November 2010


Beginning with an early 8 am departure from Daegu, my friend Young-eun (영은) and I set out for a day in Seoul. I almost didn’t make the train. . . but that’s another story. On the KTX, it’s less than 2 hours to Seoul and we arrived before many shops and things were open. First stop: Changdeokgung Palace.

The clay figures are spirit guards.

In the “woman’s quarters”

After we had spent what seemed like a dignified amount of time traipsing around and absorbing a little history, it became very important that we move on to the bigger and better aim of the trip: eating good food! Young-eun’s husband is from Seoul and kept calling and sending recommendations for good lunch spots. We eagerly set off from the palace in the direction of a good meal.

Only to be delayed by crazy old streets that didn’t go where we thought they would.

But, we did get to see some interesting things like this:

This the East/West Design Center, tucked away in a quiet old neighborhood. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the building is stacked vertically. What you see is the traditional building and then to the left is a modern, glass extension.

We also discovered some really interesting small galleries. I bought some fantastic rice earrings! I also shared with Young-eun the phraze, “I’m a sucker for. . . ” In this case, “I’m a sucker for interesting jewelry made by young artists.”

A REALLY cool bench!

And finally, LUNCH!

After eating we explored another near-by area, stumbling into a couple exhibition openings, bargaining for more jewelry, looking at many paintings and finally resting in the subway. I cannot fully explain here how much walking we did!

Only 11,000 km from NYC!

Ginko!

And then finally to 홍대 (Hong-dae), a university neighborhood. At this point I was too tired to take pictures any more so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that this was a great neighborhood. It was young and trendy with lots of people, music, food, etc. The morning was full of Korean history and the afternoon/evening was a good picture of modern Korea. For dinner we decided on a quick and cheap option, 라면 (Ramyun- the Korean version of Ramen) after our lunch splurge.

What you CANNOT tell from this photo is how spicy this was! In my year in Korea, this was the first time I had to give up on my food. I tried to temper it with rice, then with mandoo (steamed dumplings), but eventually I threw in the towel and left with red, burning lips.

Hmmm, feelin’ a little loopy.

After this I headed back to the train station and caught the 9 pm KTX back to Daegu. It was a fabulous day exploring a few neighborhoods in Seoul and hanging out with a new friend, but I was glad to get home to my small city of 3 million people. Can you believe that? 3 million people can feel small.

 


In my class <Fiber & Fabric Exploration> they have been learning to crochet and last week we dyed some yarn to use for their final project.

Notice how they’re all wearing their coats? Even though we have heat in the classrooms, they are still VERY drafty and most of the students wear their coats inside to keep warm.

We often laugh about “dyeing” in this class. To “die” and to “dye” sounds exactly the same, but with SUCH different meanings. For my students, AND for me, this provides a lot of entertainment!

I find myself constantly talking about life in Korea, saying “Well, this time last year, I didn’t know that the semester was actually ending in December.” or “This time last year, I had never tried jjim dalk (찜닭).”

I don’t know that I can make a complete list of everything I have learned this year in Korea because the funny thing about learning something is that it’s hard to remember that you didn’t know it. But I’m going to try. . .

This time last year. . .

1. I didn’t know that the school calendar is different from America. Korean universities begin the year in March and end in December. But, wait for it, graduation is not until February.

2. I didn’t know any Korean language apart from “Hi”-Annyung ha-sae-yo (안녕하네요) or “thank you” Kamsa hamnida (감사합니다).  Korean language (Hangeul) might be easy to read, but the grammar and nuances of the language are EXTREMELY difficult.

3. I was terrified to ride in a taxi because I didn’t trust the system and could never say where I wanted to go. Now I can easily tell a taxi driver how to get to my apartment or to my place of work. 🙂

4. I also felt a little strange riding in taxis because I was so used to driving myself. And. . . I felt a little guilty for the  “luxury” of having someone drive me around. But I have adjusted and now more fully appreciate the service of the taxis, their relatively cheap price and the way they can bring me to places I could not get with buses or subway. For instance, this morning I went to the dentist. I took a subway part way and a taxi the other part of the way!

5. I felt very uncomfortable with the way everyone stared at me. I can’t say that this has totally changed but I am not surprised by it any more.

6. I was very frustrated by what I perceived as a “lack of planning” in many things at school. I am learning, still learning, to be more adaptable. The Lord is really growing me in this area, helping me to become more flexible. Because ultimately my lack of flexibility when someone brings something last-minute reveals a heart that thinks she is the most important thing (and above all else).

7. I had only tried a few Korean foods and couldn’t tell the difference between good food and bad food.

8. I was unprepared for the stark contrast in seasons. Daegu summer is exceptionally hot and humid while winter is bitter cold and dry. I didn’t even have good winter shoes!

9. I had never ridden the KTX, the fast train, to Seoul.

10. I didn’t know the grading procedures at school- how to grade my students, how to input the grades, the fact that I’m required to grade on a curve (of sorts).

11. I didn’t realize that I live rather luxuriously by Korean standards, in an apartment the size of most families’ (with 1 or 2 kids).

12. I didn’t understand the kindness of strangers.

13. I thought the bells on the tables in restaurants was kind of ridiculous. Now, though, I see their brilliance. When someone at the table needs something, they ring the bell. That frees the restaurant workers to help the people who need it and not constantly walk asking if their tables are OK. That also frees those eating to enjoy uninterrupted conversation.

14. I didn’t know there were different Korean accents, that people in Seoul speak differently from those in Daegu.

15. I was just getting to know people at my church in Daegu.

16. I was just learning that my work, teaching in a content area in English, was different from what most other “foreigners” were doing in Korea.

17. Oh, and I was just getting used to being called a “foreigner” and not taking offense.

18. I didn’t know there was a small supermarket and bank around the corner from my apartment, only because I had never walked that way on the street before.

19. I could only do one thing every day because each excursion took all my energy. It was all I could do to figure out how to get there and back, handle a few interactions with people in broken Korean/English, and accomplish a task.  On work days, I went to work and then back to my apartment and that was ALL I could manage. On the weekends I could handle one thing, like a trip to the store on Saturday or church on Sunday. But if I tried to do more than that I would fall apart. . .

20. I was very offended when someone asked me my age and marital status at the first meeting. I mean, it still feels awkward, but now I understand it. In Korean language those 2 questions are how you determine what kind of language to use in your conversation. Even though that doesn’t apply in English, the cultural custom still follows.

21. I thought I couldn’t find any clothes in Korea that would fit me.

22. I was still eating a lot of bread products. It’s not that I’ve now cut bread completely out of my diet, but I eat it very seldom. I’ve happily converted to rice.

23. I would cringe when I heard someone walking behind me clear their throat and spit out the phlegm (also known as “hawking a loogi”.  How do you spell that?). . . .but wait, that still grosses me out. It’s very common here and not considered impolite. I don’t know that I’ll ever adapt!

24. I had memorized my phone number only and didn’t really know what my address was.

 

I KNOW there’s got to me more than just 24 things, but this is all I can think of at the moment.

 

By the numbers:

4- more weeks of class in the Fall 2010 semester!

2- months of vacation starting in January!

309- my office number (that was also my office number @ SCAD)

32- days until Christmas

5- hours I spent last weekend in the DMZ (the de-militarized zone between North and South Korea)

2- Thanksgiving dinners this week!

3- more days and then I’ll start listening to Christmas music!!

I recently looked back on some old posts that I started writing and never finished, only to discover this gem:

On Saturday a group of us met at the church for a spring cleaning day. We cleaned out the junk, organized the remaining things, cleaned the floors, walls & ceiling and rearranged the chairs. It was  hard work, but paved the way for a fresh start on Easter Sunday.  As we were working I was reminded how many things can be acts of worship.

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This was 8 months ago, but the Lord has been gently reminding me of this again. I have developed  a bad attitude this week, you know walking around and seeing only the negative things about life in Korea, my work, the church, etc.

But now I read this again, and I remember. Yes, my life is not drudgery, but an opportunity for worship. And not worship of things, or food, or entertainment, but Worship to the King!! Not just any king, but the God of all creation!

I just finished reading a book last night about the building of a Cathedral in 12 century England. (Thanks, Mom, for the recommendation!) It’s a long book and I’ve been working on it for the last couple weeks and as I talk about it with people I realize that it’s a popular book, many people have read it. It’s full of adventure, complicated characters, love, family, and this long, involved task of building a cathedral. Since I just finished it last night, the characters and story are still very fresh in my mind. But at the end, I was struck by this task that lasted the life-time of several of the main characters. The cathedral building started when they were young and wasn’t completed until they were old men and women.And what is the purpose of the cathedral? To be a place of worship, to bring glory to God, to lift your eyes up!

I went to bed thinking about, asking these questions: what is my cathedral? What things has the Lord prepared for me to do that will be my life work? What am I making that brings glory to God and others to worship?

Then when I came here to write a new blog post I was reminded that even if I don’t know what or where my cathedral is, the reality is that everything, whether cleaning up the church last Easter or sitting in my office preparing for my classes, is an act of worship!!