AKA: happy mid-autumn festival!!!! Was it the best ever??? I'm actually still not entirely sure what this festival is celebrating . . . but it comes every year according to the lunar calendar and is supposedly when the moon is the fullest, which this year was September 30th. People eat tons of mooncakes, which are nothing extraordinary, but still quite tasty. They get to be pretty expensive, but because I'm a waiguoren (white person) and a missionary, AND Taiwanese people are extremely generous, I had more than my fair share of mooncakes without having to spend a single kuai! Mooncakes come in great variety, but typically have a flakey outside with something thick and scrumptious in the center. They are round, like the moon, so...you eat them during the mid-autumn festival. The best ones we had were homemade by one of my English students, Frank. They had sweet potato in the middle and were totally divine....they're probably so bad for you—but whatever, I will work it off from biking like a maniac all day every day! And I'll do it while wearing a SKIRT!!!! (Yes, I'm still so proud that I can do that. You'd be impressed too if you could see the traffic we are working with haha ;) ).
In addition to eating mooncakes, for reasons completely unbeknownst to me, people barbeque and light fireworks for the mid-autumn festival. It was kind of funny to hear them going off outside while we were in the middle of sacrament meeting, and two 16-year-old boys were being confirmed members of the Church and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost . . . it probably just made the experience all the more memorable for them, though. The way people barbeque here is fantastic. They squat down in front of their houses, on street corners, and even IN the streets. They fit as much meat and vegetables as they can on a grill that is about 12 inches long and barely comes up off the ground. The grills are seriously so small! But somehow they cook a lot of meat to feed a lot of people. Sadly, no one in our ward was having any kind of kao rou (bbq) yesterday, or if they did, we were not invited. So I didn't get to fully participate, but it was fun to see everyone else gathering together to celebrate...life, being family and friends, and eating lots of food :) That's what most holidays are really about these days anyway, right? How often do you really think about Pilgrims and have a conversation about them at Thanksgiving (excluding elementary school children who usually have some sort of pilgrim pageantry)? You keep celebrating it because you don't have to go to school or work, you get to be with your family, and you eat great food! And that's fine with everyone!!!
ANYWAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here is my new Top 10 for Taiwan (2nd move call edition)
1. bu hao yisi extremism: bu hao yisi is an expression people say when they are embarrassed or to express that they are sorry about something. It also describes an
attitude. People here are very generous, but they feel bad when other people give them things. They are too "bu hao yisi" to let you pay for their meal, or to accept a gift of any kind. One time we went to visit one of our investigators who we were having a hard time meeting with because her mom was very controlling of her schedule. We wanted to bring kind of a peace offering to help her mom see that we had good intentions. We went to a little fruit shop on the corner and bought some sliced pineapple and took it to the girl's house. We talked to her and her mom for a little at the front door and her mom was saying over and over "she's sick she can't meet! She's just too sick! She has to study!" and we were like "yeah okay well here is some fruit we got for you." It took us like 5 solid minutes to get this woman to take the fruit. She waved her hand in our faces and said "Ohhhh mei guanxi! Bu yong bu yong bu yong!" (ohh no relation, no need no need no need). People just say that over and over really fast so you can't get a word in edgewise. She insisted they weren't hungry, and besides, they had plenty of fruit. We were like, no seriously, we don't want it, we bought it specifically for you. IT WAS CRAZY! She finally took it. People get a little extreme when they are trying so hard to be polite. It's hard for us since this is not the culture we grew up with. You kind of feel like just throwing your gift on the ground and saying "FINE! DON'T TAKE IT!!!!" We have to remind ourselves that people are just being courteous and that we should not be annoyed by that. It's funny, because the person really might want the gift, but they can't let you know . . . gotta love it :) People also say bu hao yisi when we try to hand them fliers . . . but that might also be because they just really don't want our flyers, and they are trying to get away from us hahaha.
2. fitting everything on one scooter or in one rain jacket. You would be amazed at the amount of things people can transport on their scooters. I've seen people carry everything from their entire family, to bags and bags of groceries, to ladders, all on one motorcycle. I've also seen moms fit their children snugly in under their rain poncho, so there's just a bump where the child’s head is. Taiwanese people have perfected the system of being compact. I mean you really have to when thousands or millions of people are all living in such a small area.
3. fearless about bodily functions. People fart, burp, and pick their nose openly, and nobody bats an eyelash. One time an investigator farted in the middle of a lesson when I was teaching on my own (my companion and I often split up after church to teach investigators). It took all my self control not to burst out laughing. She just kept listening to me tell her about how we are commanded to keep the Sabbath day holy!!!! It was totally shocking and hilarious! Women also talk very openly about their periods to the point where you just think as a newcomer to the culture, "Did I really need to know that?" I admire their frank openness about these things. I realize how immature I am to always bust up laughing at such dumb things.
4. pet dogs are beloved. No one cares about the street dogs, but people are pretty close to worshipping their pet dogs. A few weeks ago, a less active church member took us to a huge mall. We saw this young couple pushing 2 long-haired wiener dogs around in a stroller! Their hair was so silky. The couple were rolling the stroller up to different dog toys in the 39 kuai store (equivalent of a dollar tree) to let the pups sniff out what they wanted!! People also ride their scooters around with their dogs sitting happily at their feet. The other day I saw a lady riding her scooter down the sidewalk yelling at her dog as it ran alongside her, barking. Then when she went into the street, she paused for a moment, the dog jumped on the scooter, and they sped off. People even bring dogs to CHURCH!!! You're gonna love this next one...
5. xiao pengyou. This means "little friends" and it is how people usually refer to children. I think it's so cute.
6. sweet potato mooncakes :) Thank you, Frank!!!
Ok we're actually almost out of time. I will give you 7-10 next week. I need some more time to ponder anyway ;)
I had an incredible experience reading Alma 55 yesterday. It’s about when Moroni and his army go to rescue some prisoners. It talks about how he cast in weapons of war over the walls into the city where the people are being held captive. I loved this image. It made me think about my missionary service and how I am striving to teach people how to arm themselves spiritually against the temptations and dark things that hold them captive in life. It is not enough for us to just try once, and then give up when people have a hard time figuring out how to use the weapons properly. We have got to be willing to do everything we can to enable people to defend themselves, even to the throwing of weapons over walls and barriers. I have the privilege to devote all my time to this as a missionary, but it is not exclusively the work of missionaries. Everyone is capable of doing this. I pray you will find ways to empower the people you come in contact with.
Are you excited for conference??? I'm SO EXCITED! But we have to wait an extra week to watch it. I hope you all will seize the glorious opportunity to be uplifted by the words of our living prophet and our leaders of the Church. Take notes, listen with a question, and I know you will receive personal revelation and that you will be spiritually armed to face whatever challenges come your way.
Sister Coco Mack