How are you! (Taiwanese think this is a greeting, not a question.
I feel like I just have a bunch of random stuff to write about, so I'm sorry in advance about the smorgasbord.
Elder Cox says that Taiwan could be invaded by another country at any moment, and nobody would know. I can't help but agree, because this place literally always sounds like a war zone. Fireworks are a common way to celebrate stuff, and almost daily you will hear explosions. Out of the blue, parades dedicated to certain gods will march down the streets banging various metallic instruments (which can be quite the distraction in the middle of church meetings). And there's always construction somewhere. This week it's been in front of our house. They've been using the jackhammer nonstop, and I can barely focus in my scripture study. Hopefully they will be done with their project soon.
I passed off my first language assessment this week! Elder Cox said he was very impressed with my ability. One part of the test is to teach the first lesson solo, and that lasts roughly 30-40 minutes. I was able to keep it moving, and although I feel I still have a lot to improve, I'm happy with what I was able to do. I am clearly receiving divine help. At one point in the lesson, Elder Cox cracked up because I used the wrong tone for one of the words. So instead of saying, "Christ suffered so He can take away our guilt and sadness," I said "...guilt and pumpkins." Upon further reflection, he realized that he was mistaken, and that I had actually not said pumpkins, but had said the word for Yugoslavia.
We contacted a young guy this week, and Elder Cox felt prompted to give him something out of his backpack before we left. As he shuffled through the pamphlets in his bag, he received a shock when he had a strong feeling to give him the "Law of Chastity" pamphlet, which is about how we should not have sexual relations outside of marriage. Really weird, but we'll see how this goes...
Wednesday at 6:30, there was a decent sized earthquake. We were sitting inside a Family Mart when I saw all the scooters parked outside tip over in a wave. The ground shook for about 15-20 seconds. What was really funny was that nobody even flinched. Elder Cox hardly reacted; he just leaned back a little from the glass window in case it shattered. He said he's experienced 4 larger earthquakes since he's been here (a little more than a year). I learned later that the epicenter was in Ping Dong (the south of us), and registered as a 5.5, so our location would have been about a 4.5.
In Taiwan, it's good manners to give a gift when you visit someone's home. The best gift is fruit. Certain fruit symbolize different things. Often the best fruit to give is a pineapple, because it means you wish them prosperity and more business. There are certain cases when you would not want to give a pineapple. For instance, never give one to a doctor.
I got my first haircut in Taiwan this week. Oh noes. I tried really hard to have an American looking hair style, but it sort of failed... Elder Cox said instead I had the Asian look. The stylist shaved the sides of my head really short, but left the top long, insisting that if he cut it any shorter I'd look really young. Right before we left I overheard him and another coworker bickering if it looked good or not. Not a good sign. In any rate, hair gel is now a definite MUST.
So many people call me baby-face, you have no idea. Tons of people think I'm 15 or 16. I looked in the mirror the other day, and compared that with my driver's license picture. It was a little sad. My face is definitely a little rounder. My cheeks have filled in a little bit. My diet here is not the greatest, WAY too much grease.
It appears my bad luck with bikes that I had in the US somehow smuggled itself in my suitcase to Taiwan. I've had two flats in the first 5 weeks. I just have this dreading feeling that next it's going to be something really expensive. Every month we get roughly 6000 kuai (about 190 US dollars) for food and other things, but we can't use this money towards bike repair; this comes out of our personal funds. A'ya!
Next month is No English November! Shaving daily is in the rule book, so we had to at least figure out something to do. Anybody want to join in with me? Don't worry, I'll still write my letters home in English. I figured having to go through the trouble of Google Translate on your end would be a little mean.
We are working with a 10 year old right now who will be baptized in two weeks. He's really smart, and we've had some good lessons with him. It's really been stretching me to teach to such a different audience: much more hands-on and simple. He's been having a lot of support from his uncle, who is currently the bishop for a ward in Tainan, but living with and taking care of his nephew in Lingya.
When the Book of Mormon is translated to different languages, it is truly a revelatory process. A lot of work goes behind the translation. Sometimes, because of grammar and cultural differences, these translators need a little more information to complete the translation accurately. In the case of Chinese, there was a point where the person was translating the part about Ammon and his brother Aaron. According to Chinese culture, it is respectful to call someone by their specific position in their family. There are different words for older brother and younger brother. At one point Ammon is talking to Aaron, and calls him by his title, "brother". Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say which brother is actually older and this posed a problem in the translation. The translator then went to the current Prophet and asked him what he should do. The Prophet prayed about it, and replied later that Aaron is Ammon's older brother. This little detail may seem very minor, but it's interesting to think about the revelation that is given to the Prophet on a regular basis. I know that we truly do have a living prophet that guides and directs our church, Thomas S. Monson. I'm grateful to know that if I follow his words and guidance I can come closer to the Savior and partake of the blessings that He has promised us.
I love all of you, and I hope you feel the joy that I feel when I wave at a person flagging down a bus. I just love that expression on their face.
“Cultural Center. Tons of families here! Some security guards think we are allowed here, some think otherwise... We choose the first. :)”
“A common roadway in Taiwan. Now imagine seeing about 200 scooters and 30-40 cars and buses on that segment of road all at once. That's roughly rush hour.”
“We did an activity where we draw the thing we are most thankful for. I tried to draw mom. She looks a little crazed.”