Bags of data

We rode our bikes to the beach on Monday. It was a long bike ride, but an interesting one; we passed through the spacious and well-kept Taidong Forest Park, which felt like wilderness compared to the rest of Taiwan. We crossed over a tall bridge above floodplain fields where workers harvesting scattered watermelons waved up at us.

The beach was quite interesting, composed of slanted and eroded strata inclined opposite to the slope of the shore. The rocks were a fascinating conglomerate of sandstone and later-deposited igneous rock, the varying hardnesses of which brought about interesting erosional patterns.

Coral pieces, some very large, abundantly littered the slanted slabs. Marine wildlife was not very plentiful, probably due to the warmth of the water, but we found many very active prickly starfish waving their arms about in the tide pools.

Exploring the coastal rocks.

Walking down to the beach.

On the beach.

Fishing, Taiwanese style.

I finished reading the Book of Mormon in Chinese characters on Tuesday! It was exhilarating to reach the very last page and at last read the “全書完” at the end. Next stop: the New Testament. I calculated that, if I want to finish reading all of the standard works by the end of my mission, I’ll have to read what amounts to six pages from the New Testament daily (accounting for the different character/page counts of different works), which is very doable.

Serving with Elder Stephens.

We found plenty of invertebrate life while weeding between the rows of yams.

One of the investigators we’ve been working a lot recently is named Brother Zeng (曾弟兄). We met him out knocking doors a week ago. He has quite a hard life: almost 80, never married, no living family, no income, and no stomach–he got stomach cancer and had his stomach surgically removed a few months ago. He lives in a bare shack, where he lives off of a meager government support check. Most of it goes to buying the medicines he spends three hours buying every day, which keep him hanging on to life. He eats one meal per day: a paltry box lunch. He’s pretty much completely deaf, and can’t afford hearing aids, so we have to shout loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear when we teach him. He came to church on Sunday, after some stressful transportation arrangements with members came through at the last second.

Eating stinky tofu.

This stinky tofu was the best I’ve had. I can’t believe I didn’t like stinky tofu when I first came to Taiwan. It’s some of my favorite food now.

Some of Saturday’s highlights involved meeting with Sister Jiang (姜姊妹), one of our branch members, and suffering twenty-six (26) mosquito bites to the same ankle within a period of about fifteen minutes. We had arranged with Sister Jiang in advance, but we couldn’t find a male adult member who could come accompany us, so we couldn’t enter her house and instead sat outside. It was dusk, so mosquitoes were many. She brought out some old fruit peels and lit them on fire, but the pesky insects, unfazed by the smoldering skins, continued their ruthless attacks against my defenseless epidermis.

On the way back from Luye.

Sister Jiang showed us a lot of her art. She grew up in Mainland China, and a lot of her education was disrupted by the Cultural Revolution, but she was still able to study fine art. When I told her how much I enjoyed art and origami, she very enthusiastically began to show us many of her pieces, including a lot of extremely detailed papercraft and all kinds of paintings and drawings. Now that her sons are in college, she has time to draw more, but she spends most of her time outside for medical reasons. Back in art school, she would spend entire days inside, intently focused on her artwork. She wouldn’t eat or drink anything because of how concentrated on the work she was. This led to the blood in her veins becoming too viscous and clogging many arteries in her brain, causing permanent brain damage. Now, she has to spend a lot of time exercising every day to maintain good circulation.

Before we left, she played “Amazing Grace” on the ocarina. It was only after a few hours that I realized exactly why my ankle was so itchy.

It’s all right, though; these wounds will also heal with time.

Elder Elliott


One thought on “Bags of data

  1. Grandpa Ballantyne says:

    David: I enjoy reading your emails. You are having interesting experiences and relate them with some humor. Love, Grandpa.

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