This has been the craziest week of my entire life. I don’t even know where to begin. Welp, I am safe in Taiwan. I am here. It’s so weird to think about. I don’t even know how to describe anything.
Right now my hair is frizzy/poofy/curly. We’re wet literally all the time. I’m still trying to figure out the whole biking-in-a-skirt thing, it’s pretty fun haha. Every time we go out on the street on our bikes I’m a little bit less scared for my life in the somewhat-crazy Taiwan traffic.
Right now I’m writing at our ward building’s family history center. We have a huge ward building, there’re like 3 wards that meet here. Today is apparently Taiwan’s independence day or something so there’s a big stake activity going on right now! I’ve been able to see lots of the missionaries from my generation (everyone I travelled to Taiwan with) here from their areas. So that’s really cool, I’ve missed them 🙂
Part 1: Finishing Up Some MTC Business
On Thursday at the MTC we had our in-field Orientation which was basically just going around the main building all day as they told us about using our planners, talking to everyone and working with members. At the end some of the MTC workers who were running the thing had a “play” they performed for us about a new missionary arriving and working with the ward mission leader/bishop/members/investigators. It was so cheesy but had my elders busting up laughing at every second. We were glad for it to be over though haha.
And then…last weekend at the MTC! Man it was great. Best of all because….GENERAL CONFERENCE!
They had us conference choir members get on the bus to head to Salt Lake as the morning session was beginning so we didn’t get to listen to it at all. It was so weird driving through Utah like no one’s business, like it was just any old bus ride and we weren’t missionaries about to sing and then head all over the world to preach the gospel.
At the conference center they fed us a quite good box lunch and we rehearsed a little bit in a theater they have there, then we headed down to our seats about 40 minutes after the morning session ended. It was unreal sitting in the choir loft. It was so cool to look out at the audience. I could see tons of people waving, flashing phone lights, that sort of thing but I gave up trying to identify individual features out of the many people I saw. I probably should have tried harder, then I would have been able to see you, Mom and Dad!
It was a really cool experience looking straight at the audience as we sang “Called to Serve” for the congregational hymn. We were showing the world that we sustain our church leaders, we believe in this great gospel and we’re ready to face a ton of adversity and challenges in bringing the happiness of our message to others. We weren’t allowed to bring note-taking materials with us up in the loft so I had the opportunity to just sit and listen to the speakers. I loved it so much, every talk was just amazing.
After conference I saw Grandma and Grandpa standing right at the very front! I could tell they were looking for me. I started waving to them and I didn’t notice, so I got all the girls around me to wave at them too haha. And they noticed! That made my literal life haha.
As we were getting back on the bus to head home Sister Patchell saw her ENTIRE FAMILY who had come up to see her and she got to hug them and I took a picture of them all together for her. What a blessing is that?
And then…of course…we were back to the MTC. It was great though, I was fine because I knew I would be leaving in just a couple days. Elder Gibson who was in my zone yelled “THEY CAN’T SEND ME BACK TO JAIL” as we were driving into the parking lot ahahha. Also by point of the mountain we saw a billboard that said “moving to Canada? We’ll sell your house!” With caricatures of Clinton and Trump. Oh man that US election sounds gnarly right now.
Saturday night the elders all went to watch the Priesthood session and we all watched the General Women’s meeting because we didn’t the week before. I LOVED every single talk. And then our district had a review afterwards and it was GREAT! Our last district devotional/talk review. It was pretty bittersweet haha. I’ll always admire my elders for their spiritual insights and maturity. They filled us sisters in on what was talked about in the Priesthood session.
Then..Sunday! Last Sunday at the MTC. Man that was pretty fun. Conference, then Conference, then departure devotional, then devotional, then we watched a recording of a talk by Elder Holland called “Open Your Mouth” that he gave at the MTC pretty recently. All the Sunday talks were amazing too. It was a lot of sitting but it was fun. BYU vocal point came for devotional so that was great! So great. So bittersweet haha.
Then on Monday we said goodbye to Sister Patchell. Man that was pretty hard, but I was so happy for her to go to Australia. The rest of the day me and Sister Rhynard were kind of just wanderin’ around to everything we needed to go to. The worst was when we were out in the hall on a classroom break. As Sister Rhynard finished getting her drink at the drinking fountain my mind was like “we can’t walk back to class, Sister Patchell is in the bathroom.” But as I stared intently at the closed door I realized she wasn’t in the bathroom because she was gone. Haha.
Our very last class at the MTC with ye lao shi was really cool! She made us put two of our random possessions in a bag and we all had to pick something out of the bag and use it to describe a gospel principle. I had to use highlighters to describe baptism, Elder Kleine’s drivers’ license to describe the atonement and Elder Woodward’s wallet to talk about General Conference. So fun.
And then after class I had Elder Balmforth give me a priesthood blessing before heading out to Taiwan early the next morning. It was such a good blessing and was just what I needed.
All in all…man the MTC was great. It was hard, but I met some life-long friends there.
Part 2: The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round
Yes….this is the journey of us travelling to Taiwan!
The good news: We didn’t die.
The bad news: by the end of our journey I was almost dead but super excited.
So we had to report to the MTC travel office at 5:20 on Tuesday morning and then we all got on a bus! The bus driver actually only dropped us off at the front runner station. The route he took to get there drove right by the Marriott center, the clock tower, campus, the dorms, the Provo City Center temple, and some other haunts I had as a BYU student. It was so weird seeing them one last time.
It was a huge pain riding on the train station to get to the airport but it was pretty fun too. There was one point where we had one minute to get all of our luggage out of the front runner to connect to Trax to get to the airport and that was pretty crazy, especially considering our huge travel group of 23. Oh man it was fun lugging all of that luggage around…NOT! As we were on Trax headed to the airport I talked so some blind people about stuff and it was cool.
In the Salt Lake Airport a nice seminary teacher lent me her phone to call my parents. And we talked to a missionary who was about to head home to Florida from the Salt Lake City central mission. That was pretty dang cool!
On the short flight to San Francisco my seat was next to Elder Woodward. It was pretty funny because when I got on the plane I saw him sitting in his window seat looking all excited to get a random person to sit next to, then I walked up and was like “welp I think this is where I’m sittin'” and he seemed a little disappointed but we still had fun. Hehe.
Our layover in San Fran was pretty short, one of the elders in our travel group, Elder Nelson, had his grandpa there who helped out getting us all to the boarding area for the flight to Taipei so that was pretty nice.
But yeah the flight to Taiwan was actually not too bad! 14 hours. I had an aisle seat which was pretty nice. To the left of me was Sister Richards at the window seat, and then in between us sat this random Elder who I had never seen before and who wasn’t in our travel group to San Fran. We found out that he was going to Taiwan with us. Apparently he had been in Sister Richards’ district the first day at the MTC and then decided to be fast-tracked, so he told us he’d spent that past 6 weeks in North Dakota waiting for his visa. So that’s the story of how a random person joined our travel group. And then across the aisle from me was none other but….Elder Woodward haha. The rest of our travel group was pretty close together but a little bit spread out throughout the plane. Basically the entire time I tried to sleep but was 100% unsuccessful because my seat and positioning was pretty uncomfortable. Lucky sister Richards got to lean against the window so she slept SO well. Me and Elder Woodward talked a lot across the aisle, we played the dot game (I won 43-29 by the way) and we also played that game where someone begins a drawing, the next person adds on to it, etc. Our drawings ended up being really hilarious and we would pass them back a few rows to Elder Anderson who would look at them and laugh haha.
Part 3: THE BIG REVEALLLLLLLL
But yeah after being super uncomfortable for 13 hours…WE GOT TO TAIWAN! I could feel the humidity just getting off the plane. It wasn’t too too bad though, the humidity just does funky stuff to my hair though so that’s not very fun. The Elders were sweating a ton and I felt super bad for them though haha.
I ran to the bathroom right after getting off the plane and…it wasn’t a squat toilet 🙂
Then we got all of our luggage and then…we met President and Sister Jergensen! Yayyyyyyy! We got all of our luggage onto one big bus and then we all got into another big bus and introduced ourselves with a microphone as we drove to Taipei/the temple/the mission home. They showed us a slide show of missionaries in the mission having fun and that was pretty cool. The assistants to the president were also there. They’re pretty cool too.
Once we got to the mission home we put all of our luggage in the basement of the mission office/jin hua church building and took out some essentials for our night in temple patron housing. It was cool, you could see the temple from the window! Very pretty.
Then we all went on the street to get food. I tasted my first cocos, it’s this popular drink place in Taiwan…they have different flavors like mango/chocolate/whatever and they all have the little jelly balls that you have to chew at the bottom of the drink. It was pretty good, I’ve had several since then, definitely something to get used to though.
Man was I so exhausted and grateful to go to bed though. Although it must have been the humidity or something because I barely slept that night. SO exhausted but couldn’t get to sleep. ARGH.
The next day we got up at like 5:00 and at 6:00 we got loaded onto a bus again to be taken to the Taiwan dedicatory site/the grand hotel as a group of new missionaries. That was seriously a cool experience! So pretty and they have us a few minutes to “dedicate” ourselves to the mission. It was so weird to ponder the experiences I would have ahead of me for the next 16 months.
Then we hung out at the mission office for a few hours taking care of resident stuff/money stuff. Oh yeah we also got to hang out at the Jergensen’s apartment/house in the mission home and they fed us 7/11 sandwiches for breakfast. In the office I got to see Elder Conover who I went to high school with! So cool.
And then… the trainer/training meeting! We also got our light vests to ride our bikes at night and they just gave us a general orientation meeting. Then all the trainers and trainees got into one room together and we ate lunch together. And then we were all assigned our trainers!
My trainer is Sister Apsley. She’s from Draper, Utah and graduated from Alta High school in ’15. She’s about halfway through with her mission. She’s really cool! We get along really well. She knows a lot of people from SoJo because her trainer was from there and because of dance. She’s really big on ballet.
Right after we got assigned our trainers we all got whisked away to our separate areas. That was kinda sad saying goodbye to all my friends I made at the MTC but I’m excited to see them and their progression through the mission.
I’m in an area called zhu bei which is on the northwest side of Taiwan. It was about an hour/two hour train ride to zhu bei from taipei. It was so weird just lugging my luggage away from the familiar/comforting silhouette of the Taipei temple to the scary unknown train station, with no one but Sister Apsley. The last familiar face I saw was Elder Olsen from my MTC district at the train station. By the time we got to our apartment it was getting pretty dark and everything was just so unfamiliar and weird.
Luckily though we have a really nice apartment! Apparently it’s the 2nd nicest one in the entire mission. No cockroaches, lots of space, and it’s just me and Sister Apsley in there! She’s told me some horror stories of cockroach-infested apartments so I’m so grateful, maybe it’s a bad thing that I’m being spoiled though.
I think it was my first night in zhu bei, we had a dinner appointment with one of the members who actually treated our entire district to hot pot. My district consists of our companionship and 3 Elder companionships. The saddest thing though is that I didn’t even get to enjoy my first hot pot and first dinner appointment in zhu bei because I literally passed out on the chair at the hot pot place. I was so exhausted and felt so sick haha. Oops. My companion woke me up at the end and was like “We’re takin’ ya home sista” and I definitely did not protest.
So yeah. The past few days have been spent figuring out how to ride a bike in a skirt and navigating the crazy traffic of Taiwan. Trying to manage my hair some how. Doing some street contacting. Handing out lots of flyers for our english class and pamphlets about the restoration. We’ve spent a lot of time at our big zhu bei chapel watching general conference.
Zhu bei is very windy and it’s kind of like an in-between city-country area. We’ve met some crazy people, some interesting old people, and other such things while doing street contacting. I’m excited to have more lessons with our investigators this week. We have a lot of investigators, I haven’t met any of them yet but I’m excited to this week!
Yesterday was very rainy! Wait. Every day is very rainy. I’m still trying to figure out the rain, apparently if you don’t get wet from the rain you get wet from sweat. So every night after we get back home we just let ourselves dry off. As we went out to go street contacting we didn’t have any rain gear but the fist lady we talked to. Gave us. Her umbrella. That was so cool! And then we talked to one girl in the park who was so wiling to pray with us and was super receptive to our message.
Last night a bunch of us also got to go to dinner at the Stake President’s house and that was cool. You could definitely feel the spirit in their home and I also do at the chapel and in our apartment. You can just feel the contrast being in the real world and then going into places where the gospel is. That’s why I’m here, to bring that same feeling of happiness and peace to those who don’t have it. It’s sad when we talk to people who obviously aren’t happy with their lives but don’t see a purpose in changing. So, in general, don’t take anything for granted, remember that every blessing/feeling of happiness in our life comes from God. 🙂
And this email is already SO SO SO long. Just know that I am having fun, I love getting to know the members/people here in Taiwan. They are so cool, so faithful! They work so hard. Plus they have lots of really cute little kids 🙂 I’m going to forego the Chinese Character of the Week because this is so long but yeah. I’m missing some people from the MTC so much but I also love being here SO much and I KNOW that everything happens for a reason! I love you all.