Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Letter 3/24/2014

The recipes were very exciting. (I sent her some gluten free recipes using rice flour or no flour) I got them as I was walking out of our apartment building for the last time, on our way to 신도림 station for transfers. We made the banana pancakes on our first night together. If you have more recipes..... we would REALLY appreciate it. Even stuff like the cauliflower buffalo wings, soup recipes, pudding recipes, flourless choco cake, quinoa recipes (we have a nice stash of quinoa), anything.

We're in the 목동 (Mok-dong) ward. It's a little smaller than Ansan with maybe 40~50 people. Our inactive list is larger than our member book, which is very common. We also have a gigantic binder full of people's records and we don't know who they are. I think some of them are inactive or they moved and their records were lost. We know they exist but the church doesn't have their records anymore. They're like the lost tribes. My area is super teeny tiny compared to my last area. We live on the border of our area and we share our apartment with the sisters in our neighboring area (화곡) (Hwakok). I really like it so far. 

I've been here for five days and I feel like a completely different person. Completely. Part of it may be the new area. Part of it may be the ability to eat food that doesn't hurt me (her new companion has celiac, so they can eat gluten-free food together). Part of it may be that I don't dread meal times. Part of it may be a new, American companion. Part of it may be living in a four-man house. Part of it may be that the transfer was inspired. Inspired. There were a lot of things that were making me really sad but I didn't recognize it and didn't know how to deal with it and now that I'm out of it I can see that I don't have to be that way and I'm SO MUCH HAPPIER. So much. But really. My journal entries have made a 180 turn. My anxiety is much lower. It's just good.

So I'm excited to be in this area. And I love Sister Kei so much. One of the first things I thought was; "I CAN EAT FOOD NOW!!!" We can cook together! We can look out for each other and give each other advice. We can buy food together. It's one of the most exciting events to take place in my life. Sister Kei and I were both born in Glendale (Arizona) in 1993. Her mom remarried a Korean man so she has four half-Korean siblings.

There's a gluten-free bakery in the Daejeon mission (that's where we are). I don't know where it is, though. There's a lady in the English branch (they actually have like a couple hundred members) that meets in 영등포 (Yeongdeungpo)(there are actually two) whose family has celiacs. We is super nice and gives us food! Her name is Angela . She likes to talk and I'm sure she would love to give you advice.  She has one black daughter and two Korean boys as well as biological children. I don't agree with all of what she says (because you CAN buy gluten-free soysauce and gochujang in Koreans stores).

So we went to yeong-deung-po on Saturday morning to help them clean the church (as a service project for us) and to meet up with her to get food she bought for us (SO NICE!). She even made us a chocolate cake. You can add Sister Kei's mom too. But I don't know here name.

The only people we have to teach are English Investigators (ENGLISH!!!!!), a mother and daughter. So we spend a lot of time finding, or trying really hard to find. Sister Kei has been helping me to talk to people and get over those issues. We also try to serve a lot, teach practice lessons to members, and visit/heart-attack our Less Actives. There is one Less Active that the sisters had never been able to meet because she was always gone when they stopped by. But she opened the door to us last night! Miracle! She said she didn't want to come back to church because she hasn't been in 7 or 8 years but I asked if we would teach her practice lessons because we need practice and she said maybe (there may or may not have been truth behind that) so have hope. It may still require some time.

There's a super nice man who sells strawberries in our 시장 (market) and we try to talk to him and we purposely casually walked by with the elders after English class on Saturday night so that they could meet because we see a lot of potential in him. And he gave us a reduced price on strawberries. So we ate them with yogurt and brown sugar yesterday. So yummy.

The elders used to live in our apartment until the sisters moved in in December. andddddddd it's gross. I haven't seen any yet but they're had problems with cockroaches. Yeah. Super cool. So I put a little DE (diatomaceous earth) down in the places where they saw them.

I really like my life.

Our ward mission leader is super on-the-ball. He and his wife have a little baby and he's going to medical school right now. One of the elders in our ward is a greenie. I like little baby greenies. They're so cute and baby.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Letter 3/17/2014

Elder Jo's (a missionary in our ward) brother is in my mission. And he's from Sister Jeong's ward!!

Korea is still without electronica (our family's term for electronic devises - she is referring to the ipads, iphones, and facebook access that many missions have now). Japanese missions have them as the test-run place in Asia. We have little flip-phones with dictionaries on them though!

Thanks for the recipes (I sent some gluten free recipes that use rice flour). My new comp has celiacs so they will be appreciated even more :) A woman who attends the English branch in 영등포 (Yeongduengpo) told me she uses bean flour. But she also orders food through Amazon.com every three months (through the ship and save option or whatever it's called).
Elder Lee's dad sent him a picture of you guys and I got to see it. (Elder Lee's dad & uncle came up to us separately at stake conference this weekend. His dad showed us a photo with Natasha & his son in it. They have been serving in the same ward. He also asked to take a photo of us to send to his son. There is also a family in our ward whose daughter is in Natasha's mission, and is good friends with Natasha).
Cousin Jordan asked me a while ago what American food I miss the most that I can't get here. The answer was - and remains to be - health food. Almond milk, gluten-free stuff, fad-diet foods....
So as you already know we got our transfer calls and I'm leaving! I was 100% positive I was staying. Sister Jeong has been in Ansan since August and she'll probably die here (mission slang for finishing up the mission)because she only has two more transfers after this upcoming transfer. That means she's only served in two areas and they're right next to each other. It's a very unique experience. Our mission president doesn't like to move people around a lot. So you can expect me to stay in my next area for a while. I'm sad to leave Ansan, the ward members, Sister Jeong and the other missionaries but I'm excited for a new adventure because I've only had one area and one companion (though I love her dearly). I'm going to 목동 (Mok-dong - this is an area in Seoul - she been outside of Seoul in Ansan) I'll be with Sister Kei. I've talked with Sister Kei a little bit before because she has Celiac's so she's given me some help.
I went to Sanbon this week for an exchange with Sister Wright. Sister Wright was in my MTC district. She's so cute and sweet so we had a lot of fun.
We started teaching two 中3 (3rd grade of middle school, or 9th grade) girls this week. They want to learn English. I kind of feel like I'm bamboozling people because they tell us they want to learn English and we say; "Okay. Oh, and by the way, after teaching English for 30 minutes we're going to teach about our gospel for 30 minutes. Okay?" But one of them prayed at the end of our lesson.
Sister Jeong's new companion is Korean (I'm glad because she will have someone to help her more with the Young Women). So they're going to have to drop all of our "English Investigators" which is pretty disappointing but they'll be able to to focus more on people who are sincerely interested in the gospel.
We have one English Investigator that we teach every Tuesday morning. The Sisters have been meeting with her since July and she's been progressing but SLOWLY. She's received all of the lessons but Sister Jepng doesn't want to drop her because although her progress is minute it is existent. We were talking about 1st Nephi 3&4. At the end I bore my testimony and asked her to say the closing prayer (she's NEVER prayed). And she said no. So I started again with my testimony. I think I just said the same thing, using different words. But she prayed! And it was a good prayer.
An elder in my ward and I were talking about the plastic surgery here. American women get plastic surgery too but they're more concerned with their bodies. Koreans are naturally so skinny that they don't have to worry about it and so they focus on their faces (it's very popular to get plastic surgery in Korea. Especially having the eye fold cut).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Letter 3/10/2014

We're doing exchanges tonight and I'm excited because I'm going to Sanbon with Sister Wright who was in my MTC district. I miss my MTC district. We had 12 people squished into our classroom and we could barely get in and out of our desks but we got along really well and had a lot of fun together.
We get transfer calls this Saturday and tranfers are the following Wednesday. I think I'll stay in Ansan because Sister Jeong has been here since August.

The Young Women have changed recently. The come to church and activities more often and they say they want to serve missions and they are nicer to us. The days of p
laying tag and hide-and-go-seek are nearly over.
We made cookies this Saturday for our mutual activity. So I was able to use the recipe you gave me! The first two batches were weird..... they looked like muffin tops and the texture looked really weird. I don't know what the problem was. But we were able to get the third batch to turn out. It may have been because we couldn't use real butter because it's so expensive here. Our maybe our baby oven was having problems. But it was fun. And the Young Women who helped seemed to enjoy it.
We have stake conference this weekend.
The Seoul Institute of Art is right next to us so our bishop wants us to work hard to advertise English to them as a find tool. I confess I'm a little scared of them. One of our English investigators teaches at the University and she's going  to help us advertise.
People here can't comprehend gluten-free. A lot of people just think I'm picky. They'll say things like, "I was going ot invite you over to eat this food but Sister Stout probably wouldn't like it." or "no - this is good quality so you'll be okay." or "I made this myself. You can eat it." But some people do understand and they're super nice. Sometimes people will make special food for me to eat when we have big church gatherings with food and they'll cook up some rice so that I can eat it.

Koreans don't have gluten allergies so it's just a foreign concept to some of them. 
Members have started speaking a little English to me. For my first three months I thought only two people in my ward could speak English but once I started being able to hold decent conversations with people they pulled their English out.

 (I asked if they wanted to make sure she could learn Korean before they started using English with her, so that they didn't hinder her)
That's what I thought at first but they talk to our greenie elder now. I don't know. It's fine because I had to learn more. Our President asked us to try harder to speak Korean at church and I had no idea what he was talking about because all I did was speak English at church but I guess the Korean members like to speak English to the missionaries.

Letter 3/3/2014

The primary had an activity this week. They made a flea market. It conflicted with our English class so we had to end early but a ton of kids came to English class! And a big group of Young Wowmen came which was super happy! Being in the Young Women's presidency is really fun. At first we frustrated because it felt like they were running away from us and it takes time away from proselyting and such, but it's been really fun and rewarding. The Young Women have been slowly coming to church and activities more. We've been putting together graduation presents for them (yes, we're a little late...), just a file (for school), a card, Young Women-related fun, candy, and a General Conference. talk. It's been really happy and effective. We accidentally made one and gave it to a Young Woman who wasn't graduating but we hope she'll look past our mistakes and feel the love we wanted to convey. There was a Stake Young Women's activity a couple of  weeks ago and each ward (we have five wards) did a little presentation and doing that with them also helped to build good relationships with them. We're also involved a lot in primary (because we teach the kids an English class and we help with primary activities, especially if our investigators attend) and a little bit in the Relief Society so we have our toes in every auxiliary but the priesthood auxiliaries.

Sister Choi Geum-Ja received the gift of the Holy Ghost yesterday! I was a little worried because we weren't able to visit her this last week but everything seems good! She attends the gospel doctrines class with us.

We did exchanges again this week and Kim Yoon-Ha Jamae-nim came to Ansan with me. It was a pretty crazy day but it was fun!
Our sudden boom of investigators is already dwindling but we're really excited for the people who are interested.
One lady just wanted to meet with us for English but just told us that she actually wanted to meet with us because she felt like she could be open with us and share her feelings. We finished teaching her the first lesson but since then we've been teaching her whatever we felt like she needed to hear, based on what she talks to us about. The last time we met I was having a nice conversation with her, thinking we were on the same page while we discussed God and following Him and being good people and such when she said, "No, I don't think you understand; I don't want to be a good person." I had no idea what to say. The idea had never crossed my mind. She used to be a devout Christian, feeling like she received her salvation (born-again salvation) but she decided that she didn't want to do it anymore. She felt like it was too hard and she was tired. It is conversations such as these that guide us to what we should teach her.

I had over 30 friends in the MTC go to Daejeon so I wanted to see if any of them are in your ward. I knew an Elder 조 (Jo) but not Cho.

Guess who came to visit me this week? Brother Murakami! (A friend from our Japanese branch/ward) He's in Korea for business (he works for the church). He brought some Japanese oyastu (snacks) for me, and other brothers in the church office were going to send it to my mission office, but then they looked through my letters posted on Facebook, saw I was in Ansan, and came to bring it to me personally! It was so so so so nice of them! The okashi (candy) took me back to my childhood and I enjoyed speaking Japanese again. I'm sure I didn't express my appreciation well but it really made me happy! I wanted to get a picture but I forgot...

Has spring come? Spring is starting to come for us! It's still cold but it smells like spring and the sun is a spring sun. 

Letter 2/23/2014

Three Young Adults in our ward are working on their papers right now so we'll be getting a lot of calls soon. Even some of the less active Young Women have started asking us questions about missionary work.
We had a stake youth activity on Saturday, where the youth of each ward did a little performance.

Sister 최금자 (Choi Geum-Ja) was baptized yesterday! (This is the sister who cancelled her baptism right after Christmas, and it is Natasha's first baptism)

So everything has wheat, I swear. (She has a gluten intolerance) Food is so important to them (the Koreans) and turning down their food really hurts their feelings, even when I tell them it's because I have an allergy. It's weird. They feel like their food isn't good enough for me or something. And you need to eat a lot. And compliment the food non-stop. Like, every couple of minutes. We had lunch with a member last night and she said that she thought I was really proud and picky when she first met me but she's seen that I eat well (I eat a lot and don't complain) so she changed her mind. I didn't know what to say to that. I really don't like food that much so I don't understand. When we taught someone about the Tree of Life this week, Sister Jeong started with asking, "When you eat really delicious food, what do you want to do?" and the investigator answered; "Share it with my family!" (which is obviously what Sister Jeong wanted) I just don't get that excited about food.

We went to a big outside open market-thing (they're the best, by the way) and we found some super cute dogs for sale. It turns out some people buy these dogs for eating. Supposedly it's really good.

(I asked what the difference is between the dogs they eat and the dogs they keeps as pets)
Those dogs could be kept as pets or eaten. I'm not sure. I think mutts are usually eaten. It's really expensive, though. And a lot of people don't eat it because they like dogs too much. I know they do have some dog farms but they're not common.