Oct 27, 2013
Things went well this week here on the other side of the planet. We had another good lesson with our best investigator, Betty, we watched that cheesy "Finding Faith in Christ" video back from the nineties. Yeah, it's got some cheesy filming going on, but, I at least felt like the Spirit was with us. She had a few questions about why Christ had to die for us, and we did our best to answer them with the Book of Mormon. I don' think she quite understands the full importance of it yet, so we're still doing our best to help her gain a strong testimony of it.
Oh wait, more about Betty in a sec, but some explanation is unnecessary first. Elder Wu lost his voice this week. He's nearly better, but he's sounded like he's going though puberty. It's honestly been hilarious. Like bad voice as in that fast food guy on the Simpsons who sounds like a dying donkey bad. Good times. Anyway, things still went pretty well. He would kind of play up the whole "lost my voice" thing when we were doing companionship studies, (He seems to really hate companionship study still) so that was a bit rough. He milked it out so I was basically just rambling on about scriptures or Preach My Gospel or whatever, and if I ever tried to ask him something or turn over the study he'd just make pathetic noises until I moved on.
Anyway, back to Betty - she's probably the nicest person in Hong Kong. After we taught her with Elder Wu's (much better than comp study) deathly voice, she gave us some sort of Chinese herbal throat remedy of some sort. Then, she "Changed" us out to this life-changingly good ice cream store. Best ice cream I've eaten since I left home. We shared some of our favorite BOM scriptures with her while we were devouring our banana splits. That was easily one of the best nights on my mission.
Other than Betty, we committed another investigator to baptism! His name is A-Hong. (Did I mention him before? If not, we taught him and his wife together about 2 weeks ago) He came to church, and he seemed to like it for the most part. After sacrament, he told me that he liked the talks, but then put his hand to his mouth and said something in a really conspiratorial way. No idea what he said though... so... it seemed like he had a good time though. School was really good. The Bishops wife, Sister Ng, taught. She actually reminds me a lot of July Barnson. I feel like she may have a secret Cantonese sister. She's super energetic and laughs at her own jokes a lot (her laugh even sounds a lot like July's...) but she taught really well, and I think A-Hong had a good time with the lesson. After church, we clarified some things in the lesson, taught a little about the Plan of Salvation and the Book of Mormon, and then we invited him to baptism. He agreed, but then he said he wanted to wait until his wife is ready too. I have really high hopes for his family.
We had one other investigator come to church this week, Victor. Victor's a nice guy, but he's kinda got some weird issues. He often goes to a different Christian church, apparently because he's afraid that God might be real so he wants to cover his bases. Apparently the last time my companion tried to commit him to baptism he said "Even if I knew your church was true, I think I'm too much of a coward to join your church." Exact words. I guess there's a lot of Anti-Mormon stuff going on around here. Part of it is probably everyone and their dog is connected to the Internet 24/7, which, let's face it, is not a generally friendly place to our church. Part of it is because the original phonetic translation for "Mormon" unfortunately sounds a lot like "Devil Church." We can't really talk to older people becuase they'll just see the badge, mutter "Mo mun gaau" and shuffle away from us. (They've switched up the translation, but the name still sticks with us...) Also, he thought that Sister Ng's lesson was really boring. He thought that he had already heard plenty about making right choices, so he didn't know why he had to learn more about it. Not entirely sure how to help him with that.
Other than those guys, we taught a lot of people on the street this week. We had a few good lessons where I felt the Spirit with us, but we weren't able to get anyone to meet with us again at any specific date. I've got hopes that we might be able to see a few of them eventually though. It's honestly a bit frustrating when we do have a good lesson, but then people aren't even willing to say a 30 second prayer with us. It's going to be a big job convincing people to make that first leap of faith and be willing to even think about God.
As for the less spiritual stuff, my companion gave me a haircut this week. It actually wasn't too bad, except for the FREAKIN' CRATER ON THE TOP OF MY HEAD. Fear not, pictures are coming soon. (I finally brought out the camera, only to realize that I don't have the requisite stick-reader with me...) We have a set of clippers, so he was just giving everyone haircuts. The longest setting on the clippers is just about right for missionary-length hair, so we don't even have to use scissors. Anyway, he was getting close to done, he was just blending the sides and top of my hair. Then, the clippers sound changed, from a steady, soothing "zzziiiippp zzziippp" to a sudden "ZZZRRROOORRRK." My companions' eyes suddenly got huge. Two other missionaries who had been eating on their beds a few feet away froze, food halfway to their mouths. Then, the two started laughing so hard that I think one of them almost died. I jumped off of the foldy chair I had been sitting in, and ran in to the bathroom. And there it was: There was about a 2 x 3 inch crater on my head where the guard of the clippers slipped and cut all the way done to the very shortest setting the guard would allow for. I only strangled my companion a little bit. (No marks and it never happened, right?) On the plus side, I'm taller than 99.99% of everyone in Hong Kong (I've only seen three or four natives taller than me all three weeks), so nobody can really see it... but... yeah. I'll probably have enough hair to fix it sometime next week.
Oh, and you asked about the short budget for food. Let's do it TV style:
It's Time for the Cooking with Elder McEwan Show!
(Cheerful fanfare and applause)
Today's meal: Carrot, Egg, and Rice Stir Fry!
Make a cup of rice in the rice cooker. Chop up the two ridiculously huge carrots you can't really remember why you bought. Use a ginormous butcher knife because it's the only sharp blade in the apartment. Add a bit of oil to your frying pan. Add the carrots, two eggs, and all the rice. (For added fun, do it in a 3 X 7' kitchen with three other people trying to cook at the same time) Fry it until the fifth guy waiting outside to cook gets too annoying to continue. Results: It tastes... kinda depressing actually. Realize you don't really have any other food until you go shopping later. Eat it all because you're too hungry to care. Sigh.
Anyway, that was, before shopping. My diet got significantly better than that. I even found some meat! (We like to scoop up all the manager's specials on meat that expires soon at our local grocery store and then freeze them) My favorite: 1 Cup of rice in the rice cooker. Add a can of corn. Let it cook. Fry up half a tray of super cheap pork. Mix it all up. Results: Actually not too bad!
As for the money, $50 a day is actually just fine. You can buy two or three weeks worth of rice for $50. The trick is just learning how to eat well with the money you have - we don't have enough money to eat like we did in the States. Dairy products are more or less out of budget completely. We can also eat out pretty cheaply - we live on top of a restaurant that will sell you a tasty pork and rice box for $18. There's this bread store in Wan Chai that you can buy these delicious chocolate rolls for $3.5 a piece. (I may or may not drop about $20 any time we're in the area...).
Thinking of which: I need recipies. The less ingredients involved the better. (We don't have enough space to store food we're not planning on eating soon.) So far, I've found three very cheap food staples that I'd like to improve: Rice, Ramen, and Oatmeal. All three are incredibly cheap, but need improvement. If you guys can find me any recipes that involve these, it'd make me happy. Oh, and if you can find a recipie for pancake mix, that'd also be great. Pancakes are a great breakfast, but so far I haven't found and bulk-ish bags of mix, and the little boxes are a bit overpriced.
Anyway, I'm pretty much out of time. We're going hiking! (Yes, I finally have the camera)
Love you guys!
Elder Brennan McEwan
Nov 4, 2013
…So, for this week, last P-Day was awesome. We went hiking up to Lion's Rock. It's a really cool overlook of the city. We got a bunch of great pictures. (Explanation coming later...) It was great to finally go hiking again after so long. The other great thing this week is that we got chang'd out twice this week. Once was to a Korean Barbecue. Oh man, that was easily the best meal(s) I've eaten in Hong Kong so far. Basically, it's a buffet - except that there's ginormous piles of deliciously marinated, uncooked meat. You grab a plateful, and there's a barbecue in the middle of your table. You plop as much as you can onto the barbecue, wait, and then feast. If you get the timing right, you continually are cooking and eating. I probably downed at least three pounds of meat. No joke. Greatest restaurant ever. Our Bishop gained great status in my heart. The other was to a member's apartment - Sister Lum. Their family cooked a ton of really good food for us. Plus, they had some honest to goodness cheescake. It's funny, I used to not really like cheescake, but serving a mission has given me a great appreciation for free food. Om nom nom.
Besides that, we also went out to a Dim Sum restaurant today. It's great having a native companion with us - we ate at a decent place for only $60 a piece. That's really not too bad at all considering the ridiculous amount of food we ate. Oh, and I discovered another Hong Kong pastry I really like. I can't remember what it's called (I'll get that to you later), but it's a sweetish roll filled with this delicious yellow sweet sauce - and the entire thing is nice and hot. Takes some practice to eat though - I got too excited and bit straight into one and it blew up in my face. I blew up another one when I pinched it too hard with chopsticks. By some kinda miracle my shirt was spared though - it had some really close calls today.
Actually, other than hiking and food, I don't think there was any super memorable events this week. We taught a ton of people on the street this week, but we only got one new investigator. I'm getting a little frustrated with this stupid "believe in yourself, not God" philosophy here. A lot of people aren't even willing to pray with us because they just don't really believe in anything at all. It seems like the general consensus among most non-crazy people is that it's admirable that we're willing to spend our time like this for our faith, but they just think that you're free to do whatever you want, worship whatever you'd like, but pretty much everything is good for anyone if they like it. Someday we'll get 'em.
Our best investigators, Betty and A-Hong, are still doing really well. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get A-Hong's wife to church yet - she works on Sundays. We're trying to get Betty to move her baptisimal date up. For some reason, she wouldn't agree to anything before. However, she's really prepared. Her faith and testimony are already very strong, and she's going to make a great member. We're trying to get her to switch up to the 1st, but she's not sure about it yet. However, it gave us a good oppurtunity to teach about how we can pray to know the truth again - so I think whatever happens it will be a good experience for her.
And... that's it, actually, lots and lots of finding this week. The Jay Dubs (Jehovah's Witnesses) have been making our job hard though. Sounds like they've been (illegally) knocking on doors lately, so a lot of people think they've seen missionaries in their apartments. Grr. We actually ran into a pair the other day - he went on like a ten minute monolougue about how the Bible is the only source of truth and about the resurrection. Yup, we hear you buddy. (They've got some crazy ideas though. Sounds like if you aren't one of the 144 thousand, death is the complete end - you just cease to exist - no afterlife at all. Pretty depressing religion actually...)
All right, I'm out of stuff to write. Love you guys!
Elder Brennan McEwan
PS for Nov 4: Oh, and why there’s no pictures…
As per subject - we got locked out of the apartment... yeah.
We were going out to buy some groceries, and just as the door shut behind us my companion said,
"Did you grab your keys, Elder Doorman? 'Cause I didn't."
Wide eyes and gasping commenced. Many plans were proposed - anywhere from climbing out onto the bamboo scaffolding the workers use on our building around to an open window (don't worry, we didn't actually do that one) to unscrewing the people and trying to fish for the deadbolt with a coathanger. We actually executed that plan, but we couldn't quite get the deadbolt. We finally got a spare key after about an hour's worth of travel to the mission office.
Anyway, my camera was still in the room, and we're not going to have time to get there and back here to the Wan Chai convention center before time's up. Pictures next week hopefully...
Elder Brennan McEwan
Nov. 19 2013
…Other than that, all our lessons went really well this week. One of our investigators made us a tasty cheesecake. We devoured it all right after the lesson. We gave another one of our investigators a baptismal date, so that brings us up to three, with another who is doing really well and will probably take a date soon. I've really been enjoying teaching people about the Gospel - it's really awesome to see when people realize how important our claims about religion are. You can really see that the idea that we have living prophets on Earth today and another book of scripture to prove them just blows people's minds. It's even cooler to see people feel the spirit. Sometimes they don't really recognize it, but there's just something in their face that says "Oh - We've gotcha, don't we?"
The language is coming. I've had a lot of other missionaries tell me that I'm doing really well for how long I've been here. I've got a decent vocabulary, it's just pronunciation that's the problem. A lot of natives tell me I'm really smart to know Cantonese, but I think some of them are just being nice. I know for a fact my tones are still pretty bad. Stupid tones. I have a tendency to try and put emotion into my voice when I'm talking in an English sort of way, which completely jacks up Cantonese tones. I'm getting really good at recognizing the "I have no idea what you just said but I'm too nice to say anything about it" face. It's an important skill for new missionaries.
I'm getting better and better at understanding what people are telling me too. I'd say I'm up to about 75% understanding when people are talking about church-related things. Plus, I'm getting pretty good at picking up random snatches of conversation from the street. I felt really cool last night because I randomly understood two old people complaining to each other about how tired they were. I'm getting better, one word at a time.
Oh, thinking of old people, have I mentioned that the old people here are SUPER WEIRD? Seriously, every morning we run over to a soccer court to do some working out. Every morning, there's a line of at least five hundred old people that have probably been waiting for hours to get a newspaper at. Even weirder - most of them are passing the time by reading a newspaper. Half the time it's the exact same newspaper. Whuh? The ones that walk around are even weirder. Whether it's clapping with every step, buzzing like an alarm clock, or blasting Cantonese opera from a boom box as they walk... there are some seriously strange old people here.
Love ya guys!
Elder Brennan McEwan