Bad Food, Good Food, and Hump Day

Wednesday, August 6: my first truly awful meal at the MTC. It looked like a normal dinner at first–a deep-fried piece of unrecognizable meat with mashed potatoes and microwaved green beans, all inundated in lukewarm gravy. As soon as my fork hit the meat, though, I knew something was wrong. The crusty slab was as hard as a block of wood. I dashed my knife against its surface, and at last the crust shattered. Rock-hard greasy fragments rained down on the table. Within the crust, the dry meat had shrunk to a fraction of its former size. It had become a tough, dense, and fibrous mass, clinging tightly to the inside of its shell; only by hammering at it with my utensils was I able to partly dislodge it.

Needless to say, I did not partake of the leathery meat. Assuming my serving had been an outlier, I walked back and picked up another plate. To my dismay, the meat was just as bad as before. So, I ate three bowls of ice cream instead.

Aside from this memorable meal, last week was unique for several reasons. First, everyone in my district going to Taipei–everyone except Elder Vaughn and Sister Lew, who are going to the Sydney North mission–had our hump day between Wednesday and Thursday. We’re now more than halfway through our stay in the MTC. We’ll leave on Sept. 5, and Elder Vaughn and Sister Lew will leave on the 10th, so their hump day was on Saturday. Second, we all hit our one-month mark on Saturday. Third, an anonymous benefactor sent me three dozen doughnuts in the mail!

This confluence of factors allowed our district to have two amazing parties this week. (Party == sitting at a table and eating food).

First party: Taipei hump day. We ate one box of the doughnuts, leaving two dozen uneaten. Here, Elder Vaughn inspects the doughnuts:

One box of doughnuts lies open on the table. Sister Lew, blinded by the camera’s flash, closes her eyes momentarily.

Second party: 1 month/Sydney North hump day. Here, we stand holding a paper reading “1 month:”

Sisters Strong and Jenkins weren’t ready for this picture.

We sat at a table at the northwest corner of the MTC to enjoy our feast.

Ours was an excellent party. All of the elders and I ran out onto the grass and threw Sour Patch candies 20-30 feet into the air and attempted to catch them in our mouths. (Don’t worry, Mom; we were careful to avoid any choking danger.) We looked crazy running around in the dark with our mouths open and our heads turned skyward. It was night, after class, and the streetlights around the MTC’s perimeter cast a bluish light across the grass. I pay unusual attention to the quality of light here because it’s the only thing that ever changes.

Aside from these diversions, this week proceeded as usual. My Chinese is progressing very well; some days I speak no English at all. We’ve continued to improve our teaching skills, and we teach lessons to teachers role-playing as investigators almost every day. I read aloud from the Book of Mormon every day in pinyin and whatever characters I can recognize. In the morning, I run two miles around the carpeted indoor track and then play foursquare in the gym. Sometimes I ride the stationary bikes in the fitness center. We study in our classroom from morning until night.

I accidentally took this picture in black and white:

On Sundays, we walk around the temple for an hour. It’s a great time to relax and take pictures.

Elder Jensen feigns surprise as Elders Vaughn, Robinson, and Heaps look on:

​A humorous coincidence of perspective:

​It seems to me that everyone has gone slightly crazy after our time in the MTC. Elder Jensen plucked a giant corpulent purple flower from a tree and carried it with him for a whole day:

A few days ago, our teacher misread another one of our grammar practice sentences. The translation–“The bishop makes covenants in the baptismal font”–wasn’t that funny, but I started laughing and couldn’t stop. Everyone started laughing. I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks. It took several minutes for me to regain my composure.

Weekly selfie of me and my companion:

One recent disappointment was the failure of my pocket protector to actually protect my pocket. On Tuesday, I looked down at my pocket and saw that ink had soaked through the fabric. There was a large black splotch on the front of my shirt at the base of the pocket. Upon closer inspection, it became evident that my pen had poked a hole through the plastic protector and leaked all over.

I don’t recall anything else unusual happening this week, so I here conclude my letter. Bye!

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