Melissa left Taiwan in mid July, so I was flying solo for a while. We had our C.O. visit which proved to be very entertaining and even more instructive. I wrapped up my last days at my jobs in Taipei (which included a live production of The Little Mermaid by my kindergarten kids), packed up my things and fled the North. All the while having more typhoons than you can shake a stick at.
|One of my kindergarten classes|
My plan had been to move in with my friend Bara (from Czech Republic), and her room mate Fjorn (from Australia), both who are pioneers, which would help me find my way around this new territory that I was not familiar with. Unfortunately, Bara had booked a trip to Europe during the time I'd be here, so at first I was quite sad to miss spending time with her. However, two new surprises moved in around the same time. One is an awesome young sister from Australia name Lara (also a reg. pioneer), who was in Taiwan for only two months, but became my buddy very quickly. The other is a girl named Winnie. If you were to look back at my blog post from January called 'Assembly' there is a brief mention of a girl who moved here from Haiti after the earthquake, whom I met at the assembly which was her first meeting of any kind- that's Winnie. She has been progressing in her study amazingly and decided that during her summer break from school she would move in with her Bible teacher- Fjorn. So, we've had the privilege of having Winnie stay here as well and having studies with her every day. She was announced an unbaptized publisher last week at the meeting, and having just finished the Bible Teach book- she asked Fjorn if she could go through it one more time with her before she has to go back to live at the dorms. Her enthusiasm is very contagious and it's been awesome to see the changes she's made since we first met in January.
|Lara (Australia) & Winnie (Haiti)|
We traveled up to Taichung for our Safeguard Your Hearts convention. It was awesome. Besides all the wonderful parts on the program, we got to see 4 new ones get baptized and we had an all time new peak of 633 people in attendance. That's over 120 more people since our last assembly in spring. We were all very touched to see the efforts the Bible studies made to come all the way out there for the convention. Most of them only get one day off work a week, and would have to travel by bus or train for several hours to get there. One study is very shy and has never agreed to come to the Kingdom Hall before because she feels a bit intimidated, but somehow she decided she would attend one day of the convention. And although she has very little money, she decided to go buy a dress on her day off. She came on the congregation bus Sunday and made lots of new friends with the brothers and sisters.
As a side note- many of the friends here were able to attend the convention in Hong Kong a week earlier, reports have it that something like 560 or 570 were baptized at that convention. It's really evident that Jehovah is opening up the work over there as well.
|Miria (Australia), Debby (Taiwan), Ruby (Taiwan), Me, Jennifer (Alaska)|
|Jennifer (Alaska) & Senny (Swaziland)|
Living in Kaohsiung almost certainly requires having a vehicle of some sort. Public transportation is scarce and inconveniently timed. So very graciously, Bara left me the keys for her scooter while she is away so that I could get around. Well, for the first week I had an all-out battle with the thing. It wouldn't start, and if it did start- it would die promptly afterward. After many frustrated attempts I decided to roll it out to the sidewalk and have a better look at it. Checked the fluids, came to the conclusion that the electronic starter is broken, and as I am straddling it and trying to kick start it- the thing magically comes to life! Unfortunately my hand was simultaneously on the accelerator. It jolted forward like a horse that just got stung by a bee in the rear... and crashed me into a small garden lined with bricks about two feet away. So- I very calmly picked it and myself up... pushed it back to it's parking spot, dusted the dirt off the handlebars, examined my wounds and then proceeded to give it a good verbal lashing.
It wouldn't start at all after that for another 3 or so days (which gave my knee a chance to deflate after the crash). Finally, as I was about to abandon all hope of being able to travel beyond our apartment complex, it started.. *puttt.puttt..putputputputputputttt....putttttrr....prrrooooom!*
Thankfully, it has given me very little trouble since then and has served as a very valuable and fun mode of transport.
|Me & Bara before she left|
My new friend Lara had an interesting experience- she had taken a taxi one day with another sister and left her iPhone behind on accident. They tried calling different taxi service lines attempting to track down the cab it might have been in, but failed. They'd all but given up hope of ever finding it again when they decided to try calling it one last time. This time a girl answered. The sister (also from Australia) did her best to explain in Chinese the situation but was struggling to make any sense. Finally the person on the other end said "Would it be easier if we spoke in English??". They were amazed and quite relieved that the girl knew English, and arranged to meet up to get the phone. Lara decided that she would use this opportunity to give a witness, and wrapped a thank you note and a Bible Teach book up as a gift. When they met up, they began chatting and as it turns out the girl is college aged, Taiwanese, was raised in the U.S. and speaks perfect English. She is just visiting her father who lives here in Taiwan. She was very pleasant, and told the sisters she had never heard of the Witnesses before. She agreed to a Bible study and even began attending meetings once a week. She later traveled the 3 hour journey to the convention. She even came to the train station with us to see Lara off when she had to go back to Australia. She goes back to the U.S. soon but will continue her study in the mean time, and we're hoping she will have a chance to study back at home as well.
As usual, the witnessing at the ports continues to grow and is always an amazing experience. Each Saturday a group meets at the convenience store at the port. Several fisherman come and have studies at the picnic tables in front of the convenience store. There are always new faces arriving for the opportunity to have a study. It's incredible to see how Jehovah provides what is needed for people from ALL over the world. One sister in the cong. happens to speak Nepalese, and when 3 men were found that speak Nepalese she was right there to care for them. I got to sit in on their study last weekend and they are very eager to learn. Several men from Kenya are studying regularly and attend some of the meetings and making great progress. We met some men from Vanuatu who accepted studies, and thanks to Winnie they can have someone to speak to in French. There are Indonesians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, all having studies in their native tongues thanks to the efforts of the brothers and sisters to learn a new language or simply make themselves available to use what they already know. I had the privilege of boarding one of the fishing boats and conducting a bow-step study with 5 Filipino fisherman all at once. They were very shy but very respectful and were glad to follow along in their Tagalog literature, a Filipino brother helped to translate the more difficult topics into Tagalog. It's been a real joy to see the response so many of these men are having to the truth. And we hope that when they return to their homelands they will let those seeds of truth grow.
Monkey Mountain pt.2-
Lara and I decided to take a trip up to the mountain because she had never been. I had reassured her that the last time I went up there the monkeys were totally fine and hardly noticed our presence. Fjorn on the other hand warned us to wear long pants, don't carry food, and keep our distance because they have rabies and will attack you. So, caution to the wind- Lara wore shorts and I rolled my pants up. After all, last time I had brought a banana with me in hopes of luring a monkey into close contact and ended up only encountering one after I'd given up and thrown the banana in the woods. Well, Lara and I hiked deep into the mountain- only encountering the odd elderly Chinese person practicing Tai-Chi in the woods. And then Lara began squealing with delight and started doing something that resembled the 'potty-dance'. A monkey was right on our footpath. Then another crept up from behind us, a fat male. Then another from behind walked right up along our ankles sniffing about. We were now surrounded. Still, they didn't seem to give two cents that we were there. So we took pictures and videos of them until we were satisfied with ourselves, and decided we would proceed up the trail. But as soon as we tried to cross one of the monkey's paths.. it began lunging at my legs and baring its teeth and swatting at me. So, my natural instincts kicked in and I began lunging back at it exclaiming "What?! You wanna fight monkey?!?! Bring it on!" Our turf battle continued for about 2 minutes, each of us asserting our rights to the road. In the end neither of us decided to bite but walked away from the situation in a sort of unwilling truce. Lara said she was initially scared of the monkey but concluded that I was much scarier than she realized. Shortly afterward I ran into a low lying tree with my forehead. The ensuing lump made wearing a helmet very uncomfortable, but it did aid in helping the helmet (which has previously been too large) to fit more snugly on my pin-head.
|Lara's initial reaction to finding a monkey|
|Before the turf battle.|
Well... sorry to make such a long post all at once. It's been a bit difficult to keep up as things have been so busy. Every day here is an experience and I wish I could share them all... but you'd be reading for hours, if not days. Hopefully I can share more with some of you in person. One week until I return to Washington!