Lives on a playa

Eating at a member’s house during 過年 [Chinese New Year].

We met up with one of our ward members on our way to the subway station.

"This is a really great referral," I started telling him. "The other missionaries said she can’t speak Chinese, because she’s from Japan, but her English is fine."

I saw the woman waiting by the subway entrance. We waved to her, and she joined us to walk back to the chapel. I started conversing with her, and she was very prepared, a perfect investigator! She told us in fragmented English that missionaries had met with her before, but stopped teaching her after a month. Elder Ure and I taught her about the Book of Mormon and showed her the Japanese Book of Mormon we’d brought. "Yeah, I’ve seen that book," she replied. "I love the Book of Mormon, and I’ve read through 2 Nephi."

Elder Ure and I were super-excited. We shared some scriptures about baptism. "How do you feel about baptism?" She replied that she thought baptism was excellent.

Then, Elder Ure paused and thought for a second. "Have you… already been baptized?" he asked.

"Yes," she said. "I was baptized here in your chapel last year."

Needless to say, we were both a little disappointed that she wasn’t a golden investigator after all. However, it seemed like she hadn’t been to church in a while, so we invited her to come on Sunday, and she agreed. We also asked her if she had any service we could do for her. She told us that she had some "heavy luggage" she needed to move, and we readily agreed to help her move it.

On the moving day, we enlisted the help of another companionship of elders. We drove the diesel mission van, which we’ve dubbed "the beast," to the address she provided, found an exorbitantly-priced parking space, and made our way on foot to the meeting place.

She led us into a glitzy department store, and we rode several flights of escalators to the basement. She gave a slip to the service desk, and they procured the so-called "luggage:" a single tiny duffel bag.

We four elders walked back to the van feeling really dumb, me carrying the duffel bag in one hand. We drove in the night to the address she gave us and parked the car. She wasn’t answering her phone. We walked along the street until I saw building number 326, where we pushed the door open and entered. I planned on giving the bag to the security guard to keep until she arrived. I awkwardly walked past a long line of people waiting at the front desk, and held up the bag.

"Um, someone named Emily who lives here asked me to carry this bag for her, so I’d like to leave it here," I said.

The two women at the desk looked confused. "She lives here? Our clients come and go all the time," she said.

"Yeah, this is the address she gave us," I said. All the people waiting in line glared at me. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable.

Elder Ure nudged my shoulder. "We should probably step outside," he said.

We walked out the door. This time, I looked at the front of the building, which I hadn’t payed attention to before, and realized it was a brothel. We were all super-confused. We couldn’t exactly wait for her to come and take her bag, so we started walking around the block. Before long, we ran into her, and I gave her the bag with relief. We four elders walked back to the van. It was quite an odd series of events.

Besides our interesting luggage-delivery excursion, we spent a lot of time this week eating with members because of 過年 (Chinese New Year). Almost all stores were closed, and the streets were deserted because everyone goes back to their hometown to be with their extended family. We ate a variety of traditional Taiwanese foods, even more pizza and fried chicken ("the missionaries in the past said we gave them too much Taiwanese food," the members told us), and a big slab of yucky meat at the House of Pork Knuckle.

The House of Pork Knuckle.

​The food wasn’t great, but the suit of armor totally made up for it.

Also, 過年 gave me a bunch of unfettered programming time, so I was finally able to finish writing a text-based referral system that directs referrals to the proper missionary companionship. Remind me never again to write an application that deals with PDU-encoded text messages and binary file I/O, all with support for both Chinese and English. I ended up having to write a GSM modem driver and a PDU message encoder-decoder library from scratch. I’ve never done so many horrible radix conversions, bitshifts, and string operations in my life. When I finally properly implemented message concatenation, I shouted for joy. I sent a fictional referral describing a potential investigator who lives on a playa [a dry lakebed], hence the title of this email.

I also made lots of graphs in Excel. President Jergensen has given me many data-analysis tasks. In order to create the reports he envisioned, I calculated that I’ll need to create 278 Excel pages of graphs, each page having a minimum of 11 separate graphs. Oy vey!

That’s about all for this week.

新年快樂
[New Year Happy]
恭喜發財
[Congratulations and Get Rich]
大吉大利
[Big Lucky Big Profit]
吉祥如意
[Auspicious Like the Wishful]

Love,
Elder Elliott

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2 thoughts on “Lives on a playa

  1. Ilene Andersen says:

    David, I know you must be doing extraordinary computer programming for you mission president, but I didn’t understand a word of it. Me are technology are not exactly friends. Ilene Andersen

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