Last Tuesday I received my shiny new nametags! This may not seem very exciting, but think about the first time you read my last name “Roueche.” Imagine how confused you were… Now pretend like you don’t speak English and your alphabet doesn’t look anything like the English language. That is what all the Koreans have been suffering with for weeks! Now, though, my nametag reads both “Sister Roueche” and “루쉐 자매” for all to be able to read!
The first day I wore this new nametag brought with it many adventures. After visiting a friend in the morning, we hopped on a bus to travel to a lunch appointment across town. My companion got on the bus first, and I followed. I was not five feet onto the bus before an older man grabbed my arm and dragged me down to his level so he could read my nametag. Fortunately, he kept me steady as the bus lurched forward so I didn’t fall over… or on top of him. I wasn’t really sure what to do, there is no “Excuse me” in the Korean language, so I just read my nametag to him and told him I was a missionary. Within a few seconds my companion realized I was not behind her, turned around and immediately garnered the most adorable look of panic I’ve ever seen, and came running to my rescue. Remember, there is no “Excuse me” so she just said “Hello, hello!” By this point he looked satisfied and let go of my arm, releasing me to go sit down. My companion says I had a smile on my face the whole time, but maybe my astonished face looks like I’m smiling… I’m not sure. Later that night, we were riding on the bus again and I noticed a lady staring at my nametag from across the aisle. I turned and said, “Hello!” She asked if we were Mormons and I said yes and showed her the Korean Book of Mormon I always carry as proof. She chuckled. I then asked her where she was going. She was going to church, and so were we! She then proceeded to ramble on for many minutes and told me some story that I only got a few glimpses of, but I contributed some “I see”s and “Really?”s in there for good measure. Then when she proceeded to get off the bus I said some nice words to her, hoping she had a nice time and so forth. Then I turned to my companion and asked her to fill me in. The lady had no idea I didn’t understand what she said! I only wish I did understand better!
The language is definitely coming better. Since I understand so much less than I did at the MTC (where none of us could speak really anything and our teachers were kind in how much vocabulary they were using) it sometimes feels like I’m not making any progress! But, last night we had dinner with two LDS families and I shared the spiritual message during dessert. Every time we visit with members, we still keep our purpose in mind – to invite others to Christ – so we always share a message, even though they may be doing everything already. I had practiced what I wanted to say a few times, but sitting there all together around the 8-inch high table, I wasn’t nervous at all, nor did I feel like I was struggling for the words I wanted to remember. As I bore my testimony of the importance of the scriptures for our families and the important role of parents in God’s plan, I felt great peace and warmth. I knew that not only I knew what I was saying and that it was true, but that the other people around me knew and understood it, too.
Every time I see a dog in Korea, I automatically want to say, “Hello!!” But after I get no response, I remember that dogs in Korea probably speak more Korean than I do! With “hello,” in Korean naturally comes a small bow. This week my companion and I were walking down a road and a dog was tied up waiting for its owner to finish up some outdoor work. We said “안녕하세요!” and bowed, and the dog BOWED BACK! I kid you not. It was AWESOME! We tried it a few times until the dog got bored with us and ignored us, no more bowing. So, as we walked away we said our goodbyes and bowed again, and he bowed in response to our farewell, too. I know exactly what trick I’m teaching my dog when I go home…