"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.