Bernice Loofah: 新年版本

A local miao in close proximity to the dongxi shop.

It’s happening: 過年 (Lunar New Year)! This week-long holiday is the most widely-celebrated holiday in Taiwan (and anywhere with a Chinese population). 過年 began last week, and the streets of Taipei became uncannily deserted like unto a ghost town. Everyone either leaves Taipei to visit their hometown or hunkers down indoors and eats with family members. All establishments with the exception of a select few close down. Even 7-11, the most pervasive store in all of Taiwan, closed for one day during 過年.

Standing at the local miao.

Due to 過年 festivities, our efforts to meet with investigators, less-actives, and new members were mostly without profit. Instead, we spent even more time than usual finding on the deserted streets. When we weren’t finding, we were eating at members’ homes. Every lunch and dinner consisted of New Year food provided by members.

過年 is hard for missionaries who are picky, because members usually serve much traditional food and will often be offended if you don’t eat it. Everyone warned me in advance of the perils of 過年 cuisine; however, I found most of it quite palatable. Granted, some meals were decidedly unusual, such as a big hunk of fatty meat with a nipple attached (!) which I ate, but most were pretty good. I’m definitely developing a taste for squid.

Elder Montierth and I were quite enthused to see this restaurant’s pet snapping turtle.

On the night of 過年 itself, we ate at the chapel. Our ward’s first counselor organized a meal for everyone who couldn’t eat with their families. As my companion and I ate, he regaled us with a plethora of United States trivia. He has memorized the area of every state in square kilometers, which he is fond to recite in both ascending and descending order, as well as many detailed facts about every U.S. national holiday.

A view of typical 過年 food. Fruit, broccoli, cabbage, oil stick sandwich things, shrimp, cow’s stomach, sausage, fish eggs, frozen sausage stuff, pig flank, turnip cakes, fried sweet sticky cakes, rice, and Coca-Cola.

Aside from eating at members’ homes, this week was quite exhausting. It is the nature of 過年 that missionaries are often forced to spend the most time of the whole year finding during the one least-profitable finding time of the year. Thus, 過年 becomes a furnace of fruitless finding affliction. At least it’s almost over.

Another unfortunate consequence of 過年 is that we lost contact with many of our investigators. We’re still working with John and a few others, but many of our less-dependable investigators practically disappeared with the advent of the new year. It’s been hard for Elder Montierth and I to retain our enthusiasm despite the challenges facing us. Nevertheless, we’ve continued to press forward, forgetting ourselves and getting to work. I’ve been praying a lot harder.

Looking the other direction.

So, that’s about all for this week. 新年快樂! (Happy New Year!)

Elder Elliott


Flattening the Bread

Elder Montierth and I found this lone astromech loitering by a grungy apartment complex.

On Monday, we made a fabulous discovery: a so-called “dongxi store” within a few minutes of our apartment! For those less familiar with Taiwanese mercantile establishments, this type of shop carries a wide variety of commonplace office and home supplies, all at bargain prices and straight from mainland-Chinese or Taiwanese manufacturers. The name “dongxi store” is a fabrication of Elder Clark; “dongxi” (東西) simply means “stuff,” but Elder Clark often uses this word to connote cheapness or unremarkable/commonplace nature.

The best part about dongxi stores is the cheap office supplies. I myself purchased some flash cards, a set of rulers and squares, and (at last) a new wallet! Until now, I had been carrying my money wrapped up in a folded piece of paper held shut by a rubber band. My new wallet, purchased for about $3 USD, features sturdy mainland denim construction, a chain which can anchor it to my belt loop to prevent it from falling out of my pocket, and a genuine Chinese leather front stamped with the words:

If you use it, money will become more & more
Because Bill Gate use it too in the USA

It is a quite excellent wallet. After all, Bill Gate use it!

Other news: Judy, one of Elder Clark and Elder Azua’s investigators, was baptized on Saturday! When I was in a tripanionship with Elders Clark and Montierth, I participated in a few of her lessons. It was great to see her get baptized! Our many morning visits to her breakfast shop paid off at last. For once, the font didn’t overflow; the water was still frigid, however. We messed around with the heaters and propane tanks for half an hour, but it appears that two of the four finicky devices simply don’t work.

Judy’s baptism.

Judy is pretty awesome. On her first day as a member, she got a calling and a temple recommend for baptisms for the dead.

Also, 過年快到了! With the fast approach of Chinese New Year, that’s about all I’ve heard from everyone I’ve called this past week. We’ve already accumulated a sizable stack of potential investigators who told us to “call them after New Year.” Little do they know that we shall follow through and, after the year has passed, once again dial their numbers.

I’ve been keeping myself really busy studying Chinese. I eat breakfast and lunch in about ten minutes and spend the rest of the time studying. I study right up until 10:20, when I begin preparations for bed. My flashcards are stacked in a double-ended queue system, which I review by day according to the Fibonacci series. If I don’t study/review enough words, the system gets backed up, so I have to move quickly. The flash-card caterpillar slowly works its way towards the right side of my desk.

As usual, we spent a lot of time finding this week. It can be very draining. With his irresistible charm, Elder Montierth can wring a street lesson out of almost anyone, but few of those we talk with on the street actually show up to the chapel two days later. I hope some of the “after 過年”-ers will actually set up. I just want our investigators to become more & more.

Happy 過年, everyone!



Bills’ Shoe: 一〇一 Edition

On P-day, we visited Taipei 101, the world’s xth tallest building (possibly 3, although I’m not sure). It’s very tall, a gargantuan construction which dwarfs the measly skyscrapers at its base on an almost humorous scale.

Upon finally reaching the building through a series of consecutive exploits involving an outdated map and poorly-labeled buses, we realized that the MRT station bearing the title “Taipei 101” was, indeed, situated at Taipei 101, furnishing a much simpler method of transportation to the skyscraper. Nevertheless, not to be deterred by our earlier over-complication of matters, we strode to the building’s base and took several pictures.

The obligatory 101 selfie.

We stand in front of the building.

Then, we entered and rode a series of escalators past floors of high-end clothing stores and into a huge sunlit atrium. From there, we each paid our fee of 500 NTD and boarded the world’s fastest elevator, which runs from the 5th to the 89th floor. It accelerated quickly but smoothly and almost soundlessly; the only sign of the dozens of passing floors was the repeated popping of my ears. We alighted on the 89th floor indoor observatory, where we gazed out upon the smoggy city expanse stretching to mountains in every direction.

It’s a tall building.

I stand in front of the window.

Mountains descend to the edges of 新北市.

Simplified art-deco ornamentation reminiscent of the Chrysler building.

At the center of the top floors hung suspended like a wasp’s nest the huge golden mass damper, resting atop a ring of massive oil-filled pistons and anchored by thick cables from above.

The mass damper.

A better view of the piston assemblage below.

Leave it to Taiwan to personify a several-hundred-ton product of engineering as a cartoon character with a high-pitched voice.

These shrill caricatures, attributed as possessing personalities and even blood types, were annoyingly omnipresent throughout the structure.

There was also an outdoor viewpoint on the 91st floor.

A physical representation of the aforementioned “damper baby.”

Although our investigator pool has been much larger as of late, we nevertheless devoted much of the week’s proselyting time to finding new people willing to listen to the word of God. On Wednesday, we met with an aged Catholic man whom Elder Gibson and I met previously. Now, as then, he soliloquized at length about the time when he underwent prostate surgery and, while his arms were bound on a gurney, inhaled the cotton swab between his teeth and started choking. With no ability to produce a voice, breathe, or move his hands, he said a prayer in his heart. He then proceeded to use his foot to loose the bonds of one hand and pulled the cotton from his throat with his hand. Cool story. We’ve been fasting and praying for our other investigators to keep progressing.

Saturday and Sunday were frigid. It has been drizzling almost unceasingly for weeks, and the humidity of the air makes the cold more pronounced than in arid regions. On the bright side, we ate pizza on Saturday. With the exception of Hawaiian, all of the flavors were Taiwanese, including everyone’s favorite: shrimp balls with mayonnaise, mushrooms, and assorted seafood.

Elders Clark, Montierth, and I are laboring to teach Elder Azua physics, which is pretty fun. We’ve taught some basic gravitation and special relativity, although we didn’t go very much in-depth into Newtonian mechanics at all.

Elder Elliott


Pin the ‘Stache on the Taft

On P-day, we went to Cozy Burger in 台北市. I ingested a peanut-butter and banana bacon cheeseburger. Behold:


The item itself.

Elders Clark and Azua, seated at the establishment.

Me and Elder Montierth.

After going to the mission office to pick up some supplies, we decided to go to the Taibei Main station to look for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which were rumored to have been found in the vicinity. We had no idea where the store was located, but we set out to find it. Only when we reached the station did we realize that there were three different malls attached, all connected by a very complex underground concourse. Our time was quickly running out, so we chose what we deemed to be the most probable choice and began the search.

A huge central atrium, where we searched in vain for the crispy torus outlet.

The roof is really high.

No doughnut shop was to be found, even on the index of establishments posted on the walls. Finally, after spending minutes searching with no success, Elder Montierth and I gave up decided to scram in order to make it back to our area before 6:00. We rushed back to the station and boarded the next train. Elders Clark and Azua kept running around looking for the place. We assumed their quest was hopeless.

That night, Elders Clark and Azua walked into our apartment, each carrying a box full of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Oh well–I suppose it’s better for my health this way anyway.

On Wednesday morning, a building caught on fire right next to the track where we run laps in the morning. Much smoke billowed into the air. A few fire trucks rushed to the scene, and the fire was quelled within about thirty minutes.

One thing I like about our neighborhood is that it’s always under construction. There are gigantic cranes, trucks, and other machines everywhere. Construction safety doesn’t seem to be as stringent here as in America; we often see people clinging to giant reebar constructions dangling from cranes as they arc-weld things together. It’s also cool to see them using cranes and gigantic iron buckets to dredge up water from underground tunnels.

This week, our investigators have also been doing pretty well. We’ve also found a few quite excellent new investigators, including a 林弟兄 (Brother Lin) and a 曾姐妹 (Sister Zeng) who both met with us after we called and set up with them. They are both very humble and willing. We hope they will continue to progress and come to church. 來教會聚會吧!

As for now, I conclude my record. The journey will continue upon my return.


Elder Elliott