Original article posted by chamblin:

The month gone by seems much longer, and it’s hard to think that not so long ago I was mixing drinks or in New York City.

But never both simultaneously.

A couple items of good news:

1. The pizza I’m not eating right now would have been the one that gave me a heart-attack in 35 years.
2. Elder Killen has shared with me a method of using a hammock and a tarp to stay safe from bears in the forest. Possibly while I am also in the forest as well.

Monday saw the start of the departures of the districts 6 weeks ahead of us. By Wednesday morning they were gone.

A couple of developments in relation to that. We had many things passed down to us. For instance, I received a new pair of shoes only slightly less horrible than the ones I already own. We also had a tie-exchange. A tie exchange is when everybody tosses an ugly tie into a pillow-case, then draws out a new tie one by one. I managed to get rid of one of my Dad’s horrible ties, but received what must be the horrible Grandpa tie (by the way, Dad, I took one of your junky ties.).

A downside of the departure of the older district: One more elder had to go home. He couldn’t manage to overcome whatever his challenge was, so he couldn’t go. Very sad to see a person who has been training with these people who have become his friends for 12 weeks, then have to watch them move on. It was a sad night.

I got to see about 120 seconds of “The Sandlot” this week. There’s a funny thing that happens here. Certain things cause elders to go, “Oh yeah… I remember…” and look kinda confused. Things that cause this reaction – The Outside World Effect – include but are not limited to: Movies, pregnant women, people holding hands, people kissing, textbooks, and pop-music.

Tuesday evening the Mandarin department discovered that our district is going to be required to be able to teach all 6 discussions in our own words in Mandarin before we leave. Previously, every district has only been required to teach 2. So our training schedule has been somewhat “amped up.” A few of you may know what it means to have anything amped up. For the rest, suffice it to say that there will be computer-animation, glowing blue objects, general confusion, bad theme music, and an ending that will inspire laughter for years to come. The upside of “amping up” is that it is usually followed immediately by flying robots and anti-terrorist-low-life-mag-poppers.

Want a slice?

Please forgive me my nostalgia. It couldn’t be helped. My point is that stress may be somewhat increased in the coming weeks. I remember learning to count a few weeks ago and learning that there are 2 words for “2” and wondering how I would ever get it right. Well, now I have substantially more to worry about.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to introduce the concept of God to someone who may have grown up in a communist nation where no religion is taught. It’s going to be an interesting time, I can tell. My teachers all tend to get this kind of half-smile when I ask if they ever faced “this-or-that” type of challenge. As if they’re saying, “Oh yes, my young Padowan.”

Otherwise, life is fine. I am impatient to get among the people of Taiwan until I hear a native-speaker going full-speed, then I’m happy to try and learn more Chinese. In fact, the only downsides to the week were the occasional evening when my companion gave up on ‘quiet dignity’ and when the Asian elder behind me at the Tuesday devotional decided he needed to cough on the back of my neck every 20 seconds for an hour.

Finally, a couple of messages:
1. Rodney: DRAB RAGS
2. Steph: Thanks for feeling like you can talk to me.
3. Kayeleen: You know…
4. Blaine: Stop stealing shoes.
5. Spencer: Stop doing the… um… don’t… er… if you would… well… YES I’M AWESOME!
6. Mom: Remember that article you sent me? Funny thing happened…

Feel free to write. – Han Zhang lao

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