Monday, September 30, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

We got Sydney's letter later than usual and it's short.   I don't think she had a lot of time today.  She did send a picture from the cafe where she writes so she could show us her new glasses.  Glasses are cheap in Korea.  She only paid 53 dollars for them.  I might have to send her all of our prescriptions and have her get some for each one of us.  

My faithful readers!  Thanks for continuing to care enough about my life to read about it in these brief and rather rushed letters. I'm sorry if they ever don't make any sense. I'm doing my best. Since things are finally beginning to settle down here, I feel like it's time that I actually give you all some information on the ward I'm in, the people I'm working with, and state of the missionary work in my area. So, if you've felt confused or out-of-the-loop thus far, fear not--I come equipped with answers.

So here we go. 
Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there elders in your area?
Yes! We share our area with Elder B... and Elder C...They've been here three transfers, I think. They're pretty cool, but I still miss my dear MTC elders more than anything.

2. How's the food? Have you thrown up/had diarrhea/died yet?
No! The food has been great actually! No sickness thus far, which is great news because, honestly, I'm not sure how I would cope if I got sick here. Fingers crossed that that never happens.
However, I do have one story about the food this week in which it was not as delicious as I wanted it to be...

Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian. In fact, I really like meat, but there is a certain point at which I draw the line.
Eating food that still has it's face. No.
And this week, not once but twice, there it was--cold dead eyes staring up at me accusingly from a serving plate. In no circumstance should the eater have to meet the eyes of the eaten.

3. How is your ward? How many people? Are they nice?
There are about 70 people in the ward here, but only about 50 of them actually come every Sunday. For Korea, this is really good. The ward here has a great balance of adults, youth, and young children, so things never seem unbalanced and sacrament meeting is always a little loud. The bishop here is wonderful--really helpful, really personable--and the whole ward just acts like one enormous family. They try and go to the temple all together at least once every month, they eat lunch together every Sunday after church, and every fifth Sunday, instead of RS/Priesthood and Sunday School, they gather all together and talk about...missionary work!  Just yesterday, we received two referrals from our members. Needless to say, they are incredibly wonderful. 

4. More about your companion!
My companion is from the city of Yeoju, which is about 40 minutes north of where we are now, so she is serving her mission really close to home.  Both of her parents also served missions in Korea and her younger brother is currently serving in the Busan Mission. They were in the MTC together just like Nicky and I, so in that respect we are same-same! My companion has been on her mission for six months. This is her first time training, her first time opening an area, and her first time doing missionary work without a phone (yeah, we still don't have a phone, but hopefully,hopefully today). Also, this is only the second area she's ever served in on her mission, so we're both new at this whole experience, but luckily we get along great, so we're, albeit slowly, figuring things out together.

5. Do you teach English?
Yes! Our English class is every Saturday at one and then we meet people outside of class for 30/30 lessons (30 minutes of English and 30 minutes of gospel). Before we got here, the elders didn't really do much with English class, but Sister Lee and I think it's a really great way of finding investigators, so we've been putting a lot of work into advertising and improving our English program. Already we've found a mom and her two kids who we taught a lesson to last week and just yesterday another mom and her kids called us and set up appointment for later this week. Success! English class really does work! Hopefully good things will follow.

Other than that, our work here continues on, even if it continues on a little slowly. Our members are really starting to trust us (well, at least they trust my companion. I still don't say much), so hopefully we'll be able to do them proud and find some new members for them to welcome into their wonderful ward family.

I love you all and I hope you have a beautiful week.
Step on some crunchy fall leaves for me.

Sister Arvanitas

Monday, September 23, 2013

What they teach you in the MTC is not how they speak!

We got to chat back and forth with Sydney while she was sending her letter.  We were having a hard time finding the city she is in but, she told us the old name is Chungju and we finally found it on a map.  There are many rivers and a big mountain next to it.  I think she could use prayers in helping her with the language.  

After spending my first two weeks in Korea, I have some thoughts to report...

Firstly, this. Language. And all languages for that matter. Why did the tower of babel have to be a thing? Why can't we all just speak a single, standardized language and be friends and hold hands and sing? Is that not a beautiful dream? Let me just say that, at least regarding Korean, the MTC is a lie.(I believe Nick said the same thing about Spanish.  ha ha) There are so many different language and grammar forms spoken here and the ones they taught us in the MTC are not really among them. For instance, yesterday, one punk little kid asked who we were, but asked us in king form. Um, what? In retrospect, it was actually pretty cute, but I was still disappointed that I had not learned these things. Seriously, the first thing my companion said to me once I got here was, "the way of talking you learned in the MTC is not real. So...sorry about that." ugh.

Secondly, the only sentences I can successfully say are the ones that no one wants to listen to: "I am a missionary. This is the Book of Mormon. I know this book is true and you can too if you only read it." Yeah, no. As soon as I say that, crowds flee before me. 

But it's not all sad things. Korean thanksgiving was great! We went to the Stake Relief Society president's house (Rellief Society is the womens organization in our church.  A congregation is a ward and a stake is about 9-11 wards. So she would preside and watch over that many Relief Societies.  There would be a ward RS president too.) and seriously, every food I've eaten in Korean has been delicious. I just want to eat it all the time and I can already tell that I'm going to sincerely miss eating this food once I've left. The best is, after church every Sunday, our ward always eats lunch together. The ward members make all the food before church and then we feast once sacrament meeting is over. So many yummy things to eat here. I wish I could bring them all back for all of you.  ( She apparently hasn't learned that she could learn to cook them)

(side note: In the cafe I'm currently sitting in, there's a Korean guy giving someone an English lesson. It's pretty hilarious.)

Honestly, there's not too much to report on this week. We still don't have any investigators or any cool experiences. We've mostly been traveling back and forth between our city and the other city that's in our zone. Lots of meetings. Lots of planning. Not too much actual work. Bane of my existence. We're still waiting for our phone to arrive, but it should be here later today, so fingers crossed. There have been a few times this week that we though someone was going to be interested in our message, but as the conversation progressed or if we asked them to come to church with us or anything, they just completely shut us down. It's rather discouraging and I realize that this is a bit of a downer email, but I never want to sugarcoat anything about missionary work or pretend like it's easier than it actually is. The fact of the matter is that this is hard and people often don't listen and there are many disappointments. 

But! there is hope. There's always hope. We only have to look and it can be found.
2 Corinthians 6:

But in all things approving ourselves as the aministers of God, in much bpatience, in cafflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
 In stripes, in imprisonments, in atumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
 By apureness, by knowledge, by blongsuffering, by ckindness, by the Holy Ghost, by dlove unfeigned,
 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the aarmour ofbrighteousness
 10 As asorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as bpoor, yet making manycrich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Yes, this is hard and it's often a heart-breaking, stressful, and slow-going process, but we know our message is true. That's one of the few sentences I can say in this language and I intend to hold to it as tightly as I possibly can because no amount of rejection or opposition can convince me otherwise. This is the truth and it is a beautiful truth and these people are going to have to deal with me proclaiming that to them in my broken Korean for the next sixteen months, so that had better get used to it.
I intend to have exciting things to report to you all next week, but until then,
Keep the faith. Smile often. Never give up.
The church is true and the book is blue.
love you all.
Sister Arvanitas 
Sydney's apartment is the second one in on the left
The view from her apartment

She found these old pictures in a cupboard at the church.  There were pictures of missionaries from the 1960's and 70's.  They found this picture of Jesus with James Dean on the back.  It reminded her of the movie "The Best Two Years", in which the Elders had pictures of girlfriends with the first presidency on the back.  

Random exercise equipment in the park

Sydney was proud of this picture!

Large spider on the left, KOREAN spider on the right.  Yikes!

Sydney snapped this while she was writing to us.  She got a new name tag, all in Korean now.  However, this picture is flipped, so its backwards.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

What better way to create a lasting relationship than to go to a public bath!

Oh what a week it has been. 
Let's rewind a bit in the grand VCR tape that is my life and see what I've been up to these past six days in Korea.

Tuesday night, we got back to the mission home super late, so all we had to do was sleep. Thank heavens for that. The next morning we had a bunch of meetings. I was hoping that sitting in chairs for hours on end was over and done with in the MTC. I was wrong. But, luckily after meetings we had a delicious lunch in a traditional Korean restaurant--shoes off, sitting on the floor--and then we had our very first experience proselyting! And you know what, it wasn't scary at all! I decided almost immediately that I wasn't going to be nervous sharing the gospel here. I'm already an obvious foreigner, I might as well be the awkward foreigner who talks to everyone. So, all in all, an excellent first time.

Our second exciting experience--the public bath! Our incoming group of missionaries wasted no time in completely immersing ourselves in Korean culture. If we were going to get culture shock, we were at least going to have a fun/weird time doing it. I'm happy to report that the public baths here are so fun!  A little awkward at first, but us sisters all agreed that after spending nine weeks together in the MTC, going to the bath-house together was the perfect way to solidify our relationship for eternity.

Now, the news you've all been waiting new companion! her name is 이지우 자매  or Ee-Ji-Oo Jameh in Romanization or Jeewoo Lee in American pronunciation. I'm not gonna lie, I was super nervous that she wouldn't speak any English and I wouldn't speak any Korean and our whole relationship would be a confusing mess of mumblings and hand gestures, but luckily as soon as she saw me I was greeted with a hug, a flower, and lots and lots of excited words in English!  Yayayayayay! My companion speaks English  and may I say, she is just darling. It makes me a little nervous that I've been two for two on companions though. My later companions will probably be crazy or mean or both.

The area we've been assigned to is 예성 (yesoung) and it's a little city in the very top right corner of our mission. Before I got here, everyone said how 시골 the area was, and since 시골 is the Korean word for country, I was expecting to be living in a little hut in the middle of a rice paddy with only cows and mosquitoes for potential investigators. In other words, i was expecting Western Pennsylvania. However, I must report that the American version of countryside is definitely not the same as the Korean version of countryside.

Korean countryside (n) - exactly like a normal city, except
and more ghetto.
also you can see glimpses of the forest-laden mountains and the real countryside from within the city.
basically, if trees are in eyesight, you live in the Korean countryside.

In addition to this, 이지우 jameh-nim and I are opening this area, which means we have NOTHING.
no food.
no phone.
and no hot water.
Luckily, we at least have food now (and beds! we got beds today!), but the phone and the hot water are still pending. It's kind of the worst, especially when it comes to finding any investigators or making friends with the members because we haven't a phone number to give out, but we're working through it.

Despite our slight inconveniences, this are has already been wonderful and the ward members are just the best. It's weird, ever since I've been in Korea, everything has felt so natural and so normal--not really foreign at all. It wasn't until Sunday, when I was up on the stand, bearing my testimony to my new ward, that I realized why. As I looked out at all these people I'd known for only a few days and as they looked back at me--smiling affectionately and nodding encouragingly every time i said a sentence correctly--it hit me that people are people. 

And I know that seems like such an obvious statement, but truly--people are people.
There is no us and them. Americans and Koreans. Missionaries and members.
There is only us.
The human race. Brothers and sisters. Children of God.
The love God has for His children is the same for all of us and as I looked out at my new ward, I could feel the love God had for them and, through them, I could feel the love God had for me.

Ours is truly a message about love and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will be willing to serve one another, show kindness toward one another and share the happy message of this gospel with everyone we meet.

All my lovin' I do send to you. :)
Arvanitas Jameh.

Jameh Nim

See the goofy missionaries in the mirror

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quick letter from Korea

I made it to Korea!

First impression--it's SUPER HUMID HERE. Good heavens.
Second impression--President and Sister Shin  are the cutest Korean people on this planet. They are seriously so sweet to us.

I  haven't really done much yet. We flew into Incheon, found our luggage, and then took a two hour bus ride down to Daejeon. It's kind of hard to describe what Korea is like. It's kind of like Ambridge (Ambridge is a city here in PA) except with Tuscan rooves, brightly lit Korean signs, and asian-looking trees. If that, in fact, makes any sense.

After we arrived at the mission home it was like 10:45 pm,  so we just took showers and then went to sleep. This  morning we all gathered together and ate pancakes! It felt like the morning after a sleepover and was actually really fun.

Other than that, nothing new to report. I'll probably get my new companion and area assignment tomorrow morning and then we'll see what will happen to me from there. I don't feel nervous and I don't feel sick, so all is well in life. :)

I love you, parents.
Sister Arvanitas

Friday, September 6, 2013

Korea in Three-ah

So, I'll be in Korea in three days. 
I'm not freaking out. Are you freaking out?
I'm just curious about Korea and the magical qualities it possesses...(name that movie)

As my MTC time has come to a close, I thought I'd contemplatively reflect on my two-and-a-half month stay here. My musings have led me to create two ground-breaking, insider lists (yes, more lists) on the...
Let it begin.

1. It is SO. ABSURDLY. COLD. I swear, it is an unspoken rule here that all the rooms must be set to temperatures found only in the arctic. Honestly, I have worn all of my winter clothes already because it is just that cold. I never thought i would wear long-sleeves and a sweater in August, but I guess that's just the MTC for you.
2. The architect of the MTC seemed to have had a fear of the sun or just really hated looking at the sky because I swear pavilions cover all of the walkways here. You sometimes forget you're even outside.
3. I love class and learning new things, but my goodness, so much sitting. I don't even want to think about how hard it's going to be for me to get back in shape once I get to the field.
4. The cleanliness of the mattresses are a bit...suspect. For instance, some of our new sisters found they had been sharing their bunks with...bed bugs. It was not a good day for them.
5. Thursday mornings. It's the first meal in which the new missionaries are integrated with the old missionaries and everything is always CHAOS. No one knows where all the lines start or where the food is and it takes all the patience I possess to not go completely postal and barrel over everyone in a fit of rage.
6. Tiny desks. Enough said.
7. Service mornings, which we said goodbye to forever this morning. I cannot adequately express how happy I am to no longer have to do menial, made-up-on-the-spot tasks like wiping scuff marks off the stairs or polishing the toilet paper dispensers in the bathroom.
8. In-field orientation. Oh my goodness, what a hot slice of crazy that was. In-field is essentially a nine and a half hour meeting explaining last minute things about how to be a missionary. Things which probably would have been better to learn over the course of the NINE AND A HALF WEEKS WE ALREADY SPENT HERE. Also, the rooms in which the various meetings were held were themed and there were costumes. You just have to experience it. There is no way to adequately explain in-field. Elders Arvanitas and Faucett should get excited.
9. I saw a mouse yesterday. It was outside, but I still feel devastatingly horrid about it.
10. The serious, no-information-from-the-outside-world, bubble that is the MTC. It's like a parallel universe in here. Ultimately, I know it's all for the best, but it's going to be super weird being in the real world again.

But believe you me, it wasn't all bad. I actually had a really hard time coming up with even ten things I didn't like about the MTC. So, now for the good things!

1. The free bins! On every floor in the residence halls there are these magical bins that missionaries who are leaving put all the clothes and books and toiletries that don't fit in their suitcases. It's like a thrift store, only free.(Sydney does love her thrift stores)
2. Everyone is super nice here--they open doors, they say smile and say hello, one random Elder even bought me a Korean grammar card when I didn't have any money. It's pretty awesome.
3. The gardens here are seriously IMMACULATE. It's a botanist's paradise. Sister Bonitz would love it. :)
4. Yummy, yummy soups and salads. A ton of people complain about the food here, but I love it because, guess what, I DIDN'T HAVE TO MAKE IT. And that's my favorite.
5. And you know what else I don't have to do here? Pay for laundry. Not enough credit can be given to the fact that I don't have to pay for laundry.
6. There are so many languages and so many missionaries from all over the world here! I now have friends from Paris, Moscow, New Zealand, Australia,'s like an international smorgasbord of magic and wonder!
7. The ARTWORK. I don't know if no one talks about the artwork in the MTC because there's just so much of it and it kind of gets taken for granted or because no one cares, but the artwork here is my FAVORITE. There are all this cool photographs of missionaries from years gone by and so many amazing paintings of Christ and the apostles. And there's just so much of it. Even in all the time I've been here, I haven't seen it all and it's seriously going to be one of the things I miss the most about being in the MTC.
8. The teachers. I love and am SO GRATEFUL for my teachers.
9. So many new friends. I cannot believe how quickly time has gone and that I already have to bid farewell to all these wonderful people I have met here. They have changed and influenced me more than I think they will ever truly know. Sometimes, I wish we could all just go en masse to Korea and preach the gospel in an enormous group rather than two by two. But obviously, that wouldn't work and would probably turn out fairly disastrous, but i'm going to miss the people I've met here SO MUCH. I think there is a special bond that missionaries share. It's indescribable and I am thankful every day for the opportunity I have to experience such a bond.
10. Going to the temple every p-day. I cannot stress enough the blessings and unity that come from going to the temple! Especially with my district, I've noticed how much closer we've become as we have attended the temple together these past few weeks. I testify that going to the temple as often as we can will drastically change and bless are lives. Especially out east, it is so hard to get to the temple because it's so far away, but I know that the blessings of the temple are eternal. I love the temple and I encourage all of you to go as often as you can because the joy and peace one finds there cannot be replicated.

I love you all. If there were ever a time when I needed your prayers, now would be it.
Sister Arvanitas
Last day for service projects

Her companion told everyone that Sydney collects American flags and so they gave her some.  

Pappa Jameh and Arvanitas Jameh

Steve got these silly shirts at his conference and sent them to Syd

Her roommates for the past 8 1/2 weeks

I love to see the temple!  Oh Syd!