7-18-10 011.jpg7-18-10 012.jpg7-18-10 018.jpg7-18-10 023.jpg7-18-10 027.jpg7-18-10 034.jpgDear Friends and Family,
It has been Christmas in July! We arrived in Seoul on Wednesday afternoon after our flight on Vladivostok Air was delayed for 2 hours due to a mechanical problem. (That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.) But Seoul is 2 hours behind us so we still had time to go to dinner at “On the Border” and have Mexican food – ahh, Heaven! And we attended a session at the Seoul Temple – ahh, more heaven! We checked into a small apartment right on the temple grounds where the temple missionaries live. At the present time there is only one American couple there. They were angels to us. She is the one who met us and took us to dinner. Her husband was out visiting a man in the hospital who is a political refugee from the Congo and who is a member of the Church. (There is a whole other story there.) Her husband is retired from the military where he served as a chaplain so they have access to the US military base and the PX. So they were willing to give us any kind of food that we could fit into our suitcases. We took 2 small cans of Crisco shortening, an angel food cake mix, some pudding mixes and jello, Stove-top stuffing, a can of Bush’s baked beans, and some vitamins.
In addition we did some shopping the next day and I was able to find some things at what they call the “Black Market”. I guess they get these American items somewhat illegally. But I found Ban deodorant which I have used for years. It cost me $15 but I didn’t care. We found a small bag of Oreo cookes, a small box of Ritz crackers, some Nalley’s sweet pickles, some baking powder, some Country Time Lemondade, some Nestle’s hot cocoa mix, some Hershey kisses and I can’t remember what else. We were thrilled beyond expression to find these simple things that I’m sure you would take for granted.
You can scarcely imagine the contrast between South Korea and Eastern Russia. Starting with the new Incheon International Airport, which has won many awards. It is so modern and so clean and they have real bathrooms! They have friendly Koreans standing all over who mostly speak English and are so willing and anxious to help you. When we got on the new, comfortable, modern bus with comfortable seats and air conditioning, the driver was in a clean uniform and white gloves and bowed to the passengers before driving away. Unlike here where the driver smells bad and smokes cigarettes constantly. We drove on a SMOOTH 3 lane highway for about 45 minutes into town. It is still the monsoon season in the Far East so it rained some when we arrived in Seoul and was raining heavily with thunder and lightening when we left. It is even more humid than here and I didn’t think that was possible BUT they have air conditioning. When you are outside it is like being in a sauna.
I fell in love with the Korean people in the short time I was there. At the temple they treated us like royalty. In the crowded streets everyone is so polite and they don’t shove or push and they know how to stand in a line. Here, everyone just crowds up to the front. Jim and I had to laugh as we were getting ready to depart because the Korean girl behind the desk walked out and arranged all the Russian passengers into a nice, neat line. We stayed in a district where there are several universities and so there were many young people on the streets. They were modestly dressed – unlike here where spike heels and as much as you can show without being completely naked is the norm.
We ate at a real McDonald’s. They do a booming business, but the Koreans know how to wait in lines. We had hot fudge sundaes and we had Crispy Cream donuts. Then when we were waiting at the airport to leave we ate at Burger King. These are things that wouldn’t excite me at home. In fact, I usually avoid hamburgers, but ohhh, they tasted sooo good. We avoided the authentic Korean resaurants because I was more than a little put off by the tanks of fish, eels, squid and octopus in front of them.
A wonderful young woman named Mi-Ja met us on Thursday afternoon and took us by subway to a chiropractor appointment for Jim to translate for him. She speaks perfect English and said she does translation for TV stations there. All those who told me that Moscow’s subway system is the best in the world have not seen Seoul’s. The chiropractor is blind and so sweet and kind. He wished he had more time to work on Jim’s messed up back but he did the best he could. On the way to his office Jim found one of those things that looks like a tennis racket but has batteries so you can swat flies and mosquitoes and it zaps them – great sport. If they haven’t caught on in the US yet I’m sure they will eventually. We offered to take Mi-Ja to dinner afterward but she had an appointment but said she would take a rain check for next time and would take us to a good Korean restaurant. She asked in fun why we do not have a “snow check”.
Everywhere we went there were kind Korean people who asked us if we needed help finding our way. Even when we were waiting for our bus to take us to the airport to leave town there was a nice young Korean man on crutches who asked if we needed help finding something. The older Koreans bowed to us on the streets. We had a couple of nice long chats with President Jun who is president of the Seoul Temple. Some older people who didn’t speak English were standing outside when we were chatting with him the second time and they wanted to have their picture taken with us so we obliged. We have no idea who they are but they thanked us profusely.
I have attached some pictures. There were so many to choose from but I had to limit myself. Don’t know what order they are in but one is me in front of the temple, one is the Korean people who wanted their pics taken with us in front of the temple (President Jun is on the far right), one shows the scooters that deliver McDonald’s, one shows Koreans enjoying Mexican food and then us enjoying Mexican food with the American temple missionary, and one shows us in front of a bell from a Bhuddist monastery dating to 1200 – Jim got to ring it.
Now we are back in the real world of our mission with new passports for the next 90 days. Things are really starting to happen for us in humanitarian work. It was raining so hard last night and this morning that we got drenched on the way to church. We walk about a mile up a gently sloping hill after we get off the bus. It was a veritable river. So we splurged and took a taxi to come home.
We have great cause to thank God for His great blessings to us; not just the temporal ones but the promise of Eternal Life through the miraculous Atonement of our Saviour. We pray for His blessings upon all of you! Love, Elder and Sister