Everything

This was an amazing week.

Early last Friday morning, Elder Smith and I flew in an airplane with President and Sister Jergensen down to 花蓮 [Hualian]. The clear air afforded us amazing views of 台北市 [Taipei city] and the mountain backbone of Taiwan as we flew over the Pacific off the east coast. Our propeller plane turned around over 玉里 [Yuli] and swung over a low range of jungle-carpeted mountains, then descended into the rift valley and coasted onto the runway in 花蓮 [Hualian]. The entire flight lasted 45 minutes.

Getting on the plane.

In flight.

View of Taipei from the air.

We helped President translate for the zone conference. He left to fly back to 台北 [Taipei] in the afternoon. We went out to proselyte and stayed in the apartment with the Hualian zone leaders that night. President said we could stay in Hualian for our P-day on Saturday and take a full day to explore the area. I wanted to explore Taroko Gorge. So, I talked with several local members, one of whom told us we could rent bikes at the top of the gorge, ride all the way down, and drop the bikes off at the train station.

We woke up really early the next morning and rode our bikes to the train station. We couldn’t find any buses going up that early, but a cruising taxi driver spotted us and honked his horn. We boarded his car, and he drove us up to the top of the gorge–at breakneck speed. I think he didn’t go below two times the speed limit the whole time. We whipped through tunnels and along the cliff edges so fast I could barely see the outside. We reached the top, and I located the hotel renting bicycles. We bade the driver farewell, and started riding our bikes down the empty roads.

Bridges in 天祥 [Tianxiang].

Going across the bridge.

It was the best P-day of my mission. We stopped and hiked all the hikes that were open along the way. I can’t describe how cool it was, so I’ll just show you these pictures:

This trail went through a pitch-black tunnel.

The light at the end of it.

It then loops around on a cliff above the road.

The cliff section.

Elder Smith and I wore our "White people can’t read this" shirts. Tons of people thought it was hilarious.

On a rope bridge

Bridge and narrow part of the gorge

This section of the road is super cool

Elder Smith surveys the scene

Riding through the gorge

There are many tunnels along the way. Some of them are super-long, too.

Biking along the winding road.

We explored this pedestrian bridge and tunnel.

Super-steep cliffs

We pulled over to look at the water below

This temple is really iconic.

Elder Smith near the base of the gorge

The temple

Trail goes through a tunnel

This hike went down by the super-clear water

Wading in the water

When we finished hiking Taroko gorge, it was only 1:00 PM, so we still had five hours until our train left. I decided to go to the beach. I asked someone on the road where the best beach was, and he told us it was a 20-minute bike ride up the road towards Taipei. So, we started biking, and we biked for nearly an hour, sweat dripping in the heat, until we reached the place he’d described. Unfortunately, it was only an overlook, so we rode back until we found a run-down shack by a broken wall that served as an access point to the shore.

View from the overlook.

We took off our shoes and plodded through the sand to where the waves broke on the beach. I stood on the wet sand, and the water splashed around my ankles as it slid over the shore in sheets.

We stayed there for over an hour looking over the ocean. I inspected the various rocks scattered on the dark sand: they were mostly greenish marble and streaked quartzite. I pocketed several interesting specimens.

The time came to head back. We replaced our shoes and socks and began the arduous bike ride back to Hualian City. We rode for over two hours along the side of the road. The gathering clouds suddenly burst, and rain poured down in unbelievable torrents. The road was running with water, and water sprayed up in sheets as we tore through deep puddles on our bicycles. We pedaled as fast as we could, anxious to change our clothes and make the departing train. At long last, we arrived at the Hualian elders’ apartment, took light-speed showers, changed into our shirts and ties, and rode to the train station just in time for the Taipei train. Upon sitting down inside the train car, I fell asleep almost immediately.

Other significant events this week:

The Old Testament. I prayed for weeks that the printing company wouldn’t bungle our order. 500 misprinted copies would be an absolute disaster. Tuesday morning, the doorbell rang, and the company said they were bringing in a shipment on the first floor. I ran out to the balcony, where I spotted a truck pulled up to the door and dozens of white packages being carried inside the entryway on pallets. Unable to wait, Elder Smith and I ran down to the first floor and tore one of the white paper packages open.

It was full of three-column Old Testaments. They were printed perfectly. We grabbed two of the hefty volumes, and we jumped for joy.

At long last, the three-column standard works are complete.

Packages of the Old Testament.

The ABC language study program. We printed Book A and Book B, and we unveiled the program at yesterday’s mission leadership council meeting. Elder Smith and I rehearsed many times in advance. It was a momentous occasion. The new materials were greeted with cheers and a fervor of excitement. Elder Smith and I conducted a Q&A session for an hour afterwards.

A new companion. Elder Richards will take Elder Smith’s place when I leave and Elder Smith replaces me. (It’s like electron flow in a conductor). Elder Richards has great Chinese and learns quickly, and I have great confidence in his ability to take over the office responsibilities with Elder Smith when I leave. For now, we’re in a tripanionship together.

That’s about all for this week. It was probably the most eventful week of my five transfers in the office.

Love,
Elder Elliott

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