Chuesok, Persimmons, and It IS a Small World, After All.
"Dear Mum and Dad,
So Isis* is walking again, and Margie is walking again, but Teancum's down for the count**? Can we not get all of us on our feet at the same time? Holy betsy. What did I TELL you guys about getting cancer while I was out here? Did I not specifically forbid it? If I didn't, I'm doing it now.
And he's going to Greek school. To learn such useful things as "If Person A has three goats and Person B has five goats, how soon will they marry?" I'm sure someone else has already made this joke, but if I'd been there, I would have made it first, so ha.
I told Sis. Pak this week about all the fruit trees in our neighborhood. The thought blew her mind. In the older neighborhoods here, the ones swarmed with little old piled-up-like-legos houses, there are still some fruit trees . . . not like you're thinking, though. They're mostly pomegranetes and persimmons (have you ever had a persimmon? I had one this week. It's like eating a tomato filled with half-set orange jello), and the wider streets are lined with ginko trees. These are in fruit at the moment, and smell to high heaven . . . and every day I see someone standing underneath one, either kicking it or throwing something up into the branchest to knock the fruits down. Then they step on them, so the pit in the middle slides out of the smelly fruit stuff, and they pick the pits up and put them in a bag and take them home to dry in the sun, and then they eat them. Sister Pak says they're really good pan-fried. Um . . . . . . . we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
In Sunday School yesterday we had a new family come in . . . from Mongolia. Yep. Two sisters and the younger sister's husband. Their Korean is about as good as mine (so . . . not very), and the older sister speaks a tiny bit of English and plenty of Russian. So Elder Ee Son Gi taught the lesson in Korean . . . but he taught it dang well, clearly and simply, in sentences even I could understand, making liberal use of the chalkboard and his passable artistic skills. And for the few really tricky words I whipped out Liz, whose 11-language feature does not include Mongolian but does include Russian, so with English, Korean, Mongolian and Russian all going at the same time, we got through astonishingly well. We're not sure what we're going to do about Conference, though.
Speaking of, Conference is not this coming weekend but next (it comes to Korea a week late). THIS weekend is Chuesok, one of (as far as I can see) only two holidays actually celebrated in Korea, the other being lunar new year, when everyone gets a year older. Chuesok is basically like Thanksgiving. Everybody's with their families, talking and eating and talking and eating for three days straight. They also go clean up and give food to the graves of their departed family members, which is the only instance in which you can stick chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice. (If you stick your chopsticks in like this at any other time, it's basically a declaration that you wish everyone around you were dead, and is the second-rudest thing you can do at a Korean table, short of not eating all the rice.) So the Elders get Chuseok day itself off entirely. Full P-Day. The sisters get to go to Sisters' Conference and sit in meetings all day. We'll get blessings.
So last night at a big Suseong ward potluck dinner thing I ran into an American named Brother (I think Keith) Jorgensen, who mentioned offhandedly, "I knew a Hadden in grad school . . . Barney***?" Yeah, so he and Barney were in the same ward at UCLA. And I ran into him in Taegu. He's doing fine, if Barney asks. Teaching geography at one of the universities here.
I made myself a treat this week. GRANOLA. Yeah, I finally got the ingredients together to use that recipe. It ended up being a little unorthodox . . . honey got replaced with "sweetening syrup," and included in the mix were corn flakes, banana chips, and chocolate-covered peanuts, as well as a bag of sunflower seeds that I think have been living on my bookshelf for a very, very long time. But it tastes dang good, and I am eating it with yogurt for breakfast every morning, and am happy.
The work's picking up here. Sister Pak seems to be the tipping point for these wards. The pressure's been on for a long time to change the way missionary stuff works around here--the Area Authorities have been pushing from above, the missionaries from below, and President Jennings from the side. And for a long time the only Korean sister serving here was one that was a little hard to get along with. But Sister Pak, of course, is an angel, so people are now coming out of the woodwork to tell her, "My niece really needs to hear the missionary lessons. Here's her address," or "You need to start teaching so-and-so's family. If you want me to come along, I'm free in the afternoons." And just now, walking to the post office to e-mail, a woman (wearing a hygene mask, so she was almost completely incomprehensible) stopped us and told Sister Pak, "I met with your missionaries a long time ago, and I have some more questions. Could I get your phone number?" And as far as Sister Pak is concerned, this sort of behavior is par for the course. She's just like that.
I got a letter from Dad this week containing an essay by Orson Scott Card that has caused me to repent of last week's rant. I'm sorry! It was all about the type of missionary that people trust, and the kind of missionary that people don't. I'm trying harder this week to be the former--to know better how to teach, to talk less about myself and more about the gospel, to just say what's true and leave it at that, and to not go into anything without preparing well and thoroughly. And I'm also cramming vocab like a madwoman again because I HAVE GOT TO LEARN THIS LANGUAGE! I don't know how the missionaries in Center Ward are doing. Have them teach you the First Lesson and see what you think. And if they ever get themselves stuck in a really awkward situation because of the rules (like, they can't accept a ride from you if you're the only sister in the car, so they have to call someone else for a ride or just walk home), then they're probably pretty good.
We didn't get to hear the RS broadcast. Is it printed in the Ensign? Or is that the YW broadcast? Can't remember.
Sister Beckstead is a barrel racer#, I think. I'll ask her for tips at Sisters' Conference.
Um . . . I think that's the news of the week. I didn't jaywalk across freeways or ford rivers . . . just crammed and sulked and repented of the sulking and kept on keepin' on, as we must.
I love you. Don't do anything too dumb or too fun until I get home.
* Isis: our dog
** Teancum was diagnosed with a benign tumor in the top of his left leg, which is what has been making him limp for the last 5 months. Stay tuned for treatment . . .
*** Uncle Barney
# Bethe is going to compete in barrel racing in a hippotherapy rodeo in October.