Hezekiah’s balloons

The mission Christmas conference was a gargantuan task. We had to coordinate transporting all 200+ missionaries from all over Taiwan to and from the locale; distributing close to half a ton of blankets, pillows, and heaters; collecting and verifying everyone’s apartment keys; and ensuring that the projector and AV equipment remained functional throughout the meeting.

The conference was held in the American Club, a high-class country-club venue where wealthy Taiwanese people come to swim, lounge around, have meetings, and pretend to be American.

The whole mission gathered in a high-class venue for our Christmas conference.

For the talent show, the assistants and I planned a special performance. I gave the starting note, and they matched my pitch. We all breathed deeply. The audience was silent.

“I’m hungry,” Elder Johnson said.

“Oh no! What do you want to eat?” Elder Huntsman asked. There was a pause.

In unison, we looked at each other and shouted, “小蘋果” [xiao pingguo, “little apple.”  Elder Xiao’s nickname, as well as the name of a popular Taiwanese song]. The 小蘋果 music suddenly blasted from the speakers. Elder Xiao, previously wrapped up head to toe in wrapping paper, burst forth, and we broke into a choreographed dance sequence. The crowd went wild!

For lunch, we were provided a sumptuous American-style Christmas buffet meal (see figure below). It was all very authentic: ham, turkey, ribs, stuffing, cheesecake, and a wide variety of other delicious and lipid-laden food products.

Christmas festivities aside, most of our week consisted of negotiating with landlords and ordering stuff online. Elder Xiao and I cruised in the monstrous van to 桃園 [Taoyuan] to cancel an old apartment contract. I was amazed by the 14-lane, three-tier freeway, an engineering marvel I’d never seen before. It is equipped with vertical screens of blue light that electronically suck toll money from your pockets when you drive through them.

Elder Xiao and I celebrate Christmas at home.

We parked the van horribly in front of the apartment, effectively blocking the whole street, until a gaggle of Taiwanese grandmas came and began shouting at us in Taiwanese. Elder Xiao made apologies, and we coaxed the lumbering beast to a more appropriate parking spot.

Since we actually made adequate preparation for ending the contract, we were able to smoothly calculate and deduct the utility costs from the deposit refund. Most renters don’t even bother to make these deductions, which give the landlord more of the renter’s money, but we always try to be as fair as possible, even when it costs us. The landlords also treat us a lot better as a result. This landlord even gave us free soy milk!

Looking at a potential new apartment with Elder Xiao. As you can tell, it’s probably too nice and expensive for missionaries.

The nighttime view from another potential apartment we inspected in 新店 [Xindian].

That’s about it for this week. The best part was being able to Skype with my family yesterday, a privilege we only get twice a year. My brother’s as tall as my mom, which freaked me out!

Love,
Elder Elliott

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