Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm in Taiwan! (Jan. 15, 2012)

Hello, everyone!

Wah! So excited to be writing to all of you! I have so much to say! I am in love with Taiwan! I am at an internet cafe right now and it's like 6:30 am, and a bunch of guys are here gaming - with their volumes up full blast. Also, each computer has a big nice comfy armchair. Awesome.

Okay, so I arrived in Taiwan at like 1 in the morning and we got to the mission home at like two or something. This was on Tuesday night. My mission is referred to as a "running mission", so we're basically required to run for our exercise time. I think part of the reason is so that we are on the streets and can talk to people when we are stopped at red lights. Our mission president's big thing is talk to EVERYONE. More on that in a moment. So the next morning, we woke up at 6:30 am and went running with our mission president and the assistants. We went to this beautiful square/mausoleum in downtown Taipei. Then that day we had tons of boring orientation and then we went on a temple tour that the temple square sisters gave us (if you are serving in downtown Taipei area, then you will take turns doing temple tours.)

That night I proselyted for the first time, and my companion was totally my MTC teacher Sister Fan's favorite investigator/convert from her mission! So fun to hang out with her. We tried to just talk to everyone we saw and we taught this one guy how to pray on the street and it was funny because I was telling him how to do it and you know how sometimes I like sway my body around and kind of rock my hips? Well, I was doing that and he totally started to imitate me, thinking that was a part of prayer. Ha, I was like, uh, you don't have to do that! Also, people in Taiwan are sooo nice and when they reject you (often), they are usually so nice about it. But, one lady we approached that night, she was dressed kind of nice and she totally started booking it away from us when we approached her - like literally running from us.

Okay, so then the next day I got my assignment and trainer! (PS, Sister Winters, my MTC comp, totally got called to go to Hua Lian, which is like beautiful, paradise, beach resort, everyone wants to go there. My mission president is always like "You'll be so lucky if you get sent to paradise!" PS, I love my mission president - he's super sweet and kind. Bad news: He doesn't look as much like Skinner (from the X-Files) as he did in his picture.) So, my trainer is Wang Yi Hui - Sister Wang. She is actually from the Taipei mission area - from a city called Taidong. She is so great and cute! She doesn't speak a lot of English, I speak even less Chinese, so sometimes we just have no clue what each other is saying. I am really happy that I have a native speaker and she is so patient and kind and encouraging and helps me so much. She is also such a great missionary - she talks to everyone and everyone loooves her! Like, everyone in the ward, especially the women and especially teenage girls just cling to her. Also, she's sooo good at having members present at lessons - I feel like we have a member present at most lessons we teach. Anyway, she's really great and I am so happy she is training me. The other night, when I got in bed (I was almost instantly asleep because I was exhausted), she was like, "I need your ears." I was like, "Huh?.. I'm 23 years old." No, I need your ears!" So I was like, "Ohhh, yeah, what 's up?" And then she said, "I love you!" Hah, so cute and sweet. Love her.

So, my area is called Zhubei, and it is about a 2 hour train ride west of Taipei. It is on the coast, but apparently the coast is really gross and dirty here. Not the beautiful, dreamy coast that Sister Winters got sent to. Our area is pretty large and we are the only two sisters here. I think there are just 4 elders in our district. I was surprised that I got sent here, just because most of the areas in my mission are in the Taipei area.

So, like I mentioned before, we are supposed to talk to EVERYONE. So, everytime we are stopped at a red light, my companion tries to talk to whoever is on a scooter next to her. (There are not very many bikes here, but a ton of scooters. Also, Taiwan seems to be a sort of richie country - I've seen tons of audis and lexus cars.) Anyway, so I try to talk to people as well when we are stopped at red lights and is seriously so awkward and usually embarrassing. I'm still going to keep trying to do it, obviously, but seriously, people can hardly tell what I am saying and I can never tell what they are saying. The other day, this guy on a scooter kept cracking up whenever I tried to talk to him. Wah! So, with that being said, I pretty much don't understand anything, but that's okay. My trainer is awesome and helping me a ton. The church has started doing this 12 week training program. So, that means I will be with Sister Wang for at least 2 transfers, and each week, we have a list of companion study and language study things we have to get done. This includes a bunch of lesson memorization things, vocab words, etc. So, each time I finish a lesson and memorize the vocab, I pass it off to the district leaders. There are like 3 phases, so as soon as I finish this first 12 week program, there are 2 more phases to pass off, I think. Sorry if this is all boring stuff, but Faj, I know you wanted to know. And, Faj, I do have that grammar book you talked about. I haven't really read it yet because I still feel overwhelmed by all the language stuff I need to do, but I have also heard good things about it and I will start trying to read it.

Sorry, this email is going to be super rambly as I try to tell you everything I am thinking about...

So, we are in charge of 2 wards, and I spoke in both on Sunday. Scary.The wards have been so nice and so welcoming. Like I said, my comp connects so well with all the members and investigators and so I was really nervous that people wouldn't like me very much since I can't say anything, but everyone has been so nice and welcoming to me and the girls in the ward always hug me when they see me and are super forgiving of me that they have to remind me of their names every time I see them. (Chinese names are the hardest ever to remember! I have started writing peoples' names in my planner with a description of who that person is so that I will be able to remember.) One ward's ward mission leader is awesome - he's like this hipster dad who spent a bunch of time in LA and he owns the cutest little bread/pastry shops here. His name is Brother Li. Last night, we were at his bread shop to have our missionary/member meeting thing, and another guy from the states who is here working is a ward mission leader and he was asking the bread guy, "Do you know how to make bear claws? I have been craving bear claws so much lately!" Brother Li: "Oh, those danishes? With almond fillings? Yes, I know how to make those." He gives us bread and treats and they are delicious.

I realized that basically all the clothing I brought are impossible to bike with. I brought some flowy skirts that fly everywhere when I bike, so one solution I came up with is to tuck my skirts into my knee high nylons. Not very attractive, but better than the alternative. And Sister Wang thinks it's funny. So glad this is a biking mission! I love biking so much.

This place is a mecca of cuteness - seriously there are just so many cute things here: cute clothes, shoes, stationary, people, little cell phone charms, food - you name it! Everything is cute. Also, the girls here are so chic and cute, with sleek black clothing and straight across bangs. Gah, promise you don't have to dress like me if you join my church.

I'm still trying to get my bearings here and meet people and figure out who all the investigators are. We (meaning, Sister Wang) have a ton of investigators - like 20! Yeah, she is a rock star.

Oh! I've eaten a ton of sick things already. Chicken feet (look like shriveled human witch hands, with fingers nails, knuckles, palms, and everything), pig meat - meaning big huge chunks of blubbery fat with a little bit of meat attached. One of the elders told me that his had some hair in it. Sick. Oh, I had hot pot the other night and I ate blood, I think, but I didn't know that's what it was. I usually let Sister Wang order for me at restaurants because I don't know what anything is. The food here is really delicious for the most part. But, Chinese new year is next week and everything shuts down for a week, so members are feeding us like every meal, so I'm sure I"ll have some good food stories to share after that.

Today we are planning on going to a traditional temple here. I am way excited. Oh, also, my apartment is totally swanky. Actually, not really, but it has three bedrooms, and we each have our own bathroom. Faj, Taiwan is a lot more civilized (gah, can't think of a better word) than China is - overall.

Also, I cannot figure out how to get pictures off my camera onto the computer. It says there are no images. I'm going to try and read my manual and see if I can figure out what the deal is because I really want to send pictures to you guys.

All right, love and miss you all lots. Thanks for everything!

Love, Natalie

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