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Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Which Many Wonderful Things Happen

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum and Dad,

I'll pray for the ward. That's a lot for everybody to handle just now. But I'm comforted and gladdened to know that it's not just that many families are dealing with hard times right now; it's that the ward is dealing with problems in many families right now. That's how it should be. Hard times come. But we're a ward and we're a team. And my prayers are with Gramma*, too, and all the family.

In news of drastic contrast, this week has been about the most fun, fulfilling time I've had since Sister Matthews left. It is due to a number of factors:

1. Sister Pak Min Jeong. Yes, my third Korean companion named Sister Pak. Will I ever have a companion of any other name? I know not. This Sis. Pak is a descendent of the Pak who was the first King of the Silla dynasty, who came down from heaven on a white horse, and his wife, who was born out of the side of a dragon. Sister Pak knows Korean history. Well. And loves it. A lot. And has already filled my head with stories of it--of a prince going out to seek his fortune with half a broken sword, while his father keeps the other half as proof of their relationship, but when he returned home the father had remarried and the stepmother tried to have him killed, so he fled and started a new Kingdom -- of the last King of Pakchae who had 300 wives, and when the dynasty was overthrown all 300 of them dressed up in their finest hanboks and jumped off a cliff, which is now called 'The Cliff of Falling Flowers'--of formal state dinners in the royal palace at Kyeongju, overlooking an artificial lake and islands covered in twisting pine trees. There's no way to tell where the story stops and the history begins in Korea. The stories are their history. So when Sis. Pak Min Jeong tells me that she is the descendant of dragons, I can't help but believe her.

So yes, Sis. Pak is teaching me history. Today we're actually in the national museum in Kyeongju, about an hour's bus ride up the coast from Ulsan. My most favorite thing ever.

2. Our apartment. It is large and clean. I have room to exercise, to dry my clothes, to cook, to sew, to study, to sleep. And room left over besides. It's astonishing how happy that can make you. We even have a sofa, to sit on if you don't feel like sitting on your study chair or your mattress. And there's a potted plant, that I'm taking care of.

3. Our branches--Shinjeong, Hogae, and Bangeojin. Ulsan is a district, not a stake, and the units are branches instead of wards, for all they're larger than some wards I've served in. They're about an hour's bus ride apart from one another (I'm getting lots of Korean study done) and everyone is just lovely. We went to church at Shinjeong branch on Sunday. There is a new American family that just moved in; I simultranslated Sacrament meeting and Relief Society. I did it very badly, but it was good practice. Sister Charlotte (that's her name now; last names being a vague concept in Korea) was immediately taken in by all the RS sisters, who love her and her toddler son Logan (red-cheeked blue-eyed smiley thing that he is--he was practically designed to be the cutest thing any Korean could imagine). The teacher even asked her a question during the lesson. I helped her answer it, amazed that this wonderful little unit would reach over the language barrier to help an American sister feel included in their gospel study.
The branch president of Shinjeong is legendary for feeding missionaries boshimtang--dog soup. No, not soup eaten by dogs. He asked me if I wanted some, and I told him honestly that no, I didn't, but if he commanded me to eat it (I used the word for 'command' that I'd picked up in the Book of Mormon, so it was suitably dramatic and deferential) I would. He laughed, and I think I might have escaped his traditional missionary hazing.

4. Our investigators. We have a lot of investigators, new members, potential investigators, and work to do in general. This pleases me. The most extraordinary person I've met has been a sister Son Yoo Jin. About a month ago, she knelt down and prayed for help to find meaning and purpose in her life. And when she stood up, she felt like she should try to find an English class. Random . . . but she looked, and found Shinjeong ward's 5-on-Saturday class, and showed up. Sis. Montgomery was teaching, using as her text Pres. Monson's talk on 'What Did You Do For Someone Else Today?'**. Sister Son Yoo Jin loved this talk, and started living according to the precepts taught in it, and became happier. Really. As simple as that. And the more the sisters teach her, the more excited she gets. When Sis. Ogelvie taught her the Plan of Salvation***, she kept saying over and over, "I know this. I already know this. I don't know how, but I do. I've seen this before." And yesterday, when we taught her about the Word of Wisdom#, we asked her to cut down on her coffee intake by two cups a week. This she agreed to do. Then twenty minutes later she told me, 'You know what? I'm just going to quit coffee. If you know something's right, you just do it. Life's very simple that way.' I've taken to following her from room to room like a puppy just to feel the Spirit radiating off her. She glows.

Thing . . . what, now? 5? that makes me happy . . . Being Chamei depyoja. Sis. Pak Song Hee and I are in charge of going on splits with the sisters, making sure that sister housing is in good repair, getting EVERYBODY ready to train very soon, and writing a Sister Rep Training Packet, of which right now there is none. I'm really excited about this. Also I got to go to the committee meeting with the Zone Leaders, which involved the most-coveted lunch in the mission. We had chili and cornbread and apple pie and ice cream. I could barely walk by the end.

So I'm typing this in a museum that I have not yet explored, and to my eternal frustration this computer has no USB jacks on it, so I can't send anything with it. RRRRRGH. I hope we can snag another computer before P-Day ends, because I have a lot of videos I want to send. Rather a backlog, really. My life is beautiful right now. I'm so happy to be in Korea. I'm so happy that (#6) the weather is warming up and spring is coming. I had my first strawberry of the year today. It tasted like warm sunny days and life and laughter. And it wasn't even a very good strawberry. There are better ones to come.

The sun is out; it's cool and windy, but bright. I just saw the Sacred Bell of King Seongdok. I'm wearing pants--now mended with a butterfly patch over the little tear that's been in them since last April. This has been a week of history and hope. I'm glad to be alive in it.

Now if I can just find a dratted computer with a USB . . . .



Oh. And Sis. Pak Sung Hee and I get to call regularly, and I also this week got to talke to Sis. Linford, long-lost MTC companion whom I have seen a total of 3 times since arriving in Korea. She's also going home in July. We're both glad to be able to finish this thing with the same person with whom we started it. And we're gonna watch Wall-E. She's really excited.

Sis. Matthews and Montgomery both went home last transfer. Sis Musser is now the oldest American sister, followed by Me and Linford, Ogelvie, and then the new greenies. We are much, much older than they."

* RoseE's great-grandmother is dying.

**"What Have I Done For Someone Today?"

***Plan of Salvation

# Word of Wisdom:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

to Sister Thorderson 12/28/2009

RoseE writes:

"Dear Sister Thorderson,

Really, honestly, 100%, I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful Christmas package you and the Beehives* sent. It absolutely made my Christmas. It was the only thing I got in time--I would've had nothing to open on Christmas morning otherwise**. But instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was laughing my head off and had my nose in the scriptures, feeling immensely loved and having a marvelous time. And how could you have known of my desperate need for dental floss? I think it must be a miracle.

Thank you so, so much. And please give my thanks to all the Beehives and whoever else was involved. Have a very happy New Year, too.


Sister RoseE Hadden"

*Beehives: The Young Women program is divided into three classes: Beehives for girls age 12-13, Mia Maids for girls ages 14-15, and Laurels for ages 16-17. Once they turn 18, they graduate to Relief Society.

**The family Christmas package was mailed out on the same day as Sister Thorderson's, but RoseE did not received it until nearly New Year's Eve. Very frustrating!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Auntie Cat 21 Jan 2010

RoseE writes:

"Dear Auntie Cat,

You wrote your Christmas letter in verse. Did somebody dare you? how the heck did you pull that off? I'm deeply impressed. Seriously, though, thank you--it was wonderful to get news of your family and know that they're all well and safe and happy.

Life continues well in here in Korea--I can't say "in Taegu" anymore, as I'm riding the train to Pusan with all my worldly possessions either in a suitcase or already shipped to my new area. The next stretch of my mission--possibly the last--is upon me. Weird.

But in cheerier news, last I heard you and Mum were going to a workshop* together. Finally! You've been planning and scheming a get-together for how long now? A long time. By the time you get this (or even already; I'm fuzzy on the dates) it will all be over and done, but I hope you both had a great time and that you learned a lot of bagpiping/drumming stuff and that all complications/catastrophes/other nonsense were safely averted.

We're coming up on Gupo station; gotta fly. I love you!


*We went to Winter Storm in Kansas City, MO, in January.

In Which Everything Changes Drastically and Sister Pak Has a Cow

RoseE writes:

"So the tricky thing about P-Day on Thursday and transfer calls on Friday and Transfer Day being not 'till the following Thursday is that I just have to know about and deal with the new state of affairs for a solid week before I can let y'all know about it at home.

So as quick as I can manage: Our area has been closed. I'm going to Ulsan, Sister Pak to Changwon. Sister Pak Seh Ra and Sister Ahn Ta Yeon, the other Taegu team, are covering all of Taegu for a while. We got this news and FREAKED OUT, because we have INVESTIGATORS who need HELP and SUPPORT and we love them and they love us and they NEED Sister Pak and WHAT are we gonna DO? Sister Pak even called Prez, begging to have the circumstance mitigated somehow. She cried most of the night and fell asleep holding my hand.

Next morning, we got another call from the A.P.s. Oh, by the way, you're BOTH the new Sister Representatives.

Aside: Sister Representatives (Chamei depyojas) are our mission's Girl Zone Leaders, kind of. They do splits with the sister missionaries and sort of keep tabs on the needs and mood of the female side of the mission, which they report to Prez. There are always two: one Korean and one Foreigner.

So hey, what the heck. we're the Chamei depyojas. Which is why we had to be sent to opposite ends of the mission. Thanks for remembering to tell us that last night when we were bawling our eyes out, APs.

So in the new system we've got the better part of a week to wrap things up in our old area before we transfer. Which ended up meaning that we ate LOTS of food with people. Because goodbye isn't goodbye without FOOD. We even got taken to a beef buffet, where we ate what I'm fairly sure was an entire cow of Korean Beef, which is about the most expensive food known to man. I ate what I think was steak tartar (it was cut up and not cooked), and what I know was raw marinated beef liver and shredded beef tongue. They ain't kiddin' about this cow thing.

But yup. So now I'm in Ulsan, which is on the east coast of Korea. I have heard they eat whales here, but missionaries seem to be able to avoid this. My new companion is Sister Pak Min Jeong, a very competent and able sister who is on her last transfer. Sister Pak Sung Hee is serving with Sister Ogelvie, my bestest mission friend. And for the first time in eight months, we have new American sisters. I met one today: a sister Chon (Korean heritage, but not a word of the language) from D.C. That was a strange experience. I'm the big kid on the playground now. And Sister Pak Sung Hee's old trainee, Sister Beh In Yeong, is trainging Sister Chon so Sister Pak is officially a grandma. Weird.

Once again, hate to do this but gotta fly. Next week I will do all within my power to get out a proper long epistle with some video in it. I love you all so much and pray for you every day! Let me know how things are going with Bethe's health. Mom, I'm glad you had a grand old time bagpiping! Dad, letter in the mail shortly.

Love you


Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Which, With One Thing And Another, Seven Days Pass

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mom and Dad,

It looks like you had tang soo yook. I love tang soo yook. That stuff is dang tasty. And yeah, most soups in Korea are served Still Boiling, and they continue to boil for several minutes after they're served. Koreans can eat 'em straight like that. I can't.

Sounds like Bethe had a hard week of it. No fun. Fortunately, the week in question is over, or nearly over. I'm struggling to get going on regular exercise, too . . . it's been harder with the weather too cold for me to go and jog outside. But I received dying Sis. Matthews's hand weights today as an inheritance, so hopefully those will be useful in getting me up and moving again.

Piping workshop sounds like a blast--give Cat W. a hug for me, tell her thank you for the family newsletter, and tell her I'm writing her next week--ran out of time today.

Sis. Pak is doing a bit better. She's up and about. Elders Murray and Hamilton are both dealing with illness of some kind, too, but so far I've been spared anything more than general grogginess that comes from it just being cold and dark. And that's winter. What'd'you want. I'm from Minnesota. Winter doesn't last forever. Seems like it, mid-January, but not a January yet has failed to end so I'm confident this one will come 'round, too.

It's been a good week, mission-wise. We met twice with Un Jeong, our member family's daughter's friend with the less-than-parental dad. I don't think I've ever met someone accept what we're teaching so readily and joyfully. The onnly religion she's had in her life has been from her grandmother, who is Buddhist. Un Jeong thinks that Buddha is scary. She said that she likes 'our God' (she used the inclusive 'our' form, like 'the God that we all have, that we share together) more because he's nicer and he loves her. She'd never prayed before this week. Our last lesson, all we'd planned to talk about was faith, but baptism got mentioned in passing and she jumped on it. "Can I get baptized? When?" And she's excited about being part of the Young Women's organization, about learning from the scriptures, and about feeling the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. She's an amazing girl.

What else happened this week . . . well, Sis. Pak and I did a Costco run (freaking cold outside Costco) to get stuff for tacos, 'cuz we're doing an activity tomorrow with our various junior-high-aged investigators, less-actives, new members and pretty much anybody else who wants to come. Tacos and movie. Just to get all these kids to kind of meet each other. Many of them aren't coming to church because they don't know anybody there. Finding taco seasoning has been an adventure, but Sister Abbott (branch president's wife) is being a dear and finding some for us. Should be fun.

Last night Sisters Matthews and Musser slept over (in our tiny apartment not fit for four; six was an adventure) and we just had a dratted blast. Then in the morning we went and had breakfast at Tollets', so Sis. Matthews could say a proper goodbye. The rest of the day M&M went visiting people, but I met up with Sister Jennings and the two of us FINALLY went to Seomun market and just had a good long shop. It was great fun. Sis. Jennings is very knowledgeable about fabric and sewing and also market shopping, but doesn't speak Korean. I also don't speak Korean, but I feel much more competent when my Korean companion isn't around--people talk to me, not my comp, and they talk slower and more simply and I tend to understand fairly well. That's a good feeling, right there. So we found a great deal on just what I needed, an O Dong for my hanbok to lengthen it enought for it to fit me.

aaaaah crap they just turned the lights off.

I love you


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

28 Dec 2009 In Which We Get a Glimpse of a Train's Eye View of the Mission and of Life

RoseE writes:

"Dear Dad,

Writing this from the Mugunghwa--the slow stops-at-every-little-station train, which I like better than the KTX* because it's cheaper, it's more comfortable, and it gives me more time to write/nap/gossip/whatever. I love riding the train. I love what a hassle-free form of transportation it is, and I love the nice rumbly rhythm of the cars along the track, and I love watching the mountains go by outside the window. America's very dumb not to have a proper train system. A high-speed train from LA to Vegas would be brilliant. Or would the airlines throw a fit? I don't know. Beats me what goes on in America anymore.

I hit my one-year in two weeks. Halfway point for all the elders of my dongi, beginning of the end for me, Sis. Linford, and (six weeks after) Sister Ogelvie. A year. A whole year of my life behind the black tag. You wonder if you should feel accomplished, or overwhelmed, or frustrated or something. I don't, really. Coming off of my Christmas call, I feel as though home isn't terribly far away and that it'll be nice to get there. I don't think I'm realizing either just how long or how short six months is. It's just tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Three-day cold snap, four day warm spell. Ten more vocab words every day. Another page in the journal. Teaching Hyeon Ji the new member lessons. Getting Jin Mok Hwan ready to go to the temple. Getting Hyo Ui into the habit of reading her scriptures. Coaxing Ju Hyea to church. Tracking down Abdul. Another day, another week, another transfer. That's life. Just like the train. No blazing-fast KTX . . . just the steady, stop-and-go local line on which you have plenty of time to work until they announce "West Daegu Station" and you have to scramble off without time even to be miffed that the ride's already over.

I'm okay with not being panicked. I think I'm like you that way. Mom likes to freak out about stuff**, but I don't like to think about drama and goodbyes until they actually hit. Hence my trying to be allowed to work a few morning hours before going to the MTC. It's good to be working so you don't think too much. Thinking too much just stresses you out and causes problems. So . . . one day at a time. Investigators. New members. Prez interviews. Splits***. Ten more vocab words. One more train station.

Speaking of which, I'm gonna grab a nap before we make it to Dongdaegu, so next P-Day I'll tell you how the museums are. They've been a long time coming.

Love you,


*KTX high speed train, few stops

** Very true, I do.

***Splits: the missionary companionships split up for a day, so that RoseE might teach with Sis. Oglevie and Sis. Pak might teach with Sis. Matthews. Likewise, Sis. Oglevie's and Sis. Matthews' companions would go teach with other sisters. There must be an order to it, but I haven't figured out what it is.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In Which It Snows Buckets in Taegu

RoseE writes:

"Dear Mum and Dad,

Videos worked? Yes!!! I will work on getting some more made and out to you. They've got to be pretty short to be sent by e-mail, but I should be able to manage.

So life in Korea this first week of Thursday P-Day . . . well, it's been darn good. We got the heaviest snowfall in ten years here in Taegu, and the city pretty well shut down. Yep. Just can't go anywhere in two inches of snow. And people kept calling us to check if we were all right, as though it were snowing pointy objects or acid or something. And every plan we'd had that day got cancelled, on account of it being too dangerous to travel when there's snow on the ground. I think my tongue is bleeding from being bitten so hard. So we spent a long, snowbound day at Hyeah Ji's house, hanging with her and her friend Ju Hyeah, watching Testaments, teaching lessons, figuring out Book of Mormon reading challenges and talking about baptism dates. Yep . . . Ju Hyeah's getting ready to be baptized.

Also this week . . . we met twice with a woman named Kim Jeong Nam and her daughter (also Kim; weird) Kim Min Jeong. Kim Jeong Nam is a friend of one of the Suseong ward members, who refered them to us saying that Min Jeong was interested in practicing English and that they'd probably listen to the gospel message, too. Not promising, but we thanked her and set up an appointment anyway. And OhMyGoshTheyAreFantastic. FANTASTIC. We taught them both the first lesson and asked them to read the introduction to the Book of Mormon. And when we came back a couple days later, they had read it. Both of them. And knew what it said and could talk about it. And had questions about how the Book of Mormon was structured and what exactly they were reading. And were excited to hear more. Really. And when we taught Min Jeong about the Plan of Salvation (we'd been teaching Jeong Nam, too, but she had to run out to the bank for something so she missed a lot of the lesson) . . . I have never seen anybody so excited about the prospect of living with her family forever. I half-expected her to ask if we could go to the Celestial Kingdom right now. She said she'd come to church on Sunday. And her mom said that what we were teaching them was '신기하다', shingihada, cool, neat, wonderful, amazing. Which it is. I've just never heard anyone say that, really. It was exciting.

Also this week ('this week' is a disorienting concept--when did it start? Last Thursday? Last Monday? What did we do in the interim?) we met with one of the Jungni ward Young Women (her family's awesome--dad's the 2nd counselor in the Stake Presidency and we eat at their house all the time) and her two best friends. One of these friends is a source of great concern for the mom of this family. She (the little girl) lives with her not-really-on-the-parenting-ball dad, her mom having run away to Pusan because of domestic violence. Kim Yeong Lan (the member mom) has decided to all but adopt this girl, and bring her into a healthier home environment as much as possible, including teaching her the gospel. The girl's name is Un Jeong. She's fun and smart and playful and eager to learn, and we're excited to be teaching her.

Also the elders found a woman named Pak Song Hee (yes, same name as my companion) who met with the missionaries a good couple of years ago, and they've started teaching her again. We all went over last night and taught her and her husband about the First Vision and answered some questions that they had.

So yeah. We have work to do! We have people to teach! People are progressing and learning about the gospel! Isn't that AWESOME?

And when we finish e-mailing we're going to the Daegu National Museum--a smaller branch of the really BIG museum in Seoul. And when we finish that we're going to Camp Walker for dinner with the Lambert family, who are delightful (their two teenage daughters have become good friends of mine). So it's going to be nothing but wonderfulness from beginning to end. Except that Sis. Pak has a cold, poor thing. She requires sleeping. Sleeping is important.

Oh, and I went to Ulsan on splits this week. (I told you 'this week' was an odd concept). I got to spend New Years' Day with Sister Corrigan, a lovely girl who's going home (along with EVERYBODY ELSE . . . we're going from 16 sisters in the mission to 10, and only 4 of them Americans) at the end of the transfer. On New Years' Day in Korea you eat Ddeokguk, which is soup made of the chewy not-duck rice stuff, and the eating of this particular soup on his particular day makes you one year older. So now I'm 26. Man, 25 sure went by fast. 24 even faster. How the heck old am I??? But I learned to play Yoonori, which is a very fun Korean board game if you know how to play and a very boring one if you don't. I've played a lot without knowing how--instead of dice, you throw four carved wooden sticks, so as long as you throw the sticks when you're told to you can play forever without ever understanding the rules. But now I understand the rules and it's a lot more fun. Even if Elder Kerrigan beat me three times. Blast him.

And when door-knocking later in the evening, we got invited into a house! Not for our message, really, but because we were sitting on the stairs outside the apartment reading maps while blowing on our fingers to keep them mobile. So the dad invited us in for some hot chocolate and we chatted a lot with his three great daughters and had a lot of fun. And that was a really good feeling. I felt really good about my Korean, too. It's amazing how much better you feel about your Korean when your companion is suddenly a foreigner instead of an actual Korean herself. You feel like you can actually do something.

So that was Ulsan. I once again got in and out of the city without eating any whales. It was a really big bowl of Ddeokguk, though, so I FELT like I'd eaten a whale.

And we had interviews this week, as fun as ever, Sis. Jennings being in rare form telling stories about raising her kids in Korea and using me as a sounding board for various knitting issues I cannot begin to understand. And President assured me that I will not be in 100% Koreans-Only Land forever, but you can never take statements like that really seriously, 'cuz Prez just says anything during interviews. Oh, well. I like talking to Prez anyway.

I love you to an excessive degree! Stay warm and drive safe and be careful--there's snow falling from the sky outside.

Oh, and when I e-mail again it will be my exact and official one-year mark. Nuts, huh?


Friday, January 1, 2010

Check out the video on the last entry!

I don't know: when I make a change to a blog entry, does it go out to y'all again?

If it doesn't, check out the last entry again, because I've added a video that RoseE sent us yesterday, here:

Happy New Year!