Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Preparation

IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME! Here's a new song that dear Marisa posted that I had never heard before. It's really lovely! Winter Snow by Audrey Assad ft. Chris Tomlin.

This blog has sort of fallen off the face of the planet. Whoops. Now that NaNoWriMo is over I kind of have been feeling the itch to write some more, but not necessarily editing the tangles mass of 50,000 words that vaguely resembles a story. So this blog is the lucky winner! Actually, I have been meaning to get it back up and running. I had a draft of a post about Fiction and Wonder started, but it's going to need a little more thinking through, so instead how about just some updates and general musings?

It's probably the most narcissistic thing ever to assume you all want to read those, but I'll comfort myself with the old Gwendolyn-ism--at least later I will have something "sensational to read on the train."

As most of those who are close to me know, I love Christmas. Well actually, the whole Advent/Christmas bundle. Last year in Korea I did some new fun things since I wasn't here to celebrate with my family, but this year I'm home and there is such a coziness in old traditions. Of course, it looks a little different this year too, because most of us Long types aren't at the homestead any more, but being in Korea prepped me for looking for the bits of tradition wrapped up in the new.

This year I am once again working through the O Antiphons Advent booklet written by John Fickett, and it is still just as good. It has been challenging me in big ways, and building up my anticipation. I am remembering part of a Children's time message my Mom gave the other day in church. She talked about how when someone special is coming, part of the way we know they're special is because we make special preparations. We clean the house for Grandma, we get fresh sheets on the bed, etc. Going through the devotional booklet is helping me to "get ready." And in the "getting ready," the gift coming seems even more glorious and wonderful.

It strikes me that maybe that's the purpose of liturgy and tradition; a pattern of preparation that helps us realize the beauty of what we are preparing for. If I think about it, usually (at least in American culture) we tend to view things that take lots of preparation as things that have a lot of worth to us, or symbolize something special. A wedding for instance, or an exam. If we don't believe it's important, then we don't prepare for it. That challenges me during this Advent season! Jesus is important. I need to prepare myself!

Talking about preparation, many months of it will come to fruition this weekend with the performances of Three Wise Men and a Baby! It has been just the cats pajamas to work with the kids on this Christmas play. I always go into a Wednesday night rehearsal feeling burdened, but by the end it has melted away and I feel really energized by all the fun we're having working on it together. The last rehearsal we had was a little rough, but hopefully it will all turn out well come Saturday. With it all coming to and end soon, I thought I should perhaps reflect on some things I've learned, in no particular order of importance.

1. You should always have extra pencils and folders. Because the kids will remember if they didn't get one.

2. It's good to assume that there will just be a mob of Shepherds, Angels and Barn animals. Extra kid shows up after audition week? 3-4 grade? Shepherd. K-2? Angel or Barn animal. Done. 

3. Even if you offer a whopping 45 gold coins for memorizing lines, the kids will still not know them until the week of the performance. Maybe if they were 45 chocolate gold coins...

4. Nearly everyone will be too short for their costumes.

5. The Shepherds will need their headdress things retied at least 3 times during rehearsal. They might even start wearing it as a dandy neck scarf.

6. It's a good idea to not "wing it" for a rehearsal, especially when it comes to blocking. "Actually no, go out that exit and come in wait.."

7. If you have a group of K-1st grade, stop trying to do activities that involve reading. They couldn't read last week, they probably won't be able to this week either. It took me way too long to get that into my head.

8. You may need to remind a small Angel that we don't hit people, and a Cat that this is a safe place so we don't threaten to break a shepherd's staff for the fun of it. Could it be the Herdmans are a part of our play too?

9. Many actors with interpret the instruction of "take off your costume and hang it carefully in the costume room" as "strip it off and just leave it wadded on the floor."

10. Apparently, the most opportune time to ask to get a drink or go to the bathroom is 2 minutes after we start rehearsing the song/scene.

11. We Three Kings is a hard one for the little guys...overheard during rehearsal: "Westward leading, still perceiving..."

12. Laughing at all of this instead of getting stressed about it is the way I should respond.

So, it's been fun! And I guess this is kind of advertising, but you should all come see the play! Dec 13 at 6 pm and then on this Sunday morning in Church at FABIC. Should be great, and even if it isn't, it will probably still make you laugh because the kids are too cute.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Language learning

I wasn't sure what music to put for this blog, since half of it is taken up with my classical music suggestion. So instead of linking something here, just have a listen to some of my suggestions.

I've been thinking a little about language learning lately. I've been slowing trying to translate a children's book from Korean into English, but it's kind of difficult, and I often feel like the meaning I am understanding is missing the mark. Even more so, when I try to speak Korean it's like I'm creating almost a caricature of what I want to say. Like someone making a cartoon version of a live action film. I wish I could make Korean "live" for me the way English is.

I wish also that I could somehow get a big picture of Korean as a whole--what kind of communication is favored? what are all the parts of speech and what goes in each category? Some of the trouble I think I have is expecting an equivalent Korean word in meaning to and English word to also have the same usage and part of speech category. For instance -에서 can mean "from," but it doesn't by any means ONLY mean that, and I'm not even sure it's in the same speech category as 'from.' Also, I don't even know if Korean even has the same categories or tenses or what-have-yous that English has; doe sit have more? less? different ones?

I also thirst for the between-the-lines meaning that only intimate knowledge of culture can give one. I think that's one of the saddest parts for me--not being able (at least not for some while yet) to read and understand and use figurative Korean language. I'm shut out from poetry and picture-painting prose for years at least, and perhaps for always, who knows.

I suppose it's all fairness though. If we can't completely enjoy each other's languages and literatures there is at least the consolation that I can enjoy quite fully own. I can revel over T.S. Eliot's poems without a dictionary. I can watch a Wilde play without watching my other audience members to know when to laugh. English language and literature is by no means the pinnacle of Humanities in the world, but it's still good stuff, and I like it a lot. So I'm glad I don't have to miss out on it...even if it makes me realize how much I must be missing in other languages and literatures.

Oh to be bilingual from birth! That is one of the best gifts parents could give a child, I think--the ability to move between worlds.

* * *
Changing gears a bit, I recently finished Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music and throughout my reading of it and after I have been listening to tons of pieces. Here are some of my favorites:

My current favorite classical-ish pieces (in no particular order):

1. Erik Whitaker, October

So I guess this is pretty contemporary, but I just needed to include it. This is one of my all time favorite pieces, combined with Whitaker's Alleluia, which is a choral piece set to the music of October. I like October because it's well, so 'autumn-y.' It sounds like a goodbye and a hello, but in the kind of wrenchiest and joyful way I've ever heard. I listen to it and want to cry almost every time, but it's hard to tell whether it's because I feel so melancholy thinking of the past adventures I've left, or so hopeful for what is to come. Play it loud and let your emotions kind of swim in it.

2. Saint-Saëns, Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, 2nd half, Allegro moderato-Presto-Maestoso-Allegro 

Josiah told me about this one a while ago and then it came up in the book. Remember the song the Mice sing at the end of the Babe movie? That pop song borrowed its tune from the main theme in the Maestoso. Love it!

3. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake - Ballet Suite

I thought I had heard this before when I started listening to it, because parts of it sounded familiar. Apparently, it is suspected that a composer borrowed from this when composing the music for a certain film. Have a listen and see if you can figure out which one :-)

4. Erik Satie, Trois Gymnopédies

These three piano pieces have such a delightful quiet angst-y feel to them. It makes me feel a sort of wistful melancholy, like after you look at too many pictures from a delightful trip and realize you can't go back to's passed and gone. 

5. Frederic Chopin, Complete Nocturnes

You can listen to all of Chopin's Nocturnes in about an hour and a half. It is my opinion that these are some of the loveliest btis of piano music out there. I also am wowed every time I hear one, since once upon a time I learned to play *simple* one, it took me about half a year and the counting you have to do is wiggedy wack. 

6. Delius, On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Short little piece that is the perfect thing to play in the early morning, when the light is kind of pale still. Other times as well, but it just sort of sounds like pale, clear, light to me.

7. Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet

You can really hear the story in this, and it is just lovely, but really I am recommending this because I want to recommend a certain version of it, and that for the Maestro.

Please watch this video of the London Symphony Orchestra performing this piece under the conducting of Maestro Valery Gergiev. The whole thing is great, but from 11 mins on, you can enjoy both his fluttering bat-like hands and his mesmerizingly awful, sweating and stringy Franciscan monk 'do. You just can't look away!

I listened to/watched many pieces conducted by Gergiev, and he was so fascinating that I decided to read up on him on Wikipedia. There I found this tidbit: "He often conducts with a toothpick." You better believe I went immediately to youtube and watched that. Hilarious!

Well, I suppose that's the end. Get listening!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goings on

I still haven't bought the new Coldplay album. New as in, this past Spring. Oops. Any way, I've been enjoying this track from Ghost Stories: A Sky Full of Stars.

I thought it was about time for a little update!
I'm sure you are all dying to know what it's like being an administrative assistant as an NP.
It's like this: you have way more files then is probably necessary because how the heck can you even decide what folder to put something in? If it could go in one of three folders then it gets its own spot. Also what about those little notes to oneself with info that could come in handy one day? I assume there is a better method than a patchwork of sticky notes/ pieces of paper paper clipped together. But I haven't figured that out.
But those are the really the only struggles. I've been so lucky to get to help edit a book, which is one of my favorite things to do, and impress my boss with my "look stuff up on the internet" skills. Bet you didn't know that tracking down info on the web was a life skill, but it certainly makes me look good when I can come up with a phone number deemed lost forever--because like me, my boss writes important information on little pieces of paper. Oh brother ㅋㅋㅋ

I've also gotten the chance to do a little tutoring on the side many days after work with a Korean staff member here. Mostly just conversation based, giving help with pronunciation and article use and such, but it's been so very nice not to give up all my teacher-y doings.

Which brings me to another fun thing I've been up to: being one of the acting coaches for our church's Kids' Club/Christmas play program. I've been dragging my memory for every fun activity I can remember from Voice and Drama camp and Spotlights and Showstoppers and all that. (Some of the games I realized also could be modified for ESL use as well, which is super...always trying to expand the toolbelt!) This week we're holding auditions, and I am super pumped! It is really fun to be around kids again, but I have realized that American kids are more squirrelly than Korean kids...or at least they take a longer time to listen. So I need to practice being a little firmer. I also have been so used to speaking slowly and clearly with young kids that when other more seasoned teacher types get up and give instructions, my first thought is, "Woah slow down no way can they understand!" then, "oh right...native speakers..."

So I'm trying out some new sections, mostly for myself to keep track of stuff, but maybe you'll enjoy it too! The first one is a book review:

September Books (and why you should read them too!)

1. Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery

Beside's Montgomery's delicious descriptions of landscape and her fantastic dialogue, let's talk about the main character. Anne Shirley/Blythe is one of the most glorious characters in fiction--s a woman who is smart, witty, wise, imaginative, ridiculously caring and decidedly not boring. You know how sometimes you read books and there is a character who is flawed, definitely, but who you still want to be like? This is one of those for me. I've dreamed of being a combination of Jo March and Anne Shirley, because both of them grow. They know where they're weak, and the strengthen those areas. And they listen to criticism. The Anne series also is such a lovely picture of growing up, and how each stage of a person's life has its own wonderful people and places. You think no other place but Green Gables and the people of Avonlea could be so wonderful, but then you go to Redmond, and Windy Poplars and the House of Dreams and then Ingleside and each one is full of joy and beauty. A good reminder to me, who so often looks wistfully at the past, that what is to come has its own unknown delights.

2. The Little Book of Restorative Discipline in the Classroom by Lorraine S Amstutz and Judy H Mullet

If I could write a subtitle for this powerful 70ish page book, it would be "How to treat students like they matter a lot--even when they mess up big time." With those not familiar with restorative justice practices, in a nutshell it's looking at justice (and discipline) as primarily an issue of broken relationships, not of broken rules. That means that when misbehavior happens, the focus on discovering what relationships have been broken and how to restore them. That means that victims and offenders both have a voice in the proceedings and Zero-Tolerance strategies that cause more harm than good are done away with. Basically, it's a call to be more creative in discipline so that instead of simply receiving doled out punishment, students receive an education in how healthily resolve conflict and understand their responsibility in the relationships around them. It's a quick read, but I really recommend it, especially to teachers.

3. Stephen Fry's (In)Complete and Utter History of Classical Music as told to Tim Lihorean

My favorite way to learn stuff is while I'm laughing. Making a joke about something helps you remember right? Gabby was telling me the other day about a joke her class had about a composer, Hildegard of Bingen, and you can bet your socks they aren't going to forget about that feisty nun anytime soon. So besides this being written by Stephen Fry, one of the funniest guys out there, it's actually quite informative and I am learning a lot about music history! Here's one of my favorite bits about composers who were quite popular in their day, but are kind of unknown now:

"Of course, I have a personal theory, which I am willing to share. You see, Gluck...largely out of fashion isn't he? Hmm? And Dittersdorf? Also, more or less forgotten. And now Hummel. Revered by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Liszt in his day, but now the dodo of classical music. And why? Well, my theory...mildly amusing middle names.
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf
Cristoph Willibald von Gluck
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Need I say more? QED, as the French call the famous cruise ship." (pg 114-115)

So happy reading! I hope you enjoy those books as much as I do!
And of course, wouldn't be a proper post without out a few quotes:

Quotes from the Community:

"My whole body is smarting!" --Yoonseo bemoans having to ride his bicycle home after playing soccer.

Gabby: "Do you know why the Wise Men went to see Jesus?"
Nicholas: "To give him some....valuables?"

Gabby: "I spy something red."
Nicholas: "Your cheeks?"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Trying not to "make the best of things."

These days, I've been having more "Missing Korea" moments than I had before in the hustle and bustle of friends and fun events. One CD I've been listening to is a Korean worship album that Yoonseo helped Josiah pick out for my Dad, and which I have been borrowing for a week or so. My favorite track is this one: 소원 (Hope). I really love the melody, and have been trying slowly to work out the meaning of the lyrics. From what I can figure out, it talks about the desire to live like Jesus, walking a road that is narrow, deep and high.

My title seems a little bit of a downer, but it's a description of my deep-down wish that I could get past the ever-clinging feeling that I'm just slogging in the trenches towards some unnamed and unidentified goal or life landmark or something fantastic--the "making the best of things" while you're waiting for something to happen. I really have a tendency to gravitate toward that feeling...the trouble of course is that I never can really figure out what it is I'm waiting for. And that is when melancholy likes to reel you into yourself, making you a navel gazer and a false martyr...something that I have felt happening to myself every now and again.

Part of it has to do with the stress of moving, I know (very glad to be just about finished with that and settled in with darling friends!) but I have a feeling I'm still dealing with some reverse culture shock too. Some of that is that America isn't like Korea. I never thought I would admit it, but I got so use to the 'hurry hurry' culture in Korea, that now I bothers me when problems  or projects can't be taken care of in a day or two. I miss eating rice and eating spicy food. I  miss teaching. I miss being able to get places without a car.

Boy did I really miss that last one this morning, when I locked my keys in the car. I found myself in tears not because I was going to be late, but because I realized that suddenly, needing help was kind of an inconvenience to other people. In my community in Korea, I never once felt that way. We all lived together, it was no problem to ask someone to bring your backpack home from work, or pick up something at Lotte. Now asking for a favor usually means someone has to get into their car, or rearrange their schedule or something like that. I regret not thanking people more for their daily love that way. Thank you my family in Korea (now some of them in America and Canada!) for never letting me be an inconvenience to you! (or at least never letting me know it, hehe) I hope to be able to make others feel that way too. I want to learn to be as generous with my time and money and care as you all were; to not do anything begrudgingly.

So though this morning left me feeling, to quote Anne of Ingleside, "about as brilliant as a piece of grey flannel," it got me thinking about readjustment and things to help in on it's course a little more. Of course, since my brain only seems to start working after I jump start it with some reading, I read some blogs and came away with some good tidbits.

1. I need to find ways to tell stories, and to let people be a part of what I experienced, not just what I "did." It's harder than it sounds, because stories don't bubble out of me like they might have if I was an extrovert. I feel almost connected myself to Evi's trip to Chile, because she let us know all about it, and described "her people" there until I felt like I met them myself. I need to talk about those things
And not just the "captain's log details" please. I've told the 'how long I was there-what I did-how did I like the food-what am I doing now-do I think I'll go back" shpeal enough. 14 months. Taught English to the best students on the planet. Korean Food is magic. I am an administrative assistant. Yes. There are all the answers, for you. Instead, as Nacho once wisely said, "Let's get down to the neety greety."

2. I need to find ways to hear others stories and be a part of what they experienced. I read that on one blog and felt a little sheepish. It's easy to feel like since you were away in a new place that you're the one who had all the adventures and stories, but that's a little big headed and very untrue. In order to feel like you belong again somewhere, you have to learn about your home again, just like you did when you went to a new place. And try not to ask the same sort of not-captain's-log boring questions you don't want to be asked either.

So here's to having a good cry every once and a while, and to not "making the best of things." Most of the best things are here already, if you're willing to look.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Being here.

While driving back from dropping off Yoonseo in Harrisonburg, Dad and I were jamming to some good old Second Chapter of Acts. I heard from good trivia about them, including the fact that the beautiful alto that I thought was one of the sisters of the group was actually Matthew Ward as a young teen. The kid (and the man) have some pipes! Here's a song that showcases his sweet vocals: Star Light, Star Bright.

Well, it has been some time! I originally thought that I would give up writing this blog, but somehow it's therapeutic to write out happenings. It also helps me with my attitude, to not view my life in the U.S. now as an ended adventure, but simply a continued one.

The first part of the continued adventure begins not even 24 hours after I landed in the U.S. I called to check about a job lead to see if I could get more information, and instead was asked to come in for an interview. That day. As soon as I could. So after hanging up the phone I headed up the road to Winebrenner Theological Seminary to interview for the administrative assistant to the vice president position they had open. Less than a week later I found out I got the job! It will pay enough to allow me to live with my bestest of friends, Gabby before she leaves for South Africa next year. One more little personal message from God telling me to stop worrying so much about stuff. It's covered. This year has had so many moments like that, where God shows me a specific worry I've had and then shows me how it is small beans because he happens to be the one getting things done and taking care of people around here.

The second part of the adventure was a trip to the Philadelphia area for a Fickett wedding! Weddings tend to be joyous in general, but Fickett weddings are extra joyous. A very big congratulations to Seth and Natalie! It was so fantastic to be surrounded by so many beloved people at once after being of the country for so long. Love and hug tank was "oversploding" by the end of it. It's a very good thing to come from being surrounded by lovely people in Korea to being surrounded again by lovely people in the U.S.

Which only continued with a week at Roxbury Camp! Not only did I get to visit with some of those nearest and dearest to me, but I also felt like I got a much-needed, direct-in-the-vein spiritual nourishment. I was blessed immensely by Grace and Peace Mennonite Church in Korea, and by the wonderful people who translated for the English speakers week after week (thanks Yoonseo and Jae!). However, there is just something about hearing spiritual truths and encouragement and worshiping in your own native tongue. It's like speaking on a real telephone after listening through a walkie-talkie or something. You just get it a little more deeply. The two biggest things that have stuck with me from the week:

1. When you hear some spiritual truth, don't be looking around or busy thinking about who you think "needs to hear it" the most. Instead of farming off nuggets of God's word on to other people, how about examining yourself? It most likely applies to you! 

2. We have to be digging into the Bible. Calling myself a Christian and not spending time reading and studying the Bible is  like trying to say I've got working lights when all I have is a light switch attached to nothing. No source, No life. Also, any study of the Bible should conclude with me asking the question, "So what does this change?" Because as John Fickett once wisely said, it's not just Bible study, it's Bible "do-y." 

Phew. Those are toughies. Still working on implementation...

Then, after Roxbury came one of the most exciting parts! Yoonseo finally arrived in the U.S! I want to personally give a high five and a slow clap of honor and amazement to those of you who have been in/currently are in a very long-distance relationship. Because it's not easy, especially ones that deal with conflicting time zones. I did it for only three weeks and it was kind of the worst. It's very easy for one or both of you to feel very isolated, left out, and in my case very insecure. I need a lot of reassurance that people still like me and care about how I am doing (even from boyfriends) and I like to know how people are doing themselves, what they're up to, how I can pray, etc. So, having to receive or not receive that mostly through impersonal methods like texting because of distance and timing was very, very difficult. It was fantastic to see him again, like my heart could breath a little easier. We're still kind of far away from each other, but the same time zone helps a lot. Also, two hour drives are kind of small beans by American standards. It's hard to get much of anywhere in a country this big without driving that long.

So what's next? Three days into my new job, I am excited for students to arrive, and excited to soon be finished creating a computer (instead of paper)-based contact list. Data entry unfortunately does not make my heart sing, but I recognize my need to learn better organizational skills, something I think this job will give me some excellent training in! Though Excel may not be the most interesting, I am also getting to do some book editing, which I do very much like.

The main thing is learning to be here. And really be here. I guess it's an ailment of many young adults, and especially ones that travel, that you're just kind of 'hanging out' until the next big change. And that feeling of just 'hanging out' can make you feel a little detached and anxious for things to 'finish' and be on their way. It's also a little tough to realize that I'm going to have to take a break from being a teacher for a while, which really made my heart sing. The obsession with 'having the proper documents' in the U.S. can be a little frustrating sometimes, though I understand why it exists. There is always volunteer work needed, so I'm hoping to get involved somehow in some ESL classrooms along the way.

I sure to miss those little kiddos though, with their funny Ls and Rs and verbs at the end and their fancy pencil cases and their silly conversation questions. Who will ask me now whether I like dinosaurs or dragons better and why? Who will ask me if I would rather eat a chameleon or my own hair? At some point I think I'm going to grieve a bit for the loss of that experience.
Grieve, and then work on letting what I experience now be just as meaningful and full of delight.

Delight is easier when you have such great people around...check out the quotes!

Quotes from the (New) Community:

Overheard at Sapporo Sushi in Waynesboro:
Little Boy: "Girls have armpit hair too when they grow up."
Little Girl: "Well my mom doesn't have any."
Little Boy: "Well, my dad has a bunch! a whole pile of it!"

Evi: "These apples are really soft!"
Dad: "Those are peaches."

"I see how it is! you think I'm a dog just because I'm a brother!" -Josiah's dramatic reaction to being told he had to share the sink while brushing his teeth.

Abby: "Danny! It's past curfew! the Roxbury security is going to come get you!"
Danny: "No! it you're silent then you are legal!"

Mom: "Dr. B knows what he's doing..."
Hope: "I don't know, he's pretty old...He hasn't been to doctor school in a while. Maybe you better look it up on the internet."

Abby: "Evi! gross!"
Evi: "You know what? Jesus smells my farts and says, 'mmmm I created it!" soooo..."

"Strike anywhere? My granny's fanny!"- Hope's reaction after trying to light a match on the underside of the table.

Abby: "I couldn't get a whole row to apply the wrap text function in Excel today."
Hope: "It wouldn't (w)rap text? that's Ludacris!"

And finally, I leave you with this:

A Fart Haiku by Abby and Hope and Evi

First fart of the day
that broke wind in these panties.
Will I sail away?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Week of Lasts

My current jams are those from the Inside Llewyn Davis film soundtrack. Here's a favorite, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan's cover of Peter, Paul and Mary's 500 Miles.

Well here it is. My last Korea blog post! I feel like it should be extra special so I'm feeling some pressure...let's see what I can do.

It's been a few weeks since, but I suppose the beginning of the end started with Kate leaving. It's hard to see a good pal slowly taking their figurative steps out the're confronted with a parade of lasts, where it's kind of hard to figure out whether you should feel something different or behave differently because it's the last Teacher's meeting together, or the last bible study, or if you should just embrace it as a Teacher's meeting or a bible study, with the fact that it just happens to be the last as a side note. I guess it's even harder when it's your own turn to do that...I'm working out how to best do it.
At any rate...I miss you Kate! I can't wait till we get to meet again stateside. Soooon!

In the last month I've been trying to do some fun things, and make last time visits to places. One of those places of course was Gangneung, Yoonseo's home town! We went together to visit his parents for part of the weekend, driving in late on a Friday night and driving home late Saturday night. Last time we visited, I let the pressure of it get to my head and did a very poor job of being friendly, trying to speak Korean and just be an all around normal and polite person. So I was glad to have a chance to kind of redeem myself and also get to know his parent's better.
It was a fantastic visit. After a welcoming late night snack of fruit and delicious cookies, I got to sleep in late and have a delicious breakfast..even though I was a little embarrassed about how bad I still am at eating grilled fish with bones with chopsticks. You would think that after a year I would have gotten better at it, but no, not really. Haha.
We went to visit Yoonseo's grandparent's tomb after breakfast. I helped his mom pick out some new faux flowers to put next to the graves, and then we drove out to 옥계 into the country. The area around the tombs was just absolutely lovely! We had a little snack of cake and tomatoes, and I wore a huge straw hat/visor that Yoonseo's mom lent me. I secretly loved it. He he.
After visiting the tomb, we went back to Gangneung by route of the most beautiful seaside drive I've ever seen. The water was seriously almost azure blue, with huge brown/black craggy rocks sticking out everywhere. The contrast was one I could have looked at for a long time.
When we got back to the house, Yoonseo's mom taught me how to make Japchae, a Korean noodle dish that I have been wanting to learn how to cook. It was such a neat time, because even though I can't speak Korean very well, we could still communicate and have a time to connect with each other.
After eating some of the delicious japchae, Yoonseo and I went on what we thought was a short bike ride, but coming back we met his dad coming out on his bike, and he wanted to show us a bridge that he likes to bike to, so we turned back around and went back out for over an hour! My bum was not happy at the time, but afterwards I was so glad we had gone for a longer ride. It was so nice, biking while watching the sunset, and seeing huge fish leap out of the river to catch bugs in mid air. It's one of my favorite memories from the weekend.
We left after dinner and got in pretty late Saturday night, and the next day we headed out early again to Paju to Hanjoo's parent's house for a church service/barbecue. It was pretty hot, but there was a nice platform gazebo thing that many older houses have built as a sort of outdoor shaded work area, so we sat underneath there for church. We had the most interesting communion I have had to date: sponge cake and Makgeolli. Taste and see that the Lord is good! hahaha.

Lots of changes at Connexus of course. New students have come and new teachers as well. So excited to have met Michaela and Michelle and spent some time with them. They are  going to be BRILLIANT. I am so excited for what's ahead for Connexus and them. We also have a new vice principal, since Yoonseo is headed off to the U.S., Jae's brother Jaesung is taking over. It's been great to have him around to help us out. He will be invaluable to the next batch of teachers.

I just realized I always refer to the incoming teachers as the "new batch." Maybe I should say "fresh batch" to go even more into the cookie metaphor. Yes. Michaela and Michelle, you are fresh and delicious cookies. ㅋㅋㅋ.

One funny story from the classroom: the Backpack songs are notoriously fast for the kids to try to sing along to, and some time their garbled attempts to keep up are pretty hilarious. The Green 3 song line "that tall man is my grandfather Bill," proved hard for Sungyeon, who belted out "That tall man is my grandbrother Mill!" We had a very long laugh in class about that. Oh man. Still cracks me up.

Before Michelle came, we also had a great birthday party at Jaesung's house for Omonim. The highlight of the evening was definitely Heather's gift of a homemade Miss Korea sash for her to wear, and when Abonim told her to show off her legs and she hiked up the leopard print. Oh man, I wish I had a video of that. Too funny.

Before leaving, I had my 4:30 class over. I gave them a queen's tea! They loved the scones and lemon curd but were less enthusiastic about the tea and cucumber and egg salad sandwiches. No problem for me though, I just ate them for lunch the next day. We played halli galli and labyrinth together and they danced to some EXO and AOA songs. It was fun to have one last special time with them!

My last saturday, we went to a soccer game in Suwon. Now, Korean soccer is a little low-quality compared to the stuff we've been watching during the world cup, but I love watching a sport where I can understand all the rules. Not to mention the gloriousness of eating cold fried chicken and drinking Cass.

Leaving Korea was a whirlwind and a half. I taught the last day I was there, went to eat with my host family, and then was in the car on the way to their airport after saying goodbye to everyone outside the apartment. Surreal. It was hard to even really internalize it all on my last day: this is the last time I see Joy and Hyemin. This is the last time I see Sungyeon and Eun (Joy). This is the last time I see Susan and Eileen and Cindy and Christina. This is the last time I see Yoobin and Yoochan and Jiwon and Dongwon. This is the last time I see Daniel and Dohyeon and Raphael and Juyun. This is the last...this is the last... It's tricky to know how to really understand it in your heart. How could it all be over in one day? And yet, there it is.

Even after arriving here in the U.S. it feels like somehow Connexus is just around the corner, or in a city several hours away. I feel like I should be able to walk long enough in Waynesboro and find the street with Mcdonalds and Moa and the Apple Man and Daiso...but that's not how it is. So it will be hard. Right now it just feels good to be home, to see the people I love, to cuddle our cute animals...but I know the tough time is coming, when my heart is breaking because the people I love are so far away from me.

The good news is that Jesus is the same here as he was in Korea, and I am resting in the truth that he's going to take me through the rough patches here just like he did there.

Anyway, here's some last quotes from Korea, with one from America too!

Quotes from the Community:

"He's standing beside a statue without a head...He's so cultured!" -Anna

Abby: "I don't feel like teaching today."
Sarah: "Yeah, my mouth feels dry."

"I predict that in your future there will be more chickpea." -Anna's parting fortune-telling for Kate.

Anna: "Peace Camp sounds really cool."
Sarah: "I bet your children would go."
Anna: "My children?"
Sarah: "Yes..."
Anna: "My children in my body?"

Sarah: "Ok, who has done Yellow Review?"
Heather: "Uh...You and I did!"
Sarah: "Oh..I did?"
Heather: "Yeah you wrote the backpack lessons!"

"Oh shoot my hair...I went to the salon this morning but now it's like Omonim's." -Yoonseo

Abby (after walking into Jaesung's office): "Oh sorry! I forgot the copy machine isn't here anymore.."
Jaesung: "It's ok. I can do it for you with handwriting."

"Oh man. My underwear is downstairs. First world problems." -Mom

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Newness all around

Haven't posted any Korean music for a while, so let's go back in with a new release by an old favorite. Big Bang's Taeyang came out with a new album and this song from it is my current kpop jam: Stay With Me by Taeyang.

I'm not apologizing anymore for length, but I will warn: this is a mini-book. I hope you still read it!

Kate and I went to Busan two weeks ago, and it was a fantastic trip! Being a holiday weekend, we headed out from Seoul at 9:11 and it took seven hours instead of the usual four and a half to reach Busan. It was a loooong trip. On the bus, I watched most of a movie about the Korean war in Korean, which seemed really good. Granted, I couldn't understand more than a few sentences of the dialogue but it was pretty interesting. I had better success watching a program that was talking about a man who had been separated from his family during the war, and eventually found his daughter, who was living in Japan and had been raised there. Or at least...I think that was maybe what it was about. Watching T.V. in a foreign language must be partly what it's like to be a baby who is just learning to understand things.

When we got Busan we had to take the subway to central Busan to reach our lodging, The Blue Backpacker's Hostel. If anyone has the chance to visit Busan I highly recommend it. The staff speak very good English and were more than willing to help us figure out how to get places and even suggested fun places to go. The hostel itself was also one of the cutest places to stay that I've seen here. Many times minbaks or pensions are really kind of tacky looking, like the owners just got the cheapest stuff no matter if it matched or not and just jumbled it all together (remember the lovely decore at the pension Sarah and Kate and I stayed in on Ganghwado? hahaha). Blue Backpackers had coordinating decoration, matching walls, and fun quotes on the wall. Our room had a beautiful, albeit sad poem about autumn by Yeats right by the door when we walked in. The English Major part of my heart was very warmed.

After eating some delicious sushi and donkkaseu, we bought some fresh fruit smoothies from a food cart and listened to some street musicians give a concert. They did a great cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Sound Of Silence, so it was nice to sing along to something! Then we went back to the hostel, and after unsuccessfully trying to find it free on the internet, rented Annie Hall from Amazon, one of Woody Allen's films from the 70's, which was really good!

The next day we ate our breakfast on the roof, eggs and toast in the bright sunshine. It was sunny, but suprisingly (since we were more south than Deokso) it was several degrees cooler than at home. We visited Gamcheon cultural village first. During the Korean war, many refugees fled to Busan which was one of the only parts of the country where it was relatively safe. From what I remember from the museum, a large part of the group that settled in the area that eventually became the colorful and art- filled cultural village were followers of a religion started by a man named Cho Chol Je. According to 
 "Cho founded Taegukdo, a religion that believes that the Taeguk, or yin and yang symbol, represents the true meaning of life and the universe. Practicing again after persecution and suppression during the Japanese occupation, Cho and his followers converted nearly 90 percent of the refugees living in Gamcheon with their gifts of rice and candy. With this help, residents were then able to funnel their earnings into rebuilding, and in 1955 the area became known as the Taeguk Village when Cho moved the religion’s headquarters there."
Because refugees settled there, it has historically been a pretty poor area, but in 2009, a project began to revitalize the area with art, and the results are awesome. So many amazing murals and little shops are there now. The alleys are narrow, the buildings colorful and the shadows soft. It has a bit of Miyazaki film feel, except it has a definite Korean flavor. 

From there we headed to the Jalkachi fish market. Like most markets in Korea, it was crowded, with warm light filtered through big red awnings and umbrellas set up to shield the seafood from the sun. There were so many people that if you weren't careful, your leg might brush up against a fish tail or an octopus tentacle set up for sale on either side. Kate and I had some fresh roasted fish for lunch, grabbed right out of a tank in front of the restaurant. It was too good. Wow. That's the way to have seafood. On the way out, we bought about a pound of raspberries for around $6 and took it with us on our way to the beach.

We started beachcombing right away, and found dozens of pieces of sea glass in pale blues and turquoises and greens. I think we walked that way for at least an hour, picking up sea glass and eating raspberries, hair blowing in the sea breeze. How perfect! For a change, we sat and ate hard boiled eggs and read and journaled. There's something about that sea that makes you very contemplative and quiet. I loved it.

After a pizza dinner, we found a cute little coffee shop and settled there to wait for it to get dark enough for the Diamond Bridge light show to start. We saw a great show choreographed to CrayonPop's Bar Bar Bar song, last summer's jam here. The next morning we headed back to Seoul at 11:30, but this time we drove in the express lane and got there before dinner time! It was such a refreshing time, and so wonderful to have one last big adventure with Kate before she leaves. 

The weekend after we came back was a busy one. Kaia came back form her month visit with her family on the Friday and then Saturday was Yongjin and Soyoung's wedding! It was so neat to be able to celebrate them, sing them a song during the ceremony and just be together on such an important day. I'm so excited for them and what God has for them together as a couple! They are fantastic. The ceremony was really meaningful and personalized too, which isn't always usual in most Korean weddings (from what others have told me) because they often follow the same layout and have very similar content. This wedding was really special, and it was an honor to be a part of.

That's isn't the end of the season of excitement however. Two days later, on Tuesday night, Michaela arrived! When she came to the office the next day the kids were so excited. I am so happy to have her here and can't wait to see how God's going to use her as a teacher here. Having new people here also kind of makes me see my daily life in a new light, trying to remember what it was like to be a part of all this for the first time. I feel like I have an extra dose of energy!

Today me and Kate and Kaia and Michaela took a trip to Changdeok palace and Insadong. It was so fun to go to a new place! I have been to Insadong quite a few times, but had never visited this palace or it's "Secret Garden" so it was great to be able to show Michaela one of our favorite areas while having a bit of a new adventure as well. The garden behind the palace was marvelous...I haven't seen that many trees at once in my entire time here in Korea. The air tasted healthy, it was that fresh and clean under the shade. Totally worth the 8,000 won entrance fee. Later after shopping a bit in Insadong, we of course went to Slow Garden. One original and one strawberry bingsoo were devoured in record time. Tomorrow we're planning on having some more, this time at the Goddess cafe: mango bingsoo made with mango milk ice. Too delicious.

One the Connexus side of things, other than having a new face in the office, I feel like these days class has been pretty fun. I'm still trying to get one class to do their homework, but otherwise I feel like things are going quite well, and I've been writing down tons of funny things the kids have been saying. Here's one quote that needed some back story:

I have one student, Joy, who really mixes up P and F sounds. She usually says F instead of P, which is really strange because Korean has a P sound, but does not have F. Anyway, she is getting better at correcting herself with some prompting, but this tendency sometimes leads to some pretty funny mistakes. Case in point, this happened yesterday in class:

Abby: "Ok, let's remember what happened last time. I will read, and you clap when you hear a wrong word: 'The ducks hug the ugly duckling.'"
Joy: (claps) "not hug!"
Abby: "Not hug, so what word?"
Joy: "p...ff.f..fff F*CK!"
Abby: "Ohhhhh you mean Peck?"
Joy: "Oh yes yes Feck!"

Please enjoy the rest of the jewels that come from the mouths of Connexus students. Thanks for reading!

Quotes from the Classroom

Eileen: "If you were in Abby's mouth, what would you do?"
Susan: "I would sleep and Abby's tongue is my blanket."
(another gem from the Unintentionally Creepy Duo)

Me: "Susan, no homework?"
Susan: "I draw your face in my notebook for homework!"
Me: "Good try."

"Would you rather eat a live chameleon or a....what is very yuck and very ew?" Susan tries to stump me with a Would You Rather question.

Daniel: *coloring a character's blanket silver* This girl is very rich!
Dohyeon: "Rich do you like better?"

"This stamp store is like North Korea!"- Jihwan expresses his dislike for having to work together with Hyunseo to buy things.

"Heather, on group games day this week I will be nice. Early birthday present!" - Tommy

Raphael (proudly showing his mood bracelet): "Teacher, this is magic!"
Daniel (indignant): "No! it is a science!"

"Tomorrow I will go to meeting with my girlfriend <3......but it is lie."--Tim's journal.

Quotes from the Community

"What is that..the fire distinguisher?" - Heather

"Is that another satan doughnut?" -Anna

"Where did I put my moldy pear?"-Heather

"Ooh, friend request from sixpackdoctor!"-Anna

"Doughnuts where?" -Lomie the little snack scrounger.

"Woah this coffee is thick...I really dumped the beans in there...or grounds..whatever."- Heather

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer is cutting it's first tooth!

Sara Groves never gets old for me, and this song really feels relevant to me these days: The One Thing I know.

It has been a really long time. Sorry about that! It seems when you're nearing the end of something time suddenly is like "punch it, Chewie!" and you're rocketed forward before you know what's happening. According to my countdown on, I have 49 days left in Korea.
What the heck. When did that happen? It's been sneaking up on me.

I think the most interesting thing that has happened on the Connexus side of things in the last month was my Open Day. On this day, parents of your students can come and sit in on their child's class for 30 of the 50 minutes. It's special because then parents can kind of visualize what we do on a daily basis and kind of nerve-racking because there are parents right there watching your every move. On the plus side, this means the kids are usually really well behaved, which means you have to have a lot of extra activities up your sleeves because all of a sudden you've actually finished the lesson plan instead of wasting ten collective minutes waiting for kids to:

* Finish their deokbokki and get into class already
* drink water after finishing said deokbokki
* possible bathroom trip depending on the age and maturity of the child
* take their books out of their back pack and not also pull out a toy, a hat, candy, the wrong book or all of the above.
* Stop playing the "game of air" with their pencils, erasers, flashcards or anything at all.
* Quickly ask and answer questions and don't interrupt each other or stall.
* Actually listen to you and so that you don't have to repeat yourself three or four times. "Open your storybooks!" instead of "Open your storybooks....It's reading time, please open your storybooks...Now is not drawing time, please open your storybook."

But on the downside, they also are a lot more timid and it's a shame that their parent's can't see the full potential their students have and get to witness the great creativity that many of them have in class.

Mine went well and I got a lot of positive feedback. Only one class didn't go as well as I would have liked, but it was less about what I did, and more that the kids didn't really try to impress their parents, so I kind of felt a little embarrassed for them...they were finishing their homework in the last two minutes of class and eating their deokbokki too, right in front of their parents. I heard from Juyoung that the parents of that class were a little shocked to see their children acting like that. Since then, that class has been a little more serious and better at having work done and starting class on time, so that's been great.

Outside of Connexus there's been some big stuff too. I have been learning some important stuff lately about communication in relationships. Some of it's pretty obvious, but since I am a total newbie, a lot of it was kind a first time realization:

1. Actually communicate. This is really important for dating relationships I think, but obviously for others at well. Intentionality is vital. If something is bothering you or there is something else you feel  needs to be talked about, don't assume it's just going to "come up naturally." That rarely happens with important topics. Make a plan to talk about it, or specifically bring it up when you're talking about other things. True communication I think rarely happens without intentionality and making an effort.

2. Don't settle for 'kind of understanding.' I really need to make an effort to truly understand people and to make sure they can understand me. Miscommunication causes frustration, offense, and feeling that you've be unheard, so even if it feels tiresome at points, it's worth it to make sure thoughts are fully expressed and understood. If you feel like someone hasn't quite caught your meaning, it's worth it to make the effort to make sure they do.

3. The Silent Treatment never works. Either it prolongs the offense, or damages the person you are using it with. Even if you need time by yourself to process or calm down after an argument, still be in communication. Tell the person when you think you'll be ready to talk. This will help them not be as worried about what's going on, and it will help you be intentional about getting yourself ready to come back together and talk. Open-ended "rest" from each other is not really beneficial in my own opinion. Everything related to conflict resolution should be productive and not destructive or stagnant.

4. Be aware of your communication style, and the style of the person you're trying to communicate with. I read this in a book Kate lent me which has the kind of cheesy title "True Love Dates," but that has some really neat ideas in it. It's important in relationships to realize where you've come from, and this includes the way you grew up communicating: about emotions, thoughts, conflicts etc. My family has a very transparent and deep communication style when it come to talking about emotions and thoughts, so when I try to communicate with someone who didn't grow up like that, I can feel like I am either over-sharing, or the other person seems so closed off and is only "opening up the wading pool" so to speak instead of "diving into" communication.

Even though I wrote that out in confidence, I'm not trying to be pretentious. Truly I know very little about being in relationships, but this is one big way I learn, taking in information and processing it through writing. I guess the main thing I am really taking from all this is being intentional. You can't just be in a relationship and think that all the kinks work themselves out. If you're in a relationship and it seems like that is the case, you better get your rear in gear because that means the other person has been working their booty off to make it work in spite of your lack of help.
So there it is! my humble advice that mostly I need to take myself.

What's a blog post without an update on the weather? It's getting HOT. Yoonseo is wilting like a daisy. The man doesn't deal with heat well. I'll have to feed him popsicles to keep him peppy. Speaking of which, some of you may not know but Korea is a paradise of popsicles and icecream bars. I have never seen such variety or deliciousness. My current favorite is this guy:
Tetris bar...a delightful mix of pineapple and apple, with that kind of juicy starburst kind of fruit flavor, and a soft tooth-scrapable texture. Too icy and it's no good, and Tetris does it perfectly.

On the non-fruity side, my favorite is the Yogoyam Coconut yogurt bar. It doesn't skimp at all on the coconut flavor and is ultra creamy with that kind of flexible fudge-bar quality. Dang it...I want one now!
                   It was actually a dream last summer to write popsicle reviews. Is it my new calling?

Fun things recently and coming soon:
* Trip to Juyoung's mother's house this past Sunday! She was so hospitable and happy to have us there. I haven't eaten such delicious meat in such a long time and get ready for it... SWEET CORN. Manna from heaven. She was also hilarious and told us how she had visited her son four times when he was studying abroad for a year... "Helicopter mom!" she said. Also how her son was getting pulled over during one visit for speeing, which might have meant deportation, so she faked stomach pains and pretended they were driving to the her words "the power of mom's love." Oh man, too great!

* Mini vacation to Busan with Kate! Can't wait to check out the beach and the fish market and all that jazz. Also a 6 hour bus ride full of reading, yippee!

* Kaia's return, Yongjin's wedding and Michaela's arrival!!! Seriously, June is a hurricane of events.

Finally, enjoy some of the gems that come out of the mouths our community members.

Thanks for reading!

Quotes from the Community:

"I've been taking good care of my moustache lately."--Me

Yoonseo: " I want to be a what is it...Bench potato?
Abby: "Couch potato?"

"I love that kind of joke...mental hospital joke. Something that touches our mentality." -Yoonseo

"Jesus is coming! Clean my room!" -Lomie

"These are not my panties, these are not my panties!" Yoonseo wants to clarify what his boxers are to his roommates.

"Now that I know about that coin change machine, my life is going to run a lot differently!" -Anna

"I am not a man....I am....Amanda." -Yoonseo

"I feel like I've been born again!" Michael after getting his ears cleaned.

엄마! today your body is so cute!" --Lomie. What a charmer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There and Back Again

Today's music is Sara Groves' song based on of one of my favorite hymns: He's Always Been Faithful.

I feel that I've gotten the chance to really experience the words of this song in the last couple weeks. It's almost as if I have been on a long journey, and am now making my way forward after returning.

The journey begins with a skype call finding out that my grandfather a bit unexpectedly went to be with Jesus. It was strange how even in the suddenness of the loss, I felt a little bit at peace about it. It felt like it would have been harder to see our Papa, so strong in so many ways, wasting away little by little. But, it would have been easier to prepare hearts for it then, I suppose. I still had to teach that day, after finding out, but somehow it was better that way--keeping my mind off of it.

For me, one of the biggest fears of being away from home and of thinking about possibly living overseas longterm has been the fear of losing someone close to me, and just being stuck in the grief: unable to go home because of lack of funds, or inability to take time off or something. I always assumed that if it happened, I would have to deal with it alone and far away from my family. And this time, I figured it would be the same, until one of my coworkers asked, "Will you go back for the funeral?"

I had never even dared to hope that was an option, but as my community here surrounded me with love that day, no one ever made any comments that discouraged that idea. So I dared to hope, and talked with Jae and Karen, who let me know that whatever I decided to do, they would help me work it out, whether that meant covering my last couple classes before our vacation week, or asking community members for funds to help cover the plane ticket.

I was really embarassed to have to ask for money. It wasn't for a missions trip or for a charity thing, it was just little old me, for my personal use. It felt like too much to ask of anyone, and a test for my pride even when I deperately wanted to go.
Well, I didn't even have to make a formal request; I merely mentioned that I would need to ask for money and my fellow teachers stepped up and paid for 1/3 of my trip costs. Not only this, but Karen and Kaia took over my classes, so I didn't even have to worry about that at all. I was floored by my community's generosity.

It felt like it was a direct message from God letting me know that he was looking out for me, specifically providing the things I really needed right at that moment. I can't thank my family here enough for being the hands and feet of Jesus in a time where I really needed it. I love you guys!

So, I headed home on April 25th in the morning, to get home on April 25th in the afternoon...time zones can be useful when you want to get somewhere quickly!
Seeing Mercy at the airport for the first time, I was struck by how big her head had gotten. Not in a figurative sense; she wasn't arrogant or anything. Her actual noggin seemed to have grown. And as every older sibling knows, nothing brings out the waterworks like a little sibling being a lot bigger than you remember. It was so nice to fit back into my family so well...other than growing taller, nothing seemed to have changed. The gps in the car was still finicky; our car was still messy. The sky was just as blue and high as it was, and fields just as wide.

I went directly to my Grandmother's house where all my extended family had gathered and we spent some good time just being together that evening. I got to practice speaking a little Korean with my Aunt and enjoyed the antics of her oldest son, my cousin Josh. In the midst of a room with mostly adults, he marched in and asked, completely seriously, "Ok...who wants to play minecraft in real life?" Cracked me right up.

The next morning, we attended the least funeral-like funeral I have ever been too. It felt like a farewell party! The rollicking Salvation Army tunes, funny and meaningful stories from Papa's life and a rousing gospel message left me crying not from emptiness but from a profound sense of fullness. What a life! and what a gift that I got to be a small part of it and get to be blessed by Papa's legacy even now. There was as much laughter as there were tears on that day.

Coming away from reflecting on Papa's life and how he blessed people, I want to be more intentional in a few ways.
Papa was a champion prayer, and I want to be someone who comes to Jesus constantly like he did. Many people mentioned as well how much Papa saw the potential in people instead of their faults; he was positive when it came to people. I want to call out the best in people like that! including in myself. I want to work at using every opportunity that I am with people to make Jesus a little more real to them. Papa was amazing at never missing chances to show Jesus to people; I want to be that kind of person too. I also want to be a person that checks up on people and show genuine interest in how they are doing. Too many times I am too wrapped up in myself to show care toward other people, and I would like to work on changing that.

Time at home was a real blessing, hanging with some of my best people and getting a chance to talk with my parents, siblings and friends in person was amazing. I felt like it was a great time of spiritual and emotional rejuvenation and left me feeling hungry for growth in those areas.

I feel ready to make these last three months in Korea be extremely rich! Pray for me as I try to live a more intentional life here.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter People

Today, I've been listening to a worship compilation, and was reminded about how much I like this song: Stronger by Hillsong.

I'm starting this blog on Maunday Thursday, feeling pretty worn out. I spent most of last night dozing a little and waking up suddenly in a panic to check for more news about Papa, my grandfather, who is in very critical condition at a hospital back home. It's hard to describe exactly what it feels like to be far away from home when things like this are happening...if you've been there you know it. For me it's like I am half here and half sort of floating around somewhere in some kind of world where there are just question marks. I can't even say that I'm half here, and half at home, because it's just too far. I have moments where it doesn't feel real at all, like it's some kind of story I'm hearing that I'm not apart of, and other times I feel it fully and emotions either hit me like a ton of bricks or I just sort of feel like I'm empty. To continue getting through work days where you need to be on all day, you have to sort of keep yourself in this type of "story-I'm-not-apart-of-zone" through it can be tiring. Like pushing back against a door that has no latch and there's a windstorm outside. I'm glad I'm teaching and not sitting at a desk, because my students are great distractions.

And then there is the tough stuff that is happening around me and my family that doesn't deal with us directly, but is heavy on my heart: the fires in Valparaiso; the sunken Ferry near Jeju. The kind of loss that is going there makes any kind of loss I'm feeling seem like it should be insignificant.

In the midst of all this, here we have come to Holy Week. Somehow it seems both incredibly fitting and jarringly constrastive to the situation. It seems like we're living in a perpetual combination of Good Friday and the Saturday after, and it seems pretty unbelievable that there is a resurrection coming anytime soon.

I have not been feeling like one of the Easter People that you hear preached about. It's hard to remember that life is coming when all you can think about is how just absolutely awful death is. I guess it's a "natural part of life" in the sense that it inevitably happens and we've grown to reluctantly expect it, but I really don't think it's natural at all. Death always feels a bit like something has gone wrong. Because truly, it has. We were meant for life; Easter is about God making it available again. So in that sense, maybe living in this grey haze during Holy Week is something of a blessing. I'm  really feeling a deep need for Easter, for the promise of life--physically and spiritually.

We had a footwashing this morning in our community devotions. Perhaps it felt sort of thrown together to some, or kind of like tradition for the sake of tradition, but it was so meaningful for me. The action of footwashing reminds me of the care of people, service, and being there for each other; every time I get to participate in it, the physical action brings to mind all the people who have been there for me, and  reaffirms for me the beauty of service in Jesus' name. Maundy Thursday at Fairivew Ave Brethren in Christ is one of my most favorite things, and this morning brought a little taste of that. It was sweet sweet sweet to a tired and sad heart.

So bring on Sunday! further up and further in, as C.S. Lewis says.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April, come she will

You might have thought it would have been a little S&G for the blog music due to the title, but I think I already used that song, so instead have a listen to my currect favorite worship song, introduced to me by Susanna Miller. Thanks Zanna! Oceans by Hillsong.

Sarah Jill's wedding in March was just lovely and a great time to see everyone. It was very interesting too, quite different from a typical Western wedding. One difference is that people don't bring gifts, but instead bring a certain sum of money that covers their meal plus a little more, which will go to the parents of the bride and groom, who usually pay for the wedding. Another difference is that there wasn't any time of saying vows. The bride and groom actually didn't speak at all. I know there is a more traditional style ceremony that sometimes follows the sort of modernized Korean style wedding where the bride and groom wear hanbok...perhaps there is more speaking done then, I'm not sure. So that was one of the biggest differences between the weddings I'm used to and this one: no speaking done by the bride and groom.

After the wedding, I went with Yoonseo to meet his parents...yikes! It was the first time I had met them since Chuseok last year, and my status was now 'girlfriend' so it was a little nerve-wracking. I shouldn't have been so nervous, because they were extraordinarily kind: they told me I could come and visit them if I miss my family, wanted me to learn Korean quickly so they could talk to me, and his mom said she would teach me to cook Korean food. I hope I can do as they hope and learn Korean was hard to focus for just the brief time we were there, trying to catch as much Korean as I could. But it helped to further solidify my determinedness to get better. It's kind of a pain that language learning takes so much time...what I wouldn't give for a Matrix chip in my brain...

We then headed to a retreat with our Conneus and KOPI staff, which was so wonderful! My two favorite parts of the retreat were organized by Kaia. One was a writing exercise where we paired together in twos and walked around to different pieces of paper that had certain words written on them, like "Blessing" or "Family" or something like that. We had to write what came to mind when we read that word, or what we associated with that word, and got to share a little with our partner. I was paired with Hyesun, one of the new KOPI interns that I didn't know well yet, so it was so neat to spend some time with her and learn a little about what is important to her and what she thinks about certain topics. I also loved going to the beach as a group and walking along and talking through a semi-organized Stroll-And-Chat, again with people that you didn't know well yet. It was a sort of safe and non-pressure way to spend a little quality time with people.

Actually through the word writing exercise, I discovered something about myself. One of the papers had "Needs" written on it, and after the visit with Yoonseo's parents where I hadn't be able to communicate like I wanted to, I realized how important good communication is to me. I'm really bad at 'sensing' the situation and knowing how people are doing without them telling me, or knowing how to help somene without them communicating it to me. I feel frustrated when I feel in the dark about something that I feel I should know, or if I can't adequately express myself to someone when it's important; so I wrote "Good communication" on the paper. While I can't change how people interact with me, I want to work on this in myself, becoming someone that people feel they can communicate well with and who listens well and expresses themselves instead of staying silent. This of course ties right in with learning Korean better...everything seems to be coming down to that these days...

As for this month, this past weekend I had a fun visit with Janae, a pal of mine from Messiah who went to Oxford with me and who I roomed with one semester. It was awesome to catch up on our lives and share my experience in Korea with someone from back home. We had some great adventures to the National Museum and to the Hanok Village in Namsan where we tried on some Hanbok, which was something I had been wanting to do! Thanks Janae for being such a wonderful guest and for the great chats! Not to mention watching some America's Next Top Model....totally hooked on this season now he he he.

On the Connexus side of things, I wanted to report that my 5:30 class came through Enrichment month stronger academically and they are able to keep up with the Green level work! Yoochan still is lower in pretty much everything, but I really hope he will continue to study the Phonics 2 stuff at home so that he can catch himself up. Nevertheless, so far he is also doing ok and doesn't seem overwhelmed by the work. But the thing I am most delighted with is that the attitude in this class is really different, especially in Yoobin. The other day in class she asked to borrow some notebook paper from a classmate to write down new words I was teaching without prompting from me. After struggling to get her to even sit up in her chair, that felt like a water-into-wine style miracle. She also hasn't missed a single homework assignment this month when she used to be one of the biggest offenders in that area. Huge answer to prayer!

But of course, (here's the pessimist coming out) things don't stay good too long...right around the time 5:30 class was shaping up, my 6:30 class started really getting out of control. I have one student, Raphael who is more than a handful. He does not close his mouth from the moment he gets in class and will not respond to requests to be quiet or wait his turn. And he isn't speaking English most of the time. He's making dinosaur noises, singing, or what have you. He's also not in his chair. He is hiding behind it, or on the floor in front of the board, or under the table. Or, as a recent development, he is taking off his clothes. We've met with the class several times for some restorative discipline and he always is very subdued and knows the words to say...but right after he is right back to it.

It's definitely stemming out of problems at home. He's come to Connexus several times very upset because his mother hit him at home before he came...if she is hitting him, I'm sure he's getting verbal abuse too. If a little guy like that feels totally out of control of what happens to him at home, you can bet he is going to try to take control where he can, and at Connexus is one place where he can make the entire hour revolve around him if he wants it to. I feel really badly, because I feel like there isn't really much I can do to help him...he needs counseling. Seriously. Even our grammar teacher Juyoung can hardly stand to teach him. Man. Tough stuff.

But mostly, since I've written last, there's been a lot of blessing, so here are some sources of blessing lately:
1. Yoonseo. Thanks for making me smile and laugh every day! I'm so glad I have an optimist around who always helps me not to brood like a hero in a Victorian Gothic novel.
2. The Bible Study Gals: Kate, Kaia, Anna, Sarah and Karen. Your support, listening ears and wisdom are pure richness for me.
3. Beautiful weather and cherry blossoms blooming everywhere.
4. My cutie students. There are ones that misbehave and stress me out, but most of them are just so much fun!

Quotes from the Community:

"I'm just trying to print's moving at the speed of...constipation." -Anna

Heather: "Lomie, do you like big corporations?"
Lomie: "Yes!"
Sarah: "Lomie do you like Mom and Pop stores?"
Lomie: "No!"
Sarah: "Well, don't tell your mom that..."

"Please think of Sarah's face...and save it."-Anna

"Michael, I wish and I wash. I'm not wishy-washy." -Heather.

"Let's go shopping!"-Michael.

"Go to whatever rest stop you want. Pee gracefully."-Jae

"There is birth, there there is death, there is another birth. This is from the Holy Spirit and is called BowChickaWowWow. How biblical!" --Yoonseo gives a lesson in theology.

I was in my school talent show! I rapped...about chess. ...but I'm way cooler now!" -Anna

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I've lived a clockful of years!

Today's blog music is the wedding song we will be singing for a friend's wedding this weekend. The lyrics are really beautiful, especially the second verse, I think. Please enjoy Give Yourself To Love by Kate Wolf.

My brother pointed out to me the other day that this birthday was special for me because I have lived as many years as there are hours on the clock. This is definitely cool, because somehow it makes me feel like this next year can be like "a new day." It's past midnight now, and I'm heading towards a new morning.

See what living in the land of cutesy has done to me? I am getting a little cheesey, I think. But I'm feeling more optimistic these days.

Turning a year older is a perfect time to reflect on the days of yore though. Today in the teacher's office we talked about saving up for stuff as kids and how some of us were better at it than others. My one success as a child for saving up for something big was an American Girl doll...which got Kate and talking about our favorite games to play with our dolls. Kate joins the group of us who played less house related games with our dolls and more "escape from the villians" or the myriad of "we are orphans in dire circumstances including perhaps all of our limbs are broken" type games.

What is it with children and pretending to be orphans? how morbid is that. We were so weird.

But then, my students remind me of the weirdness of children every day. Today in my 4:30 class, Susan and Eileen and Cindy discussed being sick and how the yellow dust in the air (thanks China!) was maybe a reason for why Susan was feeling a little sick. I told them that Anna was feeling a little sick too, in her nose, so maybe she had breathed too much dust too.

They then proceeded to draw a giant nose on the board with cavernous nostrils and tell me that "Teacher if Anna teacher's nose is this big then there will be a lot of dust inside and maybe a tree." Then they added a cute little pine tree inside the left nostril. So be careful Anna, you don't want to accidently grow a tree inside your nose. The ENT downstairs might be stumped by that one....

Other neat things in my classes has been a successful (so far) restorative discipline meeting with my troublesome 5:30 class. Jae and Yoonseo and all the interns came to my classroom, so the adults were outnumbering the kids by far. Pretty intimidating, but I think that was exactly what was needed. They just have had repeated behavior problems and just weren't taking the problem seriously. It ended up being really good and they were able to come with a list of promises that they wanted to help each other keep and we posted it on our classroom wall. I have seen some improvement, and I know they will need reminding, but it was so good to see that they were finally taking class seriously. Huge answer to prayer!

This weekend we are headed to Gangneung, Yoonseo's hometown for Sarah Jill's wedding. Sarah used to word with NARPI and did some substitute teaching for Connexus too. We have the great honor of singing her wedding song, which you can listen to in the link I posted at the top. We are also having a staff retreat, the first since the addition of three new KOPI interns. I'm excited to have some time to get to know everyone better.

Two of the interns, Minjung and Hyesun are doing a language exchange with Anna and I. We are meeting on Wednesday nights to have conversation in Korean and English and check each other's journals; Anna and I will write in Korean and Minjung and Hyesun will write in English. I am really excited to get the chance to practice Korean and become better friends with people we're working and living alongside. Minjung is actually in my cooking group on Mondays and also goes to Grace and Peace church with us.

I'm still collecting quotes, so instead enjoy some little updates from the community. Thanks for reading!

Community News:

* After spending many great months with us, Juhee decided it was time for a change, and so now we have a new grammar teacher, Jiyoung Park, who is just lovely and is great to have in the office! I'm looking forward to getting to know her better too as she is taking Juhee's place as one of my cooking partners as well.

* On March 17, I made omurice for lunch and let it be known to all that Omonim said that it was delicious and I did well. I wrote it on my calendar.

* One of my friends from Messiah is coming to Connexus to teach! Michaela, I am so pumped!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tonsillitis and a case of Inadequacy

Today's blog music is again some Sleeping at Last, a song I feel like I need to take to heart these days: You Are Enough by Sleeping At Last. Whoops, already feeling weepy....Sorry, this one is more of a personal blog rather than a news update.

I've been sick.
For almost two weeks now, first a weird fever-y stomach thing that then morphed into an ear-throat-nose deal that I found out today from the doctor is Tonsillitis. No, don't worry, not the kind that requires surgery, but the kind that can turn into strep pretty quick, and felt like it was well on its way there.

Anyway, the visit to the doctors brought into focus another kind of sickness I've been suffering: Inadeqaucy. 부적임.Big time megacity.

Not feeling well physically kind of puts a lot of things into perspective, but can also give you usually unhelpful mix of self-pity and lots of time to think.

So far I've reflected quite extensively on the fact that I can't go on double dates with my boyfriend with getting a fever halfway through, I can't play sports well (especially ping pong),  I can't understand or speak Korean as well as I feel like I should,  I can't go to a Korean wedding without being ultra awkward greeting people, and I can't visit the doctor and have him suck the pus out of my throat without bursting into tears.

Yep, that happened at the doctor's this morning. Reaaalll classy. I was instantly embarassed, but the truth was, I was scared. I couldn't understand what the doctor was saying to me, and they moved so quickly I didn't know what was going on until suddenly there was a suction in my throat, poking at my sore tonsils. It hurt, and I gagged and out came the waterworks.

Surprisingly, I missed the U.S. a lot in that moment. I missed good old Mont Alto Family Practice and the physician's assistant telling me what they were planning on doing to me before they did it, and telling me why they were giving me a shot, and giving said shot in the arm instead of the butt (why is that necessary? as if I needed another reason to feel uncomfortable).

I think the excessive reaction was mostly a result of other pent up feelings of not feeling good enough: not strong enough, not experienced enough, not capable enough to handle what is needed to live here as a "foreigner" and an English teacher. I know my skin should be thicker, that I should be braver, that I should eat more kimchi, that I should be more interesting girlfriend, that I should be and do a lot of things I'm not currently. But the truth is, I'm not there yet. I need to grow more. I know it.

But I also don't need to let the awareness that I need to grow consume me and make me feel like I need to hide away like a tulip bulb until I'm 'ready' to come out. Reality is that we need to be growing our entire lives. We're never 'done.' We're always growing with God, and we're never adaquate without him. There isn't really a timeline of how 'done' we ought to be at a certain point either. There is no official manual that has a chapter labeled "What You Should Be Able To Handle After Living In Korea For Almost 10 Months." No one is evaluating my progress and judging my worth as a person based on it. No one is writing me a report card circling the numbers in each category and deciding whether I'm behind or not.

Oh yeah, except for me.
And I need to quit it.

So it's ok that I suck at ping pong. It's ok that I think some kimchi is too sour and is gross. It's ok that I can never remember the name of my favorite sauce in Korean and can't understand the doctor. It's ok that I baked those jammy scones a little longer than I should have. It's ok that I am a little boring and talk too much about books to Yoonseo. It's ok. I'm enough. I'm still growing with Jesus, but with him-- I'm enough.

“you are enough.”
these little words, somehow they’re changing us.
“you are enough.”
so we let our shadows fall away like dust.

when we grew up,
our shadows grew up too.
but they’re just old ghosts
that we grow attached to.
the tragic flaw is that they hide the truth

that you’re enough.
I promise you’re enough.
I promise you’re enough, I promise you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Song of the day is the Olympic Theme. Because it's that time of year. Guess who wrote it? John Williams. I like the fact that the Olympics theme came from the same mind that composed for Star Wars. So have a listen: Olympics Fanfare and Theme.

Speaking of Olympics, we just had a little competition of our own at Connexus this past Friday. The Friday before we had each class create their own flag and country name. Trying to get four kids to coordinate on a design was a doozer of a task in many of the classes, but in the end we came up with some great flags and great team names. I had a Frozen Castle team among my bunch, but the other teachers had some even greater ones: Eat the Rainbow, Freedom Dragons, Parkour Generation, Crystal Republic, Music Ghosts etc.

Heather came up with five events:
* a bobsled race  (push an ice cube with your nose)
* a biathalon (knock over a bottle with a ball/ hit a target with a rubber band)
* a baton relay (featuring a rubber chicken)/Clothespin curling (drop a clothespin from under your chin into a cup)
* Chopsticks drop (picking up little foam squares and transferring them with chopsticks to a bowl as fast as you can)
* Ski dress relay (put on ski clothes and go around box, then take them off and give to the next person)

Each team competed by themselves at each station, getting 5 minutes to get their best time, which they wrote on the official time sheet at the station. They would be able to see the times of the other teams, so the competition was definitely on, but there wasn't as much pressure as if they were competing in the same room.

It was so fun! So many students that usually are grumps on activity day were too busy to complain, and it was really cool to see the kids work together and cheer each other on. My vocal chords were pretty much shot by the end (we later went to karaoke with two of the students, so that didn't help hehehe).

I came away with two bronze medal teams, a silver team and one gold. Let me tell you, for the gold one, I think I was as nervous as the girls in the team...we heard bronze called, then silver, and were thinking we were out of it, but then...dun dun dun! We screamed pretty loud. The day was exhausting, but everyone loved it.

Other important connexus news is the in-progress review/enrichment month being added at the end of all Backpack units. We've noticed that there are quite a few classes and many individual students that are being pushed along into higher levels when they are not ready. Case-in -oint would be one of my students who is about to move into an advanced beginner level and still is unable to read.

Since the Blue and Yellow levels are in the most urgent need for review curriculum, we're focusing on those first. My current Blue 9 class will be the first to try it out, so I have been responsible for creating most of the plan...yikes! I am a little nervous to try it out, since it's all on me, but at the same time, because it's so flexible, I feel like it will be ok to drastically change the plan's the test run after all.

I have another Blue class that is only one level behind the one that is doing the review month next month, so as soon as I finish teaching the review month, I will teach it again, so I am hoping that I will be able to work out most of the kinks in these two months. It's great to finally be doing something to try to help the kids get caught up, because it's been a problem for a while. So here's hoping!

Outside of Connexus, I haven't done many new things...something I would like to change! Routine is good, but not when you start to forget what you did the last couple weeks because they all run together.

Two weeks ago I started something new: a language exchange! A Korean friend of Anna's was interested in doing a language exchange, so I met her two sundays ago and we talked for two hours, about 40% English, 60% in Korean...It was so wonderful! Usually I end up not trying to speak Korean on a daily basis because it takes me a while to say what I want to say, and I feel like people don't have time or are a little annoyed at having to wait so long, so I just speak English. But at the language exchange, Jieun waited for as long as I needed, so I realized that I actually can communicate (maybe not completely correctly, but understandably) lots of things I didn't know I could--I just never got the chance to try! It was a really neat time, and I hope I can do it more regularly.

And, now I will have a little more time than expected to do some of the fun things/studying I wanted to do while here...I will most likely be staying until the end of July now, because of the unavailability of most of the teachers applying before the fall. To come at the beginning of June is really soon for most people who are applying now, because they'd like the summer to visit family or whatnot, not to mention the lengthy visa application process. So, I'm added around 2 months on to the end of my time.

I'm actually feeling good about that--it was kind of scary to think that I only had three months left actually; time goes so quickly here that I knew that it was going to feel like the blink of an eye. I'm glad now for the chance to have a bit more time, and also be thinking about how to use it wisely. Busan and Jeju are still on my list of places to go.

I guess those are the most recent developments! a little long and dull, I apologize. You can just scroll to the bottom for the quotes... :-p

Thanks for reading!

Community News:
* End of January marked the first batch of online report cards. We are moving up in the tehno world! seriously, it turned a 6 hour job into a 2.5-3 hour job. Typing for the win!

* This February marked 100 days for little Aurie, and 100 days together for me and Yoonseo. Hooray for special days!

* We're official wedding singers! The Connexus crew and KOPI/NARPI are singing the wedding songs at Sarah Jill and Jong's wedding. We practiced a bit and already we are sounding super. Not to brag or anything....

* Two new female KOPI interns, Minjung and Angela, will be moving into our old apartment building soon! Good old  백유동산 is still a part of the community.

Quotes from the Community:

Yoonseo: "This soup is good..Can you give me some more juice--more brenda?"
Abby: "Broth?"
Yoonseo: "Yes, what a beautiful name."

"I'm never being sarcastic."--Anna.

Watching speedskating...
"Can they use this ice for patbingsoo after? Put down red beans and everyone eat together?"-Yoonseo.

"Kevin--I mean, Michael--"--Heather
"Now I know who you really love!"--Michael.

Abby: "How do you feel about the muppets?"
Yoonseo: "I want to drink soju with them one time."

Yoonseo: "You know, my nickname was Apple."
Abby: "I thought you said it was Strawberry?"
Yoonseo: "That's for the Spring."

Quotes from the Classroom:

We were talking about the Olympics in my newly moved up 3:30 Blue 8 class, and Hyesu told me, "Teacher, in 2018, Olympics in Pyongchang!" So I asked them how old they would be, and this began a hilarious conversation. They told me that they would be 15 and 16. After agreeing that this was pretty old, they then asked me,
"Teacher, how old? 29!"
"Oh man, so old. Maybe I will come to Korea and see the Olympics then."
" wedding?"
"Oh maybe. You want to come?"
 "Yes! and wedding 축하 (congratulation song?) is 'F is for Fred!"
"Oh good idea, you can come to my wedding and sing all the Backpack songs for me!"
*they begin a run down of their Backpack repetoire until I decide it's time to actually study...hahaha*

Abby: Who is your favorite character in "The Princess and the Pea?"
Yoochan: Pea.

"My favorite animal is a beach alligator."--Daniel

Cindy: "What does 'noticed' mean?"
Abby: "It means something like, 'You see and know for the first time.'"
Susan: ", 'I noticed I don't have a dog'?"

"When girls take off glasses they are pretty, but when boys take off glasses they are more ugly."--Susan and Eileen. Typical. They can be really hilarious and so shallow at the same time.

"Raphael...stand down."--Daniel. I think he meant 'sit,' but they both were appropriate in the situation.