I was rejected by the Mormon missionaries, in a small Taiwanese town, bedecked with false idols, "heathens" and poly-theists.
When I saw them they were sitting outside the 7-11.Two of them. Sitting on bent up metal chairs, they were happily consuming what appeared to be mysterious, leathery hot dogs of unknown origin. At that point I had been in Taiwan for over a year, living in a polluted little town, hemmed in on three sides by petrol chemical plants on the outskirts of KaohsiungCity. I went there to finish a book I had been struggling with and as a bonus, learn what it was like to live in a toxic zone.
Seeing another white face in this town was a rare event, which was exactly why I chose it. I had work to do and unfortunately, I had little time and money to spend hanging around other foreigners, some of whom seem to have inexplicably flown halfway around the world to spend the majority of their time in westernized establishments, drinking imported beer and commiserating about the oddities of Taiwanese culture.
There weren't any foreigners where I lived, so it wasn't really an issue, but after a year of mind-bending solitude, I began to fantasize about things as simple as having a concise conversation with someone other than myself.In a moment of desperation I made a point when exiting the 7-11 to introduce myself.
As it turned out, Elder Able and Elder Levi, both Mormon missionaries, had ridden their bikes twenty five kilometers into my town, not for the delicious 7-11 hot dogs, but with the sole purpose of spreading "The Word".
I noticed that during our conversation - which, by the way, was very enjoyable - Able, the older of the two, seemed to eye me suspiciously. It was as though my friendly, interested demeanor had somehow thrown him off. "This guy is too easy," he seemed to be thinking."There's gotta be a catch."
I've always found religion to be fascinating and was a main reason for my desire to live in Asia.Perhaps my enthusiasm, coupled with the chance to have a coherent conversation, had something to do with it. Anyway, I had class to get to, so exchanging numbers, I happily invited them over to my place the following week, which they wholeheartedly agreed was a fine idea.
The following week, in preparation for my guests, I mopped my floors, bought snacks, and in an attempt to make them comfortable, moved my Buddha images out of the front room. Oh, the things we would talk about!
On Monday morning, wanting to confirm our symposium, I dug their wrinkled Jesus flyer out of my book bag and dialed the number. No answer.
On Tuesday I called again. No answer.
Tuesday night. No answer.
I waited around all day on Wednesday, thinking maybe they had bike trouble or perhaps they had come down with debilitating parasitic hosts after eating those hot dogs. They never did show up though. A few weeks later, I thought I spotted two peddling white shirts as I was riding through town, which only turned out to be two old Taiwanese men in white shirts and flip flops.
I never saw Able and Levi again. It's a shame, because I really wanted to hear what they had to say. I really did.
Previously published in EXPAT, Taiwan and Gwangju News, S.Korea 2007/2008