Sunday, February 23, 2014

Never saw that coming...

Well, this is week is transfer week once again.  Crazy how fast it comes, huh?  But this transfer turned out to be a lot different than anyone was expecting.
You see, my companion, Elder Otterson, is nearing the end of his mission.  He is scheduled to end and go home in the beginning of April, so it's coming up really fast.  As every missionary towards the end of their mission does, he began to plan for the future.  You know, the usual things: job, school, when to get married (haha), etc etc.  Among his plans was the goal to return to Korea later this year as an English teacher.  The country has many governement sponsered programs where they hire english speaking foreigners to come to they country for a year contract and teach English in the public schools.  The job actually pays pretty well and because he already has Korea and Korean down, it seemed like a really appealing thing for him to do.
So, just 3 weeks ago during Zone Conferences, in an interview with president, he told him all of his plans.  President Shin actually approved of them all and told Otterson that he would do all he could to help Otterson find a good teacher job in Korea.  Lesson learned:  If you want something and President Shin approves of it, it's going to happen.
Fast forward to just this last week, Elder Otterson got a phonecall from the principal of a high-end private elementary school here in Korea.  After an interview over the phone, an interview in person, a tour of the school, a fancy dinner, and a phonecall between Otterson and his family, he accepted the job.  The catch, THE JOB STARTS NEXT WEEK!
Elder Otterson is now no longer ending his mission in April, but is now ending it in 4 days.  And, instead of going home to his family, he will stay here in Korea for another year and instantly start teaching at the school next Monday.  Talk about rare!  I've hear of missionaries returning to their countries to work after their missions, but I've never heard of a mission that never goes home!  Haha, anyway, so his plans instantly changed, and he is extremely excited.  We've been spending this last week saying goodbye to everyone and helping him close off his mission ties well.
Now, here I am typing this and just waiting for the call from the APs to tell me who my new companion will be/ if I'm staying in Dangjin or not..... I have no idea what's going to happen....  So, next week, I'll let you know!
Elder Graf

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Flu

Ever since I was young, I have truly hated and despised one thing in this world more than anything else:  the stomach flu.  Therefore, I take whatever precautions necessary to avoid being infected with such a disease.  Back when I was in the MTC and some elders down the hall from my dorm room started to throw up, I declared World War 3 against them.  I commanded them to be quarantined in their room, and when they didn't stay there, I quarantined myself - lysoling and hand sanatizing everything in my path.  (No, I'm not a germ freak - I'm a flu freak, thank you very much).  Anyway, I won the battle and escaped unharmed.  Victory.
Then I came to Korea and tasted the wonderful world that is Korean food.  Delicious, yes, but also spicier than anything I have ever had in my life.  A thought entered my mind: "if I ever get the flu and throw any of this up, it will be the worst thing that has ever happened to me".  Luckily, the time passed and I never came down with any illess that would cause me to do so.  That is, until this last week....
As soon as I woke up on Tuesday, I knew I was in trouble.  My stomach hurt, my body ached, and my mind knew it - I had the flu.  "Oh please no", I thought.  I needed to convince myself it wasn't true - do some sort of mindtrick on myself and make it go away.  I decided to not tell Otterson, and we ended up going to the gym first thing as we do every morning.  "You don't have the flu, you don't have the flu" I repeated, and decided that a jog on the treadmill wouldn't be too bad of an idea. 
Yeah. Stupid, I know.
By the end of my run, I just felt even more sick - but I was still in the pre-throwing-up-and-instead-just-feeling-like-you-wanted-to-curl-up-in-a-ball-and-punch-something stages, and not quite to the point of throwing up yet.  We got back to our house, and I still didn't want to tell Otterson how I was feeling.  To hide my sickness (and to still try to trick my body), I ate eggs and toast and kimchi for breakfast.  "I'll probably be seeing all this again fairly soon", I thought as I mustered up the courage to swallow.  It was now time for our morning studies - personal, companionship, and language.  I made it through the studies and we headed out the door to our first appointment of the day (with hard working mother).  Of course, as she always does, the very second we sat down in her house, we were given massive ammounts of food:  rice, fruit, tea, kimchi, etc.  I ate it all, hating myself as I did so.  But, I had no choice.
Anyway, the day went on.  We visited with people, walked around the city, talked with people on the street, and I still went about they day acting as though I wasn't sick, but I was just progressively feeling worse and worse.  Finally, it was time to go to our dinner appointment out in the countryside - one where we would have to take the bus to get there.  By this time, I decided it was time to call it quits.
"Hey Elder Otterson", I said. "I have something to tell you"
"What's that?"
"So all day I've been feeling really sick and I'm pretty sure I have the flu"
"....So what's your point?"
A little taken back, I responded "So I don't think we can go out to our dinner appointment.  There's no way I can eat dinner tonight, let alone ride the bus to get out there"
"Oh I think you'll be fine", he reassured me, and that was the end of our discussion. 
"Whelp", I thought.  "This is going to be fun" and we boarded the bus that would take us through the twisted and bumpy roads of the Korean countryside, only to find out that there was standing room only.  Perfect.  I ended up squished between Elder Otterson and 5 other Koreans, and our bus ride began.  Of course, the bus driver was one of the crazier ones, therefore not helping my situation at all.  I could feel my breakfast and lunch churning inside of me as I just took deap breaths and tried to let the time pass.  I started to look for where I could throw up if it came to that.  The only choice I had was the bend down, lean over the seat where a 80-something year old grandma was sitting, open the window, and let it all out.  Not the best option.  So, I just instead started to tell myself "you will not throw up on this bus, you will not throw up on this bus".  Then, 5 minutes later, that turned to "okay, you might throw up on this bus...".  Then, 5 minutes after that, "If you don't get off this bus RIGHT NOW, IT'S GOING ALL OVER GRANDMA!!"
At the very moment, Otterson tapped my arm.  "We're getting off here", he said.  Oh thank goodness, I'm saved.  The bus came to a lurching stop and I somehow hobbled off.  For a few seconds I felt okay, but then my body decided to hate me and told me "okay, time to throw up now"
I hated.  My life.  I instantly started searching for options as I felt my stomach volcanoeing inside of me.  I can't just throw up in the city street - only drunks do that.  I ran inside the store right there by the bus stop and shouted "WHERE'S THE BATHROOM!?".  Luckily, there was one, and after listening to the cashier's instructions as to where it was, went down the hall, found the bathroom - mens or womens, I didn't care, went inside, and launched myself to the toilet with no time to spare.
Seriously, worst part of existence.  I flushed the toilet, wiped my face, and stuck a piece of gum inside my mouth to deal with the taste.  Well, no I really had the flu, right?  So it was time to go home and be sick.  Well, that's what I thought.  I left the bathroom and told Otterson that I had just thrown up.  And instead of deciding that we would cancel our appointment, somehow we decided that we would still continue on with the day.  How in the world did that happpen???  Haha, I have no idea.  I really need to get my priorities straight. 
Anyway, I'm running out of e-mail time, but to really quickly conclude - we ended up going to the dinner appointment with the family and I was treated by the mother with old Asian healing remedies.  She fed me a ton of the weirdest things I have ever tasted (literally, fed me.  Like opened my mouth with her hands and shoved it inside) and miraculously, I was cured.  Well, no, not cured, but I didn't thow up again and we were able to still eat with the family and teach them.  Wonderful, eh?  Then, when we got home for the night, I allowed myself to be sick and the bathroom was by best friend throughout the night.
The mission sure provides some funny experiences, no?  Can't wait to see what this next week brings!
Elder Graf

Sunday, February 2, 2014

We save souls (and puppies, too)

A few weeks ago, a member from Seoul came down to our branch on Sunday because he was visiting some friends in the city.  He talked to us after church and informed us that his dad actually lives out in the countryside in Dangjin and he wanted us to give him a visit.  His dad isn't a member, but we, as missionaries, could change that ;)

So, the next day, we headed out into the country and took with us the makeshift map that the member drew for us.  The map turned out to be more confusing and helpful, and we weren't able to locate the man's house.  We ended up talking to several farmers asking if they knew the man we were looking for and where his house was, but no luck.  So, we called it a day and decided we would try again later.

Last week, we decided we would give it another shot.  It was a warm day and we gave ourselves lots of time to find him, so we were both feeling pretty fortunate about the situation.  We followed the map the best we could and were lead to an old shack in the midst of a bamboo forest.  The house looked vacant and there was junk and garbage all over the area surrounding the home, but the house matched the description perfectly, so we decided to give it a shot.  We knocked at the door - no answer.  We called out to see if someone would hear us - nothing.  "Maybe there's a backdoor?", we thought, and we walked around the house.

That's when we saw them.

Behind the house tucked up in a corner was a cage of six adorable puppies.  Once they saw us, they all became scared and huddled up together in the corner.  We looked at their cage and noticed their living conditions - no food, no water no nothing.  The food pan and the floor was covered in poop from the puppies, the puppies themselves were pretty dirty, and there were 3 now-flattened dead puppies on the ground in the cage as well.  It was clear that nobody had been taking care of them for weeks and it was literally killing them - it wouldn't be long before the left over puppies died as well.

At first we just felt bad for them, but it wasn't after long when we started feeling that it was our responsibility to take care of them.  "We can't just leave them here like this!" we both said to each other, and so we took the matter into our own hands.

While I carefully moved the cage to a clean area, Otterson went about looking for food.  He broke into the vacant house and found a large bag of dog food - I guess whoever lived here at least had the intention to take care of them at one time.  We then found a bowl for water, gave them their food, removed the dead puppies, and improved their living conditions.  I then wrapped a blanket we found around the cage in order to protect them from the winter wind - they were all shivering from the cold.

Haha, so that's what we did.  We tried to find an old man to teach him, but we ended up saving the puppies instead.  Still effective, right?  When we finished, we said goodbye to our newly adopted pets and promised to return in a few days to check up on them.

Maybe I'll get to keep one of them.

Other than that, this week as a week off.  It was the Lunar New Year (Korea's biggest holiday), so missionary work was impossible.  Instead, we just got together as a district during the 3 day holiday and had trainings, did practice teaching, and *cough played games *cough.  Tons of fun!  But now it's over and missionary work can resume - wish us luck this next week!

Non-related picture from a couple weeks ago: