"Dear Mom & Dad,
Glad to know that everyone's still alive out there. It was a bit of a freaked-out week last week.
. . .
Well, news of the week. Bad news first. I'd give you all the excruciating details of how this happened, but that would just make me feel awful again, so suffice to say that I lost track of my camera at a critical moment and the odds are now EXTREMELY small that I'm ever going to see it again. When I realized this, I just about fainted. Really. I got all shaky and couldn't talk for about fifteen minutes. My camera. With all of my pictures. The last nine months of my life.
Salvage operations are underway. The backup disk I sent home is safe in your keeping (right?), and the photos I e-mailed home are okay, and I have prints of a few others here with me. I also got a flash drive and am passing it around to the missionaries I've served with, to get copies of THEIR pictures of people and events that we both photographed. So it's not the end of the world--it just really, really felt like it for a while. I used that thing every day. It was how I memorized names and faces, how I navigated, how I copied down things I didn't have time to write by hand (Yeah . . . the granola and muffin recipes are gone, too), and contained my collection of Strange Korean Business and Product Names. And that picture of Elder Robb when he fell asleep on the bus that one time. It's been a very Book-of-Mormon week, when you realize just how precious your records are and how diligent you should be in keeping them. I haven't been as diligent as I should, and now it's coming back to bite me.
I also have to get a new camera. I don't really want to, because a. I loved that camera like my own child and b. I'm not exaaaactly sure about my personal financial situation right now, much less what it's going to be when I get back. My big talk about iPods aside, I'd been hoping not to touch my personal money for a good, long while. But I do need a camera, so I guess I'll just have to (as Cara says) burn that bridge when I come to it, be as economical as I can, and hope things work out.
In better news, this week was General Conference! Which was great except that I'M THE ONLY SISTER MISSIONARY IN TAEGU WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH. Which meant that on Saturday, when none of the American branch showed up for Conference, I had to stay with my companion. Morning session we watched together in English, upstairs with the elders, and afternoon session we watched downstairs, in Korean, with the Stake. Being in a dark room listening to a language you don't speak being spoken by someone who isn't going to require a response from you is not a surefire formula for staying awake. So I started taking notes. To give you some perspective on my life right now, here are my notes on President Packer's* talk--every word I understood, written as fast as I could scribble.
My father dispensation restoration of the gospel. We are children of God. We wear bodies of flesh. Agency. Through the Atonement, we can be clean. Through baptism members of the church receive the Holy Ghost. Physical eyes spiritual eyes. Prez Uchtdorf conference experience Indiana Holy Ghost guidance these words 30 min tree big tree Holy Ghost calling received. Airplane please bless start California through prayer learn time prophet Gift of the Gholy Ghost men and women and children angel not just men little children Christ teaches and guides (scripture reference: my thoughts higher than your thoughts) Please pray Please be clean the Seventy serve his mother China? But one hour during method started last me my mother 30 meters American mission what work? Prayed. Next letter What work time parents were praying experience (scripture reference) feel 4 times older brother pray to mom because of prayer dad how this way (something funny) like Amulek in heart pray They will please don't sent to this world face (scripture reference) We sin Thomas S. Monson LDS Church special testimony received calling through revelation all spirits through revelation authority they through Lord Amen.**
Yeeeah. And that was someone speaking slowly, on a topic I was familiar with. That's basically what Korean sounds like to me right now: lots of words, but no actual meaning.
But Sunday was better. The Americans showed up, and so did Sisters Hill and Corrigan from Masan, so I got to watch the whole thing in English and enjoy the bliss that is the American Branch Between-Session Potluck Lunch and try to get four-year-old Gabe to eat something besides Pretzels. It was fun just spending time with the American branch, getting to know them as Me and not as Sister Matthews' companion, and also not as 'I'd-love-to-chat-but-I'm-technically-serving-in-the-Korean-Ward-So-I-Sould-Really-Go -socialize-with-them." And yikes! Was not Elder Holland's*** talk something else? Elder Holland's on the (very short) list of people I absolutely adore, deeply respect, and am scared to death of.
Also this week we taught Hyeoh Un again. This girl is great. She's retaining a lot of what we teach her (much more than I would have at any age, and she's only ten), and when we asked her if she'd been praying like we taught her, she responded, "Yes--I've been praying for my dad to stop drinking and smoking." We haven't taught her about the Word of Wisdom yet. We're now praying for her dad, too. And we just had a great time at her house, playing with her and her little brother, and singing for their mom, who was laughing her head off at her wonderful crazy kids. She looked like she needed the relief of it. We were able to bring the Spirit into their home, and only good can come of that, for their whole family. We are filled with love and hope concerning them.
Sunday afternoon, after Conference, Sis Pak and I ran into a festival going on along our river. We walked through it, wishing like crazy that it would keep going 'till Monday (but it didn't) and getting an eyeful of all the fun stuff. There was a kabuki puppetry group retelling a Korean folktale (Sis Pak filled me in on the plot) and a woman walking around in a kimono (why, I dunno . . . VERY Japanese/VERY not Korean, and also probably so much less comfortable than a hanbok#) (but it looked cool) and a bunch of cool colorful sculptures in the river and a stage where local dance groups were performing. There were a bunch of traditional Korean drums offstage, but we didn't get to hear them because we had to go to a dinner appointment. Rats. But it was great to see all of the color and energy, all the families out to have fun and spend time together. If I weren't a Saintly Sister Missionary Who Is Always Focused on the Work, I would have even been a bit homesick, for such activities on weekend afternoons with my own family. Ahem.
The members keep giving us fruit. We're drowning in it. Oh, and I made myself a treat this week; last transfer I got a box of Hamburger Helper from one of the weigukin families, and I whipped that up. Without hamburger, of course--with bulgogi. But it was still pretty tasty and I've got lots of leftovers.
On the scripture front, I passed a big hurdle: I finished the book of Alma in Korean. HA! Just in time, too, because at Zone Conference Prez gave us all a new reading challenge--to get through the Book of Mormon in our native language before Christmas, marking specific things like Names of Christ, 'Thus-saith-the-Lord' direct quotes, references to the attributes of Christ, and (my favorite) things that might be construed as a parallel of life in our mission. (Laban fallen to the ground drunken## . . . you see a lot of those around here). I'm having a blast with this, and Sis. Pak and I have a lot of fun discussing it in companion study###. And when I'm done with that for the week, it's back to slogging through Helaman, one unknown word at a time. I made it through Alma, though . . . I'm gonna finish. I'm gonna do it.
So I think that's the news of the week. I'm healthy (although I stepped on a roofing nail@ this morning--through divine providence, I was wearing my wedges so it only damaged the shoe, not the foot) and well content, pretty much, well-fed and I'm now going to go used clothes/camera shopping for the rest of my P-Day. I love you! Dad, you've got a letter coming; couldn't write any last week.
*President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
**General Conference talks will be available in a week or two online, and I'll pass you the link when they are. It'll be pretty interesting (and probably amusing) to compare RoseE's notes to the actual talk.
*** Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
# hanbok: traditional South Korean dress
## Our Hero, Nephi, and his brothers Laman, Lemuel and Sam, are fleeing Jerusalem with their family about 600 B.C. They are commanded by the Lord to return to the city to obtain the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of their forefathers, engraven upon plates of brass, at that time in the keeping of one Laban, a somewhat imposing Jewish Elder. The brothers collectively ask Laban for the plates several times, even offering to pay in gold. Laban takes the gold but understandably refuses to give them the brass plates. Nephi finally goes into a darkened Jerusalem alone and finds Laban passed out drunk. After having a little argument with the Lord about the 6th commandment wherein the Lord wins, Nephi takes Laban's own sword out of it's scabbard, chops off Laban's head, puts on Laban's clothes and by deception obtains the brass plates which his family uses to keep themselves on the straight and narrow--sort of--for centuries after. See 1 Nephi 3 and 4.
### Companion Study: every morning she and her companion study the scriptures together for an hour.
@RoseE has a history of stepping on (rusty) nails. The first incident was in a Chicago hotel. The nail went into her foot and she had to be rescued by her baby sister, then aged 2. The second time was at a northern Minnesota language camp. The nail again went into her foot, and she had to be taken by van into the nearest town to have it removed and get a tetnus shot.