Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mandoo or Don't?

After church I went to dinner with five girls. A few of us wanted steamed dumplings (mandoo), but the waiter said they took a long time. How long? we asked. Twenty minutes, he replied. Since we weren't in a rush, we ordered them anyway. Within ten minutes, all the entrees came out, including the mandoo, which caused us to wonder if maybe the restaurant staff just didn't feel like making up new batches of dumplings... Other events surrounding the dinner played like a slapstick comedy -it really felt like we were in movie- and we all had a good chuckle. Nice way to kick off a new week.

On the train home, I was reading my Bible and working on my BSF lesson. The subway car was relatively empty, and I was able to land a seat. At one point during the ride I became aware of someone standing unusually close to me. I ignored him until the moment he pointed to, then grabbed my lesson. I'm not sure what he was trying to communicate, and he definitely made me a little nervous. I had to remind myself that I was south of the DMZ where it's legal to openly read the Bible. Eventually another man came up and shooed away the overly curious one. I silently thanked him with the most appreciative expression I could muster in my slightly-rattled state. Episodes like this generally don't occur often here, so I'm always perplexed when something like this happens.

I've spent the last 2.5 hours working on students' grades; not quite finished but hoping to wrap them up tonight so that I can enjoy my day off tomorrow. It's a national holiday to recognize Koreans' peaceful resistence against the Japanese.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Around the World in Hongdae

This afternoon I met a friend in Hongdae, a fitting location since we both appreciate cultural diversity. The neighborhood is home to Hongik University and is considered the indie hub of Korea. Very artsy and colorful with lots of interesting buildings, shops, and restaurants including this popular Czech place, Castle Praha:

After a Japanese lunch, we walked around the area and stumbled upon these unusual sculptures. Don't know if they're part of some children's museum or just randomly on display, but they amused us all the same.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Very Bad Word

A student called me one of the worst words in Korean today, and I didn't even know it. It's funny when people say mean things about you in a foreign language, because, well, you don't really know how to react (I shouldn't generalize... I didn't know how to react.).

The student was angry with me for taking his spelling test (again with the darn spelling tests!), but I only collected it after he stopped halfway through, claiming it was too difficult, and then began looking up the answers while I was still giving the test to the rest of the class. I heard him loudly mumble something about sheep, except that wasn't what he said. Then he stormed out of the room. The other students (all girls) looked utterly shocked, but because I'm accustomed to this particular boy's outbursts and tantrums, I ignored it until finally, the girls could no longer contain themselves. Very solemnly they told me he'd said something very, very terrible. They wouldn't repeat the word but kept saying how bad it was. Finally, one of them agreed to write it down on a piece of paper which she did using the faintest of pencil strokes. I then took the paper to the Korean teachers who all audibly gasped when I showed it to them. They looked horrified, and even they wouldn't tell me what it meant. The event culminated in the boy getting a strict reprimand from one of them. 

Meanwhile, back in la-la foreigner land, I still have no idea what the word means, only that it's completely awful, so I won't be adding it to my current rotation of six Korean words.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Look Ma, No Gloves

As much as I'd like to believe that weather doesn't affect me all that much, it sure was nice to get some warmer temps. So warm, in fact, that I didn't need my ski-jacket or gloves. As I write this entry at 11pm, it's 54F outdoors. Nice indeed... not that I mind cold weather, but it's good to have a change now and then. I actually felt lighter today, mainly due to the lighter-weight clothes I was wearing. May need to forgo a few rounds of comfort food and revert to my Korean diet in order to prepare for Spring's imminent arrival. Bring on the tofu and cucumbers.

In other news, I made a student cry this afternoon because I didn't give her extra time to finish her spelling test. It certainly wasn't my intention to bring her to tears, and I even felt bad about it, so after collecting her test, I returned it and gave her 10 seconds to finish checking it. By the end of the class, she was laughing along with the other students as I practiced holding a pencil in the space between my nose and upper lip. Five months into my teaching tenure, I can still count on one hand the number of times a student has cried in my classroom, and I'm hoping to maintain (or, ideally, reduce) this ratio. However, we're switching up classes next week, and I may have a few criers coming my way...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Square Jaw

This isn't particularly funny, but given that I've been struggling with writer's block for the past 48 hours, I'll mention it anyway. One of my middle school students asked me tonight if I rested my hands on my face a lot and pulled back the skin around my jawline (nb:  she didn't ask it in those exact words, but through hand gestures and broken English I deduced her meaning). She was curious to know if I'd had surgery to make my jaw square instead of rounded. Then, she brought up the cleft in my chin -saying it was cute and wondering if I got it from pushing my index finger into that part of my face. She definitely seemed earnest in wanting to find out the answers, so I held back my laughter and explained it away through genetics. Too bad my parents weren't present to back me up.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Corner Turning

Sunday was hectic with meetings before and after church. Upon reflection and prayer, it looks like I'll be working on some seriously good projects that will tap into my background while stretching me in new ways^.

I've got renewed focus and energy and am really excited to see how the next few months unfold. Based on the agenda, it's gonna be a whirlwind of constructive activity. 

^I know that apart from the Lord I can do nothing and also that He will equip me with everything good for doing His work... awesome. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010


This picture is my favorite of all those I took while in Hong Kong. For me, it represents that even in the midst of utter despair, darkness, or depravity, we can find Jesus because He will meet us, even there. That He would condescend to humanity's level to give us the ultimate gift, while paying the ultimate price, is a baffling thought. Yet one day, full comprehension will supplant any lingering bewilderment; in the interim, there is no better comfort or friend than what we have in Jesus. To believe on Him as Savior and Lord means that as we endure earthly sufferings, our hope remains secure (see Hebrews 6:19).

Bleakish Friday

Friday was just a hard day all around. Not so much with work-related stress, although set against that backdrop my pain felt more acute. It's been five months since I moved here, and while I don't talk about it much, definitely not directly in these blog postings, it's finally time to come clean:  every now and then I feel deep pangs of sadness. Not sure exactly what brings them on, but it seems to be a combination of things. It can be really difficult to be away from loved ones, especially when they're going through challenging times. Also, there are certain comforts and conveniences from back home that have no substitutes here. Then, in the midst of these variables, to receive a card from a very special friend, well, it's enough to bring a girl to tears. 

So, for the record, I basically went through today with swollen, bloodshot eyes. There were bright pockets, and I'm grateful for them. I'm also grateful to have people in my life that I care enough about to miss when we're not together. There's the silver lining.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

HK Signs

I've become accustomed to seeing signs in Seoul that are incidentally amusing, so I haven't posted any photos recently (although, since most of you live outside of the area, I should probably start taking more and sharing them regularly with you). Being in Hong Kong made interesting signs seem novel again, and so I had to snap some pics...

HK Island in Pictures

I'd heard that Hong Kong was a photographer's dream, and it did not disappoint. What was disappointing was the fact that I didn't have more time there and also that my camera battery died prematurely. I'm already dreaming about when I can return. In the meantime, I have these images to guide me as I reflect upon my visit...

Kowloon in Pictures

It's hard to adequately capture a place with just a few photos; furthermore, I barely scratched the surface of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island during my brief stay. However, pictures can often convey much more than mere prose, so without further delay, here are more images to give you a glimpse into what I saw over the weekend; this batch was taken in Kowloon.
 The night before Day One of the New Year's festivities was bustling with activity -people scurrying to buy flowers, gifts and food.
The infamous Chung King Mansions -a massive grouping of sketchy hostels and proprietors; so glad I didn't stay here.
Knock-offs or gently used originals? I'll never know...
 Can you spot the double-deckers in action?