Monday, May 26, 2014

New City, New Companion, Same Sydney

In a surprise twist, I'm in 정읍! Jeongeup
I honestly thought my companion would be the one to be transferred, but she's set to stay in 공주 for one more transfer. It was hard to leave, but I was ready. Plus, yesterday I got to go back for 현지's (Sunny's) baptism say a proper goodbye to all my Gongju family members. I will miss them dearly, but I think we all knew that it wasn't going to to be forever. I'll go back to Gongju again someday. ^^
But enough about the past, let's talk about 정읍!
1. It's small and 시골. in the countryside Like really small and 시골. Ha. In fact, if I were to rank my three areas on a scale from one to ten on their overall level of "small and 시골"ness, it would look a little like:
충주: 2.5Chungju
Honestly, 충주Chungju had a McDonald's. Not that 시골.
공주: 4Gongju
Sure there were a fair amount of mountains, trees, and 할머니s (grandmas)growing cabbage, but there were also historical sites, museums, and a few college campuses.
정읍: Ha. Um, 8? Jeongeup
If you're wondering how Korea's rice crop is going this summer, just let me know. I've got a front row seat. ^^
But, all that aside, I really, really love it here. It's small, quaint, and really quite beautiful. I'm pretty sure every time I've been transferred, my mission president has looked at my picture and been like, "Oh yeah, this girl's from western Pennsylvania. Let's put in her in the 시골 (countryside) again. She'll do just fine." And thus far, I have! 
2. If you were to Wikipedia it, you would find that 정읍 has only one claim to fame: maple leaves! Which means that are maple leaf symbols everywhere--on the light posts, on the fences, even maple leaf mascots! (I'll have to take a picture of them. They're only slightly creepy.) Anyway, it's rather exciting. Sometimes I feel like I'm in Canada.
3. The buses here have faces! But only for a month. The city started this special event for Children's Day and made all the city buses look like cartoon characters and then while you ride it plays a continuous loop of Korean children's songs and "Let It Go". I think the natives of 정읍 are a little embarrassed by it (especially the high school students), but I like it!
4. My companion is 이예진 자매님! We were actually in the MTC together, but only for ten days, so we didn't really know each other. She's so cool and she speaks English really well since she learned it while living in Hong Kong when she was little (approximately the same time we were living in Japan. Weird, right?) and then perfected it while at BYU-Idaho last year. It's weird to speak so much English again, but I try to still speak what little Korean I can so I don't lose the small amount of "Korean language" ground I've fought so hard to gain. There are a set of elders serving here as well and since one of them is from New Zealand, they sang me a New Zealand Welcome Song on my first night here. It was quite the experience.
5. And finally, the ward! The ward is wonderful as they always are. This ward is actually really famous in our mission for how many Young Men and Young Women there are in it. It also started when this one girl was baptized a couple years ago and then she referred, like, all of her friends and family members to the missionaries. And then seven people got baptized! Amazing, right? So we have a lot of recent converts to teach and keep active. Ha. I've spent the last six months teaching mostly 10 year-olds and now my primary teaching demographic has switched to primarily 16 year-olds. And you know something I learned about teenagers--they speak way faster than children do and use way more slang. Please continue to pray for my Korean understanding. It's hard to keep up. :L
But let's go back to Sunny's baptism. It was so, so good. Her parents weren't able to make it (ㅠㅠ) but her best friend 가연 did (^^)! Sunny was just so ready to be baptized. Before she went down into the water, 이희원 and I said a prayer with her just like we had with 홍정혜. And then with a quick kiss on the head and a, "Good luck, we love you!" she was baptized just like she had known it was something she needed to do for her whole life. When she came up out of the water 이희워 자매님 and I were there for her just like we'd been there for the past six months, only this time we were laughing and clapping (and maybe even crying a little), saying, "You're the cleanest person in the world! You're the cleanest person in the world!"
And that's how I'll always remember her--my adorable, kind, reverent, little ten-year old friend 현지--as the cleanest person in the world.
Love you all.
아바 자매

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Korean Fun Fact #7: Being a 외국인 in Korea

Okay so sometimes being a foreign is the best and sometimes it's the worst. Here's why--

When it's the best...
people give you free food, discounts on clothes, and everyone tells you you're beautiful. But really. Korea has done wonders for my self-esteem. There was even this one time in my first area that my companion and I were walking down the sidewalk and a group of students were walking in the other direction, on the other side of the road, and they still yelled to me across two lanes of traffic, "BEAUTIFUL! YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL!" And then I turned to my trainer and was like, "I love Korea!"

Anyway, it's going to be super weird when I return to America and random people don't tell me I'm beautiful anymore. ㅠㅠ 

In other good things, the Korean people are really nice about complimenting foreigners who try to speak Korean. Even when I was a greenie and could manage only an awkward, "안녕하세요," kindly grandmas would still pat me on the back and say, "You speak Korean so well!" Once I didn't even say anything, and some called back to me, "You speak Korean so well!!" And that's when I realized they probably weren't praising me for my Korean skills. Koreans are just super nice.

On the flip side, when being a foreigner is the worst...
small children are afraid of you, creepy men notice you a lot faster, and groups of students whisper about you when you get on the bus. And then you add the whole, "I'm a missionary" issue into the mix and things get a whole lot more complex. It's a good time. ^^

The week!
1. We met this guy on the street who had met the elders a couple years before for English interest. When we asked him for his contact information, he replied, "Don't worry, the elders will know it. The name's Bond. James Bond." And then he ran off. Ah, missions are so weird.
2. On Monday, we had the funnest Ward FHE ever. I can't explain it all right now, but just know that it involved competing for the different ingredients in 김밥 and we're definitely doing it when I get back.
3. Our investigator invited us over for her son's birthday. We sang and ate cake and gave him the sweet Spiderman card we made him. But guess what movie her kids were watching? That's right. Frozen. Her little five-year old son would not let us get away without watching Elsa sing "Let It Go." Every few seconds he would look up at us to make sure we were watching. If we looked away for even a second, he would say, "NO! You have to watch her sing!" 아이고. I swear I'm going to see the entire movie before my mission's even over.
4.I bought a new skirt and then this happened. I'm sorry, I'm not sorry.
5. And finally, transfer day! I don't actually know what's going to happen yet, so you might have to wait for next week to find out, but I know I'll definitely be getting a new companion. And I know that I haven't written about my companion nearly as much as I should have, but please know that I really really love her. We made it six months of non-stop togetherness, as two people who can't really even speak the same language, and we're still friends. Um, yeah, we definitely deserve some sort of medal. As hard as it is sometimes, I'm so grateful to always have a companion through this crazy, confusing, sometimes heart-breaking mission. And I know that 이희원 자매님 and I were truly always meant to be companions. The six months we've spent laboring together have been well-worth the miracles we've seen and the friendship we've formed.

I'm going to miss her so dearly. Parents, prepare for Korean visitors when I get home. ^^
I love you all! Wish me luck with the week!
아바 자매

Sydney sent me a quick note after sending her letter and informed us that she is getting transferred and her new companion will be another Korean sister.  

Monday, May 12, 2014


Hi! Hi! Hi!

A quick email this week, since I literally just talked to my family like two hours ago. Isn't the time difference in Asia weird?

Yesterday our Pretty Investigator got baptized! And after her baptism, she was more radiant than ever. Ah, it was such a happy day, I had no idea baptisms could be so wonderful. Her friend in the ward gave a beautiful talk about enduring to the end and the young adults (along with the missionaries) sang the EFY Medley to her. The Spirit was so strong. Before she stepped down into the water, we said a quick prayer together and once she came back out I felt just like a proud parent. It was a really, really good day.

Here's a YouTube video so you can hear the song they sang.  I wish Sydney could have sent a video of them singing it but this will have to do.  Grab a tissue!

2 Nephi 31:5, 7-10
 "5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
 7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
 8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
 9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
 10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?"
I know that baptism is a commandment from Heavenly Father and I know that if we are baptized as Christ was, by immersion and by the proper authority of the priesthood, we at last enter the gate and begin our way along the straight path to eternal life.
I love you all dearly.
Sister Abba.

An ancient school they came across

Sydney says this is made with wormwood and was all excited to have eaten it.  

Being goofy

She says there are azaleas everywhere

"the red light are the neon crosses of the many,many christian churches. from where we were standing we could see eight of them."

"You know you're going into the country when all the people on the bus are over the age of 80.  So many old-people hats!"

cute church

"Sunny" is holding Sydney's skirt because it was windy.  ha ha

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A wonderful week!

Surprise!  Remember how I said Sydney wouldn't write until Tuesday?  Well, her mission President changed her P-day back so we got a surprise letter this evening with loads of pictures.  We get to talk to her in a week!  Yay!

First off, thanks this week to all the grandparents! Grandma Bonnie and Grandpa Gray, I got your birthday card--thank you so much! It's so sparkly! And Grandma and Grandma Arvanitas, I got your birthday card too! Also sparkly! And I loved the Bloch pictures you sent. In fact, I used them in my lesson the very next day! I love you all!!

And Mama Mousser, thank you for the birthday card too! I hope Katie has a wonderful wedding this week and that it's beautiful and not too stressful. I love you!

Also, Daddy happy birthday tomorrow! I admit, I have no idea how old you're turning, but I feel like it's old. I love you anyway and I'll be celebrating your birthday tomorrow, while everyone else is celebrating Buddha's birthday. I'll take lots of pictures for you. ^^

And here's a brief summary of my week.

1. We climbed a mountain! This past Saturday was our ward youth activity and we got special permission to go with our investigator, JungHe (the pretty one), who's getting baptized next Sunday! It was so fun and absolutely beautiful.  Kind of like being back in Pennsylvania, except in Pennsylvania you'd never see the trees decked out with pink lanterns, celebrating Buddha's birthday. It was just nice to be somewhere green and foresty and doing exercise that was more strenuous than my half-asleep sit-ups at 6:30 every morning. And the best part was our investigator had a great time and feels a lot closer to the members now. Win-win!

2. This week is a week of holidays! Children's Day today, Buddha's Birthday tomorrow, Parents' Day on Thursday. So many things! Hopefully I'll have some fun stories to tell next week and to my parents, have a happy Parents' Day! I love you!

3. We had an amazing lesson with HongChungYoung, our Chinese investigator. Even though she wasn't able to come to church yesterday (it wasn't raining ㅠㅠ) we were able to meet with her a coupe times this week and teach her the commandments. She absolutely loved them, especially the Ten Commandments. She was actually crying she loved them so much. She said that if everyone were to follow these commandments, the world would be a happy and peaceful place. In fact, before we even explained the Word of Wisdom beyond "We don't drink, smoke, drink coffee or tea," she said, "I'll keep them all. From today onward, I won't do anything of those things ever again." It was amazing! We were like, "We haven't even told you about the blessings yet..." But she didn't need to hear about the blessings. She knew these commandments were from God and that all things from God always come with blessings.

And I too know that the commandments come from God and I am so grateful for incredible investigators like HongChungYoung who strengthen my faith that all good things truly do come from him.

I love you all!
And family, I'll talk to you soon!

Abba Jameh.

Buddha's birthday lanterns

We sang "I'm trying to be like Jesus" and then split up the song lyrics and drew pictures to match

KaYun's was my favorite. She had "I'm trying to be like Jesus, I'm following in His ways."
And then she wrote a little story too. The words say, "One girl walked along the way in order to resemble Jesus Christ. She met Jesus Christ along the way. Because she followed Him she became like Him. And so she resembled Jesus Christ."

Except it's better in Korean.

Buddha's birthday lanterns while climbing the mountain

One of the young men started building a tower out of the Buddhist wishing rocks. Honestly this is kid is exactly like a Korean Christian Agle. It's hilarious.(The Agle's are friends of ours)

Sitting on a turtle with some members and our beautiful investigator.

At the top!

Sydney's companion's mom crocheted them some rings.