I thought of an experience that happened on my first night in Taiwan that I wanted to include. We went to meet the Mission President and his wife and have dinner with them. Afterward, they took us all down town Taipei and dropped us off. They had given us a list of things that we needed to buy before we returned to the mission office. The list also included the address of the mission home written in chinese so that we could show the Taxi driver. I remember some of the things on the list were: mantou--steamed bread, only sold in the morning, but we found frozen :P, a postage stamp, an umbrella, hmm...somewhere I have the actual list in my journal, but you get the idea. We didn't have the vocabulary for some of the items, but we found a college student who spoke english and he helped us buy everything. You could call it cheating, but they didn't give us any rules. I think this exercise was very important to help us overcome some of the culture shock and try and jump in with the language. It was a little scary, but we weren't alone, so it was fun.
--We rode in the mission van from the airport. I thought we were going to die in a car wreck. The traffic was so crazy, but the missionary driving didn't seem to even notice.
--The first city I lived in was very polluted and dirty. There was alot of pollution in the air, and it clung to everything. If I started out the day wearing white, it would be filthy by noon. Most people wear masks when they are riding their bikes or vespas because of the air pollution
--My companion helped me to get a bicycle. My first time riding in traffic, I really truly, honestly thought I was going to get hit by a car. I thought I was going to die at any second. I learned quick though and always enjoyed riding my bike there. It was a little difficult to ride in a skirt, but we learned how to do that modestly. There were many times that something broke, so we would each of us hold on to one end of an inner tube, and the one person would pull the other person's bike to the bike repair. I learned quickly how to put my chain back on and carried a screwdriver around with me all the time.
--I got sick my first month and wanted to buy a handkerchief but didnt' know how to say that in Chinese. I went to the store and tried looking around while my companion and the clerk held things up for me to see, hoping I would recognize what I was looking for. The closest I could come to saying handkerchief was "nose clothes". I can't remember how they figure it out, but eventually they did, and there was alot of laughing in the process.
--We met an old woman who had begung taking care of another woman's children while she worked. But one day the woman left and left the children behind. This old lady was trying to take care of them the best she could, but she didn't have any money. I didn't understand everything she said, but when she left the room to get us a drink of water, my companion asked me to give her some of my money. I didn't know what it was for, but I handed her some. She tucked it inside the baby's clothing. When the older lady came back in the room, she told her we needed to leave and thanked her. I have this memory of riding away on our bikes and seeing the old lady waving at us from the door thanking us.
--Once we found a mentally ill man living on the streets. He barely had any clothing, and only a pair of rubber sandals on his feet. It was bitterly cold outside. He had a piece of plastic and was trying to make a barrier against the wind. We went home and got one of our extra comforters and took it to him. We also bought him a pair of socks to keep his feet warm. It's so sad to see people like that slip through the cracks in society. He wore an over coat that I'm sure came from another missionary before us, it looked like the ones the Elder missionaries wore.
Hmmm...I like this "random memory" format..I might use that next time too.