On the way down the mountain, the trail passed many sulfurous vents. Here, you can walk through the putrid clouds of geothermal steam! I was thrilled, and even felt the hot sulfur crystals with my hands. The stench of hydrogen sulfide didn’t leave our clothes for the rest of the day.
It was a lovely hike, even though the trail was paved and crowded the whole way. 陽明山 is a steep composite volcano. Its slopes are coated thickly with long grass, and the lower foothills are decorated in bunchy juniper forests almost identical to those in Utah. The air was exceptionally clear, and we could see the entirety of Taipei city from the peak. Even the Pacific ocean and the coast of Jilong were visible.
I’m not sure what it was, but Elder Ure and I quickly became the most famous people in the whole national park. The people who on the streets normally flee as soon as we greet them were awestruck when we said hello to them on the trail and wished them a happy new year. "How can they speak Chinese?" I heard several of them whispering in awe. Huh. Maybe it’s the lack of white shirts that makes the difference, or maybe the hiker demographic has never been contacted by missionaries before.
The rest of the week was pretty good as well. I finished the referral system for the mission, which allows missionaries to send a potential investigator’s information and residence area by text into a central server, and then redirects the information to the proper companionship responsible for that area. We made some laminated cards with a list of all the areas missionaries can send referrals to. Taibei is so convenient it’s ridiculous. We had to have 300 of the cards printed and laminated in two hours, so I just copied the file to a flash drive and walked around the block. Within two minutes, we found four different printing shops, and we had the cards printed and laminated in no time at all.
I also made a ton of Excel graphs, as usual. These graphs are really pretty and neatly-formatted, and they all draw out of a huge database of information I collect automatically every week from missionaries’ texted reports. I would include a picture of the fruits of my labors if the data weren’t confidential. Oh well.
Elder Ure and I were working late at the office when President Jergensen invited us upstairs to his home for dinner! He made us some waffles and scrambled eggs, and we talked with the twins. They showed me some of their C++ code for their robotics class. It was really fun, and a nice gesture.
That night, Elder Johnson crammed a huge down comforter into our washing machine. I was on the balcony when I heard an awful squealing and a burning smell, so I stopped the washing machine and opened it up to find the sodden blanket packed and twisted firmly around the central auger. I tried to extricate the blanket, but it was so heavy that Elder Ure and I both had to exert all our might to drag the sodden mass slowly from the machine’s barrel. Suddenly, the wet blanket started electrically shocking us as well! Sweat and soapy water drenched our clothes as we heaved the bedding from the arcing washer. At last, we painfully extricated the comforter, and the washing machine began to spin normally.
Another cool adventure: we started working with a member’s unbaptized sons, who we hope to help get baptized soon. They’re twelve and ten years old, and we got along perfectly. They like Minecraft, robots, and paper airplanes as well, which helps. Elder Ure and I were overjoyed to meet them, and we were even happier when the older son came to church on Sunday.
That’s about it for this week!