This is just a general letter to let you all know how things are going at the MTC. From what I understand, there have been a lot of changes here recently. The infamous "Trees of Life" showers now have dividers in place so that we can shower in relative privacy. "Le bete orange" [the French grammar book used in the MTC, fondly known as "The Orange Beast"] is still exactly the same, except that it is no longer orange.
As pretty much everybody LDS knows by now, they've replaced an enourmous amount of reading material that missionaries used to use, with a single book called Preach my Gospel, which covers just about everything a missionary could ever need to know. They've also arranged our schedule so that we have a few hours of "MDT" or "Missionary Directed Time" almost every day. This is basically study time when we're allowed to choose to study in whatever manner is best for us. For instance, sometimes we go to the referral center (basically a call center) and use "Study Hall" mode, where we mostly just study, but if all of the other operators are busy, additional calls can come in to us so that we can help people get free Books of Mormon, DVDs, and have missionaries come to their houses to share our message with them.
The teachers here are great! Up to this point, I've had Brother Blackman and Brother Richardson, but starting this week Brother Blackmen will teach a different class and be replaced by Sister Moore (I think). I'm sure she'll be good, but it's hard to imagine anyone being as good as Frere Blackmen. He is so inspired, and he has some great stories, plus he's just a great teacher. He's also handsome and single and in serach of an eternal companion, so if any of you ladies are in search of a French-speaking, temple-worthy, returned missionary, bome to BYU and look him up!
It's been kind of remarkable to see what a small world it is here, Elder Crnich (pronounced "Sir niche) is practically best friends with Jared Hewlett, the crazy-haired kid that was on Brighton's cheer squad with me. After I graduated, the Hewletts moved to Kamas, where Elder Crnich lived. I also met the daughter of one of my co-workers from GE/OEC. Her name is Sister Barker, and she was a year or two behind me at Brighton. Her dad also was one of my dad's good friends in high school, went to the same mission as Liz's mom (actually remembered her [mom] from his mission), and coincidentally, he also showed up at the temple when I went there for the first time.
I have now been more than two weeks without dancing, and it's taking a serous effort to ignore the withdrawal symptoms ;)
The international students get to use email while they're here, but the rest of us have to use snail mail. It's okay; I'm getting better at finding time to write letters, and I'm rediscovering cursive . . . dunno if it's any faster though.
Also, because my companion has never been to Temple Square [he's from Australia], he and some others from our district will get to take a field trip down there this Friday, but I'll be staying here with the locals.
Well, I'd best start writing to my families now. (It's hard, because I'm already a slow writer, and I've got two families to write to each week.)
[For those of you who speak French and are concerned that James does not realize the importance of accents in the French language, let me assure you that his original letter did contain accents. However, this was typed by Liz, who was unable to figure out how to put in French accent marks. Also note that bracketed words/sentences are Liz's insterted commentary and were not in the original letter.] :)