Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spanish Blitz!

Dear Family and Friends,
First, I want to start by thanking you all for sending me letters. This week has been a little crazy, and each letter really brightens my day. Not to mention you all are making the Elder's crazy jealous, which I think is good for them.
When I wrote you last week I was feeling a little under the weather but didn't think much of it. By the time I woke up wednesday morning I had the worst head cold of my life, and wanted to curl in a ball and never move again. The MTC really is the last place you ever want to get sick. You don't really have time to get better, you share your cold with everyone, and you can't get the medicine you want or anything else you might believe you need. So, I got to take a trip to the clinic and then got sent down to the BYU health center to get drugs. That was weird. It really feels odd to walk down 9th, I felt like I was between worlds. It was so bizarre. I'm mostly feeling better now, although still not 100%. Hopefully by next week I'll be feeling completely better. That would be really great. Because it just doesn't work to be sick here.
Classes are going well. Friday we taught our first observed lesson, in english for now, and I thought it went pretty well. We've taught quite a few others, and yesterday we taught in Spanish for the first time. That was quite the experience. Hna Cannon was pretty sick (the sketchy food got her *blech*) and so I was pretty much teaching by myself. We worked with a teacher from Mexico, so he was a native speaker, and did that crazy hispanic thing where they speak in speed burst. It'll start out slow and completely understandable, and then all the sudden out of nowhere, he's speaking at 100 miles an hour and you can barely keep up. We did mostly okay, but I was pretty stressed by the end. Hopefully it gets better with more practice. We start speaking only spanish next monday. That will really get things better fast.
This past week I met quite a few people who know Trent. That was cool. I met some of the missionaries he used to play volleyball with. It was fun to say hi to them. I think they are going to Washington? Maybe... Aaand, I met a Senior Couple who are leaving for Manchester in the next few days, I told them to look for my little brother. She wrote down his name, so Trent, maybe you'll have some senior couple say hello to you who ran into you here.
Okay, question time again. Then I'll add some extras if I have time. It really is quite an experience typing a letter with a flashing red timer up at the top. Nothing like pressure to help you focus... or not.
First, no, the food never gets better. I've tried all sorts of different things, and they all range from iffy to terrifying. Mostly I eat salad, or when Hna Cannon and I are feeling brave, stupid, or suicidal, we branch out an eat something else. It was a very scary taco salad sort of thing that left her sick the other day. I blame the salsa. No salsa should ever look like that salsa did.
Mom, yes I am still here for 9 weeks, and after yesterdays teaching appointment, I think 9 weeks will be good. Also, I was so excited to hear that little girl is back with her family, and it's great to hear that Budda Boy is doing well. Also, I was dying as you wrote about the opera house. I'm not homesick, but I am completely flute-sick. I had a dream the other night that I was in a practice room playing, waking up from that dream was completely depressing. You know when amputees have that phantom-limb-syndrome, where they still feel where the arm or leg should be? I think I have phantom flute syndrome. Pretty much any time I hear music I cry. Especially in the devotionals or watching music and the spoken word. I also tend to cry a little when our Elders sing, but that it because they... well... lets say family home evening with our family sounds way better. It's pretty pathetic, but they sing with enthusiasm, so that counts for something, right? My headaches have been okay, I've actually had way more problems with sleeping, this past week I've really struggled with staying asleep, but I got a blessing from the Elders and things are getting better. And, Dani's dad isn't in my branch, alas.
All, I hope you absolutely love Japan. You'll have to take tons of pictures for me, and I know Morgan won't want to, but you should all eat lots of yummy sushi for me. Oh, and some really good Ramen. I could go for any good food at this point.
Morgan, I'm glad swim is going well for you. I hope those practices help you get really really good. I bet they will. Also, I was way bummed to hear about that rug in the living room. I have so many fun memories of running and jumping between the flowers on that rug with Trent when we lived in Wales. Oh well. I get to go to the Temple every week. It's really nice to get to go, and I always really enjoy being there.
Todd, I know why you lost your game. If you'd have served over the net then you probably would have won. Just kidding. *grin*. As far as you being in 10th grade, that is just to weird. That's all I have to say. In my mind you should be in 7th grade. Seriously. Oh, and I agree with you, Grandma and Grandpa, when is your mission call coming? I'm dying of curiosity here.
Tanner, do you think you could come cook for me. I think then I would know I'd died and gone to heaven, cause while this place is very heavenly in a lot of aspects, the food helps you remember why you need to behave in this life. *grin* Also, I was so proud of you to hear you were doing your biography on President Hinckley. I've always really loved him. He 's really one of my heroes, I'd be so curious to see how the project goes for you. If you have to write anything up you should send it to me. I'd love to get to read it. Maybe if I have time I'll write you a separate letter (hand written) and tell you about what I remember from when President Hinckley dedicated the Preston temple. Or just ask dad about it. I thought it was way cool. Yep, I get to go on temple walk. No, I don't see friends, there, I'd get in way big trouble for that. So don't anybody get any ideas.
Okay, I have 8 minutes left. So I thought I'd share some funny observations. First, gym is always amusing, I love how all the Elder's are all over the place doing push ups, it's some sort of odd testosterone fest, I just snicker at them. Silly boys. Next, our Elders are slowly getting better. Although we still have to yell pretty often that there are Hna's present. Although the real problem Elder is getting transferred out. Which is good, because he's caused some problems for Hna Cannon and I, so it's actually really good for us that he is leaving. Really, really good. Because things were getting awkward. I thought problems with boys ended when you get here, apparently not.
Finally, we had a music reading and conducting seminar this week done by one of the Elders in our district, he proudly announced that he was a music major, and went on to teach them blasphemy on how to conduct. I survived by almost gnawing my arm off. After the seminar I asked him where he was studying. He told me he'd done his first year at some university in Missouri, but he just go a full ride to BYU. I was excited for him and asked him if he was in Ray's studio (the main Sax teacher at BYU) at which point he looked confused and said, well, I'll be up at BYU-Idaho. At which point I learned that I still have a long ways to go on learning to be humble. Whoops.
I'm really learning so much here. I love every minute. It's interesting, because some parts of the day are so hard, or frustrating or I just want to give up, but every night as I go to bed I'm just so happy to be here and I know this is exactly where I need to be right now.
I hope all is well for everyone, and enjoy Japan!
Hna Okeson
Ps. Can you send me Trent's letter? I never got it. also, make sure you are forwarding mine to him, I'm not sure if he got my last letter or not. Oh, and Mom, can you just dearelder all of those addresses you sent me. It's impossible to find printers here.
Love you all!!!!!!!
pride, conducting

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Hola Familia!!!
So, I bet you are all surprised to be getting a letter from me today. I got transferred so my new p-day is on Tuesdays, so I guess you all lucked out with the note I sent on Thursday. I'll tell you all what happened, and then I'll try to answer as many questions as I can before the time runs out.
I wrote you all Thursday morning, and around 2pm on Thursday afternoon Elder Johnston and I got pulled out of class for a secondary language evaluation. They had us speak and tested our comprehension some and then sent us back to class. I didn't expect much, but the next thing I know Elder Johnston and I were pulled from class a second time and told that if we were okay with it they were going to transfer us up to the 9 week intermediate Spanish program. So I guess you can't hide much from God no matter how much you try. Actually, I'm quite happy with the change, and I feel like I am making way more progress in my new class than I would have in my old one.
So what does it mean to be transferred in the MTC, pretty much the same thing as anywhere else. You pack everything up, move, get a new companion, get a new district, and start all over again. My new companion in Hermana Cannon. She's from Cedar Hills Utah, and she learned Spanish while living in Puerto Rico for 5 years as a kid. Her dad works with computers or something like that, so they've moved around some, but not nearly as much as my last companion. I really like Hna Cannon (Todd, Hna is the shortened form of Hermana) and we work together well. She's the 2nd in a family of 5 and she also has a younger brother on a mission. Her little brother left the MTC the week before we got here. Talk about a bummer.
My new district is interesting. The MTC really is unique for Sisters because it's like suddenly you are back in Freshman year with a bunch of 19 year old little boys (no offense Trent). They don't really understand how to study or focus or work yet. Hna Cannon and I spend a lot of time trying to get them to focus so we can get work done. I've been told by various people that the districts with the Sisters are the best because they are able to whip the Elders into shape, so I'm working on my patience and Christ-like Love and trying to play nicely with the other children. Mostly we spend a lot of time making the Elder's sing. It's like Primary all over again. When it gets rowdy we make them stand up and sing so they can get the wiggles out and we can invite the spirit back. Honestly, though, we have a really good group of Elders. They are trying, they've just spent too much time at home playing video games and are still working to transfer into the idea that working is okay. I'm on the opposite end. I actually find this place rather relaxing. I'm probably the least stressed I've been in years. I don't have anything to worry about. I just come and work hard and then trust that the Lord will makeup the difference. It's pretty awesome. Not to mention, we're done "working" by 9pm at night and we have all sorts of time off to exercise and eat meals. I actually find myself trying not to be frustrated with how much time they give us to eat and stuff, because there is way more that they could cram in if they would be more efficient with meal times. I guess most people don't really like eating all their meals on the run like I've gotten used to doing.
Okay, I'll try to get through answering questions now, and then if there is anything I feel like I've left out I'll add more if I have time.
Todd, congrats on starting to jump serve for Volleyball. I'm expecting some pretty awesome photos from you. Also, who was this girl who's party you went to. Should I be concerned. Don't make me pry one of your siblings for information. *grin* The food here is pretty sub standard, although I think your brother has a much more discerning pallet than most of the Elders. My district packs away plenty of this food, while I pick at what the salab bar has to offer. I've actually found some good things, although I was heartily disappointed on Sunday to find out that the mashed potatoes were pearl potatoes and the turkey might as well have been SPAM. *gag*. My old companion moved a lot because that's what her family likes to do... or at least that's what she told me. I haven't really seen her since I got transferred so I can't answer that much better,.
Mom, life here is good. I love how the Hna's get some special treatment. My favorite part of the whole week is Sundays. While the Elders go to a regular preisthood meeting all the Hna's get together and watch Music and the Spoken Word and then we have a huge Relief Society meeting. They always bring in an amazing speaking and this week was no different, we had a lady from the BYU religion faculty come and she was phenomenal. Not to mention, listening to Music and the Spoken Word was amazing. The organist played a Bach Cantata, and the fugue left me in fits of joy. If I get a fugue every Sunday I think I can survive the no music thing. Jet lag for me ended on Sunday, when I finally slept through the night, now I just wish I could get naps during the day, then this would really be the life! I guess you'll have to work really hard so Trent and I can do well on our missions, I know you will do a great job, and I'm excited for you. I haven't gotten the speaker but that is because my mail got mixed up when I was transferred. My new mail box is number 104, so if you could send out a note to people telling them that and change it on my facebook that would be great. As for pictures, Grandma should have sent them to you, so I'd send her a note telling her you want the ones from when I came in. Keep sending letters via Dearelder. The less I have to read on here, the more you all get from me.
Tanner, sorry about all the bugs. I guess we now know who are the 2 most sweet and awesome people in the Okeson family. I wish you could cook dinner for me... the food here is just not quite all that I had hoped and dreamed. It's okay, whenever I don't feel happy about it I remind myself I don't have to cook or clean up afterward, then it tastes a little better. I don't know what you want to hear about the MTC, but I guess you should know there is always something to do. We don't actually spend much time in our residence halls, we really spend all day in class and then go crash when we get home at night. I usually spend a few hours studying the scriptures and then 2 or more hours working on my Spanish. It's really amazing though, because I feel like the Lord is really helping me already, that's the cool thing about being a missionary, the Lord is watching and helping you so much.
Dad, Congrats on getting things going at the plant. I'd been praying for you lots hoping that things would finally come together for you. Also, I really liked the quote you sent me. We've talked a lot about setting goals as a district and a companionship and on our own, your quote was a great reminder. I'm glad speaking went so well for you.
Morgan, I'm glad you liked camp. I remember going in 5th grade on a whole grade camp thing and it was so much fun. Those toilets sounded a little sketchy though, that would be one of those times where I think I would just hold it, no matter how bad I had to go.
Okay, I think that's all the questions I got. I went through your letters and highlighted them so I could try to answer everything. So now a little more about what I'm doing. I have two teachers that we work with primarily. Hna Bauserman is from the area and just got home from serving a mission Spanish speaking here in Provo. I absolutely love her, and it's so nice to get to work with a sister. Our other teacher is Hermano Hidalgo, he's from Mexico and he sure keeps me on my toes with his Spanish. The elder's think he talks too fast, but after 3 years with Sra Blanchard I don't really have any trouble understanding him, except he uses a lot of slang and so that makes it tricky some times. Thursday Hna Cannon and I start teaching in English, and then next week we start teaching in Spanish. I think we're ready. I really like teaching so I'm excited to have the chance to start practicing. In 2 weeks we are switching to only spanish, so that means that I'll be speaking Spanish all day and using it in the dorms. Speaking of the residence halls, I live with 4 other hna's including my companion. We are all going Spanish speaking and the other hna's have been here 3 or 4 weeks. One of them is leaving today for the MTC in Peru. I told her I had a cousin headed to Peru and to watch out for him. I love living with all the hna's, after a day with the Elders it's so nice to be back with all the sisters.
Okay, I'm out of time. I love you all lots and think of you often. Keep the letters coming, you are all wonderful.
Hermana Okeson

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Letter from MTC

Hi Family!!!
P-day was yesterday and they gave all of us new missionaries time to write letters home, but I got e-mail time, since a snail mail letter would probably get to you in a month instead of in the next week. So, consider yourselves blessed.
The MTC is quite the experience already. We're way busy, but actually I find it way less busy and stressful than being a music major. They actually give you time for meals here! Aaand, you actually can sleep 8 hours without feeling guilty. It's pretty awesome. Although I wouldn't know what 8 hours felt like here yet, since I'm still a little jet lagged. Today I work up at about 4:50 and couldn't fall back to sleep. Lame-o. So finally around 5:50 I got up and started studying Spanish again.
Okay, now the part you've all been waiting for. My companion is Hermana Roskelly. I knew she would be awesome when she actually recognized the astroboy on my suitcases and was a little jealous of that suitcase. This suspicion of awesomeness was quickly confirmed as we discovered that we are both pretty quirky and both judge the value of a skirt in how well it spins. *grin*. She is from Hariman Utah and is the oldest of four. She has 2 brothers and a sister. I guess this is the bossy oldest child companionship. It's worked thus far and I've really enjoyed getting to know her and spend time with her. That's been so nice, I was so nervous about having a companion. She spent the last year out in Massachusetts working and seeing the area. She's moved about 18 times in her life, so we have that in common too. Anyhow, things are going really well.
The first day here they gave me the option of moving up to the 6 week program instead of the 9 week one. I was surprised. I guess all those years with Sra. Blanchard paid off. I decided, though, to stay for the 9 weeks. I wanted the time to really get comfortable with the language and with teaching, so I thought 3 more weeks would be good. I'm pretty bored with the Spanish thus far, and so I'm working hard to really push myself and find lots of new words and phrases to learn. I figure the more I can learn now the better. With any luck I'll have tons of vocab before I even leave this place, that can only help. It's also been really cool because Hermana Roskeller took German for years, and so I've been working with her on Spanish and it makes me make sure that I really know what I am doing. There is nothing better for learning something than having to practice teaching it.
Ooh, so being from China also made my first day interesting. When you get your name tag when you get here it's in one of three conditions. It looks absolutely normal, it has an orange dot, or it has a green dot. I lucked out and got the orange and the green one. Orange is just so they can test your language skills, which wasn't too bad. The green dot means you are really special. It means you're a foreigner and they think you could have all sorts of contagious diseases. So I got whisked away pretty fast and then asked a barrage of questions concerning where I've been, what I've eaten and the like. After assuring them there was no way on this earth that I would ever eat from a street vendor in China they let me off easy and are only making me take parasite pills (it could be worse, they were talking x-rays, and shots and who knows what else).
Well, they didn't give me a whole lot of time to write, it was just supposed to be a short note to tell you I made it here fine.
I hope all is well at home. I hope things are going well for you, Dad, at the plant and that Mom has managed to work her magic and find those tickets you were looking for. Also I hope those kids had fun at camp.
Love you lots and lots.
Hermana Okeson
Ps. Trent, you were completely right about the food here. I think I may loose a whole lot of weight. *gag*

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's Official!

Okay People, It is now official! Nicole was set apart yesterday by Pres. Lewis and her dad. We are all excited for her new adventure and I will do my best to keep you all up to date. Sometimes China makes blogging tricky for me so Nicole's Aunt will pick up the slack when I can't do it. Thanks Carrie. :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shanghai then Provo

I'm headed in about two hours to drive down to Shanghai with my family to get set apart as a full time missionary. (I'll fly into Provo Monday afternoon to go to the MTC on Wednesday) Crazy! I know I moaned all summer about wanting things to go faster, but now that I've gotten down to it, the last few weeks have really flown. So, I thought I'd just finish a few things and then bid you all farewell.

First, Check out my awesome pedicure!!!

Look at the detail there. The Chinese never cease to amaze.

Also, I had to take a picture, look at the names for the different nail colors. They're just so punny. I was in all sorts of fits of joy reading these.

Second, all of my letters home should be posted here, so I really hope you'll all keep reading.

Okay, I think that's everything I needed to tell you. I hope you all have a wonderful next 18 months. I'm so excited for this new adventure, and grateful that I have this opportunity. This is something I never expected for myself, but now that the time has come I can't wait. I'll miss you all, but hey, 18 months isn't really that long, so I'll see you all again before you know it.

God be with you till we meet again!

Friday, September 10, 2010


I am really, really, really going to miss my flute.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mission Prep. Part 1

This is a picture from going with my Mom to get our hair washed as a salon here in Suzhou. If I was Queen of the World this would be how I would have my hair washed every day. They massage your scalp while they wash your hair, and then after they give you a head, shoulder, arm, and hand massage.

Next up, pedicures tomorrow.

Mission prep has never been more fun.

Monday, September 6, 2010

In which I am still ill...

How come the one time I actually get sick in China is the only trip where I don't travel at all?


My only consolation is that half of the expat community is sick also. Okay, so not half... like ten other people... but misery does love company.

At this rate I'm gonna share this awesome bug with the entire MTC. That should go well. Unless they're all as resistant as my family. Since five days later no one else here is ill. *grimace*

Friday, September 3, 2010

And you thought you were rid of me...

I thought when I came over here that I wouldn't have access to blogger or facebook or anything like that, but my clever little brother fixed that one, for now. So here I am to say hello.


I feel like I should catch you up on the recent goings on in my life, but I also feel really lazy. So just a few thoughts.

1. Visiting the Aunt in Portland = good times had by all, except maybe my Uncle who got stuck with the kids while we went and played. Ooh, and I made my very own birthday cake. It was a barbie princess one. I turned 21 and made a barbie princess birthday cake. I have arrived.
2. After months of being lazy I started exercising with my Mom. One week later I'm pretty sure you can't find a muscle that hasn't felt abused at some point in the last week. Currently I feel like someone kicked me in the ribs, and after biking yesterday on my Dad's bike I'm not so good in the sitting department either. Oh the price of beauty... or something.
3. It's hot here. Really really really really really hot and muggy. I'm already grateful I'm serving somewhere dry. Although I still don't want to be in Phoenix for the summer.
4. Spending a day feeling ill in a country with a sketchy idea of what bathrooms are and should be leaves you feeling a little paranoid about leaving the house for anything. Squatters + Nicole = unhappiness. Squatters + sick Nicole = @#$(%&#*%#
5. My family is planning a trip to Japan in October. Part of me really wants to check with the Mission President to see if I could get a week long leave of absence. I'm sure he'll say yes... not.
6. My little brother has almost been out on his mission for 3 months. I can't believe it. I wonder if those first 3 months will seem as fast when you are the one experiencing them instead of just reading weekly e-mails.
7. I'm wearing sweats and flip flops every chance I get before going to the MTC. You have to get the important things in.