Today's music is some good old Korean Hillsong, a song we sang at the retreat and happens to be the Korean version of one of my favorite worship tunes: Still (주 품에).
This weekend, four of us teachers decided to join Grace and Peace's church retreat. Grace and Peace is the church that I go to most regularly here, and I wanted a chance to get to know the members a little better. If you go to a church where you both can't understand much of what is going on language-wise and also don't know the people, it makes it hard to want to keep going. So, my thought was though it would take a lot of study and years of practice to be able to function without a translator, I could at least work harder at connecting with the people.
Yeah, I know, connecting with people is clearly one of my strengths...That's another great/difficult thing about spending time away from your home country. God usually likes to make sure you get practice working on the things you suck at. Calvin's father would be amazed at how much character I'm building.
But, at least at a retreat, interactions are mostly planned and you can skip the small talk that is like pulling teeth for me.
So let's talk about some hard things about the retreat first:
People, I am an introvert to the max. So being on this retreat was so much fun, but also completely draining. Every evening I just wanted to go somewhere by myself and not talk for a while...activities were plannned until around 11 every night though, so "refuel time" wasn't really available. That was pretty rough. I kind of feel like I still haven't quite recovered yet, though as soon as we all got back we headed to our beds and just didn't talk to each other for like two hours, which was like sweet manna from heaven. So while the retreat was really so much fun, I wouldn't say it was a restful experience.
I also had a big reality check with the fact that I really don't know Korean. Or at least I don't know it when people speak at a normal speed. For the first half of the day, not being able to pick up scarcely anything anyone was saying was really discouraging. So many times the whole circle would erupt into laughter...all except four people kind of doing that awkward "obviously there was a joke and we'll just pretend we're in on it" fake chuckle. I love laughing so much and there are few things that bother me more than not being able to share in it when it's happening around me. I felt a little like my studying had all been pointless because who cares if I can write a sentence using a certain grammar pattern, If I can't use it in the real world, it isn't accomplishing language's purpose. But, in the the second half of the day though I still wasn't picking up much, I was able to feel more driven to work harder at learning instead of just being discouraged, so that was both a hard and good thing.
So those were some struggles, but really, small beans compared to the good stuff:
Minji (민지) and Eun Young (은영) prepared SO MUCH. The food during the whole retreat was incredible and the games were so fun. We began our Saturday with a little devotion time, singing together and then some personal reflection on Philippians 1 and how to bring each other joy. I had some good thinking about that, and realized that words in writing and spoke words of affirmation are my most comfortable and natural ways of showing people love and joy, but I am not really able to do either of those things in Korean right now. It made me start thinking of how I need to look for different ways to bring people joy.
After devotions, we started games by getting into groups and drawing group pictures of each other, each person drawing one part of each picture. Believe me, hilarity ensued. Be sure to check out the photos from that one.
Another favorite of mine was the Sticky Note activity. We had three people at a time sit in the center of the circle while the rest of us wrote a nice note to each of them, and then on the count of three we all rushed the middle and stuck our notes onto them. For many of the members, I didn't really know them really at all, so it made me have to think about what I knew about them and how I could express appreciation for them. It was a great exercise I thought, and I'll probably keep my own notes from that for quite a while.
We then did a marshmallow and spaghetti challenge, which I assumed would be like the ones we used to do at afterschool, but it was actually using 20 pieces of spaghetti and tape to build a tower as tall as we could to hold one big marshmallow. My team kind of failed badly, but it was still fun.
I think the best games of all though was the set of teams games. We were divided into teams and had to come up with the best name we could think of. My team decided on Three Musketeers, but as we kept getting latecomers added to our team, it ended up in the end being The Five Musketeers. Though our team didn't win that challenge, we did win some others, like the "guess the five syllable word" game. Eash member said one syllable of a five syllable word/phrase all at the same time and the other teams had to try to guess the word/phrase. The teachers couldn't help guess, of course, since it was in Korean, but we helped yell the words! We then played two more guessing games, one like taboo where one member had to get the other members of the team to guess a word without daying it, and a charades type game of the same sort. I liked the charades one the best because we could all laugh together then. Physical humor speaks all languages. Do I feel a paper coming on.....?
Last favorite part of the weekend wasn't anything officially planned, but came a result of us teachers needing a little time away from the cloud of Korean. We brought a Settlers of Cataan game with us and played three games during the course of the weekend. It was the bomb.com. It reminded me a little bit of the times playing Settlers at Oxford in the evenings. I love when little things connect memories like that.
So what were some things I took away?
1. Humility big time. Having to rely on people to translate for you, tell you what to do, how do eat something etc, makes you realize that the high horse of being "intelligent" or a "voracious reader" can't ford the river of not understanding a language or a culture fully for you. I'm learning to rely on people...and trying not to be grumps about it.
2. I need to be intentional about finding ways to refuel that are quick and effective. Floating by will be unhealthy I think in the long run. Nightly music listening/blog or journaling time coming soon? yes please.
3. God's family is big. Even if you only share one common thing, if you're sharing God you're sharing the biggest, most important and deepest thing of all. Everything else is just side dishes.
Thanks for reading!