Saturday through today, Monday, is one of Korea’s biggest holidays: Chuseog, or as we know it, Thanksgiving! It is very similar to our own Thanksgiving because it is all about families and food…so. Much. Food. Stores and families have been stocking up on food and supplies for weeks in preparation! I was crazy busy serving and being served all weekend. Friday evening my companion and I bought supplies to make messages for some of our investigators and members. We took a picture, together, and decorated cards with magnets on the back with Psalm 100:1-2 written below. On Saturday, we left the apartment early and went to a member’s house to help them cook for Sunday, the official day of festivities. It’s always hard work for a sister missionary in Korea to earn a meal because we always help finish the dinner preparations and then clean up afterwards. I didn’t quite understand what we were doing besides cooking, so when I saw the mountains of food that we were frying up, I was slightly horrified that I’d have to eat all that food! But, after we cooked, the members had a simpler lunch ready for us to eat. No worries. That night we had a dinner appointment elsewhere and did eat some of the same fried up food that we laboriously prepared that afternoon. Thanksgiving was kind of a pancake holiday. There is a special Korean pancake mix that is made with eggs and absolutely anything else. I first had it with leeks, onions, and Korean pumpkin, which may not sound very good, but it’s DELICIOUS! This weekend, we made pancakes with sesame leaves, crab, octopus, fish, ham, onions and peppers… anything you can think of in a pancake! I also learned to play a Korean traditional instrument called a Haegeum. It has two strings and is played with a bow in between them. After my mini lesson I could play a scale and Twinkle Twinkle. I was exhausted afterwards! Sunday morning everyone in Korea went first to the husband’s family home and then to the mother’s. In both places they visit the family grave and celebrate their ancestors with a ceremony. I’m not sure what the ceremony is, but I know that everyone brings the food they prepared on Saturday for a picnic and they eat tons and tons of fruit! Therefore, so did I; I had so many delicious apples, grapes, and Asian pears that I think I’ve had my year’s supply!
On Sunday, we had a lunch and a dinner appointment, so again I was stuffed with amazing food. A Korean meal is much more elaborate than an American meal because there are usually a few main items and side dish upon side dish upon side dish. The more you eat, the more they love you…which of course means the more they feed you! It’s a vicious cycle. For Korean Thanksgiving, people wear hanboks, which is the Korean traditional dress. So many people at church were wearing their hanboks! It was awesome! I got a picture of a whole family wearing theirs, they looked super great!
The holiday weekend was finished up with my first mountain adventure this morning. As my companion and I rode the bus to meet up with one of the member families, everyone on the bus was decked out in hiking gear, from poles to backpacks. Everyone was retreating to the mountain, probably to work off all the food they’d been eating. But when I started climbing the mountain, and especially when I got to the top of the mountain where there was a Buddhist temple and monastery, I understood why. It was so peaceful and amazing, a wonderful way to end a weekend of honoring family. There was a Buddhist monk doing chants in the different buildings where people were bowing and honoring ancestors. At one point I was standing eating fruit (normal) with the Korean family I was with and he was looking down the mountain at us. I turned and bowed to him because…well, it just seemed like what you do when a Buddhist monk is looking at you. He got this Giant smile on his face and bowed back, then turned and went about his business. It was awesome. Even though I’m not Buddhist and I don’t even speak Korean very well, I understood why this Monk and so many Koreans had retreated to the mountain, either to live or just for the afternoon. The beauty and serenity of that place reminded me of all my blessings and I felt closer to heaven surrounded by so much wonder. This week I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what it means to really be dedicated to my mission and how much harder I am capable of working. The time I’ve been given to serve the Lord and His children in this special way is so short! I haven’t even been here three weeks and I already feel behind. There are so many people to talk to and I have so little time, and so little words with which to do it right now. What has helped me most to keep in mind that it’s all possible and that all I need to do is try my very best is remembering all the blessings I have already received in my life, whether that is just knowledge of the gospel, a great family, this opportunity to serve, friends to love and love me, but especially the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for each of us. Anytime I feel the least bit of doubt or discouragement, I just remember that because he suffered for each of us, he knows us perfectly and can comfort me and give me strength and courage to do what is right and hard. I feel His love every day when I open my mouth and talk to someone, when I say another prayer, when I suddenly make a connection to the scriptures I’d never noticed, when a member offers to buy me a burger (which is what ‘d been secretly hoping for), and really anything! I hope that even after my mission I can be as aware of his continual love as I am now, even when it isn’t Thanksgiving weekend!
I am so thankful for all of your letters, love, prayers, support, and for just being you! Thank you for being in my life!