Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Thank you to everyone again for the kind messages and letters of encouragement! I have read and re-read them and I have come to the conclusion that Cranberry Ward may just be the best ward in all the world. So, thank you. I love you all.

Happy New Year! Again!
This week was 설날! Or what the rest of the world calls "Chinese New Year." Only don't do that in Korea. While talking to my companion, I once referred to it as Chinese New Year and she just looked at me and said, "설날. I am not Chinese."
So now I know.

Since 설날 is pretty much the biggest holiday in Korea, the festivities lasting for a full three days, all the shops close down and there are no people on the streets.
Which means no people to whom to talk about the gospel.
Which makes missionary work a bit...difficult.

So, to handle this slightly problematic situation, our mission president assigned all the missionaries meet in their districts for the first and last days of 설날 and share advice about investigators, plan for upcoming ward activities, and practice teach. So basically two full days of district meeting. It was actually really nice, kind of like summer vacation, and it was so good to just slow down for a bit and assess which problems we desperately needed to assess and which investigators most needed our attention.

The other day of 설날, the 31st, was P-day!
(Sadly, no, we didn't have two P-days in one week. Last Monday wasn't actually P-day. Just Email-Your-Family Day.)
The Korean sisters called their families, the four of us went for a walk by the river, and my companion and I even went to a fun history museum and learned all about what 공주 looked like in the 1950s. The rest of the time was spent with members, eating delicious food and participating in various 설날 activities.
It went a little something like this...

We ate...
떡국! Though I expect very few of you to know what that it is (but that's okay, you can Google it). It's looks and tastes like soup, but it's actually special New Year's soup. In Korea, the saying goes that when you eat 떡국 you "eat your age" or get a year older. Which means now I'm about...35. I've eaten alot of 떡국 these past four days.

We played...
this special New Year's game which I would love to tell you the name of, but I don't actually know it. I just called it the "새해 Game" or "that-one-game-where-you-throw-sticks-in-the-air."
Basically you have these four sticks and you toss them in the air and you move pieces on a board and there's Chinese characters involved know what, I don't think I can actually explain this game. It took me at least four rounds of playing it to figure it out. But in my defense, it was explained to me only in Korean by children and parents and grandparents who were all yelling over each other, disagreeing about the rules. Just know that it was really fun and we'll be playing it next year when I get back.

We did traditional stuff like...
bowing! But not just a normal bow. A special New Year's bow. All the older people sit in a line and the younger people bow to them. But like, a kneeling-on-the-floor, face-to-the-ground bow. I promise it wasn't as strange as it sounds, just a really beautiful and traditional part of the Korean culture that I was really grateful to take part in.

We wore... 
한복s! But just to church on Sunday. My companion's mom told her to "go rent 하복s for you and your companion and take a picture." So we did. You don't argue with Korean moms.
And it was wonderful! I felt like a Korean princess and it was the perfect way to end our missionary-summer-vacation, 설날 weekend.

As we spent a great deal of time this week celebrating the New Year with various families in our ward, it made me think about how important the family is Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. In fact, it is primarily through the family that we receive the blessings and joys of the gospel. Although I can't be with my family right now, I was especially grateful this week for all wonderful families here in Korea with whom I had the opportunity to spend this holiday . As I ate with them and played games with them and even bowed with them, I realized that we not only receive the blessings of the gospel within the unit of our own families, but also within the grand unit that is the human family. I'm so thankful, if only briefly, to be with and serve these families here on the other side of the world and I'll never forget the familiar feeling of love I felt for them as fellow children of God.

Sister Abba

All dressed up for church

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