Two Penguins in a Bathtub

Salut! I find it entertaining that the word for 'hi' in french is the same as the word for 'salvation.' We practiced tea...


I find it entertaining that the word for 'hi' in french is the same as the word for 'salvation.' We practiced teaching the plan of hi a few times this week. We haven't started greeting people by saying 'salvation,' but hey, you never know what we'll come up with next to keep ourselves entertained. We have to keep ourselves entertained here, or 10 hours of class and the same four walls would make us crazy! 

For more language fun, get this: 'bénir' means to bless, whereas 'blesser' means to injure. Our teachers made sure we understood that our very first day, just to be safe. Can't have us praying "please injure us with the gift of tongues," can we? Oh, and we need to be careful not to say "I will make you sinners of men" because the word 'péché' means sin but 'pêcher' means to fish. "Je suis Jésus-Christ" translates both to 'I am Jesus Christ' and "I follow Jesus Christ" (and same goes for 'je suis le prophète'). "Au-dessous" and "au-dessus" mean "below" and "above" respectively, and sound nearly exactly the same. I've heard many missionaries mix up "fils" (pronounced like fleece with out the l) and "fille" (fee) and therefore say the daughter of God when they meant to say the Son of God. Oh, and poor Elder H, I don't think we'll ever let him live this down: He and Elder P are in a lesson with one of the member volunteers (this is called TRC), and he wants to explain "I love this verse." Only he forgets how to say verse, so he pauses halfway through the sentence to try and remember it. It gets better - instead of saying "j'aime" which is "I love" he accidentally says "Je t'aime." It ends up coming out as "Je t'aime......... et l'écriture." Which, being interpreted, means "I love you...... and the scripture." Oh, and the volunteer happened to be our teacher's roommate's girlfriend. Frère T nearly died of laughter when we told him. Anyway, I think it's pretty much a requirement for every foreign speaking missionary to have at least one story like this. I think I'll probably end up with quite a few more than that, because the Tahitian alphabet is so small that it is very, very easy to say the wrong thing.... so that'll be interesting. There is one tahitian pun that I don't think will ever get old, though: walking up to an Elder, pointing to his tie, and saying "Hey, that's maitai!" (Means "that's good/great/nice" but sounds like "hey, that's my tie!) As I said, we spend a lot of time trying to entertain ourselves.

I hope you all had a happy new year! We had our first 'English fast' on New Year's day, which means we are only allowed to speak french (or Tahitian) for the whole day. We're doing another one tomorrow... Wish me luck.

On that note, I ought to explain the title of this email. One day a week or two ago, we were telling each other jokes to pass the time (yes, we do study and do missionary work too, I promise), and Sœur S brought up this joke about two penguins in a bathtub. It goes: "There are two penguins in a bathtub. One of them turns to the other and says, 'Hey, can you pass me the soap?' The other then says, 'What do I look like, a typewriter?!" When she finishes the joke, Elder P, Sœur S and I start laughing, while the rest of the district just stares in confusion. I'll let you in on the secret: the joke is that there is no joke! Those who have heard it before just pretend it's hilarious and the real punchline ends up being everyone else's reactions. My friends at college had a similar joke about two monkeys in a bathtub, so I recognized it immediately, and Elder P had heard it as well. But the other elders were just thoroughly confused and looked at us like we were crazy. I thought that would probably be the end of it, because it's a dumb joke and even though we told it about 5 million times in college, people usually figured it out or were told within a few minutes. Well, I was wrong. It went on for at least a week, maybe more. We had brought it up again when Sœur C was there, and oh my stars I have never heard it told that well! She had the elders convinced that it was the funniest joke in the world and they couldn't get it! Then we let Elder H in on it, and he convinced them that they had to say it in a Southern accent, which was highly amusing as well. At dinner one day, one of the other elders in our zone (all of the french districts = the french zone) was acting it out for them with salt and pepper shakers and a napkin holder (he was in on it). They really were so confused for several days, it was so great. We eventually let Elder I in on it, followed by Elder L, until it was just Elder D left. "Does the soap represent the backspace on the typewriter or something?" "There is no backspace on a typewriter..." Alas, someone finally took pity on him and confirmed that it was, as he thought, just a dumb prank, but it was fun while it lasted. 

By the way, sorry that my email was later than usual this week! In order to keep things interesting, the MTC decided to completely change our schedules on us, so that was interesting. Preparation day is now on Friday! Apparently, they are also changing our classrooms in a week or two. Right now, the Frenchies have one of the newest buildings, but we will probably be switched to an older building. Smaller classrooms, less comfortable chairs, who knows. Oh well. Optimism goes a long way, I can tell you that! Hmm, what other news this week? Well, a large part of our zone left for Paris this past Monday (and one lonely Elder to Halifax, Canada on Tuesday morning). This coming Monday, the Lyons district will also be leaving, which makes our district and the district that reported with us the 'oldest' in our zone! 'Oldest' as in has been here in the MTC the longest. Speaking of, we had 29 new French missionaries report this past Wednesday! They are the first French missionaries to report since we came. We call them "les bleus" which is the french way of saying greenies or newbies. They were just as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as we were three weeks ago (has it only been three weeks?!). Maybe not so bright-eyed now, after a long two days. The first few days can be pretty tough, to be honest. It takes a lot of adjusting. Therefore, my district wrote them a letter with advice on "How to Survive/Enjoy the MTC." I'll share a few of my favorites. A few were more serious, like "Go to 'Character of Christ' the Sunday," "Be exactly obedient," and "Join choir, if you can sing. If you can't sing, join choir anyway." Some were less so, such as "Always sing in the shower, and harmonies are welcome," and a personal favorite "Your success as a missionary is not based on baptisms or numbers, but by your ability to sneak into the bathroom without the lights turning on" (As part of entertaining ourselves, our elders have made it their life's work to sneak past the motion sensor in the bathroom that makes the lights turn on.) Some were downright just meant to confuse the poor things " 10. There are two penguins in a bathtub. 11. I have one fish. How many fish do I have? You're probably wrong. 12. Also, you can take a guppy to Grandma's house, but you can't take my fish." (the latter two are in reference to some puzzle games that people have come up with to infuriate each other, sort of like the penguin joke. I've figured out the fish and Grandma's house, but the Elders know a super complicated one called Trips that they haven't let Soeur S and I in on yet. Trips is sort of a tradition that was passed on from the Paris missionaries, apparently. I have no idea who started it, I just know that it's annoying!) So yeah, the last few days have been exciting while we welcome les bleus and use them as new sources of entertainment, haha. And of course be a good example for them too ;) Oh, and then there's Elder P, who's been trying to convince les bleus that he's actually from some town in France. His accent is pretty impressive, and I think he's at least got a few of them convinced. Not sure how long he intends to keep it up...

Anyway, now to the spiritual stuff, finally. In general, at the MTC we teach two types of lessons. The first is "progressing investigator" in which our teacher pretends to be an investigator of the Church, and we give them regular lessons just like a real person out in the field. Eventually, we'll also teach lessons to the other missionaries in our district as they pretend to be investigators. The great thing about these lessons is that even though it's just our teacher acting, they base it off of real people they know, with real problems and needs, so you learn to love the characters as if they are really an investigator that you're teaching. Our main investigator has been "Denise" (Sœur C). She is a challenge to teach sometimes, and it's been hard getting to know her because her personality is more closed off (Denise, not Sœur C). I was really nervous for one of our lessons with her earlier this week, because even though we'd spent all morning planning it, something didn't seem right and I was sure I would mess it up. That lesson actually was cancelled, because our new schedule messed things up and we didn't have time. It wasn't until yesterday that we got the chance to teach her again, and by that time, I was feeling much better, mostly because of some advice that our teachers gave us: first, lessons are taught best with these three things: scriptures, inspired questions, and testimony. Simplify lessons simpler than you think they need to be simplified! Second, you can be as bold as you want as long as you have two things: the Spirit with you and love for the investigator. Third, "Perfect love casteth out all fear" (Moroni 8:16/1 John 4:18). In the end, I think the lesson went really well, and Denise even said she would be baptized! Frère T got back from his Christmas in Tahiti yesterday, and he brought with him a new investigator: "Vaihiarii", which is actually Frère T from before he joined the church. 'A punk,' according to him. We've only had one lesson so far, but I think it went well. 

Anyway, the other type of lesson we teach is TRC, which I mentioned earlier, where we have a small lesson with some random volunteers. Some of the English and Spanish missionaries reportedly teach actual investigators, but the French volunteers are pretty much all members. I love it so much because they usually end up teaching us! One member, a Frenchman named "Michel", has been especially fun because we 'taught' him (he taught us) both this week and last, and the Spirit is so strong in our lessons. Last week we taught his wife and daughters as well, and they were so loving and kind. After every TRC, we are meant to evaluate how we did on our missionary purpose, which is to invite others to come unto Christ. It's easy for missionaries to think "how do I invite them to come unto Christ when they're already members?" but we have to remember that hey, aren't we members too? And isn't there plenty that we can do to come closer to Christ? Whether they are members or non-members, everyone has their own trials and challenges, and everyone needs to constantly strive to come closer unto Christ. 

One of my favorite scriptures, which has actually been a focus of nearly every one of our lessons this week is 2 Nephi 31:20: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20). Enduring to the end is hard. Enduring is hard. But faith in Christ, hope, love of God, charity towards others, reading the scriptures regularly - I know that these things can help us meet the trials in our life. Verse 19 says, "ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him." I know that I would not have gotten to where I am today without this gospel.

One more scripture for you: On Monday, Sœur C asked us to use our personal study to reflect on our testimony of the Book of Mormon, and once again take the challenge in Moroni 10:3-5 to ask God is the book is true. She shared with us a time on her mission where she was struggling, and found herself reading in Doctrine and Covenants chapter 6, where Oliver Cowdery is told to reflect upon the night where he asked a similar question (verse 22). That evening, I reread the whole chapter, and there were a lot of great verses but this one seems appropriate: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time." I definitely would not be here without the power and promise and privilege of the Holy Ghost in my life. I know that when we pray, we are heard and we will be answered. So I would challenge you all to take the same challenge: reflect upon how you gained a testimony of the truth of the gospel and of the Book of Mormon. If you don't have a testimony of it, read the Book of Mormon, and take the challenge in Moroni 10:3-5. If you do have a testimony, strengthen it by taking the challenge again and again and again. And when thou art converted, strengthen they brethren.

I hope this email is sufficiently long for you! It was nice not being rushed to write it in one hour!

Just kidding, one last scripture, I promise: "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail." (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34).

Lots of love,
Sœur Ladd

P.S. Here's the Tahiti district, being ironic with my flag in the snow!