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!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Madre!


Today my mom turns... er... 38? In any case, happy birthday to my forever beautiful mommy.

Photos from the last few days



We celebrated Erin's birthday last night with some yummy chinese/japanese fusion food and an awesome cake. Happy 23!



I had my first Korean beer, not too shabby... 맥 주, 주 서 요 ! (maekju chuseyo means give me a beer please!)



Coworkers from school




I'm started to add more ingredients to my sitrfry. Now there are carrots, corn, onions, lettuce, sprouts, and noodles. Yum?



Best for last, my friend Sunyoung took me out for Japanese food. So sweet!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

sorry mom! here ya go!

Sorry to disappoint, but this catch up blog will have to be short (and boring). I am just wiped out from the past few days and haven't really had time to process much, and therefore have little to share with ya'all. I finally got to go to my school on Thursday and I watched a few teachers teach various classes. The system at the school seems quite complex, but at least its organized (not something private language schools here are known for). I am taking over for a guy named Steve. He's from Canada, of Indian descent, and a total blast. We totally hit it off and have spent a lot of time in the last two days laughing. One of my favorite things to laugh about has been how funny the students are about Steve being "brown". Some great stories to share there, but they will have to wait for another day. Anyways, I have a total of 14 classes of students, ranging from age 5 to 15 and each class has a different curriculum so there is a TON of stuff for me to learn right now. Luckily, this is not my first time teaching and I have no qualms with jumping right in. The kids are great, for the most part. There are a few kids that I have my eye on, total troublemakers. But overall, the kids are good. SO CUTE. Some of them I want to grab and hug, but that's not quite how Koreans roll. So I just smile, for now.
So Thursday night I observed, and then Steve and I walked back to our apartment complex (we live in the same complex a few blocks from the other teachers) and we ended up standing outside the building for hours talking. Yeah, he should have known better than to bring up religion. Man, talking about God just gets me going. And he has his own interesting story. So by the time I wandered into my apartment and got to sleep it was almost 2am. Not exactly the schedule I wanted to keep. Friday, I observed again and even helped teach a little. Today, Saturday, I met up with my friend Sunyoung and we had sushi for lunch before sitting in a coffee house for 4 hours talking about English and Korean. It's actually a great way for me to learn since I can talk mostly in English but practice my Korean. It's coming along well and though I am far from fluent, I think I know more than the other teachers who have been here for months.
So there you go Mom. Tomorrow, church at 10am with Sunyoung, then we're off to the new members class, then lunch. And then hopefully I'll be able to sneek off home before I head out to celebrate a fellow teacher's birthday with my co-workers. Did I mention that this fellow teacher, Erin, happens to know a handful of my friends back home? That's right, she knows a few of my friends from WTS and then a bunch of the people I went to Israel and India with. CRAZY! In anycase, not sure if I will get a chance to blog again tomorrow, but I am good, safe, and having fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

what? huh? where AM I?

I’ve been trying to post a video tour of my apartment for the past few days. Hopefully today it will finally go up. I have to admit, I’ve made my room quite comfortable. In fact, maybe it’s too comfortable. A few nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night, and I knew I was in my room. I just didn’t know which country my room was in. For a moment, cities like New York, Santiago, and even Tokoyo ran through my mind. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew it was Seoul, but I had a hard time believing it. I remember in John Leonard’s Missional Anthropology class (one of my favorites at WTS) that it is ok for missionaries in another culture to make their home a safe place. A place where they can be free to express their home culture. It came up in the conversation around the complications when marrying someone of another culture. Now, for those of you who have known me for a while and well, know that I was (and still am to some extent) intent on marrying a Chileno. Anyways, I’m getting off track…. The point is, my apartment is quite cozy to me. Very easy for me to live in. And to honest, the city itself isn’t that difficult either. I’ve picked up enough of the language to deal with buying stuff at the market and other little life stuff. So I think this year will be ok. As long as I can remember which city I’m in!

A typical night in

Let's see what I have in my fridge... hmm.... all veggies and tofu. I think this is a little glimpse into my year here.




Noodles and lettuce stirfry. Sounds about right.








A night in wouldn't be complete without a facial.

A walk through Olympic Park








intense

Today was not quite what I expected. I knew that once I got here, before I could have my alien registration card, I would need to go to the hospital for a medical check. I figured I would go, they would look at me, ask if I had any particular diseases, etc. And really it would be no big deal. Um, no. It was much more than that. Fortunately, and also to my embarrassment, the guy from the school, Jin, accompanied me. We got to the hospital and checked in. They gave me a cup to pee in. That was my first clue that this was a little more serious than I had expected. I asked Jin if I what I was supposed to do with the cup of pee once I was done. He told me just to bring it back out and bring it to the front counter. Uh… yuck. But ok. I am ok. I remember that Chile was quite similar in its dealings with body fluids and such things. So I went into the bathroom and peed into the cup. I stared at the bright yellow pee in the clear little Dixie cup and shook my head trying not to laugh out loud. Seriously? I have to carry this back through the lobby? There wasn’t even a lid! I took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom, after washing my hands thoroughly! Next, blood pressure and pulse. Thanks to my dad’s side for the high cholesterol, my mom’s side’s low blood pressure is a nice healthy number. Next height and weight. Height, average for Korea. Weight, not so average for Korea. Maybe for a large Korean man… Then I was given a colorblind test, and a sight test. It was like at the DMV with numbers on a white board instead of letters. I guessed that it was ok to use the English names for the numbers since my Korean doesn’t extend that far. Evidently I am at 91% in my left eye and 82% in my right. Good to know. Next, a dentist kind of man looked in my mouth. Wasn’t sure if he would find anything interesting. Evidently not. Then to a “consultant” who finally did what I thought they would be doing: asked me if I had any number of diseases. He checked my ears. All good. Did I mention that some hot flash had hit me this morning and this whole process was done while sweating profusely? So gross. Anyways, then to the lab tech who took 4 little tubes of blood from me. Who knows what kind of tests they will be running. Finally, it seemed like we were done. After waiting a few minutes for my body to recover from giving blood, we walked out of the building. I thought we would be going home. Nope. We went into the next building where a little man led me to a room and spoke quickly to me in Korean. I looked at Jin who told me to go into one of the little booths, take off my top and brassiere and put on one of the little robes because I was going to x-rayed. Whoa. Yeah. I did so. And sheepishly came out of the dressing room in my robe. After a few minutes a little man led me into a room with a huge x-ray machine. They x-rayed my chest. I think. Who knows. And then into the little dressing room to put my clothes back on. And it was finally over. The school will get the results back in a few days and then Jin will go apply for my alien resident card. Amazing. All of this made me tired (and still sweaty) so I’ve come home now, to my nice little apartment. I showered and got into comfy sweats and into bed. From where I write to you. On that note, I’m due for a little siesta. Chau!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fun Korea Fact for the Day:

Many (but not all) sinks nozzles are opposite of American. A long handle that you would normally move up to turn on water in America, must be moved down in Korea. This is the case in my apartment and after 3 days here I still keep trying to push the handle down to turn off the water. Hopefully old habits can be changed.

on repeat "God is GOOD"

Time to give credit where credit is due. God is GOOD! (I’m considering changing the blogs name to this phrase since it seems to be all I can say these days.) So yesterday was a little rougher for me. I had to remind myself that I didn’t have friends the first week in Chile and it was ok. I thought back on that first month even and how I spent a lot of time alone. How I would wander the streets alone and it was ok. So last night was my first Saturday night here in Korea. Because I haven’t started school yet, I know NO ONE. I had woken up ridiculously early yesterday so by the time 6pm came around, I was ready to sleep. But I knew that it would be bad if I got in the habit of sleeping so early (especially since my work hours are 2-9pm) so I grabbed a book and went to good ol’ Dunkin Donuts. After an hour or so of reading, I was feeling the need to move, so I got up and started walking. I walked, and I walked, and I walked. I knew I wouldn’t get lost if I paid half attention so I wandered pretty far. I walked for a solid 2 hours and finally gave up and headed home. For someone who is used to having loved ones near and dear, I had a hard time accepting that I was going to spend my whole day alone. I feared that it would be a foreshadowing of my year here in Korea. So when I got to my apartment, I took out my journal and started to pray. I prayed that God would give relationships here. That He would provide for this in my life. I boldly claimed that I trusted Him to provide in all things, so I knew that He would in this area. As I said in my last post, it just might be in His timing.
I had a feeling that church this morning would be important. I was trying to be cautious not to have too many expectations about how well it would go. I kept telling myself that this might not be the right church for me, that maybe I would end up at a different church, etc. After grabbing a bagel and Americano from a coffee shop, I headed over to the church. I was a solid 30 minutes early but I snuck into the sanctuary and listened to the choir practice. They were all Korean but one. I’ll take a moment to explain what church this is. There is a HUGE church (we’re taking 60,000 people) called SaRang. They have an English Ministry called New Harvest Ministry. It’s probably about 10% foreigners and 90% Koreans who want to practice their English. They have 3 services and about 600 people all together. So when I sat down in a seat 30 minutes early, I was alone and afraid that the awkward alone thing would extend even into Sunday. But surely enough, a Korean woman named Kyung Ho sat next to me and we chatted up a bit. She even tried to recruit me for nursery duty. The service itself was ok. It probably isn’t the church I would go to if I were in the states. I have been much spoiled with preachers like Brian Kay, Tuck Bartholomew, Tim Keller, and Sam Andreades. Nonetheless, there was nothing that screamed red flags. Toward the end of the service, one of the pastors got up to the front and asked that anyone who was there for the first time stand and introduce themselves. So I did, and I was the only one. After the service Kyung Ho introduced me to one of the pastors who asked if I wanted to go to the new member class. Whoa, that was quick. Yeah, sure, why not? I filled out a visitor card and skipped the section where it asked me to list two of the things I first noticed about the church (I need to give the church staff time before revealing the totality of my nerdiness and how I analyzed every moment of the service down to how they placed and seats and what kind of information they chose to put in the bulletin.) I headed up the stairs to the new members meeting and found myself sitting next to three Korean girls. One of them, named SunYoung, turned to me and with a huge smile welcomed me. She seemed genuinely excited to meet me. I would come to find out later that she had noticed me in the service and had thought to herself how much she would love to meet me. The meeting itself isn’t worth mentioning, it was ok, theologically ok but not amazing. I know, I am too spoiled. But afterward, SunYoung and another girl named Nickie asked if I wanted to grab some lunch. Yes please! If this all seems too good to be true, just wait till you hear where we went to eat. Dos Tacos. That’s right folks, I had Mexican food for lunch today! Oh joy. Just when I thought the Lord had heaped enough blessings on me for one day, I get to have a burrito for lunch. Over lunch we discovered that all three of us are major travelers, the other girls had seen just as much if not more of the world as me. Nickie is a psychology grad student and SunYoung works in campus ministry with YWAM. Yeah. So cool. After lunch, coffee. I told you, Koreans love coffee and I love Koreans. Nickie left and SunYoung and I continued to talk. Almost immediately after Nickie left, SunYoung grabbed my hand and told me that she was truly really excited to meet me. That she had spent last year living in Montana and she knew what it was like to be new and alone in a country and she wanted to be my friend and help me anyway she could. What? Seriously Lord? Could anyone have said ANYTHING more clearly an answer to my prayers from last night? I almost choked on my coffee. Then, to make it better, before I had a chance to respond, she told me that she believes I am an answer to prayer. Again, what? Isn’t that what I am supposed to be saying? She said that this was only her third week at the church and that she had been praying for a friend. She said that many of the girls in the church already had tight friendships and she was feeling lonely. She’s only been back in the country (from living abroad) for 2 months and she has been praying for a friend, particularly a friend at church. Oh Lord, how good You are. Friends, forget not His goodness. We may walk through valleys, but we walk not alone. We may tread scary ground but His hand is always near. For today, I am just grateful. Grateful for a Korean church that speaks English. Grateful for some new friendships. Grateful that God is good. Always.

Ta'eh

I just met Ta’eh, my next door neighbor. I was having a hard time getting me stove to work, and I figured there would probably be some gringo next door who could help me out. So I cleaned up a little and knocked on the door directly next to mine. A sweet little Korean girl opened the door, took one look at me, and said “hello” with a thick accent. I smiled apologetically and told her that I was her next door neighbor. I offered my hand and my name and she offered hers. I smiled and told her that I had a question about my apartment. I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand me, but my hand movements showed that I wanted her to come into my apartment. As she walked into my apartment, she asked me how long I have lived here. I told her that today was my second day, at which she gasped in awe at how much my apartment looked like a home. It turns out that my new neighbor has lived in this apartment complex for 6 months, she lived in Davis, Ca for a few months, and she is here now to work on her English before she goes to another university in the states. We both offered to help each other with any language questions. And before she left, she told me that this area is boring sometimes and that we should go out sometime.
At this point I have to make a comment. I told myself on the plane that I would be patient with myself. That I needed to not expect things to happen right away. That I needed to allow myself time to learn about the culture and to pick up the language. But as those of you who know me know well, I am not a patient person. So as I have gone through the last 2 days, I have found myself impatient to get the things I want. I wanted hangers. Took me 2 days and lots of walking from store to store to find them. But the moment I did, the first words to pass my lips were “the Lord is good”. I had been praying all day that the Lord would provide in this situation. I really needed hangers and I was frustrated that no store had them. But instead of complaining that God wasn’t answering my prayer, I trusted that He was. Just in His own timing. It is like that with relationships here. I have spent the last two days wandering the city where people won’t look me in the eye. Most of the people I have come across don’t speak enough English and I don’t speak enough Korean… And to be honest, I was getting frustrated that I hadn’t been able to connect with anyone yet. But I prayed that God would provide in this situation. And He did. And He will. Ta’eh is proof to me that God is the one taking care of me here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trivia on Life in Korea

10 things I’ve learned about Korea in the last 24 hours:
1. They LOVE coffee drinks. There are more coffee houses in a block radius of my apartment than I can count. I’m not joking. Every other shop is a coffee shop. I’m not sure how they stay in business with so much competition. And the only thing they love more than coffee? Beer. I will post at some point all the beer bars here.
2. There is a lot of Christian lingo in English all over this city. I live in a neighborhood called Seocho and there are signs all over that say Seocho: Light of the World. Huh? Wouldn’t that be Jesus? Other ones include a sandwich shop that boasted coffee that blessed you.
3. Hangers are hard to find. I spent ALL morning on a scavenger hunt for hangers. Seriously, it shouldn’t be that hard, but it was.
4. Korean women all wear heals, all the time. I’m fine with this since many of them are between 5’0 and 5’2 which puts us on even ground.
5. The only metal surface that my magnets stuck to in my apartment was the front door. Yeah, not the kitchen cabinets, nor the fridge. Odd.
6. You don’t ever tip, but an over exaggerated “thank you” is always loved.
7. There is a candy bar called “Mr. Big” and the tag line reads “when you’re this big, they call you mister”. All I can think of is Sex and the City.
8. They are serious about trash and recycling. You have to use a particular kind of trash bag to put your trash out on the street and if you don’t recycle you get fined.
9. 7elevens are truly popular here.
10. There are more signs in English than you would ever imagine. Tons of stores have English names and all the public signs are translated. Niiiice.

Day 2

Today is day 2 in Seoul. As you know, I arrived safely and got into my apartment without any problems. I spent day 1 exploring a little. I found out that Korea has a different wifi system so my amazing netbook is not so much a netbook. I’m going to look into getting it koreanized. So I knew that my family would be worried if they didn’t hear from me soon. After a little adventure with the ATMs and other random issues, I finally sent out the needed emails and posted yesterdays blog. Next: figuring out public transit. Danielle is probably laughing at this. I love city subways. I love maps. Give me 5 minutes with a metro map and I am set. Seoul is a little more complex than I am used to in terms of the subway system, but after a few rides, I am happy to say that I have mastered it. It’s one of the best systems really. So clean, in the stations and the trains. Everything runs really smoothly. I’m not sure what it costs. I bought a little zip card that you can recharge. It took me a while to figure out how to put money on it, and I know the first day of travels cost me about $2, but I have no clue how or why. It’s not as direct as you would think. Anyways, I found my way to the north side of the city, over the beautiful Han River. Oh man, Korea has some truly beautiful sites. The river is pretty enough, but then you have these beautiful bridges stretching over it.
The other beautiful thing I have to comment on is the women here. I have caught myself staring at some of the women that I walk past. I think Korean women are some of the most beautiful women in the world. And not just one here or there, most of the women I see on the street are just plain pretty. I haven’t really noticed the men in a good or bad way. Korea is quite the opposite of Chile. In Chile the men would stare at us gringas which was just awkward and infuriating. Here, staring must be really rude since no one stares. I have only seen a handful of foreigners so I know I am an out of the norm occurrence. But no one seems to notice. I can’t even catch the eye of people on the train with me. Whenever I interact with someone, like a store clerk, they are all kindness. But people on the street seem less inclined to talk to foreigners. I am going to a church tomorrow so hopefully I will meet people there.

blogging

Note: I have been writing out some posts on my netbook which I will upload after the fact. So these are a little overdue and out of order, but in any case...


Dear Friends,
I am writing from the airport terminal where I wait to board a plane headed for Korea. I have planned, prepared and packed for this moment and I have to admit: I am ready. People have asked me these last few days if I am nervous or anxious, and all I can tell them is that I am ready. I can look back and see how good the Lord’s timing is (what a thought!). Although I am impatient, I have truly enjoyed these last two months at home with my parents. My dad and I have had a chance to live together, something we haven’t done in 8 years. And the two weeks I spent living with my mom and Nigel were relaxing and restorative. I’ve had a few chances to hang with my brother, my sister, and her boyfriend. And who knows how many years will pass before I get the chance to spend this much time with them again. My heart is slowly healing and I am now in a place where I can look back and see most of the valley behind me. This time in the valley, although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, has been a huge blessing to me. I have clung to the Lord’s hand over the past three months and I have seen Him remain faithful to me. There wasn’t a moment in this season when I couldn’t honestly say “the Lord is good to me”. Let me tell you now, the Lord is good. That has been my battlecry over the past few years and as I sit here in the airport and prepare myself for the next amazing season, I say it again with confidence. God was good. He is good. And He will be good. Please pray for me in this next leg of adventure. In particular please pray for fellowship for me. I will be looking for a church in Seoul, please pray for a good community where I can find fellowship. Thanks friends and God bless!

I'm gonna have to try one of these.. yum...

Everywhere I go, there is home

nigel, this one's for you

what a cool city

first sighting of Korea

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Safe and Sound

Hi friends, just a quick note to let you know that I am safe and sound here in Seoul Korea. I have moved into a tiny studio in a totally awesome part of town and am slowly learning my way around this area. Stay tuned for photos of my new crib and hood.