Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 14

Nǐ hǎo wǒ de jiārén!
Great to find a diner that at least tries to be “American” : )  Actually good fries and burgers.

Great Diner
 We have a bunch of people committed for the middle of October, and its getting pretty close so please pray that they will make it.

I got a letter from you guys - yea! We actually had to go up to Taipei as we had some training sessions so I figured I'd just pick it up there as they always forget us in Taidong. Well as it turns out the mission office had just sent our mail down the day before and as I got to Taipei so all my mail got to Taidong when I was in the North - still waiting on your package.

No zone conference this past week, but it’s coming up this week, so be prepared for pday to get switched around.

Muggers : )
The other day when we went to an investigators house we got mobbed by Taiwanese kids. It wasn’t all too fun because I wasn’t sure how much they were playing around or seriously trying to mug us…It was all in good fun though and they kinda jacked our cameras for a bit so I’m sending the picture they tried to take (not too good).  My companion had already gone in, and as I was still trying to get my bike to not fall over (kickstand is horrendous) and I ended up having kids on each limb pulling me down.  As I want to be an obedient missionary I tried telling them that they can't climb on me, but they just thought it was part of the game, so they started trying to rip me apart even more. Finally my companion realized I was gone, and came out of the house and saw me struggling and almost died laughing - finally they let go.
My "typical" lunch

Hope all is well back home and that you all have an amazing week! Enjoy the fall!

Love Elder Dickson

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 13

Very, very sad to hear about Poppy, wish I could be there with you guys.    I have had only one active grandfather my whole life and if he is how a grandfather is supposed to be I have an awesome role-model.  I’m sure he is standing over me and helping me do a better job here.  Please let Grammy know that she will be in my prayers every day.
Typhoon didn’t do any lasting harm.  We got the order from President Day to stay inside all day, so that was fun – not! We got a lot done though because of that down time we got caught up on all our record keeping.  Because of the weather lock-down I have had peanut butter sandwiches for the past like 6 meals, but least we had food.

Our conference was zone-wide which was like 16 people, but that was supposed to be Friday when the typhoon started, so it was canceled and moved, so because of that, my next couple of p-days might get messed up, please don’t freak out if I don’t email on my normal day it’s still coming, and I’m still alive.

I guess the investigators are being frustrated by Satan, we keep meeting great people but they keep standing us up or canceling.  We have lots of baptism dates that we just had to push back because none of them are ready. Honestly probably the hardest week since I've been on my mission.

I've been out here long enough where people expect me to know what I'm doing, but I still really don’t add to our efforts. I really don’t like riding bikes, one place Zhiben, is about a 30-35 minute bike ride one way, with lots of hills, bridges, and rain - not happy times, especially when you get out there and your investigator isn’t home, after they told you they could meet. However despite this, there have been a few miracles. We did just the other night meet one really great man, and he is actually excited to meet with us. He double checked to make sure he had the place and time right, and it was the only time I didn’t feel like my Chinese was absolutely abysmal.  Chinese - oh yeah that's going slower than ever. Like I can get the flow of the conversation sometimes, or pick up the subject and then based on how someone looks tell how they feel about the subject, but outside of that can't do too much. The mission gave us these things called "phases" and there are three of them, so you complete one then move on to two. Phase one is all gospel related things, and very watered down at that, and I'm only half way done but my goal is to be done with that by the end of this transfer (6 weeks), so I can move on to phase 2 which is all vocabulary, but it’s like everything else that isn’t gospel related, so I’d be able to function in public here and not have to rely on other people so we'll see how that goes. Everyone here thinks that because I've been powering through on phase one in a transfer (the normal is to finish it in two transfers), that I'll be training right after completing phase 1  (training is when you get someone fresh from the MTC and become their companion and show them the ropes) so we'll see what happens at the end of November.
Mid-Autumn Festival
Oh also this past week was mid-autumn festival - so much food!  The members feel bad because we don’t have anywhere to celebrate the holiday (it’s a big deal holiday, but for us it’s just like a normal day) so we went to like 3 parties in two days. I ate so much food. Everyone Kao Rou's (BBQ’s) here though not the same as good American BBQ still good though. You go to anyone’s home (and this is all the time) the first thing they say before saying hi or asking your name is  "chi bao le ma?" which essentially translates into have you eaten yet? And yes or no, they give you food to eat. We literally had a meal at some random person’s house, and they didn’t ask our names until after we started eating.

Hope you all had a good week, and found some things to enjoy, see, or do. I miss you and love you all so very much.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Week 12

Hello! We have two branches here in Taidong so as far as splits go, because my companion is the district leader, I will go with everyone in the district, but because the Zone leaders are also in my district I will also go with each of them. The past week I was on splits with Elder Sullivan's companion, Elder Keime. He's really cool, but it must be a little funny seeing us come down the street as he is like two heads shorter than me. He's from Miami, and we had a productive time. Because their companionship just got here they basically "opened" and area, so every day they are tracting and contacting. Made me really appreciate having current people investigating the Church to teach! 
My Companion Elder Allred
Taidong - Not Hawaii!

While I was on exchanges with him I fell for the first time…well more like a little stumble that caused like fumbling till I was on the ground. I keep my bag on the back of my bike, and it’s a little wider than the bike, so when I went on the bike path the weird bike entrance post grabbed hold of it, and one thing led to another, and I was on the ground! Really funny like in slow motion. I’m perfectly okay, I was going like 1 mph, and it was like I stumbled then the thing caught, so I couldn’t recover. Some people helped out though, not a bad way to contact!

No letters yet... Remember I'm not just in Taiwan, I’m in Taidong, the furthest point south in the mission, and possibly Taiwan. I could ride south 5 minutes until I hit water and it'd still be my area. It's going to take a long time to get here. Thank you for telling me you sent the pictures though, the culture here loves family pictures so I can use my own.

One of the Elders who are dying soon (going home) has a guitar, so I finally broke down and told him I'd take it off his hands, so I may be able to use this as a way to contact.

As far as mission work goes. I am exhausted. Biking all day, rejection all day, and hot sun, or windy rain, really takes it out of you. It’s pretty tough here. The hardest thing is the word of wisdom. We are in a rural area and so it’s really common for everyone to be drinking and smoking. There is also this stuff called Bin Lang (betel nut) - really nasty stuff, turns your teeth red.

Cool story though my first Sunday here we try and sit with the members in church, and my companion went and sat next to a brother as we later found out who isn’t a member. It was fast and testimony meeting, and one sister went up to talk about her daughters baptism the following Saturday. At the end of the meeting, the brother we sat next to talked with us and asked "Do you think I could be baptized this Saturday too?" Jaws hit the floor. Turns out he has met with missionaries before, so we met with him, set a date and he is getting baptized this coming Saturday. Though tragically he is in the other district's area so we had to pass him off but hey same team right? Hope all is well at home and that everything is okay! I hope you all enjoy fall for me! Love you all and miss you all very much!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 11 - Taidong

Sad to hear about Cassie the cat, but she did have a long life.

There are six Elders in our apartment and we attempt to fit into a four “Asian-size” person place - kind of reminds me of college!  Showering is like in the movie elf when Buddy is using the bathroom at the North Pole - we don’t fit in the tub or shower and have to get all contorted to get all parts wet.

I know, I know - I’ll send more pictures but I don’t have the right cord at the moment so please be patient in thine afflictions! We have to go to some basic "internet cafe" (because those still exist here) and it’s really not that up-to-date so I really am trying! Please don’t move and not tell me as punishment!

Yes Sister Gummow is in my district! We had like a branch BBQ last Sunday and I met her.  I have my own bike now and it’s great. It arrived when my companion and I were out working and luck would have it that the shortest elder in our district had to get it, so he was riding this giant massive bike so it was pretty funny.

Letter? I got one around the same time I got the package if that’s what you are asking, roundabout the time when we first got to Taiwan nothing after that.
I know Mom asked what happens in an emergency being this far away from the mission office but -Jiayou! (good luck), actually we have a hospital like two minutes right down from our apartment, and when we were contacting around there, it actually looks really nice.

As far as fast food there is a McDonald’s close by and it’s like actually really nice here, so unless a person we are teaching takes us there we don’t really go because it’s expensive. There is an American style diner nearby. I was very happy to order a giant quesadilla, bottle of sprite, and giant plate of French fries, for less the 150 kuai (5$) - eating out is so great.  For breakfast I’ve just been making peanut butter sandwiches. For some reason I’ve recently really started liking peanut butter and moon cakes which is weird. 

The rain the first week was just a fluke, it’s actually beautiful like every day - though I need to get some sunscreen because I don’t want to burn.  It supposed to be like this all winter too!

A family picture would help a lot when we meet with people family is a great starting point in our discussions so in the next package if you wouldn’t mind sending a hardcopy of our fam that would be great!

Our area is the biggest in the Taipei mission, and maybe the largest in both Taiwan missions. I finally understand what “uphill both ways” mean! My legs kill me every night, but it has the benefit as every other area after this will be a piece of cake.

Love you all so very much, and miss you all even more! Can’t believe I’m already on month 3 - That’s pretty crazy!
Love from your Elder.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Week 9 - In Taidong Taiwan

Picture of the LDS Church building in Taidong, Taiwan where Elder Dickson is currently serving.

Hey everybody! Letters are going to be even more slow getting to me because I'm in Taidong for my first area! and while that's super nice, beautiful, and slower pace than Taibei, its about as far as  we can get from the mission office, by like a 6 hour train ride, so mail takes forever.

It is cool that two other elders from my Missionary Training district are here with me. One is in my zone, and my MTC companion is not only in my district, but in my apartment. Biking is interesting, because nobody here obeys traffic laws and I really am trying to be safe, however it wouldn't hurt to have some extra prayers on my side : )

Hope everything is going well! right now we have about 7 progressing investigators, and 7 contacts - 9 of the 14 have baptismal dates already and 6 of those are for October 12th, so might be a super fun day!  I can barely communicate with anyone here which is super frustrating, but I try to not let it discourage me. I'm not saying this to sound humble, but this language is really hard. Scooter contacting is fun, but hard when I can't understand the people, and I'm really bad at car contacting. Oh well it'll get better with time.

My companion is Elder Allred from Utah and he is awesome! When we first got here, they let us make a one minute phone call to our family to let them know we were alive, and it was cheaper to call to home phones apparently so that's why I called the home phone. I met brother Langford, but not sister Langford as she apparently hurt herself, so they have to go back to the states for now.

The weather is like really humid and hot especially Taidong because we are as far south in the mission as you can get. We went to a BBQ at a members house, pretty sweet stuff and I now love moon cakes. I'm pumped for autumn festival which is all this month.

The Taidong branch is really cool and isn't too big, maybe around 50 in attendance on Sunday.
Yes Monday is a personal day (pday) for us. We have to get up around 5 AM to use computers in an internet café'.  I really don't know how much time I get on email as my companion helped me and all I did was to hand the shop woman 55 kuai. The exchange here is about $1.00 US dollar to 30 New Taiwan Dollar (NTD), so like less than two bucks for I don't know how long.

I feel like I shouldn't comment on the status of the apartment, nor should Mom know. I loved the greenie package you sent me, as I needed some normal junk food to ease me into the Taiwan food transition - all of the drinks are like that weird thing Gunnar gave us, with gooey junk all up in it - though the food, while sketchy at times, is amazing! Taidong is known for its fried rice, so I'm all set for the next 3 months which is when transfers will happen.  I really don't know what kind of bike I have yet, right now I'm borrowing one that the church had here already.

Thought for the week: the negative parable. So in weight lifting there is what is called a negative. Its when you put more weight than you know you can lift by yourself, so you get a spotter, and what you do is you have to exert all your force to keep the weight up. However since it is more weight, all you can do is slow it down from falling, until the spotter raises it back up, and you do it again. Doing this increases the muscle tear which then allows it to grow back stronger. Growing and learning work the same way. Heavenly Father gives us these challenges, and often they feel like more weight than we can bear. But when we exert all the force that we have, and at the moment when it seems like we cant slow it anymore, he raises the weight again, and we do it again. By doing this he is helping us rapidly grow our spiritual muscles. We have to rely on him, and exert all we have, and we will grow and become stronger in ways we didn't know existed.

Love you all, talk to you next week!