Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Desk Standing

I did it!

It took me a full class to work up the nerve, but by my second one today, I was able to infuse some Dead Poets Society desk standing into my final lecture. 

Must say, it was awesome, and it definitely made an impression.

On a side note, I got a lump in my throat while saying goodbye to the students in that class but fortunately was able to suppress the sadness. Barely.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brow Horror

A picture may say 1,000 words but not necessarily the ones you're intending.

Upon recommendation from a trustworthy source, I set off this morning to get my eyebrows shaped. Armed with two photos (depicting different angles of the same model), I walked into my appointment at the Benefit Brow Bar in Lotte Department Store, Star City. Although the brow specialist spoke limited English, I figured I was in good hands. 

Very clear photos + a solid recommendation = guaranteed success, right?


Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

During the procedure, my eyes were closed. Once finished, the specialist proudly handed me a mirror to see the results.

Shock, confusion, and horror ensued, followed by outrage.

Ten hours later, I'm still feeling all of the above emotions to varying degrees. However, some positives came out of the experience, and I'm trying to focus on them:
  1. Key general lesson:  assume nothing, particularly when it comes to other people interacting with your face. 
  2. Key beauty lesson:  photos only work in conjunction with mutually understood verbal communication. 
  3. Key spiritual lesson:  to paraphrase Tim Keller, a test to determine what we idolize or desire too strongly is to pinpoint the thing that would make us enraged/inconsolable/sick with fear if we lost it... so I think I've answered that question, and it's clear what desire I need to keep in check.
Additionally, JB and BD were unbelievably effective in helping me calm down. (JB:  truly one of your shining moments; you got me laughing in short order + made me feel so loved. BD:  your empathy + fact-finding mission in search of re-growth tips helped tremendously! Ditto on making me feel super loved.)

In the days ahead, I'll be searching for miracle-producing eyebrow pencils, shadows, and tools. Readers, your suggestions are always welcome.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Choco Pies

Oh, choco pies! How you confound me.

How can something so indisputably artificial-tasting still maintain an allure? Is it your new packaging which appeals to the American patriot in me? 

The cashier at E-mart smiled as she rang up the five boxes I purchased tonight (total pie quantity:  120). Wonder if she thought I was planning to eat them all? 

Hopefully I won't be eating any of them. My final lecture for each of my classes is coming up later this week, and I thought I'd go out with a sweet bang. Depending on whether I can work up the nerve, I may throw in a little Dead Poets Society desk-standing, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

1, 2, 3, Kimchi!

It's a universal practice that when taking photos over here, one must flash the kimchi sign.

What's that, you ask? Westerners know it as the peace or victory sign, but in Korea it's something else. I've heard it means cute or kimchi , but whatever the case, it's ubiquitous. Kids learn it at a young age, and the practice continues long into adulthood.

These pictures, snapped furtively by yours truly, illustrate the custom.

Step 1:  Getting into Position

Step 2:  Flashing the Sign

the little guy on the right will catch on soon enough...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  -Ephesians 5:19-20

Happy Thanksgiving 2011!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shock and Awe

Each week I teach the same English lesson to five different class sections, and I've grown accustomed to anticipating how students will respond to my questions. However, yesterday I was nearly knocked to the floor.

The topic was advice, and I asked the students who they turn to when they need recommendations or help. Predictably they mentioned friends, parents, professors... 

When I posed the question to one particular student, he said God. This both surprised and pleased me, and I pressed for more details. His reply:  I ask Him for guidance on how I should live and what to do with my life. 

Wow. I was so impressed -not only by his answer but by his courage in saying something that was outside the realm of group-think (those of you who teach English in Korea know what I'm talking about...).

It was a shocking moment, as well as one of the most awe-inspiring of my teaching career. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


One of my personal, modern-day heroes is David Batstone. David works tirelessly to raise awareness about human trafficking and to promote the re-abolition of slavery. He is the founder of Not For Sale, a movement that is dear to my heart^. 

When David mentions someone who inspires him, I take note. Yesterday he shared this quote from a fellow NFS board member:
I used to be afraid I wouldn't make enough money; but I'm more afraid now that I won't make enough impact.
 -Bob Goff, corporate attorney (who now spends 90% of his time fighting trafficking in Uganda)

Coupled with one of my favorite Bible passages, I've got some powerful inspiration to propel me in the days and months ahead as I embark on this next chapter:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  -Ephesians 2:8-10

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jun in Winter

Jun is a man I met recently. He lives in Seoul. Seoul Station, to be precise.

Last Sunday, TM and I met Jun during our weekly outreach at the station. We had prayed that God would lead us to someone who spoke Korean and who could be a liaison for us as we worked to better serve the homeless community. Enter Jun.

Jun was personable and spoke good English. From him we learned that there are about 200 people living at the station. Many are alcoholics. They need nutritious food. He requested milk and ham + cheese sandwiches. We agreed to meet the following Sunday at 11am.

This past Sunday, BD + BD and I arrived at the station, toting milk and sandwiches. We prayed that Jun would be there, at the designated meeting spot. He was. 

Jun walked with us around the area, introducing us to his friends as we distributed the food. At one point, he led us to an underground thoroughfare that reeked of urine. It was especially chilly there, like a wind tunnel, and I counted at least a dozen people huddled under blankets.

Desperately wanting to do something more, I gave Jun my bright blue scarf to wrap around his thin frame. I knew my gloves were too small and girly for him, so I said I'd bring him a pair next Sunday.

Today, while walking to and from work, my own hands were cold even though I had on gloves, a thick down jacket, plus a warm scarf. And I thought of Jun.  

How will he get through tonight or any other night? 

How does anyone living on the streets survive a Seoul winter?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  -Isaiah 58:6-7  

(If you'd like to help or learn more information, please drop me a line through the comments section.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marking Time

There are various ways to mark time and seasons. For starters, there's the conventional go-by-the-calendar approach. This is especially effective when looking ahead and counting down to an important, highly-anticipated event (28 days, for example).

When it comes to seasons, however, I think you've got to go by the what-clothes-are-realistic-for-today? method. By this measure, it's now winter in Seoul. 

My winter jacket came out of storage today. Have a feeling I'll be keeping it close during the next four weeks.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shot Me

Spotted near Anguk Station:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bangsan Market

Bangsan Market is a baking depot in the heart of downtown. Just steps away from Cheonghyecheon awaits a haven for bakers. It's probably a very good thing that I only learned about it recently...

BD led a group of us on a tour of the market today. We visited over a dozen stores, but word has it there are well over 100. Products range from ovens, mixers, bowls, and cookie cutters, to ingredients including vanilla extract, chocolate chips, flour, and powdered sugar (though sadly no almond extract). There are also lots of cellophane bags, ribbons, and labels for wrapping up your baked goods. And for those into soap making, there are plenty of related products to be found. 

Bake, eat, and be merry!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Museum of Chicken Art

At last I can now say I've visited Seoul's Museum of Chicken Art!

HG and I had long been curious to know if it was a museum full of art created by chickens or inspired by them. Turns out it's the latter.

Located in Bukchon, this museum is certainly interesting, particularly if you've got an affection for these fowl creatures. But even if you don't, it's still illuminating. For example, did you know that chickens are a symbol of fertility, wealth, fame, and a successful career?

There are also five virtues of The Chicken (taken verbatim from the museum brochure):
  1. Intelligence:  the traditional hat given to government appointed high ranking official was named after the rooster's crest
  2. Strength:  the fierce and sharp talons of the rooster
  3. Courage:  the rooster fight without any fear with its foes
  4. Heartedness:  the announcing cries the rooster makes when it finds food
  5. Trust:  the rooster always tell of the morning whatever circumstances

Admission:  3,000 won
Open:  10am - 6pm (closed Mondays and holidays)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Star of Wonder

Over the weekend while in Myeongdong, I snapped a photo of the Christmas tree in front of Lotte Department Store. It caught my eye for two reasons:
  1. Christmas decorations are going up much earlier this year than in the previous two.
  2. The star of David -initially I chuckled at seeing it atop the tree, but then I got to thinking... why not?! After all, Jesus was born to Jewish parents. Makes sense!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mary Kay

Part of what makes living in Seoul so fascinating is the never-ending stream of random moments. So, I can be out jogging in my neighborhood which is chock-full of Korean shops and restaurants and then pass by a Mary Kay store. Of course!

For those who'd like to stock up on Mary Kay products a little closer to home, contact my cousin Melissa in CA; she'll help you out: 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


While strolling through Hongdae last weekend, AS and I spotted the craziest earmuffs. I asked her to take a pic so I could share the moment with you. 

Am I crazy for seriously contemplating buying a pair?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coffee + ...?!

Coffee + chocolate.

Or a bagel, doughnut, croissant...

But a hotdog? 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lantern Festival 2011

Having skipped last year's lantern festival, I was ready to return this year (which, incidentally, means two years have passed since I was initially there... wow.)

Last night was jam-packed, so I went back again today. Something about Cheonggyecheon just makes lantern-viewing (or anything, really) extra fun.



From last night:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy + Joyful

Happy and joyful all year round.

What a lovely motto.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oriental Medicine

My life in Korea is so random!

After listening to me gripe about a backache this afternoon, a colleague mentioned a nearby place to get acupuncture. With nothing to lose, I set out on a mini-adventure. I say that because I wasn't exactly sure where I was going, but ultimately I arrived. 

The clinic looked clean and fairly modern... so far, so good. I had my blood pressure taken, and then it was time to take off my socks + shoes. The doctor asked me to hold onto a metal grip while he used a device to measure 12 different points on my wrists and feet. He then did some sort of analysis of my general health.

Afterward, I had a brief meeting with the head doctor -the one whose name is on the clinic door. He was a friendly man who spoke a little English, and he suggested 5 days of acupuncture. Fine.

First, the acupuncture:  I counted about a dozen needles as they went into my back; nothing too surprising. And then things got interesting. 

Next up:  Moxa^. I had no idea what to expect or what was happening, but when the doctor finished setting up the contraption, I asked him to snap a photo with my camera. Upon looking at the photo I realized that a small fire was burning over my back, supported by a few needles and special paper (his words). Wow. I don't know if I've ever been more still in my life, especially after he disappeared for 10 minutes.

After moxa, I had something like electrotherapy. No idea what the technical term is. I was hooked up to a machine, and 10 different currents were pulsating around my back for 15 minutes. Part of the time it actually felt like human hands were massaging the knot area, but it was only the machine.

Altogether a very random and interesting adventure. I've got an appointment tomorrow morning for session 2.