So much has happened this last week, so forgive me if my letter seems incomplete. Furthermore, my mind has already begun the process of translating and encoding words ne Shqip (in Albanian) so excuse my language if it seems confusing. Additionally, I've done my best to photograph my Adriatic Adventures thus far, but I've not been entirely capable of capturing every event or relevant location, but please enjoy the pictures nonetheless. And thank you a thousand times over for the two packages you've sent me this last week! My heart races when I receive the little ticket to pick up a package, given to me by my district leader. Thank you for being so thoughtful in your letters to me, and mostly for taking the time and effort to fill me in on life at home. As a side note, paper mail works very effectively with my schedule. Because my computer period is so limited I don't have much time to read emails so that I can focus on replying and writing home. And I'm not sure how things work at your end, but the DearElder site letters are printed and delivered the same day. (I think) So if you would like to write me, paper mail works best with my tight schedule. However, email is great too.
So let me give you the run-down for Week 1 at the West MTC:
After I rounded the corner and walked out of your sight for the next two years, my Hosting Elders (the ones that walked me in) directed me to the big church building next to the Wyview Creamery. Inside I received my apartment information and key, my nametag with a bright orange sticker on it (indicating my first-day status), and met my companion Elder Richards. I was escorted to my apartment building (Building 19- located in the middle of North Wyview), and dropped off my luggage. I'd only been in my apartment for 30 seconds when we were wooshed away to the next activity. That's typically how it is as a missionary- one thing to the next with no time to review what just happened. We made our way back to the big Wyview Church where we met the MTC presidency and attended first day orientation. My first day was jam-packed with new rules, new people, and new purpose. It was all so foreign to me because it was far from what I'd anticipated. But let it be known that I enjoyed every moment that day and every day following. Anyhow, perhaps I'll review my life by organization according to subject:
My companion, Elder Richards, is remarkably like myself: We share similar interests, scored the same ACT score, ran nearly identical mile times, and both aspire to be surgeons one day. He is from Longmount, Colorado (near Boulder) and graduated this May, also like myself. I love him to death, and couldn't have asked for a better companion. He and I differ, but in ways that complement one another, and aid in strengthening our potential.
My mission consists of 12 Elders and 2 sisters, making fourteen in all headed to the Adriatic South. We are split between two districts (or language classes), myself being with Elders Acheson and Ostergaard, and the two Motra (Sisters). I couldn't have asked for a better district: they all have the funniest sense of humor, but diligently study the language and gospel.
A zone is essentially different languages grouped together. My zone we call the HAFE Zone because it consists of Hungarian, Albanian, Finnish, and Estonian speaking missionaries. So I spend a good deal of time with these missionaries, which, by extension, means I see Sisar Maddy Schellenberg a lot, as well as Elder Dallin Day (as of yesterday). Our zone has sacrament meeting together and shares the same Branch Presidency, whom I love.
I share an apartment with my companion and one other companionship (District leaders- Acheson and Ostergaard), making four Elders sharing one apartment between two rooms and one shower. I really enjoy my roomates because 1: they are the Elders in my district, and 2: they are the more calm of the Elders. My room is Y262 on the second floor, north side of building nineteen.
There is certainly much to explain when it comes to this subject, but I'll do my best to expound with the time I have. Shqip (Albanian) is likely one of the hardest languages in the world. There are so many concepts the language harbors that are foreign to English. I'll describe in further detail in the following emails. Anywho, I taught my first lesson in Albanian Saturday morning, having been in the MTC less than 48 hours. It went incredibly well, ironically, and we taught for nearly 20 minutes! So when I have more time I'll describe in entirety the awesomeness of the language.
In closing, because my time has nearly expired and I still have yet to attach pictures, I wouldn't trade my mission for anything. The work is unprecedented - it is sooo hard. But it is also the most satisfying and worthwhile effort I've made in my life. I miss you more than words alone could ever describe, but please don't worry, my longing to be home cannot restrain me from serving with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. And I will serve with all diligence. I'll love you forever! Only 722 days to go!
Elder Benson Ryan Gunther