Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Week 3

Well, we're the oldest Korean missionaries here now. Starting Sunday night, everyone began leaving according to their missions and nationality. As Zone Leaders, Elder Lee (The new ZL, and no he's not Korean, even though his last name is Lee) had to check and sign everyone off on the cleanliness of their rooms before they would be able to go. The first batch of missionaries departing was at 9:00 PM and was all the Korean natives going to the Pusan mission. Problem is, Elder Lee and I couldn't find them anywhere - they weren't at the dorms, they weren't in the classrooms, at the travel office, main building, or anywhere else we looked. Finally, at 8:50 and after running all over the MTC countless times, we figured that we weren't going to run into them before they would be leaving so we just ran to the front of the MTC where the buses would be.

There they were, all 20 plus Koreans, saying goodbye to the six that were getting on the buses and departing that evening. It was so touching, seeing how much love they all had for one another. All of them were crying, especially Sister Lee (this time, it's a Korean Lee) because her brother was one of the ones going to the Pusan mission and she'll be in the Daejeon mission, so they won't see each other for two years. They all said goodbye one last time, and Elder Lee and I were lucky enough to be the only Americans there saying goodbye with them. Being here at the MTC with the Korean natives for two weeks has been such a great experience, I already love the Korean people so much - and I'm not even in Korea yet. We didn't even sign off their papers because we didn't want to barge in there and mess up their heart-felt goodbye. Oh well haha, they're in Korea now - what's the MTC janitor staff going to do about it?

The rest of Sunday night was spent checking and signing off the rest of the missionaries. It took forever and we didn't get to bed until 1:00. When we woke up, everyone was gone because they left at 3:00 in the morning. It was extremely weird and it's been even more weird for the last two days. Before Sunday, there were almost 60 Elders in the Korean Branch. Now there's only 12. Nights and P-days are much quieter now, it's actually kind of sad. I guess we'll be able to focus now more, so that's a good thing. Luckily, I got all the good stuff passed down to me from the older Elders. One of the things is The Blanket (yes, The is capitalized). It's a quilted blanket that has been passed down from Elder to Elder for years, one Elder per MTC stay. The current owner of The Blanket decorates and signs one of the quilted squares. Then, when he leaves the MTC, he chooses the coolest of the newer Elders and passes it down to him. Respectfully, I was chosen. Haha. Anyway, I can't wait until the new batch of missionaries come on the 17th, it'll be tons of fun to get new, fresh meat (aren't I still new though??).

Finally, I'll leave you with a spark of inspiration I received while eating rice krispie treats a couple days ago. Almost everyone gets fat here at the MTC, it's just what happens. But why? Well, many people blame the food. Others blame the fact that we sit all day. Well I am here telling you that both theories are wrong. It's not the cafeteria food, or the sitting down, but the countless amounts of treats (chips, candy, soda, girl scout cookies, etc) that we get in our packages. I love the treats, don't get me wrong, but it's just totally to blame here. Luckily, I have gained nothing........ yet.

I'll send pictures next week. I sort of promise.

Elder Graf

ALSO, here's a big PS. I saw Haley! It was so nice to see somebody from the outside haha, and she was decked out in her cafeteria worker clothes - looking all shnazzy and stuff. I'm sure it's cool for her to be working at the place that she will soon be eating at as a missionary. Anyway, talk to you next week.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Week 2

Week 2! A lot has happened, I've only taken a few pictures, only one is worth sending. But I'll take more soon, I promise. First things first, some of you who have written letters to me are confused. Korean Elders means all of the Americans called to Korean missions, not native Koreans. They keep the languages together, so we're always eating with, going to gym with, and rooming with all of the Korean speaking (American) Elders. So hopefully that clears up confusion.

Second: Wow! Thank you to all of you who have sent me letters and packages! Seriously, it makes my day when I get a handful of letters and package slips. As far as writing you all back, I'll try my hardest, but finding the time to do that here at the MTC is really difficult. Also, for the next six weeks I'm going to be here, I'm going to be even busier because I've been called as the new Zone Leader for my branch. The old Zone Leaders are heading off to Korea next week so I'm taking their place, as well as another new ZL who will be called next week. Funny thing is, I've only been here for 2 weeks and I know as much Korean as a rock. But it's okay, it's coming (I think I'm supposed to say that hahaha). Currently, our branch has over 100 people in it, but after all of the older Elders and Sisters leave next week, we'll only have 32 people. It will be like that until the next wave of newbies come in on April 17th (Look at me, all my ZL knowledge). But yes, I'm very excited for this calling over the rest of my time here at the MTC.

Also, I see Kevin on a daily basis. It's kind of funny, because there's other people who I know are here, but I haven't seen them once. And then with Kevin and I, it's all like "Hi Elder Graf!" "Oh hello Elder Graf!" every single day. Too bad he's leaving this week, then I really won't see him for another 2 years, but it's definitely been nice to see a familiar face every now and then. And Sydna, you will be expecting a letter from Kevin in the very near future -- the envelope may or may not have my handwriting and stamp on it.

So like I said in the last letter, every night is a party down at the Korean dorms. P-days are even better. This morning, we had Korean bath house preparation. We turned the showers on scalding hot and let the room fill up with steam. Eventually, it became a nice and hot steam sauna filled with 15 elders in towels trying to be as Asian as possible. We've got this culture thing in the bag. We've decided that this we become a weekly P-Day ritual, it's just that relaxing. Other culture preparation activities are in the works, but we think that we've got a pretty good start for sure haha.

Finally, I'll explain the attached picture - It's my entire district as well as a couple of native Koreans from another district. My companion, Elder Hafen, is the one next to me as well as Elder Renfroe and Lund, and Sister Sieverts, Bassett, Dorman, Washburn, Young, and Saunders. I hope I spelled all of their names right. 

Anyway, I'll write again next week!

-Elder Graf

Monday, March 18, 2013

Elder Grafs

Christian and his cousin Kevin's time in the MTC got to overlap by a whole two weeks! Kevin leaves for his mission in Ohio this week and sent this picture to our Aunt Sydna. We're all so happy to see them together!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The First Letter

Mother. Because of you, everyone in the MTC knows my name.  On the second night here, while I was getting ready for bed, the intercom system came on over the entire MTC and they asked for Christian Graf to come down to the main office.  I had no idea why or what would have been going on, so I quickly went to the main office without my suit on because I didn't know if it was an emergency or not.  Turns out it was just a package from you, and you wanted me to immediately have it.  Well, that's very kind of you, but it sure freaked me out haha.  So I thought that my days of being called down were over, but just the other night, a security guard shows up in my dorm room and says I need to come to the main office with him.  Everyone was thinking I was in trouble, but when I got to the front desk, it was only because you were worried that I had not received the first package.  Once again, very sweet and kind of you, but I'm sure hoping I've seen the end of security guards and my name being called over the entire MTC intercom at night.*

Anyway, on Friday, I was walking down the hallway of the building that my classroom is in and I saw Kevin in one of the rooms, I leaned in and said "Elder Graf!" and he turned around and was just as happy to see me as I was to see him.  He told me he heard my name on the intercom, go figure, and we chatted for a little bit.  Don't worry, we got a picture, and we've seen each other several times since then because our classes are in the same building.  In fact, if he's in his classroom, he should be in the room just above me right now.  So that's pretty cool.

Also, I ran into a girl from Woodland, but I don't remember her personally - we went to Tafoya together though and we would've been in the same ward.  Her last name is Benbrook, sound familiar?  She's going to the Korea Pusan mission so I see her all the time.  Anyway, let me know if you remember her family.  The Korean missionaries are all so much fun, the last hour of every night is just filled partying it up in the dorms - err, uhh, cough, I mean being reverent.  We actually had missionaries straight from Korea fly into the MTC just barely, we're supposed to be meeting them tonight - that'll be super exciting to see what they have to say about the country, we'll definitely be bombarding them with tons of questions.  As far as the Korean language goes, yeeaaahhh, it's going to take a while.  It's like pre-school all over again: I can read the language, often times will mispronouce something or forget what it sounds like, and read at the speed of five words a minute.  But it'll come in time.

Finally, in answer to your question - yes you should visit President and Sister Shin.  They are the most fantastic people I have ever met, so you would totally be missing out if you didn't see them before they leave to Korea.  He has about 100 missionaries to look over right now, and considering the fact that I'm new, he may or may not know me by name.  But I'd give it a shot anyway.

Until next week!
Elder Graf

PS I'm expecting letters every day, and I mean it.  DearElder.com, family, DearElder.com.**

*Disclaimer #1: Funny story, actually. We had Christian tested for allergies a month before he went into the MTC, and of course the results came one day after he got into the MTC.  I called the MTC and asked them if they could very quietly, discreetly give Christian a package that told him that he is HIGHLY ALLERGIC to dairy and yeast.  The package had some medicine the doctor wanted him to take and other information about his allergy so I told them that it would be good to get it to him right away.  Mike dropped it off to the MTC on Thursday afternoon and they told us they would call him to the office.  A few days later, we got a letter in which Christian said that he hadn't received any letters, packages, etc. Anyway, once again I called the MTC and asked them if they could contact him and make sure he got the package.  I once again told them that Christian wouldn't like any attention called to him.  Boy was I surprised to get his email stating that the MTC world now knows him by name:-).  
**Disclaimer #2: He's gotten multiple letters and a package every day, but apparently his district leader hasn't picked them up every day? Either way, he is one spoiled little Elder :)