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Monday, November 30, 2009

In Which RoseE Has a Birthday and Ages 3 Years in 3 Days

RoseE writes:

"Dear all,

Only time for a very quick rundown.

Thank you so much! My presents are awesome! I took a video of me opening them . . . don't know how you're gonna watch it before July, but it's took, at least. I'll work on getting it into a workable format.

I woke up this morning seven minutes late (the roommates let me sleep in) and as soon as I stirred my three darling Korean roommates started singing Happy Birthday in Korean. Then they sang it in English but forgot the words halfway through. They'd decorated the kitchen with Halloween balloons that said 'Happy' and a poster that said 'Birthday Rose', and had made me a birthday breakfast of all my favorite things: pancakes, bacon, asian pears, mashed potatoes and Healthy Choice chicken soup. (Elder Murray was suppsed to get them gravy mix, but his appointment ran late last night, so now Sis. Pak is mad at him.) I showered, had breakfast, and got chased off the dishes by Sis. Pak Seh Ra, and opened my presents from home. Oh, gosh, Dad, I almost cried at the tree*. Really. That was about the most fantastic present I've ever seen. I'm decorating it with whatever-the-heck, including the ribbons off the presents. (Oh, and my family portrait is now strewn with paper chains made out of old message-card-making supplies.) And Mom . . . SOCKS! Best socks EVER! My gosh, they're phenominal! I love my socks!

So as it was my birthday and P-Day I got to do whatever I wanted, which was go to Seomun market and buy my last Christmas presents. But first we had to pop by the church, because Elder Son Oo Shik called to say that I'd received a package and he'd leave it there for me. And so we went to the church, only to find all the sisters, The Suseong Elders (more came later), a Costco cake with roses on it, some darling little presents (a pretty painted case for my dochang stamp that's got a little stamp pad hooked to it), and the giant Suseong tv with Prince of Egypt and Joseph: King of Dreams (marketed in Korea as 'Prince of Egypt 2'; this caused but a LOT of confusion and miscommunication between Americans and Koreans). So we ordered chicken and ate cake and watched movies. Sounds like the best birthday in the entire freaking world to me.
And as soon as I finish this e-mail we're going over to the Tollets because they asked us to come over and help decorate for Christmas. I nearly fainted when Elder Murray told me this, I was so excited.

Other parties this week: the branch did a communal Thanksgiving with the four or so largest families and all 22 Kyeongbuk Zone missionaries. Well, 21 of our zone and Sister Corrigan, who got sent on the luckiest split in the entire world and escaped Thansgiving-free Ulsan just in the nick of time. Sister Pak Sung Hee ate her very first turkey. But not much of it because she thought the ham was a different kind of turkey and took a lot of that, instead. She also had never considered eating sweet potatoes with marshmallows . . . you eat them with kimchi here. And the tapioca salad just blew her mind entirely. It was really funny to watch. I think every American missionary was near tears with happiness--some elders had their plates six inches deep in food. Really, there were mashed potatoes as far as the eye could see, plates and plates of them. And a non-member family came as well, and brought a pan of ratatouille. They were very impressed that I knew what ratatouille was and were tickled to death that I was so excited about it. And their four-year-old black-haired girl Valerie ran around for the whole meal with the Tollets' youngest, white-blonde-haired four-year-old Kailee. They were very cute.

And I met a man from Senegal on the subway. And my French is much father gone than I thought it was. I sound like a babbling idiot. This is not good.

But other than that, it was a wonderful week of parties galore. There's more news but no time to give it. Suffice to say yesterday I was 23, today I'm 24, and tomorrow I'll start working with Koreans again and will be 25. Also, Bethe's birthday and my birthday happened simultaniously . . . I wasn't planning on this when I requested she be born on some other day.

I love you all so much! Have fun with y'all's non-Charlie-Brown trees! My shoes are whole, my toes are warm, I am swimming in joyous familiar European and Utahean chocolate, and life is very, very good. At least for now. There's always next week.

Oh, and I met Elder Choi Yoon Hwan of the Seventy this week. That happened, too.

Gotta run!


Bug, I promise a letter next week.

* Dad sent her a Charlie Brown Christmas tree: basically one twig with a few needles on it, and one red glass ball ornament, the weight of which makes it bend way over. You can get one just like it at Sears. Go watch A Charlie Brown Christmas if you can't remember what it looks like or what it represents.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum and Dad,

Like, pet mice, or like "OH GAAAAAAHHHH IT'S MICE!!" mice*? How big are the lizards**? Can you sic the lizards on them? I'm sure Soxie's*** being no help at all--not a mouser, really. More ornamental than useful, as far as cats go.

I'm also intrigued by Cuin's lizards' sibling rivalry issues, that they need constant supervision. Hmmmm.

I need to work up a Santa Lucia# scheme. Of course, Santa Lucia Day is after Transfers, so who knows where the heck I'll be, so maybe I shouldn't make too many plans too fast. Both Sis. Pak and I are hoping and praying that we both stay, as we've got a lot of good stuff happening and we want to be around to see how it plays out. And Sis. Jennings keeps promising to come up to Taegu on a P-Day and go shopping at Seomun Market with us, but she hasn't had a P-Day free in two transfers. Hmph.

Oh, I got your package safely this week, and have obediently stuck it under my desk to await my actual birthday, when I will be . . . twenty-five. Just like I am right now. Korean "age" is a strange bird.

So last week the big news was . . . Hyeon Ji got baptized. Yeah. She didn't even have a baptismal date at time of last e-mail. It all happened pretty quickly . . . she decided she wanted to get baptized on Thursday, on which day Sis Pak was on splits in Ulsan (I was with yet another Sis. Pak, Sis. Pak Min Jeong), so we had only part of Friday (most of the day was riding buses back and forth from Ulsan to get MY Sis. Pak home) and all of Saturday (minus everything else we have to do on Saturday, including teaching Hyeoh Un and teaching Jungni ward English class) to get her baptismal service put together and the interview done and everything. Fortunately, the new bishop (he's FANTASTIC) and our ward mission leader (ditto) really pulled through, as did the Spectacular Sister Tollet (chocolate chip cookies), and everything was great in a very short period of time. The time crunch was because in two days Hyeon Ji goes into the hospital for pretty major knee surgery, and will be holed up in there for a good couple of weeks. So she got confirmed at the baptismal service, which is not usual for converts' baptisms (usually they're confirmed in Sacrament meeting the next week). So while she's recuperating we'll teach her the new member lessons and hopefully she'll be off to a good strong start with a brand-new knee and brand-new baptsimal covenants well before the turn of the year.

Hyeon Ji's really shy. But really. It may come from being less than five feet tall (she's a tiny little thing). I was amazed that she worked up the nerve to be baptized, and held onto it when she saw that most of the ward had showed up for her baptismal service (as well as a LOT of missionaries and some members from other wards, as the service was right after stake conference). Her uncle, with whom we've been teaching her, baptized her. This was the fist baptismal service I've been able to watch from 'backstage' . . . . the first baptism I've seen of a sister whom my team has taught. It's a humbling thing. I mean, we just said some stuff, and prayed a bit, and she up and decided to change her whole life AND allow herself to be dunked underwater in front of about a hundred people. Once again, I feel like none of this can really be my doing. I'm still just watching in awe and confusion as the work of the Lord goes on around my head.

And it's continuing to go on. We think that little Hyeoh Un will probably be ready to be baptized in the next couple of weeks . . . we taught her everything, and she's accepted and is living it all. We're mostly waiting for a free Sunday, since the Elders have I think two baptisms already planned. (Cool, huh?) Student Ju Hyeah is also still doing well, and is thinking ahead to her own baptism. And this week we FINALLY managed to meet with a young woman named Ryu Nah Hi, who stayed with an LDS host family while visiting Utah and was impressed with what they lived and believed. We've been trying to meet her for weeks but keep just barely missing her. But she's really eager to learn what we have to teach, and we've got high hopes for her. So yeah, not a dull moment around here. (Except on the bus back from Ulsan, when I got to TAKE A NAP! A NAP! It was GLORIOUS!)

We had dinner at the Tollets' last night (bless this wonderful family) and there were two big bowls of mashed potatoes.

I had three helpings.

Sis. Pak had one and said it was really good, but I don't think she quite gets what I see in them. I've tried to explain gravy several times, but it never quite comes out right.

Anyway, shorter than usual this week, sorry. Everybody's fault but mine, as everything always is, of course. I love you! Happy Thanksgiving! I'd tell you to tape the Macy's Parade, but . . . well, have fun watching it, anyway. The Military Branch is making Thanksgiving Dinner for the entire zone (that's 22 missionaries, most of them hungry American boys and one of them a Korean who has never SEEN turkey. Never. Except on t.v.).

Oh, and it suddenly got warm again. I'm not getting this Korean weather thing.

Love you


* we have mice

**lizards - we are watching her uncle's kids' pets for the holiday

*** our 15-year-old cat

# Santa Lucia Day: a Scandanavian Christmas holiday, December 12

Saturday, November 21, 2009

to Dad 16 Nov 2009

RoseE writes:

"Dear Dad,

Once again, sorry about the stationery. I'm running out of pages on this letter pad--I'll probably grab a new one this week sometimes.

Sister Pak is deeply annoyed on my behalf that I missed both the France trip AND the Disneyworld trip. (But it's okay, because there will be other opportunities, right?) I'm sorry you didn't get to see the rocket launch. Them's the breaks, and it sounds like you had a good time, anyway.

My brief bout of illness seems to be gone, so I haven't yet had to resort to the dreaded hygiene mask. (When I told Melody, of the military branch, that I had a cold, she demanded to know, "Why aren't you wearing a hygiene mask?" to which I responded, "Because they look completely ridiculous!" She laughed and agreed with me.) I can't believe they do that much good anyway--they just cause you to touch your mouth and nose more than you would otherwise.

You'll be glad to know that I am on my way to ride a bike on my mission. We're in Kyeongju, and we're going to rent bicycles to ride around the tombs of the kings of Silla. But I'm wearing pants. I'm not exactly sure what we're going to see or where we're going to end up--everyone I talk to seems to think that someone else is planning this. Oh, well.

Oh, seems like we may be headed for a temple. We'll see what we see. It's pretty dratted cold outside, but I'm well-layered so I hope that someone else will freeze before I do.

I love you!


Monday, November 16, 2009

In Which Winter Sets In and Some Good Missionary Things Happen

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum and Dad,

Miss you like crazy, as always. I just sent off a box of Christmas Presents, minus Bit's and Bug's (for which I am still looking; they'll be on their way soon, I promise). Getting it there in time for Christmas made me very grateful for Grama Rosie's present. I'd like to express this gratitude to her, but I don't have her mailing address . . . *puppy dog eyes* I'm such a gosh darn high-maintenance missionary, I'm sorry. ;-( That's the last thing I'm requesting, I swear. I'll be good from now on.

35 cents is a good deal on medical care. Good job, Bug.

It's dang cold here, too -- the green coat is out and working, as are my lovely hat and gloves. Everybody likes the hat and says it's maushiitda (stylish) . . . this word keeps throwing me because it sounds too much like the French mauche, ugly.

Well, this week was Pepero day, which is like Valentine's Day would be if Valentine's Day had been invented by the company that makes the conversation hearts. The Pepero company just made it up about twenty years ago to boost sales, but hey, I'm all for giving and receiving chocolate-covered cookie sticks. I'm just a little smug that for once our version is older than their version.

We also had President's interviews this week, at which Prez looked at his paperwork and realized what had come to my attention some weeks ago, vis. that every Korean missionary in Kyongbuk zone is either in my district or my apartment, and that the only American missionary I ever see is Elder Murray. (Elder Murray's pretty cool. His family owns Nightmare Mansion and he wants to grow up to be a conservative radio talk show host.) So Prez asked me how that was going for me. And what could I say? I wanted to come to Korea, and boy, I'm here with a vengeance now. I'd love to feel sorry for myself, but when I do my companion gets hurt and sad, which I would too, if I were in her shoes, which I need to be more often. So staying positive. Learning Korean. Working. Being happy. That's the plan.

It was a pretty big week for missionary work. We Got Through A Door. WE GOT THROUGH A DOOR. You NEVER get through doors when you're doorknocking. I think the stat is 1000 rejections for every invitation to come inside and teach a lesson. But we got through a door. . . and taught the first lesson to three great kids whom I love already while their sweet grandma brought us persimmons. Awwww.

We've got a lot of people we're working with right now. How did this happen? This area was dead six weeks ago. I like this better, really.

Sunday sort of sums up what's been happening lately. Get ready for a name string, 'cuz these were the people I was excited to see at church: Jin Mok Hwan (less-active hairstylist friend), the new move-in recent convert from Taejeon we've been trying to track down, Hyeh Ji (new member/less-active), Ju Hyeah (her non-member best friend), Ii Un Kyeong (new member who's been missing church due to an ongoing fight with cancer) Hyeon Ji (member's niece/our investigator), our ward mission leader (he's missed two weeks; we thought he'd gone less-active), Ii Mi Suk (now sporting stylish headscarves to match her outfits) and the bishop's dog. Now the former bishop's dog, 'cuz the bishop got released and now we have a new bishop, Pyeon Chang Gi, who is one of my favorite members and married to another of my favorite members. And little Ryan Tollett got baptized and there was American junk food for all. And we rejoiced. But we still don't know what the former bishop's dog was doing in sacrament meeting. Welcome to Korea. Welcome to my life.

Today every missionary in creation (not really; just a bunch) got taken out to Kyeong Ju, which was the capital of the kingdom of Silla (read: very, very, VERY old). In the city now, all the buildings have traditional Korean roofs. Even new buildings. They have to build 'em that way; it's a law. Really. We went exploring in another temple . . . again, a sad experience, firstly for the thought of so many people believing that bowing to a statue will make their lives better, and secondly for the jarring collision of religion and commercialism that happens when still-active places of worship become tourist destinations. But the temple that we went to still has some wooden buildings that predate the Japanese invasions of the late 1500s, which is hard to do because the Japanese burned down pretty darn near everything.

In the midst of the pre-Christmas festivities (which I'm trying very hard to not think about missing), if you on Temple Square meet a Sister Durtschi (American), please tell her I say hi.

Love you! Gotta run!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Which RoseE Gets A Good Scare, and We Are Confused By Lots of Korean Names

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum and Dad,

How will I talk when I get home? Well, strangely enough, probably a lot like Dad. Korean structure puts pauses in a lot of the same places Dad does when he wants to see if anybody's actually listening to him. "I . . . *pausepausepause* want to go see a movie." Koreans do this. "Chonun . . . *think about it* 모모모." Also after conjunctions. "I want to go a movie AND *pause pause pause* eat yangnyeom chicken." And I've discovered that I can't really do normal introductory questions anymore. I can't spit out "So what's your family like? How many brothers and sisters do you have?" It just falls out Korean form: "How does your family become?" I'm sure you'll notice more in a few months.

It shouldn't be getting too much worse for a while, though, because the dreaded Michigan Test is coming up again in December, and since Sis. Pak failed it last time around she's going to take it again. So I'm going to put a lot of my Korean practice on hold and make her speak and listen to English. She improved a lot when she was living with three weigukins*, but she's been with hangukins** pretty much ever since and has started slipping.

Well, inasmuch as we are a united, eternal family, I up'n got sick too. Not bad. Yesterday was lots of sniffling and sneezing, but today it seems to have cleared up. I don't think it's the dreaded H1N1, which everybody is self-diagnosing this week (a couple schools are closed and the hygene masks are EVERYWHERE) . . . just a wrapup to the blissful seven months of healthiness I have thoroughly enjoyed since leaving the Pit of Disease and Death otherwise known as the Provo MTC.

Well, the cold snap hit and then it was gone. The weather's as lovely as it gets. Which is SO weird. Because it was blinkin' freezing for about two days, and we were frantically trying to make sure everyone had enough blankets and that their apartments were well-insulated (Elder Draper, out in the boonies, is looking for a new apartment because their place is colder inside than it is out) . . . and then the cold went away. Gone. Poof. Gorgeous outside.

So . . . missionary work is happening, or something. Hyeoh Un participated in the Primary Sacrament Meeting program yesterday, as did all of less-active Kim Mi Hyang's kids (BOTH their parents came, AGAIN, which is AWESOME). She's nervous about getting baptized, but she has a strong testimony and her mom is completely okay with whatever. And Gu Yeong Eh's niece Hyeon Ji came to church again, and we taught her the third lesson, and checked up on if she'd been reading the Book of Mormon . . . "Well, I got to First Nephi 14," she told us, pulling out her copy and flicking it open. Colors. On almost every page. She's Been Marking Stuff. "I didn't understand this part with the dream about the tree*** that Lehi had, but then later on it explained it really well#, so that was good."

You could have knocked both Sis. Pak and me over with a feather. Nothing blows missionaries away like someone actually, earnestly reading the Book of Mormon. Looking at that book was like Christmas.

So yeah. Hyeon Ji's doing fine.

We ALSO taught the first lesson to our less-active new-member friend Hyei Ji's best friend Ju Hyei (getting mixed up with the names yet?). She's attended church a few times, and told us that she loves Sacrament meeting and feels really good when she goes. She has been GETTING HYEI JI OUT OF BED TO COME TO CHURCH ON SUNDAYS. No, really. Our non-member has been dragging our less-active to church.

We ALSO taught the first lesson to Son Mi, aka Miracle Girl. We met Son Mi on the street two weeks ago with a couple of her friends, said hi, introduced our message, wished 'em a good day, moved on. Then, two days later, we were walking down the street and saw a girl talking on a cell phone. And I was (in my head) like, "Maybe we should talk to her." "Nah, she's on the phone." "But maybe we really, really should." And I hesitated, and looked at her, and she caught my eye and smiled (this DOESN'T happen in Korea) and hung up the phone. It was Son Mi.
Now, y'all know my memory for faces, vis., I have none. I didn't know her from Eve. Didn't recognize her at all. But it was the same girl, that I just randomly felt that I needed to talk to. Or perhaps not so randomly.

Anyway, we invited her to the Halloween party, and she came and helped out and had fun. And this week we made an appointment to teach her, and Sis. Pak made muffins.
We get to the church. She's late. We text. She replies. Sounds like she's not coming.

"Aww," Sis. Pak texts back, "we had a present we wanted to give you."

"Oh, okay," says Son Mi. "I'll be there in half an hour."

Sis Pak looks at her little bag of four muffins and decides that, while it's a fine surprise gift, it's not much to make a special trip for. So she and I went on a mad hunt through the chapel to find something that would be a better present. And what did we find but: A copy of "Stand a Little Taller" in Korean, colored paper, markers, stickers, scissors, tape, and ribbon. And we had a perfect little present waiting when she showed up, to listen earnestly and attentively to the first lesson, at which the Spirit was most decidedly in attendance.

So missionary stuff's goin' darn well in the fine city of Taegu. To quote Independence Day ('cuz it's P-Day and I can do stuff like that), the last couple of days have been REALLY exciting.

So, other news . . . oh, kyool. Gotta tell you about kyool. It is kyool season here in Korea. A kyool looks like an orange or a tangerine, is slightly larger than a golf ball, and is so sweet and lovely and delicious that you can just eat them like candy all day long. Sis Pak and her older sister once ate 250 of them in three days. Their skin turned orange.

Speaking of Sis. Pak, she hit her one-year mark this week, and we all had ribs at TGI Friday's to mark the occasion. (Lunch special. Missionaries are pros at knowing where the good lunch specials are.)

Also speaking of Sis. Pak, I keep forgetting to tell this story but I'll tell it now. A few weeks before Halloween, one night we'd just finished planning and I got up to go use the bathroom. When I came back to our room, I found Sis. Pak standing just inside the door with her very long straight black asian hair combed down over her face.

Three voices started up in my head. One was saying, "Huh. Sister Pak is standing just inside the doorway."

The third said, "Oh, Sis. Pak is trying to scare me. That's a great Halloween idea. I wish I had cool Asian hair like that."

Unfortunately, it was the second voice that got control of my muscles first. So while the first and third voices were like "Wait! Don't!" I screamed my head off and smacked her clean across the face as hard as I could.

She was okay. And I was really, really sorry. And it was all really funny in a horrible kind of way. So yeah. I get to join the ranks of those sister missionaries who have in very fact physically attacked their companions. Lucky me.

Anyway, that's the news over here. We're gonna go watch Prince of Egypt (which Sis. Pak has never seen; some of the elders got permission for a movie day) and I'll write a bunch of letters and life will be good.

Love you! Be Good! Church is True!


*English-speaking companions

** Korean-speaking companions

***1 Nephi 8:4-38

# 1 Nephi 15

Friday, November 6, 2009

to Dad 10/26/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Dad,

Well, transfer calls are in and I'm staying in Taegu, so you don't have to worry about me getting tsunamied. It would take a heck of a tsunami to get across fifty miles of mountains.

Ken Burns has a new series out? Man, I miss all the good stuff. Right up your alley, too--history of the National Parks.

What you said about change echoed something I was dwelling on back in first transfer. We were studying one morning when we heard the phone ring in the other room. Sis. Hill picked it up--it was Pres. A few minutes later, she appeared in the doorway to announce, in a very somber voice, holding her bathroom tight around her, that her father's cancer had disappeared entirely.

And we all started sobbing.

Not that we were upset that her father had been spared from certain death--quite the opposite. But it was a change. A big, drastic, wrenching change. And change hurts, even when it's good. And I thought about the changes I'm going through. Maybe they're good changes. Maybe I'm becoming a better person. But good or bad, pain and fear are just naturally a part of that. And it's the same for our investigators and less-actives. Coming into the gospel is hard and scary--I forget that a lot, but it's true. This is hard. but like Elder Holland* says, Salvation was never a cheap experience. It's supposed to be hard. If it weren't hard, it would be easy. And what's the point of that?

I love you. Keep being a good dad. Because you really, really are. And don't get cancer.


*Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

to Bit 10/26/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Bit,

Happy 16th Birthday! I hope this package gets to you in time--though as I'm sending it before Halloween, it might very well show up super early. You never know.

I hope you and Dasha had a great time at the horse show! What was your time on the barrel race? How is the NAC's little orphan mustang doing? Have they named him yet? Who's going to train him?

My friend Sister Beckstead wants to know where your riding teachers come from. She's going home in December, and she's interested in doing some volunteer work with horses. She's an excellent rodeo rider and a great, patient teacher (she's taught me so much about missionary work ) and wants to know how she can get involved. I told her I would ask you.

Not much is happening here. It's starting to get pretty cold. Elder Chai Youn Hwan of the Seventy* is coming to visit us next month before he moves to Japan. I'm saving up to take my district out for Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake on my birthday. The cranes are migrating.

I love you!


*Members of the Quorums of the Seventy are called to proclaim the gospel and build up the Church. They work under the direction of the Twelve Apostles and the leadership of seven brethren who are called to serve as the Presidency of the Seventy. Members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are designated General Authorities, and they may be called to serve anywhere in the world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekly email 11/2/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks for the updates on Gramma Olsen, and the letter from Bethe. Sorry the video didn't come through. This is probably the fault of this less-than-celestial e-mail server, which refuses to acknowledge that I have space in my inbox despite the fact that I have deleted all but five e-mails and, in truth, have nothing BUT space. Thrice-accursed thing. So if you sent a news-of-the-family this week, I didn't get it, and this is why I am not replying to it.

Life's good here in Korea. It got Very Cold and windy but Very Fast, so we're pulling out the heavy coats and running them to the dry-cleaners' downstairs. I finally found extra blankets on top of the other team's wardrobe, so I am sleeping much more comfortably now. And I got a BOX! Which makes life very happy indeed. I shared the Monster Cookies with the roommates (Sister Pak Se Ra thinks they're about the most delicious thing ever) and (some) of the Reese's with the Halloween party, but the rest of the Reese's and the candy corn are my private stash. I'm trying to eat them slowly . . . failing, but trying. And what was up with the nesting envelopes? Somebody got bored in Sacrament meeting, looks like. I love seeing the Sacrament meeting programs, though. It's great to see what's going on in the strangely-surreal world of Rose Park. I took a video of Sis. Pak opening this box, too, and finding her mouse, but all the dialogue turned out to be in Korean so I'll have to translate it before I can transcribe it. But she was way excited and thanks you a lot, and then proceeded to gloat that her Kiore was bigger than mine and hence its 'hyeong' (older brother). Which is fitting, because she's older than me and thus is my 'onni' and I have to do whatever she says. Not that I don't anyway, being junior companion and all . . . but this is a big deal in Korea, who's older than whom. Or bigger, in the case of knitted mice.

So this week was conducted with an Eye Single to the Glory of the Halloween Party. We had a last-minute wave of help in the form of Elder Son Oo Shik's new companion Elder Murray, whose family owns Nightmare Mansion. No, really. His family are professional haunted-house makers. Having no budget and no time cramped his style a little bit, but he came through with flying colors, as did every other missionary in Taegu, and the thing was an absolute success. The party opened with a dance number to the theme music from 'Bewitched', at the end of which Elder Hansen shot Elder Murray stone dead (he had to be dragged offstage). Then there were party games all over, including sack races (garbage bags we found in the chapel), bobbing for apples (all given to us by members as Chuseok leftovers), a pinata (four balloons, tape, last week's newspaper from our door guard, a bag of flour also found in the chapel, and a candy run to Costco (plus some, but not all, of my Reese's from home)), balloon-stomping competitions (leftovers from the pinata-making) and eating donuts off strings (these had to be purchased fair and square--darn it). I face-painted all evening, doing lots of pumpkins with the orange paint on the inside of the jar lid (a pinata and four other decorative papier-mache pumpkins go through a lot of orange and homemade red/yellow sort-of-orangey pink). The second floor of the chapel was the haunted house. The Zone leaders brought dry ice from Baskin Robbins, and we had a lot of curtains and stuff from a bag of scrap fabric a less-active sister was about to throw out when we visited, and the Elders just had a grand old time jumping out of closets and such. It was great. And lots of people came, members, non-members, less-active members, friends of members, people we'd met on the street two days before . . . AND many of the above came to church the next day.

Yep. Hyeon Ji, the girl we taught the first lesson last week, came to the party AND to church AND we taught her the second lesson. Yaaaay! And our hasn't-been-seen-in-yonks recent convert Hyeh Ji brought her friend Ju Hyeah to church again, and we're going to meet them later on this week. (Hyeh Ji hasn't been coming to church because she doesn't have any friends her age here. I can see this situation working out very well.) And Jin Mok Hwan, our hairdresser friend, has been at church every week for a month. Her fantastic daughter is over-the-moon happy.

One notable absence at church was little Hyeoh Un, who was forbidden to attend by her father because she hadn't done all of her homework on Saturday--she'd gone to a friend's house instead. We called Sunday night to check on her, and she was in a sulk about it. She REALLY wants to go to church. Her conversation with Sis. Pak went something like this:

"So you couldn't come to church today?"

*sigh* "Yeah."

"Awww, that's too bad! But it's important to do your homework, too."

*sigh* "Yeah."

"Can we still come over this week and teach you?"

*no sigh* "YES!"

"Okay. See you on Saturday!"

"Okay! I love you!"

"Love you too!"

I love this kid.

Sunday was Operation: Save Yeongchon Branch*. Yeongchon is a tiny town of no importance a good ways out of Taegu, and as people have been migrating away from it into bigger cities like Taegu and Pusan the branch has shrunk . . . and shrunk . . . and now there are about seven people regularly attending. (The elders are very smug about knowing the names of Every Single Active Member of their unit.) It's in danger of collapse and closure. So we got the whole zone together (some twenty elders, plus we four sisters), fasted and prayed, and went to Yeongchon. One team went and visited less-actives with the branch president, another team knocked doors, and two other teams (self included) did streetboarding all afternoon with the stake presidency. I was with Sis. Ahn Ta Yeon, the new greenie (who is awesome, by the way). And all afternoon we just talked to people. I'm generally scared to death of street prostelyting, and hate doing it, but Sunday it was different. We had a real, concrete goal in mind: find people who are ready to hear about the gospel, and bring them to Yeongchon branch, so that the Church doesn't vanish from this city. We worked hard and gave the Yeongchon elders a lot of contacts to follow up on. All that prayer, fasting, and work can do will be done. And the stake presidency worked with us--got to see that we are working, and working hard, despite the low stats that come from kicking the 30/30 program.

And . . . not much else, really. I've discovered a refreshing beverage made from mixing water, blueberry vineagar, and rice syrup (when apple juice is unobtainable, you start improvising). Sis. I Mi Suk has shaved her head, cutting her hair off herself rather than letting the chemo take it (you go, girl) and she lent me one of her bandannas for my pirate costume for the halloween party. Oh, and the other big news . . . she's lost a lot of weight, what with having cancer and all, and had these bags of clothes that were too big for her. Had. Because she made me take them all. T-shirts from the Japan/Korea world cup, sparkly sweatshirts reading 'Killswitch Engage', a capsleeve that says 'Naughty and Wild Kittens' in HUGE letters (funniest thing in the entire universe to give to a sister missionary--I love it) and . . . a hanbok. No, really. A beautiful yellow hanbok**. I tried like twelve times to refuse it . . . you don't just give people HANBOKS, for crying out loud . . . but she pulled the I'm-older-than-you-and-therefore-the-boss-so-do-what-you're-told card, and the hanbok is now mine. I'm still speechless at the thought.

And now I've officially written a lot. I love you, be good, stay out of trouble, hope you're not dead or dying, thank you for the box, a reciprocal one will be in the mail soon.


*a branch is smaller than a ward, approximately 60 members or less.

**hanbok: traditional South Korean dress. Check the link for hanboks and other fantastical Korean wearing apparel.

To Bit 10/19/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Bit,

Hi! How's high school treating you? How did you and Dancer do in the barrel racing competition?

I still don't get to ride horses for exercise. :( But I was looking around my tiny apartment, and in a cupboard that was stuck shut (I almost had to pry it open with a chopstick) I found a book about yoga. So now I can do yoga in the mornings, too. It's hard, but fun. But it's getting cold here in Taegu, so the corridor outside my apartment gets dang chilly. You have to do yoga in bare fee, otherwise you slide around and can hurt yourself. Cold feet! I might try to do it inside, but my apartment is so tiny I don't know where I'll find space. Hmmm.

I heard you are taking a class at SLCC*. How's that? I remember Cat did a lot of those when she was in high school. Do you have to take the bus down south to campus every day? Or is it just on Saturdays, or what? What are you learning?

Taegu has an Opera Festival every year, and it's going on right now. One of the elders here, Elder Hansen, was studying to be an opera singer before he came on his mission, so the Stake Young Women are having an activity to learn about opera from him. Then afterwards we're doing a Halloween party. There isn't Halloween in Korea, so the missionaries have to do it themselves. I'm going to be a pirate. Even as a missionary, I refuse to miss dressing up for Halloween.

I love you and miss you! Sugohaseyo! (This means "please work very hard")


*SLCC: local community college, about 3 miles south of the high school.

to Bug, 10/19/09

RoseE writes:

"Dear Bug,

Is it showing yet at home? It's windy and sunny here. I'm at a lake outside a city called Gumi--we and some elders made a special trip out here to spend the day with the branch president and his family. We went up to the oldest temple in Korea to eat PB&Js and see all the leaves changing color. There was also a big bell, the kind you hit from the outside instead of swinging it. Sister Pak wasn't supposed to ring it, but she did anyway, very softly, and it made a big, soft, deep GONG sound that made my bones feel all tickley and itchy. Then we drove down through the rice fields, which are bright, bright yellow because the rice is almost ready to harvest, to this lake, where the elders are fishing. Or trying to. They're not catching anything as far as I can see. It's really windy down here, so we sisters, the branch president's wife, and the kids are hanging out in the car.

This is the last week of the transfer--on Friday night we'll get The Calls telling us who has to move. I think my roommate Sister Ii Yeong Bin will be leaving, because she's been in Taegu a long time. We'll see.

I love you! Don't grow up too fast.