This week was full of many interesting happenings and events. In the States we had our presidential election. Interestingly, the US presidential election gets as much attention in Taiwan as it does in America. Most people we talked to would ask us if we liked Obama or Romney. That was a frustrating question because we are strictly not allowed to talk about political matters, and yet I very much wanted to know what was going on. Every restaurant out here was playing debate replays, and analyzing the election results. It's almost as if the Taiwanese are more involved in our elections than we are.
One day I contacted this guy who I figured was some sort of doctor. He was in an off-white lab coat, and wearing gloves. He seemed very concerned about being sanitary. I told him a little about our church, and he seemed a little unsettled as I talked to him. When the light turned green he waved to me and drove away. After a few minutes, my companion pulled up next to me and asked, "Hey, how did talking to that Monk go?"
Something that's really confusing about Chinese culture in general is that most people will not change their family names when they get married. It can get really confusing at church, trying to remember that Sister Wu is in actuality married to Brother Li, and not married to this other Brother Wu. You often have to ask people if they're married too because wedding rings are not really a part of the culture at all.
One of the biggest problems we face with the culture is the power that parents have over their children. Typically, people live with their parents until they are married, rich, or until the parents die. Parents tell their sons to not get married until they are rich and can provide a very comfortable lifestyle for their wife. Daughters are told only to marry rich men. Thus, people date a lot, but only tend to get married around 40 or 50 years old. This is a long time that these people are staying home with their parents. This causes us to run into a problem we call "Family fandui", or conflict within the family. Often is the case when a 40-year-old investigator we have tells us that he cannot join the church because his parents say he isn't allowed to. It's cool that these guys really respect their parents but it can really slow down the work.
If you were to walk down a road in Taiwan, you would see a lot of red splatter stains on the ground. This comes from something called "Beetle Nut", a particularly nasty drug that's super mainstream here. They're nuts that have been scooped out and filled with a class 3 narcotic, along with red chalk. The outside of the nut is coated with opium. When people eat it, the nut shell cuts up the gums in the mouth and the drugs can then go straight into the bloodstream. The red chalk causes people's teeth to look a deep red, and it's just plain gross. "Beetle Nut" stands are at almost every street corner, and they are decked out with flashing LED's. It's really sad to see people using it. I'm so grateful for the gospel and how it has helped me stay away from harmful substances like this, as well as tobacco and alcohol. I'm thankful for my body, this wonderful gift God has given me, and I will always treat it with the sacred respect it deserves.
Last week Elder Cox called me out on an attitude change I had. I was getting all snappy and nit-picky, pointing out in a passive-aggressive way the things he was doing wrong. We had a good open talk about it, and I was able to zero in on the reason I was feeling this way. I haven't been very confident in my abilities as a missionary. In fact, I felt extremely inadequate, especially in my language studies. I feel like most of the things I study don't really stick in my brain. So I'd try to compensate for this lacking on my part, tearing him down to build myself up. Really, just opening up solved the problem. I'm more happy now, even if I still haven't been seeing much progress in my studies after that point. Elder Cox is awesome, and I'm glad that he cares and wants to help me out. It takes courage to lovingly reprove someone for their actions. He exercises his authority as Senior Companion in a way that a true leader should.
I just want to testify that I know that this is the Lord's work. A few days ago I was getting so frustrated because I was trying to contact people at an intersection while my companion used the phone, but the lights would keep turning green before I could pull up next to them. After a good fifteen minutes I just said aloud, "Heavenly Father, I have no idea what I'm doing! Please help me be able to talk to someone." Right then, this guy pulled up right in front of me and stopped. I rode forward and started a conversation with him that lasted a good fifteen minutes. I know that God is mindful of His people, and that He will help us, as long as we do all we can to accomplish His commandments and ask Him to fill in when we are lacking. He really does love us and care about us.
I love all of you, and I hope all is well. Remember; never knock on the door four times. It's a death omen. I'd just stick with five or six.
“The best Peanut Butter on the whole dang planet. It's huge!!!”
“ShuiJiao's (boiled pot stickers), the Macaroni and Cheese of Taiwan.”
“Elder Cox and his Ukulele.”
“Rich gave me this cool gift as thanks for his baptism.”
“More mural pictures. The ‘love’ mural is amazing.”