Sunday, December 29, 2013

Letter Home #90: What's This? What's This! There's something in the Air!

Dear People,

Last week after email we went to Muji (think Japanese Minimalist IKEA focused more on Stationery) to grab some supplies & winter clothes. I didn't need anything, and Elder Mak had already paid so we were standing near each other casually looking at the toiletries when he tapped me on the shoulder.

"Elder O'Gara" he said "What's this?"

"A Razor, for one time or two times use" I replied.

"But" he said, pointing to the label "For Woo-Man?".

I started at him blankly, and then laughed louder than one ought to in a crowded public place on Festivus (which I am TOTALLY celebrating when I grow up!). See, Elder Mak has no sisters, and Asians don't have much hair anyways (you can tell most girls here don't shave their legs because they'll have three or four hairs about one shade darker than their skin on their shins), so he had NO clue what was going on. I explained to him about racial differences and he mostly got it after that.


Lots of people asked in emails about my Christmas, so here it is!

Monday - Festivus! We had the eating of Chinese food, but only a half-hearted feat of strength and no airing of grievances. New holidays just get no love. Maybe next year will be better. We also had the Zone Activity in which we snacked, played games, and watched the slideshow the Office Elders put together.

Wednesday - Stake Activity! The 6 congregations in the western New Territories got together for a 7 hour activity that was AWESOME! We played games, pulled people off the streets into the activity, taught mini-lessons all over the place, got free dinner (BBQ pork and Soy Chicken on rice, of course!), and listened to a really good Choir (Song of the Heart Singers).

Thursday - We had our Ward BBQ and Hike in which we spent the day making sure all of the people we've been teaching the Gospel to are getting integrated and accepted into the Yuen Long 1 congregation. It was lots of fun, and here's a bit of Chinese Culture for you, with Chicken Wings to give some perspective!

Yeah, Baby Pigeons are delicious, if not the most horrible thing I've ever eaten. Totally beats out shark fin soup. Yes, I've had both (Shark Fin Soup was an accident, and not as immediately terrible, but does have higher elements of fridge horror).

Saturday - We couldn't celebrate my Birthday on my Birthday, so we went to Gin Curry after English Class. I prefer Thai Curry, but Japanese is still good!
Elder Wong and I split the Mt. Fuji 1.5 Kilo monster meal! It was pathetic; I could pound one by myself and then go for icecream. Tasty, but not scary. Our friend had told us she'd not been able to finish it with 4 other girls. 2 Missionaries > 5 Teenage Girls, take note. The best part was, after that we had to run back to the Church, and I got to do something I've been DYING to do for ages!

I rode Elder Wong's bike home! It was the best day of my LIFE!

Sunday - YEAH! My Birthday! I had been awake for 3 hours before anyone said it (I like to see how long it takes people to remember), and had a good time at Church. I taught A 17-year-old kid how to tie a Bow Tie after the meeting, it was lots of fun. That night we took a couple of our friends to a musical Fireside in Wan Chai in which 2 Piano Performance Majors from BYU improved new arrangements for 15 Christmas carols. It was glorious. 

Today - Preparation Day and Pay Day! Does it get better than that? Of course it does; I get to do Missionary Work tonight!

Who's with me?

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Letter Home #89: An Infamous Miracle

Dear People,

My En-Ga-Lish is very poor-laaaa!

But really, I'm losing words like made. The other day my comp and I were mocking a new advertising scheme, and I said that when Chinese people try too hard to be creative something "terribly wonderful... Awfully amazing...An Infamous Miracle?..." happens.

An Infamous Miracle?

I can't figure it out, and neither can he, but we're working on it.


We've been meeting regularly with two gentlemen, Mr Chu and Mr L. Mr L has been kind of "meh" about keeping commitments, and then last night our lesson fell flat on its face in the first 35 seconds or so after the opening prayer (which is when we ran out to grab another copy of the pamphlet he was supposed to read to prep him for our lesson). HOWEVER, because Heavenly Father loves Mr L and wants him to be Baptized, He helped us piece everything back together so that we could help Mr L have a desire to come to keep his commitments! He still didn't agree to come to Church, but he's getting closer to accepting a challenge!

Apparently today is Festivus... My comp's family loves Seinfeld, and so we're going to eat Chinese food (which is easily done), have a Feat of Strength (which I can do), and then an Airing of Grievances (I'm scared of that one). I'm not sure what's expected to happen, so I'm hesitant...

Pray for me.

But really, focus your prayers on the people in the Phillipines that are still sad, hungry, and cold (does it get cold in the Philipines?).

I'm loving the New Territories, especially because it's semi-abandoned; most of the people here are literally insane (our local asylum is ACTUALLY overflowing with inmates), or they're really really really interested in the Gospel. sometimes the crazy people are interested, which causes problems. But it's nothing I can't handle, for I can do all things in Christ, which strengthens me!

Elder J.E. O'Gara

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Letter Home #88: A Father's Influence

Dear People,

Here's an excerpt from what I got from my Dad last week

Did I tell you I’ve found a replacement for NanShan Mountain? It’s about 5K from the house and a pretty good climb once you get there. There is a great looking loop that will get me about a 35K bike ride, the mountain will be the first leg of the ride. As I give it a try and explore a little, I’ll keep you posted. Could be a good one to try when you get here.   

This was my reply

The bike ride sounds good, but don't plan anything too crazy, I'm not sure if I'll have any bike muscles left unless they call me tomorrow and say I'm going to Yuen Long.

Any guesses on where I am right now?

Say hello to the new Yuen Long District Leader! I live in the Gam Tin apartment with my entire District; Yuen Long 1 (us), Yuen Long 2 (a pair of locals that I knew fairly well before they started their Missions), and Gam Tin (Elder Mak from Sha Tin and Elder Wong who I met earlier this year before he started his Mission). The only person I wasn't already friends with was my new comp, Elder Beautiful. Wanna see a picture?

Yeah, he got fairly ill, so we missed Church yesterday, but right after I took this picture he got up and ate a small bowl of rice, so he's better now. I got my studies done, organized all of our Ward Member Records by geographical location, made a super legit planner cover (Christmas and Western New Year AND Chinese New Year themed!), and then took a nap for an hour. I would have cleaned the house, but that's not really something you're supposed to do on Sunday.

I live in pretty much the nicest place in the Mission; it's the 3rd floor and roof of a village house in Downtown Gam Tin. First, let me tell you about the location...

Pretend that I started my Mission in Downtown Seattle, with lots of hustle and bustle and pollution. Then, I moved to Lakewood, still a city, but less intense. After that, pretend I went to Tacoma, a more intense city, and figured I'd probably finish my Mission there. Then I randomly got called to the metropolis of Ellensburg. Yeah, I seriously feel like I'm walking the streets of Ellensburg or Grangeville, but to be more honest it's more like Kooskia, Kamiah, or Red River. It's tiny, and has kind of a quaint, home-town, kind of feel to it. It's cool, but NOT Hong Kong! My paradigm has been shifted by this town, and also the house.


The house is awesome. We have a proper kitchen (the fridge, counter, and stove make a triangle), six bunk beds in what used to be a sun room (lots of curtains, now), and an office on our roof. And a rusty grill on our roof, I'm thinking tinfoil dinners might be in order next week. The only downside is that our stove is induction, so we can't use the beautiful nonstick pan I found while cleaning the kitchen. First World Problems, right?

I promise next week will be more Gospel related!

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letter Home #87:Festive Cheer and Eternal Happiness

Dear People Whom I Love,




My favorite time of year is finally here again, and, as a Christian Missionary, you can bet that I am excited beyond belief, reason, or doubt to be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ at the time of year where we commemorate and celebrate His birth! Being on a Mission reminds me more than ever of what the real "reason for the season" is... Partially because I'm too poor to buy gifts.

But really, when you're out preaching all day and people don't want to listen and it's 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, it's hard to stay cheerful. But, when it's dropped to 50 degrees and 50 percent humidity, and you can open every single street contact with "Merry Christmas! I'd like to tell you the glad Message of Christ's Birth!", things just get so much happier and better all of a sudden!

There are challenges in all of our lives (like stopping strangers on the street using a foreign language), there are trials that we're not sure we can overcome (like 8 hours of street finding in the heat), and there are little problems weighing on our minds that are just there to give us stomach ulcers (like where I'll live, study, or get married after I get home). All of these things melt away when you remember that it doesn't matter.

Because Christ was born, He was able to perform an infinite and perfect Atonement. This means that, no matter what happens, it's all good! Jesus loves us, and if we do our best then He'll teach us how to do everything else. I, of myself, learn languages very quickly, but without little promptings here and there, I wouldn't have had nearly as much focus or success in learning Chinese. I pick up on people's feelings really quickly sometimes, but I've felt that ability be magnified beyond my imagination while I've been here in Hong Kong.

The Atonement isn't just some long past event that gives us hope for some event far in the distant future! It was made for you, personally, to use every day!

Act Like It!

Because God loves you, His Child, He sent our Brother to experience this mortal life and give us a perfect example! Isn't that something to be grateful for, and to show your gratitude for? We don't all need to start filling in Mission Applications, just go out and find some good to do! It's all around, it doesn't take much looking to find it, either. It could be the guy ringing the annoying bell outside of Wal Mart, the lady inside who's knocked over a pyramid of oranges, or the glum clerk bagging your groceries.

There are opportunities right in our way to show our gratitude towards Christ and our devotion to Him, and I hope we'll all take them.

Elder JE O'Gara

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Letter Home #86: Never Fear

Dear People,
Elder Tall is here, to save the day, taloo-talay! I, like a noob, left my card reader AND USB cable at the apartment. But, what's this, Elder Tall, sitting next to me, pulls out nothing but a USB card reader! 

The Turkey Day Report is saved!Inline image 1

We have here the pies, jello, coco rice, and whipped cream.

And on the savory side we've got The Turkey, half a dozen pizzas, the salad, and the stuffing & dressing in the distance.

Now, let's take a look at that turkey that was brined for 24 hours, and then cooked for 4 (convection ovens cook a lot faster than anticipated!)!

How cute, it even has a little tan line from where I tied the wings onto the body! And look at that crispy golden-brown skin! It must have been basted every 30 minutes in it's own juices to make it so luscious! 

What did the Tolo Harbor Zone think?

Let's just say there weren't any complaints :D

Remember to be thankful, and go do some good in the world today!

Elder JE O'Gara