Drink All The Water You can Hold

At the tribal village where Yang mama lives

At the tribal village where Yang mama lives

Dear Everyone,

We are currently doing emails in a sketchy internet cafe in Hualien city because we had no idea where else to go for P-Day. I don’t get how people can spend hours and hours in these things.

This week passed by in a blur! It was so much fun. I didn’t get to take quite as  many pictures as I would have liked to because it was just so jam-packed! (At least for Yuli, that is. I hear in Taoyuan it’s so busy that they barely even have time to eat. I would like to finish my mission there and live the dream haha.)

For P-Day last week the elder’s newly baptized convert, 陳致達 took us around Taidong in his taxi! In the past when we’ve gone around Taidong, we’ll have to take the train down there first and then get a member to drive us around, but Chen zhi da was able to just take us from Yuli so it was a lot more convenient and we got to spend a lot more time looking around at stuff. Our destinations included: an abandoned Presbyterian church, an East Coast visitor’s center with a cool “interactive” art exhibit out front, a place up in the mountains from which people can do hang gliding and hot air balloons, and eating 包子 in 成功 (which apparently the place we went to is one of the best places to get 包子 around). And there was a lot of driving in between. It felt like we were on a road trip!

My favorite part was probably being at the visitor’s center because they had all of these pretty murals out front. The mountains were looming above us on one side and the ocean was spread out like a blanket on the other as we sat outside and appreciated the view. The art exhibit which I mentioned before was this patchwork of netted ropes in a wooden frame, which were made for people to lie down in. We only got to spend a little bit soaking everything in before we had to continue exploring…But I got to at least imagine what it would be like to just enjoy a few hours there reading a book or drawing or talking to friends.

Me and Sister Goo on the cool rope beds outside in Taidong

Me and Sister Goo on the cool rope beds outside in Taidong

Oh yeah and how can I forget Skyping with my family that morning? It was actually pretty normal, literally no one in my family has changed. I also got to say hi to Sister Goo’s family, even though we are super different people I think all families are the same with their own sets of inside jokes, gestures and love that goes unspoken because it doesn’t have to be pointed out.

On Tuesday before English class we met with a member named Yang mama who lives in a tribal village in Ruisui. Her husband joined the church and then she did after both being Presbyterians, but her husband died a few years ago. She takes care of her disabled daughter. As we visited her it was raining and we had a great time biking through the rain. The only kind of rain I hate biking through now is the “cats and dogs” sort. Lots of the time it only kind of sprinkles or “mists” and it’s pretty manageable even though it makes my hair frizzy and my clothes damp.

When I first got to Taiwan I was super confused when it started raining as we were biking and my trainer didn’t even do anything about it. I was like “hey are we going to put on rain coats? Ponchos? What do we do? We’re getting wet!” And Sister Apsley replied “oh if you don’t get wet from rain you get wet from sweat in your rain gear…so most of the time I just don’t wear it.” And that’s one of the first times I wondered what sort of crazy mission I had gotten myself into.

The view biking to Yang mama's house

The view biking to Yang mama’s house

On Wednesday we were sitting at the town roundabout doing language study when I noticed this girl in the corner of my eye trying to take a picture of us. So we started a conversation with her and found out that she was a high school student from Hualien and had decided to come to Yuli for a day to check it out. She then posed the question “What is there to do around here?”

And that’s the story of how I found myself being a tour guide to a Taiwanese person in Taiwan for an afternoon. We took her to Le He, the tribal village really close in our area, ate lunch, and then biked out to another more remote town because I had no idea what else to do. Don’t worry, it was super productive because we were able to talk to a ton of people around as we were travelling. And we found out that this girl’s dad was a less active member of the church and so we were able to send out her referral to the Hualien sisters! What a cool miracle.

And then on Thursday we got to go to Hualien and I went on exchanges with my trainer, Sister Apsley! It was a super funny exchange. She had to go to the bathroom so we knocked on this random family’s door. At first they were pretty hesitant to talk to us but when Sister Apsley indicated she was about to have an accident they quickly let her in. Then I asked if I could come in too and the lady who answered the door was like, “well do you have to go to the bathroom?” And I said “Um….no” so she proceeded to slowly close the door on me with a cautious glare.

But anyways being with Sister Apsley was just like old times, although she said I’ve grown a lot (spiritually) since training so I guess that’s good! It was a lot less stressful to do missionary work since we were closer to the same skill level in Chinese, contacting, AND teaching. And the bathroom in the Hualien apartment didn’t smell like Binlang and rotten cabbage this time so that’s good.

We missed our train on the way home from exchanges Friday because Sister Goo and Sister Austad got stuck at 7 red lights as we were waiting for them so we didn’t get home until like 5:00 and then the elders called us to eat dinner with them and a member and then we had to go pick up the English tracts we made for Ruisui and then we had an appointment with Gao jm our investigator.

Oh and also we realized that our tickets for Taipei the next day weren’t until 12:00 and the conference started at 12:30. And we wanted to talk to people, man! The thing is that tickets up to Taipei on a Saturday morning have to be booked waaaaay in advance, but due to some magic at a 7/11 we were able to refund our tickets given to us by the mission office to get ones that put us in Taipei at 10:00 AM.

So on Saturday we got to Taipei Main Station and bought Krispy Kreme Donuts and then talked to everyone around the Mission Office/Temple/Jin Hua Chapel triforce until it was about time for the conference to start. It was a big giant party of talking to all the wonderful elders and sisters I’ve served with over the past 9 1/2 months, plus even some members who I hadn’t seen in a while.

I even got to talk to a sister who just began training in Zhubei and she was so sweet. I really was able to empathize with her on being plopped in a random Taiwanese city. It definitely conjured a lot of memories!

On the train home from Taipei

On the train home from Taipei

And then we had Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles plus some other church leaders come and speak to us and it was pretty cool. I got to sit next to Sister Barber (“the girl with the glasses that I (Anne) like”, according to Dad) and behind SISTER ARMSTRONG and it was one of the best things ever.

And then yesterday Chen Zhi Yun (our 13-year-old investigator) came to church and it was awesome because she’d fallen off the face of the planet for 3 weeks! When Sister Goo came to Yuli I predicted that they would get along really well and I was definitely not disappointed. They both love sports and only have brothers and quickly got into all this sporting jargon that I have never ever heard before, especially not in Chinese.

It’s super awesome because Chen Zhi Yun’s mom and stepfather had lost a lot of hope in her getting baptized. Most of the time she lives with her Dad who supposedly is so against the church that he lets Chen Zhi Yun go to any church she wants…except ours. We were told that if he knew that we were meeting with her when she came to visit her mom, he would never let her go. So last transfer we really just tread a thin rope.

But as we were meeting with Chen Zhi Yun, Sister Goo just straight up proposed that we go visit her dad and Chen Zhi Yun said it would be totally fine. Our Branch President thought it was a good idea too, so we are super excited about that! I know that Sister Goo was supposed to come down here to Yuli to help out Chen Zhi Yun.

Lemme just talk about how we have one of the greatest Branch Presidents of all time! He went around with us Sunday afternoon and visited lots of our investigators and we showed him where one of the less active members we’re working with lives. It was such a valuable opportunity to help him to know the people we are working with and it was inspiring to see how much he cared about them!

So all in all it was an awesome week. Gao jm didn’t come to church but we found out on Sunday night it’s because she’s super nervous about meeting new people and going outside of her comfort zone. So now that we’ve got that cleared up we are going to meet her at her house on Sunday and walk with her to church for her first time. I’m sure she’s gonna love it

The title of my email is “Drink All the Water You Can Hold” for several reasons:

  1. As it is approaching summer our mission is going to start preaching to us about drinking literally gallons and gallons of water a day

and

  1. I truly, truly know that when we do our best and have fun and work hard on our missions, God provides us with so many blessings and learning experiences that we can barely keep it all in. It was so interesting to talk to people I haven’t seen for 2 months and longer at the mission conference. The whole time I was just thinking of stuff I’ve learned in the past nearly 10 months and I am SO excited to just keep on learning! I love being a student!

Love you all!

Sister Anne Watson

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