Saturday, January 23, 2010

On the Tip of my Tongue

I've had Korea on the brain a lot the past few months. (More than usual, that is.) Since I made the banner and background for the Daejeon mission blog, I've been following the blog and sometimes looking up the names of new missionaries that Sister Perriton posts about. This is how I found Sister Rebecca O'Bryan's blog. She's a brand-new (greenie) missionary serving in Gwangju, which was also my greenie area. (Missionaries can't use the internet, but her sister is posting her weekly emails to the blog.) I always enjoy reading about people's experiences in Korea, but there was something about finding a missionary blog, especially somebody in a place where I'd served, that was a special treat. My mind was spinning for days with things I wanted to tell her. I was finishing up Mom's calendar and didn't want to get distracted from that, but once that was finished I sat down and wrote a snail-mail letter and babbled a bit about Korea and Gwangju and being a missionary. (I just got it off in the mail last Tuesday, so I expect it'll be a while before I hear back.)

People sometimes ask me if I've managed to keep my Korean. It's been over sixteen years since my mission, and twelve years since Doug and I taught English in Chonan. I like to think that I've kept it up pretty well. I often construct Korean sentences in my head, just for the heck of it (in the shower or whatever), or walk around the house singing a Korean hymn or children's song. I have quite a few books in Korean that I'll pull out and practice reading every once in a while, though not regularly. (It's been a while since I've done that. I gave up on Harry Potter after I realized the translation wasn't very good.) But when the opportunity comes up to actually have a conversation with someone in Korean, then it's all too obvious that it just doesn't come out as well as it used to.

Two weeks ago, Doug went out on a Saturday afternoon to get his hair cut. He went to a place nearby run by some nice Korean ladies. Later he told me that he'd talked to a lady there who was a social worker in Korea and had come over to improve her English. She asked him if he went to church, and he just said he was Christian, since they changed the name of the church in Korean a while back and he couldn't remember what it was. So the next day she showed up at church. We're not sure how she ended up there, since she never actually asked Doug where he went to church. After Sacrament Meeting a friend told me that there was a Korean lady there. Someone else was already talking to her, so I went over to help.

Her name was 지현 (Ji Hyun), from Seoul. She told me she'd picked Zelia for an English name. We talked just a little--I told her about where I'd been in Korea, and she told me my pronunciation was good (yes, I can say Daejeon, Gwangju, and Suncheon properly! Yay!). Then she asked what the topic of the day's talks had been. Well, the topic was revelation and I could not for the life of me remember the word for revelation in Korean. Which was really embarrassing because it was definitely something I should have known. I was pretty sure it started with 계 and just kept running through 계 words. (계획? No, that's plan. 계단? No, that's stairs....)

Then I asked her if she had a Book of Mormon and she said, "This is a Mormon church? I did not know that!" Oops. I answered a few questions in a mixture of Korean and English, but I only got to talk to her for a few minutes because she said she had an appointment. After she left we managed to track down a Korean Book of Mormon. We didn't see her the next week.

I was feeling kind of agitated about this for a while, and kept wondering if there was something I was supposed to do differently. With all the Korean-related stuff I've had going on recently, of course I can't help but wonder if there's a reason.

There is a Korean branch that meets in Auburn. A couple that was in our ward is attending there now. I'd love to go and do some Korean schmoozing in a no-pressure setting.

This week I've discovered the blogs of three sister missionaries serving in Busan mission: Sister Rose Hadden, Sister Alyssa Linford, and Sister Rachel Ogilvie. Sister Hadden and Sister Linford were companions at the Misisonary Training Center, and Sister Ogilvie was in the next group after them. I particularly enjoyed Sister Hadden's blog. She has a way of capturing everything that just brings it all back. I've enjoyed reading through it and remembering so many little things, and especially the sweet Korean sisters that I served with. Sister Ogilvie's blog was a lot of fun, too.

I also discovered that the current mission president in Busan is Ken Jenning's father. I just got a kick out of that.

I am determined to get back to Korea, somehow. I have no idea when or how this might take place, or for how long, or even who all it would involve. (It occurred to me recently that Kate probably wouldn't appreciate Korea very much right now.) In the meantime, I feel a need to get myself back up to speed (as much as I can, anyway) on speaking fluency. Last night I watched some Let's Speak Korean videos on youtube (these are actually pretty good--they use some nice colloquial forms), and went to bed with Korean in my head. 앞으로 더 열심히 공부 해야돼요.


Heather T. said...

*smiles* Thanks for sharing that.

Kathryn said...

One of my girlfriends served in South Korea (no idea where). She was also part time military and went back to do translation/decoding stuff (probably stuff the N.Koreas were saying/doing). I wonder if she has kept it up at all. Somehow, I doubt it.
I think it's cool that you have. Keep working on it, I can just see it, someday, you and Doug will be called as mission president and wife there! :)

Lara said...

I have been having so many of the same feelings and experiences (only in Romanian). I met some Romanians a few months ago, most likely the only ones for miles around. I got a hold of a Book of Mormon and am trying to figure out how to give it to them, while still trying to polish my language which is horrifyingly rusty. :)

I loved reading this.

Barbie said...

Jill Larkowski told me back in high school that when something is one the tip of your toungue and you just can't remember it, that is called "lethalogica." Whenever I can't think of what I want to, I can always remember what it's called.

You have all those VHS tapes of Korean Disney movies, don't you? but then you don't have a TV. Hmm.

Mimi said...

That's interesting, and I totally understand lethalogica (cool word, thanks Barbie)

And, that is cool about Ken Jennings' father.

Becky said...

I had a very hard time with Korean and I had a tutor. I finally gave up after learning what I needed to get by. I did pick up a lot by watching Korean dramas (my favorite) and listening to Korean KPop. Hubby and I still answer the phone to each other in Korean and I count in Korean when exercising. We can't wait for our visit in April. I have a feeling it will be an annual event.

MamaBug said...

It will be interesting to see where the desire to brush up on your Korean leads. Very cool stories. :)