As I try to view Korea through the eyes of my new missionary companion, I’m reminded of so many bizarre experiences I had when I first came. Like when a toothless grandmother kissed my hand or when an old man grabbed me on a bus so he could better read my nametag. People LOVE my companion’s FACE! On Saturday we were wandering around a neighborhood (I used to be so good at reading maps) trying to visit members and talk to people when we stopped on a street corner to look confused and check our map. This old grandpa walked up and not-so-subtly was staring at us. Because of the culture in Korea, we don’t say hello or talk to men, but I’ve decided that if someone is going to stare, then I have every right to explain my presence and talk to them! Clearly they are curious, right? So I said hello. He got this HUGE smile on his face and approached us and asked us the normal questions: Why are you here? Why can you speak Korean? How long have you been here? Where are you from? How old are you? How do you like Korea? and so forth. He even gave us his phone number and told us to call so we could visit! The conversation was pretty funny because after the original arsenal of questions, he just started gesturing and using hand motions instead of speaking Korean. First he turns to me and used both his hands to indicate my face…then he smiled really big and gave me a double thumbs up. Then he turned to Sister Stradling and took her face in his two big, “meaty” (her word, not mine) hands and squeezed her face, classic grandpa-style. Then he took her hands and shook them with pure happiness and squeezed her face one more time. I was dying! slash shocked and probably should have done something.
THEN on Sunday a similar thing happened! We were walking home after church and someone from behind calls out, “Excuse me!” so we turn around to find a foreigner catching up to us. He asks us where we are from and it turns out, he is from Uzbekistan! Definitely a first for me. So he walks with us and in a combination of broken/I’m going to say drunken English and Korean we explain why we’re here and have basically the same conversation as with the grandpa, phone number and all. Then he doesn’t go away. We’re pretty close to home, so I try to take a circular path thinking he’ll go on his merry way soon, but he doesn’t. When stuff like this happens, I call the elders. Apparently while I was on the phone trying to come up with a game plan to get the elders to come save us, our Uzbekistani friend told my companion that he didn’t like her hair and started styling it for her!!! Ah, I’m a terrible trainer! I get off the phone and tell him that we suddenly have an appointment we need to go to and then he pets my face, too!! Gross, I’m pretty sure I smelled weird the rest of the day. We walked away from our apartment and quickly hopped the first bus we saw, leaving him behind waving…Unfortunately, the bus we got on only has a few stops around town, so it took us 45 minutes to walk back home. I’ll do better protecting my companion.
Friday was BUDDHA’S BIRTHDAY! So no one had school or work and there were lanterns hanging all over town and concerts and hanboks everywhere! It was super cool, especially because our stake had Sports Day! Sports Day = Sister missionaries wearing pants. YES! Since coming to Korea I’ve developed an overly stereotypical Korean affinity for all forms of soccer. I played soccer, passed around a volleyball, participated in a relay, and enjoyed a day out in the sun with awesome Gwangju members. We rode over with our Ward Mission Leader Brother Kim and his wife Sister Park and played hangman in the car. He started with a three letter word with an “o” in the middle. We were majorly struggling, until I guessed “n” out of sheer hope. He said that was right! We tried to guess more but he said that was the whole word: “non.” What? So we tried to say that’s only part of a word, not an actual word, so he gave us the Korean word and I looked it up. NUN! With a “u” not an “o.” Hilarious. I love playing hangman, especially with Koreans! Everything is better with Koreans!
Last story! When we were wandering around Saturday looking for members’ homes, there was one address marked on our map that had two names that I didn’t know, nor that were on our records. But, it was close to someone else’s house, and maybe we would find some long lost soul! Crazier things have happened. It was dark by the time we got there, so it was a little hard to find, but not bad. We knocked on the second story door, above a closed shop, but there was no answer. We wandering around some more, but decided that this really was right, so I tried the doorbell across the little creepy hallway. I hadn’t tried it before because it was next to a door of a clinic or something. When I did that, our mystery door clicked open. Normally when that happens, someone comes inquiring, but no one came. So I shouted up the stairs that were directly behind this now open door. A man shouted at us, so I felt a little more confident walking in. I called out if the sister whose name is on the map was there, and a woman responded…so we kept going up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, the door to the house opened and low and behold there was our Ward Mission Leader and his wife, the same two we had just enjoyed a few rounds of hangman with! I was SO confused and horrified because a few weeks before he had told us to never, EVER visit his house without and appointment, and here we were visiting…on accident! We told them what happened and apologized profusely. They, of course, thought it was Hilarious and gave us two oranges. I also showed Sister Park the General Conference talk by Sister Dalton that I was going to give to the sister we had been trying to visit. She said that it was the perfect talk for that sister! But, unfortunately, no one knows where she lives. I have a feeling that just seeing that talk reminded Sister Park that she, too, is a special daughter of God. So even though it wasn’t who we were looking for, I believe we were still in the right place at the right time. Funny how that happens to me all the time on my mission.