Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten Days

As of now, I have ten more days in Macao. When we come here, we're pretty much at the mercy of the customs people as to how many days we can stay. First thirty, then twenty, then...? Some missionaries get thirty again. And again. And again. Some get seven. And then have to leave for fifty days. So last night me and two other missionaries were taken into a back room where they told us (in Mandarin, I had to translate for the two young Cantonese missionaries) that they can only ever give thirty and then twenty. They never have or can give more than that. So we had to go tell the people at immigration why we want to stay longer. Those people told us we have to leave in ten days. And probably not come back. So it's a huge pain in the "special move" that will have to happen in the middle of the transfer. They should just get us real visas and leave us for a few months. Oh well.

We run into the African Ping Pong champion everywhere, including at immigration. He was there to vouch for his friend Jimmy, who talked to me for a long time. Jimmy is from Jamaica and now lives in Tokyo with his son. He has long dreads and lots of piercings and travels around playing blues and Ragae. He has been to Utah and knows lots of Mormons. He tells me there is some heavy *poop going on in the world, like millions of dead alligators and fish in Bolivia and a comet headed for earth. He advised me to maybe start working on an ark.
But the other missionaries tell me he's just over-stayed in Macao and they see him sleeping on the street all the time. I dunno. He was nice.

Our investigators are going slowly. We have a lot of slowly progressing investigators. Elder So is having what some people call year and a half sickness, and has slowed down a lot. He has a hard time finding joy in the work. I think maybe he's just thinking about home a little too much. But you know, I think it would be terribly hard not to if you served in your own city, however large it is. I respect the natives here a lot.

The more humble I am, the better my language is. I cannot tell anyone that I learned Mandarin on my own, because each time I do I can't speak it. I would have to be a fool to keep believing it had nothing to do with humility and gratitude. Sometimes I am a fool though. Like the Nephites.

There is a new Mandarin Missionary coming! He is from Taiwan. I am pretty excited. He is actually already here, but I haven't met him. I'm all the way over here in Macao.

Sorry, I can't think of anything that is happening. I decided to try making some rye bread... I'm really tired all the time... I think my mission president might not trust me because in trainings when they ask for experiences to illustrate principles I am the only one who ever shares the kind where I didn't do it right and it didn't turn out well. Judging from what you hear the missionaries say, none of them need the training because they are already perfect, accept me. That's ok. Elder So says I'm just really honest. I guess that's true.

I love you all. This really is a lame email.

*he didn't say poop

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's my one anniversary year. I'm still not sure how that is correct Chinese grammar, but I'll trust the natives. At first I thought she was saying one week year, so she wrote the characters out, but actually week and anniversary are the same character as well. Chinese is crazy. But I love it.

To celebrate we ate Thai food. It was good, but I think that it isn't really better here than in America. When a Thai person immigrates anywhere else and opens a restaurant, it's really good. The geographic distance does not effect the quality. It seems to me. The atmosphere seems to affect it the same here and at home. If you pay a lot for an atmospheric Thai restaurant, then that's what you get and the food quality suffers. Ask my dad if you want to know good Thai places near you.

When I was in Pen 2 (international branch in Hong Kong) each Sunday a group of Indonesians came who wanted to feed us fried noodles. Every time. Super spicy. I thought that's all they ate in Indonesia. So when Abie told me the Indonesians were making dinner on Sunday I wasn't too excited. Ok, the noodles are pretty good I guess. I need to repent of ever thinking Indonesian food was boring or not yummy. It turns out it can be down right awesome. Similar to Thai food in many ways (chicken saute with peanut sauce? Lots of lemongrass? Yes please). It was some of the best food I've been given by members. Ever. In my whole life.

That's a little hard to say though, because I love dumplings so much. We bought some the other day. I could eat pork dumplings forever and ever.

And not to leave the Western style food out, on Tuesday the Senior couple made us dinner, which was good. Then I ate the desert. Carrot cake. About six months ago my companion (who was Elder So) had something he called carrot cake. It wasn't anything like what I was expecting. It wasn't sweet, or cake, and it had no cream cheese frosting. In fact it was just a white blob that they cut up and fried. Since then I've thought longingly of real carrot cake every time I saw a white blob (which happens more often than you might think). So if I thought I was happy before that cake, it was nothing compared to after. I love carrot cake.

Speaking of cake, we go running about four or five times a week. I can scarcely believe it. It seems I have gotten to the fabled place where I don't have to fight myself each morning to get up and out. I just do it. We run a mile and a half. We're going to make it two. I feel great. What the heck?

We have a potential investigator from Nigeria who sometimes comes to church and activities, but is always too busy to meet with us. The other day he came to our branch ping pong tournament. I played him second round. He beat me. I scored one point. Turns out he was the African Champion. "But that was before. Now I'm no good." Ha. I guess maybe he's right though, I did score one point after all.

Our investigators are slowly progressing. Maya, our best investigator, didn't come to church and her phone stopped working at the same time. I prayed and prayed that she would come back to church. After over a week of nothing from her, I prayed one last time that she would come to church the next day (Sunday). I knew she could, but I also decided that if she didn't I would just leave her for the next Elders who found her. Maybe we were just preparing her for later when she could be even more golden.
She came to church!
I know that this work is true and the most important thing I can be doing right now. I still have a year, which will probably go by faster than the first one did. I hope I can continue to learn and grow like I have this past year. The biggest thing I've learned is to be humble. I'm pretty bad at it, but it helps so much. Also, keep moving forward. Mistakes are what we do, so get over it and move on. I'm also bad at that.
Love you!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizza and Plastic

Today we will go to a fancy Italian restaurant because during lunch time for only 110 dollars you can order as much pizza as you can eat (order too much and they'll charge you though). It looks like it's going to be really good pizza, and the cheapest one is 110 anyway, so if we can each eat at least one full pizza, it will be worth it. I can eat at least a pizza in two and a half hours. Hopefully it will be able to tide me over for another few months of no p712.

Yesterday I kicked a fan over as I walked out of a room. It started making the DAACK DAACK DAACK of plastic blades against metal cage. Acting quickly I reached down to pick it up. In my mind (or maybe my spine, where reflexes come from), if I grabbed the cage, my fingers would be on the outside, and the blade would be on the inside. Hitting the cage, but inside it. For the most part that's what happened. But the fleshy pad of my right middle finger squeezed its little self through the bars of protection to the place where all the noise was coming from. I am now one finger print short of a full unique individual, but I think I'll get by. At least it wasn't my thumb, which I'll need if I want to go back to Hong Kong.

Did I ever tell about that? It's so much fun. After you get off the boat from Macao you have to go through customs, but since I have a Hong Kong ID card, I get to do the cool ones. First I stick my ID card into a slot. It reads it for a minute and then spits it back out. When I take my card, the first doors open and wait for me to enter. Once I'm inside, they close behind me. I then place my thumb on the little scanner thing to get it read. As long as I'm me or still have my full thumb print, the doors in front of me open, and I enter Hong Kong. I don't know what happens if I'm not me. It's probably scary.

I've gotten a lot better at ping pong here. Most Chinese people can still beat me, but I at least score some. Yesterday the senior missionary Elder asked if I'd like to play him. He's probably in his sixties and getting rather portly, so I admit I wasn't expecting the walloping I received. He owned me, man.

There is an Indonesian member here, Eni, waiting for a visa to go back to Hong Kong, so she has nothing to do really. So she, another Indonesian who has two week's holiday, and a Phillipeno who is looking for a job, spend as much time as they can finding with us. It's so crazy. Every day they ask if and when we're going finding. When we're done and have to go do other things they say "Ok, well maybe we'll just stay here and keep on finding, ok?" Of course it's ok. Please, please do it.

Now I'd like to tell a sad story about Elder Wright. When he was young, his mother made him lunch every day for school. Every day, from preschool on, pudding, fruit leather, juice, and his favorite kind of sandwich. One day, in third grade, she asked him on the way home from school, "Did you enjoy your lunch today?" "Yep! I ate it all up! It was so good!" He said. Later that day, she noticed he had left his lunch box in the car. When she picked it up to bring it inside, she found that he had not eaten his sandwich.
"McKay,why didn't you eat your sandwich? You love this kind of sandwich!" Turns out he couldn't get it out of the plastic wrap. He had been surviving on fruit leather and pudding for years. Now his mother understood why he always asked for extra fruit leather.

So she showed him exactly how she wrapped it, and said she would do it the same way everyday so that he could get it out. But the next day, he still couldn't do it. It just wouldn't come off. "Well," he thought, "I do love this sandwich, and my mom will be sad if I don't eat it."
So he did. Plastic wrap and all. Every day.
And the moral of the story is, don't be too nice. Don't just pretend there is no problem. Fix your problems.
I love you all

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mexican Food!

Today we finally went to El Mexicana. Despite being completely manned by Phillipenas, IT WAS REAL!!! It was much better than either of the places in Hong Kong. Muy Autentica. And you could feel it in the price, but I've saved up money, because my companion had none (literally. including personal) at the end of last month, so we ate cheap. And that was worth every penny.

As much as I like the "Levi's" shirt that says "koust of the tinei" and the Winnie the Pooh blanket with Pooh Bear praying the words "Now and ever, We always provide better products and service to our clients. bao ye zhi ban", my new favorite Chinese T-Shirt is, "Get Your Pig on Route 66."

Our Investigators are still good. Not too many new ones lately. Finding gets us lots of numbers, but few new investigators. One Elder put it like this (holding up a paper covered in numbers), "I've talked to everyone on this list several times and none of them would meet with us. Except this one. And she's already baptized." So finding the numbers and then calling them is important, though tiring. Not just to body, but also to mind.

Anyone know what Galangal is? I looked it up in a Chinese dictionary to just ask for it in the street market, but all it said was something about the scientific name for Ginger, so I just put Ginger in the Thai soup I made the other day. But it was delicious. Kind of like Grandma's Thai soup, but with more coconut. I also made ice cream in the freezer. The texture wasn't perfect, but it tasted good. One of the other Elders from Hong Kong in my apartment also really likes cooking, especially baking, and due to circumstances in our area, we are often on splits. Of course there isn't much time to bake most of the time, but we get to bake together sometimes. The other day we were going to bake cookies for an event, so we were looking through a recipe book. He said maybe we should make oatmeal pumpkin cookies. That sounded good to me too, so I agreed. Then he asked, "What is Oatmeal?" I explained it, after which he said, "What is Pumpkin?" It seems he was just guessing, or wanted to learn some more English.

We went to a member's house for dinner. The dad is from Canada, the mom from Macao, but she is very less active. Their daughters, 8 and 10, are both active and don't seem affected by their mother's not going to church. The mom was sick in bed when we got there, but we gave the girls a birthday card we had made for her. It's sad to see a family with a problem the doesn't make sense without an apparent solution.
But what an apartment they live in. It's quite large, and the third floor has a garden, pond, huge outdoor pool, BBQ area and indoor air conditioned play area. Brother Knowler says housing in Macao is quite cheap, and there is almost no tax to the residents. In 2006 Macao matched Las Vega in Gambling revenue. As of July this year, Macao casinos had made three times as much as Vegas. The government taxes the Casinos at 39%, and has more money than they can spend. They end up giving the Macao residents money each year.
Now for the part that really blew me away. There are 36 Casinos in Macao, and 24 of them are owned by one man. I can't even imagine how much money he has.

I've been reading 3rd Nephi recently. I know that it is true. The whole book is true. I also know the church is true and the Prophet is called of God to lead us. Thank you all for everything you do and have done for me. I love you.


Monday, August 2, 2010

S'Mores Will Be Made. I'm Excited.

We're going to a beach and making s'mores after this. Yay.

The other day Elder So said something about a painful canker. I thought to myself, "Oh, I have not had one of those in quite some time. How nice." Then I got two, huge, painful canker sores for thinking that.

Here is a very useful word I found in a dictionary.

1. a rule or regulation
2. a pair or compasses
3. to admonish
4. to plan

I'm still not sure just how to use it, but it seems quite versatile.

In district meeting the other day we played a game where one person writes a word on the white board and then their companion has two minutes to ask yes/no questions to figure out what the word is. When it was the couple missionaries' turn, Elder Chambers wrote the word 'Clock'. Ooh, good word, we all thought. That'll be tricky. Sister Chambers asked these questions: "Is it a thing?", "Is it round?", "Is it a clock?" It took a while for us to recover. Elder Chambers got 'purse' within ten questions, which would have been a lot more impressive if he'd gone first.

I don't like humidity. That being said it's been rather pleasant here. Hot, yes. But nothing near the deadly unbearable heat everyone pretends goes on during July. Everyone told me July is the hottest month of the year. Now, however people are saying this is nothing, August will be the real heat. I think it's just a mild year, because I firmly believe that it was a lot hotter than this when I first got to Hong Kong in late October. But as of now, it's ok. And it is often overcast. And rains a lot. You know in Utah when it's sunny and hot and then two minutes later you can't see across the street because of the rain, and then it's suddenly sunny again? That happens, except the two minutes of rain lasts two hours, or maybe two days. And the church floods. Luckily our investigators often cancel if it's raining too badly, so we can help at the church. Not that I like an investigator to cancel, but if someone is going to, it might as well but when the chapel is full of water.

We have a crazy investigator named Maya. Maybe I already told you about here. She is from Indonesia, but spoke a dialect, so she doesn't really understand the Indonesian Book of Mormon. However, her English is quite good, and she speaks fluent Russian, so with a copy in each language, she can understand. She also speaks fluent Cantonese, but cannot read characters. She learned Russian because she wants to go to Russia and be a rapper, which is pretty cool.
On top of her coolness, she is super powerful and wants to be baptized so much. She meets with us at least twice a week early in the morning before work. Her problem is she works on Sunday and can't get it off, but now she can probably come for Sacrament meeting at least. So she should be able to be baptized soon. It's so exciting!

The is a member here named Christina from Brazil who left home when she was fifteen because of her abusive father, and then left her uncle's home too for the same reason. She went to a bar and bought a Coca Cola, turned to a woman and asked if she could live with her. The woman said yes, and that's how she found the church. I'm not sure what a member was doing at a bar, but it's good. She has a crazy life, and her husband, a Macanese man (half Chinese half Portuguese) is in jail here for stealing money from the government (he thought he could win more and pay it back. He lost it all and escaped to Brazil where they were married. He came back ten years later, thinking it would all be blown over or something, and was put in prison), but she says he's never done anything to hurt her, just himself, and he was very honest with her before marriage, so she came here to be near him. Then she went to Portugal to meet his son, her step son, and now she is back with her step son to wait another five years for his release. All she wants to do is help the missionaries.
She is so strong.
My life is so easy.

I can't believe how soon Elder Holley (Sam) will go home. Should be like, two months. If he gets this email, I'm so sorry I haven't written much. I just don't write or send many letters. I'm sorry to everyone about that.

I love you all.