Friday, February 26, 2010
"My plane flies Saturday the tenth* at** three in the afternoon. Tell bishop if he wants me to speak on the 11th I cannot promise anything, even that I will stay awake through the whole talk and not pass out on the stand.
*of July. 2010.
**I don't know if this is leaving at 3:00 or arriving at 3:00. Stay tuned for further information.
In Which RoseE is Struck by the Subtleties of English Pronounciation and Is Again Vertically Challenged
"Dear Mum and Dad,
I forgot to ask things on a couple of Scottish topics. First: is there any information forthcoming on the proposed Scotland foray? I know only "Scotland" and "August" and "Robin McKinley". That's the sum total of the information at my fingers. And Emily and I want to have tentative plans for me to go out east a week or so ahead and spend some time with her, which works out fine as near as I can tell, from what I know, which is, as mentioned above, "Scotland," "August," and "Robin McKinley."
Second: will Teancum greet me with bagpipes at the airport too?
I forgot to make a 'this is what happened this week' list, so here's what I remember . . .
We had interviews this week, in the which we were informed, by an annoyed-but-resigned President Jennings, that all the missions in the world are being switched from managing their finances locally to managing them through JP Morgan "Purchasing" cards, which:
Cannot be easily replaced if lost or stolen
Cannot be used at Korean ATMSCan only be used at SOME international ATMs
Take a 3000-won transaction fee
Don't let you check your balance from an ATM OR by calling the bank
Take 3-5 business days to process any transaction
Issue a once-weekly balance statement by e-mail, sent at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, the end of P-Day, so we can't see it until next week
Can only be used at the largest, most expensive stores
Hold their balance in dollars, so we're at the mercy of the exchange rate both when the office puts money on our cards and again when we take it off
Are kind of ugly
But other than that, they're very convenient.
We also learned that Seoul mission is eating Seoul west mission, giving a little chunk of it to Taejeon mission. Pusan remains untouched. Yaaay!
This week, I went on my very first "real" split (I can't much count the last one, as I spent most of it in bed). Sister Crowther, new greenie from Colorado, came up to Ulsan from her area in Pusan while Sister Pak explored her old area down there with Sister Musser. As I haven't spent a whole day with an English-speaker in some, what? two or three months, at least?, I fairly well talked her ear off the whole time, forgetting entirely the rules that say you have to speak to greenies in Korean until one in the afternoon. Sorry.
But we had a great time. We made pancakes and cookies and didn't even get lost on the buses really and did some actual work and learned how to play one-card and were called upon to do an emergency musical number at a hastily-planned baptism in Shinjeong ward (as the baptizee was a member's 8-year-old daughter, you'd think they would have seen it coming . . .). Sister Musser had particularly instructed Sister Crowther to make me tell her a story, so I got to tell a story, too. It was the first day of my mission where I was really actually in charge all by myself, and nobody died, so I count the day as a success. Sister Crowther's a lot of fun and I'm glad we have her, because we're going to need her positive attitude and even-keeledness in July when we all disappear. (Sister Musser's extending to July and coming home with S. Linford and me. Sis. Ogelvie still planning on August as far as I know, and when she goes Sisters Crowther and Chon, starting their fifth transfers, will be the oldest American sisters. Party on.)
Sunday was District Conference. As President Jennings is somehow in charge of districts or something, he and Sis. J. came and spoke. There was also a district choir for the occasion, in which Sis. Pak and I participated, despite my being made to sing soprano against my will. (There were like twelve sopranos and five altos! What the heck? I begged, but to no avail.) Anyway, the sister sitting next to me (a young single adult and particular friend of Sister Pak's; I can never remember her name but her nickname is 'the supermodel,' 'cuz she's got the proper proportions and complexion to be such) tried to tell me that I looked really pretty. She took a minute to search for the right word to tell me what I looked like . . . she knew it in English and seemed pretty proud of herself for that. When she remembered the word, she told me glowingly, "Sister, you look like . . . penis!"
I think I blinked a couple times, and I know I felt every drop of blood in my body go rushing to my heart and lungs and then come shooting back up into my face as I demanded, "Wait . . . WHAT?"
"You know . . . the goddess," said this sister helpfully, grabbing for her cell phone to look the proper spelling up on her Korean-to-English dictionary.
The sisters all around us were now in on the action, too. "Yes, it's a goddess's name. Roman? Or is it Greek? I don't know. That prononciation's really hard, huh? Yes, that V sound. But it's very important in English, huh? Yes, I can never do it. We just write it as ㅂ, but it's a different sound. What did she say, Chamenim? You're absolutely flaming red all over, so she must have said something good."
I explained, as well as I could in a chapel, not having studied the 'male anatomy' section of my vocabulary book (I'm kidding . . . there isn't one, really) and then you had half the soprano section and the accompanist absolutely gasping with laughter until the start of the meeting made them get ahold of themselves.
When I got my proper face color back, I thanked the sister (who was pretty red with laughter herself) for her kind compliment.
This morning I finished my hanbok alterations. The dress itself looks gorgeous. I tried it on with the chigori and the chigori is also too darn short. I don't think there's gonna be a quick fix for this one. Mmmmph. Frustrating. I dratted hate being six feet tall in Korea.
This is Sister Pak Min Jeong's last P-Day. In honor of the occasion, she went to a beauty salon and got semi-permanent false eyelashes glued to her eyelids. Interesting process. Stuck on one at a time with black glue. Handled with tweezers. I considered trying, too, but then thought better of it. I'll stick with my own eyelashes, thank you kindly.
In actual missionary-related news, a member sister asked us to come teach her mother. The member sister's not much older than we are, so her mom's not much older than my mom and though she speaks saturi (dialect) I can still understand a lot of what she says. She's really interested, and is planning to come to church on Sunday. We gave her a giant Book of Mormon, since she said the regular size was too small for her to read. And we also had an investigator and her friend come to district conference . . . as dist/stake conferences are about the most boring meetings in the church, if they survived that, they'll survive anything. And we have an appointment tonight with a woman whose husband just got baptized in Australia. AND we found a woman who had taken the missionary lessons in Idaho, but because there were no Korean-speaking elders she'd gone through them in English and not understood much. She whipped out her calendar right away and was like, "So when can we meet? When can you teach me?"
So missionary work is lovely. I like it when stuff happens.
And that, I think, is the news from Ulsan. It's raining. Life's pleasant. Our houseplant is still alive. Oh, and we have tortillas and peanut butter and are very happy indeed.
I love you so much, and miss you like crazy!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
So this week while Sister Pak was making photo backups, I snuck onto LDS.org and loaded the Gospel of John as mp3 onto Isobel--Isobel being the appointed name by which the purple iPod shall be known on the records of the church forever after. Worked like a charm, and I had something pleasant, engaging, and spiritually un-distracting to listen to while exercising or working on my hanbok. But I finished it today, so I'm gonna try to get more chunks of the New Testament whenever I have occasion to be on a computer. You can tell you've turned into a flippin' Sister missionary when your iPod is loaded with scripture mp3s and conference talks and you think that's really cool . . . so cool you're astonished you can get away with it. Yeeeeaaah, Cat's gonna be annoyed with me when I get back.
So Ulsan. It's a factory town. Hyundai is king. I actually see big trucks-- semis--on the street sometimes, which would have been quite the event in Pusan or Taegu. One of our chapels is right smack next to the Hyundai shipyards, so if I time it just right I can catch a glimpse of the big old freighters through the bus window. And another of our buses runs by the manufacturing plant (or one of them), with this huge parking lot full of row after row after row of identical brand-new cars. And woe betide you if you're trying to get through Hogae district at quittin' time.
Hyundai seems to pay well, though. Most of the homes I've been in so far are well-appointed, large, clean apartments, not the chaotic, unheated little post-war "jutek" houses I saw so much in Pusan, or the tiny and badly-maintained two-room apartments, like (just for example) the previous residence of yours truly, where the hot water got shut off for two weeks. And Hyundai brings in a lot of foreigners--we've got two newly-arrived member families, one from the States and one from Vancouver, for whom we're all learning to do simultaneous translation.
And I found a museum! It is a whale museum. I figure Bethe will want pictures, so I'm planning to go, but not this transfer 'cuz Sis Pak Min Jeong's already been. We were right by it today, as I had to re-do my Resident Alien registration at the Immigration Office down by the port, but we didn't detour over to see it, mostly 'cuz it's just pouring rain today. It is too wet to do whales. It's a good day for hot chocolate and banana bread. Well, how convenient that I happen to have both of these things waiting for me at the house.
I'm through Ether 5 in my now-more-than-a-year-long quest to read the Book of Mormon in Korean. I'm gonna finish it if it kills me. I wanted to finish by Cat's birthday, but the setbacks attendant to a bout of influenza fairly well killed that, so now I'm shooting for Sis. Jenning's birthday the following week. Ether's going pretty quickly, though, 'cuz once you get into the wars and contentions, the vocabulary doesn't vary much. So who knows?
Aaaah heck my feet got soaked while transferring buses and now my poor toes are burning-freezing cold. No fun. I hope wherever we're going has a heated floor.
We heard tell there was an explosion or something in Connecticut. And I picked up a Newsweek at the post office, and from what I could decipher from pictures and article titles President Obama is not doing very well, according to that publication's view. And I saw on LDS.org that a new temple's going up in Utah Valley. And that's everything I know about What's Going On in America. And my toes are still cold.
I love you and I'm trunkier* than heck but I'm trying hard not to let it show, 'cuz if you can keep it to yourself and do your work it's just homesickness and that's much more socially acceptable 'round here. So here's to hangin' on.
*trunky: the emotional state a missionary gets in for the last few months of his or her mission, wanting to pack his or her trunk and go home.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
"Dear Mum and Dad,
Flowers? Really? I never get flowers. I like flowers.*
Yaaay for French baptisms!** Elder Routson (of my dongi) had to do his first baptism in Korean about three weeks after he got in-country; he crammed for days to get that little prayer right, and then when he actually did it he went really, really slowly, but he got it right and I was proud of him. I will be proud of Dad, too.
I also felt very connected to Dad this week, 'cuz at a member's house we were all very sneaky and got to watch the men's 500-m speed skating, which was a lot of fun. I noticed that they kept pairing the skaters in such a way as to get old rivalries going . . . Korea and Japan, Korea and Russia, Germany and the Netherlands, Japan and China . . . and we all had a lot of fun watching Mo Tae Bom gloat over the Japanese silver- and bronze-medalists. Korea seems to be doing very well in medal counts; the whole country is going nuts about it.
So Monday was P-Day, but instead of e-mailing I got dragged out to Kyeongju for Zone P-Day, where our plans to watch Up! were foiled but then saved at the last minute and We Got To Watch It . . . with the APs' blessing. Yaaaaaay! So much fuuuuun! SQUIRREL!***
I'm such a movie junkie. I'm so pathetic.
So the long stretch of wasted time in Kyeongju I'm not happy about, but the movie was dratted awesome. And Sis. Pak Min Jeong got her hair cut and 'magic' permed this morning (a 'magic' perm is a dead-straight perm . . . I don't know that I ever encountered such a thing stateside) so she's set to face her family again. She got to call them on Sunday for Solar . . . and spent most of the time getting nagged by her mom about how she shouldn't switch majors like she wants to. I've had lots of opportunities to compare and I think my parents are among the best parents in the mission. Sis. Matthews's mom is pretty cool, too, but she's the only one I've encountered so far that might be in the same league.
And what else happened this week? Well, Solar was weird 'cuz the only people on the streets were nutcases and missionaries, and the traffic was INSANE, leaving us stranded in tiny towns in the pouring rain in the middle of the night and in one memorable instance not letting us reach our apartment until 10:34 p.m., which is a new record. But I ate deokguk again, so I might be . . . what, 27? . . . now. Or something. This age thing is strange.
I also finished a year-in-the-making project this week, reaching Moroni 10:34 and closing the book upon it. Whole Book of Mormon, in Korean. It nearly killed me, but I did it. I'm very pleased with myself, and pleased that I can actually now work on things like, say, speaking Korean or being a good missionary during my study time now.
I made a thunder cake yesterday, but lacking a tomato I used a beh, an asian pear. Or a quarter of one. It was darn good.
This has also been a week of lots of new investigators simply landing in our laps. Downright hilarious. We've been getting calls from everywhere . . . other teams, members, the mission office . . . just dumping names and phone numbers on us. I've never seen such an influx. But I'm glad of it. I like having people to teach. Teaching people is fun and it feels good and I like it.
Love y'all lots! Sorry this isn't more thorough . . . we're pushing our time here as it is. Stay out of trouble, and somebody please tell Helena 감사하고 자매님도 새해복많이 받으십시요. Which I'm fairly sure I've spelled wrong someplace.
*In response to my advising RoseE that we will not, unfortunately, be meeting her in Korea, but at the Salt Lake Airport with pipes and flowers.
**A woman and her daughter from Gabon will be baptized in our ward this Saturday. Since I (Blogmom) speak French and that is their only language so far, the whole service will be in French. Todd will be doing the baptisms (in French with my coaching) and I will be giving a talk.
***I recommend you watch the movie to understand this reference. An excellent movie.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Whatever this unsendable Christmas present* might be, to heck with it. Your letter about chasing down the missionaries on the corner was the best and most fantastic thing I ever saw and the best Christmas present in the history of mankind. Do you have any idea -- any idea at all -- what a miracle you were to those two elders? Can you imagine what they wrote in their journals that night, or what they said to their district leaders when they called in that evening to report on their day? "Hi, Elder Pendley. Yeah, yeah, it was great. Listen, you're not gonna BELIEVE what just happened to us. Just listen. This is amazing." They are never, ever going to forget the woman that God sent to comfort them on that cold and discouraging and boring winter evenings. You opened your mouth and turned into a miracle, Emily Ruth Deckenback. I don't know if you can really get how much something like that would mean unless you'd been out here, but take it from me: you were a much-needed miracle sent by God Himself. Thank you so much for following the promptings of the Holy Ghost to help those two elders. Thank you so much.**
In relation to other letters received at exactly the same time, the missionary postal system being what it is and all ~ ~ And missionary letter-writing being what it is and all, as I ran out of P-Day and thus a week has passed since penning the above ~
[Random gushing about our plans for a visit when she gets back.]
Man, Em, I've been so gosh-darn happy this whole gosh-darn week. It's been amazing. Like all the burdens I was carrying - all the stress, the resentment, the discouragement, the frustration - just up'n blew away. I'm as light as a feather. Even Korean suddenly got easy. The language barrier kind of melted. I hope I don't get complacent about this -- when you get complacent you stop studying and then the Lord stops blessing you and it all gets hard again -- but oh, gosh, it is such a RELIEF to be able to TALK, and to UNDERSTAND. It's such a relief to exist, be a part of society again. Like the girl in the story who couldn't speak until she'd made very prickly sweaters for her brothers, who'd been turned into swans. Like that.
I'm not sure what caused the sudden upswing. I think the swiftly-approaching springtime has something to do with it. Also the complete change of scene and society, coming to Ulsan to serve with Pak Min Jeong for her last transfer. Also I now have the space and means to exercise again. And there is natural light - lots of it - in our apartment, and enough space that you can be by yourself in a room for awhile if you want to. I think the tiny, dark, dirty Taegu house was taking more out of me that I realized. And I think that Sis Pak Min Jeong may end up being my favorite companion besides Sister Matthews. She has very Western tastes - she likes baked things, and sweet things, and doesn't much care for fireydeath!spiciness [sic], so I can cook things and she will actually eat them and like them. She speaks Chinese and is very good at Korean calligraphy, which she promised to teach me. She's hardworking, but not ambitious, obedient but not Nazi. And SHE KNOWS ABOUT KOREAN HISTORY. We're on a bus right now to Kyongju, capital of the kingdom of Shilla, so she can show me around and teach me about all the stuff she knows. I went once before but had no fun, 'cuz no one could explain to me WHY this Buddhist temple was so famous, and plus we had lunch at a place that was too pricey and not very delicious. Things are lookin' up today.
*This was the care package with chocolate in it that I didn't send until the end of January because of . . . well, mostly laziness.
**On a very cold and slushy and disgusting night in late December, when I was on my way to church to help with the monthly homeless shelter dinner prep, I saw two very cold and discouraged looking elders on the sidewalk, hunched against the snow. All I could think of was RoseE, so I quickly parked the car, hopped out, and chased them down. I told them that they are doing a good work in the Lord and never to lose heart, because they were loved and needed and their Heavenly Father was smiling down on them with joy. They looked at me like I was crazy, but I told them both I'd keep them in my prayers and ran back to my car, since I was freezing and running late. I hope against all hope that someone in Korea will jump out of a car or go out of their way to love RoseE and remind her of her Heavenly Father's eternal and uncompromising love, when she really needs to hear it. So if it was a miracle, it was hers, not mine.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"Dear Mum and Dad,
So thus it is. I'm glad that Grama had everyone around her, and that the funeral went smoothly with all the folks there assembled. I've been praying, and thinking of Grama every time someone asks me if I'm . . . German? or Russian? You look Russian, maybe. No, Irish, say I. Like my great-grandmother.
Well, this week in life in general. As you probably know from watching my weather, it's been gosh darn well pouring rain. Which suits me fairly well, except when my toes get wet and cold. I've been slowly swinging up from the flu, aided not at all by the well-meaning efforts of the ward sisters. It took nothing less than fast Sunday for me to get any kind of appetite back. Thursday night, we visited a new-member middle school student, whose lovely less-active mom ordered us tangsooyook, which of course I love. But I could hardly eat it. I was trying. I was workin' hard at it. But it felt like eating lead. And then I made the mistake of pleading illness. Never doing that again.
'Cuz there is this traditional Korean home remedy for any and all stomach disorders that involves stabbing a person's finger with a needle and squeezing 'bad' blood out of it. I'd heard about this before from missionaries who had been subjected to it, but never before had I been faced with a woman pulling out the one-time-use-only spring-loaded needle and a box of tissues to catch the blood with, ready to 'bleed' me like an Edwardian fever patient.
Well, my natural defense reaction kicked in, as it always does when it's me vs. the needle: I went really pale, started shaking, responded to any question with a trembling giggle verging on tears, and hung like grim death onto the nearest warm body (Sis Pak Min Jeong). This defense has never before saved me from being stuck, but, thank goodness, it did this time; the needle was put away and I was given instead a couple of pills to swallow. I didn't know what was in the pills. I still don't. It could have been cyanide for all I cared. As long as I avoided that needle without mortally offending our hostess, I was happy to eat 'em like Smarties.
I would like to state for the record that I am perfectly capable of facing injections/blood draws bravely and calmly, when I've a mind to. This was not one of those times.
In other health news, as soon as this 24-hr flu thing lifted off me it hit Sis. Pak, as is life in a companionship, and I got a morning 'in' while she slept it off. I made banana bread. We haven't eaten it yet.
In other chaotic news, Sis. Son Yoo Jin, about whom we're so excited, turned down the invitation to be baptized and then left town for the week, so we're not sure what's going on, exactly. Our friend Katrina from Alabama is going home for a couple of weeks, so we won't be able to teach her. And to top off the mess is a woman named Kim So Jeong. The District President refered us to her. She is the mother of two little ones, aged 3 and 5, and is going through a hard stretch because of a number of medical problems, the biggest being an itchy and painful skin condition whose exact English name I cannot find out from anybody, which is generally managed by a carefully controlled diet, but due to some other internal complaint Sis. Kim can't keep much of anything down. So she's exhausted and in a lot of pain, homebound with her two adorable little snips.
When we visited her, she sat down with us and promptly burst into tears, recounting all of this to the sympathetic Sis. Pak and the bewildered-but-also-sympathetic me. She really needs friends and company, and this we can gladly supply . . . not to teach her very forcefully, but to serve and love her.
That was earlier this week. Yesterday we made an apointment to visit her again, and planned to bring with us a sister from the branch named Ii Yeong Hwa, who is just the nicest soul ever -- think Marjie Carpenter, but Korean. Just fine. So we met up with Sis. Ii a little earlier and had lunch, and went with her to do a Visiting teaching visit to a less-active sister. Still fine, no problem. And as this less-active sister works for NuSkin, Sis Ii ran Sis. Kim's skin problem by her to see if she had any advice on the issue. And Sister Mun offered to come visit when she had time that evening and see what she could do to help. Still fine.
Except what ended up happening was Sister Mun showed up with another brother from the ward in tow, also a NuSkin employee, and our supportive try-to-be-helpful-and-loving-and-make-friends-and-feel-the-Spirit visit became a NuSkin sales pitch. No, really. We were so frustrated and embarassed we nearly cried. In fact, we did, at home, when we called Sister Kim and apologized profusely. And then we called half of Korea trying to get Sister Kim some actual help--she'd ordered medicine from a supplier in Seoul, but her order was held up in the pre-Solar shipping mess, so we got in touch with the Seoul missionaries to find somebody to pick up the medicine from the supplying pharmacy and take it to the bus station and put it on a bus to Ulsan, which apparently you can do, bypassing all the shipping companies entirely. And we managed to make that happen, thank goodness. Saved face a little bit.
So it's been a frustrating week, missionary-wise. I, selfish creature that I am, am not 100% devastated, though, because I got a care package from Emily that was full of chocolate so it's hard for my outlook to be entirely bleak. I'm having a very 'Dad' week--very even-keeled, so much so that I wonder if I'm just an unflappable person or if I'm not as invested in this missionary service thing as I should be. But Sis. Pak, tired and dragging herself out of influenza, is straining to remain calm so it's probably better that I can act as a counterweight to that. That's this week. Who knows what next week will be. Other than Solar, aka Chinese or Lunar New Year. It's causing P-Day to move back to Monday, so I may e-mail again next Monday or next Thursday or both. Not sure yet. I'll get SOMETHING out.
Did my videos come through all right?* I've backed up all the videos on the iPod onto a flash drive, just to make sure that the records are not lost. I've become paranoid about that kind of thing.
Oh, and also last P-Day I got The Call. The one from Sis. Bagley at the mission office, asking which airport you'd like to be flown home to. It scared me to freaking death. Fly WHERE? WHEN? You're asking about this NOW? It's only JANUARY! (February, Sister Hadden. It's February.) (Oh, for dumb!) So that was a little surreal. I'm not quite sure how to react. It was a shock.
Okay, gotta go wreak some more havoc in the great nation of Korea. Tell me if the videos came through and I'll send more. Unless they didn't.
Mom, hang in there; you can only do so much in the face of chaos, but all chaos blows over. It's called the Plan of Salvation, and it applies to reservation systems, too. Everything Will Work Out In the End If You Are Doing Your Best.
*from Blogmom: I've got three of the videos on YouTube, links below, and more to follow.
RoseE and Sis's Musser and Matthews sleep over
Last Day in Taegu/Going Shopping
Farewell Dinner at Vips Buffet
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Well, welcome to the first day of the rest of my mission. Today pretty much everything changed. New companion, new home, new rank, new responsibilities, new role. New feeling. We had lunch today with one of the two new American Sisters, a one Sister Elizabeth Chan from Washington, D.C. She and her MTC companion, Sister Crowther, are the first American sisters to come to Pusan mission since Sister Ogelvie came, six weeks after me. It's been eight months. And over lunch, I found myself saying to her all the things that Sister Beckstead and the other now-long-gone sisters said to me when I was that jet-lagged bewildered greenie. I'm a co-senior and a sister rep. I'm a leader now. And the funny thing is that I don't feel incompetent, I feel secure. I have a new companion, Sister Pak Min Jeong, in whom I have much confidence and with whom I can communicate as much as I need to. I am going to an area with a great reputation--but more importantly, I am leaving Taegu with a good reputation. When I got there last summer, no one liked Taegu. Too hot. Too cold. The members aren't helpful. The people are mean. There haven't been any investigators for months and months. The leadership only cares about stats. The sisters' house is tiny, dark and filthy. I think the only thing I really changed was the dirtiness of the house, but I've watched investigators spring up, support from the members increase, a new and wonderful bishop be called. Taegu is a more desireable place to serve in now than it was when I arrived. I didn't do it, but I watched it happen, and because of that I am well-satisfied. I feel good about my mission today, and that's a big change. But I like it. Let's keep that up.
So I feel like an acceptable missionary. I feel optimistic, as though the best is yet to come. And I don't feel panicked, discouraged, or overwhelmed--I can't tell you what a relief that is.
I've also started to think about The End, and After. And I'm finally starting to "get" the mate straws, the steak knives, the waffle iron, the little po-dunk Argentinian restaurants in Provo, the alfahores*. Your mission never really lets you go, does it?
I love you,
*RoseE's Dad went on a mission to Argentina, and brought all these things back with him (except the restaurants in Provo) and they are treasured items.