Ye Shall Be Struck Dumb

Sunday, 2:00 AM: I woke up feeling atrocious. My throat was burning and swollen, and every breath came with effort as a rasping wheeze. I tried to say something, but my throat was so inflamed I couldn’t utter a single word. I hauled myself out of bed and stumbled around in the dark for a while. I tried to go back to sleep, but my head was filled with many voices speaking Chinese so fast I could barely pick out a few words. My mind could not rest, and my heart was pounding and my head full of pressure.

The MTC is about as close to the optimal disease-perpetuating environment as possible. Take 2,000 18-19-year-olds, cram them into an area about as big as two city blocks, have them continuously incubate in small groups and then recombine thrice daily in a crowded cafeteria serving questionable food, and you’ll have a great study group for pathogen spread. When I started getting sick on Thursday, it came as no surprise; rather, I was surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.

​Making napkin snowflakes with Elder Shurtleff on Sunday.

​More napkin snowflakes.

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​The pictures of napkin snowflakes continue.

Sunday went so badly for me it was almost funny. After getting approximately an hour of sleep, I rolled out of bed in a hazy delirium, undressed and wrapped in a towel, and followed my roommates to the showers, closing the door behind me. I forgot my soap and couldn’t go back to get it without someone taking my stall. When my roommates and I finished our showers, we realized that none of us had our keys. We were locked out of our room with nothing but our towels on. Elder Jensen called the front desk, but they said we had to come up in person to get a key.

There was no way we were going to walk across campus and through 1M (the main building, where even P-day clothing is prohibited) in what little raiment we were wearing, so we waited, soaking wet and half-naked, in the hallway for 30 minutes as everyone got ready. Thankfully, two other elders were willing to go to the front desk on our behalf and bring back the key.

Rendered almost completely mute by my illness, I slept until lunch, ate in the cafeteria, and sat agonizingly through a two-hour branch meeting. As I languished in silence, my ears became very congested and I developed a painful infection in one. The second the closing prayer ended, my companion and I dashed back to our room. I took a shower and slept for an hour. When I woke up, I felt a lot better.

Then, our zone leaders knocked on our door and warned us that bedbugs have been found in our residence hall.

So, this week was a trying one. It was probably the first hard week I’ve had at the MTC. With my voice pretty much completely gone, I can’t practice Chinese at all. I’m supposed to teach someone over Skype this evening, and I have no idea how I’m going to do it. However, I’m trying to stay positive. I saw a doctor at the clinic, and my illness is not pneumonia or strep throat, just a cold and mild bronchitis. He told me to take four 200-mg Ibuprofen every six hours, two Benadryl before bed, Sudafed every four hours, and drink at least 1-2 liters of water per day. So far, this seems to be helping. The Ibuprofen takes away most of the pain in my ear and throat. The doctor prescribed me an antibiotic for my ear as well. If I’m not significantly better in a week, I’ll see him again.

Although I faced a lot of challenges and annoyances this week–mostly on Sunday–there were still many humorous or enjoyable moments. Elders Wheeler and Robinson wanted to teach one of our “investigators” about the Ten Commandments, so they tried to get him to read them from our Chinese character bible. Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to find specific scriptures in this bible, since the pages turn right to left, the characters run vertically down the pages, the verse numbers are tiny superscripts, and the book names are all transliterated into characters we can’t read.

Thus, instead of having Brother Zhang read starting in Exodus 20:3, they accidentally told him to start in Exodus 21:1. Upon reading several verses, he seemed pretty confused, and asked them a question they didn’t understand. They hurriedly bore testimony and moved on to a different subject. So, Brother Zhang may not know the Ten Commandments, but at least now he’ll know when to let that Hebrew servant of his free.

On Saturday, Elder Wheeler got a really nice new camera. I think it’s not technically a DSLR, since it doesn’t have mirrors, but it’s still really good. In light of this new purchase, he and I decided to have a hipster photography deathmatch. Dutch angles, cheap oversaturation effects, and vignettes abounded. Despite my camera being relatively cheap, I still managed to hold my own. Here are some of my favorites, all taken by me:

Elder Heaps’ favorite cyan tie, mere minutes before it was destroyed. More on that topic later.

Elder Vaughn models his nametag and Celtic CTR ring.

​Another one of Elder Vaughn’s ring.

​Elder Wheeler with his new camera.

One last entertaining story. After the aforementioned competition, I went back to studying at my desk. I was sitting there when Elders Wheeler and Perkins, from a different district, thought it would be a good idea to break one of their old Pilot G2 pens–known as Excalibur–in half. Elder Wheeler used his heavy-duty fountain pen to brace it, and Elder Perkins pulled back hard.

Black ink sprayed everywhere. The two halves of the shattered G2 ink cartridge spun through the air, flinging Pollock-esque drips and loops all across Elder Wheeler’s white shirt and tie. Ink flew through the air and splattered all over Elder Heaps’ face and clothing. A single drop shot towards my white shirt, but was miraculously blocked by the chopsticks protruding from my shirt pocket.

Everything was cleaned up quickly, aside from Elders Heaps’ and Wheeler’s shirts and ties, which were past all hope. We all returned to quietly studying in the classroom.

Elder Vaughn finally received an Australian flag to complement our classroom.

On the whole, this week was a challenge, but I haven’t lost any motivation or hope. I’m confident that I can keep moving forward through my sickness and setbacks. I only have two more Sundays here before I leave, and I’m looking forward to that long-awaited day. In the meantime, I’ll continue to rest as much as I can and regain my health so I can actually speak again. Thank you for your love and support. Bye!

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