Last selfie with this tongban. He’ll always have a special place in my heart.
At the airport.
Monday, 1:30 AM: I awoke in a hazy stupor, frantically re-packed my bags to meet the 50-lb weight limit, ran through the pitch-black night to the shuttle stop, and finally left the MTC on a rickety white bus. I boarded an airplane to San Francisco, dashed through the airport with my bags to make a last-minute connection, and flew to my final destination on a huge Airbus. When I at last stepped into the crowded airport, my head was spinning and I could barely place one foot in front of another.
The companionship of legends: no longer.
The awkward kangaroo jump: no longer.
Everything about this place is so much different than home. It’s a land of spectacular scenery, a people found nowhere else in the world, and a unique culture that often strikes outsiders as bizarre.
A new era begins.
On Thursday the 11th, I opened my temporary call to the Washington Tacoma mission. It was probably the most exciting day for me at the MTC. I was so happy to finally escape the confines of the training center. Our district held a big opening party.
Since that day, everything has been one big Gaussian blur. I’ve gone from being an MTC missionary to a real one. I could try to relate everything that has happened in the past two weeks here, but that would take hours and would be even less coherent than usual. Instead, I’ll cover some key points and interesting experiences.
Upon reaching the airport, me and my travel buddy Sister Sorenson (from the other Mandarin-speaking zone in the MTC) met President Blatter and his wife, Sister Blatter, at the baggage claim. They drove us to the Puget Sound, where I saw the Tacoma Narrows bridge in real life! Hopefully this one is more sturdily constructed than the last. We took pictures in front of the Sound. Then, President Blatter drove us to the office, where we met our new companions and learned which areas we were going to.
Left to right: Elders Walkenhorst, Teuscher, and Simmons.
Behold: my companions (all three of them!) I had the privilege of joining Elders Simmons, Teuscher (pronounced “Toosher”), and Walkenhorst to form a quadpanionship! Elders Teuscher and Simmons are the Olympia zone leaders. Our area is the Oly 2nd ward. It’s a forested, mostly suburban area encompassing two peninsulas which protrude into the head of the Puget Sound. It is very lush, especially compared to Provo.
Cooking regou. We had the opportunity to do a panel and role-play for the stake’s teacher-age young men. at Camp Nisqually.
There are a ton of hippies here, which is excellent because they’re some of the only people who will actually listen to us. Evergreen State College is in our area, and I think it’s one of the most liberal colleges in the U.S. Many of the people we talk to have been or currently are students there. They have names like Apollo and Moses, grow their own food, and wear clothing the likes of which I have never seen before. We’ve been offered marijuana a fair number of times. At one house Elder Walkenhorst knocked at, a woman came to the door stark naked except for a bikini bottom. He was quite traumatized. To make matters worse, there were several chickens pecking about in the yard. Elder Walkenhorst is terrified of chickens.
Knocking in a typical Olympia suburb. We typically split up into two companionships to knock.
Immediately after I met my companions, we went to the store to buy my food for the week. I was still dazed, and I didn’t really realize that this was all I’d have to eat for the entire week. I bought a huge bag of Cap’n Crunch, a gallon of milk, a jar of Ovaltine, and some jam.
As far as the work goes, it’s relatively slow in our area, although we’re doing everything we can to change that. The main problem is simply the low population density. This, combined with the fact that seemingly everyone is either a free-spirited hippie or a born-again Christian, means that we have few people to teach.
We knock on doors every day from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. Most people reject us politely. Some reject us impolitely. One person remotely set off his or her car alarm without even coming to the door. The ‘greeners are usually pretty cool. We happened upon a group of them sitting by their greenhouse, examining a big chunk of green rock. I recognized it as serpentine.
“Is that serpentine?” I asked them.
“We’re not sure,” one of them responded.
“I think it looks like it,” I said.
We chatted a while and talked about our religion and the Book of Mormon. They nodded along and asked some questions. One of them asked if there was any mention of “gigantic salamanders” in the Book of Mormon; I told him there weren’t, and said that he was probably thinking of the Salamander Letters. He told me that no other missionary had been able to answer that before, which makes me a little bit worried about whichever missionaries were in this area before us.