Variety pack

This week was reminiscent of a stroll through Judaean hill country, rife with ups and downs. (I would have compared it to a certain speedy amusement park ride, but that would be cliche). Elder Jensen called it his “best worst week;” I’ll just call it my best.

Monday was a decent day. For those wondering how that teaching appointment went, (the one I lost my voice right before) it actually went fairly well. Elder Heaps gave me a blessing beforehand, and I regained my (very hoarse) voice for the duration of the lesson. We Skyped in Chinese with a 17-year-old kid in Taiwan. We connected well, since he was interested in computers and design like me, and he asked if he would get to talk with us next week as well.

Elders Wheeler’s and Robinson’s didn’t go as well. They Skyped with a different Taiwanese member who burst into laughter when he heard them talking and couldn’t stop for the remainder of the lesson. They were both trying not to laugh so hard that tears started rolling down their cheeks. Elder Robinson’s face turned bright red.

Almost a week later, Elder Cook, a recently departed Taichung elder, sent them an email saying that he met that same member in Taiwan and saw that he had a screenshot of Elders Wheeler and Robinson set as his phone background. It seems that they left quite an impact.

Same place; different perspectives.

​Our uniquely aesthetic residence hallway.

​The MTC restrooms are a scenic locale you won’t want to miss.

My Tuesday journal entry title reads: “Difficulties: I am having them.” It was a difficult day, mostly because I had to sit through two meetings with my cough and sore throat. The extra-dry cooled air in the assembly hall transformed my sinuses into a windswept desert. I had to cough really badly, but didn’t want to interrupt. So, I sat there with my eyes watering, heaving back and forth silently and doing everything short of falling on the ground and rolling around foaming at the mouth. I did that for the first two-hour meeting and the second one-hour meeting.

Wednesday was when the week suddenly became excellent. I rested a lot, regained my voice, taught some good lessons, and our zone got a new Taipei district! The new missionaries really cheered me up. Thursday was good as well. I recovered almost completely.

Friday morning: Elders Jensen and Vaughn run up to us hopping with excitement. Rumor has it that our travel plans have arrived! We sprint to the mailbox, I open it, and sure enough:??????????

Never has a piece of paper with so little information on it made me so excited. When we brought them to Elders Robinson and Wheeler, they jumped in the air and whooped, drawing angry glances from a group of missionaries studying nearby. The other districts soon followed suit, and everyone’s spirits were soaring.

(Sister Fisher not present in this picture, but she received hers too.)

So happy that the right side of my face forgot to smile.

We mill about, viewing our travel plans.

In this moment, our whole zone was euphoric.

Nothing could put a damper on our spirits more than what happened next. One of the administrators in our building told us that our visas were delayed and that our plans would be cancelled. He said we would leave the 12th at the earliest. We were devastated! Elder Huntsman swung his fist into the cinderblock wall.

Elders Jensen, Vaughn, Heaps, and I ran straight to the travel office. They bemusedly told us to completely disregard the administrator and trust only information coming directly from them. They told us that we didn’t have our visas yet, but that they weren’t expecting any problems and that we should still get them on time. We walked back exuberantly, and sure enough, this certain man ate his words. Then, he told us that he had just received an email saying that our visas had just barely arrived!

We high-fived and ran to the travel office to make sure–and they told us, once again, that absolutely nothing had happened. They were exasperated about the situation and asked us who this imaginative individual might be. I’m not going to trust anything out of his mouth again. Bottom line, though: we have seen our travel plans, we know we have, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise.

Eating a bunch of food. I received a watermelon and a variety of other fruits in the mail.

​Still-life featuring my new all-Chinese nametags. (By the way, I’m Li Zhanglao: 利長老)

​Still-life featuring other articles found on my mini-desk.

The hilarity of teaching Chinese lessons continued this week. My companion and I had our first Chinese Bible slip-up, asking one of our “investigators” to read John 4:5-8 instead of 3:5-8. “(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)” We didn’t even realize it was incorrect when he read it in Chinese, so we spent a long time trying to explain how what he’d just read related to baptism. Needless to say, he was quite confused.

In their lesson with the same investigator, Elders Wheeler and Robinson tried to teach the Word of Wisdom, but when the investigator asked which foods he could eat according to the Word of Wisdom, the only things they knew how to say were “meat” and “cucumbers.”

It rained heavily on Saturday morning. The sky was especially dark, and water streamed and splashed from the gutters and ran in sheets across the slick sidewalks. After the storm, the morning light revealed many woodchips scattered across the walkways and roads. Dirt lay thinly in miniature deltas where the rain had run from the flowerbeds onto the concrete. It was a good morning, and I felt great.

During dinner that day, Elder Wheeler slurped down 10 cups of the MTC’s blue jello, a vile substance with some resemblance to gelatinous drain cleaner. Suddenly, he rose to his feet and strode purposefully to the restroom. No sooner had he barreled in the door than a fluorescent-blue flood burst forth from his lips, barely making the trashcan–and an unfortunate and very confused elder who happened to be standing in the way.

The MTC has the best generic-brand cereal around. The Tootie Fruities are far superior to the Marshmallow Mateys, though.


Myself in typical P-day garb. Note that my parents sent me a higher-quality pocket protector.

Sunday meals are the worst. I felt really sick after eating this. I should have just stuck to the cereal.

On Sunday, our new district leader was assigned: Elder Jensen. After my three weeks, the burden of twice-daily mail delivery was lifted from my shoulders. It is hard to believe that we have only eleven more days in the MTC. Eleven more rings of Elder Heaps’ despicable alarm clock await, eleven more bowls of Tootie Fruities and Marshmallow Mateys, eleven hurried morning walks under the MTC’s ever-present walkway canopies. In eleven days, we’ll see the world again.

Last night, we six 25A elders took the long way back to our residence. In the drizzle, we walked along the road that traverses the MTC’s perimeter. We walked on the rainy asphalt and glimpsed the outside world: the lighted front of a supermarket, glowing in the wet darkness. Then, it passed behind trees and disappeared.


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