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.