Elder Kyle M. Allen in Hong Kong

Read all about Elder Allen's adventures as a full time missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints in Hong Kong


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Culture Shock

In Elder Kyle’s latest email says he learned a few things about the Chinese culture this past week – the hard way of course!  If he hasn’t offended too many people he is doing great!

This is so crazy! I was totally thinking about it but I didn’t realize that football starts in like two weeks!!! (ASU football of course!  Their first game is Thursday, August 30.)  And who would’ve guessed that Taylor Kelly would be the starting quarterback! I wonder how that’s all going to work out! I wonder if the generalissimo CTG will have patience with him?  The whole idea of playing two quarterbacks never works out, I don’t get why CTG is doing it but knowing him, he’ll make it come into style. That’s crazy! It’s sad actually, to know I won’t be there and won’t even know the score until like half a week after it happens! Oh well…what are you going to do about it??

 Everyday here something just new happens its crazy! You always meet different people, there are different things going on in the street everyday or even at church activities you never know how many people show up! Like Tuesday at Eefy this week we had like 5 investigators show up but on Monday we didn’t have any! It’s just always random! And the haircutting class is just amazing. They get more advanced every time and we had 6 or 7 investigators show up on Saturday!  And everything just always moves fast! Especially in Kwun Tong. It takes probably like 15 minutes for me everyday to get from Kwun Tong to TKO by minibus and the bus never slows down! Ha-ha!  The other thing I should mention is that everything is different everyday! I’m sure it won’t always be like that you know, but for the time being, the only three things that are constant here are that 1) people in the gaisihs (markets) will always be selling live fish, crabs, and these fish that look like they could be eels. They even had just the chopped up heads of the big fish for sale, who knows why…2) the entire place will always smell like fish. I’ve gotten so good at being able to hold my breath and breathe through my tie. The street is so long and there are people everywhere just gazing around…they obviously don’t know the pain I’m in! Ha-ha!  3) the food will never be great. Here you have three basic options; the markets for a rice bowl, eat at the house, or go to McDonald’s!! Ha-ha!  Instead of a 1-dollar menu they have an 8-dollar menu!  They don’t have Hot and Spicy chicken sandwiches though…. what a shame!  We really have had only one variation to the eating schedule. We went to a Korean barbecue buffet place where you cook your own food at the table! The Korean know how to put on a good barbecue.  We also eat these snacks called Gaak Jai Bengs a lot. They are waffles folded up like a taco with peanut butter syrup and sugar and stuff. It’s about the only thing you can get cheap here that’s sweet. Ha-ha! They are so good though!

 Speaking of McDonald’s I learned some culture there this week. Even at a fast food place it is improper and impolite to throw away your food! When you’re done, just like a restaurant, you just leave! I threw it way once and the member that was with us like said that you’re taking away their duty and so they don’t like it! Who would’ve thought!!!  Want some more culture that I learned (the hard way of course) this week? Well good cause I’m giving it to you.  It happened to me at church.  On Sunday out of nowhere I was asked to bear my testimony because we had extra time at the end…. Oh great!  It takes me a while to come up with the things I want to say in my testimony but on Sunday I didn’t have any time to think, plus the nervousness and everything… Ha-ha!  It just all added up. But I did okay I guess! Elder Broderick just told me to say, “I’m happy to be in this ward” and they’ll love you no matter what else you say. So I did and when the meeting ended people were coming up to me saying I did a good job and that my Cantonese is good or whatever (but it’s really not even close they are just really nice people) and of course I was saying thank you and that’s when I learned my lesson. Elder Broderick told me that whenever someone gives you a compliment you always turn it down and never say thank you! I’m thinking it must mean you sound cocky maybe? Who knows?  Ha-ha. It also means that whenever someone offers you anything, you always have to turn it down first and say you don’t want it. Then, if they actually want you to have it they’ll offer it again and then you accept it! Ha-ha!  So that’s interesting I thought!

 We’ve been teaching quite a few lessons, which is good! We have this one investigator who’s name is Andy (they all have English names as well as Chinese names) and he is so cool! He came back from mainland not to long ago and he told us about something that happened to him while he was there.  He was absolutely lost and it was dark and he had to get home soon, so he prayed and right away he remembered which way he came and how to get back! That’s so cool! He was dropped at one point but now he has a baptismal date in like 3 or 4 weeks! And then he just comes with us in other lessons and like helps out a bunch with teaching and talking and getting to know other people. Now all he has to do is start coming to church…that’s easier said then done here….

 We have another one who’s name is Jack and he has been coming to English class for a good…like 12 years if you can believe it but he just hasn’t wanted to get baptized at all. He is such an English junkie (which isn’t rare at all!!) that he goes to the English wards here instead of the one he’s supposed to attend! He just wanders in and goes as he pleases. The whole day I was praying and hoping someone would come with us to church (even though about 5 people said they would) and no one came. But amazingly right as church ended Jack called us and said he wanted to come back to church! So he came over and luckily we had a fireside for all 6 missionaries leaving from the ward next month and he went with us to that! And then we taught him and he said he would pray about getting baptized. I know the Lord cares about us and truly does answer our prayers!

 Time is too short and this week is almost up but any other people getting their calls yet??? That would be cool to know. Oh and don’t bother sending stamps.  I got some here and American stamps probably wouldn’t work from here. Since things are cheap in Hong Kong, the cost of an international stamp is the cost of a domestic stamp in America! And I heard something about a huge typhoon that’s supposed to hit on Saturday?? That will be cool to see if it actually happens!

 I love you all and thanks for every single thing you do for me! My address is

 Elder Kyle Allen

China Hong Kong Mission

18 Dorset Crescent

Kowloon Tong, Kowloon HK

 

Thank you again! I feel your love 7,500 miles away! Know that I love you too and am happy and where I’m supposed to be! The heat in Arizona has definitely prepared me for the weather here! Talk to you next week!

 Kyle

 


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This Stinks!

In his email following the first full week he has spent in Hong Kong Kyle tell us a little about the atmosphere of the city and how they go about getting investigators to teach.  It is very different than I would have imagined.

Well Hello Everybody!

I hope everyone is doing good and had a good week – or is having a good week! My weeks end and begin with Thursday now that Thursday is my P-day so that’s why I say that but, well, you get the point. To answer your questions for the week I’m not exactly sure where my apartment building is but I’ll give you some details so you can look it up on Google Earth. So the Kwun Tong Chapel (that’s the area I live in) is super close to us. So if you look up the Kwun Tong chapel (it is white and is two stories a short spiral type thing too) and you walk up that street it is on for 30 seconds then that’s where I live.  I don’t know how to explain it but I live close to where the old airport is so you if that gives you anymore help then good! (I tried to find it on Google Earth but couldn’t locate it right away so I though I would post this first and then continue to look.  If I find something I will add a link or at least a couple of pictures.)

I live on a street that has like 10 body shops for cars – which brings me to this. I am convinced that in Hong Kong they only allow 4 types of cars in here. They are 1) Public Transportation Vehicles – everywhere you look (along with huge buildings everywhere, and I mean everywhere) there are double decker buses, taxis, and mini buses. I ride mini buses a lot and double decker buses too but a lot of mini buses so look them up.

Hong Kong Minibuses

  

2) (Garbage) dumpsters – they have so many and I don’t know why but they are everywhere!!! (Probably because there are so many people crowded into such a small space and their garbage has to go somewhere!) 3) Hondas- I’m having doubts if they are Japanese or Chinese cars because they are everywhere as well!! Especially vans! They have huge vans here and stuff but Hondas nonetheless. And then, finally 4) Super nice cars – you can’t walk down two consecutive streets and not see like a nice BMW or even like a Ferrari.  I have even seen a Bugatti. (Ettore Bugatti was a French car manufacturer whose company stopped making high-end cars in the 1950s after he died in 1947.  In the 1990’s an Italian entrepreneur revived the company as a manufacturer of exclusive sports cars.  Today the name “Bugatti” is owned by Volkswagen.) Total Top Gear cars! (Top Gear is a television show on BBC America that features cars, racing, and a bunch of cool guys that talk with British accents.) They are everywhere! It sucks because we don’t use the MTR (Mass Transit Railway used in Hong Kong) in TKO but I’ll have plenty and plenty of chances to do that.

The MTR

People are always out on the streets in Hong Kong, especially in like the markets, which smell horrible by the way. Get this, they catch the fish and some people wont kill the fish before they take it to the market…they keep it alive until the customer buys it! Talk about sushi Ha-ha! They grab the fish/crab/eel the customer wants and just slay its head with a knife, one blow. That’s some weird stuff. Get this, I saw a fish two days ago but it was cut in half – so half of its body was with the customer and half of its body was on the cutting board and….it was still breathing!!!  The gill part or whatever was still going up and down. Disgusting.

The life of a missionary (well at least this missionary) is a hungry one! I am always hungry for some reason! You don’t have the money to buy snacks and stuff like that.  All of your the money goes to noodles and soup and stuff which doesn’t really fill you up that well. So whenever you can send a package, a box of food would be like an early Christmas present only better by times the number of people in Hong Kong. (There are seven million people in Hong Kong in an area of 426 square miles making it one of the most densely populated areas of the world.)

So in TKO we don’t go out contacting a lot, we have so many classes that investigators come to instead. Right now we have English class- one for adults, one for kids and Eefy for youth. All of them are fun and we get good turnouts every time! There is another Eefy next week and we want teenagers to come so we’ve been out finding lots of them.  Elder Broderick and I played soccer with a bunch of teenagers in the streets just so we could talk to them about Eefy.  We got their numbers and stuff so it worked! That was really fun and they sounded excited to go so…who knows! We’ll see come Monday! But besides that we have an accounting class, math class, games night and games day, and all of them get good turnouts! We can usually teach two lessons during that time span and maybe like 1 other one during the day so I’m very busy. We never go to their houses though; all lessons are either on the street if we just contacted them, or mainly at the churches! But our biggest turnout this week was surprisingly at a haircutting class!  I know it’s crazy, I guess it’s a country that likes hair. The class is taught by this guy who has the weirdest haircut ever…but the people love him! I took a picture because it was too funny. A member yesterday (it meets two times a week) brought him a microphone belt even so everyone in the class could hear him. It’s hilarious. You definitely have to plan activities in Hong Kong to get new investigators and then have the investigators meet the members.

Two of our investigators are named Jason and Anson. They love speaking and practicing English with us so that’s fun. They have a baptismal date for the end of next month so we’ll see how everything goes down! They saw us eating McDonalds one day and said, “In the Book of Mormon it says you can’t eat fast food” Ha-ha!  It’s just something that they heard so that’s pretty funny! Once they found out we could eat McDonalds they were just so confused! We have 3 more people with baptismal dates coming up so we’ll see what goes down with everyone. The big thing for everyone is going to church because everyone here is well…too lazy to go to church…so that’s the main struggle here in TKO.  Out of our pool of investigators, only like one or two will come to church so we have to work on that! A lot of the people we teach are young people because the old people are too anti-Mormon and when you say “hi” just passing them on the street, 85 percent of the time the old people wont even say “hi” back. It’s sad but they won’t even say “hi”!

We went to the Wan Chai building for the first time on Monday for a zone meeting and that is such a nice place.  It’s so cool and it’s only like 5 minutes walking from the harbor so you can actually see the harbor. It’s a beautiful place! That’s really the first time since I have been here that I have seen the skyline but even then I didn’t get to see the full thing! I’m taking pictures so hopefully you’ll have some soon! I’m reading a lot of stuff everyday just to like keep me busy!

Happy Birthday Katie by the way! I hope you have a good day!

Okay well there is a weird smell in here now and it’s time to leave.  That’s a bad thing here there are A LOT of weird smells.  Not as much in TKO but Kwan Tong…yes!  The weather here really isn’t all that bad! You use it as motivation to teach lessons because when you teach lessons you are in the air conditioning. But really it’s not that bad to be honest! I love you all, I know the Savior wants desperately for us to be happy everyday and if you pray he can bless you with things so simple like a good day! All you got to do is ask! Thanks for everything you’ve done for me and I’ll talk to you next week!

Au Yeuhng

P.S. People can actually understand me when I talk and stuff, except for on the phone for some reason, but hearing them…let’s just say I’m thankful Elder Broderick is around because right now your guess is as good as mine as to what they are saying! And thanks for the news updates! The other elders I live with were shocked to hear about Penn State and how Joe Pa died already.


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TKO!

I have chosen to title Kyle’s first email from Hong Kong “TKO” for two reasons.  First, as Kyle explains, the first area that he has been assigned to is called Tseung Kwan O or TKO for short.  Tseung Kwan means “military general”  in Cantonese and O means “bay” so Kyle is living in a place called “General’s Bay.” It is one of nine new towns in Hong Kong.  There are approximately 370,000 people living in TKO.  The second is because of the first thing I think when I hear “TKO” and that is a “technical knockout” in boxing.  This email makes me feel like Kyle is really “knocking out” this mission thing and doing amazingly well.  See if you think the same thing.

Good morning everyone! I think it’s about 4 in the morning there so saying josahn actually applies this time!  (Actually it was around 11:30 p.m. when this email arrived in our email accounts so Kyle is going to have to learn a little more about the time difference.  Hong Kong time is 15 hours ahead of us in the Arizona time zone.) Well, I’m in Hong Kong!!!  I can’t believe that it’s finally here and to be honest it doesn’t seem too bad and too crazy but more on that later.  Lets go first on how I got here…

Well I loved being able to talk to everyone! I wish I could’ve talked longer but heck you take as much as you can get.  (As I wrote in an earlier post, Kyle called from both the Salt Lake City Airport and LAX in Los Angeles, California on his way to Hong Kong.)    Oh and before I forget, my P-days are on Thursday so Wednesday for you but I’m doing it today (his email came through on Thursday night so he must have written it on Friday) because we were so busy yesterday but from now on they will be on Thursdays.

So the plane ride was long but it wasn’t too bad, I just slept a lot of the time.  Funny story this HUGE Chinese family was going home after their American vacation and they saw me sitting down in the isle seat. They didn’t know I was able to understand any Chinese (and for the most part they are right) so they started debating and stuff who had to sit by the “American boy” for 16 hours. Let me tell you no one wanted to!  So what did they do?  They stuck the two little boys with me.  So it was the two boys and then me….for 16 hours!  As soon as the movies/games came on they were on that thing so fast and they never stopped. Well maybe they did a few times like when they ate and slept for a couple of hours but then they just started playing again! For 14 hours!!!! And they played this hockey game for a good five hours and every time they would lose like 48-5.  That’s what I call persistence. If you aren’t good at something you just keep doing it; over and over again. They slept at the same time and they woke up exactly as the other one woke up and what did they do? They started playing immediately!! Well, enough on them, it just blew my mind.  Oh and with 3 hours left or so, right as everyone was getting dinner, the boy next to me started throwing up!  Needless to say I wasn’t too hungry after that…oh gosh I still remember that too vividly!

We got to Hong Kong and it was dark and everybody around you just looks at your nametag with a blank stare most of the time and they stare for a long time!!! We met President and Sister Hawks just fine and all that and then we went outside. There is seriously just a wall of humidity that hits you as you walk outside –  it’s crazy. They like to keep the inside of places cold and then it really is just a wall of hot humid air that you run into once you open the door! Haha!  It really is that crazy!  But I mean it’s not that bad it’s just that we weren’t expecting it that’s for sure. And since the other guys are from places and weather like Utah and California it is ten times worse for them than it is for me.  Haha!  We went back to the temple where President and Sister Hawks live and had dessert and talked and stuff like that.  Then we went across the street to the chapel you know the one? It’s actually the mission home and stuff but it’s dedicated as part of the temple so I got to sleep in the temple for 2 days! What an experience that was by itself. We lived in patron housing which means if you’re traveling to the temple you can stay there for free! The room that we lived in was half the size of Hotel Cleverly (if that’s possible) (here Kyle is referring to a VERY small hotel room that all eight of us had to share while we were on vacation in London together a few years ago.  It wasn’t very funny at the time but has since become one of our favorite family memories.)  and there were  other people already staying there! Haha!  It was us 3 elders, 2 mainlanders, someone from Thailand, and one patron from Mongolia who was getting sealed, all staying in that small room.  Let me tell you, Mongolians can snore soooo loud!  Holy cow!  It sounded like he was dying with every breath he took.  I’m being serious! It was as constant as the earth’s spinning! And the Indians who were in the next room like to cook so the whole housing complex smelled like Indian food for the entire 2 days we were there.  It’s actually cool thinking back on it, so many people sacrifice to go there and they come from everywhere.

Pictures of the Hong Kong, China Temple

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So the next day I met my trainer!!! He is Elder Broderick from….wait for it…wait for it…Utah!! Haha!  Apparently in the mission you’re basically either from Utah or from Hong Kong! The rest of us are real outsiders. He’s actually really cool and knows Chinese like perfectly and knows characters too, not all – but a lot! He is very calm but funny at the same time. He’s been out for a year now so that’s basically it! We are serving in an area called Tseung Kwan O or just TKO for short.  I hear it is a really good area!!! So definitely look it up and see where it’s located! But we live in an area called like Gong Tong I think…I’m not sure actually.  That’s how you say it but I don’t know how you spell it.  It’s right next to TKO.  I live in the biggest apartment I hear which is nice! It’s like the oldest one but its nice since its big! The only problem is all 6 of us sleep in one room! Wait till you see that picture!  (The pictures Kyle is talking about have not arrived but I am including some pictures from the Internet in this post for you to see.) It’s quite the experience.  The good news is we’ve already taught two lessons and you know what they say about not understanding anything the first day…that’s not completely true! I was able to understand the majority of it!!  But then talking with people in general…that’s a different story!  We’ve been teaching an EFY type thing this week where they teach teenagers English and stuff like an EFY in the states and it’s really cool. I’m a little surprised by all the people that know English.

Map of TKO

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Picture of TKO

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Well we have to go get ready for EEFY (that’s the name – English Especially for Youth) and then we have 3 people to teach today so its going to be a busy day! Goodbye this week from the city where a Big Mac meal costs 21$.  Ha-ha! That’s only like $2.30 or something and that includes the drink and fries! Also I saw an H & M!  We have been in malls a lot to get food and stuff so I see all of those places.  This city is amazing and I can’t wait to tell you all about my first full week on my next P-day! Thank you for all that you do for me! I love you and miss you all!

Kyle


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The Best E-mail Ever!

So Tuesday morning I was talking to my mom on the phone and went into my e-mail to get some information for her and there was this message.  By far the best e-mail I have ever received!  I was so filled with emotion that I couldn’t even read it to her but I can share it with you here.

Dear Sister Allen,

We are so pleased that we’ll have the opportunity to serve in Hong Kong with your son. We’re looking forward to this experience with him.

He has arrived safely, he looks well and is very eager to go to work.

Thank you for your faith and prayers.

Sincerely,
Sister Hawks

And attached was this photo:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Sister Hawks – you made my day!

And thank you Heavenly Father for answering my prayers!


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E.A…. Phone Home

Ever since we dropped Kyle off at the MTC is Provo I have been looking forward to the day (twelve weeks later) when he would be able to call home from the Salt Lake City Airport as he began his 20 hour journey to Hong Kong, China.  The weeks went by very slowly for Kyle, a little more quickly for me and seemed to fly by for many other friends and family members.   He didn’t tell us his travel plans in much detail until the week before he was to leave.  He said they would start out for the airport at 6 a.m. Utah time on Monday, August 6 (which, with Daylight Savings Time is an hour ahead of Arizona time) and that his first flight (a short flight to California) left around 10 a.m..  According to my calculations that meant he would be able to call sometime between 5 and 9 a.m. Arizona time (I know what you are thinking – the window was probably quite a bit smaller than that considering that it would take them at least some time to get to the airport and that he would probably board before the flight took off but hey, I wasn’t taking any chances) so I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and waited nervously (give me a break I am his mom after all!) It seemed like a long couple of hours but somewhere between 6:30 and 7 Jenna came running in with her phone.  “It’s him,” she screamed and in no time at all we were all gathered around Jenna’s iPhone (if you’re wondering why he called Jenna’s phone then you don’t know Jenna very well. Her phone is surgically attached to her hand  and sometimes even when it doesn’t ring – she answers it.  I’m sure he was looking for someone who would respond to his call right away.)  We put Jenna’s phone on speaker,  called Sarah with Staci’s phone and put it on speaker, and recorded the whole thing with my phone.  To an outsider we would have looked very odd, four of us huddled around three iPhones, alternating between joyous chatter, seemingly endless questions and dead silence as we strained to absorb every word he uttered.

He called twice.  Once from Salt Lake and again from Los Angeles.  The second time his sisters Julie and Katie were there too along with their children (Kyle’s nieces and nephews. )  We talked both times about pretty much the same things, like old friends catching up on each others lives.  He told us mostly about the MTC, what he would miss and what he wouldn’t.  He said it was a little bit strange to be out in the “real world,” mingling with people who were not wearing name tags, talking about sharing the gospel or speaking a whole bunch of languages.  He felt like he would probably miss the food and the “safe” environment – where you could speak broken Cantonese and have people there to help you instead of laughing at you – and he knew that most of all he would miss the people.  He has made some new friends, some that he hopes to keep in touch with after his mission and best of all, has been blessed with the opportunity to see many of his old friends.  There he had been taught at the feet of apostles and other general authorities.  There he had struggled along with other new missionaries to adapt to a strict new schedule and routine.  There he had spent countless hours studying and learning lessons and scriptures.  There he had listened intently to what seemed like nothing but a bunch of strange sounds and he had later figured out it was Cantonese.  He came from there with a great sense of accomplishment and for that he will be forever grateful.

His future plans included eating at Wetzel’s Pretzels, then writing letters and sleeping on the plane.  He was looking forward to seeing the city of Hong Kong and mingling with its people, working with his new mission president,  President Hawk, meeting his trainer and finding out where they would live.  He admitted he was a little nervous but told us he had faith that everything would go well.

We made some small talk; comments about the weather, our move to a new neighborhood and ward, how fast our family was growing, Jenna and Corbin’s upcoming wedding and, of course, sports.  He was happy to hear that the two teams leading the medal count in the Olympics were China and the United States – his two favorites.  He couldn’t believe which of the Sun Devil’s three possible quarterbacks was doing the best in practice.  He seemed like my teenage son Kyle in many ways but he was a much more mature and capable Au Yuehng Jeung Louh in many others.  At times he was a little awkward –  like speaking to us in English and about things outside the gospel were foreign to him.  He even struggled for the English word now and then.   He enjoyed being challenged to say something in Cantonese and didn’t seem to have any problem with the translations.  Of course he could have been saying “Mary had a little lamb…” for all we know, but it sounded great to us.  Best of all it was great to just be talking together as a family again.  I will admit however, that in some ways it was awkward for me too.  After all, how could I possibly express in such a short time over such a long distance just how proud I am of him and what he has already accomplished?  How could I tell him just how much I looked forward to his packages, letters and emails every week without putting him under too much pressure to continue these traditions?  How could I possibly thank him for all the blessings I have already received as a result of his service without embarrassing him? How in the world could I tell him just how much I love him without sobbing (like I am right now) so that he could understand me?  I couldn’t and in that way I failed him. 

I guess there is always Christmas…..