Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

Just a quick note before I head to bed- HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I will be posting again soon... so stay tuned!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I'll be home for Christmas

For Christmas break (I have the week off from work) I am chilling at home. I'm really looking forward to the rest since January is going to be an intense work month. Anyways, I thought maybe I would let you all in on some of my doings around my house. You see, as each year passes I find I am getting more and more of a nesting complex. I want to make a home, to create a space that is comfortable and where people feel warm and loved. Ugh. Anyways, this means that instead of spending my money on other things, I am spending it on pretty lamps and other decorations.

My bed, my Christmas lights, my teddy bear (named Dorothy after one of my favorite theologians wife- right, I DO get nerdier by the year), and my humidifer since the cold+my heater= very very very dry air.

Here is my little work space. I got this very pretty lamp (but not before walking for over an hour around this HUGE shopping center looking for the best deal!). I really love my apartment. I feel so confortable here and I really feel like it is home. Hence, the title. Home for Christmas.

(sorry for all the post titles being corny Christmas phrases, but I just can't help myself!)

Holiday cheer

Well it's the day after Christmas, but is it ever too late to post Christmas photos?

Here are Sunyoung and I at lunch on Christmas day before we went to church. We went to an area of Seoul that I have never been to before (which is bound to happen in an urban area of 20 million people!). We had pork cutlets (seems like a popular dish here in Korea) and then headed to a church service for all the English churches in Seoul. Very cool.

So let me share something with you about my friend Sunyoung. She LOVES the color purple. She always wears purple and whenever we go anywhere she points out everything in the stores that is purple. So our church has a purple Christmas tree in the coffee shop and Sunyoung and I had to take advantage of such an awesome thing as a purple tree. So here she is posing with her tree.

Sunyoung introduced me to one of her English students named Joy. Joy is just beginning to learn English, so she took the opportunity to practice on me. She was very sweet though and I enjoyed getting to practice a little Korean while we talked.

Joy and I in my church's coffee shop

Thursday, December 24, 2009

and she shall be called...


That's right folks, 별이 (Pyeo-lee) is my Korean name. In honor of the blog template change, and it being Christmas Eve, I though this might be a cool time to tell you my readers about my Korean name. I've had it for a few months now but have only really started to identify with it (or honestly remember how to say it) for the last few weeks. I like the name though. I asked some Korean friends to give a Korean name since all my students get English names (most of my students go by Sally, Harry, or some other generic name). I told my friends that I wanted the name to start with a "b" sound so it would be similar to Becka. There aren't many names that start with the "ㅂ" (which is the b or p sound). So they gave me the name which means "star" in Korean. 별이. Sounds about right.
Anyways, I'm thinking of all of you, my friends and family as I work till 9:15pm on Christmas Eve. May this be a good holiday for you, may you enjoy the company of your loved ones, and may you remember the goodness of the Lord in coming to dwell among us.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


One of the more popular things for young (and old) Koreans to do is called Norae-Bong. It is like Kareoke but so much better since only your friends see you make a fool out of yourself. After the Christmas party, a bunch of us headed over to partake in this great Korean tradition. For about $2 each, we got a room for an hour. There were thousands of songs in English, Korean, and Japanese to choose from.
You choose a bunch of songs, and as the night progresses you keep updating the song list. When the song comes on, you grab the mic and you belt it out. And I mean, you BELT IT OUT. We were screaming our lungs out to Brittany Spears, Mariah Carey and of course, the Beatles!
In good Kareoke fashion, the words are on the screen, but there are no music videos to go with the songs. Well, no American music videos. Instead, all the songs are played along with a Korean music video from another song. Which means most of the time, the Korean music video's story made NO sense with the English song.
It was fun. Really fun. I'll have to take advantage of this great Korean tradition some time again.

All I want for Christmas is... singing lessons?

Here is a little video, totally prime blackmailing material.

shots with the big man

At the Christmas party I ended up sitting next to the owner of my school, Daniel (Sarah's husbund). Now in Korean culture, when your boss offers you something (especially alcohol) there is no saying no. So how could I refuse his very LARGE shot of soju?


maybe a little hesitation...

and bottoms up!

Christmas Party at SEA

Sally and me

Erin picking a white elephant gift

Maggie excited about her white elephant gift, note the plastic flower attached.

The spread of food for our party- everything from chinese and korean food to fried chicken and pizza. THe fried chicken, which LOOKED like KFC stuff, actually came with kimchi. I kid you not.

THe center piece of the meal was this turkey which I heard cost over $100.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

adventures in hair dying

I first dyed my hair in 7th grade. I remember I found a box of hair dye in the mess of things in the closet area under the stairs. I don't remember if my mom put up any argument against the idea of me dying my hair. But I do remember it being fun. We did it together and it became kinda our thing (along with watching sappy movies and me giving her pedicures). I would continue to dye my hair for the next 15 years. I think the longest I have gone without dying my hair has been 6 months. That first time I colored my hair strawberry blonde. I had always wanted to be a red head. As the years progressed, the color remained red, but the shades got darker. Around my freshman year in high school it was a dark strawberry blonde. Then light auburn. And finally when I hit my senior year in high school I started dying it really dark auburn. It almost looks black in some photos. Since then, I've kept it some shade of auburn. I like it. People always think I am naturally a red head and I'm okay with that assumption.

Toward the end of college, I found that if I tried to dye my hair certain shades of auburn, it would turn orange from long exposure to sun. That was when I began the tradition of winter darks. Every winter I get to dye my hair a dark auburn (the color I prefer) and in the summer I deal with the lighter shades, knowing that light auburn is better than orange. So tonight I bought a box of hair dye and continued my tradition. The dye is Korean, the instructions were all in Korean, and it was actually a little different than at home (it doesn't smell nearly as bad!). Here are some photos:



and the After photo will have to come tomorrow. Wish me luck!

so I walked into my classroom where 9 very energetic and loud children were waiting for me. One girl saw my hair and quickly told me, "teacher... black hair, not beautiful... yellow hair, beautiful." Thanks kid. Thanks. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


No, not real hiking.
Often times, people describe their relationship with the Lord as a "walk". Well, my walk has become more of a hike these past few months. When I am just walking with the Lord, there may be a small incline somedays, but its no more than a few steps uphill before I get to enjoy the few downhill steps.
Usually, the Lord teaches me things slowly (or maybe I am just slow in learning them!). Usually I learn one lesson, or am confronted by one sin, maybe once every other week or so. But these past few months, and especially weeks, have been FULL of the Lord's dealing with me. I feel like every day is another steep step. The Lord has been working through so many things in my life that I am overwhelmed when I try to take inventory. It's like turning around and looking at how high up you have climbed. Last night I was tired of climbing. I prayed that the hike would be over soon. I wanted to reach the top of the hill to enjoy the view already. But God didn't stop the hike, instead He renewed my stregnth for the next few steps. I guess part of this hike is learning to depend on Him for the strength to do the hike in the first place. I can only imagine what the view will be like when I reach the top of this hill. I don't know when that will be, but I will let you know when I get there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

Here are the fine ladies of SEA, chilling on my bed with my awesome hanukkah latkehs and wine. We never made it to watching a movie, but we sure did talk a lot. It was definitly a girls' night!

single unto the Lord

You may have noticed that recently I have been working through some of my views on marriage as it pertains to my life. I've been praying (as in my last post) that I would find joy in the place the Lord has me. When I was younger I prayed for contentment. But I think that is only half a prayer. Sure Paul says he has learned to be content in whatever situation he is in, but the Lord commands us to be joyful always. So that is my prayer. That I may truly relish the places the Lord has me. Even when they aren't what I had planned on.

So last night after all the girls left my apartment, I realized something. And it gave me great joy. My friends say that I was created to be a wife. I think the qualities that bring them to make that kind of statement (besides my incredibly attractive body! haha) are my love for hospitality and my deep desire to love people. I agree that these are qualities that would serve fairly well in a marriage, but it hit me last night: they serve VERY well in singleness. In fact, they almost are better gifts for singleness. In many ways, my personaility does well as a single serving the Lord. Instead of focusing my love on my husband and children, I am free to love and serve many people. Instead of cooking dinner each night for one family, I am free to cook for many people.

I took a friend to the doctor this morning, and was filled with joy once again as I got to serve her. I was praying on my way home, worshiping God for giving me the joy that I had begged Him for. And I realized that if I marry, God will call me to love and serve a man (which will be to my joy). But until then, my love and service is devoted to God. It is Him that I concern myself with, that I love, that I serve each day. But then I wondered, how does it actually play out. I don't get to cook God dinner. I don't get to take care of Him when He is sick. But Jesus said that whoever we feel and care for, for the least of people, we do for Him. So when I cook for the hungry, when I care for the sick, when I love God's people, I am really loving God.

Now I know this is boardline annoying (like how I went on "dates" with Jesus when I was in college). But just stay with me here for a moment. So I got to see how I would get to love and serve in a wifely way as a single devoted to God. But what about the role of a husband in my life? You see, a husband is called to love and care for his wife. And really, the moments when I MOST desire a husband is when I can't take care of myself. When I'm sick, or my car breaks down. These are the moments when I truly cry out to the Lord begging for a man. How does this work if I am single? Well, the moment the thought went through my head, the Lord laughed (gently) at me and asked if I really didn't think He was bigger and greater than any man. If I trusted a man to take care of me, could I not trust the Lord? He would provide.

So I am learning to find joy in my current place in life. It's a process and some moments are more joyfilled than others. But the Lord has heard my prayer and it teaching me each day to look to Him and to trust Him to be my place of joy.

Marriage and True Love Waits Dillusions

I wrestled with God today. Or really, I wrestled with myself.

When I was in high school I made a commitment to wait until marriage for sex. My dad gave me a ring and we had a small party where the elders in my life exhorted me to stay pure. Why did I do it? Well, honestly, part of it was just a trend for young Christian girls my age. But there was definitely a part of me that had thought through things. I knew that I wanted to get married, I assumed I would. The question was, would I do it God’s way, or my way? Would I go through life making my own decisions about love and marriage or would I trust God to pick out my guy for me. And even to my sixteen year old mind, I knew that God would choose better than I would. I realized today as I reflected on that decision that I viewed God as some yenta who would marry me off if I gave Him the chance. It made so much sense to me then. Give my heart to God and He would give it to a winner, saving me the pain of the losers.
So why did I spend my morning feeling like I had slammed into a brick wall at full speed? As I sat in worship, I realized that I was struggling with disappointment. Carolyn Custis James comments in her book that women need theology to deal with the disappointment that we face in life. I had easily accepted this concept when I read the book, but somehow thought I was above disappointment with God. Aren't I holier than that? It was humbling today to realize that I’m not. Indeed, I am very disappointed. You see, when I made that promise to God when I was 15, it was about something much bigger than my virginity. It was when I gave God my heart. I handed it to Him and gave Him permission to take it where He pleased. I assumed that meant marriage, but it doesn’t necessarily.
I am 26 years old now. While that may seem young to many of you, it feels like each day brings me closer to being single for the rest of my life (I may tend toward the overdramatic). I understand that is not how God works. But I also know that God does keep some of His saints single. Especially those called into full time service for Him. I want to be married and I want to be a mom. But when I gave God my heart, at age 15, I told Him that I trusted Him more than myself to make those decisions for me. For all the girl friends who have told me they are bewildered about my singleness, that I would be a blessing to a man, that I was made to be a wife, I am left speechless. There have been so many possibilities but none have come through. So what does that mean for me? Do I take back my heart from the Lord? Do I try to find a husband on my own? No, I have always put myself out there, I’m not hiding in a shell, but in His providence, no one has come. I have to believe that there is no other reason than God’s provision. I have asked friends what I can do to change. I have gone to singles events, gone to online dating sites, even gone to seminary (a good place they say to find a pastor for a husband!) and there is silence.
Do I trust the Lord enough to have my heart, even if that means it must be single? I agree with my friends when they tell me that I was created to be a wife. I love serving people. I love hospitality. I would LOVE to marry a pastor and get to minister as a pastor’s wife. But the truth is, God is bigger than my plans for myself. He knows my desires and I don’t have to worry that He has forgotten me. He has me in the palm of His hand.
Lord, may I truly believe in Your goodness. May I continue to trust you, even when your path for me looks nothing like the map I drew out for you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Moving Pilgrims

Jubilee Church is in the process of finding a new building. We are being kicked out of our old place and have been searching for a new building for quite some time now. If I heard correctly, we have to be out by March. This isn't the first church I have been to that had to move. And to be honest, I like it. Most people in the church are stressed or upset during the moves, but I love it when a church has to move.
First, I think moving is a time that cements the people in the church together and the people realize that all the weight of the church cannot fall on only the pastor. It is a time for people to take responsibility for their church community.
Second, its a time of paring down what the church owns. Often a move (even a personal move to another house) means you take time to do inventory on what you have, what you need, and what you don't need. I think when we are honest with ourselves, there is a lot more of what we don't need. Churches should share their belongings with other churches. Older churches should come alongside church plants and help them with sunday school supplies or other things that usually just take up storage.
And finally, and most importantly, moving reminds a church that we are not settled here permanently. We are pilgrims moving around in a land that isn't our home. Moving to a new location should remind a church that she is not just her building. Heck, she is nothing of her building. God is not building His kingdom in the brick walls that surround us but in restoring relationships. When the Village Church (in NYC) had to move from our nice church building into a public school auditorium, I think some people had a hard time seeing the blessing in the move. THe new auditorium was cold, nothing was sacred about the building, and there was awkward space for the postworship fellowship time. But I was so blessed to see our church move, to go into a place where we weren't necessarily comfortable, knowing that God was leading us and He was going to have us worship Him where He called us to worship Him.
So my brothers and sisters at Jubilee, let us take comfort and count it our joy that we must move. For moving is a manifold blessing in our lives.

Marriage and all things considered

As I wrote earlier, it's been a week of reflection. I wish I could quantitatively judge how much I have changed over the past 6 months. Between graduating from seminary, going through the break and the valley that followed, and moving to Korea, I think it is safe to say that a lot has changed. But I have no one here who knew me before to judge. I will say that many of my regular conversations with God, about the desires and fears of my heart, have changed. While the subject matter remains the same, my prayers have changed. THe truth is, I do and always have desired marriage. I have wanted to be a wife since I was a little girl who dreamed of marrying Daniel Goldstein. I've wanted to be a mom since I was 3 and pretended to be mom to my dolls. But as much as my desire to be a wife and mom is ever present, my experience over the last year has taught me a radical trust in the Lord's goodness. My prayers have begun to reflect this new theology. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Korea has taught me to pray. But my fervent prayers are a little less "Give me!" and a little more "This is my desire, may Your will be done!"
There was some stuff that happened this week that brought up a bunch of fears. Fears of being vulnerable. Fears of rejection. Fears of more pain and hurt. I'm not sure how much more I can go through and there are parts of me that run away from any situation that may have the potential to bring pain. Even if that same situation may have the same potential to bring joy. But I have my girls to keep me grounded in the Gospel at all times. I shared this with Michelle who lovingly reminded me that there is no fear in the Gospel, and that God does not call us to live in fear, but in freedom. So I am praying that the Lord may teach me to walk in His freedom. Especially in terms of marriage. That is my desire, may His will be done!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Me is smart"

In this video, Harry repeats something he told me in class ("me is smart") and I try to get some footage of one of my favorite students Yoonwha. He is my little monkey boy and as much as he is a total distraction in class, I adore him. Sadly, he is camera shy, so he hid under the table. You can hear Sulley in the background saying, "Yoonwha, you on movie". So cute!

Six Months

Tomorrow marks the end of the longest six months of my life. Or were they the shortest. I feel like I was dead for so long, and now I've woken up and found myself in Korea. I don't really know how I got here. I think I was sleepwalking. It's been an interesting week. I knew that this 6 month mark was coming up and I felt my heart beginning to think about those days. I wanted to read what I had written in my journal those few weeks immediately following the break up, but by God's grace, that journal is safely buried in my dad's attic in California. I wanted to cry. And I did. All four times that I watched New Moon. That's right folks. I saw the movie four times and cried each time. But really folks, I am ok. I look back on the last half of a year and am overwhelmed by God's grace. Even in the darkest moments in the Valley, He stood with me. I never stumbled beyond His reach, but was securely fastened to His side as we walked this dark path together. I am so grateful for His goodness and faithfulness to me. There is definitly more I need to write, but it is late here in Seoul. So I sign off. I will face tomorrow with joy, knowing that God's goodness never fails and His mercies are new every morning.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tourism Day with Rosanna

This is one of the first Starbucks I've seen that has its sign in Korean. Most are in English.

Rosanna and I weren't sure, but these looked like bugs they were serving as street food. So I took a picture and asked a friend. Sure enough- they were silk worms. No thanks!

So Rosanna and I went for the chicken skewers instead.

This street vendor guy was really nice and friendly so we stood and watched his presentation of making this candy. And then of course, we bought some!


Here are some photos from Thanksgiving:

Maggie and I at TGIFridays

We went to TGIF because it was the most American thing we could think of, but even TGIF had its own Koreanization of the menu. We all laughed when we saw the Kimchi Pilaf on the menu. We were all American (about 10 of us) except one Austrailian who was silly enough to actually order the kinchi pilaf. Then we all REALLY laughed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Those who are called to vocational ministry...

Confession time. I have been struggling with jealousy. It’s not often that my jealous nature is brought to my attention. But I couldn’t ignore the resentment building in my chest every time I entered the church. You might think this sounds crazy, and to be honest, it probably is. But I was so jealous of the people who worked at the church. I want so badly to work for a church. Someone in youth ministry once told me that at their orientation day at seminary, a professor stood up and told the group of students that if they could imagine themselves doing anything else, anything else, that they should leave and go do that. That youth ministry was very difficult and unless you are called and can’t imagine doing anything else, you should leave. I don’t know if I agree with that, but it certainly resonates with my soul right now. There is nothing I want to do but ministry.
I went to church a week ago and was overwhelmed by my jealousy of those who are serving in full time ministry. I know my desire to be in ministry is a good desire. I asked the Lord why I had to spend this year teaching English. He had called me. He had prepared me. And now He was sticking me in a stinky job teaching English to whinny kids? Why? And I heard Him in my heart. It was loud and clear. “Obey me. Even here, in a job you don’t want. Obey me.” Obedience when things are how we want them is almost easy. But then again, are we truly obeying, or are we just doing what we want to do?” So God wants me to obey Him here, in a job I don’t want. At church last week, Pastor Drew was talking about a totally different topic, but he referenced Col. 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive your inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” I’m sure you’ve heard this passage before, but did you know that it is not just addressed to anyone, but to slaves? That’s right. Slaves. When I read that, I felt it click in my heart. I feel like a slave to my debt. I am, really. I don’t have the freedom to do what I wish to do. And the Lord is calling me to obedience even in this time. He could have provided for my freedom from my debt. I could have gotten an anonymous check in the mail for all the money I owe. It’s happened to other people. So why didn’t He provide like that? I don’t know the whole why, but I know that He did provide. He provided this job for me to get out of debt, and He is calling me to obedience to Him here and now.

the year of Jubilee

A little pun in the title. Not only is it the verse of my church, but it seems like possibly my verse for the year. This is my year at Jubilee (Church). At every church I’ve committed to over the last 8 years, I have learned valuable lesson. At Trinity Pres. Of SLO I discovered the (second) love of my life- THEOLOGY! In Chile, at la Iglesia Anglicana de Providencia I learned a lot about leadership and ecumenical unity (or lack thereof). In my two years at Westminster, I heard the most beautiful liturgy at City Church and saw what a bunch of hippies turned radical middle class Jesus lovers can do at New Life Glenside. The Village Church was a whole new experience. It was in so many ways the perfect church for me. It was a combination of good fellowship, solid redemptive historical and yet contextualized preaching of the Gospel, and a true love for the broken yet beautiful neighborhood we lived in. Even if I never get to live in New York again (Lord forbid) I know the six months I spent at The Village Church were formative to my view of how to do church in the city.
Now I find myself at Jubilee. It is the year that we proclaim the Lord’s favor. It is the year that all debts are forgiven and life is restored. I have no clue what the Lord is going to teach me this year. I feel like a butterfly coming out of my cocoon. I know I am breaking free, I have felt the pains of change, and I know my wings are gaining strength to fly. I haven’t looked in the mirror yet. It’s too early to see the fullness of the change that has taken place. But I confidently that this year is going to be big. Probably bigger than any other year in my life.
I used to think that my 26th year was going to be wasted in pain. The darkness of the valley crept over my toes on May 29th. It was my birthday. I remember some time in June thinking that the way my birthday started, the way the rest of the days went afterward was going to be indicative of my whole year. I was sure that the sun wouldn’t shine until I turned 27. It would go down in my personal history as a year of pain. But I am seeing the Lord take what had been set aside for pain and despair and He is redeeming my year. The 5 months that I spent in the valley are being redeemed by His mighty hand.

doing well

I know its been a while since I posted anything. It is not due to any bad turn of events in my life, but on the contrary, life has been good. I am still struggling in various ways with Korean life (like their fierce and vocal judgment of anyone over a size 2 and the way they walk ridiculously slowly down the streets). But I am actually doing really well. I really appreciate my church. It’s not perfect, and I know that. But I really like it. I’ve never been a member of a church this charismatic. They aren’t speaking in tongues from the pulpit or anything, but the way the pastor talk about prayer, or even visions would probably make some of my Westminster buddies uncomfortable. But honestly, I need it. I am so thirsty for the God’s work in my heart, in my life, that I gladly welcome a strong faith in the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives today. Not that my reformed buddies don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, but that too often the power that we so adamantly declare on paper is not given a prominent place in our daily lives. I am above all guilty of this. While my doctrinal theology of prayer is good (or at least I think so!) it hasn’t infiltrated my life. Do I pray like I can move mountains? Does the Holy Spirit’s intimacy fill me with wondrous chills when I approach the throne of God Almighty? When life’s ups and downs come, do I turn to the fountain of Wisdom for counsel? I confess here that I have a weak view of God. I have a weak view of His power. Of who He is. Of what He is doing. Lord forgive my unbelief!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It goes both ways

So as much as I make fun of my Korean students and their English, this morning I write to tell you that the language fun goes both ways. Not only are we teaching English, but most of us teachers are also trying to learn Korean. Last night, as we were walking home from work, Brittany got a text message in Korean from a friend she met this weekend. His text was as to be expected, in Korean. Great. So the three of us girls huddled around the phone and collectively worked on translating the message. Brittany sounded out, "hwa... hwa hae... hwa haeyo... pri..." and then it clicked, "oh! bri-ttan-ny! that's my name!" At that point I couldn't help but laugh. Here we were staring hard at all these strange characters and really they just said her name (the first part means something akin to "whatcha up to?") Ah, the good times you have when living in another country.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good times in Hongdae

Like I said, HongDae is the area where the university is. It's totally a sweet hangout for young Koreans. It was SOOO cold (well below freezing) on Saturday but Nicky and I walked around the area trying to stay warm. We stumbled upon this park that has live performances. Really cool. I took a quick video so you can see a little of the madness that goes on here.

So this first group was really popular. The lead singer had a mad wig on that looked like an Afro... who knows where that came from.

And this second group was just a few meters away trying to compete with the sound of the big group. It was a few high schools rapping. Cute kids, not really that much talent though.

Birthday good times

This weekend was a double whammy. Both Maggie and Kiren(pictured above) were celebrating the big 23. A group of us went out to a part of town called HongDae. It is where the University of Korea is, so it's FULL of cool student stuff. Very hip place. Anyways, we met up at a bar and got nice nd toasty before heading to another bar where we danced. Enjoy the photos!

Here we are with a ton of vodka and tequila and fruit. For some reason, they give you fruit when you order liquor. Awesome. Fun note: the fruit platters here are always complete with tomatoes. Of course, right?

Sally, Nicky, Brittany, and me

Before we went out for the birthday bash, Nicky and I hung out and got a pretzel at Auntie Annes. It was Nicky's first pretzal!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Girls' Night Photos

As I shared earlier, I was hosting a girls' night on Sunday. After church, Sunyoung, Nicky and I all headed over to my place where we were joined by Ta'eh and Sally (a new American teacher at my school). We ate yummy stirfry and then settled, all five of us, on my bed to watch Twilight. It was awesome. Totally the kind of thing I love doing. And of course the girls loved Twilight and we have all agreed to go see New Moon when it comes to Korea on December 3rd.

Dinner with Becka always includes lots of yummy veggies!

Koreans have a space near their from door for everyone's shoes. Check out Ta'eh's yellow crocs, I gotta get a pair of those!

Nicky and I as I cook the food

All the girls chilling before we start the movie- good times!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Meager Means

I am very excited to share with you that tonight I will be hosting a girls' night at my place. That's right. I'm having a few friends over (3 Koreans and an American) over for dinner and a movie. What's on the menu? My own crazy version of Korea food. It's one of my stirfrys with zucchini, bell peppers, onions, and tofu all in a rich bulgogi sauce and served over noodles. We'll watch Twilight (of course) and then when New Moon comes out Decemeber 3rd here in Korea, we'll head out to see that. I'm really excited to host this. I have such a small place, only 3 bowls (I'm going to borrow another one and use a tupperware myself) and my netbook screen is WAY too small to comfortably all watch the movie, but I decided I would rather live hospitably with meager means than not at all. So there you go!

Friday, November 06, 2009

It's 1:40am. You may be wondering what I could possibly be doing at this ungodly hour. Well after a loooonnnng day at work, I headed over to Kims Club (think Kmart) and then finally to my little studio where I planned on watching some previously downloaded tv shows. It was already 11pm when I started 30 Rock. Then the Office (a great episode, by the way) and finally, the best for last, Vampire Diaries. When all was said and done, it was 1:30am. Even though I was tired and sure that going to sleep was going to be the best solution to that problem, I wistfully distracted myself by looking up Yeah, internet dating. Not that I think I am anywhere near ready to actually date, but I figured it was about time I at least stuck my toes in the water. So I signed up for a free account and began to answer the multitude of questions for my profile. That's when the panic began. First of all, Koreans are obsessed with looks. I mean, in the US we are too, but there are 7 year old Korean kids who refuse chocolate because they are afraid of getting fat. But Koreans don't get fat! Seriously, this is a SKINNY county, and they are VERY prejudiced against fat people. That being said, my panic began when I realized that I didn't want to, or just plain couldn't answer some of the questions. These are questions that would not be asked on an American dating site, and if they were, they would be optional to answer.

My star sign is: I don't know and don't care

I was born in the year of the: Once again, don't know and don't care

My weight is: LOL, yeah right! You think I'm going to actually put my weight on this thing??? But there was no "no comment" option. The stress began to build in my chest. Koreans a quite harsh when it comes to weight. Any Korean girl that doesn't fit into a nie size 0 is seen as fat. Not chubby, not our pc word "overweight". Nope, they are fat. Then you get to truly fat people and the culture freaks out. I knew that any answer about the weight of my 5'2 body that was over 110 would be seen as fat. Umm....

Or even better:

My appearance is: (drumroll) the options are "very attractive", "attractive", "average", or "below average". I put average because I couldn't bring myself to answer anything else. Only a vain person would put very attractive, and only someone with sad self esteem would put below average. (Below average, isn't that a standard teachers use to judge kids on report cards) And isn't attraction different to each person anyways?? This was too much.

I finished the profile (after strategically lying about my weight!) and closed the window. That was way too much to handle. Thankfully my friend Sarah was on skype and I told her all about the Korean online dating experience. We had a good laugh. Well, if that's all it was good for, so be it!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I bought Sexless in the City a month before Jason and I started dating. I put off reading it to work on my thesis, and then once the relationship started, and graduation plans ensued, and then the getting OVER the relationship season began... well, let's just say that it took me until mid August to begin reading this book that had so quickly caught my attention in February. Once I began, I realized that this woman, Anna Broadway, was telling my story. Sure some of the details were different, but she and I have walked disturbingly similar paths. I cannot recommend this book enough. Sure, it's about sex and Anna has a lot to say on the subject. But it's also just about life. It's about being a Christian. She describes her experiences with a hindsight that I can only hope to have a few years down the road. It's uncanny how closely her reactions to life match mine. Crushes on guys, not because they are worth even an ounce of your heart's energy but because you are lonely, or even worse, bored. The hours spent examining every word exchanged between you and the current crush, the anxious checking of email just in case he replied to your message in the last 45 seconds. I have been there, too many times.
I am affected by the authors I read and those of you who have faithfully read this blog over the last 4 years can attest to my multifaceted personality as a writer. If I read too much Jane Austen (is there such a thing?), my mind works like an Austen novela. And reading Anna Broadway is no exception. Authors give me frames in which I can understand the life that moves around me. With Anna, I can laugh. As I read her stories of loves lost, and really they are just crushes lost, I reflect on my own long list of "loves" lost. In the past I've tried to count how many crushes I've had, but I have realized that it is an impossible task. There are too many to count. Ha, if that isn't humbling, what is?
I have a half day on Wednesdays which means I get home by 7pm. I decided to spend my extra hours tonight at Dunkin Donuts with an iced tea, finishing Sexless in the City. I've been reading it for months now and I decided that I needed to just power through the last 20 pages tonight. I get so easily distracted when I read Sexless. My mind wanders to all the various life experiences the book brings to memory. Anna names all the people in her book with nicknames that have to do with who they are. Winner, Poster Boy, and the Harvard Lickwit are all men in her life at some point in time. I began to think about the boys in my past. What would I name them? There would be the Drummer, Hookah Rocker, and of course Mr. White picket fence. Can you guess who is who? No posting answers, but if you want to guess, shoot me an email.
Tonight as I finished the last few pages, I grabbed my journal and scribbled down a few sentences of reflection. I'll share with you a little of what I wrote:

In a truly pathetic fashion I have played with my heart, holding it out for the taking. I have clutched it with all my strength while simultaneously trying to throw it at the oblivious passerbyers. I have given my heart time and time again, secretly hoping the receiver would turn out to be Prince Charming.

There's gotta be something wrong with this picture. I think I'm learning how to live, to really live. Love is so complex, and life even more.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kids say the darnest things

I want to start a new weekly, or biweekly posting where I will share with you some of the fun (or just plain strange) things my kids say in class. Everyday in the teachers lounge we share the funny things the kids put on their tests or homeworks. Sometimes what they say is so blatantly wrong that it's just funny.

(I want a cool name for this kind of post. So CONTEST time!!! THink of a cool name for these posts. Like "silly sayings" or "wrong readings". Send them my way and I'll use the coolest one.)

To give you an example of what my kids say:
On the vocab tests, the kids have to write the words and a sentence using the vocab word. Now these are smart kids, so when they don't know the definition of a word, they often try to make up a sentence that is vague enough that it just might work. One of the most popular ones is: "I like ________." Um, yeah, sure but that does NOT tell me that you know what it means.
This was (hopefully) the case today when one of my students wrote a sentence for the vocab word "breed". Yeah, not my favorite vocab word, but it's in the curriculum so I teach it. Sadly, this kid didn't seem to study because his sentence was:
I breed with my mom.
NOT really an acceptable answer and I didn't feel like explaining to the 10 year old boy why.

Here is another fun example of things my kids write and how much they make me smile (when I'm not yelling at them!)
For Halloween I had all the kids do a madlib. It was pretty basic and a lot of kids weren't very creative, but some kids were really funny. They had to pick two Halloween characters in the madlib, so Frankenstein and Vampires were popular. So were witches and mummies. But then again there were those kids that wrote "becka" down. Darn kids. Here are two of my favorite madlibs:

It was a black and foggy night. A tall superman knocked on the door of the old house. A batman opened the door and died. The superman went inside the house. His crazy face was never seen again.


It was a pink and foggy night. A pretty princess knocked on the door of the old house. A fairy opened the door and sang. The princess went inside the house. Her tall face was never seen again.

Which one do you think was written by a girl and which one by a boy? Yeah, you probably guessed right.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Another puzzle piece

Today another puzzle piece fell into place.

I've been struggling with my church for weeks. In fact, every week I've gone there I've found myself sitting in the sermon cringing and wondering why I still go to the church. Don't get me wrong, the people are very very nice and I'm sure they love Jesus very much. But for someone who loves theology, indeed who breathes theology, the simplistic and sometimes slightly bad theology was too much to take. I am the first to say that the gospel is simple enough for a 5 year old to understand and yet complex enough to study your whole life and never full grasp the immensity of it. But the teachings at this church were too, well, let's just say they weren't for me. I loved the social aspect of the church. I met so many Koreans there and I loved going out to lunch with them afterwards. But given my own personal state, I knew that I needed to be in a place where I was being fed spiritually, even if that meant being in a church that is mainly expats. So Sunyoung and I went to a church called Jubilee today. We went to our old church first, then grabbed lunch, and headed over to the 1:30 service at Jubilee. And you know what? I really liked it. I mean, the head pastor wasn't there today, it was a guest preacher who is all into speaking in tongues and what not. But honestly, the talk about tongues was nothing was because the rest of his message was so good. It wasn't legalistic at all. It was a breath of fresh air. The service even included communion. It's been weeks, maybe even months since I've had communion and I have to say, as one who loves to draw near to the Table, I miss it. It is such an important part of worship to me, once a quarter or even once a month is not enough. After the service, a group of us went out for what is called "Bread Breaking" which is basically just a group of whoever that goes out for lunch or coffee. The group of us, 10 in total, went out to a Pho noodle place. Since Sunyoung and I had already had lunch we just got juice while everone else ate. Then, in good Korean style, we all slowly ambled over to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. Then, because Koreans just can't seem to let the day end, we walked around the city a bit more. Our group had windled down to 7 by then, but it was still a fun time. Sunyoung and I were attached at the hip all day, and it was really nice to have a friend with me as we met all these new people. At one point in the afternoon, Sunyoung pulled me aside and asked if I was going to go to Jubilee now instead of our other church. I sighed and told her that I really liked Jubilee. She smiled and agreed. We decided that next week we would go to Jubilee instead. It feels really good. I have struggled with the issue of my church since I got here. I am really excited to be at Jubilee. It seems like one more puzzle piece is falling into place.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

a Halloween video

So I realize that many of my photos are from this one class, but really, they are too cute NOT to post. Here is a fun video of them Friday all dressed up in their Halloween costumes.

My little princess Ella

The whole class excited to get candy for Halloween

Here I am being scary.. and yes, I am a vampire, but like in Twilight, I am a GOOD vampire. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some of the MUNCHKINS I teach

It is Halloween this weekend so the kids are coming to school ready to have fun (which loosely translates as ready to eat candy!) I took the opportunity to capture some of the sweetness I get to be with all day, every day.

My oldest class. These girls are at the age where school is almost uncool. Evidently dressing up isn't uncool yet. Check out the glasses on Eesun (the second on the right).

Here is the damage done to my board by my students when I'm gone for my dinner break. I always come back to the class for a board full of goodies.

Alex and Harry- two of my favorites. I melt when Alex smiles at me, which he totally uses to his advantage!

One of my more advanced classes. These three girls are WAY too much fun, and such good students! Of course, all three came dressed as witches. Sweet kids!

These two girls are stuck in a class of four rowdy boys who smell and throw stuff at each other. But the girls just sit in their corner and draw hearts all over their pages. Here they are showing off the test I gave them where they drew (very well) the water cycle. They had color and everything. I adore these girls!

Here is one of my youngest classes. The girl on the far right is named Ella and she is a DOLL! I keep singing the Rhianna song "ella ella hey hey!" whenever I say her name. She's one of the ones I would adopt in a moment! The one with the wolf face is Sunny. She's a total crack up, totally quiet and shy but she loves to wear that dog face hat. Ahh... kids....

Here is Scott and Eric. Scott is so cute with his little glasses and bowl haircut. Totally a nerd. And Eric is the class clown and the leader in the class. Good thing he loves me and is always trying to sit next to me (in the seat I reserve for the bad students, which makes me laugh)

Lame and I know it

So I know my blog posts have been few and far between recently- sorry! I am going to try to make up for it with a cool few posts.
First, I just have to say that the past four months have been that hardest months of my life. I won't go into details here but it is safe to say that I have spent the last few months in a pit. I have never been that deep in a valley before and my one joy and consolation from this season was that the Lord was ever near. THere wasn't a moment that I didn't feel His presence, holding me close. I couldn't walk. I couldn't move. There seemed no end to the valley, but He always stayed with me. In fact, there were moments when all I could do is cry out for Him to sit with me. It was all the strength I had. I was reading some of James today and reflecting on how God tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, that it is for our good. I can confidently say that the Lord has been immensly good to me in this past season. He is faithful and I am grateful for the season of sorrow that I lived.
That being said, I am also grateful that it is over. The depression left with the fever. The previous three weeks had been the worst yet. I spent a lot of time crying and what little hope of recovery I had felt over the summer was quickly evaporating. One night was particularly bad and it was the next day that I got sick. I wasn't surprised to be sick after so many intense emotions. But as I soon learned, the fever was a blessing. It was those few days of being sick that brought me out of the pit. When it was finally time to go back to work (last Monday morning) I was all too ready to start my life here. I walked out of my apartment that day finally enjoying my life here. I realized that I was eager to learn Korean, to go out and have fun, to make friends. All the things that I had run from earlier, I was now happy to begin.
All of this being said, I'll now start to blog again. THank you to all of you who prayed for me during this dark season (especially to Julie and Tosha who let me be real when the pit seemed way above my head). You have blessed me beyond words.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Top 10 Biblical Ways to Acquire a Wife

(I saw this on someone's profile and thought it was one of the funniest things I've seen since leaving the land of all humor- Westminster Theological Seminary. I hope you enjoy... and boys, don't be afraid to try some of these out, let me know if they work!)

10. Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

9. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Ruth

8. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim
her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)

7. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one
and carry her off to be your wife. (Judges 21:19-25)

6. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his
daughter for a wife. (I Samuel 18:27)

5. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Esther 2:3-4)

4. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his
flock. (Exodus 2:16-21)

3. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have
seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision,
simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Judges 14:1-3)

2. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage.
Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years
for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen
years of toil for a woman. (Genesis 29:15-30)

1. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you
a rib. (Genesis 2:19-24)
I will post again soon. promise. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This will be a quick update. As it is, I have a bunch of school work to grade, lesson plans to write, and hopefully a good number of hours to sleep. I am doing ok. I'm still tired and congested, but I have no fever and have been back at work since Monday. Work is going well. I am getting the hang of teaching all the various classes, although I have just enough energy to teach and nothing more. I am doing ok. More to come later.

Friday, October 16, 2009


So I am really sick. Either this is my normal asthma attack followed by 103.8 degree fever, or I have swine flu. I went to a doctor today, explained what was going on and begged her to give me something to lower the temperature. I spent all last night and this morning scared that I was going to black out from such a high temp. And no matter if I took Tylenol and covered myself with cold wet rags, I couldn't get my temp to stay under 103. So I went to the doctor and after she gave me a prescription, she recommended that I go to the hospital to get tested for swine flu. She said it would be $150, so I thought, well at least I would know. I went to the hospital, nearly dying along the way, I was in so much pain and i couldnt breathe and my head was on fire. At the hospital they said it would take 2 days to get the results and it actually cost $600. So I decided to skip that, go home, and just pretend like I do have swine flu. A week of quarrentine for me. Or I guess how ever long it takes to get better.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Smiling today

Good news!
As I speculated in my previous post, my time hanging out with my friends here wasn't that bad. In fact, it was almost... wait for it... good! I ended up having Sunyoung and Nicky come over after church and we were joined by my neighbor Gavin, who is from Atlanta. I was a little nervous about the whole affair on multiple levels. WOuld I be ok with so many people around me for so long? Would my guests who had never met each other, like each other? Would I have enough food to feed all four of us? I only have two bowls so how would all four of us eat anyways? It all turned out okay though. Nicky had to leave early so I only had to feed three people. Sunyoung and Gavin had bowls and I ate out of a tupperware dish. And everyone seemed to get along. After eating my rockin' speghetti, we headed out for coffee (Gavin's treat). Four hours later, we fianlly split up. It was good though. I like all of them. Sunyoung is ever sweet and encouraging and we love teaching each other our language. Nicky is a sister at heart, she and I laugh about boys and hearts, and being heart broken all the time. And Gavin, well I think Gavin is my favorite foreigner here. It might be his slightly cynical outlook on life. It makes me feel comfortable. Anyways, thanks for your well-wishes and prayers. I am smiling today.


Hey ya'all, (that's for Tosha)

For those of you who have asked about my address or what you can send my way, any peanutbutter candy like Reeses or Butterfinger, anything fun in English to hang in my classroom, any Chai tea mix, anything really, is greatly appreciated. I don't need anything right now honestly, I'll let you know if I do. I think I would most appreciate just a card and some love!

Send love to:

S.E.A. [Becka Lipkowitz]
5F Heejung B/D, 49-11 Banpo-4dong,
Seocho-gu, Seoul, 137-802, Korea

mucho gra-cias!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mi casa

The much promised video of a tour of my pad. It is smaller (believe it or not) than it looks. :) nice and cozy!


After the depressing last post, I feel the need to write a little uplifting post. It's not much but it's something. After wandering around Hongdae for a few hours, I made it back over to my part of town. One of the things I love most in life right now is grocery shopping. I think I have always enjoyed it, but now given my slightly anti-social attitude in life, grocery shopping is the highlight of my day. SInce I only have a half fridge, I have to buy small quantities and shop over other day or so. I had heard there was a supermarket about a mile or two up the hill from my apartment. After weeks of shopping at the little market around the corner, the thought of a supermarket was too much temptation to turn down. I found fairly easily and got some yummy food to make for my friend and myself tomorrow. As I was walking home, I ran into one of my students! His name is Sulley, he's probably 9 or 10 years old, and he is a sweet kid. I giggled with glee when he waved to me and started talking very excitedly to his parents who I soon realized didn't understand much English, much less excited California girl English. I slowed down and said very clearly that I was Sulley's teacher at SEA. His mom's expression brightened as she grasped my hand firmly and repeated "SEA, SEA, ah yes, SEA!" I told them that Sulley was a great student and made sure to give a huge thumbs up so they understood. We said goodbye and I walked away. It totally made my day.

Not feeling so social

I have noticed a pattern. Stay busy, and be okay. Have time to think and reflect, and choke back the tears. Not really a healthy pattern, but I guess its something. I decided to check out an area of Seoul called Hongdae today. It's where the university is and it's known for being a cool hip area. It's also the only place in Seoul where they sell nose rings. I have yet to see a Korean with a nose ring, so they aren't exactly sold everywhere. It's precious when I wear my nose ring and the kids go crazy asking me about it. So I headed out nice and early to make it across town (about a 30 minute subway ride). When I got there I wandered around for a while before I realized I was hungry. THe problem was, I didn't want any of the food I saw available. Korean food is made to be eaten in groups of at least two. There are a few dishes like bibimbop that you can eat by yourself, but in general, Koreans don't eat alone. In fact, many Korean restaurants don't even have a menu available for single meals. Food is communal. So I wandered around for a while, not sure what to do. Finally I stumbled upon Dos Tacos and I felt a million times better. I had a beef and avocado burrito. While it was NOTHING like La Tapatia, it was just what I needed.

Yeah, while today was not nearly as bad as last week, it was really only better in that I have a little more understanding of what's going on in my heart. The problem isn't that I am alone here and I can't make friends. But that I don't want friends. The few that I have made, I struggle against running away from them. I suspected when Jason and I broke up that this was going to be more a matter of trust than heart. I have come to a place where I don't really blame Jason as much as I used to, so that's good. I don't know what happened really. I'm not sure I will ever know. The reality is today, I am not wary of just men, but all relationships whether or not they are romantic. I don't want any friends. I don't want American friends and I don't want Korean friends. I avoided most people for most of the time from June through September, and now I expect myself to be different? Maybe I just got used to being alone. I would rather be alone. Ha. Now you should be worried right? I'm speaking out of pain right now, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I am making myself be social at least sometimes. I am supposed to have one of my few Korean friends over for lunch tomorrow. It will be the first time I entertain in my apartment. I have to confess, as sweet as my friend is, the thought of being social for 3 or 4 hours is draining. I'm sure it will be fine.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Today I felt the weight of my depravity.

I had a sad dream last night. Not a bad one, per se, but a sad one. When I woke up, I tried with all my might to return there. I wanted to go back to the tears in my dream. I wasn’t done crying I guess. But I couldn’t fall back asleep so I got up and made my way over to Paris Baguette, the coffee house around the corner that has the cheapest americanos and yummy breakfast pastries. I got some work done, blogged, and talked to a few people via internet. But over me hung this dark cloud, residue from my sad dream. I told one of my friends on gchat about it and found myself tearing up in the café. I guess it’s going to be one of those days. I made my way over to school, trying to block out the pain at the bottom of my heart.

Classes were not so good today. I realized throughout the day that when I am not okay, my pool of grace for the kids is all dried up and I have no patience with anything. I guess it was a bad day for the kids to come to class without their homework. A bad day for them to be naughty in class. A bad day for the trouble makers to break my heart. I was on the edge of anger and frustration for much of the day. And not just with the kids, with myself as well. I hated that I wasn’t being patient with them, that I was taking out my bad day on them. Ah well, things tomorrow will be different. They have to be. I want to be. I can’t stay here in this sadness forever, even if it haunts me in my dreams. I really am doing much better since the weekend. But there seem to be parts of my heart that just won’t heal. Or maybe they have, and I just don’t recognize the scars that have formed…

I’m not looking for encouragement, just trying to be honest. I am still working through what all of this means. What does it mean that I still prefer to be alone than with people? That even though I’ve made friends, very nice and sweet friends, here, and even though I enjoy myself when I am with them, I still crave solitude? I’m not asking any of you for answers. I’m just letting you see a little into my struggle.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Dedicated to my Grandma

Seoul is extremely safe. Seriously, the only time I ever felt unsafe at all was in the Itewon area which is full of foreigners. Where I live is mainly Koreans and SO SO SO safe. Seoul is so safe that no only will you not get robbed, but if you accidently drop your wallet on the subway, people will run after you to return it. It happened to my friend a few weeks ago. The photo above is of a subway seat where someone left a purse. I noticed it when I got on the train and sat opposite of it. I wanted to do something about it, somehow get it back to the owner, but I had no idea how to. So after fruitlessly trying to make eye contact with some of the other passengers to point out the purse, I gave up and just took a picture. I'm sure it got back to the owner eventually. Oh Seoul, you are way too easy.


In case anyone doubted that my obsession was just as strong as ever! Yep, Twilight in Korean! Actually, it's still in English but with Korean subtitles. Close enough.

My Identity (literally)

Last night I got my resident alien card! I thought I'd capture the moment by showing off my identity from the various places I have lived. I have to admit, I'm not thrilled with the photo on my Korean card, I didn't realize that the passport photos that I submitted to the government would be so permanently attached to my life here. Oh well. At least I didn't have to wait in a 3 hour line like Chile.

Monday, October 05, 2009

making boys cry... and not in a good way (?)

I made a kid cry today. It was the first time in my four years of teaching that I have made anyone cry. The worst part is the kid is a 13 year old boy. Yeah, not exactly the demographic I pegged to be the first to cry. Now before you go thinking I was truly mean to the kid, here’s how it went down…. It’s a class of 6 young teens. We were going around the classroom reading an article. When it got to this young fellow’s turn, he had his head down on the table and wouldn’t respond to me. I asked if he was sick. He said no. He was tired. Ok, well, sorry, but you can’t sleep in class. Please read. After a few minutes of prodding, he finally began to read, no whisper the part of the article assigned to him. Ugh. This attitude kept up all throughout class. Then, a few minutes before class was over, his cell phone rang. Yeah. I looked sternly at him and told him to turn it off. Not only did he not turn it off, but he answered it! Right there in class! NOT OK. I told him that he wasn’t allowed to talk on the phone in class so he stood up, still talking away in Korean on the phone, and walked out of the classroom. Not exactly what I meant. So when he came back, I made him stay after all the other kids had left and I sternly told him that it was not ok. That next time I would take his cell away, etc. I asked him if he understood. Well, he wouldn’t answer me or look at me in the eyes. I could see him getting emotional though. I asked him much more tenderly this time, if something was wrong. He still wouldn’t look at me or answer. I could see the tears welling up in his eyes so I finally let him go to his next class. I asked one of the directors about this, if it was normal. She said it wasn’t normal for kids to answer their phones in class and not acceptable. I had the right to take the phone away right then. But she said that some of the boys at this school turned on the waterworks for next to reason. Odd, its the boys that do this. So she speculated that this boy was one of the criers. So there you go. I made an overly emotional disobedient adolescent boy cry.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Flirting in Korean

It was at the party Saturday night that I met Richard. He was standing in front of Nickie and me in line for food. He introduced himself and his friend Love (no joke, this guy’s name is “Love Moon” maybe his parents were hippies?). We talked a little but I was pretty wary of guys and felt like he was too interested in talking to us. I escaped as soon as I could. Later he tried talking to us again. There were almost 200 people at this party and somehow we kept running into him. I said something to Nickie about it, but she thought he was just interested in us as friends. I decided to trust her intuition on this one since they are both Korean and I’m not. She would know better than I would, right?

Well, maybe I should have stuck to my gut on this one. Who knows? Maybe I over read things, but I saw Richard again today at church. In fact, I saw him three times at church. The first was just a quick passing. The second, he came and sat with Nickie and me and started talking to us. The third, he caught me alone. We started talking. I can’t go into the details, but let’s just say, it was… interesting. There was definitly some awkward topics introduced in this one. At the end of the conversation, when I finally excused myself with the excuse of having to go get work done, he said “Our intellectual connection was… sexy.” Huh? Yeah, I think that’s when I laughed and replied a quick “ok” and was out the door. Ha. I’m going to have to keep my eye on that one. He’s nice enough, but not my type. You know, not a staunchy reformed nerd. He’s charismatic! (I hope my wts friends appreciated that one!)

On that note, I leave you dear readers. I am ok. I am probably going to try to find a counselor here, but things are ok. I guess. If you know of any CCEF grads here in Seoul, please pass that info along my way.

Apathy and Chutzpah

I wish I had my girls here. I would love to laugh with them over the ridiculous things that have happened in the last few days. It started on Friday when I found myself walking around the city, slightly lost, and not caring. I realized that I am quite apathetic toward my life right now, and that includes my feelings about Korea. It’s not that I dislike Korea. I don’t. But neither do I like the country. I just don’t care. In fact, I don’t care about anything right now. I spent Friday examining my attitude toward life and wondering if it was my own version of culture shock. I was pretty sure it wasn’t. The feelings were far too closely resembling the various emotions I have faced over the last four months. The truth is, I just am not ok. I felt like a little blue cartoon animal on a Zoloft commercial. Just stumbling around on the stage of life, not caring about anything in the world. I realized at some point in the day that I am depressed. And then I panicked. What am I supposed to do? I thought through some of the plans of action I could take. I realized that staying in my apartment all by myself with my Twilight book (which is the only thing I want to do these days) probably isn’t a good idea.

This weekend is Korean Thanksgiving so not much is open and the city is pretty empty. So Saturday I headed over to Itaewon, the dirty foreigner section of town. I had never been there so I figured it was as good a day as ever to head in that direction. I planned on planting myself in a Starbucks with my NT Wright book. It would be good. And it was, that is until the African guy decided to hit on me. I was sitting by the front window so I could people watch. He walked by the window, took one look at me and came in the store. I was still looking out the window, my book open on my lap, when he sat down next to me. I didn’t really notice. He cleared his throat. I turned, looking confused. I really was NOT in the mood to be hit on. He evidently hadn’t gotten that message though. He started telling me how much he liked me, how beautiful I was, how much he wanted to get to know me. I smiled as politely as possible and said point blank, “thanks but no thanks, not interested.” He still wasn’t getting the message. I refused to give him my name. I explained over and over that I was flattered, but in no way interested, that I wanted to be alone. He wouldn’t leave. Eventually I gave up trying to convince him and I just turned back to my book. After a few minutes of my reading, and his staring, he started talking to me again. Another round of asking him to leave. I turned back to my book. He scooted up in his chair and touched my arm. That’s where I drew the line. I sharply told him that he could not touch me, that I had said no, and that when a girl says no, it means no. And I gave him one more chance to leave before I would have to resort to telling the Starbucks staff to kick him out (he hadn’t bought anything anyways). Finally he left, after wasting about 20 minutes of my time. Needless to say, this did NOT help my mood. I was slightly impressed though with how direct I had been with him. In the past, in situations like this, I fret and worry over being rude. Maybe the breakup with Jason somehow gave me the chutzpah to deal with these situations.

I had plans to meet up with one my girlfriends from church for this party thing at our church. Ehhh… I wasn’t really feeling like it, but I knew that it would be good for me in the long run, even if all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and shut the world out. So I went to church. I met up with Nickie, my new girlfriend, and we started talking over some snacks at the party. That’s when I started to cry. Yep, right there in the middle of the party. It turns out that Nickie broke up with her boyfriend just 5 months ago. She totally understood my pain and I realized as I verbalized some of my issues that they are much more hormonal than rational. Yeah, TMI I know, but it’s true. I’m hormonal right now and evidently there are no mood swings for me, just depression. Fun. The good news, it didn’t last too long. By the end of the night I was feeling better. Not completely un-apathetic, but better than before.

Friday, October 02, 2009

a SCARY teacher!

Believe it or not, I am referring to myself here. Yes, I am a scary teacher. Let me explain…
(warning, this is a loooonnnnnggggg post)

Yesterday was my first day of alone teaching. I taught Tuesday and Wednesday but I had Steve in the class with me. I was nervous about two things: time and grading. The classes are all 30 minutes each except the last section of classes which are 45 minutes each. Tuesday and Wednesday in almost every class, I ran late. In some of the classes, I got through the majority of the material in the first 10 minutes and then scrambled to put together some activity that usually then ran late. Oops. The parents want the kids to have their assignments graded and returned the day they are due. This means that the 30 minutes of class, as a teacher I have to not only collect all the homework, teach the lesson, and assign the following homework, but I have to grade each kids homework somehow in class. It’s probably the hardest part of teaching at my school. I’m not sure how we are supposed to do this, and all of the teachers say it’s impossible. We try to think of games that the kids can do without needing us so we can grade the homework. But it’s seriously a challenge. So those were my two areas of nervousness. Time and grading.

But today went fairly well. The kids are not what I expected. I expected that in an Asian culture the children would respect their elders, especially their teachers. I think they respect their Korean teachers at their normal school, but for whatever reason, they try to walk all over us American teachers. Steve (the teacher I replaced)struggled with wanting the kids respect and wanting to be buddies with the kids. This meant some of the kids took advantage of him and acted out in class. Monday, the last day where I just observed Steve’s classes, the kids were SO NAUGHTY! I almost cried in one of the classes out of frustration with one of the kids. He was SO RUDE to me! I would tell him to do something, and instead of obeying, he would turn to the rest of the kids and say something in Korean. Then the other kids would say to me, “teacher, teacher, he said you are fat!” Um… whoa. Ok, sure. I am? And that means you don’t have to obey me? I knew that I would have to teach him again on Wednesday so I prepared myself to have a little chitchat with him before the class. Thankfully I didn’t have to. He was much better behaved come Wednesday.

So I decided to put aside camp counselor Becka and be strict authoritarian Becka. If their Korean teachers are strict authoritarians (I heard that their hit kids here in the schools… ouch!), then I will start off with the message loud and clear that I demand the respect of the kids. I have a poster of my 5 rules posted on the wall.

1. Always show respect to your teacher and classmates
2. Raise your hand to speak
3. Only English in class
4. Stay in your seats unless given permission
5. No food in class

And I not only review the rules before each class, but when I hear a kid speaking in Korean, I ask them what rule 3 is. They smile sheepishly and read the rule for the class. Most of the boys are too rambunctious for their own good. There is one class, B11-B that is composed of 5 12 year old boys. Oh man, they LOVE to test rules. There isn’t a moment when they aren’t kicking each other, throwing erasers at each other. Both of their teachers from this past year have said that they have had a hard time teaching them anything. So I prepared myself mentally for the challenge. And to be honest, I actually liked that class. I find those boys are rowdy and over active, but after yelling at them a few times and threatening them quite a bit, they seemed to work with me. I am sure that we will still have bad days, but I am excited to teach them. Most of the girls are just plain sweet. They are eager to please and pleasing the teacher means knowing English, so they are quick to raise their hands with answers and to participate in class. One of my classes today was all girls and one boy, James. James refused to participate. I gave them an in class assignment and he didn’t do it. Not a single word. I gave him the first sentence, and he still wasn’t willing to work. So I pulled him out of the class and gave him a stern talking to. I told the whole class that if they finished early, they could have extra free time. He waited till I wasn’t looking and then quickly wrote the whole assignment, finishing before anyone else. So he’s smart, just stubborn. That’s ok. I can break that. Tehehe. So when it was time to read as a group, and he refused, I prompted and encouraged, then threatened. Finally, I pulled him out again, led him to the teachers’ lounge where I made him write “I will not act like a baby” a bunch of times. I told him he could come back to class when he was done. The Korean staff all smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. This evidently is how we teach here in Korea. In any case, it worked. He came back to class a few minutes later, handed me the page of sentences and actually participated in class. Miracle of miracles.

One of the classes, a large one of 10 kids that has a reputation for being difficult, told one of the other teachers that I was scary. Hahaha! It made my day. I can always ease up on the kids. And we will have fun. But I will make sure that I have control over my classroom. I will not let these kids wreck havoc in my life. If that means that they spend these first few weeks thinking I am scary, so be it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More fun in Kangnam

So I finally had soju, the famous and all too popular drink here in Korea. It's similar to vodka and it goes down super smoothly.... maybe even too smoothly! A group of us went out for drinks in honor of Erin's birthday. We were a fairly big group, mostly foreigners and mostly English teachers.
Here I am with the birthday girl and our shots of soju. I have to confess that I drank much more than I expected to. By the end of the night I had probably about 4 shots and 2 beers. I felt sick later that night, but I woke up without any hangover. So I guess that's good.
Here is Maggie (one of my coworkers) with some guys from another school.
Kiren, Danielle, and I toasting to... well, I think we were just happy to have soju in hand.
More toasting... it never seemed to end!
But at the end of the night, this is what we had left: a bunch of empty bottles! The total for all of this madness was only about $120. Which means for about $8 each, we had a solid 4 hours of good times. Not shabby!