Monday, December 30, 2013

Letter 12/29/2013

We had exchanges this week (this was a 24 hour exchange, not a permanent transfer). Sister Jeong (her companion) went to Geum-cheon and Sister Hales came here. I was super stressed because I was the senior companion, seeing as it was my area. It was the last day of school and there were lots of student wandering around, celebrating. A lot of them told me that they were going to karaoke (norebang = song room). We were able to talk to a lot of people, which it has been hard to do lately. Even though it's freezing we like to walk places so that we can talk to more people but no one else thinks the same way we do so it's hard to run into people. I mainly stressed because we had a baptismal interview that day. And it was complicated. Our district leader is Cambodian and although this is his last transfer, he has had a really hard time learning Korean because he has to learn it through English. So one of the zone leaders came on a split to do it with them. And they thought they had to have another man there so a YSA (young single adult) from our ward came but they didn't tell the investigator and things were weird. She made lunch for us but wasn't expecting him and the elders were late..... I often have to pray for patience with the elders. She was really nervous for the interview but it went well. However, the day before her baptism she called us to put off her baptism. She actually wants to cancel it, but I don't think she'll cancel. She just needs dome more time. Her son is a member and he's a really strong member. She came to churchyesterday anyway!
We have these movie clips that we watch (The District) of missionaries filmed in California and Texas to help us study, see examples, and learn from other missionaries. The missionaries always have really high numbers, in the number of lessons they teach, referrals, new investigators, and so on. Like 7 lessons a day. We're happy to get 4 lessons in a week. It's pretty slow here. And we never have members teach with us. For my 12-week training program we have topics and certain portions of the PMG to study every week and I also have challenges such as: "the new missionary gives the baptismal commitments this week" or "the new missionary teaches about the plan of salvation" but we ignore them because we can't apply them. I've never taught past the first lesson and I gave the baptismal commitment once but I don't expect it to happen again for several months at least. The only new investigator we've picked up while I've been here is an English investigator (meaning she is student learning English from them). When I first got here I heard older missionaries complaining about English investigators and I didn't understand why because I was really excited to be able to teach but now I understand why. They're better than nothing but they don't want to hear about the gospel.

We went hiking on Saturday for a ward youth activity. It was super fun but it was freezing! It was -3 (celsius) down on the ground but I don't know what it was up there with wind chill. The wind is so crazy here because of the ocean. It was really pretty! The paths and walls of rocks were all covered in ice so every kept falling and getting hurt. It was ridiculous. Koreans really like to hike but I don't understand why they hike in this weather. No one else wanted to go hiking but the Young Men's president was obsessed so we went. So to summarize: definitely go hiking while you're here because the mountains are so pretty and I feel like I'm in old Korea but if you have any love for yourself don't go during the winter. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Letter 12/22/2013

We got a nice snow storm on Thursday. It was snowing off and on all day. Thankfully it was never snowing hard while we were walking. We planned a lot of visits and our service project on this day so we were wandering around in it all day. The buses were inching forward like snails. It was fun and scary. There wasn't an inch of road or sidewalk that wasn't covered in ice. The city was a giant ice rink. People were falling everywhere. We linked arms (as we usually do) and saved each other from some close calls.
The next day was still pretty icy. My companion & I were running late for an appointment because another investigator wanted to talk longer t
han we were anticipating. My companion got on a bus but the bus driver started driving before I could get on. I don't believe I've told you about the bus drivers here but they're crazy. If you take too long to get off or on they'll drive away and they yell at people a lot. Be warned. I tried to run to the door but the road was icy and I couldn't catch up. My companion was accelerating away from me and we were late for an appointment. My companion told the driver to stop and he saw me in his mirrors but he didn't want to stop. So I hopped back onto the sidewalk and ran (on the ice) to the next bus stop where I found my companion.
I have a giant michelin-man coat so I stay pretty warm but my feet are always numb. So annoying. But thankfully we have an underfloor heating system so them can warm up pretty quickly. It's so nice. It doesn't blow annoying, dry, stinky air all over our house and it keeps the coldest part of the apartment warm: the floor! My feet need warmth, people - not my airways.
So we have these cards called T-Money cards that we use to pay for our transit. We load money onto them at train stations and convenience stores and we just press them up to the station gates or monitors on the buses and it will charge us. If you get off and bus and transfer again within 30 minutes it's free. I suggest you get some. You can pay with cash on the buses but he train station don't sell regular tickets like Japan.
You can expect the grocery stores to be pretty much the same as Japan. They have Costcos, convenient stores, giant super markets, Mom&Pop stores, 'crazy stores', little Y's Mart-type stores...
Our Young Women don't attend church. We plan lessons but the YW don't always show up so we end up just sitting in the empty classroom. Two came yesterday but because President Morrise (mission president) was visiting yesterday we combined with the RS and Priesthood and he taught us about feeling the joy of the gospel.
A lot of public bathrooms don't have toilet paper. Sometimes they'll have a giant roll outside the stalls and you have to plan ahead and follow your heart as you gather as much as you think you'll need. I always take a pack of tissues with me everywhere and it's saved our lives sometimes. Prepare ye.
The Koreans have the same way of thinking as the Japanese when it comes to hymnbooks. Everyone has to have their own. Our ward has more hymnbooks than we do members. They're everywhere.
The Koreans also like their cute little cakes like the Japanese. The afore-mentioned bakeries all sell cakes and during the Christmas season they'll sell several hundred a day (keep in mind that these shops are on every block).
One of our investigators (kind of - she's an English-investigator) asks us the weirdest questions. She asked the alien question, she asked me if my family or God is more important to me (that's a loaded question - I said God, sorry). And in our last visit we spent about 10 minutes just discussing the 12 apostles because she wanted to know the names of everyone in Da Vinci's Last Supper painting in both Korean and English. Let's not get hung up on unimportant details here. We've met with her five times and we haven't been able to get to the Great Apostasy yet. We'll do that and the restoration today (and hopefully the BoM + prayer).
One of our investigators is getting baptized next Sunday! She's super wishy-washy and said she wanted to push her date back but our primary program was this Sunday and it made her decide to stick with the 29th. She was worried about the WoW (she drinks 8 cups of coffee a day) but the kids talked about the WoW and it helped her. We're hoping to get her a piano-playing calling because she likes to play the piano. It feels kind of weird because my companion did most of the (pretty much all of the) work with her. I really haven't done anything. I just share my little memorized portions. I had no idea how she felt about anything. I didn't know how she was progressing until we gave her the baptismal commitment.

Letter 12/8/2013

(We lost this email but we found it! So this one goes back in time).

I saw some missionaries from my MTC district this week. One elder asked me how it was being with a native (companion) and said that he's been worried about me. His concern was very thoughtful but I thought it was really weird. I love having a Korean companion. I can't imagine not having one. What will I do without one? I love her for who she is but I also like being able to ask her questions about language and culture, and having someone to back me up and tell me what's going on if I don't understand. And I just like Asians. I am Asian. 

I've noticed that the American missionaries complain a lot of and I feel bad for the native companions (the parable of the fat sheep) (this is a parable that Brock wrote when we lived in Japan - with this reference she is saying that the native missionaries seem like "fat sheep" that don't need as much "food" and support, But in Brock's parable, the fat sheep just ended up being sheep that had extra fluffy wool, so they looked fat, but underneath they were thin and they needed as much, or more, food and care as the other sheep). I think they have it harder. They can't play the foreigner card of they mess up, they have responsibilities and more is expected of them, they have to clean up after the foreign missionaries, important meetings and conferences are in English, no one cuts them slack, and people don't fawn over them like they do foreign missionaries. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Letter 12/15/2013

I've been super scared for the cold weather but I don't think it's going to be that bad. It was -7  degrees celsius last night and I didn't think anything of it. I am concerned about my feet. They become numb and it's scary to walk on ice when you don't have control over your feet. The sidewalks are almost completely ice and it's okay for us - we link arms and save each other when we slip (we're pretty cute) - but we're scared for the poor grandmothers. I saw a grandmother today who was wearing bright pink socks (with a cute animal) over her shoes to prevent her from slipping. 

The bricks in the sidewalks aren't smooth so they create fun little hills of ice to slip on. The snow here is different than Utah or Illinois snow (or Virginia snow). The flakes are huge - huge, I tell you - and they're really icy. The snow is really pretty but it isn't super fun to play in. We tried to make a snowman in our church parking lot while we waiting for our students to show up for English class but the snow wouldn't stick and we were just sliding all over the parking lot. 

Korean rice is wonderful, truly wonderful. I could eat it for every meal. Korea has the super cute bakeries and French-style bread shops like Japan with the delicious milk bread. I don't understand why Americans eat so much bread but Americans haven't figured out how to make truly yummy bread.
I don't feel like I'm in a foreign country anymore. Everything seems perfectly normal and familiar.
I had a beautiful breakthrough this week with Korean. I just started understanding more of it. And I started speaking more. Words that I had had trouble remembering before now come quickly to my mind and I can say almost anything I want to say (I'm not fluent, however - I'm sure I sound like a three-year-old).
One of the missionaries in my ward says that I act super cute and I act like I'm Japanese. (He has AMAZING English and he can speak Japanese) I never realized how Japanese I was until I came here. I felt so different in Japan so I thought I was more American and I think I tried to be more American (wanting what you can't have mentality) so it's interesting to me to have other Asians tell me how Asian I am. I realized that I say "we" when referring to both Americans and Japanese.

I wrote "I can do hard things" on a paper and stuck it on a wall by my desk, thinking of Grandma. (this was a challenge from her Grandma Limburg, who is serving a mission in Fiji right now)
We weren't able to do a lot of street contacting this week. Because it's so cold hardly anyone is outside.
Students are finishing up their finals this week so people will stop ignoring us (hopefully!!). As you can imagine, they have super intense finals in all 13 subjects that make or break their hopes for college. School ends next week and doesn't start again until you guys come. Because everyone will be on break we're hoping to build good relationships with the Young Women, visit lots of Less Actives and teach lots of lessons to members and investigators. They probably have their long break in the winter because it's too cold to leave one's house.

We met with one of our investigators this week that we teach English and the gospel. She isn't interested in the gospel, nor does she have any Christian background so we asked her to read a pamphlet and come back with questions. The questions she came back with were crazy!!! The first one was; "Some people say God is an alien. What do you think about that? They say He is just an alien with special powers and intelligence and we are his/their (what's the word.... crop? experiment?). The pyramids were built by aliens and they possess special powers."

We watched the (Christmas Devotional) broadcast last night at our stake center. I couldn't understand much but I still had my notebook and pencil ready and I did have some good inspirations to write down that didn't come from spoken words.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Letter 12/1/2013

A lot of people have been super nice and they give us/feed us American food because they think it will make me happy. Their niceness makes me happy but it makes me sick. My stomach is pretty happy with the food here but I feel terrible when I eat American food. A couple gave us fried chicken and root beer (pretty expensive) and a lady took us to TGI fridays (so expensive). It reminds me how nasty American food really is. How do we all live like that? Golly. (She has been having a lot of digestive and food sensitivity problems that got REALLY bad in the MTC. Gluten is a big problem for her) That Gluten Digest stuff you gave me is actually the best. I took some during the Thanksiving dinner and I felt great. And that makes the difference of being able to work harder or not. If I feel terrible, I don't want to talk to anyone, all I can think about is my stomach, everything seems worse than it is, and all I want to do is go home. 
We have a decent number of appointments on a daily/weekly basis but the majority of them fall through. Koreans are super-duper busy and they're also afraid of hurting or feelings so they make plans that they don't intend to keep. One of our investigators is very impressionable and she always feels good about the gospel when we come to visit but when we're not there she gives into temptation and laziness. But she surprised us by soming to church yesterday!
We're thinking about teaching a Japanese class in addition to our English classes but I don't know if we'll really do it. I don't know if my Japanese is at a level where I can teach other people, especially if we don't have any materials.
We heart-attacked someone's door this week but we had the wrong address (the person must have moved) and we received a very angry phone call demanding that we return and take the hearts down ourselves. I don't understand why she didn't just take them down herself and why it made her so upset.
We went to visit a recent convert who has fallen inactive. Her apartment has the call-system at the front door and we couldn't remember her apartment number so we couldn't get in. I thought about praying for someone to go in or out of the building so that the door would open but then I thought that it was a stupid request because God can't control people like that. I focused a lot of my study this week on faith and after reflecting back on my learnings I gave a little prayer. Not two minutes later a woman walked into the building and we were able to slide in after her. It was perfect and miraculous. Nothing is impossible to God.
On our way to the Boggs' for Thanksgiving I talked to a woman from Canada who is teaching English at a university in Seoul. We had an interesting discussion about religion. She is very closed to religion and only believes is happiness and 'good feelings'. She seems pretty happy with her life but there was something wrong and I couldn't figure it out. Later I decided that it literally felt like something was missing from her life.
The Boggs were super nice. He's teaching Spanish on an American base here through DODDS and they're empty-nesters. They fed 16 misssionaries plus another little family!
My companion is the Sister Training Leader so we did splits this week so that she can train the other (non-Korean) sister in our zone. I went to Sanbon with Sister Lee Yoon-Ji who I love.

So we have a big problem with the YW not coming to church. (She and her companion are in the Young Womens Presidency) They don't want to come to church because they spend all day at school and they don't need more studying. They'd rather sleep. They're in school from 8am to 11pm. Any ideas? From anyone? We don't know what to do but bribe. They just don't understand the importance because they've never experienced the blessings and it's not part of their culture. (We had the same problem with the youth in our Japanese Branch)

Because I never hought of myself as a missionary sometimes I forget I am (that sounds silly, I know). I'll catch the reflection of my name tag in a mirror and think, "Oh look! A missionary. Oh. That's me. I'm a missionary. I'm wearing a name tag. That's me." And then I feel even more excited about missionary work!

Letter 11/24/2013

(This is a response  to my question asking what her apartment is like) It's called a villa, which is smaller than an apartment. We have a genkan (Japanese word for entryway where you take off your shoes), a baby kitchen, a bedroom, a study room, and a bathroom. I keep forgetting to take pictures. Our bathroom has a sink, toilet, and showerhead on a hose like those in Japan, with a hook on the wall between the sink and the toilet. I shower with my toilet. When we want to turn on the shower we twist a knob on the sink's faucet. 

A sister in our ward offered to feed us and she took us out to a restaurant instead of feeding us in her home. I hear that that's pretty common in Korea. But restaurants are pretty cheap. Food in general is pretty cheap.
We taugh the lesson on YW yesterday. It was fun. 
We're not allowed to knock on doors because this area is too sketchy but we sometimes visit the less-actives/inactives. Most of the time no one answers the door so we prepare message cards to stick on their doors/mailboxes.
I naturally want to look at TVs and listen to music that I hear but I have to tell myself to stop. It's surprisingly relieving. It doesn't make sense but it makes me feel relieved that I don't have to pay attention to those. Maybe the reason for the liberating feeling is because it gives me more space for the Lord (2 Ne4:27). Like trials, I think it's a blessing in disguise. It's a way for me to show God that I love Him more and I care about Him enough to put away everything that I want. And maybe that's how following commandments gives us more freedom.
The RS sisters feed the ward lunch every week. They come to prepare it on Saturday and leave Sacrament meeting early to get it ready. Food is a big deal.
I told dad already but we have a new investigator who isnt' really interested in the gospel right now but she will be! We also got a referral last night!! Woohoo! We've been working and not seeing the fruits of our labors but we now have people to teach!!!! Hooray! People have been blowing us off for kimjang (the preparation of kimchi - it's the season for that right now - and it's a big deal!) and dropping their appointments.
I was feeling bad this week because I make my companion have to work harder to compensate for my lack of Korean. The sisters in my zone (Of 8, 6 of them are Korean!) are all very nice to me and try very hard to include me and teach me about Korean culture. We had zone conference this week and I got to talk to President Morrise (her mission president) for a long time. I felt better after talking to him.
I'm getting more courageous and talking to people even though I can't say much and I can't really understand what they're saying.