"Dear Mum and Dad,
Hello from beautiful downtown Taegu! Okay, I'm not downtown, I'm at the city hall where I just got my foreigner registration updated, but still . . .
So I came up to Taegu with Sister Pak Seh Ra, on the train. The train was booked solid (how many people have to go to Taegu on Monday afternoon? A lot, evidently) so it was either A. stand for the whole trip or B. ride first class.
First class is pretty nice.
Taegu is about an hour northwest of Pusan (by fast train . . . so distance, I dunno), and it's got a very different vibe. Pusan's this big huge port city just sprawling all over the place and twisting through the mountains to build on any bit of ground at less than a 50 degree angle of inclination. Taegu is a round little city built in a neat, convenient valley, about 11 miles across. There is a river running through it, not big enough for shipping but big enough to be ornamental. It runs right by our apartment, so we can go outside in the mornings and jog in the park that runs along it. So pretty! There are ducks and cranes out on the water almost every day.
My companion is AWESOME.
Her name is Sister Pania Matthews, and she's from outside Wellington, New Zealand, and is a real live Maori. She is fantastic. This is her first transfer being full senior, and she's really good at it. I realized this when, my first night, she pulls out a map of Taegu and says, "This is for you, to see where you are. I hate not being able to figure out where I am. So here's the apartment, and the chapels, and our area goes like this, and here's the subway line and this is where the bishop lives . . ." That was when I figured we were going to get along pretty well. We've both had Korean companions for the last two transfers, so there are a lot of stories and jokes and questions and just chatter we've been saving up, unable to express, and man it is ALL coming out. Getting to bed on time is becoming a problem.
Speaking of bed, our apartment is tiny and dark and old, and in consequence I am actually sleeping on a yo. At last. It's not spectacularly comfortable--kind of like sleeping on an old blanket that's been folded in half and sewn into a pretty slipcover--but I've managed much worse, and it's nice how it just folds up out of the way during the day. And there is lavender on my pillow, so it's automatically lovely.
The bathroom is another issue . . . the management is doing some repairs, and they just shut off the hot water to the entire building. The entire building. Fourteen floors of like seven apartments each, and none of them will have hot water for two weeks. And, well, what are we going to do about it? So I haven't washed my hair for three days, but I did bathe this morning . . . very quickly. It was no fun. Tomorrow I'll try for my hair.
So in the six months that Sis. Matthews has been here, not much has been happening. Missionary work has been slow to nonexistant, and frustrating, and sticky and sweaty and hot. But this week has been crazy with bizarre missionary-related adventures. One night, we were walking home and ran into a Chinese woman who'd lived in Los Angeles for 25 years. She just chatted our ears off, and then invited us to her sister's Chinese resteraunt because she wanted to feed us mandu.
Sister Matthews looked at me. "Should we?"
Like I know? "Sure! Let's have an adventure."
So we piled into this complete stranger's car, drove straight out of our area (we had to make a quick call to Elder Robb (our district leader, and an Australian . . . welcome to the Pacific) to explain vaguely what we were doing and ask after-the-fact permission) and had really good mandu and then went home late. Bizarre.
The next day. It was the 10th anniversary of Sister Matthews' father's passing, and in honor of the occasion she wanted to go to the local sushi buffet, just to send her family a picture of "This is what I did on Dad's anniversary." And as we were on the subway, on our way to this place, a lovely girl started chatting with us . . . and invited us to lunch with her parents. Randomly. Even more randomly, because her father is a moksanim--a pastor of another Christian faith.
So Christianity is a little competitive in Korea. And while in America, the vast majority of ecclesiastical leaders I've met have been wonderful, kind, selfless, we're-all-in-this-together Christian people, there is a strong current in Korea of agressive, Bible-bashing moksanims anxious to have a larger congregation than the church across the street. And this particular kind of person has been known to eat Mormon missionaries for breakfast. So we're like, um, maybe that wouldn't be a good idea, and she's all like, no, it'll be great, come on, and so one thing led to another and there we were, being treated to lunch on a moksanim's tab.
It was a little bit of a strained meal. On the one hand, this girl (Heh Rim) was SO cool and friendly and awesome and I completely want to take her home with me. On the other hand there was her dad, and her mom, who were perfectly polite but very obviously uncomfortable with the situation Heh Rim had gotten them into of having to feed two of these cult missionaries who were sitting right there at the table with their blue cult books on the floor beside them. And the two other meal guests . . . members of Heh Rim's dad's church . . . kept trying to ask us "So what church are you from? And what's that book?" and the moksanim kept shutting them down. "It's not important. You don't need to know."
Well, you'd better believe we were on our absolute best behavior, and also were ready to bolt for the door. Heh Rim was so excited to have us for new friends, and got our phone number and gave us hers, and we thanked her father profusely with a lot of deep bowing . . . but we haven't heard from Heh Rim since, nor did she pick up when we called her to say Hi and Thanks, so we figure she must have gotten an earful from her dad later on. But maaaaan, she was so coooooool!
The next day we met on the street an English woman from New Zealand who was wandering around trying to find an address. We helped her to get where she was going, and it turned out that she (her name was Katrina) was the mother of the famous Katherine-shi, the most famous foreign television star in all of Korea. So, yeah . . . random much.
And then on the bus a man came up to us, sat down next to Sis. Matthews, asked "Can I see your book?" and took it out of her lap. He ended up walking with us to our appointment, listening on the way as we taught him about the Restoration, and the member family that we were meeting came out to meet him and teach him some more. (He wouldn't come in and eat, so he missed out, because it was a goooooood shiksa.) Some transfers, nothing happens, and some transfers people just start jumping out of the woodwork and screaming "Teach me!" It's shaping up to be one of those transfers.
Oh, and we did end up going to the sushi buffet. Ten thousand won. SO good.
And I also tried a new ice cream bar this week, which had corn on the label, so I figured it would be in the shape of a corn cob or something . . . nope. Corn ice cream. With corn kernels in it. Just like home in Minnesota.
So I think that's the news for the week, really. Oh, my new wards are Suseong and Jungni, and they're both, like, huge. At least huge compared to little Sujeong and Yeonsan. And there's an English-speaking branch for the Americans living on the Taegu military base, who made me realize that yeah, I have actually learned a lot of Korean here, and yeah, I may have round eyes and a big American nose and be six feet tall but I blend in a lot better than these folks, who practically scream I AM NOT FROM AROUND HERE in everything they do.
So that's the news. It is humid here, but breezy and gray, just like Pusan . . . apparently the nice weather followed me up. There's a Costco in Taegu but I haven't hit it yet . . . we're waiting for the elders to all go so we can watch them run around like kids in candy stores, which is funny. Oh, and last night we came home but stopped outside, and Sis. Matthews eased open the screen on the kitchen window and then we scared the living daylights out of Sis. Pak Seh Ra by screaming our heads off. (Told you we were getting along just fine.) I apologized to Sis. Pak Seh Ra in a full Korean bow, kneeling on the floor with my forehead on my hands, but I was laughing the whole time so I don't know if she forgave me.
And that's the news! I love you and I miss you and do you have Great-grandma's address?
Brother Cho's baptism: Bishop Choi is the one in brown leaning towards the camera to the left. Sister Ee Kyeong Mi is over Sister Pak's right shoulder, with Prez. and Sister Jennings behind her. Elders Hamilton and Aquino, my favorites in the district, are at far right. Elder Peterson finished his service two days after this picture was taken.