a testimony of the Gift of Tongues, we are learning a lot of it and sometimes it can be hard to remember, but when we are teaching investigator's as they're role playing, you can feel the spirit almost speak through you and you remember things that you didn't before and sometimes you say things you never have that convey the message, it's really cool actually.
I want to wish Mom a very happy birthday! I know it will be great! I love you mom so much and thanks for you letters and everything! Thank you for all the stuff you send me and supporting me on my mission. I want to say thanks to everybody who has supported me and wrote me too, the letters are just awesome to get! Have a great Thanksgiving everyone and May the Force be with You! Until next week!
-Elder Skene

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 16, 2011 First p-day email from MTC

Okay so this computer is terrible, so I'm not even sure that these ASCII characters are even appearing correctly, (ASCII is the keyboard character assignment language for all the English characters on computers, among other languages, but it could be UNICODE, but enough of that haha). Anyway, please make sure that you copy and paste all of my email and handwritten letters in their entirety into the blog, and put the link on facebook, even this sentence or any stupid questions haha, I wanna remember what I said, and make sure to give it a title. Oh by the way Dear Elder letters have to be submitted before 12 in the afternoon to actually get to me that day, and I can only write back on P-Days which is obviously Wednesday.

Okay, so a little bit about my schedule, to put it briefly, like I said earlier, I get up at generally between 5:45am and 6:30am depending on the day and then go to bed at 10:30pm, then we generally have class and study time for 4 or 5 hours, and then lunch and then 5 or 6 hours of class and study time. To be honest, I hear probably more Russian in a day than I hear English, no kidding. I hear only Russian at least 7 hours a day on every day but Sunday and today, which is P-Day. This is a lot of work, It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do for sure. The spirit is here though, and it's an awesome place to be and I've had a lot of fun so far despite how hard it's been. It's easy to receive personal revelation here if you trust in the Lord, and you definitely will need his help to get through it all. I'm progressing quickly though in the Gospel and the Language so it's pretty cool.
I'm not totally sure what to say as far as specifics go, did I mention that we have 3 sisters in our district too? That makes only 8 of us. I also don't have much time to write these emails, so I'll do what I can, plus these other Elders have been talking really loud behind me and it is kinda distracting, but it's not like I can delete the email. Most people are pretty nice here, and then you have some of those people who aren't so nice, but they aren't super common to run into. Although, the rules hear are very strict, I mean we barely get any free time at all, It's difficult to even find a minute to think about things usually. It's also very easy to offend some people here, most are like normal and will take a joke and are fun to be around, but you really have to watch what you say, and there seems to be an aura of "I'm spiritually better than you", but thankfully those people aren't very common. I can think of 2 people that are like that in my district, but I'm not going to name any names, and who knows, maybe they are doing better than the rest of us who like to take advantage of the little free time we get, I can't say.
It's awesome to be here for the most part and I love you all and please keep the food, candy, and letters coming! Thanks!
Elder Travis Paul Skene

November 12, 2011

Hey, this can't be a long letter, I'm just sending the first memory card with pictures on it (pictures posted on my facebook page).  Please tell Grandma and Grandpa, Chelsea Thompson, and Thomas Giles that I loved their letters and I can write them back on Wednesday next week, because that is my p-day, and I'll write them through a letter, not email.

I just read all your letters last night, because that is when my District leader got the mail for us, but now we get it daily, so I'll be able to read it but not write back instantly.  So I wrote my first letter to you before I got any mail, so I want you all to know that I love the letters!  I also loved the package that you sent to me!

Anyways, thanks for everything and please give my address to Jordan Williams, I don't think he has it.  Please send more cookies, a ton of candy, Reeses, Jolly Ranchers, and whatever else, I'll appreciate anything, we all do!  I'm loving the language and the Gospel here, thanks for everything and I love you all!  keep the correspondence coming!  The Church is true! 


Elder Skene

November 11, 2011

To My Family,
Hey, I read all of your letters and all is well here at the MTC!  I love you all so much and I can honestly say that it made me tear up a little to read what you each wrote me, but I'm so glad that I have your support.

There is very little free time here, and I don't get to write very often, but when I do, I'm happy to let you guys know what is happening.  A little about my schedule, I wake up at 6:30 at the latest each morning, and to to bed at 10:30 at night at the earliest.  We are constantly kept doing something.  When I got here, my companion never showed up, and he still hasn't, so I'm now officially paired up with the other two Elders in my room, they are my companions.

They are both pretty nice, and sometimes funny, but serious when they need to be, which is good.  The first one is Elder Isabell from Mesa, Arizona, and the other one is Elder Sandoval from Charleston, South Carolina.  Elder Isabell is our District leader and he is 22, he has been here before but had to leave to have back surgery.  The other two Elders in my District are Elder O'Neill from the Oakland Bay are in California and Elder Wimber from Atlanta, Georgia.  They are both going to a different area in Russia, and my two companions are going to Rostov with me.

I saw Elder Clark Pathakis and Elder Brian Christenson, but I have yet to see Elder Luke Crossman.  I also saw Elder Gavin Chatterly and a few other kids from Alta.  I miss a lot about high school and being at home, but it's all good, the Spirit is here.

The Russian is coming along pretty well I guess, but it is very difficult, and I hear it all the time, as our teachers don't speak English to us, so we hear Russian non-stop for a good chunk of the day.  We have gym time here, and I really like playing basketball a lot more now.  Well, I'll stay in touch as much as I can, and I haven't gotten to check my mail yet.  Stay safe and give everyone my love, make smart decisions and the right choices, trust in the Lord, the Church is true!

Elder Skene

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Leaving Next Week

Hello, I'm Travis Skene, most of you reading this (haha hopefully somebody is) probably know me really well or somewhat well or maybe not at all. I have been called to serve as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church).

Next week on Wednesday (November 9th, 2011) I leave for the Russia Rostov-Na-Donu Mission to serve the Lord of 2 years! I got my call on August 9th, 2011. I'll actually be leaving to the Missionary Training Center aka MTC first for about 11 or 12 weeks, then I'll actually be in Russia, regardless, I'm so excited to be serving the Lord in Russia and working as hard as I can to be a great missionary! Even though I had a rough road getting here, (I wasn't always into the church and worthy to go), that's in the past and I'm ready to get outta' here and pay my dues to the Lord and his people for at least 2 years, who knows, maybe I'll get an extension.

As far as advice for future or aspiring missionaries after opening your call, getting prepared isn't easy, and I haven't done a fantastic job of it, but I got better, it's a difficult transition. I would say that to make sure you really get into the church doctrine, go to missionary prep and temple prep classes, read your scriptures or preach my gospel, preferably both, and go through the temple as soon as you feel ready. I went through the temple last week and getting my endowments was absolutely awesome, and I should have done it right after I got my call, but oh well, life goes on.

I hope and pray that I can get companions that I can get along with, and I don't think that will be too hard, I think I'm pretty easy going and get along with others well, but who knows? Even if I don't get great companions I know that everything happens for a reason and I need to stay diligent no matter the circumstance. The only fears I have are learning the Russian language and the companions. I took about 5 years of German, one of which was AP (Advanced Placement or College Level), and I put that I wanted to go to a German speaking mission multiple times and I was pretty confident that I would get called to one as I had ancestry there, spoke an okay amount of the language, and loved the culture. These thoughts were erased quickly when I opened my call and read that I had been called to serve in the Russia Rostov-Na-Donu mission. I'm so thankful that I'm going there however, and I know that's where I need to be and calls are truly inspired by the Lord, if they weren't, the Church wouldn't be sending me to a place I'm barely familiar with.

My mother and/or sister will be managing my blog an Facebook when I leave, I'll post my missionary address for mail and my missionary email address soon on this blog and on Facebook. Add me on Facebook if you wanna keep up with me if you already haven't. I'm listed under Travis Skene, you'll probably see a lot of Star Wars stuff under my profile unless I remove it.

Goodbye (до свидания in Russian) for now! I'll be sure to keep you all updated!