Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wed 10/28/09- A Week‏

Dear Family

I wish I could tell you how happy getting your letters makes me. They are always full of such funny little details that make me laugh, or beautiful descriptions of the weather or nature. I am realizing how much my writing is just a product of my family. I love you all so much.

I was having a really hard few days earlier this week; despite our best efforts our investigators don't seem to be making progress very quickly and Wu Jia Lin has completely disappeared. I was getting really down about it; it was making me feel sick and I didn't want to plan lessons. I was just worn out. On Monday I wasn't feeling well and considered not going out. I decided to at least go see our investigator who lives out in the country, thinking maybe the exercise of riding my bike would make me feel better. As we were leaving we asked our Guanlien* if we have mail. He got very excited and said yes, so many! I got five letters that morning; more mail than I've received cumulatively in Taiwan. It really helped me feel up to going out. Grandma, the cousins all wrote me thoughtful cards wishing me a Happy Bosses Day :). It made me smile. I still was sick most the day but it was a nice tender mercy to get mail right at that moment.

That night I took Airborne and felt better the next day. Amy, and thank you for the letters - I'm sure you encouraged everyone to write me. Daddy also sent me a package this week with Halloween party favors for my students. Thank you! It really made our party special and we used them all.

We had our Halloween party last night! I was so excited, we had been planning for weeks. It was so well planned. We were going to have a member be the doorman and we were going to break into four groups and have the students rotate. The groups were going to have the history of halloween, decorating masks or party bags, bingo, and blindfolded "stick your hand in food like spagetti and tell them it's brains" activity. We were going to watch a On the Way Home for spiritual share. It was all planned. I made bingo boards and a list of words. (Thank you Mother for the Halloween party ideas, they really helped me get my share ready) Yesterday afternoon however was CDTM in Jiayi- about a 30 minute trainride from Douliu. Well, the Mission President was running late, and interviews took longer than we planned and so did training. Though we were interviewed first, we didn't get back into Douliu until 7:15. Before class starts we always have an hour for English planning meeting and at seven English class begins. So Sister Pickering and I were late, there were a bunch of students waiting outside confused, and the Elders weren't there and we didn't know when they would get there. Oh, it was so hectic! The Lord answered our prayers and we had more students than normal but my goodness we didn't know what to do. So Sister Pickering started teaching all 35 people different Halloween words and I ran around and tried to register new students. The Elders showed up and didn't have their things at the church so we just sort of winged everything and it ended up going pretty well. So much for what we planned! I figure everyone would have been happy just going home with candy. Oh yeah, I wore a witch hat I bought for a dollar somewhere and my students LOVED it. I will have to send pictures.

This week we had a cool experience with a new investigator. We pulled up to a stoplight and started contacting a woman, Miss Zhang, on a scooter next to us (standard proceedure). She was like, do you know Sister Reymund? I told her I had heard of her but that she went back to America. We couldn't find a time to meet with her (people work really crazy hours here) so we said, how about you follow us back to the church and we will teach you right now? So she did and we taught her a first lesson and gave her a Book of Mormon. Miss Zhang told us that she had talked to Sister Reymund before but had never had time to go to church or meet with the missionaries. She still had Sister Reymund's phone number saved in her phone (our number), and had just been wanting to call her that morning but hadn't. Then a couple hours later we found her on the street and she had time to meet with us right then.It was really cool; people that desire the truth will be lead to it.

President Hoer told us an interesting thing. It was how anger comes from violated expectations, that we become angry or upset when we expect people to do things the way that we would have done them. Really though, that is usually a crazy expecation. He gave this example: You can't expect people in Taiwan to drive they way they do in Utah or Nevada, or etc. It is easier to change yourself and your attitude than try to change 180 million Taiwanese drivers. It is the same with most things. Expectations aren't true, they are just what we are accustomed to.

I think that people that believe in relative truth are confused between expectations and truth. Truth is something that doesn't change over time or across cultures. Expectations do and when enough people agree on them they get confused and think it's truth but it's not. It's an expectation. Truth is not relative; otherwise it doesn't fit the definition of truth. That was random, but this is the sort of thing I think about on those long bike rides.

Love you lots,
Sister Johnson

* I don't know if Guanlien is a word in English - I think it may be doorman? The guy that sits in the lobby and rings up visitors, etc. We always ask if we have mail and we rarely do, so they get really excited to tell us we have mail

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cami in Provo while at MTC

Letter from Mission President regarding arrival
Double click image to enlarge for reading

Cami's Mission Call to the Taiwan Taichung Mission!!!
Double click image to enlarg for reading purposes

Cami Arrives in Taiwan Mission Home August 2009

Oct. 21, 2009

Dear Family,

1- Wow, I am exhuasted! It's been a good week but draining. All of our investigators right now are really challenging. Wu Jia Lin, the one who told us she wanted to get baptised the first time she went to church, has only met with us once in the last four weeks. She did her baptismal interview and then has been near impossible to get ahold of since. Our other investigators haven't been coming to chrch and we have literally done all we can. We don't know what else we can do. I'm sure it will be fine it just is a bit more challenging this move call.

2- We did have a very special lesson with a member's husband. Sister Lin has been a member for 22 years but her husband hasn't been interested in the church. Their son left on a mission, got sent home, but in the past month was sent back out again. They are very good to us, because they hope others will be good to their son. It is the first time Mr. Lin has been willing to meet with missionaries. We watched The Joseph Smith Movie and it was really moving. Sister Lin started to cry as I was bearing my testimony in my broken Chinese. I knew having her husband accept the gospel is a blessing she has been seeking for a long time, and she is so righteous. Iknow I am a tool of Heavenly Father's, being used to bless the family of that other missionary.

3 - This week was Stake Conference, so on Sunday we went to Yuanlin on a bus with our ward to watch it. I wasn't expecting this, but their Stake Conference is a broadcast from the General Authorities and shown in all of Asia. I thought it was kind of neat that they got their special own session of Conference.

4 - So, the biggest amusement park in Taiwan is in my district! Today we went with two other sisters from our Zone. It was the most beautiful amusement park I've ever been to. It is situated on the tops of green jungly mountains which gave it amazing ambiance. It didn't feel like the depressing concrete parkinglot island like most amusement parks do. It was so beautiful! You had to take escalators up and down to different parts of the park. We rode the rollercoasters and ate ice cream and got gawked at alot.

Being a white American in Taiwan is a little like being famous and today I really felt like that. We asked people to take a picture for us we would end up with about 8 random people taking pictures of us with their own cameras. They also talked about us openly in Chinese, not realizing we can understand them! In Taiwan, calling someone a foreigner is more a term of endearment than an insult. A big school group had kids yelling "Hey look, foreigners!" so I shouted back in Chinese "Not uh, I'm Taiwanese!" and they were all so suprised, they about laughed their faces off. I rather enjoyed it.

I have 33 seconds left Just enough time to tell you I love you all so much!

Daddy why haven't you emailed me in weeks. you fail

Cami's letter to Donna-

Congrats on the house closing! Wooo!

I always have been impressed with GBC's productions. I bet it was a lot of fun to see all the women in the ward.

And a bike ride, how fun! Then I remembered that I am on my bike all day anyway haha! Today we walked to a grocery store and I was like, weird, I am not used to walking more than a few feet into a house. I am either running as fast as I can during exercise (I try to sprint a lot) or on a bike!

Today we also went to an amusement park and got a special deal where someone sold us tickets and then a private car drove us and picked us up. So I walked and rode in a car all on the same day! Not common here.

I love you.

Keep plugging along in the lessons! This is a learning opportunity. :)

I love you

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oct. 14, 2009 A crazy week!‏

Wow, this last week has been crazy!

On Thursday we were in Gaosiung for Zone Conference. On Saturday we had General Conference and a special finding familes day again. On Sunday we had General Conference which ended up taking all day. On Monday we had Sisters Exchanges. On Tuesday we switched back from exchanges, and today is P-day! Literally, the only day of normal study and proselyting schedule was on Friday for a whole week (That is really unusual.)

General Conference was *so* good! Man. Best talks ever. I can't wait for the Ensign. Watching it was kind of a fiasco though.

So, to start off, our bishop planned that on Saturday the sessions would be watched back to back, from 5-9 pm. That is really daunting to investigators, even if we tell them they can just come for an hour. Anyway, we were there and ready and excited. It was just the Elders and our companionship trying to watch the English version...and we couldn't get any of the discs to work! About halfway through the opening song it would start freezing up. We didn't know what was wrong. After trying for a long time, the bishop came and set us up with a different DVD player which we were successful at watching one session. After that we were ready to watch the next session...and the discs wouldn't play again. It was so frustrating! If we didn't watch them that weekend we would have to use all of Preparation Day to watch the 10 hours of conference. So, the next day we took a bus over to Huwei, where the other Elders in our district are. We literally walked out the door, got on a bus, watched conference ALL DAY and went home.

The first session there was an American family there watching with us. My companion and I talked with the wife and it made us realize how Taiwanese we are becoming! For example, Taiwanese people are very open about making observations about the way people look! Giving compliments to them and their family and building people up is good manners and an important part of the culture. We get called beautiful at least once a day by women and children. [Side note, Taiwanese men are more likely to call out things like Hello! Good Morning! when it is eight oclock at night instead of cat calls.) So! We were talking to the American sister and she was saying how people love her kids and are always trying to give them things, and women are always coming on to her husband (who we hadn't seen yet.) Sister Pickering said"Wow, your husband must be really good looking!" Which in Chinese and to a Taiwanese person is a totally normal thing to say. When you compliment someone's family, you compliment them. Except she wasn't saying it to a Taiwanese, she was saying it to an American who gave us a weird look and changed the subject. hahaha. Sister Pickering and I had a good laugh about it afterward.

Also, when we were watching the Choir sing the opening songs we all couldn't help but notice how white everyone was, and how colorful their hair is. I discovered why white Americans always think Asians look the same- it's because their hair and eye color are always the same! They really don't all look the same. You just have to stop associating color as being a more distingushing characteristic than physical structure.

Also, I sometimes I forget I'm white a little bit. Like, I look at pictures of myself and think, wow, my eyes are SO BLUE. They aren't different than they were before, but I am not used to seeing them.

So, we spent all of Sunday in Huwei, watching 4 sessions back to back, with short breaks for peanut butter sandwiches. Conference was so good; there would be no way I would have the stamina for so much spiritual edification if I wasn't a missionary though.

Then that night, the bus never came so we had to take a taxi back, at the steep price of $9. It was worth it :)

This week we also had Sisters exchanges and I went to Zhonghua again! I wonder if I will get called to serve there in the future. I had a different companion this time - a native. She was sweet and we Chinglished it up. I want a native companion so my Chinese will improve but I know it will be hard.

So we are back in Douliu and working hard. Tonight is English Class (did I tell you I was assigned to be English leader?) and I want to have a Halloween activity in two weeks.

Email me with any ideas!



PS- What were your favorite talks?

Cami's reply to Donna's email:

Wow, it looks pretty good!
It was slow starting, but it's not too shabby! I even just enjoyed the pictures of Elko and the mountains - it looks so beautiful!

In Taiwan it is really polluted so the days when you can see blue sky at all are fairly rare, let alone big Nevada skies. I love it. The mountains here are actually really tall but I've only seen them clearly once in two months! All I can see are the smaller foothill "mountains".

-----Original Message-----
From: "Donna Johnson"

Subject: Peace Park photos
I thought you might like to see that the peace park is officially more than
just a sign in the sagebrush!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oct. 7,2009- Moon festival!‏

Nihao family!

Well, it's been a week and a half and all kinds of crazy things have happened!

This last weekend it was the Moon Festival- (Zhong chou tien)! It is a huge holiday here; it celebrates the (Harvest?) moon. It reminded me a lot of the Fourth of July, minus the patriotism. Everyone goes home to their parents house and BBQs (kaurou) and celebrates. At night there were fireworks like crazy. Apparently in Taiwan, anyone is allowed to light off fireworks whenever they want as large as they want. We just passed people on the street lighting off fireworks like have seen at some small town displays in the US. It was fun, there were lanterns and crazy Taiwanese music and everyone out Kaurou-ing. Kaurou is Chinese BBQ and though it has a little different flavor than back home, it is really good. I can see the Johnson relatives enjoying it :). Literally, the family just gathers around a grill and continuously eat and talk for HOURS. You think I'm exaggerating but I'm not. Our ward had an activity and they kaurou-ed from 8:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon.

The Moon festival is a great day for finding families so we started proselyting an hour earlier and stayed out an hour later (9:30 am -9:30 pm) to have the maximum time finding. It was really fun just proselyting because everyone is celebrating and inviting us in and trying to feed us. It was great because it really felt like a holiday feeling, but I didn't miss home because it's not a holiday I've ever celebrated before.

We tracted into the craziest group that day. They invited us in and were just all sitting around drinking tea, so we taught them the word of wisdom and about prophets. And there I met the Taiwanese Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow. Sister Pickering said to me in English "Doesn't he remind you of Jack Sparrow?" and HE DID. We tried to explain to them who Johnny Depp but all they got out of it was that we thought their friend looked like a pirate and they roared with laughter. I just realized this may be one of those "have to be there stories."

We saw a lot of miracles this week. We had been trying to find a ride for one of our investigators to church and no one could take her. This investigator lives out in the country and has a baby and a toddler - it's not very convenient. As we were on the way to her house to visit her we heard someone say The Sister Missionaries! So we stopped and found out members live a block from our investigator. This family has a 10 year old daughter Meimei, who was the one who called out to us. We asked the Mom to give our investigator a ride, and she declined - she already has four kids to get to church on time and it's just inconvenient. Then Meimei whispered in her moms ear and then the mom agreed to take her. The Mom told us later the daughter whispered "But Mom, serving others brings us the most happiness." Meimei is only 10 and she has such great faith!

(Interesting cultural sidenote - in Taiwan/China, you don't call children by their names - you call them Older or Younger Brother/Sister. I'm not sure at what age is appropriate to start using/learning their names. It is actually really convenient.I've been called Meimei (little sister) before. Oh, and you can call every old woman Amah - it's a respectful name like Grandmother.)

Other quick stories-The other night it was really pouring rain and we had a lesson far out of town we had to ride to. My raincoat was badly ripped and I was soaking and we hadn't had time for dinner. It was one of those situations with potential to be a real downer. I started singing hymns to keep my mind focused and my spirits up. My companion joined in and we started singing the primary song Follow the Prophet except we couldn't remember the words right so we were laughing and making them up and making up new verses to Follow the Prophet for people like Omni. We started singing Praise to the Man and I just had this moment where the spirit really touched me. It was such a sweet little moment of tender mercy, I just felt God's love. I felt He was really pleased with us, that our sacrifice was not unnoticed. A situation that could have been met with complaint was instead met with willingness and a choice to be be happy and we were, it was such a great night.

I can't believe it's snowing in Elko! Crazy! It has finally began to feel comfortable here instead of a million degrees. I forget that it is October!

Well, I love you all a lot. Be safe and keep praying for me - I know it helps a lot.



Cami's note to Donna:

We haven't seen conference yet - I'm so excited though! You know you are a missionary when y ou start looking forward to Conference months in advance. We will watch 3 sessions this Saturday-Sunday - i don't know when they are showing the rest. My excitement has been somewhat dampened as on Saturday, they are showing the two sessions in one four hour block....eeek. I'm not sure I will be able to absorb all I need to. Will you send me an English Conference Ensign when they come out? That would be so great.

You talking about homemade bread and soup and pie and snow made me miss you! It sounds like heaven.

Things are great here though

Thanks for your help with the Bank Card,don't forget to send me the penny talk number, for future reference so I'll have it