gewei de jiaren he pengyou ZAAAAAAOOOOOO AAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!! (and now you all just say, zaaaaao, in response :D)
first i need to apologize for the email last week.....i know it was awful. i was dead tired when i wrote it and i felt really bad about it after. first you thought i didn't write you at all, and then you got a surprise email that was totally lame. i'm making up for it this week though. i have some really great stories for you :) PLUSSSSS>.........the first half of my top 10 for my 3rd transfer on island! (yeah, YEAH!!!) ok this first small set of stories can probably collectively be entitled something along the lines of.....hmmmm...i dunno...."a host of wild animal attacks"? "sister mack suffers psychological damage from encounters with some of the most wretched creatures in existence, and other stories"? i'd think of more but i'm feeling lazy so just take your pick and get ready for some hilarity/gut wrenching stories!!!
* a couple of weeks ago sister t. and i decided to take a little road neither of us had been down to get back from an appointment. it was right along the river, so we knew it would lead to the bridge we needed to cross to get home. the sun had already started to go down but the night was warmer than it has been lately. as we went further down the road, we started to see some bats flying around about 15 feet above us. we made some dumb jokes about bat sonar (what is that thing called that they have?? i can't remember anything about bats now except the song i learned in 2nd grade: "oh did you know did you know did you know that bats are mammals? they don't lay eggs they don't lay eggs and they have fur and they have fur!"). we made a few high pitched squeaking noises to try to communicate with them, which to our horror seemed to work, because the further down the road we went, the more bats were starting to flutter madly above us. then they started darting around right by our heads so that we both started screaming and pedaling as fast as we could. sister t. kept using her sonar thing, which seemed tomake them angrier, so i was yelling at her to stop. it was really funny but also scary cause they were going crazy. a couple rode past us on their scooter, and then when we got through the flock and storm, we were all at the same stoplight. sister tanner and i were panting and laughing ,and she just looked at the couple and said "there were a lot of bats back there..." and they ignored us and ran the red light. ok maybe i didn't do a very good job explaining this but just imagine if you were there! what if one had flown into my face and i had to go get a rabies shot??!?! we were both hunching down as low as we could on our bikes so we wouldn't get hit!
* sister t. and i had a goal this week to go running every morning for 30 minutes, and we pretty much failed epically, mostly because it rained a lot this week (the taiwanese have told us not to go out in the rain for a long time with your head uncovered cause it'll make your hair fall out. apparently the rain is somewhat acidic in nature because of all the pollution). BUT on thursday we finally were able to go. i was sitting on the floor putting my shoes on when i saw a big, dark thing darting around under our shoes by the front door. i squealed and leaped up on my feet. it was an ENORMOUS cockroach, the biggest i've ever seen. now we couldn't leave without taking care of the problem, because he'd just go hide and then crawl on us when we slept or something else horrible, so sister t. grabbed a huge can of RAID and let him have a face full. i was swinging one of my shoes around wildly trying to smash him, but i was so afraid that it made my naturally horrible hand-eye coordination skills even WORSE. he made a run for it under the couch, which i swung out of place in one swift motion, allowing my companion to strike him with my tennis shoe. her hand was steady (cause she's an amazing rugby player), and the hit was deadly. then we went for a run. but when we came home we found another surprise waiting in our kitchen. an even bigger cockroach was sluggishly moving toward the door. we think the raid in the air from our first battle that morning lulled him out of hiding and weakened his senses. he was so heinous and ugly, i wanted to start crying. i was terrified, but we were laughing the whole time because we were both too scared to move. this time i moved in with the raid, which seemed to give him a strange burst of energy. he started to charge, and we were both screaming. thankfully sister t. is a fast thinker, and she moved in with the broom, managed to get our back door open, and swept him out. a few of our neighbors were standing outside staring at us. we just laughed and pointed at the beast, and all we could manage to say was"it's so BIG!!!" they all just walked away. so basically wild animals have just made us look like total idiots in front of a bunch of taiwanese people.
* the third and final attack happened one night when we were totally lost while trying to find this family who lived in a really twisty neighborhood (and by that i just mean tons of tiny little streets with really faded signs). my companion was asking a woman for directions. a cat (which as most of you know i HATE because they scare me and always seem to purposely startle me and upset my poor nerves) walked out of someone's house and sauntered over to us. it came over to me, and i just stared at it trying to stay calm. it was meowing really loudly and so i responded with some kind of clicky noise which i guess made it feel pretty comfortable, because the next thing i knew, it was standing on its hind legs stretching right up on me, claws extended. "Sister T.!!!!" I whispered with a strained voice. She didn't hear me, but then the cat got off my leg and was just kind of sitting there, so I started paying attention to the conversation. all of a sudden, that cat jumped up onto my hip and clung on, scaring me so badly that i wobbled and almost fell over as I cried out and then started laughing because i KNEW that cat was up to no good and that it was going to do something like that!!! why do they always do that to me?!??!?!! in case anyone is wondering....our raw diet went pretty well last week. that was the best i've ever done with a diet, though it wasn't perfect. i was especially proud of myself cause one night we were making no-bake cookies (to get rid of our nutella and peanut butter so we wouldn't be tempted to eat spoonfuls of it/to give to some of our investigators) and i didn't lick out the bowl, i didn't lick the spoon, and i didn't even lick off my fingers!!!! it was extremely hard, but i was so proud of myself while also somewhat hating myself because i really really wanted to do all those things and then some. i felt that it was very nearly exactly like that part in lord of the rings when frodo offers galadriel the ring. she almost takes it, then gets all scary and demon-like (being on a diet makes me somewhat agitated, i'll admit it) but then ultimately "passes the test and remains galadriel". however, we were forced to break down when we got invited over for dinner and this woman made us stinky tofu (which i LOVE). i also ate pig blood.....it was super weird. it wasn't like straight up blood...they make it in a little block with like weird rice....hmmm....phew this email is gettin long. let's get on to the first 5 of our top 10 and wrap this puppy up (like a christmas present :D)
1. this week we taught one of our investigators, sister chang, about the plan of salvation. she's so adorable. she's like 22 and just graduated. she studied environmental science. also remember those crazy rainbow velcro sandals i got in thailand (i'm wearing them in like every picture that was taken of me there)? she has some too! she's so great. anyways we were talking to her about the spirit world, and we told her that there are missionaries there teaching the people who didn't receive the gospel while they were on the earth. then we asked her what she thought about the spirit world, and she said it sounded really amazing, then laughed and admitted that the first thing she thought of when we asked her that question was to ask us: "do the missionaries ride bicycles in the spirit world?" it was so cute :) i just love teaching her because we are friends, and she's so willing to try and to learn. she has a very open mind.
2. one of my favorite people in taiping is a member named sister liu. she has helped us peike (accompany lesson) a couple of times. on saturday sister t. and i had to split up to teach 2 different lessons. sister liu totally saved me (because my chinese is still chugging along slowly but surely!). i was chatting with her after the lesson. it just felt good to be able to talk to her and understand her. she's incredibly sweet. i just felt like i was talking with a friend. then she up and invited us over to her house for dinner on christmas eve, which made me want to cry, because it is so weird to be away from home--from everything i know...especially this time of year. but i know i could feel that sense of home with her. i already do. people are so good to us here!
3. we've met with a little girl, sister xu, a couple of times this week because she's getting baptized this friday!!! her mom is a member and actually sister xu got baptized before, but never got confirmed, so she needs to get re-baptized. the bishop asked us to meet with her. she is so prepared and amazing...it's incredible. it's one of those things where we feel like we literally did nothing but are being blessed and successful in establishing God's kingdom....i like to think that this tenderest of tender mercies (which came last week after a really hard day) is a result of our hard work with the other people we are trying to help. all our investigators and progressing pretty slowly....and we find lots of new ones everyweek that then drop out before the week is through...sometimes it feels like we aren't succeeding. but then God does things to let you know He's proud of you and our efforts are noticed. ANYWAY we were asking sister xu what she thought about when she thought of Jesus. she's pretty shy, so first my companion and i answered the question and said like "love" or "kindness"....and this little 10 year old said when she thought of Jesus, she thought of forgiveness. it totally blew us away. she's an extraordinary child. we love her so much and are so happy we can help her finally get baptized (even though it really isn't us. at all.)
4. a couple weeks ago on the way home one night, i tried to contact this lady on her scooter. she wasn't really interested but as the light was changing, she reached down and pulled two yellow passion fruits out of her bag and was like "do you want some fruit?" i took one, totally in awe and so grateful and then she was like, "wait, take one for your friend." i loved that. i can never say enough about the generosity and the big hearts of the taiwanese people. they never stop giving, even if you don't know them. i like to think that this woman, who is already so Christlike, will just keep being prepared to hear the gospel someday. anyway...don't really know what else to say about it but it was just a nice little moment.
5. beautiful city: this area is so incredibly beautiful. not only is it much bigger than my last area....it's just more...open. i can see the sky stretching out above me much more than i could in gaoxiong. we're always crossing a lot of huge bridges and there's this one in a more rural (but not really rural) part of our area that we usually cross at night. but a while ago we happened to go during the day. it was just after a big rainstorm, and the sun was starting to set. i've never seen more glorious sunsets. it makes me so happy. and it also makes me think of that scripture in D&C that talks about anyone who has seen the creations of God on the earth have seen Him moving in His majesty....God is all around me!! it's so so beautiful.
last thing: 2 Nephi 16:8. "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me." i've been reading the isaiah chapters lately and have had a really hard time grasping the full meaning, but every once in a while i find little gems like this, really little things that are plain to my level of understanding. i want this scripture to be true for me, that i could say this every time, with a puredesire to serve God and sacrifice everything--personal convenience, desires, etc. sister t. and i have been talking a lot about sacrifice lately. i re-read that talk by elder oaks from april 2012 general conference. in it he quotes lectures on faith, and says that a religion that does not require its followers to sacrifice everything to come unto Christ cannot produce faith enough for salvation. or something along those lines. i love that. i think about my life and i realize i've never really give up very much. i am so prone to look for the easy way out, the simplest way to do things....how much have i really sacrificed? i just feel like bursting....my life has been so good...too good. it keeps getting richer and richer. i have so much more to give.
i hope that spirit of giving can keep burning in me and in all of you...especially this month as we remember the birth of our Savior. i love you all so dearly. sister coco