Well it has been a little while but I am finally here in Korea and in my new area with my trainer! It has been quite a journey in getting here and I will say right off the bat that everything is soo different, not only from the United States, but from the MTC and everything that I expected. I definetly feel like a fish out of water but at the same time am just trying to work as hard as I can and make the best out of it that I can!
We arrived in Korea a little short of a week ago and flew into Busan on Korean Air. It was a long series of flights to get here without much sleep and with daylight with us the whole way but was luckily uneventful other than that! We flew on from San Francisco to Seoul where I had my first run in with Korean food (actually pretty good, and it was on an airplane) and then flew from Seoul to Busan. We had sunlight with us pretty much the entire flight and even though the time change is pretty dramatic I slept most of the flights andam starting to feel more and more adjusted everyday. Im definetly going to take a nap today for our first P day but after a few more das everything should work out great. We had no problems with bags or customs or anything which was great as well.
We were met at the Busan airport by the Assistants to the President, the office elders, and President Barrow and his family. As it was late we were driven back to the mission home which is in a complex in Busan including a church building, the mission office, president Barrow’s home, and an apartment above it all for the elders. We stayed there for a day extra because the other flight with the other half of the new Busan missionaries was delayed for a day in Dallas, leaving us with extra time. We went and registered myself as a foreigner and applied for my foreigner card and then went proselyting in a large shopping district called 남 포 동 and took a picture in front of Busan tower. I was assigned a temporary companion of elder Heo who is the native Korean office elder. I’ll be honest, proselyting those first few days, and just talking to people in general is pretty rough. We all took Book of Mormons and pamphlets and tried to talk to as many people and hand out as many things as we could. I actually really liked working with elder Heo, but whereas his english wasnt very good our proselyting generally consisted of me walking up to someone and awkwardly asking some simple questions like “where are you headed?” “where is your hometown?” or “how is your family?” me not understanding anything they said back to me, telling them I got to Korea a day ago and my Korean isnt good, my companion teaching them a little bit about us and our message, and then me bearing my testimony. It is so hard, but also great practice and I feel like I can at least be of a miniscule amount of help.
The next day the rest of the missionaries arrived and we ate food that a member had prepared together at the Mission President’s home and were trained on paperwork and money and apartments and other missionary life details by the senior couple who are serving here. Later in the afternoon all of the new trainers arrived and we got to do more proselyting. It was pouring down rain that day but we head out with our umbrellas and books of mormon and pamphelts and pass along cards none the less. We traveled to this giant underground shopping mall/subway station with a huge roman fountain (sounds pretty crazy I know) and proselyted on the subway and while we were there for several hours. I switched off and probably had 5 or so different companions and had a good time. We handed out a few Books of Mormon and pamphlets to people, and even met a less active member, a lady whose friend was a member, and got a few contacts of people who were interested in learning more. There was a lot of rejection as well but I think that the main thing I learned was just to smile and talk to everyone that I can and that if you talk to a lot of people you are bound to find a few that are willing to hear. After that we went out to dinner and returned to the mission home and did some interviews with the mission president.
The next day we met with everyone again and did more training, were addressed by the assistants to the president, the office elders, the misssion president, and were finally assigned our companions and area! My new companion is elder Luke and my first area is 광안! Elder Luke has been out for about a year and is from Boise Idaho. He went to BYU for a year before his mission as well and wants to study engineering or computer science. 광안 is a great area that is actually in a fairly downtown area of Busan. I already love it here and get along well with Elder Luke. Elder Luke is really talented at Korean (or at least that’s what everyone tells me) is the district leader of our area and is a hard working elder that I have already learned a lot from. I’ve enjoyed working with him so far and think we’ll have a few great transfers together. After we got our trainers we did some teaching practice together and did a few training exercises, got to know eachother a little bit, ate lunch, and then traveled with all my stuff on the subway to 광안.
Things in 광안 are going really well. A lot of people other missionaries tell me that 광안 is a great first area and that lots of people want to go here, so I think I lucked out pretty well! Like I said it is mostly downtown and we live on the 8th floor of this huge highrise and are surrounded with sky scrapers everywhere. Our apartment is actually pretty nice and we have lots of space because there are only 2 of us living there instead of 4. We serve with 2 other sisters in 광안 and then 4 elders in 해윤대 are in our district as well. We have a pretty nice and big church building (way smaller than any in the states) and our ward, which is apparently pretty huge, has about 60 members who attend every week.
So far here in 광안 i’ve already been to church (where I gave my first talk), taught a few lessons to our investigators, been out proselyting, gone to district meeting, taught english class, tried visitng less actives, helped out at a youth activity, and had a few meals/visited with the members. There is so much to learn and there is so much to do. Our days are jam packed. I think that compared to other areas 광안 has a lot going on but we have a few great progressing investigators and have a really strong ward. Nonetheless a lot of our time is spent working witht the ward mission leader, trying to contact less active members and former investigators, and more or less strenthening the ward that is here. The members are honestly amazing and are so nice to me, even though I have no idea what they are saying when they talk to me.
One thing that I really enjoy is teaching english class. We teach english class twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays and apparently have one of the busiest and biggest english classes in the mission. There are about 30 people who attended and we teach a basic, intermediate, and advanced class. My companion and I teach the intermediate class and have a really great group of people who are all close friends in the class. We even are teaching a few of them the missionary lessons too. They all have pretty great english (probably better than my Korean) and have given themselves funny english names like Grace Kelly or “the number 5” because his last name is 오 meaning 5 in Korean. We teach them pronounciation, grammar, and vocabulary and this weeks lesson was centered on Holidays. After the class one of the missionaries shares a spiritual message and we sing a hymn and open and close with a prayer. I can already see that this is a great opportunity not only to make a good name for the church and provide service to the community, but to meet new investigators and spread the word about the gospel. I like to teach people, and especially like english class, because, well, I can speak english.
I have probably written a ton and still have so much that I want to say, so look for another email next week! Sometimes I feel like a puppy dog following my trainer around and feel bad because I have no idea what anyone is saying but I know that it will all come with time and I just have to do everything I can and be patient. Hopefully over the next few weeks everything will fall into a rhythm and I can become adjusted to all the weird smells, foods, language, members names, and all that goes into being a missionary. I just try to be as nice as I can to everyone I meet and work as hard as possible. Wish me the best these next few weeks and let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for all the prayers, love, and support!