Sunday, August 28, 2016

Week 2 in Seoul

This is the view out our apartment window.  Can you see the orange lanterns?

These are the lanterns at night.  This little alley is lined with small cafes and shops.  We walk through here to get to our apartment building.  There are also some residences next to us.  All you can see is the exterior doors unless someone happens to have their door open.  It opens into a little courtyard and then into their home.

The street that the lantern street opens up to is a main street.  With shops like this:

Dunkin Donuts

Baskin Robbins and Popeye's Chicken.  Around the corner from Baskin Robbins is a Subway shop.

Our Japanese friends will be happy to know that Daiso is here too, next to Dunkin Donuts!

As we go up the street, we can see the mission office at the top of the hill.  The building used to be used as a chapel but is now the mission office.

This view is looking back down the street.  We finally had a day that was clear enough to get a good shot of Seoul Tower.

This one was taken from the mission home next door to the office.

This basketball court is next to the mission home too.  President Sonksen remembers playing ball here when he was a young missionary.

For several days this past week, we had missionaries at the office for training.  The majority of the districts are close enough that they can come in for that.  The Sonksens will be going out to the other area this next week.

Alan and President Sonksen and some of the elders walked up into the area above the office.  This property is also owned by the church.  Lots of church history in this area.

We had a dinner at the mission home for the senior couples who could come to say good bye to Elder & Sister Kelly. We also had some former missionaries come by.  Sister Sonksen had made a video of the Kelly's time here.  It was fun to share in their memories!

And the office elders were very happy about getting some leftovers!

Elder Kelly has done such a great job of showing us around Seoul.  On one of our forays, I came across a street with several cities displayed in the sidewalk.  I noticed Sydney, Tokyo, Hanoi, Washington DC

 and, Astana!  We were so happy to hear that the Area Office in Moscow has approved our friend's humanitarian project in Kazakhstan.  The work continues!

On Saturday Elder Kelly took us to the Seoul Arts Center.  It is a huge campus with a concert hall, museum, outdoor arenas, etc.  We listened to a concert of traditional Korean instruments.

Lots of upcoming events.  "Wicked" in Korean anyone?

The girls at the theater wore these cute hanbok style dresses.

They were setting up for an outdoor concert later that evening.

I liked this boat artwork

We had a wonderful time at church today.  One of our speakers was a young man from Viet Nam who joined the church a year ago.  And we had a young woman from Philadelphia who is of Korean descent and has been living here for several years.  She is returning to the states.  We also had a returned missionary.  He grew up in Seoul, so this is his home branch.  Even though he has red hair and doesn't look like a Korean, he served a foreign mission to Colorado!  We have quite a diverse group here.  

The branch president asked Alan & I to come to speak to the Aaronic Priesthood.  I think that's a first for me!

We wish the Kellys well on their return to the US.  We're on our own now.  We'll see how that goes!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Week 1 in Seoul

Our first day in Seoul was Sunday.  Elder Kelly came by to pick us up and show us how to get to church.  We rode a bus part way, then the subway, then walked a couple blocks.  It probably took 45 minutes.  It is an English branch with military and embassy families.  There's maybe 5 senior couples from both missions (Seoul and Seoul South) as well as some temple missionaries assigned to the Seoul Temple.  We enjoyed the talks, lessons and fellowship there.

Sister Kelly showed us how to find our way home.  Then later in the afternoon, Elder Kelly came by again and took us out to show us how to get to the mission office.  Part of his plan was to keep us from falling asleep too early so we could adjust from the jet lag.  So we went to the mission home (about 30 minutes from the apartment).  We rode a bus three stops, then had to walk up a hill.  It's a bit steep, but not too long of a hill (60 steps x 2)!

He also showed us around our neighborhood and for good measure had us hike up to a nearby park.  Too bad it's been the hottest summer ever here.  When we got home we were a hot mess ready for a shower and some sleep!

We woke up earlier than we wanted to, but we were fairly well rested.  We decided to just walk to the office instead of taking the bus part way.  The only hard part is at the end anyway.  Let's just say that I'm making good use of my walking shoes!

We worked with the Kellys to learn the system here in the office.  There's a lot of similarities with Japan, but also some differences.  Plus it has been about 8 months, so we're a bit rusty.

Monday was Korea's Independence Day too.  So we stopped work early to go out for some sights.  We are quite close to some palaces and landmarks.  Lots of people were dressed up in their national costume, hanbok.

I love the tennis shoes with the traditional dress!  Smart girl!

Lots of kids in the splash pad

We expected to hear some music or something.  We were either too late or too early for that.

Tuesday morning was Temple Day!  We had a nice session with some of our missionaries.  Before the session we had a testimony meeting with the ones going home this week.  We had a nice visit with the temple president, President Lee.  He set us apart as temple workers.

That evening, the missionaries going home had their final dinner at the mission home.  And we got invited to that too!  Here, Elder Kelly and the elders are singing.

Four sisters were returning home also.

One evening we decided to go off to Costco to see what they have.  We rode a subway and when we got out, we were looking at the map to get our bearings.  A lady saw us with our little cart and asked us "Costco?"  Well, how did you guess?  She pointed us the right direction and showed us 3 fingers.  So in 3 blocks, there we were!

While we were eating our pizza, a man came up and started talking to us (in Korean.)  When he noticed our blank stares, he started speaking in English!  He had noticed our name tags and said that one time he was in SLC.  He had missed a connecting flight and was told about the tour of Temple Square.  He said he had a wonderful visit in Salt Lake.

An interesting thing about the food court is that they serve your food on real plates.  When you're done, you scrape off any scraps and stack up your plate for the dishwasher!  And lots of people like to eat the onions from the hot dog condiments.

The new missionaries arrived from the MTC.  We had met some of them while we were there.  They met their trainers and got some instructions, and were off to their locations.

The mission office used to be used as a chapel, but when a tunnel was built, they lost the parking lot, so now it is used for the office.  It's handy to have a kitchen and a chapel and lots of space for training.  But that hill --- well, it's not too bad, unless you get rained on!

On Saturday, we were invited to go to a picnic in one of the distant branches (Wonju).  It is about 2 and a half hours away on a good day.  But it took us more like 4 hours to get there on Saturday.  There was lots of traffic and it took a long time to get out of the city.  Hundreds of apartment buildings for miles.  When we were out in the country, it reminded us of northern Japan with green hills / mountains.  

It is an area famous for pottery and dishes, so we stopped to visit the factory on the way.

It's amazing that we could just walk into the factory and see the equipment making plates.  It cuts off a chunk of clay then molds it into plates or bowls.

Elder Kelly got his uke out again for the kids!

We had an American style barbecue with hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and cupcakes.  Good thing we have some military people around to help us get American food.

This is at a rest stop on the way home.  The cups (stainless) are in the cabinet, water fountains next to it and when you're finished, you put your cups in the circle opening.

Like so!

After church on Sunday, we were invited to the branch president's home for dinner.  What a sweet family.  It was a great time with our new friends.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Week 2 at the MTC

Our second week at the MTC was devoted to mission office training.  Most of the couples in our group had served in a mission office previously, so it was mostly a refresher course and sharing tips.

Monday was my birthday, so we walked down to the BYU Creamery, because they hardly feed us enough at the MTC. (hah!)  And it was fun because we met a young woman from our ward in Vail!  Megan had just moved to Utah to go to school at UVU.

Our Tuesday devotional was extra good.  We suspected we were in for a great night when we were told to be in our seats earlier than usual.  It was not until just before the devotional started that we knew who the speaker was.  Usually they put up a notice of the speaker's name, but nothing this time.  Then everyone stood up and we couldn't see who it was!  But it was Elder Neil Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife.  It happened to be Elder Andersen's birthday, so one of the prelude songs was "Happy Birthday to You!"  This devotional was also broadcast to all the other MTCs.  It was a very special night.

The new group of missionaries that came in on Wednesday was smaller, only 500 this time.  We watched them getting dropped off by their parents for a while.  Such a tender moment for a family!

After our classes ended on Thursday, we finished up some laundry and packing to get ready for our travel.  Our flight was from SLC to Detroit (3.5 hours), then on to Seoul (13 hours).  We did not have a long layover in Detroit, but we had no trouble making the connection.  The flight turned out better than expected, but still very very long.

We had a long walk and then a train ride to get to customs when we arrived in Seoul.  When the train came, it was almost full.  One of us made it on the train and one of us was left behind.  A girl standing by me asked if that was my husband?  Well yes it was and by the way, I'm so glad you speak English.  Yeah, she says.  I'm from Florida.  It's my first time here.  Okaaaaay!  So she rode with me to the next stop and there he was.

President and Sister Sonksen picked us up at the airport.  It was easy to pick her out in the crowd.  She was the only blonde I could see!  We walked out of the air conditioned airport into the hot humid night and my glasses steamed up!  Just like Kazakhstan, only backwards.  (Going from a heated place out into the cold.)

They took us to our apartment, dropped us off and let us get some sleep.

Bedroom (King size bed)

The furniture has been donated by a military family.  It is a very comfortable place!  The previous couple has prepared very well for us and left us well stocked.

Monday, August 8, 2016

August 7, 2016 MTC, Jackson Baker Williams

We got up early on August 1st so Sunny could drive us to the airport.  It had rained during the night, so it was a beautiful morning.

We rode the shuttle from the airport to the MTC in Provo.  We were the last senior couple to arrive since our plane landed at the time we were supposed to arrive.  We had a couple of mix ups, but eventually made it to our room and got checked in just in time for lunch!

Even though we've been through this before, there is such a great spirit here at the MTC.  We met some missionaries from Logan (the Karrens who know Aunt Vonda), a couple going to South Africa where my cousin and his wife will be headed, another couple going to Korea to be with military relations.  Oh, and of course, a couple going to the Polynesian Cultural Center.

One couple in our district (the Alemans) had been in the Russia Novosibirsk Mission just before we arrived there.  The Fairchilds had been in Cambodia with the Thalmans (our wheel chair specialists).  The other couple (the McDougals) have served on Temple Square and are headed to Accra Ghana to help with BYU-I Pathways.

The first week is on "Preach My Gospel".  It is mostly taught by young returned missionaries.  We loved getting to know them and hearing of their experiences.  We also are able to watch some videos of training given at the MTC by the apostles.  A special one was by Elder Bednar on the Character of Christ.  It is about the difference between having a testimony and being truly converted.

Our afternoon teacher was Brother Brown

Our morning teachers were Sister Clark and Sister Richins

The Tuesday night devotional was given by Bishop Christopher Waddell.  He spoke about the difference between going on a mission and "serving" a mission.

We also met some missionaries with Russian name tags, so we asked if anyone is going to Kazakhstan in this group.  We were able to meet two elders and showed them some of our photos about our experiences.

And, we've met some Japanese and Korean missionaries too.  We even met an elder from Tucson that used to be in our ward!

We had not seen Elder Power since he was a deacon!

When the new missionaries came in on Wednesday, we were amazed at how crowded it got!  They had 820 new elders & sisters enter that day.  It sure got crowded and noisy in the cafeteria!

Friday morning, we got a text from Sunny to check our Facebook page.  Heather and Nate had gone to the hospital during the night and our posterity has increased to 19 grandchildren!

Jackson Baker Williams is named after Nate's grandfather Jack, and Heather's grandfather Foster Baker Allen.  We're so grateful that all is well!

These girls are in love with their baby brother (so far)

His parents hope he get his days and nights straight soon!

I had to excuse myself from our class for a few minutes to skype with Heather and see our little man.  It was a tender morning for me.  Someone said, "This will be the hardest day of your mission!"  So if this is the hardest day of our mission, I'll be a happy missionary!

Friday afternoon, we were picked up by Mark, Alan's brother.  We went to dinner with the Andersons.  Scott brought grandma so we could say good bye one more time.  Seth came down from Logan too.  We were able to go to the Provo City Center Temple on Saturday.

When we returned to the MTC Sunday evening, we had a devotional with Matthew Holland, the President of UVU.  Their son just went into the Mexico City MTC this week, so the Holland's were a little bit emotional looking at all those missionaries!  He spoke about the Pathway to Palmyra and the challenges that Joseph Smith endured.  The musical numbers were wonderful too, "Praise to the Man", "Joseph Smith's First Prayer", "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief", and of course "Called to Serve"!  It was a great night.