Monday, July 12, 2010

Japan in photos

downtown Kyoto

at a shrine, with beautiful lanterns

the deer in Nara loved my mom and followed her

this is my favorite dollar store in Korea evidently is also in Japan

we stumbled upon an amazing cemetary, it was quite serene and seemingly reverent, that is, until I found this one grave with some not so reverent gifts left for the dead

next to a HUGE pagoda

My mom taking photos of flowers

a beautiful stream along the philosopher's walk in Kyoto

Is kissing the dragon sacreligious? tehehe.

My beautiful mom with her green tea ice cream

My breakfast on the flight- YUM!

Monday, July 05, 2010

my dear little ones

My heart broke today.
One of my youngest classes is filled with six incredibly sweet girls and boys. They are precious and though their English is really low, they try so hard in class. Recently they like to test their strength against mine by all of them holding the door closed when I come to start class. If all six of them are holding the door closed, I usually can't open it. But one of them, an adorable boy named Hyun-sung sometimes joins my team and pulls the door open with me. Once the doors opens, the kids scream and giggle as they cling to my arms and hug me. This usually takes up the first five minutes of class. It's not really English, but its adorable.
Well today, after all this happened and I finally got them settled in their seats, I realized I forgot their tests in the teachers room, so I went out to get the tests. When I returned, Hyun-Sung was sitting with his head on the desk. I thought maybe he was playing so I passed out the tests and then sat next to him and ruffled his hair, telling him to sit up and take his test. That's when I noticed his little body shaking in sobs. I was so confused. Hyun-sung is not a crier. We have some kids that cry easily, but he is not one of those. I put my arms around him and asked him over and over "What's wrong? What happened?" Finally some of the other kids told me that Alex, another boy in the class had punched him. I pulled Hyun-sung out of class and we sat on the couch in the hallway. I was so sad that this precious child was suffering. And even more so that he was suffering at the hands of another precious boy.
I took them both into the couselor's room and after a few minutes they came back to take their test. During the test, I knelt down to Alex and tried to ask him why he punched Hyun-sung. He just looked at me with a blank expression. I have heard the history of Alex beating up other boys in other classes. I have heard that Alex has no father in his life. And I have tried to show extra patience with him and to never lose my temper when dealing with him since I think he is used to the verbal and maybe physical abuse that can be so prevelent in this society. So my heart broke for him today as I knelt by him and touched him tenderly on the arm, and gently asked him why he hit Hyun-sung. I could see by the look in his eyes, that tenderness was not something he has often experienced. This is a boy filled with anger.
It turns out, I heard later from the counselor, that he punched him in the stomach because Hyun-sung had helped me open the door. That was when my stomach dropped. I hoped with all my heart that Hyun-sung wouldn't stop being good. That he wouldn't be posioned by the anger that had brought another child to punch him. And I wanted to cry for little Alex. No older than 6 years old, already a prisoner to anger. The mom of another boy that Alex has attacked numerous times said that she will call the police the next time it happens. I don't even know what to say to that.
Dear Lord, I pray your grace upon this child. May the comfort of Your gospel reach his heart. May his anger be burned away, his pain surrendered. Whatever has brought him to this place, may You be the redeemer of it!

Sunday, July 04, 2010


I checked the weather last night....
temperture: 86F, "feels like" 91F
Humidity: 86%
How is that even possible?

(and all I can do in response is smile)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

What love looks like

This week is the birthday week for two of my friends, Jonathan and Brittany. Since I wasn't sure what to get them, I decided to put my supreme domestic skills to work (once again, that's sarcasm folks!)
I decided to make some charoset for Jonathan since he loved it at Passover and to take some extra to Brittany's party. Also on the list to make: some cookies for the birthday peeps, some hummus for Brittany's party, and there was a special request for brownies.

Here in Korea, most people don't have ovens. Not even in real homes. I am blessed to have a tiny toaster oven in my apartment. A friend had me store his stuff while he was in Canada for a month, and when he came back, he took most of his stuff but never came for his toaster oven. This was six months ago. So I try to take full advantage of the toaster and bake banana breads or cookies whenever I get a chance. The problem is that my toaster is SO small that it can only fit a few cookies at a time. So when it comes time to make cookies, the process is a slow labor of love. But given the fact that homemade cookies are almost impossible to find here, it is well appreciated. Homemade cookies is what love looks like here in Korea.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Cuba and kimchi

This post is dedicated to Sarah for her encouragement to keep writing. Love you friend.

I don't know how I ever complained about weather before. The weather here in Seoul is more humid and hot and muggy than I could have imagined. I actually started to laugh out loud today as I was walking home. It just seemed so ridiculous to me, the air being so hot and humid. I laughed. One of the ways I have learned to deal with the air here, besides persistently wiping my face and neck with my handkerchief, is to keep my ipod securely in my ears at all times. For years I have been a fan of a Cuban hip hop group called Orishas. I totally recommend them to anyone and everyone. They are the best of latin music and hiphop married. I have even found a Spanish radio station on itunes that I play while I am at home (sitting under my blessed air conditioner!) Somehow, listening to the music, I can pretend I am in some latin country, where women wear long bright skirts, fruit is exotic and fragrant in the air, and adorable brown children laugh with glee as they run through the streets. Where people laugh loudly and freely. Where it is ok to smile at strangers. Where I feel comfortable.
To be honest, I am really ok living here in Korea. I have learned to appreciate parts of the life here that I am sure to miss when I leave it. There are parts of my life that I love here and I know that God brought me here for good. I have seen His goodness poured out to me in this year here. But its not my home. I am still all too aware of how I am 3 times the size of the women here. Even the obese women here don't come close to me. I am sad every time I see a white person on the street and as I pass them, I don't smile. I don't acknowledge them. And if they have been here for more than a few weeks, they do the same. We have accepted the norms here.
On the train today, I was in a part of town that has few foreigners so I was surprised when a young white guy got on the train and stood not even a foot away from me. The train was crowded and we were so close, and facing each other. Both of us keep our eyes averted. He has obviously lived here long enough to know that we aren't supposed to make eye contact. We rode in such a manner for 20 minutes until my stop arrived and I pushed past him to get off the train.
I know some of you are going to tell me to just talk to them, to make eye contact, to go against the Korean norm. But I just can't. I mean, I can if I fight it, but it feels so wrong here.
And so to make myself feel more comfortable in the intense heat of the day, and the awkwardness of my extremely latina personality in this Korean culture, I play my Cuban hiphop. And for a minute, I don't feel so bothered by the humidity, nor do I feel so awkward. That is, until a wave of kimchi flavored air blows into my face, waking me up to the reality before me. Ah, kimchi.

Lord may you teach me to live in the present, learn from the past, and trust You with the future.

The last month or so in photos

Well, first, I have to say a HUGE congrats to Jungmi and Will who got engaged last week. Will is one of the interns at our church and man oh man when that guy preaches, all of us are so moved by the reality of the Gospel. Jungmi is probably one of the most grounded women I have met here. She is an incredible catch and I am so excited for them.

ps- their children will be incredibly tall seeing as both of them TOWER over me.

For my birthday Mary took me out to breakfast in one of our favorite neighborhoods. It's called Hannam and I love it because it's the closest thing I have found to the atmosphere I loved at Sunday brunch in the Village. On a tiny strip of street there are situated various restaurants and cafes offering mostly American brunch and Mexican food (hence my love for the area). Mary and I head there most Saturdays. After grabbing lunch, we settled ourselves on a patio of a particular cafe. It's over priced lattes aren't amazing, but we sit there for a solid four hours with the pretenses of studying. In any case, it's our tradition.

Birthday Brunch: Omlette and all the works