Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Catching Up

With no words at all, we can still say quite a bit. A glance, an eye roll, or a smile communicate different things and, depending on the context, can convey very different messages. Of course, in the absence of a face-to-face exchange, communicating in silence poses challenges and certainly slows down the flow of information.  

So, I apologize for the lapse in posts. It's been an unusal few days, and a lot has happened. I could write about the fact that Monday was my last day at the hagwon -a bittersweet day for sure as several of the students I taught are really funny and sweet, and they made a fuss over my leaving. Plus, I'll miss the daily interaction with some colleagues there. I could write about the busy-ness of yesterday -moving across town, aided by a Korean couple with whom I'm friends. I could write about the celebratory lunch we had afterward at a Chinese restaurant where I nearly got sick at the table upon biting into one of the meat dishes. I could write about the excursion I took later in the evening to pick up groceries -going to four different stores to find olive oil and spending 4500 won ($4) on a can of refried beans. I could even write about the eclectic dinner I made -a tomato salad followed by an enormous helping of chicken-flavored stuffing, courtesy of an instant mix my uncle had sent months ago.  

One thing about living in Seoul:  there's never a dull moment. As for today, I'm focused on settling into my new, temporary home. For the next two months, I'll be house sitting for friends in Hongdae, Seoul's primary artistic + indie neighborhood. Oh, and I start my new job tomorrow so I definitely need to prepare for that as well.

my favorite class

Friday, June 25, 2010


Yesterday I made another trek to the Immigration Office. Round trip travel was nearly three hours, and yet I was only at the office itself for five minutes, maximum. It got me thinking about effort and output. Sometimes we have to exert a seemingly disproportionate amount of energy to obtain a desired outcome. Yet if the results are precisely what we need or want, it's worth the effort, no?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Today I had to take some passport-type photos for a tourist visa that I need for my upcoming trip to Shanghai. Anyway, there's a fairly strict look to strive for in these pictures -professional dress, closed-mouth smile, and hair pushed back behind the ears. So, I wasn't expecting glamor shots or whimsical candids by any means. However, upon receiving the finished product, I had a good chuckle. The photographer had whitened my skin so much that I did a double-take. Essentially, there are no shadows whatsoever on my new face, and my nose has all but disappeared -just two nostrils left behind! See for yourself:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  -James 1:17

I am astounded by God's abounding imagination and humbled by His generosity. Some loose ends are beginning to tie up, ever so neatly and creatively, and not at all as I would have anticipated. Recently, a friend reminded me that God really is a Father who delights in working things out for us. Indeed!

Monday, June 21, 2010


So many loose ends to tie up before the next chapter begins, and I must confess:  I don't think I've done a very good job of letting God drive. Even though I've articulated here and verbalized elsewhere that I trust Him, I'm still fretting over minutiae. Arghhh! Will I ever learn?!

To paraphrase a friend who put it so astutely:  just when I think I'm trusting God for everything, He gives me a new challenge to test if I really am. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Haiku

A lovely Sunday
spent with delightful people,
exploring Hongdae.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dinner and a Movie

Well, technically a movie first, then dinner. The movie was first not only in terms of the evening's chronology but also my first visit to the cinema while in Korea. A key difference:  you choose your seat in advance when purchasing tickets, and they're very comfortable. The subtitles weren't too distracting, probably since I currently can't read Korean. Not that I needed to concentrate hard on the film's plot. It was definitely light and mainly about the clothes anyway.

Afterward we dined at a charming and colorful Turkish place. I had a kebab and an Efes beer. Good choice! When we finished eating, the restaurant manager presented each of us with an unexpected gift-with-purchase. Apparently Efes's current promotion is a tasteful wallet and money clip. Wow! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I was back at the Seoul Immigration Office early this morning. Amazing to think it's been nine months since I was last there. Not much has changed -it's still a long commute, and, as far as I can tell, the destination and surrounding neighborhood are the least interesting of any I've been to in Seoul. Fortunately, the appointment went smoothly. Once again I had to leave behind my passport, and today I needed to give them my Alien Registration Card as well. Good thing I still have my CA driver's license on me in case I need to show some i.d. over the next few days (ha ha).  

Although I still haven't figured out what the revenue stamps are for, at least I took a picture of them this time. Felt I needed to do something memorable with them since they set me back 60,000 won (about $48 at current exchange rate), and I couldn't even keep them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cold Noodles

There's a Korean dish that I've grown quite fond of:  naeng-myun. These thin buckwheat noodles are served in a chilled beef broth and topped with various veggies, plus an egg. Maybe it's the extreme humidity and heat, but I'm really craving them now. Too bad I can't whip up a batch for dinner. Alas, it's cold cereal instead! Way too tired and hot to cook. However, in case you'd like to make some yourself, here's a link to a recipe:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Faith Test, Pt. 2

As you may be aware, I'm currently in a transition phase. Some of you know the specifics, and others have speculated. I apologize for keeping things vague in this public forum, but it's better for the time being. Thanks for your understanding.  

In the meantime, there are many logistics to work through. It's my nature to want to take charge and resolve any and all issues I can control. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, this process has been and continues to be a real faith test. The test's overriding theme is:  Putting aside my time frames and waiting on God's provision. It's been fascinating to observe how He's been at work in all of the details. Unexpected silver linings popping up in the midst of cloudy circumstances have astonished me, and the generosity of local friends has been amazing.  

I remain grateful and astounded, while hoping expectantly.

Monday, June 14, 2010


When I was growing up, my parents would encourage me to be loving towards my sisters. I remember them saying something along the lines of:  one day, your sisters will be your closest friends. Sure, I loved my sisters back then, but I definitely acted bossy towards them (they were younger after all!), and it didn't seem plausible that we'd ever actually be real friends.  

You can probably guess where this is going... of course my parents were right. I am incredibly grateful to call both of my sisters dear friends. Currently, though, it's a bittersweet thing because one of the most difficult aspects about living here is being away from them, absent for the big moments in their lives. Still, although there's huge geographical distance between us, they are always close in my heart. Things in threes, like the pink flowers above, serve as continual reminders of them. And Skype sessions help us tremendously with staying connected.  

(i love you loads, k + j! wish i could be there for this week's special events.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Korea Reds

Korea's victory over Greece in yesterday's World Cup match seems to have ignited greater confidence in the team's abilities. Watching the event with a room full of Koreans was quite an experience. Very dramatic and emotionally charged... lots of ooo's, ahhh's, and gasps.  

There are red tee-shirts and jerseys everywhere, as well as other soccer-related tchotchkes. Check out the nifty face masks below:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Man + Woman

Man and Woman, as represented by two restroom signs:

(flavor sincerely...?!?)

Friday, June 11, 2010


Along with the sermon I mentioned yesterday, I've been listening to another gem by Tim Keller -this one on pride. The story of Haman and Mordecai, found in the book of Esther, sets the backdrop for a powerful message on the most insidious of sins. Talk about convicting. Here's an excerpt: 
A proud heart is always justifying itself.
You can't stay angry at someone unless you feel superior to them. There's no bitterness without pride.   -Tim Keller

Between this sermon and the chapters in Mere Christianity focused on The Great Sin, I've definitely got a lot to chew on.
If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, "How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?"   -C.S. Lewis

ps:  i promise the next post will be light and frothy! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Be Like Joseph

Every person who keeps a grudge, every person who stays resentful, every person that holds onto their anger towards someone who's wronged them is sitting in God's seat.          -Tim Keller

In the past few days, I've been listening to a sermon Tim Keller gave on reconciliation. Actually, I've already listened to it three times and will probably listen several more times to reinforce it. The sermon focuses on the Genesis story of Joseph and his brothers, and the message is timely. While the circumstances of Joseph's life were quite extreme, each of us experiences moments when we feel wronged. Like today. As I'm reflecting on the weighty words of Tim's message, I find myself in the midst of a real opportunity to be like Joseph and do the right thing.

It's not easy!   

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Now to Him

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory... for ever and ever!  -Ephesians 3:20-21
The Faith Test results are in:  God's sovereignty knows no bounds. He is so good and so personal, and no detail is too small or insignificant to Him.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.  -John Wooden

Very few individuals are able to induce admiration in people from nearly any background or walk of life. Coach Wooden was one. I've been tearing up while reading his obituary because the world has lost a truly humble man and inspiring leader. 

I had the fortune of meeting Coach Wooden back in the late 1990s at a basketball game. He even signed my program. I remember getting misty-eyed as we briefly spoke, acutely aware that there are so few like him. Obviously he wasn't my coach, but in a sense, he was America's coach. His pearls of wisdom, and Pyramid of Success, are so frequently referenced, and rightly so.

It's tempting to put people we respect up on a pedestal, but Coach wouldn't want that. Throughout his life, his words and actions pointed to Someone else.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Faith Test

I'm in the midst of a real test of faith.  

Facing circumstances that require prompt action, I resisted a reflexive impulse to forge ahead today -as in Friday, June 4th. A difficult decision indeed as there are several factors which favor moving forward without delay. However, a gentle but firm voice has pervaded my thoughts as I've been evaluating things and, coupled with another weighty factor, ultimately prompted me to be still and wait.

I think this is a meaningful opportunity for me to experience, and later testify to, God's continual, supernatural engineering of events in our individual lives in ways that often defy human reasoning. It's all too easy for me to verbalize God's in control, so I don't need to worry, yet when it comes down to it, so often I try to take over and manoeuver away. And really, my efforts are more like muddling than manoeuvering. Inevitably I botch things up, and still I'm always tempted to take matters into my own hands. You'd think I'd have learned long ago.

So, this choice I made today feels very significant -like maybe I'm starting to actually put into more consistent practice the belief that I'm definitely not the one in charge.   

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Old Friend

This morning I finally got around to downloading some of Tim Keller's sermons. I've missed his teaching tremendously since leaving NYC in 2007, so it was a real treat to be in my apartment in Seoul, listening to the friendly voice and wise words of such an amazing preacher. By sheer coincidence, the sermon I listened to was one I'd actually heard him deliver back in 2006. I had to laugh as I thought about the fact that when I'd originally heard it, I could never have imagined I'd listen to it again four years later while living in Korea!

To celebrate 20 years of its sermon recording ministry, Redeemer has posted 150 sermons and lectures which are completely free and available for download. Here's a link:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Election Eve

Tomorrow is Election Day, and I'd be remiss if I failed to mention it. You see, the last few weeks have been tinged with pervasive campaigning. You cannot escape it. Banners, campaigners, fliers galore. Fair enough. But one campaign element is truly unlike any I've ever encountered.  

It's the movable, musical billboard featuring dancers trying desperately to stay coordinated as they move to horrendous music blasted at ear-piercing decibels. Or, as I like to refer to it:  an ice cream truck gone terribly awry (imagine an ice cream truck which gave out no icy treats but instead played shrill tunes, a la "This Land Is Your Land" -electronic recorder style, as a prelude to the driver yelling at you to vote for him... anyway, it made sense in my head). These campaign-billboard trucks have been plaguing the city for weeks, and they seem to be everywhere. This morning I heard one driving down the alley outside my window, and then later at work another was parked directly across from my school.

I wasn't joking about the awful music. I personally have heard "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "This Land Is Your Land", and I've read of others who have experienced "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells." What I cannot grasp is how any of this inspires confidence in the candidates or encourages people to get out and vote. Maybe it's a matter of whose trucks are least annoying...?