Snails

A sunny day outside.

Some of this week’s interesting experiences included:

I. Weeding

"Pulling weeds" has different connotations in Taiwan than in the U.S. In Taiwan, when one is enlisted to help pull weeds, one must don heavy gloves, long protective clothing, and bring an ax, machete, or other large cutting implement. We missionaries are very willing to serve, but nothing can strike fear into the heart of a Taiwanese missionary like the phrase "pull weeds."

On Tuesday, our Taidong districts banded together to help a local widow tidy her property by "pulling weeds." Before long, I found myself crawling through six-foot deep vegetation overrun with spiders and cockroaches, hacking at the pernicious sapling-size sprouts with a great serrated blade. We were all wearing our short-sleeved exercise shirts. The widow was furious at us for not bringing proper clothing, even though nobody had told us what to wear!

"Those short sleeves won’t protect you against snakes," she shouted.

I had my doubts about whether the sleeves would make any difference. Nevertheless, I was very quick to heed her advice and continuously beat at the foliage in front of me with a stick to drive any snakes away. After cutting through the dense and woody "weeds," which grew in tight clusters thicker than a man’s thigh, we used a hoe to dig up the deep roots. In three hours, we managed to carve a path most of the way through the thickets. Throughout the process, we spotted several huge scorpion-shaped spiders the size of my hand, which ran very quickly and wriggled into cracks between rocks. The widow said that their bites would kill a man, but I’m pretty sure they are actually harmless.

II. Failed snail experiment

During the weeding process, we also ran into many more benign invertebrates, including many of Taiwan’s giant snails. My companion and I both enjoy eating snails, so he picked up all of the snails we ran across and detained them in a handy wire snail cage. By the end of the day, we collected a good harvest of the hard-shelled specimens.

In order for the snails to taste good, you can’t kill them immediately, or the varied contents of their guts will taint their flavor. Instead, you must feed them a specific diet of greens for a week while they are captive.

We put the cage out on the apartment balcony. I had planned to call one of our members, Brother Zhou, and ask him what to feed the snails, but I couldn’t get in touch with him. In the meantime, we decided to just put a bunch of grass in the cage to keep the snails alive. Unfortunately, when we checked on the snails the next day, they were all dead. The chewy delicacy was withheld from us this time.

III. Eating 1000-year-old eggs

I ate two of them this week. When I ate the first one, someone purchased it for me, and I was expecting it to be really gross. To my surprise, it wasn’t. They actually taste good, despite their repellent appearance. The white is like jello, and the soft dark green yolk tastes like regular egg yolk with a very slight hint of sulfur. Accompanied by soy sauce and tofu, they are very much tolerable. I actually bought the second one for myself at a later occasion.

IV. Visiting the hospital

I spent a lot of time in the hospital this week. Don’t worry, it wasn’t in conjunction with the eggs.

My companion and I were able to give several priesthood blessings to some of our members. One of our branch’s investigators got in a motorcycle accident, so we visited him in the hospital. Then, I had the opportunity to go on exchanges with our zone leaders, and we taught one of their investigators currently in the hospital. The next day, one of the sisters in our district had to go to the hospital for back pain, and I had to accompany them to translate the medical history form, which is all in Chinese. So, I became very familiar with the interior of our neighborhood McKay Memorial Hospital.

Recently, Elder Stephens and I have been doing our best to involve members in our work. We hope that, by doing so, we can increase the number of investigators who progress and accept baptism. So far, we’ve seen a lot of success. Bringing members with us to do missionary work is great because it gives them an idea of what the work is actually like. It gives them enthusiasm and a desire to participate.

It’s hard to believe that I have already been training Elder Stephens for seven weeks. Time goes by faster and faster!

Recently, I’ve been focusing my language study on memorizing the 3,000 most commonly-used characters in publicized Chinese works, simplified as well as traditional. I have also been reading the Chinese New Testament every day. I finished Luke this morning!

It’s been a great week. That’s about all for now!

Elder Stephens forging ahead through the rugged Taiwanese backcountry to preach the gospel.


Love,
Elder Elliott

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