|99 Weeks ago, I wondered if this would really ever happen!|
Continued key events packed into these last few weeks:
- MLK holiday spent with our little Chinese friends at Korean B-B-Q and Alhambra town square. As usual, the overarching activity at these events is all the laughing going on!
Our social circle includes Thanh (Vietnamese), Mei (Vietnamese/Chinese), Lola (Chinese), Rosa (Chinese), Sister Martin and I. What a varied group of friends!
|Me, Rosa, Lola|
Who knew a b-b-que could be so funny!
- Next event to pack in: Vietnamese celebration for Chinese Lunar New year, which occurred this year earlier than usual, on January 27. Happy New Year TWICE in one month!! For whatever it's worth, this year is the year of the rooster.
|Hiding under the dragon's head. He will return later in the evening!|
One of the Chinese New Year traditions centers around red envelopes filled with some denomination of money, usually an even amount. It is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity during the coming year, and it's a stroke of good luck when someone gives you one. We filled up many cute little red envelopes to "feed" the dragons later, who have children and youth dressed up underneath these creatures.
There was much lively entertainment at this Vietnamese celebration, and need I say... SO MUCH food!
|Branch President Huang as the Great Emcee|
|Traditional springtime dancing to welcome the new moon and the DRAGON!|
|Vietnamese-speaking missionaries dancing in traditional costume|
|With our celebrity young Vietnamese elders|
|Traditional Vietnamese dress standing behind us|
- Next event, next night, Chinese New Year celebration in Valley Branch. Same Lunar celebration.
The big difference in celebrations, besides cultures, was the surprise tribute extended us from our wonderful Valley Branch family, headed by extraordinary President Lee.
What wonderful Asian brothers and sisters make up this part of my world.
|SuLin Wu, her husband, and daughter Pei-ching|
|The Great Emcee and master sword dancer, Jo Giang|
|Fabulous friends, Roger and Mary Jo Wu|
They do so much for us!!
|Freda, Thanh, Me, Sister Martin, MaryJo Wu, Sadie Lew|
I love these wonderful sisters so much!
|Sage Lee, Rosa Chen, Me, Sister Martin|
|Sister M, Beautiful and Dedicated Lili, Me|
- Still packing in ongoing lessons over Skype with Thanh and distant elders, so she can learn in her language. These elders are truly valiant heroes.
|Elder Paulsen and Elder Duang|
|Vietnamese Book of Mormon|
- Next event packed in: Los Angeles temple with Eddy, including lunch afterward in the cafeteria. We will miss this dear sister. What a special soul!
|Sister M, Eddy, Me|
- Next event (and eating extravaganza) is with Sister Bunker, as we make one last run to Los Gringos Locos, passing the "Fork in the Road" for Mexican fare and fresh guacamole, made right at our table side.
|Fork in the Road. Literally.|
|Made fresh at our table. YUMM!|
|One of my dearest mission friends, Sister Bunker|
- We packed in an invitation to Twohey's Restaurant with our ward friends, the Luneke's. We had a great time and good, American food.
|Me, Sister M, Charlene Luneke, John Luneke|
- An event packed into these last days is Bun 'N Burger, as hosted by the Bunker's every fourth Wednesday of the month. All the missionaries are invited and we have a sweet time every single month, talking, laughing, and eating great burgers surrounded by cool vintage ambiance.
|Love those pink formica tables and old-fashioned shakes|
- Our resume volunteer specialist, Elder Werner, along with his wife, invited Sister Martin and I for an awesome lunch at a famous LA restaurant, Dal Rae. He's a gifted, generous New Yorker-turned-Californian. And we love him. We packed in some kind of lunch.
- ERS packed in its own farewell celebration. Without Effy as the event planner these days, Joel does an amazing job. Just another thing that will be missed about this extraordinary man.
|ERS volunteers from LA and San Fernando centers, DI gang, and a few stragglers|
|Elder and Sister Lungren, Joel, Elder Gratrix, Dianey, Sister M, Me|
- Alhambra Ward packed in a nice little dinner as a farewell gift. It was spearheaded by my good friend Jezabel. For being a rather spontaneous event, there was remarkable support. AND yummy potluck! In a really cool cultural hall.
|Our young missionary friends love to pack in all the food they can at ANY event!|
- And we still have time to pack in counsel and committee meetings, where we all show up wearing the same color of items on the color wheel!
|Me, Dianey, Melaney|
More Besties of the Besties
- A surprise event was also packed into these last days when AJ and his associate, Jason, came to LA on business and surprised me for lunch. What a fun day to pack into these last memorable times. We ate fresh fish tacos at a little Spanish restaurant just a walk away from the Center, square in the middle of busy, busy Soto Street. Truly an authentic LA experience.
|AJ and I in front of Los Angeles LDS Employment Resource Center|
|Fish tacos at Marisco's -- YUM|
- The Mission Office hosted a little farewell party and we had the opportunity to see our senior missionary friends, including President and Sister Villanueva. I love these wonderful people.
|President Villanueva, Me, Sister Villanueva|
- Packing in some very last events includes one of my cute DI associates whom I've been working with for quite a long time, Skye, who came in on my last day laden with many thoughtful gifts to take along my way. One is an enormous fluffy, pink unicorn for grandchildren to enjoy. Provided I find a way to pack it into my car, it will be a very special mission unicorn for little ones to hug and love.
|Me, Skye, and "Fluffy"|
- An outing with Janessa was an important "last" to pack in right before leaving. Her companion that evening was Sister Zollinger from Minnesota, and we had a grand time with Marie Calendar. It was so fitting that the background music for our dining pleasure included the song, "We Are Family! I got all my sisters in me!" We ate till we were stuffed and then hugged till the stuffing nearly came out. Fortunately she will be home in only 9 short weeks. So much we have been blessed to share in this superb missionary experience!
|Sister Ballard and Sister Rounds -- "We are Family!" 🎶|
- Some last sights to pack into the memory of my heart are:
gates that keep me safe at my home, both inner and outer;
Los Angeles LDS Employment Resource Center;
the world's softest recliner, whose reputation has become well known far and wide across the Arcadia, CA Mission. Missionaries that come to our home race to jump into it first, and Sister Xia threatened to take it home with her on the plane to Chengdu, China. It seems there is now a race to see who will actually get the treasure as our apartment is dismantled, readying to rent out again.
Packing in all the experiences, people, memories, blessings, and dearness of a mission.
That's a trick!
Is it really time to pack up and go home after 2 full years?
So much of it will stay packed into my mind and heart forever, locked in its own private corner of "special."