Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Demon-Possessed Man: Part 3 - Familiarity

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"What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High G-d? I beg you, don't torture me!" - Luke 8:28

The ending to this verse is interesting to me. Think about it for a second. The demons in this man recognized Jesus in an instant, despite His earthly body (and, let's face it, that's an accomplishment, seeing as our Heavenly bodies would have no reason to look anything like our earthly ones). They knew Jesus, and announced for anyone who would hear who he was, and, yet, they were afraid of Him. It amazes me that they could know his presence so well and, yet, not know Him at all.

How often do we do this?

The demons beg Christ not to torture them. That always shocks me. It makes me wonder - Is there a side to Christ we don't know? Because the Christ I know wouldn't torture even the most annoying mosquito. Sure, G-d is reported as being a G-d of wrath and vengeance, but every time the Bible mentions torture, it's plain that someone other than G-d is doing it. Maybe G-d has allowed it to happen, but it's not His M.O.

So why would the demons feel the need to beg Christ not to torture them?

It occurred to me that perhaps the demons were superimposing their vision of leadership/godliness onto G-d. They had only been presented with one image of leadership, and that was the one Satan provided, so, why wouldn't they assume Christ would act any differently?  If the example of torture was all they'd seen, it would make sense for them to expect Christ to torture them as well.  It's not a perfect analogy, but this scene somewhat reminds me of when Dobby meets Harry in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

"Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but never has he been asked to sit down by a wizard, like an equal."

The demons are a bit more bold than Dobby, making their request outright, but I think we can see a similar sentiment here.  Both are super-imposing a lesser master's actions onto a greater being, and both end up being incredibly wrong in their assumptions of the greater beings' natures.

Here's the turnaround that you've been anticipating: 

How often do we do this?  How often do we super-impose the actions of our lesser master onto the nature of G-d?

Did you see what I did there?  Did you catch it?

If we are making wrong assumptions about the nature of Christ, I would dare say it's because we don't know Him, because we're serving some other master.

Granted, we're never going to know G-d in His entirety; He is beyond our comprehension, but our spirits commune with His, and they can tell us about the nature of G-d.  They can keep us following Him and anticipating His next move.  They can whisper when something is not of G-d and stir our hearts toward Him.

By listening to our spirits, we will never feel the need to beg Christ not to torture us, for we will know His true nature.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I know I just finished saying how I was going to put life updates on pause, but that was because I thought my new life experiences were going to be at a minimum, having been in Korea for a year and a half now.  DANG!  Wrong.

Today, I went to the nurse's office because I felt sick.  If I had been in the States, I probably would have called out of work this morning, but Korea has changed me.  Instead, I pulled on a pair of jeans rather than a dress (if I'm going to work sick, I'm at least going to be comfortable) and walked myself to school.  I popped some vitamin C and some NAC, forced down some light food to keep the supplements in my system, and taught my first class.  But, 3 hours into the day, I still didn't feel better, so I made my way to the nurse.
I'd been there once before for nausea.  There's this drink here that helps with that, and that's what I wanted.  I had to put up with some pressure-point prodding, but it ended with the drink, so I returned, hoping for the same thing.  Oh, was I in for a surprise.
I was feeling pretty good about myself, despite my gurgling stomach, as I explained why I was there and answered her questions (or at least what I'm pretty sure was her questions) all in Korean.  She told me to have a seat, which I did.
As I waited, I watched her systematically prick each corner of a student's nails.  She'd squeeze some blood out, and the student squirmed.  I looked up what she was doing on my phone, because I could tell that it was some sort of basic Eastern remedy, and I was curious as to what it would cure.  Of course, I ended up at the blog of that Korean culture guru, The Korean  (TK).  He explained that this was done to improve circulation, fighting a certain type of indigestion.  I filed it in my brain next to "leeches," and I moved on, waiting for my drink.
Unfortunately, the nurse decided that I had the same type of indigestion. [Insert unhappy face here.] So, I also was bled.  Honestly, it wasn't the worst experience of my life.  I don't know if it'll help anything, but it doesn't hurt (too much) to try it once, right?  Actually, what hurt was the pressure-point prodding that happened after the bleeding.  It was much more extensive than the first time I went to see her, and I did NOT like it at all.  Finally, she covered me with a bunch of little pressure-tape things (I think they're an alternative to acupuncture) and gave me instructions to massage them tonight at dinnertime and tomorrow morning as well.  I'm not sure my skin will put up with an adhesive for that long, but we'll give it a shot.

Suddenly, I feel like I can relate to my old literature classes so much more.  But... before I left, she did at least give me the drink, so all my efforts were not in vain.  However, she seems to be getting progressively more aggressive when I go, so I'll probably think more before returning in the future.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Demon-Possessed Man: Part 2 - Recognition

<<Part 1                                                                                                                                      Part 3>>

When [the demon-possessed man] saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High G-d?..." -Luke 8:28

I feel like if I were a preacher giving this as a sermon, this would be the moment where I'd be walking in, expecting reprimand and perhaps even the loss of members.  I suppose I may even lose readers for saying what it is that I'm about to say.  But that's the way it goes sometimes.  If boat-rocking is not for you, then I'd suggest diverting your eyes.

I want you to reread that verse slowly, incredibly slowly.  This verse is jammed-packed with things that are simply mind-boggling, if you take the time to see them.

When he saw Jesus,

he cried out and fell at his feet,

shouting at the top of his voice,

"What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High G-d?

There is so much here, I'm not even sure where to begin, so please forgive me if my writing becomes a little disjointed.

I think that what strikes me most prominently here is that I can't recall I time that I've heard any Christian asking this question, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High G-d?", let alone throwing ourselves upon His mercy and screaming to hear His will.  Seriously, ask yourself, when was the last time you did this?  If you've answered "never," don't worry; you're not alone.

I mean, I've asked G-d to show me His will, but I've been more than happy to make that mean, "Show me that you want me to do what I want to do."  I haven't thrown myself at His feet, but several demons (I suppose I should have put a spoiler alert, in case someone hasn't read this story before) have.  I want to ask "How can I justify that?", but I don't think that I can.

But wait, there's more.

I keep conveniently not touching on the real kicker, here.  That's all about to change.  Scripture tells us that this demon-possessed man didn't just ask his question, or even yell his question; he screamed it a the top of his lungs.

Have I ever screamed Jesus at the top of my mind, or am I allowing demons to proclaim Christ louder than I'm willing to proclaim Him myself?  I think that's a question we all need to be asking ourselves.  We cannot let the voice of the demons be the leading proclamation of Christ, because they will get it wrong.  Every. Single. Time.  I'm going to touch more on this phenomenon in a later post, but, for now, I want to keep this relatively simple:
  1. The demons recognized Jesus instantly.
  2. The demons unabashedly proclaimed G-d as the Most High G-d.
  3. The demons asked Jesus His will as soon as they got done praising him.
Be honest with yourself: can you say that you've done the same thing?

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. -James 2:19

<<Part 1                                                                                                                                      Part 3>>

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Demon-Possessed Man: Part 1 - Tombs

The story of Jesus and the Demon-Possessed Man may be my favorite recorded Jesus-incident.  This week, I've been reading through it and reading through it, and, each time, I've gained something more from it.  As a result, I want to take a break from recounting my Koreaisms and focus on this passage until I exhaust what I've been learning from it.  Of course, if something major happens in my life, that will be posted, but I feel no need to post nothings for you when I could be sharing this.

I want to start by focusing on the second half of verse 27 (assume I'm using NIV unless I say otherwise):
For a long time, this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.
In today's culture of Christianity, I feel like we're being pushed toward the unusual, the out-standing acts of faith, be it through extended missions trips to the poorest reaches of the earth, the sustainable living movement, or even homeschooling.  We are inundated with these things daily, and it can become easy to feel like a better Christian for doing them or a worse one for not.

The man in this scripture was living in such an extreme way, without clothes or a home.  Now, before you turn your nose up at this, let me draw a parallel.  Not even a full chapter earlier, Jesus says this of John (Luke 7:24b-25):
What did you go out into the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.
Let me put this another way (Mark 1:4a, 6):
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness... John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
 In case you're confused as to where I'm going with this, the point that I'm making is that we can't assume anything negative of this demon-possessed man simply by the first part of that verse.  Likewise, we can't assume anything good of John by his similar actions.  These men, one possessed by G-d and one possessed by demons, are extraordinarily similar to the untrained eye.  The distinction is in the details:

The demon-possessed man chose to make his home in the tombs.

What you do does not necessarily mean that you are walking with G-d.  You can be making all the motions of extreme faith yet still dwelling in the grave.  It is crucial that we daily beg the Spirit to search us and know us, to try us and test our hearts, to refine us like silver in the fire.
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, "They are my people," and they will say, "The L-RD is our G-d." (Zechariah 13:9)
This prayer is not one to be taken lightly.  This prayer is one the guarantees pain in your life.  The only way to refine silver, to test gold, is by means of the hottest fire.  These precious metals are placed into the heart of the flame and left to burn off the impurities.  [*Note - I know I've talked about this before, so, if you're feeling a sense of déjà vu here, you're not insane.*]  BUT these metals cannot be left unattended; it is imperative that someone be right by the fire, lapping in the heat themselves, to ensure the the metals are not destroyed.  The metals must be removed at a precise moment, and so the caretaker never falters from their position.  G-d is promising us that He will allow us pain, but He will be there, ready to pull us out at the precise minute to make us the most valuable  most beautiful things in the world.

G-d compares us to gold frequently in the Bible.  With this in mind, I want you to watch this video, replacing the word "gold" with your name, and any reference to miners, geologists, refiners, etc. as G-d.  Note the temperature of the "smelter" and how close the man caring for it gets to it for most of the time (if that's not love, I don't know what is).

If you're not both awed and terrified by this, I think you need to repeat the exercise.  This is what G-d is promising He'll do for us when we pray that prayer... and that's just to get to 80% purity.  But this is what we must do if we are ever to find our way out of the grave.  This is the difference between John the Baptist and the demon-possessed man.  Simply acting the part of extreme faith is not enough.  Christ knows our hearts, and will hold us accountable for them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" - Matthew 7:21-23

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What's our role?

I've talked here a lot about North Korea.  A lot.  In fact, I've talked so much about it, I wonder if you're starting to get sick of it.  But I hope that's not the case, because I'm going to continue to talk about it.

I've related the situation in North Korea to the Holocaust, and I'm not the only one saying that.  This is the most common comparison made when trying to explain what's happening; a simple Google search can show you that.  This is because, it's true.  The two situations are incredibly similar - gut-wrenchingly, sickeningly similar.

And yet, after 20 years the world still isn't taking a leading role in these atrocities.  The majority of the world is ignoring it.  In our age of technology, when we can see what's happening on the ground there from any computer, this is unacceptable.

But it occurs to me: Maybe the situation is so large that people are unsure of how to help.

I saw a TED Talk today, during which a North Korean refugee makes a suggestion for how we, as individuals can help.  I'd like to share it with you.  Please watch, think, and pray.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

He still listens.

A long, long time ago, I asked you to pray for my Compassion kid Enock.  His sister had gone out into the fields and not come back.  When they found her, she wouldn't (or couldn't) talk. She spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals, draining the family of money, which required Enock to stop attending school from time to time in order to help his mother sell kerosine.  Everyone was pretty stressed out about it, and you came out in hoards to help me pray for him and his family.

Well, I got some news!

Our G-d still does miracles. :)

Enock's sister is out of the hospital and living at home.  She helps the family out and is well on her way to recovery.  She still acts strange and worries Enock sometimes, but, she is leaps and bounds from where she had been.

Enock's mom, Enock, his sister, and some onions they were able to buy so they could keep Enock in school full time.

Praise G-d for His mercy.  He still listens.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oh my gosh! Anne's going to get blown up!

Just in case your news channel has you panicked about North Korea's bombing threats, please watch this, because this is incredibly true:

For the record, I am perfectly fine, and I have yet to see anyone actually worry about the threats from North Korea.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Be still.

My favorite book, Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (Surprise! I want to hear from you if you actually knew that.) includes a passage that has particularly stayed with me.
"Mandy says there are two sorts of people in the world: those who blame everyone else and those who blame only themselves.  I place myself in a third category: among those who know where the blame really lies."
I think I like this quote so much because I particularly resonate with it.  I consider myself to be a "big-picture" thinker.  Ask me to choose a side, and, more often than not, I won't be able to, because I can all-too-clearly understand the various positions involved.  It makes life rather hard.  This same thinking has led me to be able to think my actions through to their possible ends, and make day-to-day decisions accordingly.

I think the best example of how this has played out in my life would be when we first moved to Maryland.  At the time, we moved into an apartment with the intention of moving into a house after a couple of months.  We knew the situation was temporary.  So I decided the best course of action would be to not make any close friends.  I had a couple that I spent a little time with; one even watched my guinea pig, but I don't recall ever spending time with people from school outside of the classroom.  I had church friends, for sure, but, even those I didn't allow to get too close.  I chose to live alone during that time, rather than allowing people to get close and having to say goodbye to them again.  It was the most convenient path.  It's been tempting for me to slip into this way of thinking while in Korea, too, and, for a period, I think I was doing it subconsciously.

May I offer you some advice?

Don't do this.

Sure, think about your future; make wise choices; but do not live in the future.  This is for the same reasons that we're told not to live in the past: You have no control over the future - you can't change it; just let it be.

I know this may seem counter-intuitive, and, technically, it's wrong.  Technically, you have a vast amount of control over the future, but, seeing as you can only guess at how your actions will pan out in the future (and you can only ever know for sure how you controlled the future after it's the past), I'm going to argue that we have no legitimate power over the future.  It only shows us the report card at the end of the semester, and lets us hang it on the fridge or hide it under a stack of bills.

Since that is the case, I would highly recommend employing a methodology that occurred to me in Germany:

"Be still and know that I am G-d." -Psalm 46:10

We usually interpret this to mean something along the lines of being quiet or calming our hearts, but what it the double play on the English words is a legitimate one?  What if this verse is also encouraging us to continue to be?  Look at it like this:

"[Continue to be] and know that I am G-d."

We are not designed to be walking around, living in dreams and what-ifs.  We are designed to thrive, to  excel.  If we are constantly debating how our actions will play out in the future, everything around us will pass, and all we will have is a life lived out in theory, a virtual life that is no better than the simulated lives we create for ourselves in video games.  We are called to continue to live, continue to focus, continue to be.

In Germany, I challenged myself to do something every day that I came to term "presencing."  If I were a dictionary, I would define this word as follows:
presencing - vb - the act of being fully aware of and fully participating in the situation around oneself.
Whenever I felt my mind start to wander from the amazing situation in which I found myself, I halted it in its tracks.  Whenever I started to close myself off because I would only be in Germany for a couple of months, I purposefully did something to open myself more to situation.  As a result, Germany became etched in my mind as one of the most life-changing experiences I've ever had.

I want to encourage you to try some true presencing.  Focus on the people around you; the laundry can wait.  Take a day off of work and go see that site you keep meaning to visit; a few less dollars won't kill you (in fact, a year from now, you probably won't even remember how much money you didn't make that day, but you will remember the trip).

Society calls this being "irresponsible"; I call this being alive.

"Therefore you shall not be concerned about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be concerned for itself. A day's own trouble is sufficient for it." (Matthew 6:34 ABPE)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yellow Dust

I got an email today, and I wanted to take some time to comment on it.

Good Tuesday!
It's the last cold snap from today.
So please wear warm cloths and stay warm!
Some people think it's spring. but March is the last cold you need to take care of your health!
Also, we have yellow dust in March.
Please get your mask when you walk outside for a long time.

What is yellow dust?
Asian Dust' (also yellow dustyellow sandyellow wind or China dust storms) is a seasonal meteorological phenomenon which affects much of East Asia sporadically during the springtime months. The dust originates in the deserts of Mongolia, northern China andKazakhstan where high-speed surface winds and intense dust storms kick up dense clouds of fine, dry soil particles. These clouds are then carried eastward by prevailing winds and pass over China, North and South Korea, and Japan, as well as parts of the Russian Far East. Sometimes, the airborne particulates are carried much further, in significant concentrations which affect air quality as far east as the United States.
In the last decade or so, it has become a serious problem due to the increase of industrialpollutants contained in the dust and intensified desertification in China causing longer and more frequent occurrences, as well as in the last few decades when the Aral Sea of Kazakhstan started drying up due to a unsuccessful Soviet agricultural program.

After strong dust storms over the weekend weather experts issued a rare level five pollution warning on Sunday advising residents to stay indoors.
With a dust density of roughly 2,8-hundred micrograms per cubic meter the Korea Meteorological Administration said Saturday's storm was the worst to hit the country since it began recording dust storm data in 2003.
On Saturday tons of yellow dust was also dumped on Chinese capital Beijing as a sandstorm caused by a severe drought in the north and Mongolia swept through the city.
Have a blessed day!

In Christ,

Now, I know that it's tempting, upon reading this, to conjure this image in your mind:
But if this is what you're thinking, you would be very much mistaken.  Personally, I struggle to see the stuff in the air at all, no matter what the dust count is.  On its worst days in Korea, it may look like this in Seoul:
Now, I know this is a drastic difference, and you may think I'm crazy for not being able to notice it in my every day life, but let me qualify that by pointing out that this is an aerial shot, and it rains a lot this time of year, so it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between an impending storm and the yellow dust haze.  (BTW, I borrowed this photo from the mysterious j.m. who spent a year in Seoul back in 2007/08.)  Mostly, this is my yellow dust detection method:
These are the "masks" to which Jenny referred.  They're quite common here; people wear them when they're sick and just keep going to work, and people wear them when the yellow dust is out.  But, more than anything, they serve to help you know what it feels like to slowly suffocate (you can tell that I love wearing these things).  Yeah... mostly, I don't wear them, but, when I see them out, I know to at least do this test:
After which I may choose to hold my breath while running around... or at least close my windows.  But there is also the Korea Air Quality Tracker, which is actually a rather slick website that allows you to follow the air quality every day.  Like every Korean website, it runs better in Internet Explorer 6 (in fact, I can't even get it to load in Chrome), but if you want to follow my air quality (in case you're into that sort of thing), you can find Chungcheongnam-do province, then Cheonan-si.  Today, I only see blue dots, probably because of the rain, but the arrival of the email did make for an excellent sharing opportunity.  Now you can say that you know a bit more about Korean culture.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Oh my good word, I love spring.  I mean, don't get me wrong, like every good, American-bred teacher, Summer is my favorite season, but since Korea only gets a two-week vacation then (at best) Spring brings with it a certain amount of relief that Summer just doesn't anymore.

With Spring comes warmth.  I feel my perpetual tension headache brought on by the cold of Winter start to relax.  (I can't help tensing up when it's cold.  I know it's horrible for me, but it's a reflex.)

With Spring comes sunlight. A couple years ago, I finally understood why people literally would go out and worship the sun.  That thing is awesome.  Life is so much happier when I can get my Vitamin D from the sunlight and not from pills.  I also greatly prefer being woken up by the sun in the morning than by an alarm.  Yes, I know it makes it harder to sleep in, but I'd rather give that up than have to use an alarm.

With Spring comes dandelions!  They're so much fun!  I get a bunch of wishes!  AND they mean I don't have to buy hay for the rabbit.

With Spring comes a strange desire in me to clean.  Seriously, I am the queen of Spring cleaning.  This past weekend, I rearranged my entire apartment, all the way to moving the rabbit into the bathroom and reassigning various pieces of my furniture to create a desk for myself.  I'm exhausted (Really.  My eyes ache from being open), but it's excellent. Bill and Ted would approve.

With Spring comes my BIRTHDAY!  Birthdays are also excellent... especially mine... which is in Spring... which I love.  What's not to like here?

I could keep going, but I think I've made my point.  Basically, Spring is awesome, and it makes me happy.  Yay!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ready... Set...

School started this week.  I mean, I'm not teaching this week, but that's okay; we need to get the kids settled in before throwing them into practical foreign language classes.  I'm pretty sure they're still having their grammar lessons, though, which is also good - get them ready to come to me so they can come with confidence.

I'm pretty pumped about school starting.  This isn't a new thing.  I'm always excited for school to start.  I'm that nerd that loves the scent of new books.  I love pencils when they're sharpened for the first time, and the way crayons look fresh out of the box.  Yup.  I'm a bookworm.  So, in spite of already having a scheduler, when my co-teacher Sam walked into the office holding a brand new, leather-bound, embossed teacher's diary for me, I got really excited.  It even has a space at the top of each week for me to write my lesson plan overview!  I'm so excited.

Speaking of lesson plans, this semester, I'm taking a different approach to how I teach my classes.  In the past, I've refused to give homework, claiming these kids are overworked as it is (and they are, don't get me wrong).  This semester, however, I'm assigning them things to pre-study, so, assuming they do it, we can focus on more fun things in class, while making sure their books get completed to keep their parents happy.  I've got a desk full of books I plan to use as supplementary materials, as well as two shelves full in my classroom (My school is so awesome about using their English budget well... AND they let me control what happens to what they buy... so awesome).

Now, I'm pretty sure I'm just in the pre-wedding stages with these classes, when I'm all giddy and optimistic, and  most kids aren't going to do the work I need them to do to run classes the way I want, but I figure this is a good jumping off point, and we'll work together, mesh our expectations, and find a happy medium.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime, check out the website I made for my students here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fellow Wanderer

One of the joys/sadnesses of living in Korea as an expat is the constant flow of friends.  New friends are always coming, but that means that other friends are always leaving.  One such friend is the lovely Jessica of More Adventurous.  She technically was in the same arrival group as myself, but, as our group's arrivals were spaced from June to September, it's hard to feel a sense of unity among us all.  Nonetheless, I feel like I was able to bond with Jess, if nothing else, through the cross-city afternoon Facebook chats we had during our teaching downtime.  Recently Jess was asked to write a guest post on the Lost in Travels blog about her expat experience in exuberant, exhausting, English-learning Korea. (I felt the need for some alliteration there; don't worry about it.)  So, if you're aching for a new voice on the topic (or even if you're not and would just like to hear the perspective of one of my friends), I'd encourage you to click on over here and see what she has to say.

Here's an old, old picture of us from probably one of Jess' first weeks here.  She's the one on the front right.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bob goes Korean

For the past month or so, I've added private Korean lessons to my schedule, so I'm technically taking two Korean classes right now.  My teacher is awesome and has realized that I'm a kinesthetic learner.  She's very amenable to Western-style learning, and has chosen to embrace that part of my personality.  She's had me drawing comics in Korean for homework and is compiling them into a book.  Every week, before I give them to her, I take a picture so I can share them with you.  Now, it's not Captain Bob, so don't get your hopes up, but it is about my adventures in Korea, so I think it's still good.

Anne: Bob is my imaginary friend.  I first drew him when I was in third grade.
Bob: Hello.  I'm Bob!

Anne: When I was in middle school, I drew Bob to be a spaceship captain.
Bob: This is my spaceship.  I am a spaceship captain.

These days, I use Bob in class.
Anne: What's this?
Kid: Why are his eyes big?

Sometimes, the students make fun of him.
Kid: Hehehe!  He's a big-eyed foreigner!  He's a big-eyed foreigner.

Anne: When people make fun of Bob he gets sad, but Bob is an imaginary person, so he can't say it.
Bob: *knock knock* Hello?

Sometimes, if the students make of of me, I get mad.
Kid:  Hahaha! The big foreigner is fat!  Hahaha!
Anne: Grrr... *anger!*

So, Bob should help me.
Kid: Hahaha.
Me: I want to punish that kid!
Bob: Ah! No!

Anne: Thanks.
Bob: Yup.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Atomic Announcement

Okay; I promised you all a bit of an announcement, and here it is.

A couple of years ago, my friend Meret told me that she felt like she had two paths in front of her that she could take.  Both of these paths would shape her life in drastic ways, and both of these paths seemed to have the "okay" from G-d.  At the time, I didn't understand how that could be possible, but now I do.  I am being confronted with two paths, and I feel like G-d would be perfectly fine with my choice, no matter which one it was.

On one hand, I could easily see myself staying in Korea and becoming what we call a "lifer," meaning I turn this into my career and settle here.  I have a great school, co-teachers that I adore, a pet rabbit that I haven't killed, a young woman who I'm introducing to G-d, and some great friends.

On the other hand, I hear that Still Small Voice saying, "Or, you could Go to the land that I will show you."  There is peace and terror in this option at the same time.  There is peace in that I know this is G-d whispering in my ear, leading me to something He has designed me to be able to do.  There is terror in that He has not specified where or when as the alternative to a comfortable, secure life.  This is not like Abraham's day and age; I cannot buy a plane ticket to "the land I will show you."

And yet

I have chosen the second path (for now).

As of two weeks ago, I turned in my notice of my intention to resign from my position in Korea at the end of August.  I have yet to sign anything, so there is still some wiggle room on that, but I feel confident that, for now, this is the better of the two choices.

What this doesn't mean:
  • This doesn't mean that I'm moving back to America.  I would be incredibly surprised if G-d led me there.
  • This doesn't mean that I will for sure be resigning.  As I said, nothing's in stone yet.
  • This doesn't mean that I won't come back to Korea after some time.  In fact, I hope to be able to return and teach here again in the future.

What this does mean:
  • This does mean that I'm hoping to visit the USA for a month or so.  This is very tentative, so please don't get too excited yet, but it is my hope to do a tour around the States and see all the people I've been missing for the past year and a half.
  • This does mean that I am in a period of serious prayer and stepping out on the limb of faith.  I have no idea where I am to "Go," but I'm beginning to have some inklings as to where it's not.

What I need from you:
  • I could very much use your prayers.  I need discretion and faith, a quiet heart and an open mind.
  • Patience.  I know from being on your end of this conversation that all you probably want to do is ask me questions about what my plans are, because you're honestly interested.  Please don't right now; I don't have the answers you want yet.
  • Suggestions.  If you know of a missionary opportunity anywhere in the world, I'd be interested in hearing about it.  Ideally, I'd like a position working with children at risk of being trafficked (in a warm country) and/or a non-tent maker missionary position.  Again, that's my ideal position as far as I know, but I know that G-d could have something else in mind that's completely out in left field, so I'm not tied to that idea.  So, if you know of something, please pass it on.

Thank you so much for being here for me this past year and a half.  I'm excited to see where this journey will take us next.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Indonesia: Mt. Bromo

Most of my time in East Java included getting up incredibly early, feeling sick because of the hour, then hiking somewhere.  I barely recognized myself, because none of those things sound like me.  However, I forgave myself, because I got to see some really cool things.  As well as seeing the Ijen Crater, I went to see Mt. Bromo, a very active volcano/tourist trap.

We actually got hiking before dawn to see the sun rise over Mt. Bromo.  That was a bit nerve wracking, as we were walking up lava-tracked roads in the literal pitch-darkness.  One wrong step, and I would slip down into the deep craters left by lava from a recent eruption.  Considering that I couldn't see anything, that happened really frequently.
At first, I didn't realize we were there for the sunrise, so I got a little frustrated, waiting to move on, but I figured it out eventually.  It would have been really awesome, but the morning was so foggy I couldn't see the volcano.  What I did see was really pretty, though.  
Sadly, the fog turned into rain before I really got going on the day, so most of my photos ended up looking like this:

Look closely and you'll see my first glimpse of Mt. Bromo.

Needless to say, we're going to be relying rather heavily on my descriptive abilities.

I was pretty excited about Mt. Bromo for a couple of reasons.  1. It's constantly active.  The most recent eruption was the month before I saw it.  2. It's a much shorter hike than Ijen.  3. I got to ride a pony for most of the hike.  The negative was that it was below freezing.  Boo.  The hotel let me rent a big puffy coat, but I think I got the one that had been in the rain before, so it was very lumpy.  It was also several sizes too big for me, so it was not my most favorite of fashion statements, but it kept me from getting sick, thus it accomplished its goal.  It did not, however prevent me from getting soaked.

My soaked self, my pony, and a temple near the volcano. 
Incidentally, that was the last time I got to use those gloves.  A man from Portugal now has them, due to a bit of a miscommunication.  It's a bummer, but I hope they're keeping him warm, since my cousin worked so hard to make them!

Since the volcano had recently erupted, the entire area was brown and barren. There were deep tracks from where the lava had been.  As I rode my pony across it all, heading for an active volcano, I couldn't help but feeling like I had landed in Middle Earth and was on my way to storm Mt. Doom.  A 10th grade math test/over-confidence fiasco taught me never to hum epic movie themes in semi-dangerous situations, so I kept myself quiet this time, but, had that not happened, I would have probably been humming some Lord of the Rings throughout this adventure.  (PS. I wasn't the only person who was feeling connected to Tolkien; most people brought it up at some point during their time at the volcano.)

When the pony could go no further, I was presented with a massive set of stairs that led to the mouth of the volcano crater, where I bought a bunch of flowers to attempt to toss into the lake below:

Although stairs aren't my greatest pleasure in life, I think they're much nicer than having to deal with a hill on hikes like these.

The only guard rail was to keep you from falling into the volcano, which, while I appreciated that the park coordinators didn't want me accidentally sacrificing myself, wasn't always helpful when the wind wanted to push me over backward.  Many places were very narrow, so, once I found a spot that felt decently safe, I rooted myself to it and didn't budge until I was ready to go.

A new Korean man I met took a picture of me and my "sacrifice" for me.  Korean is turning out to be a more useful language than I originally anticipated.

Legend has it that there used to be a kingdom near Mt. Bromo.  The kingdom's princess married a young man, but they could not get pregnant.  She petitioned the gods, and they answered her prayer, telling her they'd allow her to get pregnant, only if she agreed to sacrifice her final child in the fires of the volcano.  She agreed and was able to have children.
I didn't hear if she followed through with her promise or not, but now, every year on August 4, the local people have a festival for the legend.  They buy flowers and dolls to try to throw into the volcano so as to protect their land.  (***EDIT 3/4/13: My friend Mark told me the rest of the story today - He's currently living in Indonesia, so I'm sure he's heard this a lot: The queen refused to sacrifice her youngest son, but when he became aware of the deal, he jumped into the crater in order to protect his village/family.***)
Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I annoyed whatever god decided we needed to throw stuff into the volcano, because I failed miserably.

My flowers landed close enough to the top of the volcano that I probably could have climbed down, grabbed them, and tried again, like one Korean man near me did.  However, it was very windy, and I didn't feel like tempting Mother Nature, so I left them were they were (the bottom right corner of the left picture).

Basically, Bromo was this incredible experience.  Ever since I was a child, I had a ridiculously irrational fear of volcanoes (I blame it mostly on the movie Volcano and some children's book I read, which, in combination, left me thinking that a volcano could randomly sprout under my feet at any given moment).  I still vividly remember some of the nightmares I had about volcanoes.  I swore to myself that one day I would face that fear, and I was able to do that with this trip.
I touched the acid like and handled molten sulfur at Ijen.
I climbed up the side of an active volcano and threw things into its depths at Bromo.
I am one volcano-fear-conquering lady, and I'm incredibly proud of myself.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Indonesia: Ijen Crater

I wrote this while I was still in Indonesia; it's not my normal blogging writing-style, but I wanted to capture my feelings while they were still fresh.

January 24, 2013
Deep in the jungle of East Java, Indonesia lies Mt. Ijen.  From bottom to top, it is about a three kilometer hike, traversing steep, unforgiving slopes, leaving the climber with the distint impression that she is unwelcome at her destination, and why should she be?  Upon reaching the top, the climber is suddenly awed by the view that overwhelms the fog-covered mountains and treetops upon which she turns her back.  In front of her lies the crater of an active volcano, filled with the largest sulfur lake in Indonesia, turquoise blue and deadly acidic.

The sulfur lake in the Ijen Crater

This is the mountain I was taken to see on my trip to Indonesia.  A renowned attraction, a visit to this natural wonder is regularly included in tourist packages.  I was prepared to be exhausted by the climb.  I was prepared to be intimidated by the active state of the volcano.   I was prepared to realize my own insignificance in the face of something so powerful.  I was not prepared to meet the men who spend their days climbing up and down its path, mining the sulfur that has become so crucial to Indonesian culture.

When I first saw one of the many men carrying two baskets of sulfur bricks across his shoulders, I was floored.  Upon asking its weight, my guide told me that it weighed close to 85 kilograms.

"That's more than I weigh!" A nearby woman exclaimed.

With a jolt of shock, I realized that it would be an easier task for this man to carry me across the mountainside than his load of sulfer.  I assumed it to be a testimony to the poor economy of the area that the man did not have any modern tools to help him with the process, but a friend of my tour guide encouraged me to think further.

"I asked the men why they didn't use more modern tools," he said.  "They told me the government won't let them."

He went on to explain that Ijen is a type of national park.  "I guess that's why can't use [modern tools]."  But the look on his face left me with the distinct impression that he was as dissatisfied with that answer as I was.

At the mouth of the crater, I was quickly greeted with the opportunity to have one of the miners help me descent to the lake below and give me a tour of the mine.  He told me the trip would cost me 50,000 rupiah, roughly 5 USD, which would be slightly less than he would make for one load of sulfur (85kg is worth about 56,000 rupiah).  I agreed, eager to see the mine and happy to make the day easier for this man.  He produced a couple of painter's masks for me to layer and wear to combat the smoke, and we were off, climbing almost straight down through the noxious fumes.  Concentrating solely on not losing my footing, I often didn't see the miners until they were right on top of me, carrying their loads up a rock face that would have made me uncomfortable even if I had been harnessed into climbing ropes.  Yet they climbed it in goulashes, many mask-less in the acrid smoke.  I tried not to think of the number of years that were being cut from their lives during my trip alone.

A man carries his load up the crater

I greeted each man with a smile, to which each man always replied, "Where are you from?"

"America," came my hesitant reply.  Several overseas trips had taught me to share this information cautiously, as it usually elicits passionate responses.  The miners held true to form, although I was relieved to see it took a more positive bent.

"America?  Obama!" was the standard response, and, as if it was a cheer designed to hearten the rest of the workers, it was always met with a chorus of "Obama!" from all the men within earshot.  As Indonesia was the president's childhood home, I was not incredibly shocked by their love for him, but it took a moment for the magnitude of it to sink in.  His very name seemed to birth hope, something I've not seen in relation to any other president in my lifetime, but I imagine it was something akin to how the American people reacted to John F. Kennedy while he was in office.

We repeated this exercise almost every time I met a new worker until, on the floor of the crater, one man broke form.

"Obama?  He's my relative!"

I did a double-take.  Surely not, I thought, prepared to argue that the fumes had addled his mind like the man I'd overheard telling a pair of hikers that he was a Pokémon.  I looked to the men around him, trying to discern from their actions if there was any truth to his claim.  None of them laughed or turned away as they had with the Pokémon man; it seemed his had them convinced.

I spent a lot of time wandering around the crater, taking pictures and chatting with the miners, but, as the wind picked up speed, I began to feel an urgent desire to leave.  My guide had already been waiting at the top for me for quite some time, and I did not want to be extraordinarily long, so we began the ascent.  This time, however, the smoke was much more oppressive.  I could not see further than a meter in front of my feet, and it was not long before I joined in with the miners in spite of my masks, coughing and moaning.  Immediately, they were at my side, encouraging me to drink my water.  The miner who had brought me down offered me his ski cap through which he had been breathing himself. I took it reluctantly, and only used it for a couple of breaths, eager to get him to cover his mouth.  Eventually, though, the volcano began to win, and I crouched, hyperventilating against the rocks.  We doused my bag in water and added it to the mask collection on my face.  Between it and the miners pushing me through the steepest parts, I was able to make it back to the mouth of the crater.  I paid the man as quickly as my shaking hands would let me, and my guide and I retreated back down the mountain.

That night as I laid awake in bed, grappling with the pain in my smoke-burned lungs, I thought more about the conversation I had had with my guide's friend:

"I asked [the miners] what the hardest part was for them: the three kilmeter hike or the two hundred twenty-five meter hike up the crater."

"The climb, of course," I answered.

"Yes," he said.  "The smoke... the smoke..."

The men work through the smoke, with or without proper masks.

I wondered how many of the men were also lying sleepless on their beds, as I was, trying to massage the burning out of their chests.

"I asked why they didn't get other jobs," the friend had continued.  "But Indonesia's economy is bad.  This is the last stop for these men.  There's nothing else."

"They're cutting so many years off their lives for this," I said.  My guide's friend and I locked gazes for a moment, and I knew we were both trying to communicate the same thing across the language barrier: These men were doing what they had to do to provide for their families, even if it meant paying the ultimate price.