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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To Teancum and Bethe

received 7/27/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Bug,

How's recovery coming*? I'm trying to get exercise, too, but I might drown because every time it rains, our apartment corridor gets flooded. (The drain pipes are all broken.) It doesn't get into our apartment, but it makes jogging in the morning kind of wet and slippery. Oh, well.

We're teaching a family with two boys who are about your age, and they make me think of you. They both play baseball. Last week Sister Pak taught them to play Uno. Within three rounds they were beating us--I think they cheat.

Man, July is almost over! The summer goes by so fast. Of course I didn't get a summer vacation, but missionary work's gonna be no fun in the winter, so I'm trying to enjoy this while it lasts.

I just went to the U.N. Memorial Cemetery today--it was very beautiful and very sad. I'll try to send pictures if I can.

I love you.


*Teancum suffered a minor hip-bowl dislocation during fencing practice and has been undergoing physical therapy to correct it.

to Bethe, RoseE writes:

"Dear Bethe,

It sounds like you're having a pretty quiet summer over there. Must be nice. Here in Korea it is monsoon season. It is raining pretty often (and when it rains, it rains hard, let me tell you), and when it isn't raining it is gray all day. I think I have seen the sun once in the last two weeks. It is also pretty warm and humid, but it's not too bad yet.

Yesterday a member offered to buy me some soup called boshintang. Boshintang is expensive--because it is made of dog meat. Really. I politely declined. I can eat bugs, and raw fish, and cloves of garlic, but I don't think I can eat a dog. So instead I had Samgetang, which is chicken-and-rice soup with ginseng. It was hard to eat because all the bones were still in it, even weird bones like the neck and the spine, but I ate it all because it was better than eating dog.

I've learned a little bit of hanja!** [She writes the characters for 'door'--which looks like a swinging bar door from the old west--and for her name, remarking that " . . . nobody really uses this name; I just like it because it looks pretty." It does look pretty, like three fireworks going off simultaneously.]

I love you!


**Bethe is a student of Mandarin Chinese.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gochu Roulette, Korean Chocolate Cake, & State Of The Mission

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum & Dad,

Finally I am not in a hurry when e-mailing! So you will get a long, proper e-mail for once in my mission, thank goodness.

I got three letters from Dad this week, on three different days, out of order. Most of them had been sitting in the office for quite a while, I think. Dad, do you still have any of your tapes left from your mission? I think I can make sound recordings on Liz, and probably listen to them too, but I'm hestitant to do it because I somehow feel that a typed letter is a more secure record. Maybe I'll try to send a sound clip today, and see how it works.

Big news of the week:

Well, gochu roulette.
A gochu is the Korean pepper that gochujang is made out of. Koreans will eat them straight, like carrots. I will do this too. They're not actually spicy, for the most part--they taste like green bell peppers, though they look like a large, bright halapeno (I can't spell Spanish). Some people brush out all the seeds, where most of the capsutin is (I can't spell English either), which is fine. I've never had a problem with them. A couple have left my mouth feeling prickly for a minute or so afterwards, but most Korean food does so it doesn't bother me. But eating gochus is like Russian roulette: there are some that are spicy, and they look just like the ones that aren't. And this week my luck ran out.

I was at the Sujeong bishop's house, enjoying a quiet, pleasant meal, and I picked up a pepper and ate it. Of course, it prickled a little, but it was fine, so I ate the rest. And then the prickle got worse. And then it got worse. And then it just didn't stop! And of course, there was nothing on the table that could help . . . I had rice, which helps with spicy things, but it was still hot and the heat just made the chemical burn worse. And of course kimchi or kimchichigae were bad ideas. And water was once again conspicuously absent. The only thing that offered any relief was coleslaw (read: shredded cabbage with a cream dressing poured on it; not actually coleslaw but basically the same idea). I ate the whole plate. The whole communal plate. I just kept having to put more in my mouth, to keep the burn down until, five minutes or so later, it finally faded. Oh, my gosh, it hurt. Whew.

President Jennings, last week, had to face a bit of a gauntlet. He had a meeting with the bishops* and stake presidents**, attended by his own assistants and clerks, who gave the rest of us the play-by-play. President Jennings is in a tight spot right now. See, he's been sent out here to revamp the whole missionary program. The other three missions in Korea do most of their work through English teaching--they teach English to people for thirty minutes, then gospel for thirty minutes, and count it as a lesson. This method gets a lot of lessons, and a lot of baptisms, but not really a lot of converts, as such. It's a big reason for the huge lists of inactives*** we're fishing through now. So when the Church sent President Jennings out here, his instructions were pretty clear: this has got to stop. And stop it has. Pusan mission now teaches people who are interested in the gospel, not just in free English classes, and teaches them long enough for them to understand the covenants of baptism and gets them integrated into their new wards, and once they're baptized they stay active. Sacrament meeting attendance has gone up. More people are preparing to go to the temple. But the number of baptisms has gone way, way down. And the local leadership is ticked. It was a rough meeting for President, who's a very non-confrontational person (Yeah, a non-confrontational lawyer . . . who'da thunk. Like a surgeon who faints at the sight of blood), but he held his ground and we're continuing to do things the way we've been doing them. Apparently Dad's mission was doing the same thing when he served--President was glad to hear that.

I will now, to the best of my recollection, instruct you on How To Bake a Thunder Cake While A Missionary In Korea:

1. Crack and separate three thick-shelled brown eggs. Put the whites in your house's largest tupperware. Give this and your house's only fork to your companion; instruct her to beat them 'forever'. Put the yolks in a bowl and the shells in the freezer.

2. Peel half a tomato and chop it fine with a pair of scissors you got for a dollar at a mungu around the corner; mangle it as well as you can with your fingers.
3. In your house's largest saucepan, combine 1 cup butter and 3.5 scoops (a scoop is half a cup) white sugar. Mix a bit; if it's hard, pop it on the stove for a few seconds. Who needs mixing bowls, really?

4. Add the egg yolks, the tomato, 1.5 teaspoons vanilla flavoring powder (vanilla extract? What's that?), and 2 scoops of cold water to the saucepan. Mix a bit.

5. Check on and encourage your companion.

6. In a large saucepan or a noodle bowl, combine 5 scoops of flour, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon 'cooking' soda and a shake of cocoa powder. (The original recipe calls for half a cup, but your apartment contains barely that and the stuff's almost impossible to find and worth its weight in heroin, so a good shake is about as much as you're going to get). Mix a bit.

7. Oil and flour the inner pot of your rice cooker.

8. Praise and hug your companion; let her stretch her arm.

9. Mix the now-beaten egg whites in with the liquid stuff, then add the dry stuff. Pour the whole thing into the rice cooker and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about an hour, or until chopstick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

10. Let it cool . . . in the fridge if you trust your kimchi tupperware that much.

11. Invoking all the blessings to which you are entitled as a set-apart servant of the Lord, pray that the cake will release cleanly and not break into pieces when you try to turn it out of that pan.
12. Turn out the cake.

13. Prayer of gratitude.

14. Decorate with powdered sugar (just a little . . . see above note about cocoa powder) or Christmas sprinkles you found in the back of the cupboard.

There was a solar eclipse this week. A 93% solar eclipse. And I missed it because nobody in the whole mission thought to mention it to me. They all knew. And nobody told me. And I was indoors when it happened. I was really, really, really mad. Livid. But I managed not to kill anyone, which I thought was admirable.

And this week Brother McGreuder (who seems to be blogstalking me; hi, Brother McGreuder!) took us to dinner at the Seaman's Club. It was so peaceful, somehow, to sit in a quiet cafe and eat a chili cheeseburger and drink a rootbeer, and just enjoy the fundimental normalcy of everything . . . like a big glass of ice water instead of a little metal shot-glass of a thing, and a canteen selling American candy and medicine (Sister Pak pointed out something that looked good to her--she likes grape flavor--and I had to gently explain to her that 'Claritin' is not, in fact, a candy, but an allergy medicine). No matter how accustomed you get to the wierdness of Korea, there is always some part of you that is holding its breath. But I got to breathe a bit, and it was lovely.

Dad: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I almost missed it, almost forgot it, but caught it, thank goodness. Unfortunately, the present I wanted to get you, I have not yet found, so it's going to be late, and that will be lame, but I am thinking of you, and I love your letters and read them all the time, and I miss you like crazy.

And here I am going to end this e-mail and see if I can send a couple pictures before my time's up. I love you!

* bishop: the guy in charge of a ward (i.e. parish), about 200 families. A bishop has 2 counselors and an executive secretary to help him. In the LDS church, a bishop wears a suit and tie (as opposed to a mitre and sceptre, elaborately embroidered robes and a skull cap).

**stake president: the guy in charge of a stake, which is made up of 5 or so wards. Also a suit-and-tie guy.

***inactives: people who have been baptized into the church but who, for one reason or another, have stopped coming to church on Sunday.

Monday, July 20, 2009

UN Cemetery 7/20/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mom & Dad,

Aaaaaaahhhh shortest piece-of-crap email ever! Dad's fault.* I went (with my two American cohorts and the newly-christened third American cohort, Sis. Musser, plus my district leader and the district's new greenie) to the U.N. Memorial Cemetery. It was amazing, but it took a lot of time. But the garden was beautiful, and I was glad I got to pay respects to all those men who lost their lives holding onto South Korea's freedom and future. So the sacrifice of my e-mail time wasn't in vain. I also got to see the first U.N. flag used in the Korean War; it was in Gen. MacArthur's personal collection until he donated it to the U.N, who sent it to the Cemetery along with a plaque the Koreans had given to the UN thanking them for their help, but that the U.N. had to take down because the USSR threw a hissy fit. It's astonishing how often politics interferes with doing what's actually, like, Right.

I went on an amazing split** with Sister Beckstead this week. We're both American Juniors***, but we did a LOT. We found people and taught people and visited people and made a new member book and taught English class and made cake (thunder cake#; I snuck the recipe off the internet and have made two this week. I seem to have finally found a winner. Koreans love this thing. Even my companion, who has to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. She wants me to make three more) and answered the phone and got ourself a member meal at Pizza Hut. It was a huge confidence-builder for me. Trailing behind a Korean, you tend to do nothing because there's nothing you can do that they can't do better. So you don't know how much you actually CAN do. I can do a lot better than I thought that I could.

I've been to Costco actually twice this week--once again today for Sis. Musser's sake. And to have another chicken bake.

I thought about Emily's## wedding the whole day. I want to read the whole account again, and tell about everything I did that day, but I can't because I have to run to the other end of town to meet our companions, who will eat us alive if we're late, even though they just called and told us that THEY would be fifteen minutes late. Sigh.

I love you.


*Dad's fault: Todd has ingrained into our children that you don't go anywhere without visiting a museum or a war memorial or a military cemetery or a battlefield. Thus, her visit to the UN Cemetery.

**split: sometimes for variety or for teaching experiences, a companionship will split up for a day and pair up with another companionship. So Companionship AB will go on splits with Companionship CD, so that A and C go out and teach for a day, and B and D do the same somewhere else.

***Juniors: Each companionship has a senior companion and a junior companion, the senior companion having more language skills and missionary experience and making the decisions.

# Thunder Cake recipe, about the book

##Emily: RoseE's best friend got married on Saturday

Monday, July 13, 2009

To Dad, 6 July '09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Dad,

We hear tell ( which is how we get news around here) that North Korea, in honor of the Glorious Fourth, has killed some fish with a short-range missile, and once again I do not get my free trip to Japan. Aww, dang it. Maybe Labor Day. We also hear tell (from Kid's News, one of our members' son's English study material) that Hong Kong has closed its elementary schools for fear of swine flu. Hong Kong is, however, a very long way from Korea, and Korea in general claims that it's low H1N1 rates are due to kimchi, of which I eat quite a lot, so we're set. And that's world news for this week.

I think I'm hitting the stretch of my mission where I'm getting fed up with the slow progress of my Korean. Really . . . I'm a smart person, therefore this aught to be easier for me than for everybody else. I'm entitled, darn it. But everybody else is Korean, and I'm just not catching up, and my self-centered brain is ticked off. I don't like being dumber than the people around me. So, yeah, working on that humility thing. But yesterday the 1st Counselor's wife and a couple other Yeonsan sisters asked how my Korean study was going, and I honestly said that it was frustrating to not be able to talk to any of them. And suddenly I had more support than I'd ever imagined. Oh, honey. Don't worry. We know you're trying so hard. You're doing such a good job. It's tough, huh? I laughed at the time, but last night I just cried my head off, overwhelmed by the sweet, sincere love of these good sisters for a girl they can't even talk to, who came over to serve them and hasn't done much so far besides eat their food and smile at them. I'm in this ward at least until September . . . it's good to have friends there. Maybe I'll have learned to talk by then.

Love you,


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Costco and English Lessons (7/12/09)

RoseE writes:

"Dearest Mum & Dad,

Once again, I am securely Not Blown Up for one more week. Yaaay!

So here's the news:

My mom kicks trash on bagpipes*. Seriously. I told everybody about this.

Bro. Cho Jung Gol is getting baptized on the first of August!! He has a baptismal date! Oh my freakin' gosh! Somebody actually wants to get baptized! I mean, that's why I came out here, to help people get baptized, but it's a bit of a shocker to actually see it really happening.

Wednesday, Costco opened.

And the entire district, in a fit of supreme irresponsibility, went to the opening even though it was NOT a P-Day.

We divided ourselves into three groups: The Americans, who were so excited to see a store full of familiar, American stuff that they were ready to either cry or dance jigs in the aisle; the Koreans, who thought this was all kind of neat but why was this such a big deal, again?; and Elder Hamilton, who does not like shopping or crowds (of which Costco was very full on its opening day; but VERY) and thus quietly curled up in a corner until someone told him he could go home.

I had a good time, though. And I bought a chicken wrap for my lunch, and because it was opening day and I was a Costco member and had made a purchase, I got a Free Gift: a box of TimTams, a giant chocolate muffin, a bag of Ghardetto's, a gatorade, a banana, and a dozen and a half eggs. Not bad for a three-buck purchase, considering that the TimTams alone go for about four dollars on the open market.

So after cavorting joyously in the midst of all this American-ness (The Elders spent about four hundred dollars, which they'd been saving for MONTHS, on tortillas and ground beef and Cheerios and CHEESE and I know not what-all), my companion and our former roommates and I went to grab some lunch at a restaurant where they ate a soup, with a fish in it. Like a whole fish. Cut into chunks. And inside the chunks was something that I at first thought was Ramen but was actually said creature's intestines. But they ate it like Ramen. I'd had the chicken wrap, so I abstained. It was the first moment of my mission where I felt genuinely weary of trying to be Korean, at least in the food aspect. I'd sort of forgotten that there was more American food than pizza, hamburgers, and spaghetti (which is what they think of as 'American food' here). I'd forgotten there were other flavors to things besides gochujang. I'm over this fit now, although I did have a leftover piece of pizza for breakfast this morning, but it was sweet-potato-and-corn pizza so it wasn't all that American, really. But there was a melancholy poignancy to the sight of pancake syrup and apple pie.

I've gotten roped into being the token American at an English class taught by a less-active member of Yeonsan ward. This class is WEIRD. The students are all middle-aged ladies (just sweet as anything, all of them) and the teacher is as jittery as the White Rabbit. I can't understand anything he says in English or Korean because our presence rattles him so much. But in this class, the students learn such useful phrases as "Congratulations on your begetting a son" and each week must listen to their teacher reciting the following: "Learning to speak English is like learning to swim or learning to play baseball. You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to play baseball by playing baseball. And you learn to speak English by speaking English. If you want to learn to speak English well, the best way is to jump into English river and try to learn to swim there." Which is good advice, really. But my idea of 'jumping into English river' is just talking to Anglophones, messing up, making mistakes, possibly learning to canoe or weave a basket or navigate a major city without the crutch of your native language to fall back on. The Korean Education System's idea is reading off pre-printed 'dialogues,' first as person A. and then as person B. (I've got the dialogue memorized too.) This is frustrating to me. I vent my frustration by going to Yoon Gi Dong's restoraunt and teaching his daughter English prepositions by balancing glasses of water on my head, building towers out of the salt shakers, and climbing under the table.

I baked another custard for my breakfast this week. It was yummy. But as I came home that night and walked into the apartment, the smell of gas told me that I had LEFT THE OVEN ON ALL DAY. Genius, me. So Sis. Pak and I planned in the stairwell while the stuff aired out, then said a prayer and went inside to turn on the light. We didn't die, although Sis. Pak screamed as though she had. Scared me to death.

It poured torrential, horrific rain on Tuesday. We had zone conference, so we stayed inside all day, so HA. I think I used about fifty paper towels trying to get my shoes dry.

There was a fireside this week at Kumjeong ward (which is a brand-new building slightly more beautiful than the Provo temple; there are big cabinets full of slippers as you come inside, so everyone wears slippers all through any church meeting and leaves their shoes in the cabinets) in which Robert Halley, Korea's best-known American and Pusan radio celebrity, spoke. The missionaries sang, most of us badly, but Sisters Mont and Hill quite well. I was the only person in the packed room who could correctly identify a picture of a quiche. Well, President and Sister Jennings probably could have, but they didn't speak up.

Sister Pak has this book. It's a 'Conversational English' book. Well, the sort of English that sure starts a conversation. Because it makes no distinction between casual speech and outright vulgarity, and of course poor little Sister Pak doesn't know which words are which. This book has caused her a lot of trouble; once, when at a meal with a brand-new fresh-off-the-plane greenie elder, she kindly explained to him that the meat they were eating was pig ass. She even spelled it for him when he looked confused.

Now she checks all expressions with her foreign companions before using them in conversation.
This is often funny. "Chamenim . . . (this English word/expression) many use? Bad word?" And I can say either "No, that's fine, you can say that," or "No, that's a great one, please call Elder Hansen that" or "Um . . . yes. Never say that again. You'll get struck by lightning."

Escalators in Korea have motion sensors. So when nobody's using them, they're not running. How brilliant is that?

Oh, and a word about babies. Korean babies are carried on their mother's backs, strapped on by a blanket with two long straps that wrap it in place. I think this is a splendidly sensible and comfortable system, but I am the only American missionary who thinks so. The other Elders and Sisters shake their heads and mutter, "That's why all the women are so bent over when they're old. They carry these kids on their backs!" Um . . . American old people are bent over too. We just never see them because they are locked in rest homes, not out shopping or hanging with their friends or carrying their grandkids (or great-grandkids, even) around with them . . . on their backs . . . all over the city . . . pretty much until the very day they die. I read a study once that said that the more children are held as they're growing up, the less likely they are to act out violently when they grow older. Violent crime in Korea is almost nonexistent. At least in this end of Korea. I want to steal a pattern for the baby-carrying thing.

And . . . we're off to Costco, again, so that's the news for the week. I love everybody!


* I guess this is the missionary equivalent of "kicking ass". In June, the Salt Lake Scots (of which I, blogmom, am a piping member) took first place in both events at the Salt Lake Highland Games. This last weekend we again took first place in both events at the Payson Highland Games. I also took first in one solo event and third in the other at the Yellowstone Highland Games last month.

Monday, July 6, 2009

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mom & Dad,

Here's a shoutout to Elder Anderson's mom. He's Sister Beckstead's dongi (MTC graduating class). I don't know him, though. At least I don't think I do.

So here's the news of the week. We did, indeed, make it to the aquarium, and that was a lot of fun. The aquarium designers sure know their audience . . . around every corner was a new photo opportunity. (Koreans love to take pictures. But really.) I'll try to send a few, but ldsmail is being a pain again. What else is new.

So this week, I got swamped with letters. Really. I got eight letters and a package. I think the rest of my zone wants to kill me, they're so jealous. So Daddy, Bethe, Bug, Emily, Sara V., Violaine, and Thora, your replies are planned and will come as swiftly as I can wield a pen. I am SO grateful. I am the most spoiled missionary ever. You're all freakin' fantastic.

So, this week in missionary work . . . well, sister Noh Heon Hee, a young mom in Sujeong that we're teaching, is keeping her commitments and listening when we teach her. This seems like such a little thing, but it's SUCH a big deal, because that means she's progressing, and she's learning, and she's gaining a testimony, and that's awesome! She has a little eighteen-month-old girl, Su Een, who is Sis. Pak's new best friend. Also we're having lots of fun with Bro. Cho Jung Gol, who was raised Buddhist and always has so many questions that our lessons can last up to two and a half hours. (Really. I timed last night's. Five thirty to eight in the evening.) The members of the ward all love him and keep inviting him over for dinner. He wants to get baptized. He still wanted to get baptized after we threw the Word of Wisdom and Tithing at him, which tend to be dealbreakers (though, oddly enough, they're a couple of my favorite commandments to live, because they just straight up bring lots of blessings and that's all there is to it). So nothing but promise on that front.

Our last lesson with Brother Cho, President Jennings was supposed to come and teach with us, but he had to cancel at the last minute. To a missionary, having someone cancel on you at the last minute is called being 'punked,' and it entitles you to go get ice cream. So since it was President who punked us, we're going to get really expensive italian gelato and send the reciept into the office for a refund . . . because it was President who punked us.

Fourth of July was fun. The American missionaries wore all the red, white, and blue they could find (generally red ties with white shirts and navy blue slacks for the elders, and a red shirt, cream skirt, and blue necklace for me). And we had a barbeque in the parking lot of Gwangan ward. Since I'm a bit of a pyro, I helped manage the fire pit, and I also spice rubbed and de-boned all the chicken (not, like, pieces of chicken, like A CHICKEN that had been chopped into chunks, bones and all) until my grip slipped and I took a chunk out of my finger with my thumbnail. But I didn't get any blood in the chicken, and it was mostly done by then anyway. I was also the only person to come to the barbeque equipped with a pocketknife or a flashlight, both of which won oooohs and aaaaahs from the elders and earned me that most coveted of titles, "Boy Scout." "Sister Hadden . . . she's a Boy Scout, man." "Who got the fire going?" "Sister Hadden. She's a Boy Scout." "Whose idea was it to bake the chicken in folded pie tins?" "Sister Hadden. She's like a Boy Scout or something." And when we were discussing putting the fire out, and of course someone suggested peeing on it, because Elders are really just big Cub Scouts in suits, Elder Hansen quipped, "I think of all of us standing here, Sister Hadden would be the only one gutsy enough to actually do it." Which I decided to take as a compliment.

So it was a fun time. And it all felt very peaceful and American, despite the fact that there were no hot dog buns and our soda was plum-flavored.

I here enclose the following conversation between Sister Pak and myself.
Me: Sister Pak, why do you keep your breakfast cereal in the freezer?

Sister Pak: Don' like. Too salty. Bud wid strawberry jam . . . so good!

Me: What?

Sister Pak: Too salty eheoh!

Me: The freezer?

Sister Pak: Yeah!
Me: The freezer is too salty?

Sister Pak: Yeah! You don' tink so?

What I was missing here was that I was saying "freezer" and she was hearing "pretzel." Which makes sense in a weird kind of way when you've lived in Korea for three months.

Sweet little sister Ee In Suk found me a cute shirt for 5,000 won. It's light gauzy cream with gray-green lacework all over it. Sooo summery and nice. Sister Ee has been really concerned about the fact that it's hard for me to find clothes in Korea . . . she's been on the hunt, bless her.

So that's the news for this week, I think. It's getting hot but not unbearably so, there's good work to do, the apartment is comfortable and COSTCO OPENS IN TWO DAYS! Sis. Beckstead and Ogelvie are already planning to go for next P-day, and they informed me (not invited: informed) that I was coming too, 'cuz I got the card.

Gonna go try to send those pictures now. Hold tight.

Love you