Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 29, 2014

So, missions are disappointing a lot of the time.  We make appointments - people cancel, we try to visit people - they're not home – tons of rejection. But it’s all good fun because it makes that person who's willing to talk to us that much better.  At least people on the street are sometimes willing to talk.  We pulled up in our cute red Toyota Corolla next to this black Ferrari at a light.  I rolled down my window and did the only natural thing, shout, "HEY LET'S RACE!" The driver who had his window down laughed so hard, but they turned the corner.  So I guess you could say I've beaten a Ferrari in a street race.

It's interesting.  Easley, our bowling 81 year old investigator, grew up in Texas with segregation.  He started bowling because he worked at a whites only bowling alley setting up pins for people, so he could bowl in the downtime.  He's seen a lot in his lifetime.  It's amazing the stories you hear from people!  We went bowling with him today, and it was fun.  His screen was all strikes and spares (mostly strikes) and mine was, well, not mostly strikes or spares.  But he taught us a lot - don't aim for the pins, aim for the arrows in the floor on the lane.  He'll be coming with us to General Conference next weekend, so that should be super fun.  Everyone go watch General Conference okay?  I'll advertise for the church here - LDS.org on Saturday morning/afternoon, and Sunday morning/afternoon (October 4th and 5th).  It's pretty much Mormon TED talks!

Sometimes people aren't exactly the nicest.  We were walking down a street in a nice little neighborhood and made eye contact in the side mirror with this guy in his truck.  He turns the car on and drives to the corner, turns the corner, stops, and flips us off while shouting on the top of his lungs "smoke meth, hail satan", then he zoomed away.  Why smoke meth?... that's just plain bad for your body.  Too bad I couldn't run up to tell him that.  I guess his mom never told him!  Pretty funny how we can make grown men run away from us though! But yeah, that was weird.  

Other than that, this week has been really slow with all the appointments falling through – lots of street contacting so I'm talking to a ton of people.  The temperature is finally cooling down and it is beautiful.  We finally didn't die from heatstroke during soccer because it was 76 degrees outside (Fahrenheit of course).  Beautiful weather for P-day soccer!

In-n-out burger - finally!

Elder Jacob Dyer with investigator who fixes up bikes and cars

Elder Jacob Dyer with his new Chinese-English electronic dictionary

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 22, 2014

Remember what I said about goodbyes being the hardest part?  Well, that's still true.  It's already been six weeks out in the field and my first transfer weekend came and went.  I'm still with Elder Johansen ('till he goes home at the end of this next transfer).  But more friends I've made got transferred and it's not fun!  So the goodbyes continue!

This past week has seen an increase in lessons we've taught.  We've been actively trying to get our lesson count up, and have been sharing a lot of messages on the streets.  It's amazing the kinds of people you've run into.  We were OYM’ing (“Open your mouth” ‘ing) outside a Wal-Mart and I walked up to these three young people, two guys and a girl.  One of them was unbuckling a baby from the backseat.  I asked if I could offer any help or service.  Little did I know they were in very humbling circumstances. 

The couple with the baby had just lost their home.  They were moving in with her little brother (the guy unbuckling the baby) with their 10 month old.  They were shocked and touched that a stranger would just walk up to them to offer help.  I prayed with them and asked for them to be given strength, that they might feel peace, love, and joy.  When I opened my eyes, the woman was crying, she was touched.  I felt the spirit really strongly there, like electricity in my body!  Hopefully we can follow up with them and bring more peace in their home.  

Being in Southern California gives us certain perks not afforded to other areas.  After a missionary meeting on day, we decided, instead of authentic Mexican - Taco Bell, we'd try this Taqueria. It was SO GOOD.  I don't think I've had tacos that delicious before.  So if you want the best tacos, come to SoCal (which is obviously more authentic than Mexico!).  

We've been progressing with a couple investigators.  But the one that sticks out is our 81 year old.  We dropped by his house and, of course, he had to be on the ROOF, just crawling around.  Apparently when he was installing an air conditioner, he saw that some cement (pronounced see-ment) was crumbling on the shingles so wanted to check on it.  He is too funny.  

He was telling us a story of how someone wanted him to pay $71 to move a washer, he replied baloney (pronounced baaaa-loney) and did it himself, tying it to the trunk of his sedan – "easiet $71 I ever made”, he said.  And apparently if you want to get close with people, or "get tight" as he says, all you have to do is give 'em candy.  Hopefully he comes to church with us soon.  His baptism date is in October.  But by the time he crawled down the ladder, he was already asking us to go bowling with him.  So next P-day, we're going to learn how to bowl like champs.

When we're OYMing people, the security guards sometimes don't like it.  So they'll try to catch us in their trucks.  It's like playing pac-man, just hopping over to a different aisle in the parking lot when they come.  Speaking of people that aren't too fond of us, when we were walking out of the house the other day, these Jehovah Witnesses were right by our door about too knock.  They'll never knock on that house's door again.  We taught them the first lesson, trimmed down into 2 minutes.

For my birthday, we had early morning soccer.  Then I opened presents, which was super fun.  Thank you everyone for the wonderful messages on the poster!!!  Sofia gave me a Polaroid camera, so we missionaries have pretty much been snapping tons of pictures.  I never realized how COOL they are.  They just print the photo (like MAGIC).  But we went to sushi for lunch and died stuffing ourselves in the buffet.  It feels weird to be 19.  18 was fun, but 19 will be EVEN BETTER (hopefully).

We were going through a park, and stumbled upon these tiny Guatemalan men playing soccer.  So we joined!! It was so fun. They were fast, but super small.  It was fun to see them pump their legs and arms so fast.  I may or may not have twisted my ankle in the game.

Elder Dyer and his birthday balloons

Birthday boxes

Birthday morning soccer

Birthday presents

Polaroid selfie using a curtain rod to take the picture

Driving selfie

My district

My zone

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 15, 2014

Somehow, California has gotten hotter than I thought was possible.  Sometimes I walk outside and it literally feels like the sun is burning my skin away.  But other than that, it's awesome.

Apparently in Utah, missionaries get their meals paid for by just random people all the time.  We don't expect that here! But we went to this pho place, and after we ordered, the owner came up and was like, "Elders! How are you?!" His son goes to BYU – not sure if he's a member though.  When we finished and went to pay, he just went "it's okay" and took care of it.  We tried to pay, but he wouldn't let us.  There are a surprising amount of Mormons around California, people approach us all the time, saying "Hey Elders!," It's fun.

Californians just don't like saying no.  We'll ask when we can come back to visit with people and they're super vague, not wanting to say yes or no, not wanting to commit.  Sometimes I just want to ask, if I come back will you or will you not let me into your house to talk about our religion. It's frustrating, but I guess having too many polite people is not a huge problem to have!

President Mullen, in a trainer/trainee meeting answered a question from an Elder about how to answer questions on the church's stance on homosexuality (he had answered "no bueno" to a person the previous night...).  President said to approach it with love, we love everyone, we invite everyone to come to church, he's a pretty open guy coming from North California.  The thing was, that night, at the softball fields, a girl approached us asking about Mormonism and eventually said she was gay.  So I had a solid answer for her - she was satisfied with it!

One of the guys we drop by is working on his jeep - the friend of the couple who are going to get married soon.  Turns out he's a golf pro.  He has a wedge company, which is cool. He's always in his garage taping clubs or working on the jeep.  Maybe he'll teach us a thing or two about golfing.  He's been on some nice courses.  Some people are just so chill and laid back in California - opposite the vibe on the East coast (not saying there aren't nice people on the East coast!).

Maybe we're entrepreneur magnets, because we ran into another single entrepreneur who works in his garage a lot.  This guy sells zero calorie noodles and was busy taping nutrition facts on them when we stopped by.  He said we're welcome back anytime, so we'll probably stop by for a lesson soon.  

The people I've met are from all walks of life.  One guy's girlfriend just got diagnosed with cancer and he's been fighting it.  Another guy has full body tattoos and no front teeth – used to be a heroin addict, but is a grandfather now.  We might stop back to have him hear more about the religion because he's a super nice guy.  Used to be in a gang but changed his ways.  I'm certainly glad we're not in Compton because one of our investigators used to live down there and got shot in the head from the crossfire of gang shootings.

Our most interesting and fun investigator is probably Easley, the 81 year old man.  He's seen a lot, World War II, and all the wars since, segregation, the first black president.  He has a nice plate in his house with pictures of Obama on it – must have been a momentous occasion for him.

When he was talking about "kids these days" he mentioned back in the day, he'd get "whooped" by his teacher, then go home and his mom would make him choose a switch to "whoop" him with.  And oh boy he said he knew not to do that again.  But when he had his daughter, he said people said he couldn't "whoop" her, he said "boy I tell you, if I can't whoop her, you raise her."  The things he says are hilarious.  

When we were talking about blessings from God, he said, oh boy have I been blessed.  He used to own a body shop, one night he heard commotion and saw a guy trying to steal a tire from one of his cars.  He said, "I'm gonna kill him" but his wife said no, so he shot him and it hit him in the arm.  He said he was blessed not to kill the man that night.  The police went to the hospital and picked him up, brought him to jail.  He's on date to be baptized on October 12th, hopefully it all pulls through. 

When I was on companion exchanges, it was super hot so we went to the church to get some water.  It just so happened we walked into a Chinese baptism.  I got to meet people from the Chinese group down here, it was nice to be able to speak Chinese to everyone.  Plus I got tons of watermelon and moon cakes – sufficiently satisfied for having missed Mid-Autumn Festival.  

We had a missionary fireside where a former mission president and our current mission president spoke about how members can and need to help missionary work - "talk to everyone."  I was part of a small missionary choir that sang, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  It was really fun, and sounded very beautiful, a very spiritual experience.  On the way back though, we were riding in our Ward Mission Leader's car, and we got a flat, so I got to change the flat tire in missionary clothes.

It's funny how as missionaries, we can make grown men run away from us.  I was in the parking lot of Vons, a pharmacy, and asked if this guy needed any help.  He walked up and was like, "they said they'd help me in the store but they didn't."  He was this Italian man and when he looked at my name tag and saw I wasn't an employee he suddenly got super worried like I would turn him into a duck or something and literally ran, saying “no, please no.”  I was just like... “okay dude.”  But it's all fun!

Sunday lunch with Elder Dyer (left), Johansen, and Taylor

Elders Dyer and Johansen before P-day (complete with the necessary headbands)

Toasty Miraloma weather

Forest fire in Riverside

View of sunset over the hills from where we live

Gourmet salad with the requisite Sister's Pantry sauce (from my aunties)

My new English name tag

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 8, 2014

So – tragedy hit the Riverside mission today.  I realized that I only have one more necktie before I have to start repeating ties in the mission field.  The future looks bleak, but I think I'll live.  

I'm pretty much down [OK] with the whole idea of waking up at 6:30 and going to bed at 10:30 now, which is like totally different from the Brown time zone (which is to shift everything later a couple hours).  I find you can accomplish a lot more in the morning when you get up early.  It will be 9:30 and I've already been awake for three hours!  Seems weird I know.

We ran into this 81 year old man, Easley, from Texas.  He is the funniest guy in the world!  He's obviously retired, and loves to bowl.  He taught it (bowling). [He says] it's just like combing your hair, which is hard to explain in writing - you bowl and end up with your hand by your hair - to put a natural break on the ball.  Anyways, we talked to him a couple times.  Before we leave, he always gives us these root beer candies.  

He says the funniest things too.  He grabbed Elder Johansen's hand before we left last time, and said, "Hey, you lookin' good... BUT YOU'RE (pronounced 'butcha') STILL UGLY" and just starts cracking up so hard.  He's super fit too, still works out at 81, apparently he could beat us in a footrace - still have to try that one out.  He's always drilling holes into his bowling balls - because [having] three finger holes is apparently better than having one.  Anyway, we invited him to church and he said he'd love to [go], he just has to buy his wife something pretty first, so she'll come with.  Hopefully we see him at church sometime!

We go to a park with softball fields sometimes at night.  They have a big "Major League Softball" league going on every night, it seems, so it's fun to watch it and meet people.  We picked up this one guy there who was super interested.  We met him at the church and have him on [schedule] to be baptized on September 28th (which will be moved back because he couldn't come to church on Sunday).  It was really fun talking to him.  

It's interesting how nice people in California are. They won't turn us down directly (like people in Rhode Island or New York would).  They just say come back later or they send their kids to say they're not home, when they obviously are.  But sometimes nobody's home - like on Saturdays.  You'd think Saturdays would be great for proselyting.  They're not.  Everyone goes to the beach so walking through neighborhoods you get the occasional guy watering his lawn (which you need to do a lot here - in the desert) but we are surprisingly close to the beach.

The "jeep guy" that we go to visit, Brad, is super chill.  We go over there to just talk to him and his housemate, Andre, sometimes.  They're fixing a jeep to go off-roading (is that what it's called?) so it's kind of cool seeing their progress.  

But anyways, the last time we dropped by, Andre told us after what we'd said about getting married for time and all eternity, and just talking about marriage in general, he kind of took it as a sign that it was time.  Not saying it was us that are the reason he's proposing, but he said he was going to talk to her parents that weekend which is super cool.  We're super excited for him.  

It's great to meet just nice people, that don't call us misguided children or more colorful names.  He gave us otter pops last time, and when we visited again on fast Sunday (where we don't eat for two meals), he offered them.   We explained fasting, and Brad just couldn't get his head around not eating 12 times a year.  He was like, "all right, that's it guys, I'm getting you a pizza."  Super funny, super nice.  

We met with all the Chinese elders in the mission with President Mullen to discuss the future of the Chinese program.  Someone suggested Johansen and I get moved to the University of California Riverside area, Chinese speaking.  Even though President pretty much said that's not happening, it got Johansen super excited about Chinese.  So the goal is to have him fluent by the time the next two months are over - when he leaves.  He's picking it up really fast, his tones are surprisingly good.  It's really fun though, saying stuff in Chinese and trying to have him understand it.  

So the mission is fun, the days are hot (and humid - it rained for the first time), and basketball p-days are on a whole other level (lower) than soccer p-days.  The fun part is Thursday morning soccer - 3 vs. 3 on the wet grass before the sun rises.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September 3, 2014

I'm getting used to this hot weather. Walking outside is actually kind of fun because we get to talk to a lot of people.  When I knock on doors, I vary my knocks now, to not sound to intimidating.  The things you learn…  

Apparently this area, Riverside, is (was) the most baptizing mission in North America.  Now it's a close second to somewhere like Hawaii – interesting. People here in California are a lot nicer than back east.  By nice I mean they won't necessarily turn you down as much, even when they don't want to actually meet with you.  Sometimes I think I'm home in Shanghai when I watch drivers on the road, they're crazy, feels like home!  But when we drive back home (we're on a hill) we can overlook the city and it's beautiful, lots of lights.

It's weird, because we have a phone, it's an old flip phone but it has a full keyboard and touch screen... Feels weird in my pocket! We actually use it a lot, to call people and schedule meetings.  

We went to a Japanese restaurant a couple weeks ago, and I forgot about this in my past emails, but they saw we were missionaries.  They're Korean which was interesting, but they gave us food on the house because they were Christian as well.  Very nice people, we left them with a Book of Mormon.

Being back in the states gives me the opportunity to learn new phrases, like "kick rocks".  It's nice! (learning the phrases). But yeah, kick rocks doesn't mean come in and have a glass of water.  Other people are really nice though. They still offer us bottles of water when we talk to them.  We meet a lot of people by just walking up to them in their driveways.  People here love to just hang out in their garage with the door open.  

For part of my Chinese study, I memorize vocab, but I also try to read from a Chinese Book of Mormon.  I can actually read like 70% of it, which is fun – learning fast though.  I'm excited to start teaching Chinese people (whenever that might be).  

We have dinner pretty much every day at a member's house.  One of the nights this past week, we went to a Samoan family's house for dinner and it was a feast... we ate so much (I thought I went to Yi Cafe [our favorite buffet in Shanghai]).  I was going to burst. They cooked a pig.  

There's a lot of planning we do daily to figure out our days.  We try to plan for whoever we're going to see.  One of the highlights of my week (aside from Riverside World Cup every Monday) was meeting this couple.  They were talking about getting married when we talked to them in their garage.   When we sat down with them, I got a really strong impression to tell them that they could be sealed together for time and all eternity in our church (temples to be more precise).  Don't know why I said that, but hopefully it left an impression on them.  We'll hopefully continue to meet with them.  

We had a multi-zone conference with lots of missionaries.  They talked about planning and having members at all of our lessons.  Lots of commitments to keep going forward but it should help us be more effective.  I'm really getting into the groove of missionary work. It's coming easier to me now.

My eggs finally cooking right

My zone of missionaries