Saw Ubuna

Elder Roe and I went on two companion exchanges this week. The second was in 思源 [Siyuan]. We had never switched companions with Siyuan missionaries before, because they were all sisters in the past. It was difficult to find a good way to swap companions, because the MRT route to Siyuan is very long and inefficient. It is much faster to bike over the river and along the river bank.

Elder Roe and I had an interesting time riding our bikes along the river and trying to find the appointed meeting place. We finally met beneath a gigantic concrete bridge spanning the river, and I rode with Elder Stevenson to 思源. It was a great exchange, although it was raining pretty much the whole time.

The scenic exchange locale.

Elder Roe and I had an amazing experience teaching a family who hadn’t been to church in months. I called them and set them up a week ago, but forgot to write them in my planner. When I was taking a shower that morning, I suddenly remembered the appointment, rushed out, and wrote it down.

My companion.

When we visited the family, they greeted us enthusiastically, and the mother told us, "It’s been a long time since we’ve been to church. We need to come back." We shared a message about Christ helping us to overcome challenges, and showed them a related video produced by the Church. By the end, all of them–mother, father, and three kids–were all crying. They told us about some of the medical challenges their youngest daughter had run into recently. Lastly, the father asked us to give her a blessing. It was a great experience. On Sunday, the whole family came, and the ward received them warmly.

I started reading the Old Testament in Chinese this week, after finishing the Chinese New Testament. There are many fascinating details I didn’t notice when I read the Old Testament in English. I think I might have skipped over the whole Noah-tent story.

Surprisingly, the Old Testament is relatively easy to read in Chinese, since it is written in fairly modern Chinese with hardly any archaic usage. The only difficult part is the many names, which are extremely difficult to remember and keep apart when transliterated into meaningless strings of Chinese characters.

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

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Zheng person buying footwear

During our Monday preparation time, Elder Roe and I didn’t have anything to do, so we took the MRT up to 附中 to see the 林家花園 [I think it's called the Lin Family mansion in English]. We explored the historic mansion grounds and took many photographs. It reminded me of an old garden-surrounded church my dad used to take me to in our Utah neighborhood. The aesthetic was very similar.

One of the interesting design features of the structure was its narrow, covered passageways between buildings. These were apparently constructed to make inter-building travel more comfortable during rain.

The main building was actually very small, its footprint occupying only a small fraction of the whole garden space. Most of the space was occupied by pavilions and other outdoor garden features.

Some round-leafed 荷花 outside of the main building.

The entrance to the main building.

I stand in front of an alcove, at the bottom right corner of the above photograph.

There was a pretty pond at one corner of the garden.

Standing in a circular door near the exit.

A view through the same door, from the other direction.

Our relaxing P-day provided a good contrast to the stressful schedule of the rest of our week.

Because there are now more companionships in our zone, we have to go on two exchanges per week to fit everyone in. On Tuesday, I took a bus down to 三峽, the land of unimaginably broad sidewalks and fancy faux-European apartment complexes. After eating curry at a member’s house for dinner, we rode our bikes around the modern sculptures scattered around the apartment buildings and contacted a lot of college students. The bike I was using had a nonfunctional derailleur, but it was a nice evening nonetheless.

Our English class on Wednesday was interesting. To teach our English students about adjectives and body parts, I took a page out of Dwarf Fortress’s book and created a random body-part/adjective-combination game, in which students come up with a list of adjectives and body parts which are then inserted in different order into a pre-made story. The results were pretty hilarious. Then, I taught them about the Word of Wisdom for the spiritual portion of the share, which is pretty risky for an English class. I think it’s better to let people know what we actually believe rather than reciting vague platitudes about friendship and respect, which everyone agrees with anyway.

Some of Elder Roe’s friends from a previous area came to eat dinner with us on Saturday.

On Friday, we accompanied two of our members to the temple in Taipei for their first time, including 李姐妹 [Sister Li] who we baptized not long ago. When we arrived at the temple, we found them in desperate need of people to perform baptisms. Since I could read the names printed in characters, they enlisted my help. It was a great experience. They had me in the font for a long time, probably over an hour, and my arm got really sore from pulling everyone up out of the water. Many of the names were from mainland, and were printed in simplified characters, so my study of simplified characters came in handy as well.

We rode over the bridge to Shulin on Sunday to visit some members who live in that area. We visited a cool guy who spoke mostly Taiwanese and Japanese. He told us all about his life story, and even demonstrated the stretches he uses to keep himself flexible despite being in his 90s. He was pretty hilarious, and a really nice man. After that, we rode all around around the gritty industrial district looking for some members who turned out to have moved away long ago.

That’s about it for this week!

Love,
Elder Elliott

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The clam noodle incident

On Sunday, Elder Roe and I rode the MRT a few stops over to Banqiao to attend a dinner and family activity we’d been invited to by a member. We met our investigator, Jerry, at the MRT exit, then walked for about ten minutes along the busy night streets to get to the member’s house.

Elder Roe and I went up to the 市政府 [City Government] ‘hood on P-day.

I had told one of the members before that I enjoyed cooking Taiwanese food. She told me when we arrived that I could help her finish cooking some of the last dishes! I helped mix and fry some noodles with clams and onions. When the food was finished, we set it out on the table. After saying a prayer, all of us members and missionaries started to eat. I ate a lot of the noodles, as well as several bowls of my favorite jellyfish strips with vinegar.

After dinner, everyone sat around the table and shared their favorite parts of the General Conference broadcast we had watched at church that morning. I was worried that we missionaries wouldn’t get home on time, so I had to urge the pace a little bit. About halfway through, my stomach started hurting, so I crossed my legs and curled up. After a few minutes, I could hardly stand the pain. I wanted to stay behind in the member’s home and rest, but I knew that if I did so, we wouldn’t get home on time. I wanted to set an example for the other missionaries in our zone, so I hobbled down the staircase first with Elder Roe.

By the time we reached the bottom of the stairs, I could barely walk, and I felt like throwing up. We had walked only a few steps on the street before I collapsed onto a table outside of a bakery. I couldn’t even stand up, and sweat was running down my face and body. I pulled a plastic bag I’d brought along just in case, raised it to my face, and started vomiting into it. One concerned bakery worker noticed me sprawled across the table and started talking to my companion. I could only moan, puke dribbling down my face.

My companion and I decided to go back to the member’s house and use their restroom. I crawled back up the stairs with his help, and we knocked again on their door. When the members saw how pale I was, they freaked out! They all wanted to talk to me and call a doctor, but my companion told them, "just let him go throw up in your bathroom." I swiftly hobbled over to the restroom and made thorough use of its facilities. My body efficiently purged itself of the suspect seafood, in both directions. After resting and cleaning up, I felt fine. We made the walk back to the MRT station, rode back to 海山 [Haishan], and finally returned to the apartment late that night.

Walking along a typical street in our area.

The rest of the week was good. We’ve been going on two companion exchanges per week with the other missionaries in our zone, so both of us have been running all over 板橋 [Banqiao] and 三峽 [Sanxia]. Also, because my companion’s bike still hasn’t arrived since moving day, we’ve been reduced to walking everywhere in our own area.

凃姐妹 [Sister Tu], our investigator who found her own way into the church, has been progressing excellently, and will most likely be baptized next week. She was originally going to be baptized on Saturday, but she had to leave General Conference early and missed her baptismal interview. Ida’s also doing great; she’s going to change her work schedule so she can take her day off on Sundays and come to church.

That’s about all that happened this week. It was great to hear general conference, and especially to see my dad playing the organ. I started taking my notes in English, but kept habitually dropping into Chinese. By the end, I just wrote completely in simplified Chinese, which is less laborious than traditional Chinese and takes up less notebook space than English.

I asked my companion to teach me how to solve a Rubix cube, a skill I’ve long felt lacking in. He recently bought his own Rubix cube, which is Taiwanese-made and turns very smoothly. He taught me the first and second layers, which I can solve fairly efficiently now, but we still haven’t had time to go over the third layer, which is the hardest.

Our zone training meeting also went really well. Everyone loved the video I re-formatted last week. Many of the missionaries in our zone now are very new missionaries, and they said that they felt very inspired and motivated by our training. It was a good success.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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Jedi Council tech support

A beautiful day in the 土城 ‘hood.

"Another typhoon’s coming," our ward members told us on Sunday. "It’s going to be even bigger than the last one!"

I was skeptical, given the proven tendency of Taiwanese meteorologists to exaggerate. Nevertheless, I was a little worried. On Monday morning, President Jergensen’s assistants told us to expect a regular preparation day. It was raining by the time we left our apartment.

A member had originally planned to bring us to an astronomy museum, which I was super-excited for, but it was closed because of the typhoon. We went with some church members and the other missionaries in our district to a McDonald’s in 板橋 [Banqiao], where the other missionaries ate doughnuts and chatted. I read my dictionary and bombarded Ely, my best taxi-driver friend, with hundreds of Chinese questions.

When everyone was bored, we went to a local mall to walk around and gaze at the overpriced clothing products. It was not as interesting as a museum. From the second I walked in the doors, the workers started following me suspiciously and treating me like a potential thief. It was still interesting to look at the vivid exercise shoes pinned like beetle specimens to the walls. The colors that people find stylish in clothing change constantly, and large clothing and design companies actually hire "color-ologists" to predict which colors will be in demand in the future.

By the time we left the mall, the storm wall had hit Taipei, and the winds were ferocious. I donned a plastic bag to protect my scalp from acid rain. I personally don’t believe the rain will actually cause baldness, but enough Taiwanese people have warned me to inspire caution.

Displaying my headgear at the mall.

Several minutes later, the assistants called us and told us to get everyone in the zone indoors ASAP. We rode the MRT back to our apartment, making constant phone calls to other members of our zone to ensure their safety. We stayed inside and made phone calls and organized paperwork for the rest of the night. The wind was screaming past outside, and our building shook and rocked in the gale.

On Saturday, Elder Roe and I hitched a ride in Ely’s taxi to 木柵 [Muzha]. Two of Elder Roe’s investigators were to be baptized, and President Jergensen gave Elder Roe permission to return to his previous area to baptize them. It was a cool experience. One of the two investigators was the father in a family with two toddler-age sons, and Elder Roe had baptized his wife before he left. It was great to see both adult members of the family baptized and to hear their testimonies.

We were able to attend Jedi Council [Mission Leadership Council] on Friday. The assistants told us to come early; I wondered why. When we walked into the doors, it hit me: they needed me to fix last-minute technical difficulties. It was the dreaded "incompatible video/device" snafu. They were trying to play a PowerPoint presentation on a DVD machine. I frantically exported every slide as a JPG, used a video editor to string them together with the music, exported the result as a .avi (arghh), downloaded every low-quality video converter I could, and the video finally came out grainy–but compatible. Later, I uploaded it to Dropbox so it could be emailed to everyone.

The video was basically a compilation of every missionary’s own photos from when he or she was baptized, usually at the age of eight. It was really touching to see all of the missionaries around me when they were kids.

Elder Roe and I near our apartment.

This morning at 6:30, we were walking out the door for exercise when I noticed something unusual. The inner door had closed with a click when Elder Roe shut it. When we were halfway down in the elevator, a thought suddenly nagged at me, and I hit the button to send us back up to the eighth floor.

Sure enough, the inner door–to which we have no key–had locked, shutting us outside the apartment with nothing but our exercise clothes.

We haggled with an uncooperative gatekeeper, who refused to call a locksmith on the grounds that "they haven’t opened yet." He finally let us use his phone. Elder Roe had memorized the missionary phone number of his first area. They miraculously answered, and provided us the number of the mission headquarters. Unfortunately, nobody ended up able to do anything, because even headquarters didn’t have the inner key. We ended up just wandering around on the streets in our exercise clothes until we found a locksmith who had opened shop. He ran over and coaxed the door open in a matter of seconds for $6. By the time we finally got back into our apartment, it was 9:30.

That’s about all for this week. It was a pretty crazy week. I’m looking forward to this next one!

Love,
Elder Elliott

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