Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I've Learned

As I near my 3 month anniversary of being in Korea I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what I've learned so far.

~ Koreans LOVE to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Even if it's just for fun.
~ You can easily buy Octopus jerky on any street corner.
~ Corn goes with everything and on everything, especially pizza.
~ You will get stared at if you are foreign and red headed.
~ Missing your subway/ bus stop is guaranteed if you are reading a book or talking on the phone or playing a game on your iPod.
~ Pollution is a way of life.
~ Korean ants don't bite.
~ The water is cold if you don't remember to push the button on the wall that turns the hot on.
~ Cab drivers will honk at you if you even think about jaywalking.
~ Throw up on the subway is normal late at night.
~ Tipping is unnecessary and discouraged.
~ Koreans bleach their skin so finding face cream is more difficult than you would think.
~ Law and Order is a favorite TV show when its the only thing on in English.
~ Subways everyday twice a day for a month is still cheaper than a tank of gas in the States.
~ Even if it is sunny outside, if it is August, it will rain, don't forget your umbrella.
~ American beef is not sold anywhere
~ Protests are entertaining, especially when the people get sprayed with blue stuff
~ It's normal not to have a bathroom sink.
~ It is impossible to go to bed before 3am.
~ Tattoos used to mean that you were in the mob, and the kids think it's funny that I have one.
~ Strangers are not shy to come up to you and ask you to correct their grammar.
~ The Lord is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Karaoke Kristin

If you like karaoke, then you'll love Korean Karaoke. There are these places called Norabong all over the city. You go to one and you rent a karaoke room by the hour and then you and your friends have your own private karaoke party. It's like your in your living room except with a nice sound system and an endless number of songs to choose from. My coworkers told me about Norabong and Christian went with some of his coworkers, but I hadn't had the chance to go yet. So Saturday night Erik and Monique, and their friends Mark and Cassie and I went to dinner and to a Norabong. When we got there they gave us the first room and so I'm sure everyone could hear us. There is a big three-sided couch with a table in the middle, and of course a disco ball as well as plenty of room to dance. My first number was Don't Stop Believin' by Journey. I rocked it! There are two mics so we had some duets as well. We sang everything from Yeah! by Usher to Your Song by Elton John to Africa by Toto, that was my pick. All in all it was a really fun night. And they don't call me Karaoke Kristin for nothing. ;-)

Sunday I got up around noon and wandered the city before church. I went to two different markets looking for whatever fun antiquey things I could find. Then I went to church. I always love church and look forward to it every week, but I thought this week was especially good. We began by singing Blessed Be Your Name which is a personal favorite and then spent some time in prayer and then Pastor Eddie began his sermon. This was the second week in a two part series on the Armor of God. Last week he talked specifically about how each piece of armor protects us. And this week he talked about the offensive piece. He focused on the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer. He spent time explaining that words are powerful. God spoke the world into existence. And he mentioned how the enemy is bound when we verbally proclaim truth in the name of Jesus. This I know from experience. He also warned us about the temptation to neglect our prayer life. He recalled the Garden of Gethsemane and how intimate and intense Jesus' prayers were. It all just really resonated with me and forced me to evaluate my spiritual life and discover what pieces of armor I'm leaving out. Another interesting point that he made is that out of all the pieces of armor mentioned, none of them protect your back. It seems valid to consider the importance of not turning your back on the enemy. After church Christian and I started our first week of orphanage training. It's kinda funny because we've been going to the orphanage for over a month now, but still need to go to the training classes, but it's good because it will help us build unity among the other people that are going to be serving, as well as understand what Korean orphans need from us. The church volunteers in three orphanages around the city and is building a relationship with another that is specifically for infants. Throughout the training we are required to read the book, The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman. I'm so glad they chose this book because I think it will be beneficial in understanding how to best love every child, not just the orphans. I'm hoping I can learn ways to love my students as I teach them English. I'm really excited about all that is going on in this ministry and for the passion I see in others for the same things that God has made me passionate about. The Body of Christ is beautiful!

Be in prayer for this ministry. We need volunteers that are committed. Many of the orphans have been abandoned and therefore have a hard time trusting adults. We need people that will come and stay. Also pray for me and Christian. Josh, the leader of the ministry and the one that Christian and I have been working with at the orphanage is having to work on Saturday and so it's just me and Christian and the kids on Saturday and I'm a little worried about the language barrier. I want to do a craft with them, but I just don't see how it's gonna work. I'm gonna go prepared to do one and just see how it goes. I know that being there and playing with them is enough because sometimes that's all we end up doing, but I'd also like to teach them a little more about Jesus if I can.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On a Picnic with Jesus

Today I went to the park by myself. I made a grilled cheese, packed some pretzels and an apple and headed to the river. I sat on my beloved Koala blanket and proceeded to soak in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day. When I finished lunch I did some report cards for the kids, and then just decided to spend the afternoon with Jesus. Usually I journal my prayers and I start with praise and thanksgiving for blessings and situations that He is working out, and then I will move on to prayer for myself and other people. But today was different. Today I journaled and began with praise and thanksgiving, but I never moved on from that. I've praised Him and thanked Him before in this way, but today was just different. I was simply on a picnic with Jesus. I began to understand better what it means when God fills your cup. I was overflowing and it felt so good. It was a Living Water day. He gave me joy, and showed me beauty, He allured me into the desert and spoke tenderly to me. He smiled at me and delighted in me. It was such a beautiful moment that I will always treasure. And then today at church we took Communion and Pastor Eddie preached on Communion. The praise and thanks just continued. I got to know Him a little better this afternoon, and appreciate Him for His sacrifice. I also realized something new today too. Pastor Eddie was talking about how Jesus' body was never broken and how it is one of the prophecies regarding Him. And then he referenced the breaking of bread during Communion. He explained it like this, in Communion, we break the bread in order to share it. It does not symbolize Christ's broken body, because Christ's body was not broken. It is to be shared so that all may partake and remember the sacrifice. I had never heard this said before. It makes so much sense and I think is important to consider, and I enjoyed seeing Communion in a new way. I'm reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns. "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean. How Marvelous, how Wonderful and my song shall ever be. How Marvelous how Wonderful is my Saviors love for me."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Am I Famous?

So I get stared at a lot... A LOT. Typically I don't mind, and sometimes I don't even notice. Christian points it out to me. But the funniest thing is when Koreans come up to me and treat me like I'm the $5 they unexpectedly found in their pocket. They are just thrilled to see me. Well here are some examples. Last weekend I was at a subway station waiting for Christian and this teenage boy came up to me and started talking to me in English asking me where I'm from, and what I do in Korea and how I like it here. In this situation I think he was just wanting to practice his English, which was fine with me. He spoke very well. Then earlier this week I was at the grocery store that is in the same building as my school. I was just buying a drink and about 6 middle school girls saw me and just smiled so big and kind of gasped in surprise when they first saw me. They giggled to each other and then one of them said hello to me. I smiled and said hello to her, and they all just lost it. They started cracking up and just going crazy. Then I got what I needed and started heading to the check out and one girl said goodbye and I told her goodbye and they lost it again. Then the best one so far... this morning I was at the bus stop waiting for my bus listening to my ipod and this man came up to me and shook my hand and said "San Francisco". I was a bit confused and I thought he was telling me he had been to San Francisco. And I was like, "Oh, you've been to San Francisco" and then he said something else to me that I couldn't understand. Then I realized he was asking me where I was from. So I told him, "Atlanta, Georgia", this whole time he's still shaking my hand. Well apparently being from Georgia was all he wanted to know so he smiled real big and then walked away. It's so funny sometimes that I'm such a novelty to them.

Pray that I would begin to pick up more and more Korean. I love so much going to the Orphanage, I've been three times now, but it's also frustrating that I can't communicate well with the children. I know a few phrases like hello, thank you, and some other words, but not enough to really communicate with them. I know it will take lots of time and practice, but I want to be disciplined to learn it and patience in the mean time. Christian found a free Korean Class that we are going to try to join next week, so hopefully I'll be able to learn quicker than just fumbling through on my own.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Crazy Kristin

So here's a funny story...

Once upon a time I tried to delete a post and accidentally deleted my entire blog. But thankfully I had copied all my posts and sent them out via facebook and so I was able to copy and paste them right back here. The End.

More funny moments...

So apparently the word crazy in Korea is just hilarious to kids. I'm not sure if it is kind of offensive because when I tell them they are crazy they go nuts. They laugh and are like, no teacher. And some of them will tattle when another student calls them crazy and I'm like, so, I'm crazy too, and they crack up. I like it.

Koreans put corn on everything. I ate pizza tonight with corn on it. And to be honest, I've bought steamed corn on the cob on the side of the road. I was walking down the sidewalk and decided I wanted some corn. So I bought 2 ears for a dollar.

Little unknown fact. Lots of Koreans are tone deaf, and sometimes they sing on the subway. And it's a little bit funny.

Pray for the salvation of my fellow foreign coworkers. My head teacher is a man that's in his late 20's and he lives with his girlfriend that also works at my school. They are so nice and fun, we hang out fairly regularly. They aren't the get drunk and party type which is very typical of foreigners living in Seoul. We had a lunch party at their house last Sunday and I heard Monique, the woman coworker, mention that her mother is Hindu and she is Buddhist. This broke my heart. I talk to them about church and how much I love my church here. I'm working on building a good relationship with them. I've casually invited them to church, but I really want to blanket this new friendship in prayer. I know that prayer is powerful and effective, and so I want to try to be faithful in prayer for these new friends. I also want to be an example of Christ's love to them. It's difficult not to gossip about the students or other teachers when it happens so often in our one room office. Pray for opportunities for me to be Christ to them and give Him the glory for it.

He Humbles and Restores

I have the coolest story to share about how loving God is. I'm here with my friend Christian for those of you that don't know. He and I went to college together and it just worked out that we would both be here. Well as the weeks have gone by we spend a lot of time together. And as it tends to sometimes happen we just would get frustrated with each other. As we discussed and talked things out I was just really convicted. I have not been loving and gracious towards him. It was really humbling to learn. I had been so annoyed that he wasn't understanding me that I failed to understand him. I was not serving or kind to him. Well, all that happened on Friday and Saturday we spent all day together. We went to the orphanage and to a baseball game with some of my coworkers. We had a blast. Then today, Sunday, we met our other friend Erin that just got here three days ago and went to a cook out at my coworkers house and went to church together, and again, had a great day. I really spent time praising the Lord for that restoration, but still beating myself up about my selfishness. Well just before church started I went to the bathroom. This is a very large church more than 500 people just at the English service. Well I was in line at the bathroom and a woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how many people attended the church. I told her I wasn't sure and that I've only been going here a couple months. And she asked me what I was doing in Korea and I told her. She looked to be about 65ish. Then I asked her why she was here. And she said for cancer treatments and something to do with stem cells. My heart broke for her. We talked a little more and as we left the bathroom I told her that I hoped everything went well and enjoy the city. I didn't expect to see her again. Well when I got back into church they had already started so I sat down and then noticed that her and her husband and her friends had sat near us. We smiled at each other and that was it. Then we sang a song and the worship leader began to pray. He was thanking God for being a big God and Lord over everything. And at one point he said, You are a God that heals cancer. I immediately began crying. Then he did something out of the ordinary. He encouraged us all to just pray for a breakthrough for our church. That sins would be confessed and healing and restoration would come. And out of no where I felt God telling me to go over and put my hand on this woman and pray for her. Now I have had this feeling before. I know that it is the Holy Spirit and I know to obey. In the past I have not obeyed and it hurt. So after a moment of questioning if it was the Lord I got up and crawled over like 3 people to go pray for this woman. I got to her and put my hand on her back and just began to cry and pray. It was beautiful. I did not know this woman, she had just arrived in Seoul, she had never been to this church before, I met her in the bathroom, she sat near me, and the opportunity was presented. After I prayed for her we both were crying and I hugged her and went back to my seat. I was humbled once again. This time in a rewarding way. I had just been an awful friend but the Lord still used me. Obedience feels amazing too. I don't know what the Lord will do through my prayers, but I do know that it was what I needed and I'm certain it was what that woman needed as well. After the service she came over to me and asked for my e-mail address. I told her I was hoping we'd be able to swap information and I asked that she would be sure to e-mail me. I am so thankful that God shows me mercy and blesses me. He gives the grace that I fail to give. We serve a loving God.

Pray for Onnuri Church. There is lots going on at our church and they are very excited about spreading the Gospel in all the world. We are approaching a time of fasting at the church and Pastor Eddie has asked everyone to participate. Pray that change will occur and that hearts will be restored and become more intimate with the Father. Pray that the church will be refined in the fires and that South Korea will know the name of Jesus and proclaim Him as their Savior.

Trying to Understand

I walked into work today and our head teacher, Erik, told me that our Director, Mike, was laid off today. I was shocked. Here's the story... Just after I got here we got a new owner. I actually never met the old one. Her name is Dr. Lim and she got her Master's in the States and she speaks very good English. Often when a Hagwon, which is a language school, gets a new owner they fire the director and kinda start over. They make a lot of changes and try to improve the school. This is exactly what happened here. She started changing things right way. Most of them are good changes, but she wants to try to implement them immediately which is just not possible in the middle of a session. The kids are already accustomed to the way we do things now and you can't just up and change things on them and expect them to do well. Mike knew that leaving was a possibility so he started working really hard because he knew his job was on the line. He came up with fresh new ideas and really tried to please the new owner, but apparently it just wasn't enough. Perhaps this could be just my first experience with this real world situation, but it really bothered me. Mike was the guy I interviewed with before I came and he was the first man I talked to when I came to Korea. He has been so helpful in getting my apartment situated, he even called hotels to see if they had rooms when I wanted to go to the beach for the weekend. He has a wife and a son, and I just don't think it's very fair. None of the other teachers really seemed surprised or concerned, but I don't know I really hate it. I asked Erik if it would be difficult for Mike to find another job and he said no it shouldn't be there are many Hagwon all over Korea. So that makes me feel better, but I wish we could have had a party for him, or taken him to dinner or something. As I spend time in this new culture and embrace it and am immersed in it I realize that it is a completly different world view. I guess when you see a modern country you assume, oh they must see the world as I see the world. And I've taken so many classes that have told me otherwise, but not until you are faced with it do you begin to understand the truth of it. So here I am trying to understand these beautiful people God created. Trying to relate and trying to serve. I want to go deep and make sense of their mindset. It is going to be challenging I'm sure, but worth it I'm convinced.

Pray for me as I begin to understand the people of Korea. Pray that I would have wisdom and understanding and patience. And pray that I would never forget to show them love.

First Impressions

I know I've already been here for almost 2 months, but I figured better late than never. I want this first entry to be about my first impressions and what I've learned so far.

When I first got off the plane there was a cute little man holding a sign with my name misspelled on it. I smiled took a deep breath and said to myself, "this is home". The man turned out to be a taxi driver that spoke no English. I followed him to the curb where he promptly lit a cigarette and kindly offered me one. I declined. Once we were on our way I noticed the beautiful landscapes. The mountains here are green and beautiful. I liken them to Hawaiian mountains. I offered the driver a piece of gum and he accepted... my first Korean friend. :-) It took about 45 minutes to get to Seoul and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. There was quite a bit of traffic in the city, but I didn't mind. Once I got to my school I met my director, Mike, and he and I went to my temporary residence called Coco Residence. I was on the 4th floor and there was no elevator so Mike and I got a real workout moving my stuff up the stairs. I lived in a shoebox of a room that had a bed, desk and bathroom in a room about the size of a walk-in closet. It was also very hot and humid. After I dropped my stuff off I went back to my school to meet the other teachers and observe a class. I expected to have a little more training than I did. I literally observed one class and then the next day I taught 5 on my own. Pretty scary. But it worked out. I wasn't very good at it for about the first 2 weeks, but I like to think I've gotten much better. I mentioned that I was living in a temporary residence. It was because the teacher who's position I took over was living there for the remainder of the month, so I had to wait for him to leave before I could move in. After work some of the other foreign teachers took me to eat at a Korean restaurant. This was fun! I had to take my shoes off and we sat on the floor to eat. Also, they don't really use knives to cut meat with here, they use scissors. So they brought out the meat and cooked it on a small grill like thing in the middle of our table and then we ate. I'm still getting used to the food, it's spicy and pickled, it might take a while. But I did try most everything except kimchi. It looked like bloody gauze which I'm sorry if that's graphic, but just picture it and let me know if it's something you wanna bite right into. Also, I was not good at chopsticks, but I'm getting much better. Since my first day here, I've found an amazing church that loves Jesus and loves missions and loves people. I've visited a palace and a museum. I've gone to two protests, not always intentionally. I've navigated subways and buses, not as hard as you would think. I've located Outback Steakhouse, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Friday's McDonalds, Subway, Popeyes, KFC, Burger King, Baskin Robbins, Coldstone Creamery and 2 Mexican Restaurants. I've walked miles and miles around this city just enjoying city life and I've played with beautiful children at an orphanage. God has shown me His faithfulness when I'm lonely and homesick. He's built friendships that are proving to be a comfort and He's provided a church where I truly feel at home. I am confidant that there is more growth and experience to come and I eagerly await the adventure. I know this post is long, and the rest won't be so if you made it this far, good job. Thank you so much everyone for your prayers. I know that the Lord has heard them and responded. I see His work here and I'm so honored to be a part of it.

I want to include some ways to be praying for this country at the end of each blog.
Pray for the young women of Korea. They are obsessed with their bodies and being thin. They will starve themselves to fit into an image of beauty that is empty. They are constantly worried about their hair and make up and they only wear name brand clothes. Pray that they will find truth in what beauty really is and that they will be secure in the bodies that were created for them.