Monday, April 2, 2012

Letter #1...from KOREA!

**Here is Chalene's first letter from Korea. Her p-day's are Monday's, but since they are 15 hours AHEAD of us, they come to us on Sunday nights! ENJOY**

Hello dearest family!! Can you believe it? I am finally here!

Ok, dad said y'all wanted details, so here you go.

The plane ride over here wasn't as tragic as I was expecting.  I slept for a couple of hours, which was nice, but technically I was only in the air for about 9 hours.  Dad! I tried to look out the windows for the ice caps, but it was pretty much cloudy the entire time.  At one point I thought I saw them, but then again, it could've just been clouds.... Hahaha I don't know, at that point I was getting a little loopy.

When we landed in Japan I was doing really well at first.  Me and Sister Kersey had lots of fun walking around the airport.  It definitely started to sink in that we were in a foreign country lol.

I think the hardest plane ride came going from Japan to Busan.  At that point it was about 4 or 5 in the morning our time and my body was NOT happy!!! I tried REALLY hard to stay awake that flight, knowing that a bed was waiting for me... yeah, that lasted like 5 minutes haha. Luckily I woke up at we were passing over Busan.  WOW!!! The city is unlike anything I have ever seen!  IT IS HUGE!! Take downtown Memphis, multiply the buildings by 100 for the quantity, 10 for the height and then squish them all together and you have a pretty good idea of Busan haha. 

Driving from the airport to the mission home at night was so amazing! At one point we were driving over a bridge and to see the sky scrapers climbing up the mountains with all their neon lights was amazing.

That night at President Gilbert's house we gathering in the dining room, eyes glazed over and feeling like death, and we had jam and honey with home made rolls!  Yumm…Needless to say I slept
WONDERFULLY!  And…As all y'all know, what happens when Longshore women are really really really tired? THEY TALK IN THEIR SLEEP OF COURSE! Haha I was sharing a room with Sister Baker and apparently I started yelling at her.  Truth be told, I think I have talked every night while being in Korea!! lol

The next day started a fun day of training!! We began the day with administrative things and breakfast.  Breakfast was like a wannabe strata, but at that point anything was delicious.  My favorite part was the tangerines. People weren't lying when they said Korea has the best fruit!  IT'S SO TRUE.  They are sweet and juicy and I think I have been ruined for life lol.

Our first outing for the day was going to the bank.  We exchanged money, set up an account and got everything squared away. The drive over was sooo cool.  It was my first time seeing Korea in the daytime.  I couldn't help but try to read everything I could see. Some things I could understand, others it was hopeless.  My favorite has been the businesses that are English words put into Korean…like "dry cleaners" and "sale" they sound really close…you just have to say them with a Korean accent. 

 After the bank we came back and I was able to have my first interview with President Gilbert.  He is such an amazing person.  I already have such a love and respect for him and his wife. Heavenly Father knew what he was doing in sending me to this mission to be under their stewardship.  The interview wasn't anything formal; we just sat there swapping stories.  I am excited to continue working with him and his wonderful wife in this mission. Sister Gilbert is fantastic!!  Her knowledge and love for the scriptures is profound, I could sit and listen to her stories all day long.  Again, I am excited to work with them!  For what I have heard, they have completely turned this mission around!  Baptisms are up and temple attendance is booming.  They believe that miracles can happen, they are striving to make them happen, and Heavenly Father is rewarding their faith and the faith of the missionaries.  I can hardly wait to share some of my own experiences that I know will happen.  

OK, back to training day. After my meeting with President, he brought in all trainers. For those who don't understand the process, President Gilbert explained that out of all the missionaries he chooses the trainers’ first, all other leadership positions could be filled in afterwards.  But, when he chooses the trainers he does not assign them automatically to a new missionary.  In fact, he doesn't know who will be paired up until the end of the training days.  So, as part of training we are assigning to different trainers throughout the day to see who works well with whom.

Our first activity with the trainers was to get to Lunch!!
My first trainer was Sister Lee Ye Jeong.  We headed from the President's house to the Subway and we talked to everyone we saw. Though I can't say very much, I at least know "hi" and "we're Missionaries" and things like that.  My favorite part had to be the Subway ride!!  SO COOL!  Ready for some funny stories?? Lol

So one of the first people I talk to was this sweet old grandmother.  She has me sit next to her and then she all of a sudden grabs my hand! She's holding my hand and patting my arm and then she puts my hand to her face, all the while telling me how pretty I am, Hahaha so sweet.  (I didn't get creeped out at all because it's all a part of the culture; she was just being kind).  The rest of the day was sort of the same. I was stared at and called cute and pretty all day haha.  Oh the advantages of being tall and American! Lol

Also that day we were able to go to a park on top of a big hill, it was beautiful and there was a temple on top. By the end of the day I placed a Book of Mormon, got number and handed out numerous pamphlets and pass along cards.  I don't know what will come of it, but at least I gave a few people the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ.

That night we had a DELICIOUS Korean dinner at the Gilbert's house.  I really do love this food.  Some Kimchi still kind of freaks me out, but at least I can stomach it. So far my favorite is Kim Pop.  It's like the sushi rolls at home with vegetables or tuna inside. yummm!  Sooo good!  I think the hardest part about the food is the chopsticks. Korean's are the only ones that use flat, metal chopsticks, so they are a little different then what I've practiced with.  But the good thing is, I'm not starving, so don't worry mom!

Day 2 of training was the big exciting day when we got to know who our companions are!!!!  SOO nerve wracking! (Which is silly, because Heavenly Father wouldn't tell Pres. Gilbert to put us with someone who wouldn't love and help us.  As y'all already realized I am with a Native Korean!! (Insert happy dance here*) She was the first trainer I was paired up with and her name is Sister Lee Ye Jeong 이 예 정

She is the oldest of 4 kids, her younger sister and brother are serving in Dajeon and her youngest sister is still at home.  I think that hardest thing for her is that her dad passed away a couple of months ago.  She and her siblings were able to go home to Seoul for a visit, which is good.  Though I know she's had a hard time, her love and determination for this work is profound, especially since it was her father that encouraged her to go.

After a final lunch (hamburgers!!!) at the mission home we headed out to our new areas!! It all went really quickly actually. Lol My companion and I are serving in an area called Geum Jeong.  It's only like 30 min from the mission home and we are in the same area at the AP's and the other office missionaries.  The ward is so fantastic and we have a BEAUTIFUL building that we meet in. (seriously, it's better than at home even. crazy right?) Sister Lee has done a fantastic job of building love and trust with these members and they are so willing to help us with the work.

That first night we didn't waste any time letting me get settled in, but we jumped straight into the work and had our first lesson with an investigator. Her name is Kim Jok Sook (PS it's really hard to
Romanize names Hahaha).  It was a great lesson and my companion is sooo nice to include me in the lessons, she always leads me into them, and lets me say the small, slow sentences that I can say.  But every day it gets a little better.  I'm actually surprise with how much I can understand. I find that I can pick out a few words and I do pretty well with getting an idea of what they are saying.  My companion is pretty grateful with how much I can understand especially because her English isn't very good.
There are so many other things that have happened already with people I've met and lessons that we've taught, but there isn't time to talk about them all. haha

Some other things that I have enjoyed about Korea:
1. The weather reminds me of home!! We are a little behind y'all temperature wise, but it's still beautiful
2. Heated floors!!! Oh man it's wonderful!! Our mattresses are on the floor, so when we turn on the heated floors at night it's perfect and cozy.  Mom you would LOVE it!
3. I LOVE it when Koreans speak English to me!! Not only is it kind that they try and include me that way, but it's actually really funny! The phrases they know are pretty great.  Like, they'll say hi and nice to meet you all at the same time.  One man asked me "do you say you're welcome, don't mention it, or no problem man?" haha so great
4. The little kids are adorable here! Though, whenever I try to speak Korean to them, they just laugh at me! Lol at least I am trying!

(Things I don't like…Brother Hatfield was right!! The smell here is pretty gross lol especially the fridge!  Since you keep the kimchi in the fridge everything starts to have a slight kimchi taste to it...kind of ruins a bowl of cereal in the morning lol)

I love it here though! I hardly think about how I am in another country halfway across the world!! It's so much fun and the people are so kind.  I know that this is where I am supposed to be and I can't wait until I can talk to everyone as much as I would like. But until then, I'll still try really hard.

My mission is amazing! I love the focus the Gilbert's have brought to the mission.  Our motto, if you can call it that, is "United in Christ, Together We Rise" coupled with 3 Nephi 3:15.  We also have a mission picture (sort of).  It is entitled "Yes sir, all are present and accounted for" (I think that's the title....) It is a depiction of the 2000 warriors after their battle.  They may be wounded, but because of their faith all were accounted for.  It is a beautiful picture showing each of the young men holding up the other.  That's how the Gilbert's want this mission to be.  But our overall goal and outlook is to have a Temple in Busan!! We are sooo close!! The numbers are close, we just need to strengthen each and rise to the opportunity.  The saints of Busan need the blessings a Temple nearby can give them.

Again, I'm excited for all the wonderful things that are happening here.  It is a blessing and privilege to be apart of it and I’m glad I can share it with y'all.

Kiss Love Hugs from Korea!!

Map of where she is in Comparison to Busan!

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