Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hello, Bob!

In 24 hours I experienced two of my worst haircuts ever (I actually paid for two yesterday -both equally terrible) and one of my best.

Still feeling like Joan Jett meets Dorothy Hamill when I awoke this morning, I was all the more determined to make lemonade out of lemons. I had long-wanted to try a bob, but never quite worked up the nerve. However, the extremely short face-framing pieces produced from yesterday's outing gave me the necessary resolve to move ahead. I'd begun preparing for the transformation last night, asking a girl I'd met to write out explicit instructions in Korean to create a bob with the hair I still had left. I also double-checked on the reputation of a styling chain I'd seen around town (Juno Hair). Then this afternoon, I arrived at the shop and found a photo in their book which resembled the style I was hoping for. Less than an hour later, I felt like a new woman. Wow!  

The guy who cut my hair did a fabulous job and took painstaking care to ensure that every strand was sufficiently in place. I can heartily recommend this place and this particular stylist, so if you have any interest, let me know and I'll get you the details.   

Saturday, May 29, 2010


This constitutes the blog posting I never wanted to write. Alas, I, too, have now experienced the terrible, lost-in-translation haircut. I know, it happens to everyone, so why on Earth did I think I'd be immune?

It's completely my fault as I did not come prepared with photos. Still, I thought I was clear on my directions -no layering, and definitely nothing angled around my face. Alas, it appears the gal did the exact opposite (loads of layers and endless face-framing pieces). I've been trying to find humor in the situation and reassuring myself with refrains of it will grow back, it will grow back, it will... In the interim, there's always the ponytail -not a bad look at all, especially in this hot, humid weather.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BSF Shout-Out, Pt. 2

Amid all the uncertainty of life, I'm grateful for a particular constant -BSF. Whether in NYC, SoCal, or Seoul, I've had access to this incredible ministry which has been a source of tremendous strength and encouragement. Living away from my own sisters is terribly difficult, but through BSF I've been blessed with dear friends who also act as my surrogate sisters.  

Today was Sharing Day, our last class in this series on the gospel of John. Given the intensity of this particular study, it was challenging to choose only one or two standout learnings; that said, the lesson on Jesus and the Samaritan woman was especially moving. This poignant story of Jesus meeting a scorned woman on her turf really resonates with me as it's a vivid reminder of how He meets us where we're at; and we don't need to clean up before He arrives.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Several of you have checked in to see how I'm holding up given the recent news regarding relations with our northern neighbor. Thank you for your care and concern! I am doing fine overall -moving forward with daily life and future plans, although feeling cautious and extra-alert, too. 

The escalating tension seems increasingly real. Although no one is really talking about it -and I feel like a jerk for bringing it up to anyone around here- there are some unmistakable signs:  more military helicopters and jets overhead, the headlines of various online papers... it's strange to me that no one wants to discuss it, but then again, there is a definite cultural tendency to keep thoughts and emotions bottled up. Of course, that practice can feel very stifling and frustrating to someone like me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On Possibility

I dwell in possibility.  -Emily Dickinson

Although I have no idea what Miss Dickinson intended with those words, I've always liked this quote. There's something blissful in imagining what the future may hold. In the span between now and then, however brief, is a chance to dream of what could be. All too frequently we forget to dream or avoid it intentionally. There's pressure to focus on daily, nagging issues, and by the time we've addressed them, we're usually wiped out. At least that's how I often feel.

So, what if instead of always letting the quotidian matters take priority, we resolve to give precedence to dreaming now and then? This is definitely a stretch goal for me but certainly one worth attempting.  

Monday, May 24, 2010

On Reality, Pt. 2

Yep, everyday things happen that we didn't anticipate. However, as my dear friend Clive noted:
We have to take reality as it comes to us:  there is no good jabbering about what it ought to be like or what we should have expected it to be like.  -C.S. Lewis
 As I type, many things seem uncertain. Yet, at least one is secure:
We have this Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.  -Hebrews 6:19-20
 Now that's something to count on.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On Reality

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.      -C.S. Lewis

Full of contradictions, incongruities, and twists, it really is an adventure. Maybe that's part of the fun... 

With no real agenda, I would up covering a lot of ground this afternoon and evening. Along with a friend, I trekked through Myeongdong, Insadong, Samcheongdong, Cheonggyecheon, and then later around the neighborhood where Konkuk University is located. Lots of walking, good snacking, and most significantly:  exposure to creative sights which helped recharge my appreciation for this time and place, my present reality. I should've taken photos but was too caught up in absorbing it all. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

On Healing

Today marks one year since I had significant surgery on my shoulder. I remember how much pain I was in post-op and how limited my movements were in my right arm. I relied on my mom for nearly everything and on my left arm for the few things I could do myself. Shortly after the surgery my aunt asked me if I was glad I'd had it, and I didn't know the answer because my abilities were still so restricted. Well, one year later, I'm thrilled to report that my arm is doing very well. In fact, it's almost like new, and I rarely think about the possibility of it popping out of its socket. I even went bowling last month.

Time and proper care can heal many of our physical wounds. And ideally that would be the case regarding matters of the heart. But it seems to me that emotional wounds require a longer recovery period and that the necessary steps for healing are a lot more ambiguous. Thus, putting all matters into their appropriate context, it's a great comfort to recall this verse:
He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.  -Isaiah 53:5

On Waiting

I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.  -C.S. Lewis

Each of us spends at least part of the day waiting -at a traffic light, in line at the post office, for a phone call, for our laptop to reboot, for the water to boil... if you stop to think about it, you've probably waited at least a dozen times already today. I'm trying to recall an instance where I've actively embraced the waiting period and enjoyed it. Right now I'm at a loss, which is somewhat ironic since I tend to be more of a journey, not the destination person.  

It's also ironic that only Wednesday I began reading Mere Christianity, a compilation of broadcasts that C.S. Lewis delivered over the British airwaves from 1942-1944 while the country was bombarded nightly. Ironic in light of the news that last month's torpedo attack on a Korean ship was proven to be the work of North Korea, resulting in deepening tension over here. So now we wait on this development...  

The good in waiting surely comes from what you do while you wait.    

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Desire

For the third or fourth time, I've begun reading Mere Christianity. Maybe this time I'll actually finish it.  

Instead of starting with the Preface, I flipped through the book in search of a specific quote -one that I've been meditating on quite a lot:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  -C.S. Lewis
This thought has long intrigued me. And it's preoccupied me over the last few weeks particularly, prompted by a song I downloaded a month ago (aptly titled, "C.S. Lewis Song" by Brooke Fraser). I love the track and have already listened to it a hundred times all the while contemplating its lyrics. As for the quote itself, it helps clarify so much for me (another posting for another day). 

Since Mere Christianity is one of the most influential works in the modern Christian canon, and one of the few books I brought with me to Korea, I think now is an optimal time to carefully read it and ruminate.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On Inertia

Be very careful how you live -not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.  -Ephesians 5:15-16

As I decompress from a very long though interesting day, I am thinking about a bunch of different things. At times, while I'm in the middle of sorting through various aspects of my life, it helps to step back to gain perspective. Right now I am pondering these thoughts (once again from Mark Batterson's invaluable book In a Pit With a Lion): 
  • We usually regret our actions over the short-term. But over the long haul, we tend to regret inaction.  
  • Sometimes taking a calculated risk means giving up something good so you can experience something great. 
  • If you wait for perfect conditions before you seize an opportunity, you'll be waiting till the day you die.

On Fear

Over the weekend I watched as these men fearlessly dangled from cables along the side of a high-rise to hang an advertisement. At least, I assume they did it fearlessly. But then again, maybe not (more on them in a bit). Anyway, it got me thinking about fear and about the specific things that scare me.  

All of us have fears, and I find it fascinating how varied and wide-ranging they are. A friend of mine fears the sun and its mighty power to destroy Earth with its heat. Several loved ones are afraid of flying. Neither of these things scares me in the slightest, although I do have my own little list of fears (namely snakes and crossing over bridges). Lately, there's one fear that's been preoccupying my thoughts. It's rather personal so I won't elaborate, but I will say this:  if your fear is holding you back -in other words:  keeping you from moving forward- maybe it's time to take a calculated risk (this admonition is for my benefit, too).  

Back to the guys in the photo. Perhaps some of them really are afraid of what they're doing, but they've weighed the pros and cons and, based on appearances, recognize a greater benefit in doing rather than not.

In closing, some inspiring words on the topic of fear from Mark Batterson, a risk taker whom I admire:
  • The greatest breakthroughs in your life will happen when you push through the fear. The defining moments will double as the scariest decisions.
  • The only God-ordained fear is the fear of God.
  • [Lion chasers] expose themselves to the sources of their terror because they know it is the only way to overcome them.
And from Scripture:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.  -1John 4:18

Monday, May 17, 2010

Buddha's Birthday, Pt. 2

More photos from the birthday festivities. Most of the shots from the parade came out blurry, but I'm including them anyway to give you an idea.

At the Temple:

At the Parade:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Buddha's Birthday

Another day, another first -this one involving Buddha's birthday.

Today marked the official kick-off of Buddha's birthday week festivities. It is a very big celebration here, complete with parades and hanging lotus lanterns all about town, as well as a national holiday coming up on Friday.

The parade I attended was near Cheonggyecheon, and I took a ton of photos, both before and during. Here's the first batch, taken around Cheonggyecheon and the nearby temple.

Around Cheonggyecheon:

Around the Temple Area:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

1st Birthday

Today marks another first.

I attended a Korean-style 1st birthday party for a very special little girl, and what an extravaganza. For those who have gone to one, you know what I'm talking about. Elaborate food, unique customs, and the tray game which works like this:  different items on a tray symbolize various occupations or pursuits. So a stethoscope represents a career in medicine, a pencil relates to academics, money equals future wealth, and so forth. Well, everyone got a good chuckle because the birthday girl went straight for the microphone, which apparently suggests a career in entertainment. Especially cute since her father has a passion for music and songwriting.  

After the party I strolled through Gangnam. The outfits people wear there and elsewhere never cease to amaze me. I really want to snap pictures, but I'm worried about offending the locals. I opted instead to take one of this freaky-looking mannequin. So many things wrong with it, the most significant being that it's placed outside of a Japanese restaurant where a man, operating a remote, controls its arm movements so that the mannequin appears to be waving to passersby, beckoning them to come in. Creepy.
After watching me take these, the guy actually asked if I wanted my picture with it. Crazy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hodge Podge

This week has been unbelievably hectic, even by Seoul standards. I think I may have written that exact statement before about a previous week, but at this point on a Friday evening, I'm lacking in the originality department. 

Tonight's post is a hodge podge of some standout moments from the past few days:

A student asked if I was from America. When I replied that I was, he noted:  but your skin's not white.

In honor of Teacher's Day (May 15th), a few students brought me gifts. One boy wrote this in his card:
Hello, Jennifer teacher! Tomorrow is Teacher's Day. Congratulation. Thank you for teaching me English. I will do better. Thank you.
And earlier today a former student treated me to a fantastic lunch which left me full throughout the long afternoon, as well as grateful for some adult conversation.
Last night after work, I raced over to Olympic Hall to meet up with a cousin who was performing with his band mates at an exclusive event. Because of my crazy work hours, I couldn't attend the concert, but seeing him afterward was a real treat... so nice to speak English at a quick pace and in a normal cadence. Plus bonus points for having in-person contact with an actual blood relative.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More than Conquerors

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down... in a most delightful way.  -Mary Poppins
While I haven't got the voice of Julie Andrews, I do like to sing this refrain, if only in my head. So simple, yet so spot on. A dash of fun, a happy surprise, a special delivery... all of these can make an arduous situation more tolerable. And wouldn't you know, I'm coming to learn that reading my Bible can also produce similar effects. Go figure.

Before heading out for the day, I worked on my BSF lesson. As I was answering questions and flipping through the New Testament, I stumbled upon one of my favorite verses (I'd forgotten its Biblical coordinates which is why I stumbled upon it rather than going straight there). Anyway, I was really excited to see it again, especially in its proper context. As I departed for work, the words We are more than conquerors were set on repeat in my mind. Good thing, too, as I recalled them several times later throughout the afternoon which actually helped me press on. Here they are, in context:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 8:35-39 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Test

Are you ever overwhelmed by a feeling that the circumstances in your life are part of an elaborate, divine test of faith?

That's the climate over here. Trying to remember a helpful verse:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  -Philippians 4:6

Monday, May 10, 2010

She Devil

From Iguana Eyes to Davil [sic]... gotta love the nicknames these kids come up with.

I have no idea what prompted such unusual activity from a generally well-behaved group of boys, but when I got to my room at the start of class, I found them going nuts with the whiteboard (yet again I'd forgotten to hide the markers!). Pics of their drawings are here, open for your interpretation (as I'm at a loss):

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Apple Peel

Another busy, though productive, day. After church I went to dinner with friends, all of whom have a tie to California -fitting that we would dine at California Pizza Kitchen. The BBQ Chicken Salad never tasted so good, even if the portion size was more akin to a side salad. Following dinner, a friend and I strolled around Myeong-dong, although as I type this, I'm realizing that strolled is not an appropriate verb. Any walk through that area requires great focus as there are people everywhere, and they tend to move erratically, often crossing in your path. Artful dodging is an absolute imperative for a successful, accident-free trek in Myeong-dong, and many other places for that matter.

It's always fun to visit the myriad cosmetic stores and sample their array of products. I've noticed that the locals seem quite preoccupied with skin care. Perhaps to my detriment, I've never given it a lot of thought, but living here has slowly worn me down. It may have something to do with the fact that whenever I pop into a beauty shop, the sales girls always ask me if I'm looking for skin whitening cream (ironic, since to my recollection, I've never been this pale in my life even during the three years I spent in England). I usually respond by saying something about wanting a tanning cream, not a lightening one.

Anyway, tonight I broke down and bought a peeling product, primarily because the sales girl applied it to my hand, and then later I watched in awe as she massaged away loads of dry skin. Of course, the packaging certainly helped seal my decision. Too cute, right?

Head Shots

I'm embarrassed to admit how I spent a few hours on Saturday, but because I support my own journalistic integrity, it's probably only fair to disclose rather than edit out life's awkward bits (besides, I already leave out a lot!).

So, Saturday afternoon was largely about me trying to get the all-important, multi-purpose, professionally-attired head shot. As both photographer and subject, I had my work cut out for me. Generally speaking, I'd rate my photography skills, by subject matter, as follows:
  • landscapes and buildings:  decent
  • people:  not too great
  • self:  disastrous
After two-plus hours of shooting with my iPhone (!), I had little to show for my efforts, which is pathetic because I must have taken well over 200 pictures. Of those I did not delete, only a handful are usable, and even then, the picture quality isn't good -mainly blurry or overexposed or my dark circles look like black eyes...

Here's what I'm willing to post:

But the one that seems most like me is not actually usable, at least for the intended purpose:

Should we take a vote?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Friday Dinner

By now, those of you who are regular readers know that I love a good meal. And when it's prepared as artfully as tonight's dinner, well, sometimes a picture really can convey more than a written description. Suffice it to say:  the food hit the mark.

Oh, incidentally, those are tiny shrimp heads in the background, and yes, I tried them. Not really my thing, but I could see how they'd appeal to some people. I'm just not yet accustomed to eating food that appears to be looking back at me... maybe I'll get there one day, maybe not.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strength, Power, Love

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  -Ephesians 3:16-19