Grab a tissue, and pray for the lost.
Almost seven months in Korea, wow!
One of the teachers at my school is leaving on Wednesday to go home and help her mom start a business, so I will be saying goodbye to someone I have worked with since I have arrived. My kids are doing very well in class, and are well behaved for me. But when other teachers are in charge of them, they are not well behaved at all, so on Friday I had to be mean. After the Korean teacher told me that they were not good during lunch, in the afternoon class I spent an hour tearing down all of the posters and reward charts from the wall. Then I removed all of the toys from the room and also the class pet fish. I made sure that the walls were bare and that their point system was no more.
I don't like being mean to my students, but I am afraid that there was no other way I could deal with that situation. They are perfect angels for me, because they want my approval so badly. But when I am gone, it is as if they are another group of kids altogether. I suppose to tell their side of the story, they did just get a new Korean teacher who is a bit soft spoken. But when I had bronchitis last week, and my Director, their PRINCIPAL, had the class, they did not listen to her either. Arge. I love children.
Today I went to the Korean Folk Village and had a blast. It is like Korea's Branson, Missouri. I posted some fun pictures, make sure to take a look. Also, I posted a group picture of our Daughters of the Nations group on the page under that name.
Children's church is going so well!! One of the boys in the group is so curious about the Bible. He has one heard a few of the Bible stories, so most of the time he is hearing them for the first time. It is an awesome responsibilty and priveledge. He wants to know about baptism and salvation. So exciting.
Also, a friend whom I went to church with when I was young is now in Korea, so I will get to meet up with him and hang out sometime. I can't believe it has been seven years since then. It will be good to see him.
Well, as life would go, I have bronchitis. I am getting used to the drill with the doctor. The nurse knows me by name. This is the same doctor that did my allergy testing, and also treated me when my lungs when into shock from all of the pollution when I first arrived. The third time is a charm, I suppose. I also found out that my ear drum is very thin. The doctor thought that something was freakishly wrong with it, so he ordered a myriad of testing. One such test involved putting an air pressure thing in my ear and seeing how far they could push and pull my ear drum. Ouch. When the doctor showed me my results, it looked like a tall triangle with a very small bottom. He told me that-had my ear drum been normal-it would have been a perfect triangle. Alas, one more thing of no major significance that is unusual about me. Go figure.
So I am going to drink a gallon of water a day and sleep a lot.
My birthday is Saturday, and it is also Chuseok weekend. I will have to fill you in on that jewel of a holiday sometime this week. It is a tad bit creepy.
Oh the up side, my whole doctor ordeal, including my medicine, cost me only $22. Yay! Only thing is...I have no idea what they are!
I just added some new pictures of my class from today. We had our big deal six month test to see how they (and I) were doing with their English skills. We...um...they...passed with flying colors! This is the first time in six months that I have not wanted to curl up in a little ball and disappear after a test with the director and principal. They are honestly making a ton of progress. Now that they are learning verbs, their vocabulary pretty much doubles every week. I finally have a pretty good idea of what is going on in their little heads all of the time. I love it! So check out the pictures. They have changed so much...they have almost all lost their chubby baby cheeks. It is sad, and exciting at the same time. They have grown up so much. I remember not being able to get them to sit down for more than two minutes, thinking that I was going to lose my mind. Chasing around ten kids chanting "sit down" when all they heard was "blah blah" can be stressful, take it from me. But now they are little students who sit up straight with their hands folded in their laps. It is hard to believe that I had anything to do with that. I believe my poor mother had to give every one of my elementary teachers the same "I will tell Brandy not to talk so much in class" speech. Harsh.
So it is almost my 26th birthday. I have had a bit of a rough couple of weeks. It started when one of my student's moms brought me a frozen Starbucks coffee. Far be it from me to turn down Starbucks, so I drank it before class. A half hour into class, I was in the bathroom, getting sick. I thought my stomach was going to leave my body. But I went back to class. After lunch time (I didn't eat) I went back to class, and started feeling extremely ill, so I had my Korean teacher stay with my class while I went back to visit the bathroom. This time, unfortunately, one of the other Korean teachers was brushing her teeth, and caught me in my dire straights. So she went and got the director, who sent me home for the day. I am not completely sure, but minus being poisoned, I think that I was probably allergic to something in that coffee. Since then I have had a horrible weak stomach and a cough I pray does not turn into bronchitis. I am having trouble keeping down food if I eat something that is substantial. No more bacon and eggs. But I think I am getting better.
Last week, I think I had a mini pre midlife crisis. I was looking at all of the pictures of my friends' babies, and got horribly sad that I did not have one. This has never been an issue, and I think it is only becoming one because I am getting dangerously close to the dreaded age mile marker that lay ahead of me. I had this horrible sense of "I have to leave here right now, and do something else." But it was just insecurity. I prayed and spent a lot of time reflecting on the series of events that led me to where I am, and the peace of knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be, and that the circumstances, however unmarried and childless they may be, are perfect for me at this moment in my life. Besides, when I go to work, I have ten 3-4 year olds who slobber, drool, bleed, and cry all over me....that is close enough to being a mom right now.
The weather is getting cool. I love the fall. It had the feeling of back to school, pumpkins, and colored leaves. It makes me want to cover the walls at school with burgandy, orange, yellow, and brown leaves and just stare at them. God has created such an amazing enviroment for us to enjoy. Feel blessed today. You really, really are.
What a better way to spend a three day weekend than at the beach?
Sure. I have a sunburn that will cause the obnoxious feeling that my back in on fire, but in a week, it will be gone, and I will still have jumped over waves that were four feet over my head. So it is a fair trade off I suppose. Haeundae, the beach in Busan (City in the far south), was quite a different sight from Bundang. It looked more like Seoul than I had expected. The weather was a bit overcast, but by the look of my lobster skin, the sun was still very powerful. I was, for the record, wearing SPF 35. I got to spend two days in the ocean, it was sooo much fun!! This beach is know for its large number of parasols. They stretched the entire length of the beach, and in about ten rows from the waterfront back. It was crazy! They had the areas sectioned with numbered lifeguard stands. I swam at 7 the first day and 9 the next. I tried to remember that I was next to the red parasols, but I soon noticed that there were about four red sections. So I henceforth remembered the number.
On Saturday one of two things occurred. I am not sure which one. I was watching the waves come in, and there seemed to be some disturbance some distance out on the water. There were little 119 boats with their lights on (119 is Korea's emergency number) and there were special swimmers in the water. It appeared that someone had fallen in the choppy, rough water and they were looking for them. After I got out, I noticed that they had let off this red smoke thing, and a helicopter was circling around head. All of a sudden, the helicopter dropped a line and they pulled someone up into the craft from the water. I think it might have been some type of drill or advertisement for 119, but I am not sure. I hope someone wasn't really in danger, but it was quite convincing if it was just a drama.
It would have been a lot more relaxing if it hadn't taken a 30 minute cab ride, a three hour train ride, another ten minute taxi ride, a ten minute bus ride, and a 45 minute bus ride to get home. It was quite the trip. So today after church I came home and took a nap. I have learned that if I do not start the week fresh, it is going to be a rough five days.
Soon Amber will come over to Bundang and start working at Tessa's with Jen and me. I am excited. It will be good to see her more often.
“But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2Corinthians 10:17-18)
I am very excited that the Pastor has granted me permission to rearrange and set up the children's church room any way I want it. I have a lot of ideas for it, but before any of them can become a reality, I had to CLEAN!!! There were cabinets full of crayons, markers, paper, toys, and craft supplies. It was mostly a collection of things that had been purchased on the Army base. It was funny to see the little dollar sign stickers on them. Even though I was excited about the goldmine of findings, I had a great task ahead of me. So far, I have done the following:
1. Ripped up nasty foam carpeting in the toddler room to discover underneath beautiful shiny hard wood floors. Score.
2. Pried a painted-shut-door open so that toddler room and main room could be used simultaneously.
3. Cleaned and moved a carpeted platform for the movie area to a more reasonable location.
4. Cleaned and moved 7 sets of cabinets to more reasonable locations.
5. Found curtains for the windows.
6. Discard the before mentioned nasty curtains. (well, I plan on it, anyway)
7. Moved remarkably Victorian looking flower arrangements in front of the spots where the wall mural stops because radiators used to be in front of it.
8. Moved computer (with no power cord?!? What is that about?) and desk to a remote location instead of the front of the room.
9. Organized 4 of the seven sets of cabinets. Wow. That was nice.
10. (at this point, I realized that there was an air conditioner that actually worked. From this point on, it is a cake walk.) Vacuumed carpeted area that happened to be in front of the window AC unit until it was spotless :)
11. Moved room divider behind TV area. Hopefully it will become a mini theater.
Needless to say, it was pretty hot. The room is on the fifth floor, and there is no elevator, so just getting there is a trek. But after arriving, when it is a sauna all week, it takes a while to cool down. I love organizing things, so it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I found a Royal Ranger shirt that was my size, and after much internal conflict I decided that it wasn't acceptable for me to wear it. But if it comes to a time when the Pastor says to throw it out, I will be throwing it right into my closet.
I want to spend an entire day there finishing up the last touches as far as cleaning, as well as doing some cosmetic things to the room. But this weekend, I am off to Busan!! Beach, sun, and waves. Oh yeah. I am very excited!!
Today is the grand opening day for the China Olympics. Everyone is buzzing with anticipation about who will take home the gold. Korea has their eye on the Archery, Tae Kwon Do, and something else, I don't remember. I feel like I know more about the Olympics this year than ever before. I was able to see the torch passed, I was two feet above (luckily) a riot of Chinese students in Korea, I heard the sad stories of China repatriating North Koreans who would no doubt meet their deaths, and I have watched the Discovery Channel explain every angle possible on how China prepared.
The Olympics are a pretty big deal I suppose. I read today that China completely emptied an entire marketplace because some Chinese Muslims threatened to interrupt the ceremony. Sad. You take away the only thing they had to distract them, now they really are upset with the whole thing. But regardless, in a few months it will be over and somewhere an elementary teacher will be making students do reports on the winners. But in four years, it will be a clean slate with only whisper remembrances of those who won in years past. It seems so sad to work your whole life to get just that one shot at proving that you are the greatest. And what about the person who is forth place. This really stinks for that person. They are the number four person in the entire world, but there will be no reports on them, no posters telling kids to stay off drugs or do their homework. They will return home empty handed.
I guess I have been thinking a lot recently about how we define our life's purpose. I have tried to define this in the past, unsuccessfully. I thought perhaps it was to be the very best teacher possible. Then later, I would be the very best missionary possible. Then another time I thought maybe I could be the best thinker. But Philosophy made my head hurt after a while. Then I wanted to be the smartest. The best learner. The best speaker. Know the most languages. Be the best friend. Know the answer to the most questions. Be the best writer, the best singer (ha), the Best painter, the best crafter, the best quilter, the best......something. I just wanted to be the best something. But it seemed like I always ended up with that forth place spot. I received a nice Certificate of Participation and was sent on my way.
But when we turn over our wasted attempts at greatness over to Jesus, he turns them into something different altogether. He reaches beyond what we can do and makes us exactly who he needs us to be. He fills us with HIS Spirit and give us HIS dreams and desires. What we want to be doesn't matter as much as how much we want to please Him.
I want to be able to say, like Paul, that I have run a good course, I have finished my race. I don't have to be the greatest, but I want to finish. And I want to give it my all.
I was walking home today from work by myself, listening to WOW Hymns on my mp3 player. Yeah. I am a hymn nerd. The messages of these songs are so intense, that if you think about them as you are singing them, you would realize that you are having some major communication with God about life. Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. "And I know that he is with me, will be with me to the end." "Just to take Him at His Word." "Just to know 'thus saith the Lord." "How I've proved him o'er and o'er."
"Oh for grace to trust Him more."
Well, vacation is over. It was a lot of fun, but I am really glad to be getting back into the normal routine. The older I get, the more I appreciate routine. Make sure you check out my new photos, there are a TON of them!!
I think I have come to realize today what amazing things cameras can do. I used my Nikon D40 to take 248 pictures of two seperate Joseon Palaces today. And on picture number 249, the battery went ka-put. I thought that this was no big issue because I live relatively close, and I will be here for who knows how long. Also, we seemed to be done with seeing everything that was impressive enough to caputre with an SLR. But then, along a trail I hadn't seen, something majestic came into view. It was a perfectly semetrical (yes, it does appeal to my OCD) little Korean shrine in the middle of a perfectly round little lake, with a perfectly cute little stone bridge. It was a postcard come to life. As I fumbled for my camera, I remembered that its power supply was recently deseased. So I sat down on one of the perfectly cut little stones and tryed to stare at it until it was burnt into my memory. I looked at the colors, the shapes, and the plants surrounding it. I memorized the lily pads and the fish swimming. I drank in the sounds and sights of the fresh water spring. I wanted to remember this place. I wanted to be able to tell people how beautiful it really was. And it was marvelous. Luckily, my Nikon is charged up and I will be able to capture that image so that I can keep that memory forever.
I think about when Abram heard God promise him decendants more numerous than the stars. I think about Noah who built a boat to save humanity. I think about all the great men of the Bible who followed God's voice. How blessed we are to have God's Word. It is our snapshot of the goodness and mercy of God. We can read the thoughts and desires of our Creator. We do not simply have to listen and try to strain our minds to wrap around what God is trying to say. It is there for us, permenantly. As I look at the beautiful images that I have been able to capture in my travels, I must admit that none of them compare with the beauty of a loving Father who wants so deeply to be remembered by his children. So deeply, in fact, that he gave us a family photo album, if you will, full of snapshots of his faithfulness.
May I never neglect that gift.
Six days to go...
There are so many days in Korea where life is happy go lucky and there is not a care in the world. But, as life goes, there are times when things just seem to be going sideways, backwards, and diagonally. Yesterday, my kinder kids had an oral test, and my director started with the youngest, then the shyest, and then the two new girls before moving on to my kids who are really sharp. But by the time he got to them he had already made his mind up that they were not doing so well, and I felt horrible about it. I am really proud of that class. Anyway, after work I go to the bank to get out some cash. It is not in English, so I push what I believe to be the right button. I enter the amount I want to withdraw, and it gives me a receipt and my card back, but no money. I look at the receipt, and I see the debit for $100 US, and yet, nothing came out of the silly machine. So half in tears I race for another machine to see if it had English. My only hope was to get a record of my transactions and see what just went down. Luckily, what happened was that my withdrawal was denied because I accidentally hit the button that said "foreign card" and my card is Korea domestic.
So then today, I gave my Elementary midterm, and out of a possible 76 on the first section, they averaged about 50. They told me that they thought that they did not need to study verbs. Of course. Because we only spent the first three months learning them. Not important at all. What can I say?
It has been quite the conclusion to the week.
I only have one week left before my 9 day summer vacation....yay!!!!!
It is not often that you enter a store in Korea and think to yourself "Wow, this has everything I need!" Even more of a rarity is finding a craft store that brings about the same excitement. I am not going to exaggerate, it was not Hobby Lobby or Michaels, but it had paint, brads, sand, stickers, and markers. In Korea, that is a teacher's paradise. I finally found this place today after hearing rumors for so long. My purchases? The following:
One Chip and Dale White Out Pen
Four Bottles O' Bubbles
100 Count Paper Brads
Tons of Stickers
And clothes pins for my class art projects
The days are getting hot and muggy, and yet it doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. I think that once I leave my apartment, I come to terms with the lack of AC until I return. My kids are so smart, I am amazed at their progress!! Half of my children can now read three and four letter words. Wow!! Looking back, it was hard to imagine me teaching them how to say hello, let alone read!! It is a very rewarding position to have, and there is constant evidence of their improvement.
I have accepted the position of Director of the Children's Ministry at my church in Seoul. I will be overseeing the Preschool and Elementary. There is a girl here who is a MAPS volunteer from the US who will be working under my supervision. I am sure I will not be doing much supervision, beings as she seems to know what she is doing. I signed up for Korea lessons starting this Thursday, but I am reconsidering because I found out that the lady is a very in-your-face teacher, and I am very much a self learner. Jen is taking a lesson this week, I am going to eaves drop, and if it sounds like she is not too obnoxious, I am going to try to take lessons with her. If not, then I am probably going to try to do something else. I really want to learn Korean. The most impressive thing I know how to say at this point is "Thank you, Watermelon Tree." And even, in that case, I am only 75% sure that my word order is correct. I might be saying Thank you Tree Watermelon."
Regardless, I am thankful for the lessons that God has been teaching me over the last few weeks. My heart is heavy with anticipation. I want to do so many things, but only the things that God desires. It is a thin line to walk, and one that requires much thought and prayer. Thank you so much for all of your prayers. Some crazy things have happened, but God has allowed wisdom and grace to rule in every single one of them.
Some crazy things that happen only in Korea:
1. While riding a city bus, we stop at a red light, where the driver proceeds to get off the bus and have himself a smoking break, while being parked in the middle of traffic!
2. While leaving the 8th floor of a building, the elevator opened to find an open ladder and two men doing construction on the elevator car. They insist that we ride anyway. The entire way down, they are drilling random holes in the wall.
3. When women buy clothes in the subway, they undress down to their personals right in the middle of all of the busy subway traffic. They wanted Jen to do this, but she refused.
4. My favorite kimchi restaurant no longer serves Kimchi stew. Go figure.
5. The owner of a restaurant spoon feeds the foreigners when they refuse to try a particularly disturbing bowl of claws and shells.
6. When you are in a crowded subway and your head jerks around the second you hear someone else who speaks English.
7. When you have to watch for cars driving on the sidewalk.
8. It seems entirely reasonable to pay $11 for cheese.
9. You wait forever for your waitress because you forgot to push your service button, because you have no idea what a service button is, or why they do not just come when they see you waving yoru arm around frantically.
10. Only in Korea can your order a sausage and get a hot dog, and order a hot dog and get a sausage.
Amanda Explains Culture Shock to Those Who Have Never Experienced It...(cooked corn in her tossed salad)
Today has been a challenging day. As Christians, we grow and mature in Christ, and sometimes that process is exciting, and sometimes it is hard. Right now, God is taking me through a very hard process of changing around my way of thinking. When you spend your whole life believing something that is not entirely true, it is hard to undo those things. But I know that God will remain faithful, even through this difficult, yet necessary time.
So....Amanda is here!! She has been here for a week, officially. This weekend we did not get to do many "Korean" things because some of the members of our Bible study are leaving us, and we felt that we should spend some time with them. Lunch took way too long, so we had to skip out on the movie and go shopping for some bedding for Amanda's apartment. The ones that were left there were less than desirable.
So, life goes on. New challenges, discoveries, hopes, and dreams.
Yesterday I was riding a bus back from the Pastor's house when the driver decided to get out of the bus while we were at a red light. I thought perhaps something was amiss, but it turns out that there was no problem. He was simply taking advantage of the few minutes the red light provided to hop out grab a smoke.
Only in Korea.