Thursday, May 26, 2011

Korea 2 fast 2 furious

This is Mitch with more from our trip to Heaven, I mean Korea.  On our way to see the temple by the beach (Yong-Gung-Sa), we were able to walk through some of the areas that I spent most of my time in while serving in the area.  It was an incredible feeling to exit the subway and just be back amongst the shops and the people that were so familiar to me.  I felt removed from them in the sense that I no longer felt a heavy responsibility to talk with each of them and seek out the ones who wanted to listen to the gospel.  It was an interesting experience to see everything kind of as an outsider.  I realized what an incredibly emotional time a mission is.  As beautiful as this area is, it was a particularly hard area for me: which translates to I learned a lot about myself and the Lord that I still try to apply all the time.  Wonderful memories.

This is a picture of me standing in front of the apartments we used to live in.  I can't remember which one we were in, so take your pick!  The missionaries don't live here anymore.  In fact, they don't live in any of the places I used to live, so no inside pictures.  It was way nice and always extremely, extremely clean (Just ask Kels or my Mom). 
You can kind of get a feel for the area we worked in from this picture.  There are rows and rows and rows and rows of apartment buildings that are organized in a kind of big circle.  The church is almost right in the middle, which is sweet because everyone has seen it as they walk along this path.  We used to love to stand on the path and talk to people (hopefully families) as they were walking home or to the store or to school.  Elder Harrison and I would always have to cut our conversations with people short if we happened to be talking to people going in opposite directions.  It was always an art trying to keep an eye over your shoulder on your companion while focusing all of your attention on bearing testimony to whoever you were walking next to.

As were coming back from the temple and heading toward some potential shopping we stopped by the church one more time.  I didn't plan on meeting anyone from the ward, but once I was there I found myself hoping we could see somebody.  The places aren't nearly as important as the people.  I was astonished to find these members of the ward talking in the parking lot of the church.  The one in the sweet blue jacket is the bishop now and was the second counselor at the time I was a missionary.  He also works as the church custodian cleaning churches all over the mission.  I basically saw him every week I was in Korea and he would occasionally ask us to help him clean the carpets or something.  He is an amazing man with no money, a great family, and lots of happiness.

The other couple love the church and have two daughters who have served missions and who are now living in Utah.  They visit all the time.  The brother said to Kelsie, "I think I have seen you before!  Maybe in a shopping mall in Utah or something."  Kels: "Ya, probably!"  Some or all of that may have been in Korean.  There's no way this guy has ever seen Kelsie before in his life : ). 

This was one of Kels's favorite meals that we had in Korea.  BulGoGi!  It's the kind of stuff that you get in America when you go get "Korean BBQ."  It is pretty good stuff.  The only bad part was that apparently the smoking laws haven't made it across the Pacific because we were swimming in smoke in that place.  The food was awesome though, and cheap!  It also became clear that I did not master my meat cooking skills the first 2 years in Korea because the waitress came over while we were enjoying our meal and yelled at me for burning the grill!  She apologized later, but I could tell she was still a little bit irked.  


The next day was one of the days I had been looking forward to the most as I was planning.  It also happened to be the day that Kelsie was dreading the most.  And for the same reason -- KOREAN BATH HOUSE!!!!  To imagine the sheer awesomeness of a Korean bath house you need to combine the cleanliness of a Saturday morning shower, the excitement of spelunking in some sweet caves, the exhilaration of an amazon waterfall, the relaxation of a tropical spa, the beauty of Olympic diving, the suspense of Sea World, the magic of Disneyland, and some Korean nudity all into one.

That is all Mitch could write with his very busy schedule so here I am back to tell my side of the bath house story. 

I was super nervous about the whole bath house experience in the first place. It only got worse when the two ladies at the front desk who were checking us in couldn't stop laughing at me- and I still had clothes on at that point.

Mitch and I decided to go down to the common area first where you could leave your clothes on. Good choice. I changed into the cutest Korean Grandma pj's ever and went down to where I thought I was supposed to meet Mitch. I started wondering what he would have to wear- maybe a speedo? After a few minutes of waiting and hoping I wasn't lost, Mitch came down the stairs wearing the exact same pair of the cutest Korean Grandma pj's ever, just a different print.

We felt so stylin walking around the common area. You could nap in an igloo or an oven- take your pick. We went inside both of them for a minute but I just kept imagining the door getting stuck on us and either freezing or burning alive so we didn't stay long.

We separated and went back to the locker rooms to go out to the spa. I was so nervous walking in there with absolutely no clothes on. What if I was the only one naked in there and Mitch had lied to me the whole time?  But I walked in and was wearing the right uniform, if you know what I mean. At first it was really awkward, but after about 20 minutes, everyone had noticed that I was American and different and stopped looking at me funny. There was a hot tub, cold tub, nice showers, a lap pool, little caves to swim around in, a green tea bath, and my favorite, a waterfall massager.

Mitch had talked up the bath house so much but I thought no way am I going to love it that much. But seriously, it was so relaxing and fun! I was so surprised by how much I liked it. Definitely an experience to remember.

After getting all clean and relaxed at the bath house, we walked over to see the mission home and met some missionaries there.

The Elders who were in the office at the time. Thanks for being in the picture! 

Our next stop was shopping!!! Big let down. First of all, I don't love shopping. Second of all, Mitch haaaates shopping. I don't know why we thought we would like it in Korea, but we tried. Most of the places we went to looked like stores in the US and were just as expensive or more. Mitch started his following at a short distance behind me and looking really bored act which he does whenever he is about to lose it while we're shopping so we left pretty quick. I did find some cute Vans for 20$ though!

Instead of shopping, we went to the "World Famous Fish Market." It was way more fun than shopping. So many disgusting eels and octopus and stuff that I didn't even recognize!

Mitch started talking to this funny Korean lady who was selling these fish shaped pastries filled with sweet bean. Yum right? I asked her if I could take a picture of her and at first she wouldn't let me. She told me to take a picture of the pastries, not an old Grandma, so I did, and caught her holding Mitch's hand! She finally let us take a picture of her.

                We took a hike up to the Pusan Tower and saw the view of the beautiful city.


We went to dinner with Im Dong Shik, a guy that Mitch had taught while on his mission, and his cute wife. Mitch would translate for me most of the time, but I loved to just sit back and listen to Mitch speak Korean and see how he interacted with the wonderful people (and food) that he loves so much.

     The next morning, we rented a car to drive down and see some other areas that Mitch served in. We didn't recognize the symbol on the back of the car and we found out it was a Samsung car. Samsung makes cars?! In Korea I guess they're all over the place.

We first stopped in Kimhae where Mitch was a brand new missionary. We drove through lots of  beautiful rice fields and countryside on the way.

Kimhae was beautiful and had a lot of hills. Mitch rode bikes while he served in this area and he was so excited to show me the hills he would bike up full speed. Some of them were super steep! I was glad we were in a car.

After about 20 minutes of trying to find this specific restaurant that Mitch said we just had to eat at, we finally found it guided by a nice man who taught clarinet lessons. Mitch was right, it was amazing! Yu-Gan-Nae makes the best bogeumbap. It was so spicy I drank so many little cups of water and sprite!

                               We got some ice cream and went to this pretty little park.

                                                    Next stop was the church in Kimhae!

                             We drove on to Chang-Won where we stopped at Mitch's old house.

This round-a-bout is enormous! They built it big enough for planes to land in case of war. They had tulips planted all around it.

                                                      The church in Chang-Won

                           We drove on to Chin-Ju which was a really cool city on the river.

We stopped for dinner in Chin-Ju and decided on pizza. I needed a little American food after so many crazy but good Korean meals. Mitch and I had some struggles deciding on what to order. Pizza is pretty expensive in Korea and I'm cheap so I wanted to just order one and share it. Mitch's worst fear is not having enough food (which probably came about being raised with four other hungry brothers) so he wanted to order two.

I convinced him I didn't need half the pizza and that we would be ok with just one. 

Let's just say Mitch wasn't too excited when it came out looking this small.
At least we had some classic pickles to go with it. Koreans have to have pickles with their pizza.

When we got back to our car, there was a parking ticket on our window. Of course! As Mitch was trying to figure out the Korean writing, a Korean man on a little scooter who was obviously the one giving the tickets drove up to us. Mitch asked why we got a ticket and how much it was and the man pointed to the payment machine where we should have payed. He told us it was only a dollar. As we were paying him he said, "You could have just driven away. This is a long street and I wouldn't have gotten to you." Well that's good to know. That's not really how it works in the US, but I like the policy.

We got on the road again and headed to an island off Korea called Kojedo. After driving around and around, we finally found the Lighthouse Hotel where we stayed for the night.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kicking it in Korea

Our trip to Korea...Best 10 days ever. We took a trip to tour where Mitch served his mission in Pusan, South Korea.We started planning for this trip last December and it always seemed so far away and now I can't believe it's over and done. It's always kind of sad coming home from something that you've planned for and looked forward to for months. But the memories we made and experiences we had will last forever!

Mitch did such a great job planning everything from hotels, activities, meeting with people, food, transportation, everything. He made the trip amazing. I think he was honestly in heaven the entire time we were there.
The flight over was long and a little claustrophobic, nothing unexpected there. We were both so tired by the time we got there, we would crash every time we sat down.

We flew into Seoul to see Mitch's mission president who is now the Seoul Temple President. We got off the plane and had to take an hour subway to where the temple was. In this picture, Mitch is holding on with both hands to stay standing on the subway, but I think it looks like Mitch would have made a cute cheerleader. He was that excited to get to Korea!

After the subway ride, we hauled our luggage around the crowded streets of Seoul looking for the temple. We decided to grab a taxi and finally made it.

President Song and his wife were seriously so nice to us. They let us stay in their 'spare house' and had us over for dinner, breakfast, and lunch while we were there. President Song's policy is he won't invite any of his former missionaries to visit him unless they have a wife. He's pretty serious about it too. :) 

 Sunday night, we took a bullet train down to Pusan. The first three nights, we stayed in Haeundae right on the beach.

Mitch was so excited to get to Pusan! Everywhere we went brought back so many memories for him and he would say that's where we would check our mail, that's where we would knock on doors all day long, that's the bus that we would take to church. A few times, he would say things like, oh that's the apartments we met so and so at. And then a couple apartments over, he would say oh wait no that's the apartment we met them at. I know it's hard to remember after 5 years all the specific places, but it just made me laugh.

The best example of this was at one of his apartments where he had lived. He said all thoughtfully "Oh here's the place where I'd come and get digits (his favorite Korean cookies) at night sometimes." As we passed it, I noticed it was a laundromat. "In that laundromat?" "Ok maybe it wasn't right here but somewhere around here." We had a good laugh after that one.

 This was the first dinner Mitch ordered for me. You'd think he'd order me something a little mild to ease me into Korean food, but this soup was his first choice. I like most of the food, but this one was a little weird for me.

I struggled to get any meat off of the bones with my very limited chopstick skills and the owner of the restaurant must have noticed because she finally couldn't take it anymore and came and picked the meat off the bones for me like I was a 5 year old bless her heart. I wasn't even sure I wanted the meat anyway. Mitch loved it of course.

Our hotel was right on the beach and only 40$ a night! Just what we were looking for.

 Mitch treated us to his classic mission breakfast...digits and pineapple juice. So healthy and delicious.

 The beach was beautiful but a little too cold for swimming. I packed three swimming suits and didn't use one of them.

Mitch looking out onto the city where he worked so hard with so many people that he loved.

We stopped for some Korean fast food that Mitch lived off on his mission and met the cutest elementary students out on a field trip. They were so excited to see Americans and to practice their English.

                           Another funny thing in Korea. All the translated English signs...

At another beach just down the road, we got our daily exercise in at some classic Korean public workout machines in the mountains.

Didn't know they made hula hoops this big.


We went to this really cool Buddhist temple on a mountain right off the beach.

More pics and fun stories to come...