It’s August! And I have been here at the MTC for almost seven weeks…I think. The weeks are starting to blur together and they go by so fast that I hardly notice the weeks going by.
I typed something up in Korean for everyone to take to their friendly neighborhood Korean friends to translate, but alas, this computer won’t let me copy and paste from the keyboard tool, so you’ll have to wait till I am in Korea struggling to find a computer that will let me type in English. Believe it or not (and I know it’s hard for me to even believe), I’ll be in Korea just a few days more than a month from now! My district has been much more diligent as of late in practicing the language. The day after we made it a district goal to speak more, our teacher randomly gave us a few ideas about how to make SYL (speak your language) more fun! Speaking in Korean isn’t not fun, it can just be disheartening for some people who struggle to put a sentence together in their mind, so by making it a game, everyone will want to participate. The first game was called The Native, and we played it on Saturday. Everyone pulls from a “hat” and whoever pulls the paper that says “native” on it has to speak in Korean until the game is over. Everyone else is encouraged to also speak Korean, however, because at the end of the day we all guess who it is! I failed, it was actually my companion, but she was sneaky and tricked me early in the day by asking if I was the native, putting me off of her trail. The other game is called the Eraser Game and we played it Monday. Everyone has to speak in Korean, and if you say anything in English it’s ok, unless someone else can say whatever your English statement was in Korean before you catch yourself. If they say it before you in Korean, or maybe you just didn’t know how to say it in Korean, then the other person gets your watch. We decided to play with watches and not erasers because none of us had big erasers to bargain with, and watches are a prized possession in the MTC since we don’t have cell phones to check for the time. It’s amazing to me how much I can say when I really put my heart in it.
Yesterday we started practicing door approaches. A door approach is what we call it when we go tracting, or pick a street and knock on every door hoping to find someone who needs a good message about hope or eternal families. It never occurred to me that we should practice what to say to the kind people who open the door to us, but it can make a big difference. It was entertaining until our teacher asked my companion and me to knock on his “door.” We struggled to even make sentences! Apparently in Korea, everyone is super polite, but brutally honest. I haven’t quite figured out what that means, but I started to get a glimpse yesterday as our teacher was very friendly and willing to listen to us at his front door. Then as we quickly began tripping over what to share and what he was even saying to us, he slowly closed his door until all we could see was his nose! He gave us a quick evaluation and said that we seemed very nice, but if we can’t relate our message to the people we are talking to, they will slowly begin to close their door. Koreans won’t want to be rude and close the door on you, so they will just close it slowly until you get the idea. I am very determined, so we’ll see how that works out. I asked our teacher if we made any sense and he replied with a very straightforward, “No.” Blast! Better luck next time…which will probably be tomorrow.
Something that I have recently learned about Korean: it is really hard. According to some it is the first or second hardest language for native English speakers to learn. This is the sort of thing that they are smart not to tell us on the first day when within the first hour they teach you the alphabet. On Saturdays, when we teach both returned missionaries who served Korean speaking missions and native Koreans some gospel topic, one of the coordinators frequently tells us that when he is teaching Italian to missionaries and they complain about the difficulty of the language, he takes them on a quick field trip to the Korean classrooms. It only needs to be quick, because within five minutes the Italian missionaries are re-motivated and overly grateful to be learning Italian and not anything else. For me, I’m overly grateful to be learning Korean and not anything else. We get along very well! This past Sunday, our branch president had an hour long lesson where he taught just us sister missionaries about Buddhism and Confucius. This was much appreciated on my part because I didn’t know anything about these two major philosophies and religions. But more than the knowledge he gave us, my favorite part was when he told us not to be offended when Koreans, especially old ladies, laugh at us. He said they are so appreciative of our efforts to learn their language and will jump at any chance to teach us something about the language if we ask. 98% of Korea is…Korean. One of my teachers said that sometimes in the country, people would literally run away from him because they had never seen a foreigner before except in the media. So foreigners who actually speak Korean? A novelty, and one they love and are entertained by, so we shouldn’t be shy!