Friday, July 26, 2013


The field is white, already to harvest.

At the MTC, they say the days are long and the weeks are short. There couldn't be a better way to describe it. Amidst a slew of sixteen hour days, I often find it practically impossible to keep straight which day is which. By the time lights out comes around, I reflect on the day's activities and am stunned by just how much happens in one day at the MTC: there are as many hours of class instruction as there were during the school year, as many hours of language study as I did homework every day, more time spent teaching progressing investigators than I did at Sunday morning mission prep, and personal study for approximately 4x the average before coming on a mission- all in one day! There's really no time to feel bored on a mission! Not to mention that there's no time to think about myself.
Anyhow, most P-days my mission (The Albi's) takes a shuttle up to main campus for things we need that can't be found at West Campus. For example, we went last week to get our hair trimmed at the barber shop, pick up some things from the bookstore, and eat main-campus cafeteria food. The West Campus is currently under construction, but in one week's time should have its own bookstore and cafeteria. We presently eat meals at the Raintree Commons clubhouse, which is much too small to accommodate the now 400+ missionaries at West Campus. Likewise, there is very little refrigerator space, so we have meals that don't require heating for breakfast and lunch every day. And the variety is very limited: breakfast is the same every morning: donuts, cereal, muffins, bagels, and bananas; and lunch is the choice between salad a and sandwich b, every day. A lot of missionaries complain about the food, but I for one love it. Sure, there's not a ton of variety, but it's incredibly tasteful (especially the morning maple bars- they're irresistible!) And those missionaries that murmur will have their wish in just a week, hot food three meals a day.
Aside from the food, which isn't even that bad, I am soooo lucky to be at the West Campus. I enjoy a quarter-mile walk to and from Raintree 3-4 times a day, the atmosphere is much more calm, I see Day Elder and Sisar Schellenberg EVERYWHERE, and a fair portion of our day is spent outside in the beautiful Raintree Commons. I am seriously privileged.
Well, I think I'll try to focus my attention on the language this week. Shqip (Albanian, hence the title) is probably the strangest language on the earth right now. And yesterday my language instructor told us that Albanaina will be extinct in 100 years or so- so few people speak it (really just Albanians and Kosovars) and the new generation of Albanians are learning English and Italian, and will probably not teach their children Shqip. So I suppose we'll see, down the road my fluency may be rare and even valuable.
The language makes me laugh- sometimes it sounds like I'm speaking Spanish because of the way we roll our double R's, other times it sounds french because of the vowel pronunciation and flow, and other times it sounds Chinese because of the selection of nouns and consonant abundance. So betwixt the confusion, I am appalled by the beauty and unique nature of the language.
So do you remember before how I said that Albanian has no traceable origin? I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm confident I've cracked it. It is my theory that Albanian stems directly from theTower of Babel in Jaredite times. At the time of the language confusion, I think God selected his most intelligent  children and gave them the responsibility to speak the most difficult language on the earth. It's seriously that hard. That beautiful. That strange.
So, in English we conjugate verbs. In Albanian, however, we conjugate verbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, demonstratives, articles, and prepositions. So I've committed to memory about 50 or so grammar charts. And there are so many exceptions to each rule that my brain hurts. bad. Furthermore, to add to Albanian's uniqueness, we have a language principle called clitics, which is specific to Albanian only- no other language in the world has them! And they are oh so difficult. They vary with case, noun definity, object-verb relation, plurality, and sentence structure. In example, in English when you'd say "I gave you a dozen donuts" in Albanian you'd say "I them to you gave a dozen donuts to you". I don't expect you to understand any of this- just hope that you appreciate it's tough.
And the Albanian alphabet is strange as can be: in addition to the 26 Latin letters we have, Albanian also has a c-tail and e umlaut. And no W. And 9 more consonant clusters that make the strangest sounds. For example, XH makes the j sound, as in Jenna. Weird, right?
Well, because you're probably bored of my linguistic nonsense, just know that the language is no barrier for me. It's more of a high school girl's height steeplechase hurdle. And I could hop those all day. That doesn't go without mentioning the sweat I exert, however. And really, all the credit deserving recognizing should be attributed heaven-ward. The Gift of Tongues is oh so real. No doubt. I pray in Albanian. I bear testimony in Albanian. I teach 5 40-minute lessons each week in Albanian. And yesterday I spoke Albanian the entire day. Ship happens. 'Nuf said.
I love you more than time permits me to mention. 3 weeks down. 101 to go.
'Til we meet,
Elder Benson Gunther

...yes it does
A small portion of what I've learned.

A haircut at the Main MTC Campus

I decorated my apartment balcony.

I can see my future home from my present home.

Me and Elder Gunther

Me and Elder Baldwin

The Provo Temple

Me and my companion Elder Richards

All 14 of us "Albi's"

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