Right now, I’m in . . .

the MTC!

The exciting new scenery of my area.

Elders Jensen, Heaps, and I did our laundry on Thursday morning. Elder Heaps and I had our hair cut in the MTC barbershop. We packed up our bags. We prepared ourselves for departure. We asked the travel office when we could expect to know whether we were leaving on Friday morning or not. They told us they’d know by 2:00 PM.

Me in the foreground, with Elder Jensen in the background.

2:00 came and went, but nobody had the heart to go ask if our visas had come or if we were delayed. Elder Jensen got his hair cut at 2:30. He came back to our classroom and told us our visas hadn’t arrived. I was a little bit disappointed that I would have to wait in the MTC for an extra week or two, but I wasn’t especially surprised. I had no idea what was soon to come.

4:30 PM: I had just picked up my evening repast in the cafeteria when Elder Huntsman approached me, looking glum.

“Have you heard the bad news?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Our visas haven’t come yet.”

“Not that news,” he said. “We’re getting temporarily reassigned stateside.”

Disbelief. “You’re kidding.”

“No,” he insisted. “I’m dead serious.”

My heart carved a clean path downward through my bowels and landed with a splat on the linoleum floor.

I quickly sat down and attacked my meal. That greasy piece of fried meat didn’t have a second to think before I tore through its filmy skin with my knife and fork. I shoveled food into my mouth like pig iron into a Bessemer converter. It couldn’t be true!

Yet it was. As instructed, our district gathered at precisely 5:05 PM in the travel office. A reluctant representative then gave us the Talk: our visas hadn’t arrived yet; we would be temporarily reassigned to a stateside mission for at least one six-week transfer; we would find our temporary calls in our mailbox this week sometime around Wednesday.

I was quite distraught upon hearing this news. Some sisters I’d never met before walked into the travel office and kept making saccharine interjections during the duration of the Talk–“Oh! How exciting! It’s like getting your call all over again!”–and I was fuming the whole time. Then, I realized that they were just trying to make us feel better. My attitude wasn’t very Christlike, and I felt bad.

Weekly tongbantuan photograph.

That night, it was easy to feel discouraged. Everyone in our zone was sick by this point, and the bathrooms were full of missionaries hacking their lungs up into toilets and trash cans. Moist, racking coughs echoed up and down the hallways. I felt trapped and frustrated. I wanted to get to Taiwan right away.

With time, though, I realized how trivial these problems really are. I talked to some teachers who had friends go stateside to wait for Taiwanese visas, and they said it was a good experience for them. Our extra six weeks away from Taiwan will be brief compared to the duration of our missions. We’ll be able to teach people in more places and have a wider variety of experiences than we would otherwise. I’m trying to be optimistic.

Several events also helped me feel better about staying in the MTC for longer. First, our zone successfully slammed the cereal challenge on Saturday. The cereal challenge requires a zone to single-handedly drain one of the huge columnar cereal containers in the cafeteria by having everyone in the zone devour bowl after bowl before the cafeteria personnel refill it. In the past, we attempted to deplete the Cocoa Krispies, but our zone was sated and slowed to a standstill before we ate 2/3 of the cereal.

It was the day before Fast Sunday. Our district was the first in the cafeteria, so we had the privilege of choosing the cereal: Cocoa Roos! I deliberately went for a cereal much less dense than the Cocoa Krispies. We got off to a strong start. I brought my tray, filled up numerous bowls with the brown pellets, doused them in skim milk, and hurriedly returned to the table to ladle spoonfuls of the cereal into my mouth. Our zone attacked the tower in a frenzy. I ate seven bowls of the loathsome brown crunchies. Elder Huntsman ate ten. All down our long table, empty bowls piled up in tall stacks as every missionary dug his or her spoon into bowls overflowing with fresh and nutritious, simply delicious chocolatey goodness.

Miraculously, the column gradually sunk, centimeter by centimeter, until it reached its bottom and Elder Wheeler shook the last crumbs from the exit chute into his bowl. Everyone cheered.

Nobody could have predicted what happened next. The first tower having been emptied, we turned our attention to the unsuspecting Crisp Berry Crunch residing next to it. The level of orange, blue, green, and purple fell with unbelievable speed. At last, it too was depleted! Two adjacent towers stood majestically void of their crunchy contents. We rejoiced, for we had not only exceeded our goal, but doubled it.

A difficult photograph to get just right. After three attempts, we finally took one without people walking in front of the camera, only to find that my eyes were at least partly closed. Oh well.

That Saturday night, Elders Jensen, Vaughn, Heaps, and I studied outside, sitting on a grassy slope under some trees. We spent hours practicing our Chinese on that quiet hill, and sat there through our additional study time until well after the sun had set behind the classroom buildings to the west. I felt much better afterwards. The next day, I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting: regardless of where we are going next, I said, we are still doing the Lord’s work. I thought about how the vast majority of people in the world’s history have been much less comfortable and privileged than we are. It’s not so bad.

Elder Vaughn and Sister Fisher on our Sunday temple walk.

Since then, there’s been no more news on what is happening or when it will happen. Elder Vaughn and Sister Lew are leaving for Australia today, so Elder Heaps, Jensen, and I are now a tripanionship. We Taipei-goers have been placed on ASAP reassignment, so we’ll most likely get our temporary calls in two or three days. If all goes according to plan, we should leave by the end of next week and finally all be in Taiwan in 5-7 weeks. In complete honesty, I’m still a little bit stressed out, mostly because I don’t like the uncertainty of the situation. Nevertheless, I’m sure that whatever happens will be for our good.

Elder Vaughn feels the water of the temple fountain for the last time before leaving for Australia.

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