Original article posted by Greg:

The Mission Experience: An Insider’s Opinion (Week 1)

Aside from having the theme from “The New Justice Team: stuck in my head the whole first day, this has been an uplifting and spiritual first week. I’ve had no problems with homesickness or loneliness since the day I got set apart.
It’s funny, even though it’s only been a week, I feel like I’ve been here much longer. I’m told the Chinese call that being “an old-head,” by my branch president – one President Jackson.
My companion is Elder Esmiol, a Texan.

Not that I hold it against him.

In fact, he and I have got along great because even though we’re very different and have different ways of doing things (like nearly everything) we both have a deep love and respect for the Gospel. Really the only problem as far as my companion is concerned is with me: I have to fight hour by hour against the urge to call him Elder Sméagol.

He doesn’t know this. I’ve been strong.

I can’t begin to tell you all that I’ve learned this week simply due to the sheer volume of it. Especially things of a spiritual nature. We have so many firesides and meetings, I’ve already written probably 10 pages of notes just for spiritual things.
And that’s not counting my language notes.
Which brings us to the Mandarin. Like I said, I haven’t felt discouraged or lonely about family or friends, but the language managed to stress me pretty badly the first 3 or 4 days.
But now I’ve figured this out: As long as I can honestly say I’ve tried my best each day then I’m doing fine. And that has relieved all of my personal stress. Now the only stress I have is District oriented.
On Sunday President Jackson asked me to be Assistant District Leader. What this means is that I have an awesome companion. Elder Esmiol (now district leader) does, however, have a problem with following rules and keeping dignified. Most of the time he tries, but when he gets around one of my roommates they both go crazy and pick noses and pass gas and make crude jokes and inappropriate comments. I guess they’re entitled to act however they want, but I get so frustrated that it’s hard for me to stay spiritual and focused. But when I talk to them about it they feel like I’m attacking them and it puts distance between us. Which is bad because then they spend more time being immature… and it becomes an evil cycle.
Strangely, all the missionaries just assumed I was 19. Maybe I don’t look old. Our AP’s once said: “yeah, there’s one guy who’s 22 here, so that’s kinda weird.” To which I replied “well, we’ve got at least 1 elder who is older than that now.” They were surprised.
The MTC is much like the dorms in Cedar City. But with less high-speed internet access. I spend about 10 hours each day in class. Our studies go back and forth between Chinese and scriptures and teaching methods. It kinda threw me off when in our first language lesson Bro. Nakkon said, “Okay now open to Alma…” How simultaneously strange and nice to have the scriptures included in normal studies.
Chinese (Zhongwen) you may know, is a tonal language. This means that if we don’t use the right tone we may be inviting our brothers and sisters to death instead of inviting them to baptism. Or we might tell our host that the shoes were delicious. So far it appears less difficult than I expected, but still very challenging. One big challenge is that Elder Esmiol’s accent. I can’t really practice with him reading the words because I can’t understand a bit of what he’s saying. But maybe that will work out to be a blessing as well.
I hope so.
Speaking more on the company here – I quickly discovered that I don’t fit in with any of them. It’s like my first month or two at Applebee’s – lots of strange looks pointed in my direction. Similarly I can’t seem to get in on conversations very well. I wonder why…
Just before entering the MTC I read a really good article or two in the Ensign magazine. I was a little distraught because I wished that I could have found it in time to make a copy to bring with me. Alas. However, my Tongban and I (don’t you hate when missionaries put in words from their stupid language?) had to go to another building. Inside was a stack of Church News and Ensigns, with a sign above saying, “we have extra, please take one.” So I did. WOOT. Then, on Sunday during sacrament, President Jackson came up to me with a copy of the Ensign, which he then gave to me without a word.
I was delighted, and tried not to think about never-ending mushroom appetizers.
My branch is a little jealous of me. I’ve had mail almost every day. So thank you very much to those who have written. It’s a big delight to get that added support. Please, keep writing. If you haven’t yet – do so. Write often. I shall prove my superiority through bulk of mail. Bwa ha ha ha!
The cafeteria is… fine. About 3 times better than SUU, which makes it edible. Sometimes outside vendors will cater… like Teriyaki Stix. You can eat as much as you want and there are usually many options. I don’t eat much, though. I checked my weight the first day and yesterday. I’ve not fluxuated even a pound. I don’t know what that means.
Going back to the mail thing – I got a letter from Dad yesterday. It included helpful quotes, personal thoughts, and a certain talk from a certain Ensign…

Mushrooms, mushroom!

So… Things are going great. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe it’s already been a week. On the other, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a week. It was no challenge to adjust to the missionary lifestyle for me, since I had decided already to focus 100% on that. My companion is an awesome guy whose only challenge can be summed up in the phrase, “quiet dignity versus jock strap” referring to the time he decided to go up and down the dorm halls in nothing but a jock strap. The language is hard, but is slowly coming. I feel I could try harder in that area, however, I just need to tell myself that it’s okay if I’m not studying Mandarin every minute of every day. Really. It will be okay … The MTC could be seen as a trap or a hole or a never-ending nightmare of immaturity and frustration, but I see it as a great opportunity to learn and I value every minute here.

And finally, my friends and loved ones, the Church is true. Jesus is the way and the life and also – He loves each of us.
There’s much more, and if you like, I’ve got a couple friends who would love to come share a message with you. ;->

Miracle cream, miracle cream,
G. C. Hamblin

Elder Greg Hamblin
MTC Mailbox #33
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604 – 1793

Orginal comments:

Nickname: ravenpaine
Re: Mission Letter February 20, 2004
For any one who cares I’ve got enough people spreading messges for and about for the time being. On another note I have come to realise that there is never an end to the stupidy and immaturity of other humans. Partially because I and my ilk come from a special reserved place where such things are simply “not done” and partially because our level of immaturity is probably just as shocking to others. How childish we all are when we get out there and do things that we think are funny.

Damn prisoners dilemma.

Rodney TGAP
the first and last line of offense