Breakfast at Judy’s

Apologies; the only pictures I took this week are me sitting at the computer with bad posture.

傳ing the 教 on Facebook.

​Leaning forward.

Since Wednesday was our combined P-day/temple day, we didn’t have much time to spare. Luckily, we discovered that there’s a second Macho Tacos in the Dongmen/Guting area neighboring the temple. We found it after a few minutes of searching on foot. Elder Azua wasn’t too enamored with the cuisine, but it’s about as close to genuine as you can find in Taiwan. Also, he spoke Spanish to the Taiwanese staff, so the food he got was completely different from what he ordered.

We went with some members at their request to hand out tracts at the Le Hua night market in our area. It’s a pretty crazy contacting environment. Imagine a noisy state fair without the rides, crammed into a narrow street and packed wall-to-wall with people. There are lots of salesmen in unusual costumes who walk on tall stilts to elevate them above the level of the thronging crowd. The people are many, but it’s difficult to get anyone to stop and listen. It’s always fun to contact with members, though, regardless of the place.

Friday was packed with lessons. Two of them were 同學s (young students), who are usually quite prone to release our pigeons, but these ones were pretty willing. Finding Iain, the second one, was quite an adventure. His apartment was hidden within a huge conglomeration of mashed-together buildings separated by tiny alleys. It was one of the most complicated apartment complexes I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless, after knocking several doors in vain, we at last found it, and he and his mom welcomed us inside.

We ate with members at Subway on Saturday.

At our area’s Subway.

​Elder Montierth is surprised at Subway.

I finally had enough time to buy some WD-40 and spray it on my bike chain and gears, which were cankered with rust. It brought a welcome cease to the squeaking.

Other mechanical successes: after several months of enduring the boiling-hot flow from our bathroom faucet, I realized that the only reason it wasn’t bringing forth cold water was that the cold-water valve at the base was closed. I opened it. We now have control over the temperature.

At last, I picked up the package my parents sent me at Christmas! It had, in fact, been whiling away in a back room at the mission office all this time. Upon opening the welcome box, however, I discovered that the Cap’n Crunch contained in a ziploc bag within had not even become stale yet. I have since poured myself several crunch-tastic bowls.

Our room has also started a tradition of going to one of our investigator’s breakfast shop to eat every Monday morning. They have pretty good fantuans and danbings, and Elders Clark and Azua can make daily contact with their investigator, Judy.

That’s about all for this week. Everything’s going pretty smoothly. If my English seems worse than usual, it’s because I have been speaking nothing but Chinese since Christmas. Also, I know enough characters now that I’ve started reading the Book of Mormon in Chinese. I want to finish all of the standard works by the time I’m done with my mission.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Cool Bean

Elder Montierth and I at the National Palace Museum.

​After much planning, we arranged to visit the National Palace Museum as a district on Monday. Because P-day time is so limited, these outings must be coordinated precisely and carefully. Every second counts.

We hurriedly finished our emails and rushed to the MRT station. We rode the MRT to Guting, where we waited for the sisters. After several minutes passed, they arrived, and we were ready to transfer to the next leg of our journey. The train which Elder Clark had earlier mentioned pulled up to the station, and the doors opened.

At this point, indecision reared its ugly head. Was this really the train we were looking for? The sisters equivocated. Elder Clark asked an attendant, who waffled. Our precious seconds whiled away. At last, the attendant conceded that this was the right train–just as the doors-closing tone began to play! The car doors shuddered and started sliding shut.

I made a split-second, impulsive decision, and tore between the rapidly-closing doors. Elder Clark frantically leapt after me through the gap, but the closing doors caught him halfway through! With a heave of strength, he lunged free of the gates and fell flailing into the car. The doors yanked one of his shoes from his foot, and it fell and wedged in the crack between train and platform. Another split second passed, and the doors had closed completely.

We stood within the sealed train, Elder Clark with only one shoe, as our companions noiselessly gestured and mouthed words outside. Elder Montierth bent over and pulled Elder Clark’s shoe from the gates. Everyone on the train stared at us silently. I kept thinking to myself, "I’ll never see these people again." We braced ourselves for the train’s imminent departure.

Thankfully, the MRT has many safety features. The train cannot leave the station if one of the platform gates has encountered an obstruction while closing. The attendant ran up and reset the gate. An indistinct announcement played within the train, and the doors reopened. Elder Clark and I walked out. We all took the next train.

The National Palace Museum.

Elders Jensen, Clark, and Montierth on the plaza.

View from the top of the stairs.

The rest of our outing proceeded relatively without incident. The National Palace Museum was excellent. It’s the world’s largest museum of Chinese history and artifacts. Some of my favorite parts were the hundreds of intricate ivory, jade, and boxwood carvings I saw. Many were very similar to Medieval artifacts I saw at the Cloisters museum in New York City, although their style is different. There were many really cool items of furniture, calligraphy, paintings, and other artifacts. Some carvings and cast-metal items dated before 1,000 BC. It was amazing to see ancient dings inscribed with characters recognizable as Chinese. The usage and grammar patterns have completely changed since that time, but the characters are remarkably similar.

Also, I saw the cabbage, of course.

I didn’t 搬家 this transfer, and Elder Montierth is staying too. Elder Clark was assigned a new companion, though: Elder Azua. It’s great to have a new addition to our apartment.

Elder Montierth and I have been finding like mad. We need more investigators in our pool. Every week, we find many new investigators, but very few of them stick. Most immediately break contact and don’t come to the second lesson. It’s unfortunate. Nevertheless, there are always a few who continue to meet with us and progress. I heard that the average progressing Taiwanese investigator talks to missionaries on seven different occasions before agreeing to meet. At the very least, then, we’re preparing these people for future conversion.

The Chinese is coming along quite smoothly as well. I’m about 1/2-way through learning how to read and write the 2,530 characters used in the Book of Mormon. I can finally read from the characters instead of the pinyin in the scriptures when teaching investigators.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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地震!

On Wednesday, I felt the first earthquake of my life! I was sitting at my desk during lunch, studying characters, when I noticed the space heater by my side rocking back and forth. I wondered what could be causing it to move. It couldn’t be wind, because no windows were open in the apartment. I stood up to see if Elder Clark was touching the heater, and immediately felt the building swaying beneath my feet! I exclaimed "地震" (earthquake), and Elder Clark leapt to his feet. We were about to dive beneath the nearest door-frame when the tremor subsided.

There was another small tremor on Thursday night, but Elder Jensen was the only one who was awake and felt it.

耶穌基督復興的福音!

On Friday, I was able to put my robotics skills to good use in swapping the batteries between two wheelchairs belonging to a local church member. I forgot to bring my hex wrench set, so we borrowed one from an auto shop in the neighborhood. When I opened the battery compartment and beheld the bulky lead-acid boxes and familiar red plastic connectors, I was overcome with nostalgia.

​Eating steak at a relatively fancy joint.

Our landlord also gave us a gigantic wooden bookshelf/closet thing that weighs several hundred pounds. We hauled it into our apartment in pieces, and she had a workman come in and assemble it for us.

We were able to find a crowd of new investigators on the street this week. Everything’s going quite well in Zhonghe since Elder Montierth and I have reclaimed our one-to-one responsibility for the area. The one exception is Sundays, when Elder Jensen has to go to church in Xinban and Elder Clark in Shuanghe. On Saturday night, we ride the MRT to Guting and foist Elder Jensen off on some other elders from his zone. Elder Clark goes on splits with a member of his ward to attend church, and we ride back to Guting and finish the exchange on Sunday night. The process involves a lot of frantic bicycling through the chaos of Taipei traffic. Thankfully, I go forth armed with my front and rear lights and 反光帶 (light-reflecting belt/harness) to protect me from death.

Perfunctorily,
Elder Elliott

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Crames

Downtown Yonghe, a decent street-finding location.

New arrangements have emerged: Elder Jensen has come from Xinban to act as a temporary companion for Elder Clark. This Elder Jensen was in the MTC at the same time as me, but he wasn’t in my district–that’s a different Elder Jensen.

What this essentially means is that I’m no longer in a wacky tripanionship, at least for the time being. We’re still apartment-mates with Elders Clark and Jensen, but Elder Montierth and I can devote our full efforts to the Shuanghe 2nd ward.

My "new" companion.

Me.

Elder Clark desires to share with you his Crames.

Aside from the sudden change of companionship alignments, this week was remarkably devoid of notable incidents. On Thursday, we went with one of our ward’s new converts–Sister Lian–to the temple in Taipei to perform baptisms for the dead. We elders were tasked with carrying out some confirmations right out of the font. At first, the workers couldn’t find a sheet with the Chinese ordinance text on it. Elder Montierth read the words in English. Everything was going smoothly.

Then, a worker ran up with an ordinance sheet–all in Chinese characters–and told me, "it’s your turn." I was nervous. The whole baptismal-font room was filled with people waiting for us, and I wasn’t confident in my ability to read the characters without bungling the ordinance. Nevertheless, I started reading–and managed to read it without stumbling. Thankfully, none of the characters were too advanced. I performed about ten confirmations. The only difficult part turned out to be the character surnames, some of which were apparently really archaic and which I had no idea how to pronounce. Thankfully, some of the native missionaries present helped me out.

Elder Montierth and I ate with the Lin family.

I also built a fantastic pocket protector from scratch. The previous commercially-produced protectors weren’t large enough to accommodate everything I wished to place within my pocket and didn’t provide adequate rain protection, so I designed my own.

Isometric side view: one protector to rule them all.

This protector is as thick as a small tome, and its main compartment provides enough storage space for my planner and a hefty stack of English class, family, and Restoration tracts. It is equipped with a plastic cover that shields the paper products within from the raging elements without. My badge is mounted to the front with double-stick tape. In addition to making it possible to grab all shirt-pocket necessities as one unit, this mounting method also allows the badge to double as a mounting clip to prevent pocket puke when the pocket is inverted.

Perspective from the other side-front. The protector has three sides for greater flexibility in accommodating loads of various sizes.

Auxiliary rear protector.
Attached to the back of the main protector is an innovative feature: a smaller, auxiliary rear protector, intended only for pens and other writing implements. This protector is actually one of the smaller, store-bought protectors.

To hold the tract-shielding flap in place, I improvised a magnetic clasp to optimize the convenience of quickly withdrawing tracts from the pocket. It is separated with a tug, and re-closes on its own after a tract is drawn forth.

The magnetic clasp.

This week marked six months since I left on my mission. It’s hard to believe how much time has elapsed. I’m doing great.

Love,

Elder Elliott

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